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Apple's new MacBook Airs to bring back backlit keyboards - sources

post #1 of 83
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With the release of new models later this month, Apple is set to reinstate a feature to its MacBook Airs that went missing when the company overhauled the ultra-thin notebooks into more cost-affordable products late last year, AppleInsider has learned.

According to people familiar with the matter, backlit keyboards will join the string of hardware enhancements planned for the new 11.6- and 13.3-inch notebooks, which are also expected to adopt high-speed Thunderbolt ports, an upgrade to Intel's Sandy Bridge architecture, and possibly high-speed 400MBps flash memory.

The omission late last year of keyboard backlights -- which help illuminate the keys on a keyboard in dim lighting scenarios -- from Apple's current lineup of MacBook Airs was particularly glaring given that all three iterations of the first-generation of MacBook Airs (Early 2008 to Mid-2009) included them as standard features.

Given Apple's energy saving controls, software expertise, and the nominal cost associated with including keyboard backlights, it was never particularly clear why Apple opted to leave out the feature when it redesigned the MacBook Air line last October. One industry watcher even went as far as to call it "planned obsolescence" on Apple's part.

Nevertheless, people familiar with the matter say Apple's white 13.3-inch MacBook will once again be the only notebook from the company to lack keyboard backlights once the new Airs make their debut sometime during the week of July 21st.

As AppleInsider reported a month ago, Apple has been holding off shipments of roughly 400,000 of these new MacBook Airs until it can image them with the finalized Golden Master build of Mac OS X Lion, which privately began making its way to developers last week.

As for Lion's release to the public, AppleInsider indicated last week that preparatory measures were put in motion for an unveiling this week. However, there have been some underground rumors of last minute security issues related to application resumes and restarts that could possible delay the update till next week. At the same time, buzz from within Apple's home base has also suggested this Friday as a possibility. But given that Apple just began accepting applications for Lion to the Mac App Store a few hours ago, that may suddenly seem ambitious.

MacBook Air's long-lost backlit keyboard, as pictured on a 1st-gen model | Credit: zanoii's flickr

Either way, Friday releases of major OS X upgrades have been somewhat of a tradition for Apple for nearly a decade. With the exception of Cheetah and Puma, which were released on a Tuesday and Saturday, respectively, back in 2001, all major new versions of OS X have made their debut on a Friday: Panther (Friday, Oct. 24, 2003), Tiger (Friday, Apr. 29, 2005), Leopard (Friday, Oct. 26, 2007), and Snow Leopard (Friday, Aug. 28, 2009).

Since their introduction last October, the aggressively-priced 11.6- and 13.3-inch MacBook Airs (Review) have been a runaway success, with Apple assembling roughly 1 million units within their first quarter of availability. During those three months, consumers reportedly chose the new MacBook Airs at a one-to-two ratio to the company's more established MacBook Pro offerings, making for one of the company's most successful Mac product launches ever.

And while rivals like Intel continue in their attempts to race to market with 'Ultrabook' designs to take on the Air, analysts like Deutsche Bank's Chris Whitmore see the upcoming generation of Lion-equipped Airs boosting sales by some 50%, or to 1.5 million units per quarter.

Should this month's introductions boost Air sales by the margin Whitmore predicts, the MacBook Air line will have in just under a year grown to account for nearly half of all the notebooks Apple ships in a single quarter, further fortifying their design as a harbinger of things to come across the remainder of the company's portable Mac offerings.
post #2 of 83
Yes! This is great news and I cannot wait to purchase the new Macbook Airs, I'm really hoping that they are launched alongside Lion THIS Friday! Another week? Say it aint so!

I simply cannot wait to find out about the specs for these new MBA's confirmed and ready to go
post #3 of 83
Hmm...I wonder if this means it won't come out til Friday the 22nd or 29th!

Either way, very excited for Lion. I really think people don't give it a fair shake...
post #4 of 83
About time. I was very surprised to see Apple did not include keyboard backlight in the current model even as a BTO option. I've grown so accustomed to the feature in my Early 2008 MacBook Pro I wouldn't want to get a notebook without it anymore.
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post #5 of 83
Quote:
Originally Posted by acslater017 View Post

Hmm...I wonder if this means it won't come out til Friday the 22nd or 29th!

Either way, very excited for Lion. I really think people don't give it a fair shake...

Oh no, 15th! 15th! 15th!

Lion is truly shakable my friend, can't wait as is evident with my repeated posts of enthusiasm! Haha.
post #6 of 83
Quote:
Originally Posted by zunx View Post

Bring ... a lighter and smaller model as well.

You're kidding, right? Lighter and smaller than the 11" MacBook Air??? How much smaller do you want?

In my opinion, Apple could do well adding a 15" MacBook Air to the lineup.
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post #7 of 83
Price hike?
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OK, can I have my matte Apple display, now?
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post #8 of 83
Well, since nobody mentioned it, how about a retina display in the MacBook Air?

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post #9 of 83
Quote:
Originally Posted by mcarling View Post

You're kidding, right? Lighter and smaller than the 11" MacBook Air??? How much smaller do you want?

In my opinion, Apple could do well adding a 15" MacBook Air to the lineup.

Agreed, 11" is almost too small as it is...

Apple will NEVER invest in Netbook sized notebooks... that's why they went with iPad and even it's close enough to 10"...

"Netbooks aren't better at anything" - Steve Jobs, when assuring consumers that new products have to be better at doing what they do than other products already available.
post #10 of 83
I am planning on getting a new 11" MBA and am just waiting to upgrade to Lion on my MBP and iMac. While I use the MBP and iMac, the MBA will go to my wife.. a perfect birthday gift!

I have been waiting rather restlessly for Lion (I check the Mac App Store every night before going to bed!), so it's good that a third of July is already gone. I'm hoping the rest of the waiting period goes by as fast!
post #11 of 83
Quote:
Originally Posted by Messiah View Post

Price hike?

No way. Apple clearly worked to make the entry price $999. It's not about to change.
post #12 of 83
Quote:
Originally Posted by zunx View Post

Great. Bring also the matte display option. And a lighter and smaller model as well.

Oh come on. It's called an iPad. Look it up.
post #13 of 83
This is great news. It's hard to see many people choosing the 13" MBP over the 13" MBA now.
post #14 of 83
Sweet!! I am looking forward to order one...being waiting for some time now.

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"Apple people have no objectivity when it comes to criticism of Apple.." Lenovo X1 Carbon is out..bye bye MBAir

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post #15 of 83
Backlit, thunderbolt, ssd, some sandybridge love and dare we hope.. a matte screen.

Man, that would be beastly.

I'd just about sell my 17" mbpro and swap to one of these hooked to a desktop monitor and an external raid. Hmmmm
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post #16 of 83
Quote:
Originally Posted by cy_starkman View Post

I'd just about sell my 17" mbpro and swap to one of these hooked to a desktop monitor and an external raid.

Coming from a 17" MacBook Pro, wouldn't you really rather have a 15" MacBook Air? Or do you plan to keep it permanently connected to a desktop monitor?
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post #17 of 83
Quote:
Originally Posted by cy_starkman View Post

I'd just about sell my 17" mbpro and swap to one of these hooked to a desktop monitor and an external raid. Hmmmm

I saw this kind of comment very often at Apple forum. Coming from PC I never thought about connecting notebook to a monitor so I couldn't help wondering.. what is the benefit? Did you suddenly see everything at the native resolution of the monitor? or do you still see it at the resolution of your MBA?
post #18 of 83
Quote:
Originally Posted by matrix07 View Post

I saw this kind of comment very often at Apple forum. Coming from PC I never thought about connecting notebook to a monitor so I couldn't help wondering.. what is the benefit? Did you suddenly see everything at the native resolution of the monitor? or do you still see it at the resolution of your MBA?

You can do either. There are two modes for using two or more monitors:

1. Mirroring
2. Extended Desktop

Mirroring, as the name suggests, show exactly the same image on the two monitors at the same time - so whichever screen has the lowest resolution is the limiting factor. This mode tends to be useful for presentations and the like.

With the extended desktop mode, each monitor operates at its native resolution and shows different content - you designate a certain monitor to be your "main" monitor (with a laptop the main monitor can be the built-in monitor or the external one) and that shows the Menu Bar and Dock, and you can drag windows from one display to another.
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post #19 of 83
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mr. H View Post

You can do either. There are two modes for using two or more monitors:

1. Mirroring
2. Extended Desktop

Mirroring, as the name suggests, show exactly the same image on the two monitors at the same time - so whichever screen has the lowest resolution is the limiting factor. This mode tends to be useful for presentations and the like.

With the extended desktop mode, each monitor operates at its native resolution and shows different content - you designate a certain monitor to be your "main" monitor and that shows the Menu Bar and Dock, and you can drag windows from one display to another.

I see. Thank you.
post #20 of 83
This is good reporting.
Citing unnamed sources with limited but direct knowledge of the rumoured device - Comedy Insider (Feb 2014)
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Citing unnamed sources with limited but direct knowledge of the rumoured device - Comedy Insider (Feb 2014)
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post #21 of 83
Quote:
Originally Posted by zunx View Post

Great. Bring also the matte display option. And a lighter and smaller model as well.

The MacBook Air displays are not glass and as a result the are less glossy than you'd expect. As for "a lighter and smaller model as well". WTF?
Citing unnamed sources with limited but direct knowledge of the rumoured device - Comedy Insider (Feb 2014)
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Citing unnamed sources with limited but direct knowledge of the rumoured device - Comedy Insider (Feb 2014)
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post #22 of 83
@Matrix07

...and the benefit is when you're mobile you actually are mobile as opposed to lugging a giant beast around but when it all gets serious you got lots of real estate.

Also cost, I mean look at your preferred brand, the 13 or 15 have comparable enough specs in CPU, ram, disk, graphics with maybe a teeny meaningless % bump for the 17" but for the 17 the difference you pay is more than a 23"+ desktop monitor.

I've talked more than a few people around to dropping the laptop screen spec for a desktop. Normally the reason is "I want to edit, I need the big screen". Sure then go the BIG screen.

The GPU's in modern laptops can hack big desktop monitors now, the extra GPU ram is irrelevant except for real time 3d in games and the performance difference in flops or whatever doesn't matter, I mean 5% or something. Seriously it ain't going to make a difference.

If your need means it would make a difference then it is cause you earn money from it, so get a couple headless slaves under the desk.
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post #23 of 83
trips on wallet...
post #24 of 83
Quote:
Originally Posted by RichL View Post

This is great news. It's hard to see many people choosing the 13" MBP over the 13" MBA now.

The MBP has a better chance of running OSX.

The Airs I've looked at in the Apple Store could barely (ie slowly) handle the basics of the UI.

I'll take another look after this refresh and see.

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post #25 of 83
Concerning a lighter and smaller MacBook Air model, remember the very same discussions when only the 13-inch model was available. Then Apple produced the 11-inch model which outsold the larger one. Because on this kind of product, the key feature is portability (read weight and size) and not battery life or big display area. And no, the iPad is not a Mac.
post #26 of 83
I find the backlit keyboard useful, though I think Apple could improve their implementation of it.

There's so much light leakage from around the keys, which doesn't seem to have any purpose other than to slightly wash out your vision in the dark. They only need to light the letters and I'm sure they could engineer that and probably save some energy on the size of the lights.

The keyboard always seems to go off when I need it most.

They have used two whole keys to control the keyboard on a keyboard that is desperate for the space. Better they re-thought the special keys on the bottom left to make then meaningful and have some kind of system key that holds all the features for communicating with the system, and just hide it in there along with Eject disk.

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post #27 of 83
Quote:
Originally Posted by PXT View Post

The MBP has a better chance of running OSX.

The Airs I've looked at in the Apple Store could barely (ie slowly) handle the basics of the UI.

I'll take another look after this refresh and see.

eh? I replaced my 15" MBP with an air as my main work machine and have never looked back (mostly science apps and office type stuff). Slowly handle the basics of the UI? eh? You must have been looking at some beat up airs, the flash more than makes up for the slower processors in most office applications, in fact it batters my old MBP in these apps. Sure if you are in video or audio editing or computational modelling buy a MBP, or actually a desktop. which I have at home for that and can access over wifi etc.
post #28 of 83
"One industry watcher even went as far as to call it "planned obsolescence" on Apple's part."

Talk about conspiracy theory, take the silver hat off man...
post #29 of 83
Quote:
Originally Posted by PXT View Post

The MBP has a better chance of running OSX.

The Airs I've looked at in the Apple Store could barely (ie slowly) handle the basics of the UI.

I'll take another look after this refresh and see.

I'm sure his point that you quoted is once NEW Airs come out, they'll be big competition for 13" MBP's... and I'm sure Sandy Bridge processors will run Lion just finee!
post #30 of 83
Quote:
Originally Posted by cy_starkman View Post

I'd just about sell my 17" mbpro and swap to one of these hooked to a desktop monitor and an external raid. Hmmmm

I'm the proud owner of what was the first 11" MacBook Air in Scotland. I literally got it straight of the pallet before the AppleStore staff had had a chance to see it (they didn't even have one on display at the time).

It is without doubt, the fastest, and most reliable Mac I have owned to date. In the last month, I purchased a 17" MacBook Pro, and thanks to the MBPs inability to support third party SSDs (WTF), the MBA runs rings around it.

Sure the 17" MBP can handle large complex Photoshop files better, thanks to its discreet graphics card, but in general workflow usage and 99% of CS5 stuff, the MBA comprehensively spanks the MBP, even with only 2GB of RAM.

IMHO, SSDs are the single largest jump in computing performance, in recent memory. In the past I've spent stupid amounts of money on 32GBs of RAM and four-way 10k RAID 0 stripe sets in order to try and squeeze every last bit of performance out of Mac Pros. But this diminutive little notebook is SO much faster.

I regularly take my MBA and 27" LED Cinema Display into studios to work. This initially raises eyebrows, but people soon come round when then realise just how capable this setup is. I guess it's really strange for people, to see this little notebook driving a display of that size. But I think it's the future.

My only complaint, which is purely down to the fact that I got the MBA before the AppleStore staff were familiar with it, is that when I purchased it, I was told that I would be able to subsequently upgrade its RAM from 2GB to 4GB. As it turns out, the 2GB of RAM is soldered on the motherboard and can't be upgraded.

Still, even with 2GB of RAM, it's unbelievably fast. I suspect that for programs like CS5 which are so memory hungry, even with 8GB of RAM installed the system is still having to swap out to the hard drive. Perhaps 2GB swapping to an SSD is actually faster than 8GB swapping to a 5400rpm HD?

Moving to the top of the range 17" MBP feels like a major downgrade... at least until the boffins find a way to make SATA3 drives actually work, and I can install one in my 17" MBP!

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post #31 of 83
Quote:
Originally Posted by Messiah View Post

..., I purchased a 17" MacBook Pro, and thanks to the MBPs inability to support third party SSDs (WTF), the MBA runs rings around it....

...Moving to the top of the range 17" MBP feels like a major downgrade... at least until the boffins find a way to make SATA3 drives actually work, and I can install one in my 17" MBP!


I dont know what you are smoking Messiah, but it sure is messing with your head!
Try doing some research and you could be amazed. Personally, I have a 240GB OWC SSD installed in my 2.3GHz i7 17" MBP which utterly destroys my maxed out 2.13 GHz 13" MBA. The MBA is awesome for light work, but when I'm earning money, I need the computational power of the quad core i7, and the speed of the OWC SSD (which is significantly faster than the SSD of the MBA). Check out barefeats.com and macsales.com (and OWC ship internationally too as I live in Australia).
post #32 of 83
Quote:
Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post

With the release of new models later this month, Apple is set to reinstate a feature to its MacBook Airs that went missing when the company overhauled the ultra-thin notebooks into more cost-affordable products late last year, AppleInsider has learned.

According to people familiar with the matter, backlit keyboards will join the string of hardware enhancements planned for the new 11.6- and 13.3-inch notebooks, which are also expected to adopt high-speed Thunderbolt ports, an upgrade to Intel's Sandy Bridge architecture, and possibly high-speed 400MBps flash memory.

The omission late last year of keyboard backlights -- which help illuminate the keys on a keyboard in dim lighting scenarios -- from Apple's current lineup of MacBook Airs was particularly glaring given that all three iterations of the first-generation of MacBook Airs (Early 2008 to Mid-2009) included them as standard features.

Given Apple's energy saving controls, software expertise, and the nominal cost associated with including keyboard backlights, it was never particularly clear why Apple opted to leave out the feature when it redesigned the MacBook Air line last October. One industry watcher even went as far as to call it "planned obsolescence" on Apple's part.

Nevertheless, people familiar with the matter say Apple's white 13.3-inch MacBook will once again be the only notebook from the company to lack keyboard backlights once the new Airs make their debut sometime during the week of July 21st.

As AppleInsider reported a month ago, Apple has been holding off shipments of roughly 400,000 of these new MacBook Airs until it can image them with the finalized Golden Master build of Mac OS X Lion, which privately began making its way to developers last week.

As for Lion's release to the public, AppleInsider indicated last week that preparatory measures were put in motion for an unveiling this week. However, there have been some underground rumors of last minute security issues related to application resumes and restarts that could possible delay the update till next week. At the same time, buzz from within Apple's home base has also suggested this Friday as a possibility. But given that Apple just began accepting applications for Lion to the Mac App Store a few hours ago, that may suddenly seem ambitious.

MacBook Air's long-lost backlit keyboard, as pictured on a 1st-gen model | Credit: zanoii's flickr

Either way, Friday releases of major OS X upgrades have been somewhat of a tradition for Apple for nearly a decade. With the exception of Cheetah and Puma, which were released on a Tuesday and Saturday, respectively, back in 2001, all major new versions of OS X have made their debut on a Friday: Panther (Friday, Oct. 24, 2003), Tiger (Friday, Apr. 29, 2005), Leopard (Friday, Oct. 26, 2007), and Snow Leopard (Friday, Aug. 28, 2009).

Since their introduction last October, the aggressively-priced 11.6- and 13.3-inch MacBook Airs (Review) have been a runaway success, with Apple assembling roughly 1 million units within their first quarter of availability. During those three months, consumers reportedly chose the new MacBook Airs at a one-to-two ratio to the company's more established MacBook Pro offerings, making for one of the company's most successful Mac product launches ever.

And while rivals like Intel continue in their attempts to race to market with 'Ultrabook' designs to take on the Air, analysts like Deutsche Bank's Chris Whitmore see the upcoming generation of Lion-equipped Airs boosting sales by some 50%, or to 1.5 million units per quarter.

Should this month's introductions boost Air sales by the margin Whitmore predicts, the MacBook Air line will have in just under a year grown to account for nearly half of all the notebooks Apple ships in a single quarter, further fortifying their design as a harbinger of things to come across the remainder of the company's portable Mac offerings.

When this comes out the MBA what will happen to the new 2011 13 inch MBP that just came out in March 2011?
post #33 of 83
Quote:
Originally Posted by dvd404 View Post

I dont know what you are smoking Messiah, but it sure is messing with your head!
Try doing some research and you could be amazed. Personally, I have a 240GB OWC SSD installed in my 2.3GHz i7 17" MBP which utterly destroys my maxed out 2.13 GHz 13" MBA. The MBA is awesome for light work, but when I'm earning money, I need the computational power of the quad core i7, and the speed of the OWC SSD (which is significantly faster than the SSD of the MBA). Check out barefeats.com and macsales.com (and OWC ship internationally too as I live in Australia).

agreed. I too have the 2 same machines as well as an i5 quad core 27" iMac.
The MBP with an SSD smokes them all. and not by a small margin either.
post #34 of 83
Quote:
Originally Posted by mcarling View Post

Coming from a 17" MacBook Pro, wouldn't you really rather have a 15" MacBook Air? Or do you plan to keep it permanently connected to a desktop monitor?

I'd love a 15" MBA. My 17" MBP is about 3 years old and ready to be upgraded. I'm looking at 17" MBP, 15" MBP, and 13" MBA. Right now, I'm leaning toward the 15" MBP, but if there were a 15" MBA with Sandy Bridge, that would settle it - I'd buy one in a heartbeat.

Quote:
Originally Posted by PXT View Post

The MBP has a better chance of running OSX.

The Airs I've looked at in the Apple Store could barely (ie slowly) handle the basics of the UI.

Bull. For UI stuff, the MBA with its standard SSD is faster than a non-SSD MBP. It's amazing how fast the MBA is, given the relatively slow processor.

For heavy duty CPU- or GPU-intensive stuff, the MBP will win, but claiming that the MBA can barely handle the UI indicates that you haven't really used one.
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post #35 of 83
Quote:
Originally Posted by marvfox View Post

When this comes out the MBA what will happen to the new 2011 13 inch MBP that just came out in March 2011?

Nothing. They're different lines and completely different products though they both happen to be 13". More people may opt for MBA's over MBP's but that's to do with consumer demand and interest, and not obsolescence.
post #36 of 83
Quote:
Originally Posted by cy_starkman View Post

@Matrix07

...and the benefit is when you're mobile you actually are mobile as opposed to lugging a giant beast around but when it all gets serious you got lots of real estate.

Also cost, I mean look at your preferred brand, the 13 or 15 have comparable enough specs in CPU, ram, disk, graphics with maybe a teeny meaningless % bump for the 17" but for the 17 the difference you pay is more than a 23"+ desktop monitor.

Good point. Didn't look at the price that closely. Didn't think of this option before.
post #37 of 83
Quote:
Originally Posted by matrix07 View Post

Good point. Didn't look at the price that closely. Didn't think of this option before.

Yeah, the 17" MBP is, to me, really a luggable/portable iMac. You have to truly need that kind of computer on-the-go with you to realize it's capabilities more than it's drawbacks (size/weight/price).
post #38 of 83
Was a stupid move to remove it anyway. Yet a good portion of the people here on these boards backed the move

Now those same people will probably be praising the move to bring it back
post #39 of 83
The number 1, 2, 3 reasons I didn't buy the 2nd Gen Air was because the loss of backlit keys. It makes the machine a desired device, without lit keys, it's just a thin Mac laptop. I had to settle with the last of the 1st gen models for about a year... ugh!

Hopefully these rumors are true, and for people who don't understand the advantage, go download "Lab Tick", it keeps the keys always lit... sweet!

http://labtick.proculo.de/
post #40 of 83
Quote:
Originally Posted by Messiah View Post

Moving to the top of the range 17" MBP feels like a major downgrade... at least until the boffins find a way to make SATA3 drives actually work, and I can install one in my 17" MBP!


Sounds like a little exaggeration. If you put an SSD in a recent 17" MBP, it's going to blow the MBA away. You're probably comparing the MBA's SSD to the MBP's conventional hard disk.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Hudson1 View Post

Yeah, the 17" MBP is, to me, really a luggable/portable iMac. You have to truly need that kind of computer on-the-go with you to realize it's capabilities more than it's drawbacks (size/weight/price).

Price is only a few hundred dollars more than the 15". And size/weight? I've been carrying one around for years - and the size and weight never bothered me. Granted, I'm not a 5'1" teenage wimp, but it's not the huge problem that some people suggest. It is quite portable and usable (heck, there are 15" laptops that weigh more....).
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