Lion Hits the App Store, Mac Mini and MacBook Air Get an Update

It’s the day we’ve all been waiting for, OS X Lion is finally available for public download in the Mac App Store.

Apple tossed in a few surprises for the day as well with some welcome hardware updates. Let’s very briefly take a look at what’s going on just to keep you up to date around the Mac user water cooler.

Lion

First of all, Lion is now available. In case you missed all the exciting news of the past few months, for the first time ever the newest version of OS X is available by download only through the Mac App Store. It’s a bold move and a multi-gigabyte download so hopefully everything will go smoothly for purchasers. The best part is that it’s only $29.99, hardcore Mac addicts won’t think twice before shelling out that dough.

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OS X Lion

We’ll post a more in-depth Lion article soon but the basic overview of new goodies includes more multi-touch gestures, full-screen apps, Mission Control (window and Spaces management), Launchpad (a new iPhone-like app-launcher screen), auto save, AirDrop (fast, local file sharing) and major facelifts to Mail, Address Book, iCal and a few other apps.

MacBook Air

Apple wants to make doubly sure that you have a fancy new machine to run their fancy new operating system so they’ve gone and made the MacBook Air even more enticing. The gist, as always, is that they’ve received a major boost in performance thanks to new Intel processors (read more on the Sandy Bridge processors here). For the awe factor, the backlit keyboard has made a return.

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The new MacBook Air

Apple has also incorporated a Thunderbolt port into the new MacBook Air. Thunderbolt is Apple’s new super fast interface good enough to shame both Firewire and USB in transfer speeds. The more devices out there with Thunderbolt, the better.

Here are the four base models that you have to choose from:

11 inch: $999

  • 1.6GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 processor
  • 2GB memory
  • 64GB flash storage (SSD)

11 inch: $1,199

  • 1.6GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 processor
  • 4GB memory
  • 128GB flash storage (SSD)

13 inch: $1,299

  • 1.7GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 processor
  • 4GB memory
  • 128GB flash storage (SSD)

13 inch: $1,599

  • 1.7GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 processor
  • 4GB memory
  • 256GB flash storage (SSD)

Mac Mini

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The new Mac Mini

The Mac Mini received a similar boost in performance, also taking on the Sandy Bridge platform for speeds up to two times as fast as the previous generation. Also like the MacBook Air, you’ll find a new Thunderbolt port on the mini. The most notable downgrade is the elimination of an optical drive, a trend that Apple started with the MacBook Air. As the world turns to digital content, a move largely led by Apple, the daily necessity of a physical disc drive continues to wane.

Here are the specs on the new Mac Minis:

Mac Mini: $599

  • 2.3GHz dual-core Intel Core i5
  • 2GB memory
  • 500GB hard drive

Mac Mini: $799

  • 2.5GHz dual-core Intel Core i5
  • 4GB memory
  • 500GB hard drive

Mac Mini Server: $999

  • 2.0GHz quad-core Intel Core i7
  • 4GB memory
  • Dual 500GB 7200-rpm hard drives

New Apple Thunderbolt Display

One final hardware upgrade, the 27-inch Apple Cinema Display is now the Apple Thunderbolt Display. The primary difference being, you guessed it, the addition of a Thunderbolt port.

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The new Apple Thunderbolt Display

The new display includes a MagSafe connector partnered with a Thunderbolt cable, making it the “ultimate docking station” for that new MacBook Air you’re trying to talk yourself out of buying. Did I mention that you can daisy chain two Thunderbolt displays to your MacBook? Let the drooling commence.

Conclusion

To sum up, it’s a good day for Apple fans and a bad day for their wallets. What is arguably the world’s greatest operating system just received a major update and tons of new features, the MacBook Air and Mac Mini are faster and better than ever and Thunderbolt is starting to make an appearance in just about everything that rolls out of Apple warehouses, including the new 27-inch display.

Leave a comment below and let us know what you’re most excited about. Do you plan on making any big purchase today?