End of Day MacBook Air Thoughts

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So I’ve been tossing the MacBook Air’s (de)merits around in my head since about 10:30 this morning, and I’ve reached some conclusions. Some good, some bad. It’s not the machine I’m looking for (I still want a small form-factor MacBook Pro), but it’s got some pluses to go with the minuses we’ve already called out. Your comments would be appreciated.
Pros:

  • Dude, it’s like totally thin.
  • Multi-touch track pad.
  • Seriously thin.
  • No, it fits in a manila envelope.
  • MANILA.
  • ENVELOPE!
  • And it weighs three pounds.
  • It’s faster than the first Core Solo Intel Mac mini that Apple released.
  • The hidden port hatch is pretty darn cool.
  • Overall design is absolutely gorgeous. Very few people change their laptop batteries on the fly, so I appreciate a nice, cohesive frame that hides the internals.

Cons:

  • Super-minimal I/O. What, 4-pin FireWire was too bulky for you? Someone tell Sony that FireWire doesn’t work in an ultra-compact laptop!
  • MacBook-sized footprint. This thing is only thinner, not smaller. It’s not taking up less of your lap, and it’s still bigger than a 12″ Powerbook.
  • Giant bezel around the screen. If you’re stressing how small this thing is, shouldn’t you build in design elements that stress how much you’ve packed into such a tiny package? A 1″ border on a 13.3″ screen is available on the MacBook. How exactly does this stress professional needs and storage considerations?
  • I can buy an iPod classic with a 160 gig hard drive for $349, plug it into a MacBook Air and TRIPLE its storage capacity. The fact that I can’t put the same hard drive into a MacBook Air is ridiculous. There’s no excuse for an 80 gig ceiling, no matter how thin the box is.
  • No mobile broadband built-in. Kind of makes the whole “Air” thing moot if I need to find a hotspot to crank this up.
  • Multi-touch on a trackpad is nowhere near as nice as multi-touch on an iPhone or iPod touch.
  • Apple made a sacrifice of functionality in pursuit of a goal that might or might not be the most important virtue. Sure, thinness is a nice-to-have. But isn’t weight and overall size more important for the sub-compact market?
  • MacBook Air? More like Err.

89 responses to “End of Day MacBook Air Thoughts”

  1. Danny Policarpo says:

    I totally agree with all the pro’s and cons there and like you I’ve been debating and deliberating with myself since the announcement last night GMT.

    This laptop is absolutely gorgeous, don’t get me wrong and stupidly thin and as overstated in that pro’s list it fits in an envelope! whoop, cool yes but who is really going be carrying one of these things around in one of those?! that aside this is what Apple is all about, yes design and wow factor in more recent times, but in practicality I think the laptop fails to deliver what you really want from it which is everything it is now but slighty more if that makes sense.

    All the cons it carries far outweigh the design factor of the laptop. Such as the stupidly and overpriced price tag, the removal of a disc drive and the fact of upgrading to a solid state drive caries a £800+ price tag.

    Overall I think Apple has made an amazingly thin notebook, but has compromised to much for the design of the thing and tried to solve a problem for notebook users that doesn’t really exist. and the way I look at it all other Apple notebooks are already pretty much thinner than other PC notebooks out there.

  2. cocoy says:

    must say, i agree with the lack of hard drive capacity. if an ipod can get a 160gb drive, why couldn’t the Air? that’s my one beef with notebook.

    The Air has that “wait for rev b” feeling.

  3. Tristan Fitzgerald says:

    The MacBook Air is astonishingly beautiful and inspired techno-lust in me immediately. Do I need or want to own one? If I had money to burn, yes. In reality, no. It’s simply too limited as a primary laptop. I’ll stick to looking at it admiringly, thank you…

  4. t.lo says:

    Same thoughts here: this thing is not at all an improvement to my 12″ Powerbook. It’s only marginally faster, has no bigger harddrive, no internal Superdrive and its footprint is just too big. Who wants thin? I want small with lots of features. Just like the 12″ Powerbook. Who needs a bigger screen? You can always attach a huge screen in your office or at home and carry less. Or, give me a 12″ display with a higher resolution. My eyes are still good. Sure, it’s not for everyone, but this MacBook Air isn’t either. I’ll probably “upgrade” now by simply putting a bigger harddrive into my old 12″ and wait for some improvement to the MacBook Air like at least a bigger harddrive.

  5. Brendan West says:

    “• Giant bezel around the screen. If you’re stressing how small this thing is, shouldn’t you build in design elements that stress how much you’ve packed into such a tiny package? A 1″ border on a 13.3″ screen is available on the MacBook. How exactly does this stress professional needs and storage considerations?”

    But if they had a super-thin bezel, the edges of the computer could not reach that mythical 0.16″, you see. The thinning of the shell means the still-pretty-bulky-for-its-size-LCD screen has to stop at a certain thickness.

    With the MacBook, the bezel was so thick (I think) because of the emerging magnetic latch tech. With the MBA, it’s because (I think) they just couldn’t do it, cap’n.

  6. no-doz says:

    The laptop-as-desktop crowd seem to be dominating the discussion on this one. As someone who has his MacBook Pro on the road with him for over 200 days a year, here’s my thoughts:

    Last time I touched/changed the battery: never
    Amount of time I need ethernet to connect to the web: under 10%
    Last time I used more than one USB device: never
    Last time I thought about adding to the 2GB of RAM my MPB came with: never
    Last time I did anything with a CD/DVD on the road: never

    Number of times I wish my laptop weighed half as much: every &*^#@$ day.

    What many of the early carpers seems to be expressing is the ever-more-tedious desire for these products to simply be all things to all people. “Why doesn’t it…” is easily answered by: “It weighs three pounds and it fits in an envelope.” As someone who wants stripped down and light because I actually travel for a living, the MBA hits me where I live. Apple product announcements seem to bring out no shortage of people who worked on the camel committee (or Dell or HP or the other companies that would still be sticking a floppy drive on their laptops if they thought someone might miss it from the feature list).

  7. Bone says:

    Hey, Pete…

    When you get that masters in product design / mechanical and electrical engineering maybe you can explain to Apple’s designers/engineers how to fit an 8mm thick 1.8 HD where a 5MM thick version probably barely fits and keep the thing just as thin. Same goes with the bezel.

    No mobile broadband? Express card slots take up space and add to cost. Plus… every major carrier has a USB broadband device.

    How is Multi-touch trackpad a con? By comparing it to the iPhone you might as well compare a gokart steering wheel to that of a Maserati. The fact that it has one – instead of rope steering – is a good thing, not a bad thing.

    It is quickly becoming a chore to read your posts.

  8. None says:

    i agree with no-doz. It seems most people complaining about this laptop are missing its point. It’s entire purpose is to be thin and light, while still retaining a surprising amount of functionality. Oh and beautiful. And on that front it succeeds. I admit i would never buy it (as a primary laptop at least :P). Its not powerful enough for my needs and the screen is smaller than id like. And thats why i have a macbook pro. But for someone who wants a laptop that is small and light and doesn’t need crazy amounts of computing power, its perfect.

  9. doc brown says:

    I agree with No-Doz 100%. As someone who pretty much lives on the road, the MBA is exactly what I want – a much more portable Apple notebook that didn’t compromise on the screen or keyboard size. Plus, it is powerful enough to run what I need when I travel. (The rest I can run on my iMac at home, even via BTMM if I need to.)

    For those of us that carry a notebook all day every day, weight and form factor is a key feature and personally I’m willing to give up some functionality to get it. That’s the market Apple went after with the MBA. If that’s not what you’re looking for then guess what – they also have two other product lines that might work for you. They are the MB and MBP. Between the three models there should be something that works for just about everyone. Seriously.

  10. Anon says:

    “It’s still bigger than a 12″ Powerbook.” And not just a little bigger. It’s two inches wider. I just measured, it won’t fit in the laptop bag that totes around my four year old Powerbook. I agree with all the Air’s compromises (speed, ports, I can even live with the integrated battery.) But the huge footprint is probably a dealbreaker. It means the Air’s thickness and weight is more about looks then portability. I’ve had one Powerbook after another for the last 15 years, but I’m worried: I don’t see my next machine in Apple’s lineup.

  11. Andrew DK says:

    *Take it easy there, Bone.*

    “Super-minimal I/O. What, 4-pin FireWire was too bulky for you? Someone tell Sony that FireWire doesn’t work in an ultra-compact laptop!”

    I was thinking the same thing about the firewire but I realized the only reason the put in a USB port is because since not EVERY piece of hardware is wireless capable, they needed at least one wired port. Since USB is way more prevalent than firewire, albeit slower, they put one in. And, you know, if bluetooth headphones were prevalent, they probably would’ve axed the audio out port too.

    “No mobile broadband built-in. Kind of makes the whole “Air” thing moot if I need to find a hotspot to crank this up”

    Seriously? You actually put this down? You know you can connect to the internet through a bluetooth enabled phone, right… o_O

  12. Faust says:

    You think the hidden USB port & co is cool? Wow, my TV has the same thing, and it’s almost 4-5 years old now. How trendy and new.

    Like I said in another blog, the Macbook Air needs to be improved on. The fact that Apple has the nerve to not include the Super Drive for free with the Macbook Air is ridiculous. We probably won’t need such drives as technology evolves but for now we do, and I just can’t see myself even considering this purchase.

    I’ll wait a year or two to see a second or third generation Macbook Air. Until then, Apple has disappointed me immensely.

  13. Cowardly Bastard says:

    um…how doe a 160 GB harddrive equal “TRIPLE” the amount of the MBA’s 80 GB harddrive? some sort of mathematical trick i don’t know? vector derived anti-integral multi-variate calculus?

  14. Docteur Christophe says:

    80+160 = 240 = 3 * 80 !
    Thank you Cult of Mac for that detailed analysis

  15. J is Here says:

    You hit the nail on the head.

    Thin? Meh…
    Small, light and energy-efficient? Hubba hubba…

    Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to sling the perfect ultralight into my backpack – my Panasonic R6…

  16. Extensor says:

    @ Faust – See remote disc.

    @ Pete – “No mobile broadband built-in. Kind of makes the whole “Air” thing moot if I need to find a hotspot to crank this up.”

    Weak.

  17. Michael says:

    I TOTALLY agree. I don’t want a disposable MacBook – I want a small, lightweight MODULAR, UPGRADEABLE notebook.

    This is a vanity computer – literally. It has fewer features than ANY of the other MacBooks currently available. The only thing they “added” was thin-ness.

    I give Apple a D+ for this one.

  18. Lazarus says:

    No Doz is right on. This machine is designed for the professional road warrior and the CEO. I’ve carried computers on the road since the original Compaq – my first Apple portable was a PowerBook 140 – no actually it was my first Newton and the MacBook Air belongs right up there with the best of them. No, it’s not a desktop replacement. It wasn’t intended for that market. It’s intended for the person whose desk is row 5, seat A on a Boeing 767. If you routinely do six countries in week’s time, this is the machine for you.

  19. Stacy says:

    I just came across a podcast of a new app from CallWave that looks like you can get visual voicemail on your Mac if you have Tiger or Leopard. Looks interesting…. here’s the podcast QuickTime: http://www.callwaveblog.com/po

  20. GGeek says:

    @ Cowardly Bastard:

    80 GB in MBA + 160 GB in iPod = 240 GB = 80 X 3 = tripled.

    I’m glad you won’t be handling my taxes this year.

  21. Faust says:

    Yes, I know about remote disc. It doesn’t change the fact they expect you to pay additional charges for the an actual drive.

  22. wantedanew12inch says:

    Cowardly: 160 GB + 80GB = 240GB = 3 x 80GB

    That is what most people call tripling the storage space.

    “I can buy an iPod classic with a 160 gig hard drive for $349, plug it into a MacBook Air and TRIPLE its storage capacity.”

    Still not getting one.

    I still get by fine with my 12″ iBook G3. I do need a new laptop, and it most likely will end up being a MacBook Pro now, but I am going to hold out a little more and see if the Pro gets an update by March.

  23. mb user says:

    Way more features than iPhone, way less features than a “real” laptop. This computer isn’t for me.

    If you think it’s for you, consider this: Macbook Air looked pretty sweet when it Steve holds it up during the keynote. And it’ll look pretty sweet the first time you bust it out at Starbucks. But will it still look sweet when it turns brown, makes moo-ing sounds and starts shutting down with absolutely no warning?

    My white macbook didn’t.

    I’ll love Apple for life. But I’m an early adopter no more. Good luck.

  24. Jimmi says:

    It’s cute and sleek. Of course, it never pays to be an early adopter. Wait a bit. Wait for it . . .

  25. Ian says:

    As someone who uses a Powerbook 12″ every day on the road and in airplanes I see the MacBook Air as exactly what I want.

    Every place I go has wi-fi – home, work, cafe, and hotels. I have a handy system or two at home that will double as remote optical drives. The 80GB is more than enough for me. I’ll add a tiny 120GB USB drive if I need.

    This puppy isn’t going to be my photo library or my DVD development system. This is my on-the-road stuff that is mostly docs, presentations and maybe some downloaded movies. My music is on my iPod and/or my iPhone.

    The weight savings alone will be welcome but the extra battery life will be heaven.

    I also looked at my kids needs. We have wi-fi at home and they mostly use their Mac now for iPod and Thumb drive. The last time my kids listened to a CD or watched a movie on the Macbook was an age ago. They don’t know what a Firewire cable is and so will not miss it. So I think this is a great product for students as well. It is targeted at a different market…

    I think Apple will sell a ton and those people will be quite happy. All those complaining power users will have to wait for the

  26. Ian says:

    …one more thing.

  27. theguycalledtom says:

    @ Faust
    They don’t expect you to pay extra for an optical disc, they have correctly assumed that optical drives are a thing of the past. Don’t buy one! You don’t need one.

    You’re probably one of those people who screamed blue murder when they didn’t include a floppy disc in the iMac. Yet it was that decision from Apple that drove the industry forward.

  28. Faust says:

    @Thomas
    Nope, you’re wrong about that. I wasn’t even using Apple computers at home when the iMac was released. Nevertheless, optical drives are certainly not a thing of the past just yet. DVD’s and it’s offspring have a couple more years left.

    Don’t jump off the cliff with the rest of the lemmings just yet, ok? I’m all for optical drives being phased out, and in time they will be, but as of right now, if I’m in a hotel room doing something for work and I don’t have another computer nearby, I want to be able to whip a drive out without having to pay $99 for one.

  29. theguycalledtom says:

    @ Faust

    The perfect product is already here for you today. Buy a Macbook or Macbook Pro. Either of them are probably the best notebooks around, they have optical drives and they are only 1″ thick.

  30. crosswiredmind says:

    When I saw the Air I said – eh, it’s ok. When I showed it to my non-geek wife she was drooling. The thought that there is a Mac laptop that she can easily schlep around was a HUGE hit. She immediately emailed her friends that travel to show them.

    Maybe the folks that post to Mac forums are not the target demographic.

  31. Faust says:

    @Thomas

    You’re annoying. I already have a Macbook Pro.

  32. Matt Woolner says:

    Yes, I couldn’t believe it when I saw that it had a 13.3inch screen. I still love the size (not the weight) of my 12″ PowerBook. It has a full size keyboard so I can’t understand why they insist the 13.3 inch screen is ‘normal’. the 12″ screen is fine for most portable work and, afterall, Leopard’s Spaces would make up for the reduced screen space.

  33. Doug S. says:

    As someone who was kind of skeptical about the Air at first, I’m actually glad to hear from so many people who think differently, who say that it’s just what they want. I’m an APPL shareholder, too, after all, so hope above all else that the Air sells like mad.

    I guess I see the thinness of the Air as an incremental improvement rather than a major achievement because my 5 lb. MacBook Pro doesn’t seem all that heavy to begin with (and I’m not particularly big or strong). ‘Course, I can remember when laptops were bigger and heavier than that. So I can’t imagine that the Air at 3 lbs. and a fraction of an inch thinner would change my life that much.

    Perhaps the most sensible take on the Air that I’ve seen comes from Herb Greenberg on CNBC, who can actually make sense when he’s not yelling and arguing, in imitation of his boss Jim Cramer: One can look at some of the features that the Air introduces — the multitouch trackpad, the solid-state hard drive, the longer-life battery — as previews of what will happen next to the MacBook and MacBook Pro lines.

  34. S says:

    The 160gb ipod is thicker than the 80gb ipod. Maybe the 160gb drive can’t fit?

  35. Greg says:

    It is no doubt a beautiful machine. But I was just looking at the Hong Kong apple site, and I worked out for around the same price as the air I could buy an iMac, Apple TV, and an iPod touch.

    If I really needed a portable and walked intot he Hong Kong store with the money for an air, I could by an iBook, an iPod touch, an iPod classic, and an Apple TV for the price of an air.

    I’d love to buy one, but it just costs too much. What a shame. With all these really decent low cost machiens coming out (but poorly designed), why couldn’t apple also bring something simple and beautifuly designed that people actually need? What about the education market?

    Maybe we should all boycott the Macbook Air- it is no doubt the most beautiful computer ever made, but why do we get pushed overpriced products all the time?

  36. Rezmason says:

    Frankly, I think this is another example of Apple taking a design-related risk to encourage a change in lifestyle in its customers, much like the abandonment of the floppy drive ten years ago. You buy an Apple wireless base station (they’ve got all sorts now, don’t they? kinda confusing), you buy a MacBook Air, and you’re good to go, within your residence. That’s not how everybody likes their tech, but I think it’s part of Apple’s strategy.

  37. Phantom says:

    I call bullshit on the nitpicking. After playing with it at the Apple booth it is clear that it is both thinner AND LIGHTER. It is Much more portable. I have a 12 inch Powerbook G4 (which I Love) This machine does everything I use the PB for, and is much easier to carry and handle (even though the overall “footprint” is slightly larger–but nothing so as to adversely effect anything). My PB feels much more bulky– cause it is. The Air is very much like handling a book or magazine. Really.

    It’s hard to believe that (with the exception of those wanting a bigger screen) all of the people walking around MacWorld with laptops would not want to use this machine. I don’t see firewire drives attached to their machines, nor are they connected to the internet via an ethernet wire.

    Should it have had an option for a larger HD? Yes. But I’ve done fine with the 60GB in my PB. Would it be better if it had built in wireless broadband? Yes. But does it detract from the overall value and utility of the machine? No. My biggest worry was with its speed (HD and processor). Based on my non-scientific testing, there was no detectable lag or slowness. Could I play heavy games or do photoshop well? No, but neither could I on my PB.

    A lot of the discussion here and on some other sites remind me of the early thoughts on the iPod Nano. I urge you to actually go, see, touch, and lift one, then see how you feel.

  38. AppleSlut says:

    The target market for the Air has got to be No-Doz – the business travelers who want the lightest laptop possible and can write off the outrageous cost. To me, the basic home user, it doesn’t come close to satisfying my needs. Like going to the strip club – it’s an expensive substitute that makes you want the real thing even more… and your money back.

  39. bonose says:

    His Steveness should have called the MacBook Air the Apple Cube Flat, Take 2.

    I also want, and will wait for, an upgraded 12″± MacBook to replace my 12″ G4 MacBook that’s cobbled together with duct tape and bailing wire.

  40. davipt says:

    You don’t need no stinky built-in mobile broadband. What would you put in there? 3G? HSDPA? HSUPA? whatever US has? You don’t even need to waste the USB port.

    Just use bluetooth with your mobile. It just works. :)

  41. Mr Roberto says:

    The MacBook Air seems to be a couple of steps backwards from the 12-inch Powerbook. What I like about the 12-inch Powerbook is that it’s basically a small desktop machine that you can also take with you. With the lack of Firewire (to boot off from) there’s no way the MacBook Air can approach desktop performance.

    Come on. You mean after 3 years and the move to Intel’s smaller form factors, Apple still can’t make the 12-inch Powerbook lighter without losing all its features? Or how about maintaining the same form factor but taking out all the ports — I’m sure it will be lighter AND thinner than the MacBook Air then.

    Whatever this thing is, it’s not a subnotebook or a 12-inch replacement. I would have imagined that a 2008 12-inch Powerbook would have the guts of the Mac Mini in the same form factor.

  42. Mr Roberto says:

    Ah, one more thing: the day someone makes a snappy Bluetooth mouse and a hi-fi* quality Bluetooth headphone, I would consider using Bluetooth peripherals.

    *By “hi-fi”, I meant “real hi-fi”, not “iPod Hi-Fi” which is only hi-fi because Steve Jobs said it is/was. By “Bluetooth hi-fi headphones” I meant something approaching the Grado SR60, not some tinny-sounding plastic made by Philips or Creative.

  43. Moe says:

    1st of all, we don’t need an optical drive anymore, when was the last time you used it? 2nd, 80 gigs is enough, if you need more, you probably already have an external HD at your home, right? Am sure you either got leopard or you’re planing to get it, you loved the time machine app right? then probably if you don’t have an eternal HD you gonna get one soon. 3rd, you think a 1.6GHZ is enough, unless you are always working with photoshop, final cut..etc

  44. Blackmeout08 says:

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