New MacBook Airs: Pricing the top configuration

Summary:Those looking to order a new MacBook Air must decide which size to buy, and that decision is affected by the price differences for many consumers.

Apple introduced us to the next generation MacBook Air yesterday, and the refresh is relatively minor with updated processors. The two sizes offered remain the same: 11-inch for maximum portability and 13-inch for those wanting a bit more screen real estate. Both models ship with OS X Lion, also released yesterday.

Those looking to order a new MacBook Air must decide which size to buy, and that decision is affected by the price differences for many consumers. I checked out all of the prices for both sizes, and found surprisingly that once you start bumping up the configurations with better components the pricing becomes less of a factor. Only $50 separates the top-of-the-line 11 and 13-inch models with the same configuration.

Apple offers each size MacBook Air configured similarly, with the primary difference in the size of the SSD drive and system memory. The entry-level 11-inch model is only $999 which includes a Core i5 dual-core processor (1.6GHz), 64GB SSD, and 2GB of memory. The base 13-inch is priced at $1,299 which bumps the configuration to a 1.7GHz processor, 128GB SSD, and 4 GB of memory. The $300 price difference gets a decent hardware jump in addition to the bigger notebook with the larger display.

Those looking to pick up a MacBook Air cheaply will likely be looking at these base units, but surprisingly the price differential drops as you configure each model with better components. The 11-inch Air with the best hardware components offered is $1,649, which comes with a better processor (1.8GHz) and a 256GB SSD for maximum storage. That's a big price jump from the base unit.

When you max out the hardware on the 13-inch, pricing becomes less of a factor. The top-of-the-line 13-inch MacBook Air is $1,699 which gets you the same Core i7 processor (1.8GHz), 4 GB of memory and 256GB SSD. For some reason Apple prices the better processor on this model at $100 and at $150 on the 11-inch Air.

The bottom line is those looking to go cheap with a new MacBook Air will find the 11-inch to be the way to go, primarily because the processor and storage are more limited. Once you decide to bump either model up to better hardware components, pricing becomes much closer. At only a $50 difference for the top models, the decision becomes one purely of size and portability requirements. Apple reports 7 hour battery life on the 13-inch Air versus 5 hours for the 11-inch, so that should be factored into the purchase decision.


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Topics: Apple, Hardware, Laptops, Mobility


James Kendrick has been using mobile devices since they weighed 30 pounds, and has been sharing his insights on mobile technology for almost that long. Prior to joining ZDNet, James was the Founding Editor of jkOnTheRun, a CNET Top 100 Tech Blog that was acquired by GigaOM in 2008 and is now part of that prestigious tech network. James' w... Full Bio

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