MacBook Air

I’ve had my MacBook Air for a month or so now, and wanted to write some things down about it. The bottom line is that for me, it is so far a really great machine that I like a lot. But it’s decidedly not for everyone — I think for most folks that it won’t be a good choice, but it will lead to more work to slim down laptops overall, and eventually start to make them more invisible.

The physical characteristics are all completely wonderful. It’s light, it’s thin (so thin that it’s actually hard to find a good bag to carry it around in), and the feel of it is just terrific. It’s a clearly different feel to carry it around, and when it’s closed on a table it tends to disappear. In general, it just gets in the way less than most other computer technology does. It’s hard to overstate how good the physicality of the machine is — it’s the best feeling machine I’ve ever worked on.

The screen is incredibly, incredibly bright. And I’ve come to really like the flat chiclet keyboards that the MacBooks (but not the MBPs) ship with. I also really like the SSD in mine, although, as reported many places elsewhere, it doesn’t seem worth the $900 premium — but in my experience, in addition to making the machine mostly totally silent, it makes application startup & switching feel very very snappy, even on the slower MBA processor. And overall, the machine runs much cooler than my last Intel MBP — never gets too hot.

I’m a little indifferent to the multitouch trackpad — it’s not super-easy to map gestures to command key combos, so only a few applications have support presently — which means that it’s not yet becoming muscle memory for me to use pinching & swiping. Maybe once the new MBPs with multitouch become more prevalent we’ll start seeing better support.

It’s consistently annoying that there’s no battery life indicator on the outside of the laptop — so I have to open the machine to figure out if I’ve got any juice left.

But the main problems, really, are that (1) there’s very little disk space, and (2) the ports & connectivity are very minimal. Disk space is self-explanatory — with 64 GB, I haven’t really fully moved in — have left most of my music and all of my movies and photos off the machine so far, not to mention all my virtual machines. That’s causing me to move more aggressively to using web applications for everything — I now use Pandora for most of my music listening (and have discovered a couple of great bands already), Google Reader for my newsfeeds (in particular because it lets me read news in a synchronized way on my iPhone), and mint.com for our finances (no more Quicken, which I was running Windows in a VM for). And for someone like me who works at a Web company, it’s a great prop (“runs Firefox great! what else do you need??”). [and, btw, it does indeed run Firefox 3 Beta 4 wonderfully — it’s a really nice release that I think everyone is going to be very happy with.]

The ports are a bit of a bigger problem. No optical drive, so far, is okay, although it makes it pretty tough to do things like recover from a catastrophic failure. We have an external drive at the office, which I’ll undoubtedly have to use. The remote disk stuff is neat, but not particularly performant. Sort of have to ante up for the ethernet adapter, too, and it’ll help if you get an external USB hard drive — since there’s no firewire, you can’t start this machine up in target disk mode (and can’t connect to one in that mode), so overall it’s a big PITA to get even a few GB moved around.

None of that stuff is a huge problem for me, for a couple of reasons. First, I’ve had a lot of Macs over a lot of years, and I’m resourceful (relative to the mass market) in terms of getting outcomes that I want in over-constrained situations (like no ethernet). More importantly, though, I’ve got more machines around when I need them — an iMac in the office at home, a community superdrive at work, etc. Lots of folks have written that the MBA is a great secondary machine for traveling & such — that’s not my situation — mine is the primary machine, but I’ve got enough supporting infrastructure around to make it really work.

Anyway, I like it, and it’s making a big difference in how much junk I end up carting around — it’s way smaller, lighter, and still provokes double takes at how thin it is. So far so good.

10 Replies to “MacBook Air”

  1. Ha! For some reason, while I was reading this, I was just thinking how much you always loved to the Duo, and how close this form factor is to a modern Duo. Give us a MacBook Air dock, and I think the circle would be complete.Adam

  2. Ha! For some reason, while I was reading this, I was just thinking how much you always loved to the Duo, and how close this form factor is to a modern Duo. Give us a MacBook Air dock, and I think the circle would be complete.

    Adam

  3. Adam: I’m sure a plain USB hub would be the dock that you want. Just plug in an ethernet adapter, an external hard drive and the superdrive, and you’re set! One could imagine an all-in-one connector that would integrate audio+USB+Micro-DVI so that you would be able to use external audio, a larger screen plus all your USB devices in one fell swoop…

  4. Adam: I’m sure a plain USB hub would be the dock that you want. Just plug in an ethernet adapter, an external hard drive and the superdrive, and you’re set! One could imagine an all-in-one connector that would integrate audio+USB+Micro-DVI so that you would be able to use external audio, a larger screen plus all your USB devices in one fell swoop…

  5. i did really like my Duo — this is a better machine. it really, really highlights how much we need higher bandwidth wireless connections. plugging into the external speakers makes me want bluetooth audio a lot; plugging into the external monitor makes me want some sort of UWB connection. but yep, the Duo had a lot of really great things in the dock, including the built in hard drive — i’m starting to use .mac (and eventually dropbox, i think) to sync everything with an external data store. definitely changing the way that i use my machine lately, but as i say, probably not for everyone.

  6. i did really like my Duo — this is a better machine. it really, really highlights how much we need higher bandwidth wireless connections. plugging into the external speakers makes me want bluetooth audio a lot; plugging into the external monitor makes me want some sort of UWB connection. but yep, the Duo had a lot of really great things in the dock, including the built in hard drive — i’m starting to use .mac (and eventually dropbox, i think) to sync everything with an external data store. definitely changing the way that i use my machine lately, but as i say, probably not for everyone.

  7. I found a very good solution for carrying the MacBook Airin a Tumi Leather Portfolio. Not built for that, but it works. 3 sided zipper, and decent protection. And….I get the usual response —– “that’s your computer?”

  8. I found a very good solution for carrying the MacBook Air
    in a Tumi Leather Portfolio. Not built for that, but it works. 3 sided zipper, and decent protection. And….I get the usual response —– “that’s your computer?”

  9. (so thin that it’s actually hard to find a good bag to carry it around in)what …. you can’t find a manila envelope in your part of town ?LOLI am sure griffin or others are already working on a dock for the air..

  10. (so thin that it’s actually hard to find a good bag to carry it around in)

    what ….
    you can’t find a manila envelope in your part of town ?

    LOL

    I am sure griffin or others are already working on a dock for the air..

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