MacBook Air Is .76" to .16’ Thin, Three Pounds, Totally Non-Upgradeable

MacBook Air Is .76" to .16’ Thin, Three Pounds, Totally Non-Upgradeable
Matching Wired’s leaked inside information to a T, Steve Jobs closed this year’s MacWorld keynote by unveiling the MacBook Air, the company’s first true subcompact since the PowerBook 2400. Weighing just 3 pounds and tapering from .76 inches down to an astonishing .16 inches, this is a dreambook. Absurdly light. Full 13.3 inch screen. Astonishing multi-touch trackpad with gestures borrowed form the iPhone. Available with SSD options. Starts at $1799.

Unfortunately, it’s not for everyone. I won’t be buying one, much as I would like to. Its processor is fairly slow, 1.6 Ghz or 1.8 Ghz. It is a Core 2 Duo, but not up to the kind of performance leap I want. The ram is soldered at 2 gigs. The hard drive is 80gigs or a 64 gig SSD. No other options. I want at least the storage of the biggest iPod classic, whose hard drive should fit in this thing. Its trim size is no different from the existing MacBook, which means a large bezel that just reminds how much more room could be used for a larger screen. This is perfectly set up as an executive’s stylish laptop for the web, watching rental movies from iTunes, and e-mail. Beyond that, it would mainly frustrate for what it won’t do. I guess I’ll be getting a MacBook Pro once the Penryn models (please have multi-touch, please have multi-touch) are announced. I guess we’ll continue without a true compact MacBook Pro.

Anyone up for it? It kind of seems like a MacBook that Steve Jobs would use — I don’t know how many others will.

Apple – MacBook Air

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  • Dennis G.

    No DVD drive ??? This thing seems pretty useless.

  • Doug S.

    I kind of have to agree with you about the Air being a must-have. But that’s partly because I’m still early in the life cycle of owning a MacBook Pro and am not really looking for a new laptop. I don’t feel that I need an ultra-light laptop anyway, and I would want a larger display. I agree that the CPU seems kinda pokey.

    Don’t think lack of upgradeability is a huge concern, though, as I have found that Macs last for long enough that by the time I want something faster/more powerful, there’s a new machine on the market with the specs I want and I’m tired of the old one anyway.

    Lack of optical drive strikes me as something of a limiting factor. The feeling that I’d have to pay extra just for a CD drive doesn’t sit well, but if you don’t spring for it this is basically a second machine for the home wireless network (so you can use the optical drive of your other Mac). So in that sense, the Air feels more like a luxury than a necessity to me.

  • Andrew DK

    If I was in the market for a laptop I would definitely get this, if I also had $3100 to burn for the SSD.

  • Brian

    It looks like something that I could use, I’d put dreamweaver on it and then just use it for email and the web. I would have loved to have 3G wireless in the system too, that would make it almost perfect. But I think I’ll pass on the first generation of this laptop. I’m saving up for a new Mac Pro and then to follow will have to make a choice on a new laptop. Currently I have a powerbook G4 and a Power Mac G5… I’m in no hurry to upgrade this early in the game. I’m really excited about the tech they put in these things to see what they will be doing with the MacBook Pro’s here in the next six months.

    The only thing that really has me wanting to open my wallet is the new Air Ports and the built in hard-drive. :)

    As for all the other announcements, I’m excited about updating my Apple TV and iPhone and playing with the new features…

    The only thing that has me a big sad is no Active Sync, or better exchange support yet for the iPhone…

  • Disappointed in DFW

    You’re spot on Pete, fan boyishness aside, this isn’t a laptop that any real road warrior would use. We need substantially more capability and power than this toy provides.

    Perhaps college students, or celebutards.

    ———-

    I will tell you Apple missed the boat on the tablet thing. Even as an owner of a Mac Pro, and a Macbook pro, I would’a bought the tablet, NOT as a replacement to any of my real “work” computers, but as an ACCESSORY to my work computers, something small that I could take on day trips loaded with a couple of books and presentations.

  • loganv

    I, too, just bought my MBpro this last summer. I’m in an interesting position. There’s things about both machines (mine and the new MBair) that I totally want. I, too, thought the processors were on the slow side, but compared to my fiancé’s perfectly capable Macbook (the original one) it seems like no big deal. sure it may not be able to run aperture or Final Cut Pro, but how many people would run those programs on a machine like this one. Sure the 80 GB Hard drive is smaller than my current computer, but a lot of my drive is partitioned to windows and I’m using only about 55 GB of the Mac partition so 80 is fine. I’m a music major and so the bulk of my information on my computer is music, but even with my music collection, I could easily fit it on 80 GB (perhaps getting it on 64 is a bit of a chore), the screen is small but spaces could make up for it if you are ambitious enough. And the lack of optical drive is a small hassle, but since I got my new television and DVD player and started buying all of my music on the iTunes store, I don’t use the CD drive for much of anything save the occasional program install.

    All I’m trying to say is that this machine is perfectly capable for the way most people are going to use it. And with the new time capsule station and what-not it could turn into a really big seller. If it had an ethernet port I’d consider trying to gather up the money. It’d be a perfect match for college kids. seems durable enough and not for much other than web-browsing and typing up term papers. managing amateur photo libraries and making the occasional video.

    plus the DVD drive is only $100 extra. not that big of a deal. if you’re already laying down $1800 for the computer. I could use mine as the wireless drive right now though.

  • Scott.

    I’ll stick with my 13″ MacBook.

  • Heathcottage

    I’m in the market for a MBP and really was hoping for an update at MacWorld. No way does the air meet my needs for FCS2 & Photoshop. Shame because I love the look of it. Seems more style than substance and not sure what market its aimed at. Can only hope the multi-touch makes it to the MBP really soon as I don’t want to buy a MBP which is immediately out of date!

  • mark

    I think it’s very tightly niched to a certain type of customer. I have a feeling students will be buying these as ultra portable laptops w/ sufficient power for email, web browsing, Word etc. I won’t buy one just because I want a computer with at least a 256mb video card and enough power and options for Final Cut Pro. However, if I had enough money to splurge, I’d find myself buying a nice iMac AND one of these. It’s gorgeous, and I haven’t even seen it in person yet!!

  • Joe

    Performance leap over what? A 1.6 GHz Core 2 Duo is a crazy-fast procesor. Don’t let the megahertz myth get you!

  • akatsuki

    Who really upgrades their laptop? The real problems are the lack of spec to begin with. A larger HD and more RAM should be standard. The lack of ports doesn’t bother me, this is not a desktop replacement and if you are hooking it up to peripherals, you are buying the wrong computer.

    The lack of optical drive has only the downside of not watching Netflix movies when you travel. What else do you do nowadays with an optical drive?

    This is really for someone who already has a desktop mac and is just looking for a high end toy/cafe web-surfing device. An Eee has most of the functionality in a much cheaper package in that case.

  • mike

    Who’s going to buy this if you can’t upgrade it? What a joke!! I took my Toshiba laptop and upgraded the hard drive, memory, motherboard, video card, network adapter, keyboard, and trackpad and now have a ROCKIN’ system at a mere 14 pounds!!

    Oh wait–most laptops can’t upgrade anything but memory and since this one comes with 2GB–how much more do you need?? Remember, this is OS X, not Vista so you don’t need 3Ghz and 3GB of RAM just to boot the thing!

    I’m not a Mac Cultist, but really–why must you insist on pointing out things that don’t really matter? Other than memory, I’ve never “upgraded” a laptop or known anyone who has. You could easily point out the real problem area: for example, only 1 USB port, which will get used if you want to use a wired connect (yes, you could add a hub–but why not just put a couple ports on it?), but you make it sound like it’s useless if you can’t upgrade it?

  • allan

    Macbook Err.

  • Justin Berkovi

    I’m not too bothered about no optical drive – I rarely use mine on my MacBook. The lack of firewire is a little bit of a pain but again, I can live without it as my video editing is done on my iMac. Audio in, not a problem don’t need that. Ethernet – never use it anyway….so why am I so frustrated by the MacBook AIR. It’s the spec. 80gb hard drive? The MacBook now can have 250GB! Also RAM – fixed at 2GB? Hmm.

    It’s an odd move for apple – the spec is quite poor even though the size and weight are incredibly impressive but the price is very high. I’m lost as to who their pitching this too really…

  • C Rolls

    This would be the only style of laptop that I’d ever carry. I see laptops not as deskptop replacements, but what they should be: portable computers. Though the MacBook is slim, it isn’t slim enough for me — I’d opt for the Air if I weren’t broke.

  • Jake

    My 12″ PowerBook G4 1.5 Ghz is looking like a pretty good deal. Lots of replacements, should one become necessary, on EBay, for about $300 each.

  • nalts

    This YouTube parody captures the real issue… the cruel pressure this applies on fat laptops like my HP. It’s sad, really. What are we teaching the next generation when it’s all about stunting growth just to be thin?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v

  • dwm

    I’m sticking with my Macbook Pro – 15′ one of the first models. It does not have 80211N, but I’m looking at ways to add it. The battery on the Macbook Air was what got me.

    Off topic but mentioned any ways – $20 for my Touch upgrade and ATV is free? The heck with you and your upgrade Apple.

  • Pete Mortensen

    Mike, you misunderstand my use of upgrade — I mean that the default config (80 gig hard drive especially) is inadequate, and it’s pathetic that the only alternative is a 64 gig SSD. Why even offer the tiny iPod hard drive in this thing? For this price, why not just put in the 160-gig iPod drive?

    Slightly drunk. My apologies.

  • Si

    I think that all the criticisms of the Macbook Air are a little unfair – because the product is obviously not aimed at the sort of people who are making these criticisms i.e. power users who want something with the form factor of the Air, but with everything that that the 15″ Macbook Pro offers – and with today’s tech, that’s not going to happen.

    So who is it aimed at? The style conscious business professional who lives in business class, business departure lounges and international class business hotels where they are never that far from power or wi-fi. That sort of person will jump at the chance to shed any weight off their laptop – and score envious looks from their fellow alpha-males/females left of the cabin door…

  • sean

    Forget upgrades, what’s the recovery plan if the disk gets corrupted? One could probably set up a network installation in one’s home network, but how about on the road (it’s a laptop after all)? I always carry the installation DVD for just this scenario.

  • Orlando

    I hate to say it, but I’ve had to bring my Ipod back to the store 3 different times because the hard drive had died. And every time they gave me a “new” refurbished ipod. So don’t get too attached to any particular machines, folks!

  • Faramirarts

    Everyone’s missing the point here. The Air was only meant as an intro to The Cloud. They mean for you to store most of your mem on the Cloud so not so much mem in the Air. Just look to what the name is — as light as Air, and you save to “The Air” (The Cloud).

    It’s genius, but yes, I won’t be buying one anytime soon. For what it can do, I’ll stick with the iPad, and do my real work on an old G3.

About the author

Pete Mortensen

Pete Mortensen is a design strategist for consulting firm Jump Associates and the co-author of Wired to Care: How Companies Prosper When They Create Widespread Empathy, a book and blog that are significantly more interesting than you might initially think. Pete's particular Apple avocations are both around design--interface and industrial. Follow him on Twitter!

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