The room service menu in my hotel, the San Francisco Marriott Courtyard, is the size and weight of Apple's new commercial notebook, MacBook Air. MacBook Air, Apple's newest, thinnest, lightest, simplest notebook in Apple history weighs three pounds. It's 3/4s of an inch at the display hinge (closed), sloping down aerodynamically to a much narrower snout. You have to hold it and tumble MacBook Air to experience what a three pound, aerodynamically inspired notebook feels like, because it'll be a first for you. You have to imagine carrying MacBook Air everywhere in a slipcase, being able to whip it out, open it and have it ready for note taking, research, order entry, voice recording, podcasting, writing or what-have-you faster than you can jot your first word with that legal pad and pen in your bag.
Apple got MacBook Air so skinny and light by removing everything that the majority of mainstream commercial users don't use when they're not in the office or at home. There is no wired Ethernet and no FireWire. MacBook Air has just physical I/O ports: USB 2, audio output and micro-DVI (the latter for connecting to a digital, VGA or video monitor). These are all mounted on a tiny panel that flips down from the bottom of the notebook. When the I/O panel is closed, MacBook Air is nothing but smooth, sloped aluminum skin all the way around. There are no lumps or access covers to tip you off to component placement.
Many questions remain that require a full review to answer. My encounter was with a prototype, so I didn't get a chance to experience heat or fan noise. The charger is 45 watts, and the clocked-down chips in smaller packaging is encouraging. I also didn't get to see how far back the display tilts. I did find that the microphone is no to the right of the iSight window, though I don't know if the sound quality is improved. Likewise, I did not audition the speakers. A test left to run is to use this machine with Bluetooth stereo headphones. This works on MacBook Pro, but it's buggy. Does MacBook Air fix it?
MacBook Air's battery is sealed inside. It offers no external indication of its charge state. Apple's battery replacement program for MacBook Air is to drop it at any authorized facility, get it replaced, and get your machine back having been charged for the cost of the battery alone. I wouldn't expect this swap to happen while you wait, and I don't know whether Apple will commit to returning your data intact.
The thin lid encasing the 13.3-inch glossy display is astonishingly rigid. With so little distance between the top of the lid and the surface of the display, I felt sure that it would fail my warp test. I pressed hard on the back of the prototype MacBook Air's lid. It did not flex, and the display's image did not distort. It's my feeling that the shape of MacBook Air's case will make it a tougher travel partner than the typical squarish notebook.There isn't anything to cave in.
MacBook Air is gives you only what you need: A keyboard, a 13.3-inch display, 80 GB hard drive, wireless networking and 2 GB of RAM. The 1.6 GHz Core 2 Duo CPU (1.8 is an option) is clocked slow by modern standards, but it is cooler and more power efficient than the latest Penryn CPUs. Apple claims that MacBook Air's battery will last five hours, with Wi-Fi. If that's true, then it'll run 90 minutes longer than the much heavier MacBook Pro that I carry. The 45-watt charger makes in-flight and in-car charging cheap and easy.