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MacBook Air Q&A - Published June 16, 2012

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What are all the differences between the "Mid-2012" MacBook Air models and the "Mid-2011" MacBook Air models that they replaced?

Externally, the standard "Mid-2012" MacBook Air models -- the MacBook Air "Core i5" 1.7 11-Inch (Mid-2012) and MacBook Air "Core i5" 1.8 13-Inch (Mid-2012) -- and the "Mid-2011" MacBook Air models -- the MacBook Air "Core i5" 1.6 11-Inch (Mid-2011) and "Core i5" 1.7 13-Inch (Mid-2011) -- look practically identical.


Photo Credit: Apple, Inc.

However, there are major internal and significant connectivity differences. EveryMac.com also can help one uniquely identify these models, too.

External Differences

All of these MacBook Air models use razor thin all aluminum cases that are similar apart from display size and corresponding housing. All are 0.11 of an inch at the front and taper to 0.68 of an inch at the rear, but the 11-Inch models are 11.8 inches by 7.56 inches when closed whereas the 13-Inch models are 12.8 inches by 8.94 inches when closed to accommodate the larger display.

All have the same displays that are relatively high-resolution for their physical dimensions -- an 11.6" 1366x768 display for the 11-Inch models and a 13.3" 1440x900 display for the 13-Inch models. All have a backlit keyboard and the same glass "no button" trackpads with "inertial scrolling" support. All likewise have integrated stereo speakers and an integrated webcam, although the "Mid-2011" models have a FaceTime webcam whereas the "Mid-2012" models have a superior quality 720p FaceTime HD webcam.

Connectivity Differences

Connectivity is an important point of differentiation.

All of these models have 802.11a/b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0, a "Thunderbolt" port, an analog audio out port (that also supports the Apple iPhone headset with remote and microphone), and a side mounted internal microphone. However, the "Mid-2011" models have two USB 2.0 ports whereas the "Mid-2012" models have two much faster USB 3.0 ports. It also is worth noting that Windows notebooks typically differentiate USB 3.0 ports with a blue color, but the USB ports on all MacBook Air models are white regardless of generation or speed.

The 13-Inch models in both lines also have an integrated SDXC-capable SD Card slot, whereas the 11-Inch models do not in either line. None of these models have Firewire, optical audio in/out, or Ethernet (although external Ethernet adapters are available as a US$29 option). None support a remote via IR, either.

Additionally, the "Mid-2011" MacBook Air models have a "MagSafe" power connector whereas the "Mid-2012" models have a wider and thinner "MagSafe 2" power connector that is not compatible with the earlier plug.

Identification Differences

At the time this Q&A was written (see top), the "Mid-2012" MacBook Air models have unique model numbers -- specifically A1465 for the 11-Inch and A1466 for the 13-Inch. However, future models likely will share the same model number. Additionally, the "Mid-2011" MacBook Air models share model numbers with some earlier MacBook Air lines, so model numbers cannot be used to uniquely identify these systems.

However, these systems can be uniquely identified externally by EMC numbers -- 2558 and 2559, for the 11-Inch and 13-Inch "Mid-2012" models, respectively, and 2471 and 2469 for the 11-Inch and 13-Inch "Mid-2011" models, again, respectively. Although they are not exciting, EveryMac.com has painstakingly hand documented these details for your convenience.

These models also can be pinpointed by model identifier in software. The "Mid-2012" 11-Inch and 13-Inch models use MacBookAir5,1 and MacBookAir5,2, respectively, whereas the "Mid-2011" models use MacBookAir4,1 and MacBookAir4,2.

EveryMac.com's Ultimate Mac Lookup feature additionally can identify these MacBook Air models by their serial numbers.

Internal Differences

Internally, there are major architectural differences between these lines, but there are some similarities as well. All have onboard RAM that cannot be upgraded after purchase, flash memory storage that is not intended to be upgraded after purchase, and non-removable battery designs (with an estimate of 5 hours of runtime for the 11-Inch models and 7 hours of runtime for the 13-Inch models).

However, the "Mid-2011" MacBook Air models are powered by "Sandy Bridge" Core i5/i7 processors, use integrated Intel HD Graphics 3000, and have 1333 MHz DDR3 memory. The "Mid-2012" MacBook Air models, on the other hand, have faster "Ivy Bridge" Core i5/i7 processors, use faster -- but still integrated -- Intel HD Graphics 4000, and have faster 1600 MHz DDR3L memory.

Comparison Charts

The differences between the "Mid-2011" and "Mid-2012" MacBook Air models -- processors, architecture, memory, graphics, connectivity, and configuration -- are summarized below.

The 11-Inch model gains major improvements in processors, architecture, memory, graphics and connectivity, as well as default memory and a lower introductory price:

 
Mid-2011 11"

Mid-2012 11"
Processor Speed: 1.6 GHz* 1.7 GHz**
Processor Type: Core i5 (I5-2467M)* Core i5 (I5-3317U)**
L2/L3 Cache: 256k x2, 3 MB 256k x2, 3 MB
System Bus (DMI): 5 GT/s 5 GT/s
Standard RAM: 2 GB, 4 GB 4 GB
Maximum RAM: 4 GB† 8 GB†
Onboard RAM Type: 1333 MHz DDR3 1600 MHz DDR3L
Internal Storage: 64 GB, 128 GB 64 GB, 128 GB
Storage Type: SSD (Mini SATA) SSD (Removable)
Video Processor: HD Graphics 3000 HD Graphics 4000
Thunderbolt: Yes Yes
USB: 2 (2.0) 2 (3.0)
Power Connector: MagSafe MagSafe 2
SD Card Slot: No No
Webcam: FaceTime FaceTime HD (720p)
Display Size: 11.6" Widescreen 11.6" Widescreen
Display Resolution: 1366x768 1366x768
Backlit Keyboard: Yes Yes
Battery Life: 5 Hours 5 Hours
Dimensions: .11-.68 x 11.8 x 7.56 .11-.68 x 11.8 x 7.56
Weight: 2.38 Pounds 2.38 Pounds
Order Numbers: MC968LL/A, MC969LL/A MD223LL/A, MD224LL/A
Model Number: 2471 2558
Model Identifier: MacBookAir4,1 MacBookAir5,1
Intro Price: US$999, US$1199 US$999, US$1099

* A 1.8 GHz Core i7 (I7-2677M) processor also was available via custom order for the 11-Inch MC969LL/A configuration (which has 4 GB of RAM and 128 GB of flash storage by default) as a US$150 upgrade. EveryMac.com also has documented this BTO/CTO configuration as its own model.

** A 2.0 GHz Core i7 (I7-3667U) processor also is available via custom order for the 11-Inch MD224LL/A configuration (which has 128 GB of flash storage by default) as a US$150 upgrade. EveryMac.com also has documented this BTO/CTO configuration as its own model.

† Note that RAM is soldered in place in all models and cannot be upgraded after purchase.

The 13-Inch model also has major improvements in processors, architecture, memory, graphics and connectivity as well as lower starting prices:

 
Mid-2011 13"

Mid-2012 13"
Processor Speed: 1.7 GHz* 1.8 GHz**
Processor Type: Core i5 (I5-2557M)* Core i5 (I5-3427U)**
L2/L3 Cache: 256k x2, 3 MB 256k x2, 3 MB
System Bus (DMI): 5 GT/s 5 GT/s
Standard RAM: 4 GB 4 GB
Maximum RAM: 4 GB† 8 GB†
Onboard RAM Type: 1333 MHz DDR3 1600 MHz DDR3L
Internal Storage: 128 GB, 256 GB 128 GB, 256 GB
Storage Type: SSD (Mini SATA) SSD (Removable)
Video Processor: HD Graphics 3000 HD Graphics 4000
Thunderbolt: Yes Yes
USB: 2 (2.0) 2 (3.0)
Power Connector: MagSafe MagSafe 2
SD Card Slot: Yes Yes
Bluetooth: 4.0 4.0
Webcam: FaceTime FaceTime HD (720p)
Display Size: 13.3" Widescreen 13.3" Widescreen
Display Resolution: 1440x900 1440x900
Backlit Keyboard: Yes Yes
Battery Life: 7 Hours 7 Hours
Dimensions: .11-.68 x 12.8 x 8.94 .11-.68 x 12.8 x 8.94
Weight: 2.96 Pounds 2.96 Pounds
Order Numbers: MC965LL/A, MC966LL/A MD231LL/A, MD232LL/A
EMC Number: 2469 2559
Model Identifier: MacBookAir4,2 MacBookAir5,2
Intro Price: US$1299, US$1599 US$1199, US$1499

* A 1.8 GHz Core i7 (I7-2677M) processor also is available via custom order for the 13-Inch MC966LL/A configuration (which has 256 GB of flash storage by default) as a US$100 upgrade. EveryMac.com also has documented this BTO/CTO configuration as its own model.

** A 2.0 GHz Core i7 (I7-3667U) processor also is available via custom order for the 13-Inch MD232LL/A configuration (which has 256 GB of flash storage by default) as a US$100 upgrade. EveryMac.com also has documented this BTO/CTO configuration as its own model.

† Note that RAM is soldered in place in all models and cannot be upgraded after purchase.


Comparison Summary

Ultimately, most users likely would be quite happy with the significantly enhanced performance and connectivity -- not to mention the option of substantially more RAM and often lower starting prices -- that the "Mid-2012" MacBook Air line provides. However, the "Mid-2011" models remain well worth consideration, particularly given discount prices on the used market.

Site sponsor PowerMax sells new and used 11-Inch and 13-Inch MacBook Air models free of sales tax.

Please refer to EveryMac.com's Ultimate Mac Comparison feature to dynamically compare any MacBook Air model to any other G3 or later Mac.


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