It Feels So Good

Apple can't help but talk up the fact that the MacBook Air is incredibly thin; something you honestly can't really appreciate until seeing/holding it in person.

The design is amazing and Apple's designers styled the Air in such a way that the shape of the notebook further accentuates how thin it is. It truly is beautiful, and I was a skeptic going into this review. PC notebook manufacturers are always asking me how they can better compete with Apple, designs like the Air are the perfect example of what we should be seeing from the Dells and Lenovos of the world but just aren't.


From top to bottom: iPhone, Macbook Air and the original MacBook Pro

The thinness is only a part of the equation however, unlike most ultra portables I've used over the years - the MacBook Air feels solid. Largely due to its aluminum shell, the Air feels unbelievably rigid - something I can't say about most ultra portables.

The screen hinge is also very tight but I'm unsure how that will wear over time; even the best constructed notebooks tend to fare poorly in this department as you use them.

The aluminum exterior does scratch pretty easily, even when taking good care of it we still managed to incur a few scratches on its underside. But just like dings on a new car, you get used to them after a while and stop worrying so much. The all aluminum exterior also means that it'll always shock me after going through airport security, just like my MacBook Pro - great; it's a small price to pay for a sturdy system.

The feet on the bottom of the Air are also very well done; they keep the system elevated enough to avoid scratching the base while flowing with the design.

The form factor of the MacBook Air is absolutely perfect, I can't stress enough how much Apple's entire lineup of notebooks needs to feel like the Air does in your hands.

Apple does fall very short in bundling accessories with the Air. At $1799 I don't expect Apple to include everything, but the Air really needs a well designed case. Apple kept mentioning that you can fit the Air inside a manilla folder, but failed to design a better alternative for you to stick it in when carrying it around. If you want to even attempt to carry accessories with the Air, you'll need a standard notebook bag which is designed for much larger systems - partially defeating the purpose of having such a thin and light notebook.

While I'd like to see Apple step to the plate and offer a case worthy of the Air, there is a great opportunity for a clever third party manufacturer to make something efficient for carrying the Air and its accessories around.

Index The Best Keyboard on an Ultra Portable? Evar?
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  • aliasfox - Thursday, February 14, 2008 - link

    It may be 50% faster than the 1.2 GHz ULV processors in most other ultraportables, but that also means it's also about 50% slower than most mainstream high end CPUs (2.2 GHz and up).

    Slow hard drive doesn't help either.
    Reply
  • sprockkets - Wednesday, February 13, 2008 - link

    I don't get it. I can use my Pioneer laptop slot loading burner on an external enclosure and it be powered solely via the one usb port and works just fine, even while writing to dvds.

    For that matter, I can do the same with notebook laptop drives. Rarely do I need both usb ports connected in order for it to work.
    Reply
  • sprockkets - Wednesday, February 13, 2008 - link

    Only about 16mbits per second on the xfer rate on wireless? Wow. Were you using n? Reply
  • JarredWalton - Thursday, February 14, 2008 - link

    I don't know what Anand used, but I've seen everything from 3MBps to 12MBps on an 802.11n network... all with laptops in the same room, and many using the same chipset (Intel 4965AGN). Overall, N tends to feel about half as fast as 100Mbit Ethernet - or about twice as fast as 802.11G. Router choice unfortunately still has a major influence on 802.11N performance. Reply
  • Imaginer - Wednesday, February 13, 2008 - link

    It is what the overall feel and message of the article indicates to me. It is a bit expensive, non-expansive, lacks most utility to be used in most mobile situations, and it is purely for computing on the bare minimum.

    Kind of like that so called weekend car. I don't think I myself will have ANY need for such a device. Give me a powerful desktop and a versitle yet remaining non cumbersome notebook anyday.

    Most people in the market for a laptop usually would use it like their normal away from home computer and because of this, the air really disappoints. (not that I would invest in a new computer anytime soon).
    Reply
  • jedmitchell - Wednesday, February 13, 2008 - link

    hey, so good review overall -- kept it very even handed considering the difficulty of reviewing a niche product like this. one hardware point I'd like to mention though is the info you give on the X3100. certainly the idea behind it is that as an integrated controller it won't provide very fast graphics, but there's a trick here: most of the things it's not rated to run... run. at least on the older macBook (santa rosa). final cut pro, maya, and photoshop actually all run pretty seamlessly on the X3100, both in OSX and windows (fcp is more memory/drive limited there than GPU). the only small problems are in windows where the X3100 drivers by intel are actually lacking several openGL 2.0 features present in apple's version.

    the X3100 even plays older games on windows without much trouble -- I can run the Orange Box games at 1024x768 with high quality settings and see a fairly regular 30fps, less a few texture memory glitches. anyway, it would be interesting to see how that performance in the same chipset scales from the macBook to the air.
    Reply
  • jdwango - Wednesday, February 13, 2008 - link

    However I wish you had also tried to install Windows XP/Vista via boot camp and reported your thoughts. Reply
  • joey2264 - Wednesday, February 13, 2008 - link

    This would be a fairly good review if you would just mention the fact that most of the sacrifices Apple made to create the Macbook Air simply weren't necessary. If you look like at a notebook like the Fujitsu Lifebook S6510 of the Lenovo X300 this becomes clear. Looking at these two notebooks, it is obvious that each of the manufacturers could have come up with a 13.3 in, 1 spindle notebook that didn't make hardly any other compromises (decent keyboard, decent port selection, replaceable battery, upgradeable memory, standard 2.5" hard drives (Lenovo could have probably fit a 2.5" hard drive in there if they had used a 13.3" screen, with the requisite larger footprint, although it would have been a little heavier), etc). Reply
  • michael2k - Wednesday, February 13, 2008 - link

    The S6510 you mention is heavier (by a pound) and nearly twice as thick! It is much more comparable to a MacBook (5 pounds and an inch thick vs 4 pounds and 1.42 inches thick).

    The X300 is also not available yet, so a comparison will have to wait until we find out about price and build quality.
    Reply
  • mlambert890 - Thursday, February 14, 2008 - link

    OK, so then the Sony TX, the Fujitsu P7k, the Toshiba Portege, the Dialogue Flybook, the Panasonic Toughbook, the Dell XPS1210, the Sony SZ, The LG XNote....

    There's a pretty long list of notes that are smaller and ligher or as light or slightly heavier with a lot more features than the MBA.

    The MBA is THINNER. Last I checked thinner is a BS feature. When someone can explain to me WHY thinner means ANYTHING beyond looking cool at Starbucks, maybe Ill be interested.

    The Sony X505 was pretty much the same situation as the MBA except it had a removable battery and more ports and that was 3 years ago. I think the MBA was like .2" thinner than the Sony *at its thinnest point* and about the same at the thickest.

    The MBA is big news for the cult of Mac which lately is including PC sites like this.
    Reply

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