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
The ports themselves are cleverly hidden behind a panel on the right-hand side of the system. It's not easy to access these ports without picking up the side of the Air, but it's not really a problem. The MagSafe adapter on the left-hand side of the system is built into the beveled edge and, thus, faces downward at a roughly 45-degree angle. It's the same connector that other MacBooks use, but at that angle, the other power adapters will not be viable if the Air is on a flat surface. The Air's power connector is turned at a right angle, so it fits nicely between the desk and the beveled edge. (You can see a close-up of the MacBook Air's power adapter, and photos of a dismantled Air’s internals, at iFixit.)
The Air is obviously designed to be a traveling companion, and as such, it’s geared for wireless communications using the built-in 802.1b/g/draft-n Airport, though the optional USB Ethernet adapter can tie it to a wired network. Somewhat odd is the lack of a 3G interface. I suppose that the extreme design left little or no room for a 3G chipset, and there are USB 3G interfaces to be had – hopefully with a USB connection that will fit the drop-door USB jack on the side of the Air. Given the propensity of third-party vendors to produce all manner of accessories for Apple products, I’d bet that there will be a USB hub/headphone passthrough, possibly even with a 3G interface, appearing at some point in the near future.
The display is a glossy 13.3-inch LCD similar to that found on the current MacBook line, though it seems brighter – so bright, in fact, that I found myself turning it down a few notches, which is far better than not being able to make it bright enough. At 1,280 by 800, the resolution isn't as high as I'd like, but I've been spoiled by my 17-inch MacBook Pro with the spacious HD screen. In the bezel right above the display is a 640x480 iSight camera, a staple of Apple laptops. For the stated purpose of the Air, the screen’s 13.3 inches is sufficient, but it almost demands the use of Leopard's Spaces multiple-desktop feature. I generally have lots of apps open, and being able to assign them to specific desktops when they launch, and use Command-Tab to flip through them, makes a huge difference.
The trackpad is odd. First off, it's enormous. It's nearly 50 percent larger than the trackpad on the 17-inch MacBook Pro, though the single button at the bottom is shorter. This has led to more than a few misclicks, as my thumbs hit the trackpad and not the button. But the capabilities of the trackpad are substantial.
It's designed to be used much like the touchscreen on the iPhone and iPod Touch: You can use two fingers to zoom in and out on images, for instance, and use left-to-right swiping to page through iTunes' album view. In fact, when you view the Trackpad preferences panel, a handy looping video shows these actions clearly. In the right hands, so to speak, this is a killer feature. For some, however, the benefit will be lost. No matter, because it still functions well as a normal trackpad. As with other Apple trackpads, you can scroll using two fingers, and right-click with a two-finger tap. I've always been a fan of the single-finger scroll on the right-hand side of the trackpad, a function that the third-party SideTrack applet can provide, but the current version of SideTrack doesn't support this touchpad yet, so two fingers it is.