Monday, February 18, 2008

MacBook Air

MacBook Air: less than 2cm at it's thickest point.

I must confess that when the MacBook Air was released, I didn't quite know what to make of it. It looks beautiful, for sure, but had Apple sacrificed too many features?

So, it has surprised even me (Mac fanatic that I am) that, generally speaking, those who have reviewed the Air have been pretty positive about it. There are always favourable mentions for the build quality, the screen brightness, the thinness and lightness of the machine.

Problem areas are the (relatively) low speed of the chip, the lack of ports and the relatively constrained storage space.

That hasn't stopped some people writing very enthusiastic reviews though.
MacBook Air Haters: Suck My Dick

I thought of a lot of titles for this post, but, really, the first one that came to me seems the best.

I've read nothing but whining about the MacBook Air on Mac news sites since it came out this morning. Honestly, I just want to shake these people. Not, like, shake some sense into them, but shake them like you're not supposed to shake a baby.

The criticism all basically goes like this: "It's not like a MacBook Pro!"

No, really? Seriously? I mean, they introduced this new product, and it doesn't have the same specs as the MacBook Pro? God, that is bizarre. I wonder why they gave it a new name, and continue to sell the MacBook Pro, then, if it's not going to be exactly the same. I mean, that hardly makes sense, does it?

Ok, fine, there are some people who want, like, an extra battery Pack. But let's admit amongst ourselves that the overwhelming majority of people out there have never pulled the battery out of their existing laptops, and didn't even know or care that it comes out.

And there are people out there who do video editing on their MacBooks and want FireWire. Great! I respect your choice! You should buy a MacBook! It's an awesome machine! If you want to do that! Which I don't!

Some journalists get so close to the truth it hurts, yet miss the large print. "OMG! The unit is all sealed and self-contained like the iPod!"

Yes... the iPod. That huge failure. Also, the iPhone. Stunning disappointment that it was. I mean, jeebus, why would Apple make ANOTHER device incredibly simple? Clearly the market has spoken, and it wants tons of ports and screws and geegaws and flippers... no, wait, no it doesn't.

I'm not the freak, here. In this one instance. I'm with the majority. All software developers should be hailing the advent of the computer-as-appliance, because it means we'll be reaching into markets that are afraid of self-service machines.

I can't take apart my Kitchenaid blender. If they come out with a new motor, I'm screwed. It's not upgradeable! And when the motor blows (as it DID... grrr), I have to send it back. I can't take apart my car. When Lotus came out with a bolt-on supercharger, I had to (gasp) take it to the dealer to have it put in. Somehow I survived.

I don't buy a laptop because I want to replace its drive in a year. I buy it because it seems great and meets my needs today. If my needs magically morph over the coming year, I guess I'll sell it on eBay. Or pay Apple to throw in a different drive, or something. Honestly, I think we need to admit that just because machines get faster every year, doesn't mean that the majority of people need faster machines.

This is something that has occurred to me numerous times. The vast majority of people that I know simply don't use their computers to anything like their full capacity. The vast majority of people that I know use their computers for email, surfing the web, music and writing documents (and it's not my fault—nor Apple's—if Microsoft have made Word, a fucking word processor, into a massive piece of bloatware requiring 83,000GB of hard drive space and 83 trillion Gigs of RAM).

Even the vast majority of designers that I know are web designers: they are dealing with code and low resolution pictures that barely touch 10MB in size. Yes, I often work on files that run to many hundreds of Megs (and some that run into the multiple gigabyte range) but I am unusual in that.

Thinking about how I use my MacBook, what would be my issues with the MacBook Air? Well, I rarely travel or use it for any massive amount of time without returning to base; the MacBook Air's three to five hour (at work) battery life is quite enough for me.

I don't plug anything much into my MacBook either. It is usually a machine for carrying to meetings and suchlike. Most of the places where I arrange meets have have Wi-Fi, so that's not an issue.

When travelling for long distances, I have been known to watch DVDs on my laptop which I couldn't do so easily with the Air, since it has no optical drive. But I don't travel very often.

I use my MacBook for going to other locations to work and the vast majority of my work is now done on my servers, so as long as I have Wi-Fi, that's not a problem.

I don't need my music on there either—if I am working on my balcony, I can still access my Mac Pro's iTunes Library over Wi-Fi and I have my iPod otherwise. And, OK, the Air only has an 80GB hard drive: but, then, so does my MacBook, and I am not close to running out of space yet (even though I do have my music on there).

The main issue is weight. And the MacBook Air is light. And, as it happens, beautiful.

So, given that my laptop is my secondary machine—and this will always be the case: there simply isn't a laptop out there with the raw power that I need—would I buy a MacBook Air?

Yes, I think that I would. However, I would like to see some more storage space—even a 120GB drive would help—given the high price. And that's really the sticking point: £1,200 is an awful lot of money for such a small package.

But then, minaturisation has never been cheap: I used to have an N Gauge railway set and the locomotives and rolling stock were more expensive than the larger O Gauge pieces. This is for a number of reasons but not least that more engineering precision is required.

So, provided the price has dropped by that time, my next laptop (which won't be for a little while yet) will almost certainly be a MacBook Air.

DISCLAIMER: I own Apple shares. Which are still at an irritatingly low price.


Budgie said...

What's a Mac? I always thought they came with fries.

The Creator said...

Spot on. Simplicity is always the answer. The properly technically minded know what they want and how to get it. The vast majority of us, however, just want a machine that you plug in and works – and the cheaper the better.

All it has to do is word processing, internet access and play DVDs and music. Practically everything else is redundant.

I have been saying this for years and am always howled down by computer nerdos.

That said, the MacBook Air

That said, the MacBook Air clearly isn't the answer, or at least not yet. £1,200 for a machine that can't play DVDs is not the way forward.

But I agree it is strikingly elegant.

perdedor said...

So the hardware isn't up to scratch for the price and many useful and common features are missing, but hey, it looks nice, is a fraction of an inch thinner than the norm, and has some poncy advert.

SO what exactly is the Macbook Air for?

Taking the money of fools.

Antipholus Papps said...

I'm surprised it doesn't have a DVD drive, but your point is valid. I have a G4 Powerbook, top-of-the-range at the time, and the only thing I ever plug into it is my iPod. I use it principally for sending emails and surfing the web, something that could be conceivably achieved with a Blackberry. But I fucking love it.

Probably the most processor-intensive thing I do on it is making mix-CDs with XOWave. Or playing Knights of the Old Republic.

Anonymous said...

I wouldn't classify myself an 'air hater' but I would dispute his assertion that "that the overwhelming majority of people out there have never pulled the battery out of their existing laptops, and didn't even know or care that it comes out.".

Most people with Laptops have /had/ to work out how to remove the battery simply to reboot the poxy thing when it gets stuck!

Also, though the machine does look exceptionally sweet, it does lack ports, looks very fragile, and is very expensive for what computing resources you get. The new IBM X300 looks like it will blow the Air away in everything except the style department (though personally I like the thinkpad look!) - a little more expensive but higher resolution screen, more space, more ports, optical drive, almost certainly better built.

If this makes me an 'Air hater' then all I can say is "MacBook Air Lovers Suck Steve's Dick"


Anonymous said...

I completely agre! The macBook Air is just a wonderful laptop! I have one and I'me pleased with it.
people, please stop hating!

Anonymous said...

I tested this camera for a client. I didn’t have the light running for more than 15 minutes. The battery lasted approximately 6 hours before recharging. The LCD, however, had a few dead pixels - never saw this before. Tried returning for exchange and had to put up quite a fight. Anyone else seen this? laptop battery
Verizon is about the only place you can get the authentic RIM product and matching door. Most other sites are out of stock and even when they are in stock they have the black battery door which looks like crap. new battery