MacBook Air 2010 teardown; soldered RAM, proprietary SSD

MacBook Air 2010 teardown; soldered RAM, proprietary SSD

Summary: If you were wondering about the components inside the new, second-generation MacBook Air - iFixIt has you covered. They took apart the 11.6-inch version of the new Air and documented their findings in copious detail.

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If you were wondering about the components inside the new, second-generation MacBook Air - iFixIt has you covered. They took apart the 11.6-inch MacBook Air and documented their findings in copious detail.

The new MacBook Air is an exercise of proprietary engineering. While you can easily access everything once you remove the proprietary screws, you can't really replace any component with an off-the-shelf part, unless you source it from Apple or someone involved in Apple-based repair (*cough*). Most components -- RAM included -- are soldered to the logic board, preventing them from being replaced. We definitely recommend users to buy the 4GB RAM version of the Air, as the paltry 2GB already borders on obsolete by today's standards.

The one standout in this proprietary sea is the 64 GB SSD. It's not locked down like the rest of the components, although it is a very slim and unusual form factor (for a hard drive). It's attached to the logic board with what appears to be a new mini-SATA (mSATA) connector, which brings hope to super-slim-laptop-hackers all across the globe. This may enable some crafty tinkerers to rig a larger drive inside the Air, provided they can fit everything within the tight confines of the .68" thick case.

Teardown highlights:

  • The flip-open port door has been scrapped and the IR sensor and sleep LED are gone. In exchange, the new model manages to fit an extra USB 2.0 port along its right edge.
  • Apple apparently doesn't want you inside this thing. They decided to use proprietary 5-point security Torx screws to attach the lower case. Once inside, the Air is held together with more normal 6-point T5 and T8 Torx screws.
  • The battery is comprised of six individual lithium-polymer cells, which combine to form a 35 Watt-hour battery.
  • Although in a different form factor, the new MacBook Air uses the same Broadcom BCM943224 Wi-Fi/Bluetooth chip as the current lineup of MacBook Pros.
  • The back of the trackpad has a Broadcom BCM5976A0K chip on it, likely responsible for the multi-touch capabilities of the the trackpad.
  • The 11.6" MacBook Air features a resolution of 1366x768. That's a few more pixels and noticeably more widescreen (16x9 vs 16x10) than the 1280x800 resolution of previous Air models. In a welcome improvement, Apple has substantially enhanced the rigidity of the display assembly.

Topics: Laptops, Apple, Hardware, Mobility

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28 comments
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  • This is the wave of the future to get prices down and reliability up.

    Of course it means no do it yourself upgrades, but, most do not want to do that anyway. Long term, we will see ram, flash, multicore processor, GPU, in a single multilayer package that looks like a single chip.
    DonnieBoy
    • Not the wave of the future.... It's wave of paying through the nose lol

      @DonnieBoy, it sounds like only what a mac lover would say in it's defense, lol. Point is, Apple is purposely trying to make it that way so they can over charge for outdated hardware. Or at least make it so difficult to upgrade that if there was a small chance of someone wanting to upgrade something simple in DIY, they just give up and go to apple care.

      Or if they had a friend who could plop in a few easy to change chips/memory/parts, now it's less likely if not impossible to happen. So they are more inclined to buy a new mac. They would love nothing more than to have it be one chip giving apple 100% control and the customer zero. And prices will not drop below PC prices. Changes in reliability will be negligent. In fact it will likely cause problems because computers that are easily fixed will become an annoyance to get serviced.

      And with Apple Scares policies which I've witnessed, they love to blame the customer, and/or charge exorbitant fees for small upgrades. But as an example. I have had an i7 based pc aat 4ghz for a year before Apple even offered i7. It can render video and whatever else about twice as fast as a typical $1600 iMac using some of the same software titles. Yet it cost $730. I can change or swap any part. This is an advantage even to novice users as many can learn to change simple parts when they haven't been discouraged by practices like soldered in parts. In fact it's quicker than the $2000 and $2500 pro models from apple. Even a bit quicker than their recent i7 version due to settings.

      But even if it were 100% the same speed, it's still $730. Apple waited to bring i7 because it hoped it's customer base wouldn't notice they were getting rooked for core2duo which is 3 year old tech. I can remember arguing with some macbook pro lover over a year ago. I told him apple would likely have to switch to i7, i5 etc. He said they'd never use the sh_tty parts they put in PC's, not understanding what he was talking about. Here we are in 2010, and what I said came true. And at a whopping cost...
      zing77
      • RE: MacBook Air 2010 teardown; soldered RAM, proprietary SSD

        @zing77 99.3% of laptop owners never ever add RAM, swap parts, or do anything inside the case. It doesn't really make a lot of sense for 100% of laptops to have diminished features (heavier, bulkier, less battery time) so that .7% of owners can fiddle under the hood.

        Actually, if I was a manufacturer I would build, promote, and sell a DIY laptop. But that's not Apple.

        People used to buy washers and dryers based on how easy it was to "get in there" and fiddle. Now - we just want to push the buttons and go on with our lives. Apple is pushing the computer industry in that same direction. Computers should be appliances - not hobbies. For that 99.3% of people at least. imvho.
        snberk341
    • RE: MacBook Air 2010 teardown; soldered RAM, proprietary SSD

      @DonnieBoy, it sounds like only what a mac lover would say in it's defense, lol. Point is, Apple is purposely trying to make it that way so they can over charge for outdated hardware. Or at least make it so difficult to upgrade that if there was a small chance of someone wanting to upgrade something simple in DIY, they just give up and go to apple care. <br><br> Or if they had a friend who could plop in a few easy to change chips/memory/parts, now it's less likely if not impossible to happen. So they are more inclined to buy a new mac. They would love nothing more than to have it be one chip giving apple 100% control and the customer zero. And prices will not drop below PC prices. Changes in reliability will be negligent. In fact it will likely cause problems because computers that are easily fixed will become an annoyance to get serviced. <br><br> And with Apple Scares policies which I've witnessed, they love to blame the customer, and/or charge exorbitant fees for small upgrades. But as an example. I have had an i7 based pc aat 4ghz for a year before Apple even offered i7. It can render video and whatever else about twice as fast as a typical $1600 iMac using some of the same software titles. Yet it cost $730. I can change or swap any part. This is an advantage even to novice users as many can learn to change simple parts when they haven't been discouraged by practices like soldered in parts. In fact it's quicker than the $2000 and $2500 pro models from apple. Even a bit quicker than their recent i7 version due to settings. <br><br> But even if it were 100% the same speed, it's still $730. Apple waited to bring i7 because it hoped it's customer base wouldn't notice they were getting rooked for core2duo which is 3 year old tech. I can remember arguing with some macbook pro lover over a year ago. I told him apple would likely have to switch to i7, i5 etc. He said they'd never use the sh_tty parts they put in PC's, not understanding what he was talking about. Here we are in 2010, and what I said came true. And at a whopping cost...
      zing77
    • Guys, this is the wave of the future. All of the sockets, cables, drivers,

      etc, just add to the costs, and make the system fragile. Better to use the savings to for a computer with better specs, and never look back.

      Yes, 2 gig of memory is not enough. Yes, Apple has better margins than anybody else. But, this is the wave of the future, and Apple has only started. Future Macbooks will be even more integrated, with more and more soldered to the motherboard, or even in the same package as the CPU/GPU.
      DonnieBoy
    • laptops batteries

      Leaving the <a href=" http://www.laptopsbatterysupplier.com/4400mah-replacement-laptop-battery-for-gateway-nv52-p-1904.html?cPath=35_2094">Gateway Nv52 battery</a> in a laptop while using an electrical outlet for long periods of time will keep the battery in a constant state of charging up and that will reduce the life cycle of the battery.
      laptopsbattery
  • Oh, I was surprise that they used a sata interface for the disk. Sooner or

    later it will be nand flash soldered directly to the motherboard.
    DonnieBoy
    • RE: MacBook Air 2010 teardown; soldered RAM, proprietary SSD

      @DonnieBoy, a sign of cheapness even though Apple touts it being high quality...
      zing77
      • RE: MacBook Air 2010 teardown; soldered RAM, proprietary SSD

        @zing77 No, it's a sign of wanting to make the system small. Yes, there is a compromise - you can't easily upgrade the storage. But if you did it like everyone else, you couldn't make the system so small - and isn't that what you're buying here; the ultimate in small.
        Jeremy-UK
      • Jeremy-UK: Very compact and reliable. They will go for years with no

        problems. Just make sure you you get good enough specs, like 4 gig of memory instead of 2 gig.

        For the ultimate in battery life, less heat, etc, Apple does need to go with Arm for notebooks though. When they can do quad core, Apple will move to Arm.
        DonnieBoy
  • Um.... no thanks!

    Give me an HP Slate 500 over the MBA any day!

    The MBA is all wrong when you compare it to something like the HP Slate. If you don't need a full OS, get an iPad or one of the even better Android tablets.

    If, however, you do need a full OS, the MBA is bigger and bulkier than the HP Slate when not in use and it is [b]HUGE HUMONGOUS GIGANTIC BLOATED[/b] when it is in use since you need to flip open the lid. No need to do that with the Slate!

    If you need both a full OS [b]and[/b] any amount of power, neither the Slate nor the MBA are any good, you'll want something like the excellent MacBook Pro (just make sure you replace OS X with Windows 7) or any number of other excellent full power notebooks from many other manufacturers.

    To summarize:
    Don't need full OS? Buy an Android tablet.
    Need a full OS but don't need full power? Buy the HP Slate 500.
    Need a full OS and full power? Buy a MacBook Pro.

    The MBA is terrible, just terrible.
    NonZealot
    • RE: MacBook Air 2010 teardown; soldered RAM, proprietary SSD

      @NonZealot, I agree. except I don't know why you'd want a slow macbook pro.
      zing77
    • better android tablets?

      @NonZealot
      you mean the army of android vaporware tablets that only exist in your imagination or the two gigantic smartphones that are available for a higher price than the ipad? which android tablet is it?
      banned from zdnet
    • RE: MacBook Air 2010 teardown; soldered RAM, proprietary SSD

      @NonZealot You're comparing a laptop with a full keyboard to a tablet? A laptop with an Core 2 Duo CPU with a tablet with an Atom CPU? A laptop with 11" of screen to one with less than 9"? A laptop with a full OS to one with a Web OS? And you get the laptop with all of that for just $200 more?

      I think you may have tried to channel Mike Cox with that post of yours.... but you still need some practice to get that sarcasm down.
      snberk341
    • RE: MacBook Air 2010 teardown; soldered RAM, proprietary SSD

      @NonZealot
      Well, you've obviously tried one. Don't know why you bother when you know you are going to hate it.
      Laraine Anne Barker
  • Yuck - Total Junk

    Why on earth would anyone buy one of these? At least anyone with a modicum of knowledge of computer hardware. Typical, limited, proprietary, over-priced, outdated Apple hardware. Yuck, yuck, yuck. Run away!
    jpr75_z
    • It IS infuriating to Windows propeller heads that people just love Apple

      products and are willing to pay more money. This is really a brilliant product, though, with Arm processors, Apple will get the weight down even more, and the battery life up, and less heat.
      DonnieBoy
    • newsflash

      @jpr75_z
      no one outside of your little geeky world knows anything about hardware or cares about hardware. they want a fast, reliable and light machine for their every day computing tasks. this thingy will sell millions and the clueless geeks will shake their heads in disbelief again. talk about total disconnect from the real world.
      banned from zdnet
    • Simple answer

      @jpr75_z
      Most non-geek users will never want to upgrade any of the internal components, nor will they need to.
      People see small and lightweight as features of these systems. Not all features are made of silicon, ones and zeroes.
      Some people see enough value in these features that they will pay a premium for them.

      ZDNet commenters need to remember that most of the world is not made up of geeks and techies. Would I buy this product? No. Not because it's proprietary but because I don't have a strong enough use case for these features. Could I see use cases where this machine would fit well? Sure, once I take off my techie-blinders.
      use_what_works_4_U
    • My wife wants one...

      @jpr75_z asks [i]Why on earth would anyone buy one of these?[/i]"" People who like to think of a computer merely as a tool to get their work done. Who see the computer as a means to an end, not the end itself.

      People who need a small laptop because they are carrying with them all day and working wherever they happen to be (and I don't mean at coffee shops). People who need it to go all day on a charge. People who need something that can run Office and a browser and email.... and not Photoshop and FCP.

      Yes - this system is not for everyone. But for the people who it is for - there is nothing better. If you don't need it for your needs.... fine. Move on. Find something that does suit your needs, but don't insult your intelligence by assuming that your needs are the only needs.
      snberk341