Alongside today’s launch of OS X Lion, Apple has also released updated MacBook Air models covering both the 11.6-inch and 13.3-inch sizes. As had been previously rumored, the new models are based on Intel’s Sandy Bridge platform, sport Thunderbolt connectivity for peripherals, and see the return of backlit keyboards. The new MacBook Airs are offered in the following configurations:

11.6-inch
– 1.6 GHz, 64 GB SSD, 2 GB RAM: $999
– 1.6 GHz, 128 GB SSD, 4 GB RAM: $1199

13.3-inch
– 1.7 GHz, 128 GB SSD, 4 GB RAM: $1299
– 1.7 GHz, 256 GB SSD, 4 GB RAM: $1599

Build-to-order customers can also choose to upgrade to a 1.8 GHz processor and additional solid-state storage.

With up to twice the performance of the previous generation, flash storage for instant-on responsiveness and a compact design so portable you can take it everywhere,* the MacBook Air starts at $999 (US) and is available for order today and in stores tomorrow.

“Portable, affordable and powerful, MacBook Air is the ultimate everyday notebook,” said Philip Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of Worldwide Product Marketing. “MacBook Air features our most advanced technology and is an ideal match for Lion, especially with its new Multi-Touch gestures, full-screen apps, Mission Control and Mac App Store.”

The new MacBook Air models are available for order today and will be available in stores tomorrow. All models ship with OS X Lion preinstalled.

Also Apple released an update to its Mac mini line, bringing Intel’s Sandy Bridge platform to the diminutive desktop computer along with new support for the Thunderbolt connectivity standard being pushed by Apple and Intel. The new Mac mini lineup consists of two standard stock configurations alongside a “server” model. Notably, all models drop the optical disc in favor of an optional external SuperDrive.
Standard models
– 2.3 GHz Intel Core i5, 500 GB hard drive, 2 GB RAM: $599
– 2.5 GHz Intel Core i5, 500 GB hard drive, 4 GB RAM: $799

Server model
– 2.0 GHz, dual 500 GB hard drives, 4 GB RAM: $999

Additional build-to-order options include an upgrade to 8 GB of RAM, up to 750 GB hard drives, and an external SuperDrive. The high-end standard model and the server model can also be configured with one (standard) or two (server) 256 GB solid-state drives.

Finally, the classic white MacBook has been discontinued. (Update: Still available to educational institutions.)