New MacBook Air (mid 2013) and AirPort Extreme teardown

New MacBook Air (mid 2013) and AirPort Extreme teardown

Summary: The iFixit team give us a glimpse into a couple of Apple's latest offerings - the new MacBook Air and the AirPort Extreme base station.

TOPICS: Laptops, Apple

Apple's new MacBook Air has hit the shelves, and one has made its way to the iFixit labs for dissection. Let's take a look at what's new in this device.

What's interesting about the new MacBook Air is that it is surprisingly similar to the previous-generation hardware. In fact, you can count the major changes on the fingers of one hand. These are:

  • Larger capacity battery
  • Smaller SSD module
  • Updated AirPort card
  • No separate platform controller hub
  • New heat sink clamp

The battery is a 7.6 V, 7150mAh unit, compared to the 7.3 V, 6700mAh found in the version it replaced. This gives the MacBook Air increased battery life. with very little additional bulk.

In order to get the "up to 45% faster" flash storage compared to the previous models, Apple has switched from SATA to PCI-E. Interestingly, in order to deliver this Apple had to turn to its arch legal rival – Samsung. In fact, the flash storage is a triple win for Samsung:

  • Samsung S4LN053X01-8030 (ARM) flash controller
  • 8 x Samsung K9LDGY8SIC-XCK0 16 GB flash storage
  • Samsung K4P2G324ED-FGC2 512 MB RAM

This is an interesting shift for Apple who has over the past few months been distancing itself from Samsung.

The revamped AirPort card features a Broadcom BCM4360, which supports 3-stream 802.11ac and Bluetooth 4.0.

Other chip highlights are as follows:

  • Fourth generation Intel Core i5 processor, with integrated Intel HD 5000 Graphics
  • Intel Z246TA38 Thunderbolt controller
  • Linear Technology LT3957 inverting controller
  • 4 x Elpida F8132A1MC DDR3L RAM, total of 4 GB
  • Broadcom BCM15700A2
  • Hynix H5TC4G63AFR 4 Gb synchronous DRAM
  • MXIC MX25L6406E 64 Mb serial flash
  • Texas Instruments TPS51980A synchronous buck controller

It's clear from this upgrade that Apple didn't feel the need to push the boat out in terms of upgrades in order to keep the MacBook Air current.

Like the previous generation, the 13-inch MacBook Air clocked in at a 4 out of 10 on our repairability scale (where 10 is the easiest to repair).

(Source: iFixit)

The iFixit team also got their hands on a new 802.11ac AirPort Extreme base station.

With this new device Apple has taken the power supply into the device, just as it did with the mac Mini.

The updated 802.11ac base station is designed to have multi-station WLAN throughput of at least 1 gigabit per second and a single link throughput of at least 500 megabits per second (500 Mbit/s).

On the logic board is a divers range of chips, including:

  • Broadcom BCM53019 router SOC with gigabit switch
  • Broadcom BCM4360KLMG
  • Hynix H5TC4G63AFR 512 MB synchronous DRAM
  • Micron 25Q256A 32 MB serial flash
  • Skyworks 5003L1 WLAN power amplifier
  • Skyworks 2623L high power WLAN power amplifier
  • TDK TLA-7T201HF

There's also a free 3.5-inch slot in the AirPort Extreme big enough to take a hard drive, but there are no connectors on the motherboard to turn the AirPort Extreme into a Time Capsule equipped device.

The ease with which the AirPort Extreme can be dismantled earned it a repairability scale of 8 out of 10 from the iFixit team.

(Source: iFixit)


Topics: Laptops, Apple

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  • I will not be buying one

    Absolutely no reason to.
    • I, sir, am shocked

      You love Apple products so much, them losing your MBA purchase after the past few cycles of you buying one will surely hit them hard.
      Michael Alan Goff
      • I have purchased apple products in the past

        They have lost sales from me.

        As for hitting them hard, maybe it doesn't. I don't not buy apple products to punish apple, I don't buy apple products to not punish myself. I see no reason to spend money on inferior products which is why I buy Nokia and Microsoft instead of apple.
        • Just curious...

          what laptop and what desktop computer do you use?
        • Interesting

          So what makes the newest MBA inferior to your current laptop?
          Michael Alan Goff
          • Easy answers Michael

            The mba is far too slow and has far too small a screen when compared to my laptop.

            When I need mobility, the mba is far too heavy and thick to be portable. That's where my Surface RT shines.

            The problem with the mba is that apple tried to make it a jack of all trades but it isn't even good at that. Too slow, too bulky. Good for nothing. Anyone who buys one of these is a fool.
          • I'd love to hear your recommendation

            for a laptop.
          • Too slow?

            Then what would you recommend?
            Michael Alan Goff
          • Yes, too slow, mba is not a fast machine

            It has a weak i5 with a super weak graphics card and a pathetically bad screen.

            So I would recommend any laptop that was better. There are far too many to list.

            The mba is a fridge toaster. Useless.
          • Surface Pro - Jack of All Trades

            So because the MacBook Air is a "jack of all trades" that is "too slow," you prefer your Surface Pro which uses the same processor and GPU as last year's version of the MacBook Air, even though it has to drive three times as many pixels. Sure. It seems to me that the Surface Pro is the jack of all trades. It is too big to be a decent tablet, and too small with its 10.6" screen to be a decent notebook.
          • Let me ask a question

            You seem shocked that someone would dare suggest the mba wasn't the perfect laptop. Do you believe it is the fastest, smallest, lightest, highest res screen, least expensive, with best OS laptop in the world?

            To ask "too slow?" to someone who says the mba is too slow suggests you believe the mba is the fastest laptop in the world. You can't seriously believe that, can you?
          • Is it the fastest?

            Of course it isn't.

            When I asked "Too slow?", the question more goes to "What are you doing that requires more than what it provides". It isn't the lightest or thinnest, it doesn't have the highest resolution screen, and it is slightly more expensive than a comparable laptop (slightly).

            I don't think it's the fastest, but it is fast enough for me. I was wondering what you're doing that requires more power and what ultra book (as that category was made because of the success of the Air) actually meets those needs. And that isn't even talking about the fact that a "weak i5 ULV" is what powers the Surface Pro.
            Michael Alan Goff
          • Yes, it powers the Surface Pro

            And the Surface Pro is SIGNIFICANTLY lighter and less bulky. The mba is simply not a portable device. It is full of unacceptable compromises. It is a toaster fridge. It is slow and bulky. We won't even mention the touch screen and the active digitizer support, neither of which are available for the mba. Well you could add a bulky Wacom tablet which would make the mba even bulkier and even worse than the mba.

            The mba is a flying car that can't fly or drive.
          • Surface Pro

            Surface Pro is too expensive, too bulky (with the added keyboard) and bad battery life for a mobile devices. Bad recommendation actually. Ultrabooks, MBA and even Chromebook ( depends on tasks ) would be better choice
          • Re: It is full of unacceptable compromises

            Yes, it has Thunderbolt.

            This one is enough for me to want it! None of the comparable "Windows laptops" has this kind of interface and sometimes I do need to access FAST peripherals. Yes, on the MBA. It's plenty powerful for that. Can drive two more 27-30" displays too.. What more can I ask for?

            My MBA is plenty fast for what I do on a notebook and for most of what I do on my workstation. It can never have the power of my backend servers, that do most of my computing tasks, but it is neither as bulky nor as noisy as the smallest of them.

            Of course, the rMBP is even better. It has faster CPU and GPU, much better display and best of all: two Thunderbolt ports! But I have yet to see a task that should be run on a mobile notebook for which the Air is not fast enough.
          • apple did not invent the ultra book category

            Laptops have been getting lighter and thinner since their invention. apple has had nothing to do with it. Sony has had ultra books long before apple did.

            And no, I don't need to restrict my speed comparisons to the ultra book category. The mba is too slow to be a primary computer. Period. And it is too big and bulky to be a portable computer. If someone bought a mac pro, would you tell them they should have bought an mba instead?
          • Interesting

            I didn't say Apple invented the category, but according to your post in the iOS 7 discussion it doesn't matter because "popularizing it matters". Apple popularized the wedge-shaped laptop that is now being taken by just about everyone else.

            It isn't slow, it isn't bulky.

            If somebody bought a MBP, they likely wouldn't be buying an Ultrabook.

            This is a tool for a job. You buy the tool that works best for you.

            If you think the MBA is "heavy", though, you must have had a hard time in school. My books in high school weighed a heck of a lot more than my MBA does now.
            Michael Alan Goff
          • Copy and paste

            Everywhere you wrote mba, replace it with any laptop or tablet (including the Surface RT and Pro) and everything you wrote remains true.

            How many times did apple folk say the Surface Pro was too bulky to be portable (compared to the ipad) and too slow (compared to the mbp)? We were told that we needed to buy 2 devices, a "full" mac laptop and an ipad and that the Surface was useless because it wasn't fast enough and it was too bulky.

            Well, I'm telling you the same. You need to buy 2 devices: a fast computer with a big screen, fast CPU and GPU, and you also need to buy a tablet like the Surface Pro. Or, if you want the apple equivalent, you need to buy a mac pro and an ipad mini. One tweener device like the mba is useless. It is a fridge toaster. It is a flying car. It is a hybrid. It is nothing but a giant compromise.

            Anyone who buys a mba bought the wrong device and should have purchased something else. At least if we follow the logic of you and your peers.
          • Errr....

            I have not said that either the Surface RT or Surface Pro are "too bulky", though... because they're not.

            I don't need the power of a Macbook Pro.

            My peers? What the heck? I'm apparently now being pigeonholed into the role of Apple fanboy? My gosh, man, it's a tool not a religion. I can use multiple devices from multiple companies.

            You can too, it's okay.

            My needs are met by the Macbook Air.
            Michael Alan Goff
          • I choose MBA

            Well .... from non-technical view, I choose MBA. I never try SP, they use win 8, and I had bad experience with win 8, and bad experience with MS "tablet" things.
            Why I should gambling my money on SP ?