• Will 2011 MacBook Airs Get Sandy Bridge CPUs?

    Intel's announcement of a new generation of ultra low voltage CPUs is prompting speculation that Apple may bring Sandy Bridge-based MacBook Airs this year. In addition to a currently-available Core i5 with a clockrate of 1.4 GHz and turbo boost speeds of up to 2.3 GHz, Intel has Core i7 chips coming in the next few months that can turbo up to 2.7 GHz with a thermal power envelope of only 17 watts.

    One of the main complaints about the ultralight Late 2010 MacBook Air has been its anemic Core 2 Duo processor. The reason for that, of course, is power consumption: the stock 1.4 GHz chip sips just 10 W at its maximum TDP (thermal design point), and the optional 2.13 GHz SL9600 tops out at just 17 W. The sleek new design precluded fitting anything larger than the 50-watt-hour battery in the 13" model, so the Core 2 Duos were the only choice. Now, however, Intel has a whole range of Sandy Bridge chips that fit within the 17 W envelope, finally offering the promise of an ultraportable notebook capable of doing real work.

    The top of the line will be the 1.6 GHz Core i7 2657M, which will replace the 1.46 GHz Core i7 680UM that's the current ultra low voltage speed leader. The Sandy Bridge based 2657M can turbo boost up to an impressive 2.7GHz in single core mode, and its two cores are capable of running four separate threads in unbolted mode. With 4MB of cache memory, Intel HD 3000 graphics and a front-side bus clocked at 1333 MHz, this chip delivers professional notebook-level performance while staying within the 17 W envelope of the current MacBook Air.

    Will Apple include this chip in a future MacBook Air? The pundits at France's MacBidouille certainly think so, and it's not that big a stretch to believe it. The second-generation Air has been a huge seller, with people snapping up 420,000 of the slim laptops in the fourth quarter of 2010, accounting for 10 percent of all Macs sold and 15 percent of all notebooks. A real power user option would just broaden the appeal.

    Source: Cult of Mac
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