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The new Apple MacBook Air: Hands-on preview

This year's WWDC keynote was a fun affair, with a highly charged crowd of developers and Mac fans who bought up all of the conference's seats in 71 seconds, according to Tim Cook, CEO of Apple.

The keynote was filled with product announcements for iOS 7, OS X Mavericks, an updated pair of MacBook Air laptops, and the Mac Pro workstation. However, just about all of the products announced are coming "later this fall," with the notable exception of the 11in and 13in MacBook Air laptops.

While the MacBook Air 11in and MacBook Air 13in have improved internals, both systems' exteriors are unchanged from the last couple of iterations. While the MagSafe 2 power port was updated in late 2012, the two USB ports, headset jack, Thunderbolt, and SD card slot (on the 13in) are unchanged for 2013.

Screen sizes and screen resolutions remain the same; the 13in still has a crisp 1,440 x 900 display. Aside from the new processors and subsequent upgrade in each system's integrated graphics, the MacBook Air 13in and 11in are physically the same as last year's models.

The MacBook Air 13in does, however, come with a new 1.3GHz Intel Core i5 dual-core processor. This is actually a slower clocked processor, which will help contribute to an improved 12 hour battery life (up from seven hours with the previous iteration). Since it's a more efficient fourth-generation Intel Core processor (codenamed "Haswell"), we anticipate that the system will perform similarly to the 1.8GHz-equipped 2012 model.

Of course, we'll reserve our final judgment until after we've run the system through our benchmark tests, but a lower clocked processor will likely help keep the system running cooler and for a longer period of time. The Core i5 processor also has the power saving features built into all fourth-generation Intel Core CPUs, like internal CPU/GPU power management. Other features, like faster flash storage, will no doubt help overall performance.

The MacBook Air 13in booted quickly when we took it out of the box, even though we were running under battery power for our hands-on session. The screen looks just as good as the previous 13in MacBook Air. The touchpad and keyboard are responsive, and the keyboard backlighting is bright and visible, even in a dimly lit room.

We were able to hook up to our portable hotspot and surf for a bit, but as we’ve already noted, we’ll reserve our final judgement for our review, when we can put the system through its paces with a test 802.11ac network back at the lab.

Look out for our full review soon, but until then, you can check out the hands-on video below: