The newest MacBook Air arrived recently packing Intel’s newest Sandybridge CPU architecture and a Thunderbolt port which is one of the biggest features of the new laptop. However, Apple cut some corners with its implementation of Thunderbolt on the MacBook Air which puts a hard limit on the port’s capabilities.
The newest MacBook Air contains a limited Thunderbolt connection that only allows users to hook up one more screen instead of two and a hard limit of connecting two more Thunderbolt devices was put in place.
The issue arrises from the chipset Apple used in the latest MacBook Air. While the Intel HD 3000 and Core i5/i7 CPUs can support two additional external displays, the chipset used for the machine’s Thunderbolt connection only contains one Display port lane. This is is a physical limitation of the Hardware and connecting a third display via a daisy chain setup would result in the Air not recognizing any screens beyond it’s own and the first external display in the setup.
However, Apple may have used the chipset to cut costs and conserve space in the internal chassis. The chip, as shown above, is half the size of the Thunderbolt chipsets used by the iMac and MacBook Pro. Saving space seems like a valid reason for Apple as every last bit of room counts.
How It Impacts The Spec
One of the most touted features of Thunderbolt was its high-speed data transfers and extreme flexibility in being able to connect devices. Thunderbolt took all that was great about Firewire and USB to create a spec that allowed multiple devices to be daisy chained and work seamlessly. Apple’s limited implementation of Thunderbolt in the newest MacBook Air means users need to alter their future setups to accommodate a single screen and up to three other Thunderbolt devices. However, the limitation does differentiate the targets of the MacBook Air and the MacBook Pro as users who have more needs would likely buy a Pro over an Air for connecting more than one additional display.