Product review: MacBook Air is light as, well, air
Apple's new ultraportable may not be for everyone, but if you want thin, sexy, easy mobility, and decent performance -- and can live without a swappable battery and built-in optical drive -- the Air is the answerFollow @pvenezia
After many years and many laptops, I've finally determined that I ride the periphery in terms of size and function – I like them either really big, or really small. The middle-of-the-road 15-inch standard just isn't for me. Thus, the MacBook Air seemed to be the perfect answer to the lighter side of that spectrum. My 17-inch MacBook Pro easily takes care of the heavyweight end.
[ See also: "MacBook Air migration gyrations" on transferring files and applications to the Air from another Mac. ]
Whether I'm in the mood for a light laptop or a heavy one, I'm never willing to compromise much on performance. Many people reacted to the MacBook Air announcement as though it were terribly underpowered, lacking options, and generally useless as a laptop, thin though it may be. This is of great concern to me, because I tend to push my computers to the breaking point and run them like that for hours on end.
Apart from performance, there are other considerations. The MacBook Air isn't designed to be a desktop replacement system, and it doesn't have desktop-like specs, unlike the MacBook Pro (see Tom Yager’s review, “The best notebook you can buy”) and other 2.4GHz-plus Core 2 Duo laptops on the market. Could I live without a bevy of ports and a DVD drive? Could I use the Air to do real work?
In order to find out, I bought one and used it to write this review. In many ways, the Air has caused me to rethink some of my preconceived notions about what I need from a computer (see my “Deep End” blog post on that topic). While it was very tempting to bite the bullet and get the 64GB SSD (solid state-disk), I opted to save $999 and get the 80GB 4,200-rpm PATA (Parallel ATA) drive, though I did spring for the 1.8GHz Core 2 Duo instead of the base model running at 1.6GHz.
"Laptop" as misnomer
It's unfair to classify the MacBook Air as a laptop. It's not, unless you're Mini Me. It's an ultraportable, along the lines of the Sony Vaio TZ, though it has a larger screen than the Vaio. It's also faster and cheaper.
The Air arrives in a box that seems way too small to hold a computer, and yes, it weighs nearly nothing. Several times already, I've thought that my courier bag was empty when in fact it's not. Even with the power cord and a few cables, the bag just looks empty. Though the MacBook Air is small and incredibly light, it's also surprisingly solid. It feels like one piece of metal, and even picking it up by one corner, there's no flexing at all. Now, I'm sure it wouldn't survive a trip down the stairs. But neither would most laptops. Then again, given the Air’s light weight, it might have a better chance than most. Either way, I’m not quite willing to run that test.
Part and parcel to the lithe form factor is the dearth of ports. The Air has only one USB2 port, a power connection utilizing Apple's magnificent MagSafe power connector, a headphone jack, and a mini-DVI (Digital Visual Interface) port for connecting to an external monitor or projector. The Air comes with adapters for both a standard 15-pin SVGA connection and a full-size DVI connection.