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Apple looks to build on notebook momentum with refreshed MacBook Air

With its newly announced line of revamped MacBook Airs, Apple significantly bumped up the power of its bestselling computer line even while keeping the same slim and light profile that's helped make the notebook so popular.

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Announcing the new MacBook Airs today, Apple marketing chief Philip Schiller noted that the line was already the "industry leader for thin and light notebooks."

Schiller pointed to figures showing Apple's Mac lineup earning top spots in the PC industry even as the sector stumbles, with MacBooks and iMacs taking the number one spot in the U.S. for their respective categories.

The refreshed MacBook Airs build on a wealth of fresh technologies, most notable being a drastically increased battery life thanks to Intel's new Haswell processors. The silicon will enable up to 12 hours of normal use for the 13-inch model and up to 10 hours for the 11-inch model, as well as up to a month of standby for both.

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By comparison, the previous generation of MacBook Air, according to Apple, was capable of up to five hours of battery life on a single charge for the 11-inch model. The 13-inch model could get up to 7 hours of use on a single charge.

As had been rumored, Apple also built improved Wi-Fi connectivity its new Airs, likely signaling a similar rollout across the Mac lineup in the months to come. The addition of 802.11ac, the fifth-generation wireless standard, will enable connection speeds of up to 1Gbps per second over two channels, with a maximum theoretical speed of 1.3Gbps, or roughly 50 percent faster than the current 802.11n spec.

Apple also took time to tout improvements to the flash storage that allows the company to make the Air as thin as it is. The new flash components are said to be up to 45 percent faster than the preceding generation, allowing speeds up to nine times faster than a traditional 5400-rpm notebook hard drive. Such speeds will likely have a significant impact on how quickly the new Airs wake from sleep.

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As predicted by KGI analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, Apple added dual microphones to the thin-and-light for improved voice quality for VoIP and FaceTime calls. Also included in the latest Air is one high-speed Thunderbolt port and two USB 3.0 ports, a FaceTime HD camera and support for dual displays.

Many observers expected a refresh of the MacBook Air line due to the dwindling supply of the devices in the weeks leading up to Monday's event. Many of the notebooks' new features had been anticipated in rumors, but one that did fail to materialize was the addition of a Retina Display like that seen with the MacBook Pro line. The higher resolution display, though, requires more energy to power, and the Air likely could not maintain the small frame that is its signature were it to put in a battery large enough to power a Retina Display all day.