updated 04:30 pm EDT, Wed October 20, 2010
MacBook Air to get OS X restore on USB
Apple as part of the new MacBook Air launch provided at least a pair of surprises. The ultraportables are the first modern Macs to scrap optical discs for their Mac OS X discs and instead put both the OS and the iLife install on a single USB drive. Its switch means MacBook Air users can finally reinstall the OS without needing to use DVD Sharing to bring a system back to health.
Windows notebooks are behind in this regard. Microsoft has an option of downloading a copy of Windows 7 in a form that can be converted to a USB drive, but few if any Windows notebooks come with a USB drive included.
The 11.6-inch Air is equally noteworthy for Apple for introducing a new processor category to its lineup, the ultra-low voltage models. It's now using the SU9400 and SU9600, which clock in at just 1.4GHz and 1.6GHz each but use no more than 10W of power. They use an 800MHz bus but have the same 3MB of Level 2 cache as some fuller-power processors.
The chips aren't Intel's latest. It has since moved on to ULV Core i3, i5 and i7 processors, but Apple's desire to avoid slow Intel graphics has dictated that it uses the slightly older hardware. Intel is currently in a licensing dispute that has banned NVIDIA from making system chipsets for any Intel chip with an integrated memory controller, although NVIDIA has accused Intel of trying to exclude a superior competitor.
The computer builder has also quietly added an internally developed HDMI-to-HDMI cable to the Apple Store. Contrary to early expectations, Apple isn't making its own Mini DisplayPort to HDMI adapter, but the $19, 5.9-foot cable gives any Mac with a third-party adapter, the Mac mini or an Apple TV a first-party cable to link the device to a TV. It's unclear why Apple has stepped in on its own when similar alternatives exist, or if third parties like XtremeMac will face any added threat.