FAQ: Everything you need to know about the MacBook Air

What do you get, and give up, if you buy Apple's latest laptop?

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Where's the FireWire port? And the Ethernet? Missing, obviously. The only ports on the Twiggyesque MacBook Air are a single USB, one of Apple's miniature digital video interface ports and an audio out for headphones or ear buds. Not included: The FireWire, Ethernet and additional USB port found on the MacBook line. (Oh, and it has just one speaker, too. So much for stereo sound.)

Apple touts the Air as "built for a wireless world," so at least it comes with Bluetooth and 802.11n (draft) wireless. And users can pop for the optional USB-based Ethernet adapter ($29) to add a dangling-off-the-side network port if you really want to be wired.

This is getting repetitive, but where's the DVD drive? Oops. Actually, Apple didn't forget to stick one in the Air, but purposefully ditched the optical drive. Jobs, in fact, simply dismissed the idea of a built-in drive, which must have made current MacBook owners wonder why they're lugging around the extra weight in their machines. "You know what, we don't think most users will miss an optical drive, need an optical drive," Jobs said. He then ticked off alternatives that included an external, optional $99 drive.

Need to install something from a CD or DVD? You'll be using Remote Disc, the software included with the Air that also must be installed on another Mac or Windows PC. Remote Disc lets the Air "borrow" that box's optical drive -- over a wireless network, presumably -- to, say, install software or load tunes from an audio CD for ripping.

Why no drive, you ask? There's no room in the Air's case, for one. And then there's Jobs' attitude toward internal optical drives for another. Remember what he did for floppy disks back in the late 1990s.

Why are the prices of the two MacBook Air configurations so far apart? I mean, from $1,799 to $3,098? You noticed that. We noticed that. Co-workers noticed that. The difference comes from just two changes. The first is that $300 to bump up the processor from 1.6 GHz to 1.8 GHz, and the second is the $999 cost of swapping the 80GB platter-based hard drive for a 64GB solid-state drive (SSD) that's built from flash memory. The stock 80GB drive spins at 4,200 rpm, by the way.

The processor price change is in line with what Apple charges for other CPU upgrades. The MacBook Pro, for instance, prices the change from 2.4 GHz to 2.6 GHz at $250. As for the disk drive? Well, as Jobs said, the SSD is "pricey." Especially at Apple. Dell, for example, sells a 64GB SSD upgrade to XPS M1330 laptop for $750.

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