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New MacBook Air Looking Likely for June or July

macbook airAccording to a report on the Taiwan-based DigiTimes website, Apple will begin shipping new MacBook Air models in late May, in preparation for a June/July launch.

The report says that the new versions of its 11.6-inch and 13.3-inch models will feature Intel’s Sandy Bridge processor as well as Thunderbolt ports. “Main supply chain makers for the new models remain about the same as for the existing MacBook Air [although] none of the makers have confirmed their participation in making new MacBook Airs,” DigiTimes says.

The news from Taiwan ties in with other recently heard whispers. In February, rumors surfaced about a refresh for the popular ultra-thin computer, which was introduced to the market in 2008. Those reports also talked of Sandy Bridge processors. Currently, MacBook Airs use the Intel Core 2 Duo chip. Use of the Sandy Bridge processor would result in an overall improvement in performance as well as more efficient power consumption.

According to the DigiTimes report, it looks like the new MacBook Airs could be getting Intel’s Thunderbolt data transfer technology too – this doesn’t come as too much of a surprise as it’s a feature already seen in Apple’s refreshed MacBook Pros released in February, as well as in the new line of iMacs which came out earlier this month. Thunderbolt’s transfer speeds of up to 10 gigabits per second leave USB 2.0 looking like a tortoise with a walking stick. It’s even 12 times quicker than Firewire 800. USB 3.0 hardly comes close either, which is five times slower than Thunderbolt.

In March it was reported that Apple shifted 1.1 million MacBook Airs in the three months up to the end of last year, making the then newly refreshed MacBook Air line one of the most successful product launches in Apple’s history. The ultra-thin laptops are popular with those who like to travel light – the 11.6-inch model weighs in at just 2.3 pounds – although they do lack an optical drive.

As is usual with the Cupertino company, no word has been forthcoming on the veracity of the rumors regarding the MacBook Air refresh.

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