Wanted: MacBook Air with Backlit Keyboard

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Volume is growing that Apple will unveil a new model of its ultra-slim MacBook Air laptop in the coming weeks.

apple macbook air
Earlier models of the super-skinny laptop
Last month, reports suggested the next-gen Air will get a performance boost with Intel's Sandy Bridge processors and super-fast Thunderbolt data-transfer technology.

The latest rumors, however, don't mention one upgrade that many MacBook Air fans would like to see: A backlit keyboard.

The feature, a boon to users working in low-light environments, was conspicuously missing from the current MacBook Air that debuted October 2010. The model it replaced had backlit keys.

Backlight Bummer

Since then, MacBook Air users and tech reviewers alike have griped about the missing backlight. In fact, the Apple Support forum has dozens of grumbles from Air devotees.

Soon after the Air's October launch, "Robeddie" wrote: "It never even crossed my mind that Apple would remove this key feature that had been part of the MBA since its inception. I am canceling my order as well."

"Wild_Bill" wasn't happy, either: "Omitting the backlit keyboard was a HUGE mistake on your part... I'll be holding out until someone at Apple comes to their senses and re-installs the backlit keyboard."

And "nutsabtmac" said Jobs & Co. made a boneheaded move: "Apple blew it bigtime for me. I'll never upgrade to the new Air. I have a current Air with SSD and the backlit KB is a must-have... Why in the world did they pull that? Sorry, Steve, you aren't perfect. What are you thinking? Lame....lame...lame."

Pundits Pipe In

In his MacBook Air review, Engadget's Joshua Topolsky expressed similar sentiments, albeit with better spelling and grammar:

"When typing in dark settings, you now have almost no sense of which key is which, and even in low light (in front a TV, for instance), the lack of guidance on the keyboard is somewhat bothersome. It would be nice to see Apple give users a choice here, but...we're guessing that space, price, and battery requirements call for cuts from anywhere possible."

apple macbook air
The original MacBook Air
ZDNet's Jason D. O'Grady was bummed as well: "The thing that bothers me most these days about my MacBook Air is its lack of backlit keyboard. I knew that I'd become dependent on the keyboard backlight on my MacBook Pro -- but I didn't realize exactly how dependent. As it turns out, my typing speed drops substantially on the new MacBook Air In low light."

And Macworld's Jason Snell, though less miffed than his peers, still longed for the lights: "I never considered keyboard backlighting an essential feature -- I do know where all the keys are. Like heated seats in a car, it's a feature that was occasionally useful and felt vaguely luxurious, and I'll miss it."

But the MacBook Air's backlight omission hasn't hurt sales, apparently. The laptop proved an instant hit with consumers when it hit store shelves late last year, analysts say.

Contact Jeff Bertolucci via Twitter (@jbertolucci) or at jbertolucci.blogspot.com and follow Today @ PCWorld on Twitter.

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