Apple’s October release of its newest, lightest laptop caused some excitement at our office, and at least a couple of us have it on our wish lists. But is it worth the price? John Gore, who purchased the 13”, 256 GB, 2.1ghz model, shares his thoughts.
In the pros column, the MacBook Air is:
- Super fast: The solid state hard drive makes the system feel much faster than the CPU would have you believe.
- Super light: At under 3 lbs. and less than an inch thick, the Air is as portable as a spiral notebook and infinitely more pleasurable to use (and tote) than the MacBook Pro.
- Super crisp: The screen boasts a higher resolution and is crystal clear.
- Super cool: Literally. The computer runs cool, so there’s no more “Fried Lap Syndrome.”
- John's favorite feature: the solid state hard drive
And the cons:
- No DVD drive: Installing software becomes a bit more of a hassle, but is mitigated by the disc sharing utility if you have another computer handy. After initially setting up the software, John hasn’t had a problem.
- No Ethernet port: John has found this to be an issue at least once, and recommends buying the USB Ethernet adapter. At $29, it’s inexpensive and, as John says, “When you need it, you really need it.”
- No optical output in the headphone jack: The only way to get digital audio output is through the mini display port and an adapter. This is annoying if you use your laptop to play movies on your home theater setup or do music editing and composition, but would probably not be a problem for most users.
- No upgrades: There’s no way to increase the RAM or hard drive once you've got your Air in hand, so make sure you get the specs you’ll need for the long term.
- John's least favorite feature: the price
Compared to other Mac laptops:
- The Air is extremely light and has a higher resolution display while maintaining as solid a feel as other unibody Apple laptops.
- With no firewire, DVD drive, or Ethernet, plus a slower CPU and smaller hard drive, the Air has fewer features and performance levels at a higher price. You’re paying for the solid state hard drive and the weight.
In general, John thinks that the MacBook Air is ideal for anyone who loves Macs (or wants to get to know one) and frequently carries a laptop—though it’s probably too pricey for an “occasional” netbook, if you’re hauling your computer everywhere it quickly pays for itself. He believes it can serve as a desktop replacement or primary computer as long as you have a few key accessories (an Ethernet adapter and DVD reader), have modest storage needs (you don’t store lots of videos or raw images on your computer), and aren’t a computer gamer. John uses his as his primary computer, but he does have access to external hard drives and monitors, as well as other computers for gaming. However, “six out of seven days a week, the only computer I touch is my Air,” he says.
Jordan Ho, who also picked up an Air, concurs with all of John's opinions and loves his machine. "It's so light and fluffy!" he says.