© iFixit Electronics Production | July 22, 2011

MacBook Air 13" Mid 2011 Teardown

With the release of these newly-updated MacBook Airs, people have been asking us what Apple updated under the hood. The answer? More than is evident at first glance.
The new MacBook Air is visually very similar to the last revision, but it includes substantial improvements to the chipset and IO controllers. Moving to built-in graphics freed up tons of room on the logic board and allowed Apple to squeeze a new 'Platform Controller Hub' with Thunderbolt support onto the board.

Although today is an exciting day for Apple, it's a sad day for consumer repair. Apple decided that this "svelte and sexy" MacBook Air will replace the "simple and serviceable" white plastic MacBook. So while your backpacks will be significantly lighter, future repairability and upgradability will suffer tremendously.

Unlike the plastic MacBook, the Air has a proprietary SSD, soldered (non-upgradeable) RAM, and replacing the LCD panel on it is incredibly challenging. Hence it received the same dismal 4 out of 10 repairability score as the previous-gen Air.

Teardown highlights:

The lovely USB reinstall stick from last year's model is non-existent. So if your Lion starts getting hiccups, you'll have to take it to an Apple Store (but not the zoo, silly) to get it resolved.

A Broadcom BCM20702 chip on the wireless board adds Bluetooth 4.0 support with BLE. BLE chips hold many advantages over classic Bluetooth including 128 bit AES security, 6 ms latency (classic Bluetooth is 100 ms), and less power consumption.

A Broadcom BCM4322 Intensi-fi Single-Chip 802.11n Transceiver gives this Air the ability to get internet... through air.

Just like in the mid-2010 MacBook Air, the SSD is not soldered on the logic board. Thankfully this means you can upgrade the SSD for more storage, but you're still out of luck if you need extra RAM.

Other than a larger plate to accommodate the bigger die face of the Core i5 processor, the heat sink looks nearly identical to the one used on the Core 2 Duo Airs of last year. We'll do some testing to see if temperatures are any higher in this machine.

Surprisingly, there isn't too much excess thermal paste between the processor and the heat sink. This is a nice departure from Apple's recent trend of assaulting processors with gobs of thermal paste.

All images © iFixit

Big players on the logic board include:

- Intel Core i5 Processor-2557M with integrated Intel HD 3000 graphics
- Intel E78296 01PB10 / E116A746 SLJ4K Platform Controller Hub. We're guessing this includes an integrated Thunderbolt controller. It's not this part, but it's similar.
- Hynix H5TQ2G838ZR 4 GB RAM
- SMSC USB2513B USB 2.0 Hub Controller

Shifting to integrated graphics on the processor freed up a lot of room on the board -- enough for Apple to add the sizeable Thunderbolt-capable Platform Controller Hub.

A new addition to the upper case is the network of LEDs attached to the keyboard backlight cable. A couple LEDs transmit light through fiber optic channels to evenly illuminate the keys on the keyboard.

The thickness restrictions of such a thin display were the deciding factor in not equipping the Air with a FaceTimeHD camera.

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