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First look: Apple's new 11 and 13 inch Thunderbolt MacBook Air

Unboxing the Thunderbolt Air

Both MacBook Air models are feather light, but slightly heavier than last year. The 11 inch model is now 2.38 lb (1.08 kg) rather than 2.3 lb (1.04 kg), while the 13 inch Air is now 2.96 lb (1.34 kg) versus 2.9 lb (1.32 kg).

The Air models continue to keep the weight down by not including an optical drive, which Apple is working to make increasingly less important both by pushing movies toward digital downloads and rentals and the new effort to push digital downloads of software through the Mac App Store.

Mid 2011 11 inch MacBook Air

The first generation of MacBook Airs offered an external optical drive but recommended use of then-new Disc Sharing feature for network-based installations of software from DVD. Last year, Apple began providing recovery software on a solid state flash RAM dongle (see below).

This year, even that is gone, thanks to the standard new recovery partition created by Mac OS X Lion, which reserves a small portion of the internal drive for recovery uses.

Late 2010 11 inch MacBook Air

Late 2010 11 inch MacBook Air

All that's left inside the box is a Apple MagSafe power supply (your existing ones will work as well), and the usual regulatory notifications, Apple stickers, and mini-manual booklet.

Mid 2011 11 inch MacBook Air

Save when buying

The new MacBook Airs began making their way to Apple stores and authorized over the last 24 hours. Readers in the market for one of the notebooks can check out AppleInsider's Mac Pricing Guide (also below), where MacMall is already offering readers an additional 3% discount off its already reduced MacBook Air (and MacBook Pro) prices. The discount is instant when using the links below but available only when placing orders on line —you do not need to call MacMall to place a pre-order. Orders placed online will ship as soon as the reseller receives stock from Apple. Currently, the low-end 11.6" and high-end 13.3" models are in stock with the other models arriving to ship Monday.