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A $999 MacBook Air lands in the online Apple Store

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Chicago (IL) - Apple's ultra-thin, ultra-light MacBook Air notebook may be the most optimum portable computer ever. It surely carries the lust factor that makes everyone turn green with envy, but comes with a $1,799 price tag that puts this thing of beauty out of the regular Joe or Jane's reach. But power shoppers armed with every trick in a book looking to get the bust deal money can buy hinted to us about a $999 MacBook Air that apparently has landed in Apple's online store. Yes, there is a catch, but it doesn't devalue the offering ... at least not significantly.

For starters, they'rs first-generation models - meaning you'll be getting Intel-integrated graphics instead of Nvidia chips that are found in newer models. In addition, it has an 80GB PATA HDD or 64 GB SDD, as opposed to 120GB SATA or 128GB SDD storage options in newer models. Next, these are so-called "refurbished computes," meaning they have been previously owned but unused or lightly used and then returned to Apple within 30 days.

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Yes, they may come with minor scratches, dings or dents, but you should know that Apple refurbishes these in the factory - so there is a high chance that your refurbished MacBook Air will come practically indistinguishable from the one sitting unpacked at Apple's retail stores.

White plastic MacBook or refurbished entry-level first-gen MacBook Air?

The $999 buys you an entry-level refurbished 13.3-inch MacBook Air with Intel Core 2 Duo at 1.6GHz and 80GB hard drive, in addition to 2GB of RAM. The same amount of money can get you a brand new, white plastic MacBook model. Apple's other portables are all priced well above the $999 mark. Comparison between the first-generation entry-level refurbished MacBook Air and the latest white plastic MacBook yields interesting results.

Both computers have near exact dimensions of the display. The MacBook Air comes with less storage but has twice the RAM. White plastic MacBooks have a faster processor and way more expansion ports. MacBook Air's form factor (and lust factor) clearly make up for features that it lacks compared to the white plastic Macbook.

Refurbished high-end first-gen MacBook Air or entry-level unibody MacBook?

High-end first-generation refurbished MacBook Air model is also available. Specs include 1.8GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor and a 64GB solid-state drive. It costs just $1,299, which is really tempting deal considering that Apple sold a brand new first-gen model for $2,499, almost double the price at which you can get it now refurbished. But $1,299 can also buy you the new entry-level 13-inch unibody MacBook that has better specs.

For instance, entry-level unibody MacBook ships with Nvidia integrated graphics and DisplayPort interconnect, runs faster, newer Intel Core 2 Duo processor at 2.1GHz and has twice the HDD storage. Entry-level unibody MacBook clearly leads in specs compared to a high-end refurbished MacBook Air model, especially in the graphics arena and storage. But again, if you are on a bargain hunt for ultimate portability, the MacBook Air is a no-brainer.

You should know that Apple refurbishes both MacBook Air models in factories, so there is a reasonably high chance that you might get a computer that's practically indistinguishable to the naked eye compared with the one sitting unpacked at Apple's retail stores. On top of that, Apple ships refurbished MacBook Air models free of charge and you get the 1-year warranty.

A continuously updated Special Deals section of the online Apple store carries other refurbished Mac and iPod models, in addition to clearances. AT&T recently ran a similar offering for iPhones where you could get a refurbished 8GB iPhone 3G for $99, although you were still required to sign a 2-year service contract.

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