Apple MacBook Air

By on May 30, 2008
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Apple certainly knows how to design a good looking product. I’ve been using the MacBook Air for a few days now and its the lightest, thinnest and possibly the best looking notebook I’ve ever used. Starting with the aesthetics, the MacBook Air is a sight for a techie’s sore eyes. Had I seen it sitting [...]

Apple certainly knows how to design a good looking product. I’ve been using the MacBook Air for a few days now and its the lightest, thinnest and possibly the best looking notebook I’ve ever used.

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Starting with the aesthetics, the MacBook Air is a sight for a techie’s sore eyes. Had I seen it sitting somewhere without the Apple logo on top, I would’ve never thought that it would be a notebook- its that thin. Pictures just dont justify it. The construction quality is also excellent- I would’ve thought that holding the Air would feel like something very expensive and delicate, but it feels as solid as the MacBook Pro.

Like all their products, Apple keeps the minimalist look on Air with the only visible connector being the Power one on the right. The left side hides the USB, Audio Output and external display connectors in snap out panel. Those three ports are pretty much all the connectivity you’re going to get and as far as I’m concerned, thats ALMOST enough.

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The only time I use any of the USB ports on my notebook are to connect an external USB drive or Digital camera and I cant recall the last time I had more than one USB device hooked up at the same time on any of my notebooks. You might run into issues if the USB device is a bit thick in size towards the connector in which case you’ll have to use an extension cable- not something I’d like.

There is no built-in optical drive on the MacBook Air which is also fine with me as the only time I really use an Optical drive is to install the O/S. Other than that, I access everything through a Network or an External drive. That being said, I would still recommend getting the External Super Drive for disaster recovery but I’m fine with it not being a part of the notebook.

Like the MacBook, the Air is kept close using a magnetic latch. Opening it reveals a 13.3″ LCD screen with a camera above it. Like the MacBook, the 13.3″ screen has a resolution of 1280×800 and is Glossy in finish, however, it uses OLED technology for a much brighter picture. For me, 1280×800 is a bit on the lower side which and I much prefer the 1440×900 display of the 15.4″ MacBook Pro.

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I think Apple could’ve easily used the higher resolution on the 13.3″ screen without making it hard to read- much like the recently unveiled Lenovo X300. Also, I’m not a fan of Glossy screens as Dubai has plenty of Sunlight outdoors and white lights in the office. However, both the screen resolution and finish are personal preferences and if you’re comfortable using the MacBook’s 13.3″ glossy screen then you’ll certainly like the very bright display on the Air.

The Keyboard is a bit of a mix-up between the MacBook and the MacBook Pro where the keys look like the MacBook but certainly feel better in typing and have that cool back lighting found on MacBook Pros. I loved the keyboard on the Air- more so than my MacBook Pro and personally think that Apple should use it on all their upcoming notebooks. I also love the over-sized track pads that Apple uses on their notebooks and this one is a bit extra special.

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Besides doing you usual tracking, clicking and two-finger scrolling, the track pad on the Air also responds to gestures much like the iPhone. You can pinch and squeeze to zoom images as well as rotate them like the iPhone. You can also use a three finger swipe to navigate between items in your library, however, this is Application specific and thus will not work with everything. The mouse button is a bit on the thinner side but that was never an issue during my usage. IMHO Apple certainly makes one of the best track pads and with the new features, it only got better.

Connectivity-wise, the MacBook Air supports the latest 802.11n specification for Wireless as well as built-in Bluetooth. The Wireless worked without any issues and Bluetooth can be used to connect any external mouse or keyboard. What I did find missing is a built-in Ethernet port. While I don’t use Ethernet when I’m in Dubai at my home or the office, I have found that while travelling, many hotels don’t have WiFi and the only to get Internet access is though a wired Ethernet connection. You can get a USB to Ethernet Adapter, but again, that would be something extra to carry and I think its one extra port that Apple should’ve built-in.

With its integrated graphics, the 4200RPM hard drive and a 1.6GHz dual core CPU, the MacBook Air certainly isnt a speed demon. Heavy duty applications don’t like the MacBook Air so if one of your primary usages of a computer is to process data such as images, 3D, videos or even music, the MacBook Air simply cannot be your primary or one and only computer. Its great for “standard usage” such as browsing the Web, composing emails or documents with Microsoft Office, listening to music or watching videos.

The only time I really stressed the MacBook Air, it got pretty hot. I was importing an Entourage archive file about 2.3GB in size and not only did the Air take almost twice the time to do the task than the MacBook Pro but it also got incredibly hot on the left side. It was hot enough to become rather uncomfortable on the lap especially with the only vents located on the back side.

One thing thats particualrly amusing about the MacBook Air is how fast it wakes up. You flip the lid one and within a second, you’re on your desktop. I remember this was the case with my older iBook but ever since I’ve switched to MacBook Pro, it usually takes 2-3 seconds and something much longer than that to bring me back to the desktop. I’m glad that Apple “fixed” this with the Air where you can start using it almost immediately. Cold boot takes a while but its not something you’ll be doing often.

The battery of the MacBook Air is non user-replaceable, which is again fine with me as I’ve never replaced or carried extra laptop batteries with me. For people who do, I can see that being an issue but for me it wasn’t. On a full charge, the Air lasted me almost four hours of standard usage which is impressive and almost an hour more than what I get from my MacBook Pro. My “standard usage” includes WiFi being always connected with Entourage checking emails, music playing in the background and me browsing as well as writing articles. I also use Photoshop on and off for processing images.

Speaking of music, the built-in speaker on the Air is resonably loud- good enough to not require me to plug in headphones while I work in the background. Although its mono, the sound quality is decent enough. I also forgot to mention the Webcam which is VGA in specification and, I guess, gets the job done. I personally don’t use one but for people that like to video-chat, it could come in handy.

All-in-all, the Air is a decen
t Notebook with an incredible design but not one for me. Its a bit lacking in features and performance and for version 2 of Air (does that sound weird?), I would recommend Apple to add a Gigabit Ethernet port, increase the display resolution and lose the glossiness as well as use a dedicated GPU to process graphics. A faster hard drive would be nice too but I’m sure that SSDs will decease in price. Also, CPU speeds keep going up so that wont be an issue.

Yes, I might be asking too much but I am a demanding user. And from that prespective, the Air is not for everyone- especially as their primary computer. I feel that its a steup-up from MacBook so if thats what you’re eyeing at or want to upgrade from a PowerPC based notebook, then you’ll be more than happy with Air. However, if you’re a Mac Pro or MacBook Pro type of person, you’ll still fall in love at first sight but probably get over the honeymoon within two weeks time and start craving for more.

 


About

Abbas Jaffar Ali is the founder of tbreak.com and a blogger, geek and self-declared tech pundit who can't stop talking about technology. Find him on twitter as @ajaffarali

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