updated 06:10 pm EDT, Thu July 21, 2011
RAM still not upgradeable
Repair and technology website iFixit has posted images, tutorials and a video of their teardown of the latest 13-inch MacBook Air, announced just yesterday. Under the hood, the unit revealed some obvious changes, some not-so-obvious revelations -- but on the whole was similar in "repairability" to the previous version, garnering a poor rating from the company of four out of 10.
The company says that compared to the now-discontinued white MacBook, the MacBook Air was and is considerably more difficult from a servicing perspective, though actually getting into the casing remains easy (if you have a pentalope screwdriver, that is). The Air loses points for using a proprietary SSD design (though third-party vendors will eventually offer compatible replacement drives), soldered-on RAM (non-upgradeable at all), and a difficult-to-replace LCD panel.
Among the interesting observations in the teardown was the surprise that the USB reinstall stick users got with the last version is no longer included, meaning Lion reinstalls will have to be handled by users making their own flash-drive or DVD bootable installers or by taking the unit to the Apple Store. Also revealed was the fact that the new MacBook Air adds Bluetooth 4.0 support, which adds a number of enhancements including 128-bit AES security and dramatically lower latency (6ms down from 100ms) while using less power than before.
Apple's use of the on-processor Intel HD 3000 graphic chipset made room for the Thunderbolt-capable Platform Controller Hub, even though the Core i5 chip (with a Core i7 as an option) is slightly larger than the Intel Core2Duo it replaces. The company appears to be using the same heat sink as before, however, so iFixit plans to test if the new Air runs a bit hotter than the previous one.
The big drawbacks for iFixit were the proprietary design of the SSD (though it remains easily removable, along with the battery), and the non-removeable RAM. While vendors like OWC are likely to eventually offer SSDs compatible with the Air, the design makes it impossible to use most other brands, limiting choice when users opt to upgrade capacity. As for the RAM, the company advises buyers to max out the RAM when ordering the MacBook Air, as there is no other way of getting more.
Finally, iFixit notes the lack of a FaceTime HD camera in the new units (though they do have a non-HD camera) and mentions that the super-thin design of the lid was likely the factor that precluded an HD camera inclusion. The now-illuminated keyboard is accomplished using two LEDs and fibre-optic cabling to evenly light each key.
The full teardown is available on iFixit's website.