Wednesday saw the release of an updated 13.3-inch Air, which superficially resembles its predecessor. But there's also an entirely new 11.6-inch model. And none of the revamped MacBook Air models comes with a hard drive: They rely instead on flash storage built into the motherboard.
Both models are thinner than before: 0.68 inches at their thickest, tapering to 0.11 inches. (The last generation ran from 0.76 inches to 0.16.) They're also lighter: The 11-inch model weighs 2.3 pounds, the 13-inch 2.9; the old 13-incher weighed in at 3 pounds even.
Apple says that because the flash storage takes up less room than a hard drive, leaving space for a bigger battery. A bigger battery means better battery life: The company claims the new 13-inch model will give you 7 hours of wireless productivity on a single charge, compared to 5 hours before. (The 11-inch model tests out at 5 hours, presumably because its battery isn't as large.)
The flash storage also means these new Airs are "instant-on": You can leave the machines in standby mode for up to 30 days, Apple says, yet they'll revive instantly and let you resume working where you left off.
Among the other differences: Graphics are now handled by NVIDIA GeForce 320M processor (the same chip as in the current MacBook). Instead of one USB 2.0 port, both new models have two; both have the same single Mini DisplayPort, and the 13-inch model has an SD card slot too. Instead of a single mono speaker, the new Airs have stereo.
The new 13.3-inch model, with a 1.86GHz Core 2 Duo processor, will cost $1299 for a model with 128GB of flash storage and $1599 for one with 256GB. (As with the last generation, you can also order it in a 2.13GHz built-to-order configuration.) The 11.6-inch model, which has a 1.4GHz CPU standard, will cost $999 for a 64GB model and $1199 for 128GB. (There's a 1.6GHz upgrade option.) Both come with 2GB of 1066MHz DDR3 SDRAM standard, expandable to 4GB.
We'll have more details on the new MacBook Air models later today.