Saturday, February 23, 2008

MacBook Air - thin is big, real big

I got one. A - world's thinnest laptop - MacBook Air. With SSD (solid state drive) and all. I love it!

It was a royal pain to get it set up. My (two and a half year) old MacBook Pro had a 100Gb hard drive and the Air is 64Gb. Try downsizing when doing a migration from one computer to another. Then try doing it over a wireless network. In the end I had to resort to copying over individual files (including system and library files). Total pain in the neck.

As has been pointed out by others, the battery life is not as good as advertised. It's a (bad) joke to claim that you can get 5 hours of use on a charge. If I turn off both wireless functions (WiFi and Bluetooth), run only a couple of applications, put it in power saving mode and turn down screen brightness to its lowest settings I'm guessing I get 3.5, maybe 4 hours of life. And that presupposes that the cooling fan doesn't kick in during use, which it does too oftern. Given the sound of that thing its got to be pretty energy inefficient. And the fact that I cannot swap my battery is a real drawback when I play road warrior. The performance is fine, but doesn't make me jump out of my seat. I've seen some stuttering a few times with the mouse temporarily freezing every few seconds which worries me.

Yet, I love it. What all the reviews seem to miss is the subtle, yet incredibly importance of the size - thinness really. Carrying this thing around with me is like carrying a notepad. Closing the screen is like closing a book. Opening it up is silent. No whirring hard drive. It's just there. Keyboard is great. LED back-lit screen is fantastic. Eco friendly construction is another reason to buy Apple. The way all the parts come together and the beautiful design just work.

I find myself just carrying the thing with me everywhere. The other day I even went for a run in the Marin Headlands, slipping my Air in my running pack as I left. I stopped at the top of a trail overlooking the Pacific and sat down for 30 minutes taking notes, and working through some problems I had not been able to get to in the office. It's not just a smaller laptop. It's a different laptop.

I don't have a Time Capsule yet but I plan to get one. The thought of being automatically backed up every time I get on my home network and having a big drive that can store all my media.... well that just changes the rules.

Apple has earned their reputation for innovation by pushing boundaries and by breaking rules. This machine breaks a bunch of the rules. Some of the innovations (like the small number of ports and the battery design) will perhaps be seen as mistakes, but I think we will look back at the Air in a couple of years and realize that Apple raised the bar once more and changed what we expect from a laptop.

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