It looks like Apple may refresh the ultra-portable MacBook Air notebook–available currently in 11- and 13-inch screen sizes–to accommodate Intel’s second-generation Core processor, known as Sandy Bridge according to the latest Internet reports. Our own Josh Smith had written over at Notebooks.com that the move will deliver for Apple and to consumers better graphics performance:
The new 2nd Generation Core i processors from Intel have a graphics solution built right into the same piece of silicon as the processor which has allowed for much better graphics performance from the integrated graphics processors than on previous generations.
It is speculated that the first-generation MacBook Air–the current shipping models–had eschewed the first-generation Intel Core processors as Intel had required that manufacturers like Apple utilize Intel’s integrated GPU, though computer-makers can also add a discrete GPU from another vendor if needed, like on the MacBook Pro series.
Given the tight space constraints, and what many believe that Apple sees as an inferior GPU from Intel compared to an NVIDIA solution, Apple had chosen to utilize a less-restrictive, but older Core 2 Duo chip from Intel so that it can place an integrated NVIDIA GPU into the Air rather than having to increase cost and valuable space to use a discrete GPU and a first-gen Core CPU on the already space-confined and slim Air.
That said, with Intel having ramped up the GPU performance by placing the graphics component into the same silicon as the CPU, graphics performance has increased for the second-generation Core Sandy Bridge chips, which would perhaps make it more acceptable to vendors who are more selective and particular, like Apple.
An updated MacBook Air with Sandy Bridge CPU will be more competitive with Samsung’s competing 9 Series laptops, which were introduced a month ago at CES. The 9 Series boasts an equally slim form factor and comes in the same 11- or 13-inch screen sizes. As a Windows 7 MacBook Air competitor, it boasts some impressive specs and design, and was awarded a Best of CES 2011 award from Notebooks.com.
Given that the integrated solution saves space inside the notebook, Smith speculates that slimmer, smaller MacBook Airs, and perhaps even MacBook Pros, will arrive when Apple makes the transition to Sandy Bridge. If the notebooks don’t slim down, it may bulk up on other features–such as accommodating an SD card reader, which the 13-inch Air has but the 11-inch Air doesn’t because of space constraint. Another potential feature would be to accommodate a bigger, heftier battery inside the extra freed up space.