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MacBook Air extras: OS X on USB drive, new CPUs, HDMI cable

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.

by MacNN Staff



  1. Triath.lon

    Joined: Dec 1969


    OS on a stick

    That is, actually, very convenient.

    We are migrating away from disks and moving drives and having OS available on a USB stick is definitely a step in the right direction. Now if it was feasible price wise for larger app suites.

  1. Jeronimo2000

    Joined: Dec 1969


    You gotta hand it to Apple

    When they put their hands on it, even a boring old USB stick can look cool.

  1. prl99

    Joined: Dec 1969


    iLife '11 on a stick?

    I just ordered iLife '11 and now I'm wondering if it will be delivered on the same USB drive. Probably not but it would be nice if it was.

    Complete iMac installation DVDs (SL, 2 disks) come out to 7.56GB + 4.86GB = 12.42GB so an inexpensive 16GB chip would be plenty.

    Comment buried. Show
  1. Drunken Economist

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Congratulations, Apple..

    Welcome to the 21st century. Anyone who has ANY clue has already put DVD images of Snow Leopard on a USB stick. All of the Intel based Macs from 2-3 years ago onward have been able to boot from USB and see sticks as 'real volumes'.

    It may have started with the hackintosh crowd, but I know Mac gurus who have all the install DVDs they need on their (real) keychains.

  1. chefpastry

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Sell them

    If Apple sold that flash drive, they'd sell millions easily.

    Comment buried. Show
  1. testudo

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Re: Sell them

    If Apple sold that flash drive, they'd sell millions easily.

    Well, duh. There's enough fanboys out there who'd plunk down $200 for a 32GB flash drive designed by Apple. It's what they do. Most logical people would look at it and go "Oh, wait, you mean I can't easily stick it on my key ring?" and move on to something more practical and less likely to get lost.

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