I’m typing this blog post on my MacBook Air
Several people (including my buddy Jacob) have posted lists of the supposed failures of the MacBook Air, Apple’s latest offering in the notebook computer market. I didn’t listen to any of the naysayers. I bought a MacBook Air.
I was surprised how many times I heard comments like “If it had a 15+ inch screen, I might get one” or “I can’t live without a DVD drive/high end graphics card/ethernet port…” I couldn’t disagree more with these sentiments.
First, the videos, images, ads and specs don’t do this thing justice. Sure, you can fit it in a manila envelope. But you could do the same with the 12” PowerBook. I still wasn’t prepared for just how small and light this thing is.
Imagine taping two single subject spiral notebooks together. That’s how big this laptop actually is. At the thick end. And that’s about what it weighs, too.
For all the space savings, Apple didn’t skimp on keyboard size. The keyboard is identical in almost every aspect to the Apple bluetooth keyboard I’ve been using on my desktop for several months. Well, they added backlighting. But other than that it’s identical. That means it’s comfortable, the keys are well spaced (unlike most ultraportables), and they have pleasant, albeit light, feedback.
The trackpad is amazing. It’s about twice as wide as any touch pad I’ve used in the past. Apple’s multitouch implementation is evolving, and I love the results. It zooms, drags, scrolls and swipes effortlessly. And did I mention how huge it is?
Despite all the fuss about the lack of ports, connectivity is not an issue for me. I think Apple has covered all the essentials with the three available ports. The wireless is good enough that I haven’t needed an ethernet port. I haven’t yet thought “I wish this had another usb port on it”.
Should it have more than one usb port? maybe. But I wouldn’t use it. On my desktop computer I plug a bluetooth adapter, my uninterruptible power supply and my wireless mouse receiver into the USB ports. Sometimes I add a flash drive or an external hard drive to that list, but not too often. With my laptop, I don’t need any of those (built in bluetooth, battery, etc). I can’t see needing to plug more than one thing into this guy at once.
I know that two days isn’t the longest trial run, but I haven’t needed an optical drive yet. Come to think of it, I can’t even remember the last time I used the optical drive on my desktop computer to do something other than rip a CD or watch a movie.
I remember a computer I bought several years ago. It didn’t have a floppy drive, or even a place to put one. At the time that was a fairly bold proposition. My roommate scoffed, saying that I would surely need to read a floppy at some point. He couldn’t have been more wrong. I haven’t owned a computer with a floppy drive since then.
Perhaps the MacBook Air is the beginning of the end of CDs?
The internal battery could be a bit of a hassle. That means I can’t take a second with me and swap it when the juice gets low. It also means a bit more trouble once the battery starts going bad and needs replaced. Luckily Apple will offer affordable replacements, and it turns out that the batteries are quite easy to get to if you want to mess with it yourself.
I got the non solid-state hard drive in my Air. Honestly, I couldn’t justify spending an additional $1000 for the upgrade. This means I have an 80 gig hard drive. 80 gig seems a bit small, compared to the terabyte monstrosities available for desktops. And it would be small, if I needed to store my entire music collection, or all of my photos, or backups of every DVD I own. But I don’t need to carry all that stuff with me. That’s why I have a desktop computer. In fact, after I installed most of the software I need (with the exception of CS3, since I’ve gotta buy a new license), it was sitting at about 25 gig used. I ran Monolingual, and I’m back to 64 gig free — approximately 11.5 GB used. Since I’m not filling it up with a bunch of media, that will be more than enough.
The “low” processor speed (1.6/1.8 gHz) is actually a bonus. I have a 3.2 gHz core 2 duo sitting on my desk at home. When I first read the specs on the Air, I was worried about the low processor speed. So I started paying attention to my desktop’s actual speed. It turns out that my desktop almost always throttles the CPU to under 1.4 gHz. If my desktop can handle all the abuse I throw at it without breaking a sweat, I can’t imagine needing more than 1.4 gHz for most things I would do on a laptop…
Granted, this laptop isn’t as full featured as a MacBook Pro. But it addresses a completely separate need. It doesn’t make a good first computer, and it isn’t the right computer for an always-on machine. Most of the people complaining about its lack of features would be better suited to a PowerBook. I would argue that none of these people fit the MacBook Air’s target market.
In short, the MacBook Air is a great second computer. I wouldn’t use it for my primary machine, because I ask a lot more of that computer. I love having a desktop with a giant monitor, a DVD drive and close to a terabyte of internal storage. But this computer isn’t supposed to sit on my desk, it’s supposed to stay by my side. It’s supposed to fit in the glove box of my scooter. It’s the perfect ultraportable computer for me.