The 2011 MacBook Air (11 & 13-inch): Thoroughly Reviewedby Anand Lal Shimpi on July 28, 2011 3:25 AM EST
A New Boot Camp
One thing that always bothered me about the 2010 MacBook Air was while Apple gave you a USB stick with OS X on it, you still needed to use an external optical drive to install Windows. By default Boot Camp wouldn't let you install Windows 7 off of a USB stick or external USB hard drive. Of course with some extra work you could do this on your own, but it's something that Apple should've made easier from the start.
With the 2011 MacBook Air, Apple did just that.
The Airs ship with a slightly newer version of Lion with an updated Boot Camp Assistant. Here's what Lion's default BCA looks like on a system with no optical drive:
And here's the new screen for the MacBook Air's build of Lion:
Boot Camp now asks you for a Windows 7 ISO and will automatically create a bootable USB drive for you. Here's the folder structure of the result:
I gave Boot Camp an Intel X25-M G2 connected to an Apricorn SATA to USB 2.0 adapter (a great way to quickly install an OS). Note that the BCA will also download the latest Windows Support package from Apple and include that on your USB drive. The total space required is just over 4GB, so all you really need is an 8GB USB stick and you're good to go.
Installing Windows 7 on the MacBook Air is painless, especially when you've got all you need on a single USB drive. But what about performance and battery life?