New MacBook Air Coming by End of June, but Which Processors Apple will Use?

Submitted by lalit on June 14, 2011 - 10:52am.

Yesterday, Reuters started the latest round of MacBook Air rumors by claiming “Apple Inc will start selling its latest MacBook Air in late June with 380,000 units as the first shipment.” Reuters got this information from Taiwan’s newspaper Economic Daily. The newspaper also claimed that Quanta Computer would be the manufacturing partner for the upcoming MacBook Air and out of the 380,000 new MacBook Airs, 55% would be 11.6-inch models.

It has been rumored for past few months that Apple will update the MacBook Air laptops with new Sandy Bridge processors from Intel. The new Sandy Bridge processors should improve the performance by more than 50%, even though these low voltage processors have lower clock speeds than Core 2 Duo lineup. The improvement will come from features like Hyperthreading, Turbo mode, faster memory and on-chip graphics. Apple can also improve battery life as Sandy Bridge processors have better power management features.

It will be interesting to see which processors Apple will use in the new MacBook Airs. Our guess is that for 11.6-inch models Apple will use processors with 17W TDP (thermal design power) like the 1.4GHz Core i5-2537M or 1.5GHz Core i7-2617M. However, for 13-inch models where Apple has more area to dissipate heat they could go for processors with 25W TDP like the 2.10GHz Core i7-2629M and 2.30GHz Core i7-2649M, or play it safe with 17W TDP processors like 1.50GHz Core i7-2617M and 1.60GHz Core i7-2657M.

Apple could in theory go with higher TDP processors because they will use the on-chip Intel HD Graphics and won’t need a separate NVIDIA chip like on current MacBook Air. Basically, the Core 2 Duo processor in current 13-inch model has 17W TDP and the NVIDIA 320M chip has 12W TDP, so Apple is already dealing with 29W TDP for the two chips. Replacing it with one chip that has 25W TDP can easily work out.

So our predictions for the upcoming MacBook Air update are: 11.6-inch models featuring 1.4GHz Core i5-2537M processor with higher-end model having an option of 1.5GHz Core i7-2617M upgrade; and 13-inch models featuring 2.10GHz Core i7-2629M processor with higher-end model having an option of 2.3GHz Core i7-2649M upgrade.