MacBook Air: Tempted again, disappointed again
To MacBook Air or not?
Looking at the new MacBook Air announced during Apple’s conference last week made me really consider buying one of the most beautiful laptops I’ve ever seen. A simple and elegant, yet extremely efficient and effective design process has been Apple’s philosophy since forever. The sleek form factor and beefier upgrades, especially in the graphics department, were exactly the kind of things I was looking for to push me over to the OSX side of the field.
I did like the MacBook Air when it first launched in early 2008, but back then the weak components inside did not provide with a better browsing and normal working environment than a netbook. Lack of easy upgrades and a high entry price completely put me off the thing. Now though, things have changed. While gaming has become a bigger part of Apple’s overall plan for world domination (thanks to the iPhone paving the way), Macs are still not devices I would go to for a proper gaming session. Still, something is better than nothing; an Nvidia 320m GPU is better than an Intel GMA or the old GeForce 9400m.
Of course, I’m not planning to play for a long time, nor anything as graphically intensive as Crysis. Just some WoW on occasions and a bit of StarCraft II whenever I’m feeling up for it, and maybe dabble in a little bit of Team Fortress 2. All of these are old games, with some heavy shaders working under the hood; nothing the GeForce 320m can’t handle. However, can the system as a whole handle my gaming needs? Will the fan head into full speed of irritating whiny noises and completely destroy an otherwise silent experience associated with the MacBook Air? And even after all that, will the games look decent (I don’t expect full resolution and effects glory) and be playable at an acceptable framerate? Going through many forum threads, I’m looking at a bare minimum performance on games.
That said, gaming is not my primary focus with the new MacBook Air. I want it because it “feels” good, at least in my mind. It’s ultra-lightweight and small enough to be used anywhere without any discomfort whatsoever. So basically I’m picturing myself on my couch, legs up and all, playing some Cataclysm, quitting out and then writing about it in a blog post for MEGamers. Sounds real nice, but what about the times when I want to do the same in my bed? Lights off, cozy blanket, finishing a match in StarCraft II and then working on some article with a glass of hot chocolate on my side table. Except I can’t type. No backlit keyboard.
After so many things that seemed right in the new MacBook Air, there are still one or two very fundamental items that are missing which put me off buying it. The graphics card isn’t too weak, and I can definitely get much better performance on the above mentioned games if I dual boot into Windonws 7, but that would utterly defeat the purpose of having a MAC. No backlit keyboard is also a huge issue for me, and what’s more irritating is that this was a perfectly good functionality available in the previous MacBook Air models.
At the end of the day I’m paying $999 for the new MacBook Air; it looks gorgeous, works smooth, plays some games and comes with all the brilliance of the Mac OSX (which I have yet to experience in its full glory). Or I can pay the same and get much better hardware and performance from an Alienware M11x (R2) with all the brilliance of Windows 7 that I use and love. Yes, it’s bulkier compared to the MacBook Air, but it’s got a backlit keys.