MacBook Air supplies are seriously constrained ahead of a summer update, meaning the guessing game is on. Two seemingly unrelated announcements from Intel and Sandisk today help paint a better picture of what the new hardware might bring. First up, Intel at the Computex show previewed a pair of new capabilities of a revised Sandy Bridge chipset, a likely candidates for the Air. We’re talking new Rapid Start and Smart Connect technologies, per this MacWorld report:

Intel’s Rapid Start Technology allows for faster turn-on by writing the PC’s application state to a dedicated flash drive. By doing this, the PC can quickly reload to its that state without rebooting, even if the battery is removed and then reinserted. The other feature, Intel’s Smart Connect Technology, updates content continuously on the PC while it’s in standby mode. The PC will periodically “wake up” and check for e-mail and other information like Twitter posts, and then fall back to standby mode.

The catch?


The second-generation Sandy Bridge chips that incorporate both the Rapid Start and Smart Connect technology will be available by the end of this year. While it’s dubious that the MacBook Air refresh, which is coming soon, would incorporate the new Sandy Bridge silicon, remember that Apple usually gets early access to unreleased hardware from Intel weeks – sometimes even months – ahead of the rest of the industry. Moving on to the second announcement, DigiTimes reported that SanDisk earlier today launched new solid state drives for ultra-thin notebooks and tablets, dubbed the U100 series and the i100 series, respectively.

Both drives are available in 8GB to 256GB capacities and feature a low-power architecture and speedy SATA3 performance with up to 450MB/sec sequential read and up to 340MB/sec sequential write speeds. The U100 is already Asus’ flash storage of choice for the UX2, their MacBook Air-challenging notebook shown Monday at the Computex show. We do not know whether Apple will use the new SanDisk chips for the upcoming Air, though.

Apple recently switched from Toshiba SSDs to speedier Samsung chips for new MacBook Air shipments so it’s nice they now have one more valid flash storage option at their disposal. It’s not very likely that Apple will switch from Samsung to SanDisk SSDs because the new SanDisk moduleswon’t be available in volume before the third quarter of this year, way too late for the Air refresh.

On the flip side, the new U100 flash storage from SanDisk is substantially faster than the Air’s latest SM128C modules from Samsung: 450/340 megabytes per second sequential read/write for the new SanDisk drive on the SATA3 interface versus 261.1/209.6 megabytes per second sequential read/write for the MacBook Air’s Samsung module via the SATA2 interface.

On a final note, SanDisk is known for lower prices: Maybe a $900 Air is possible?

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