Apple has hit the order button for new MacBook Air laptops based on Intel's latest processors, according to a report from AppleInsider today.
As CNET reported in February, the new MacBook Airs will get Intel's Sandy Bridge silicon and finally drop the older Core 2 Duo chip, used since the line's inception in January 2008.
Citing a Concord Securities analyst, AppleInsider reported that the new MacBook Airs are expected to go into mass production this month, with orders from Apple totaling 380,000 for the 11.6-inch and 13.3-inch models. The same report said that Apple will wind down production of current versions of the Air.
The update will bring the Intel chip in Apple's lightest laptop up to par with existing MacBook Pros, which use Intel's speedy Core i5 and Core i7 Sandy Bridge processors.
And the Intel chip refresh would follow the update to the 13-inch MacBook Pro in February. Like the existing MacBook Air, the 13-inch MacBooks had been on an old Intel chip diet before Apple finally beefed them up with new Sandy Bridge processors.
One outstanding question is whether the new Airs will get the coveted, high-performance Thunderbolt port that is now standard on all MacBook Pros. A recent report claimed that is indeed the case.
Graphics silicon is also expected to change. The first-gen MacBook Air used Intel graphics, while the second-gen and third-gen Airs got an Nvidia graphics chip. This time, Apple is expected to return to the Intel fold (as it has done with 13-inch MacBook Pro already). Why? Intel's Sandy Bridge graphics offer good-enough performance for a heat-challenged, ultrathin laptop like the Air. Plus, real estate is precious. There just isn't room for a lot of extra chips.