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MacBook Air review

I’ve had a couple of days with the newMacBook Air 13″.  This latest (3rd) generation of Macbook Air is significant because it’s the first mainstream, affordable, Solid State Disk (SSD) laptop.   I first wrote about SSD in mid 2006 so it’s been a good 4.5 years to reach availability.  Online Accounting wasn’t even around then!

The promise of SSD is near instant boot times and super fast shut down and wake up. The MacBook Air delivers that. It really is a fantastic, and overdue, experience – though one we’re starting to get used to with the iPad.

I’ve come from a MacBook Pro 15″ so the move to a MacBook Air is a step backwards in power. SSD makes such a performance difference that the lesser machine feels faster. Also the screen is the same 1440 by 900 of the bigger MacBook Pro, so while smaller you don’t lose any real estate.  The 1st generation Mac Book Air had an appalling video card and felt sluggish.  The new video card is powerful and easily drives the 27″ monitor.

My iPhone 4, iPad 3G and MacBookAir adds up to 3 mobile data connections. I’ve been using a 3G USB dongle on my MacBook. I was initially upset that the MacBook Air didn’t have a 3G SIM card slot like on the iPad which is just seamless – there is nothing to set up. 3G just works.  But unlike the iPad, the MacBook can take advantage of iPhone Tethering. It’s a simple step to launch from the BlueTooth icon on the Menu Bar.  Easy.  So I’ve actually dropped a mobile connection and saving money.  (I could have done this with the MacBook Pro as well of course.)

I have found that because of the instant on nature of the MacBook Air I’m using my iPad a little less.  Though I still prefer the iPad as the couch companion device – some web surfing and light email. But that is a luxury.

I’d have to say that the Air currently feels like the ultimate computer.  it’s fast and light with lots of screen real estate.

Are there any downsides? Just a few minor ones.

  1. No backlit keyboard.  I seem to do a lot of typing in the dark.
  2. Lack of Ethernet on board. The USB solution is slow.
  3. Power and Video ports are on opposite sides, so the 3 connector cable of the Mac Monitors needs to be splayed open to connect.  Not as tidy on the desk.  Seems silly but it’s actually quite annoying to see the elegant design of the Apple Monitor broken when connecting to an Air

The other issue that the Air brings up, because SSD disks are smaller than standard disks, is that Apple has not delivered on the iTunes Server concept.

iTunes Server
It seems nuts to me that you have to carry all your photos, movies and music on your primary work computer, rather than just sync what you need. For my work computer I only want to have 50-100GB of storage. This would make it much easier to migrate to a new machine. Migrating my MacBook across took around 12 hours, and another 12 hours for my first Time Machine back up.

Exchange email is equally broken as I have to sync all my desktop email to Exchange.  Ideally I’d just have recent and saved email locally and everything available on Exchange when I connect.

The server software issues aren’t directly related to the MacBook Air. 11″ or 13″, I believe they are the ultimate computers available right now. And tethering rocks!

 

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6 comments

Anton Gerner
7 December 2010 #

You have convinced me. I’m getting one !

W. Michael Hsu
8 December 2010 #

Been debating about getting it for the team at work – but afraid that I may be too jealous of it even with my legacy 15″ mbp. Good write up and thanks for sharing your thoughts. =)

CJ
8 December 2010 #

interesting comments re ipad vs MBAir. Will be interesting to see how you usage changes – it seems like iphone/air combo limits the ipads usefulness.

It will also be interesting to see if a windows competitor surfaces as I have done a quick look and nothing comes close – the closes was the Ademo but that seems to have been discontinued.

Lukasz
8 December 2010 #

Thanks Rod. Answers a question I have been wrestling with for a few weeks. I love my MBPro 15″ but it’s not a great travel companion. I’ve been tossing up Air vs. iPad and I think this has helped to settle that decision.

Ross
9 December 2010 #

I would really like Apple to get the “iTunes Server” concept licked. They keep pushing more and more devices into the home, but media management between them still feels a bit flakey. Home sharing is a step in the right direction, but I would really like a centralised solution. If Apple were to release a glorified Time Capsule box, with a ton of storage that could act as a central media store, then this would round out their home strategy nicely I think. I guess the new MacMini server could do it, but it’s pricey for a home server.

I think (hope) there is more to come from Apple in this space, it just surprises me that it is taking so long.

Jim
26 September 2011 #

What small business accounting program are people using??? I have a Macbook air.

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