Ah yes, the MacBook Air. The mere mention of the name sends even the casual Mac fan into a daydream. But is it everything we’ve dreamed of? We went to our own inside guy for all things Mac, Gabe Stampone, to get some answers.
THE FATHER LIFE: So, the new MacBook Air. Did you scream like a little girl when it arrived?
GABE STAMPONE: I don’t think I’ve been as excited for something coming from Apple in a long time. When it arrived they shipped it in a box more similar to an iPod box than a MacBook box. The packaging really is showing the progression from Apple the computer company to Apple the everything company. Apple’s beautiful crunchy outside packaging gets you excited for it’s gooey center.
TFL: After some initial use, what stands out to you?
GS: What amazes me is that it’s so thin but it’s solid. When I looked at pictures I though “if I swatted a bug on this thing I’ll crack the screen.” Not so. It is an architectural marvel so thin, but it’s something I would feel comfortable treating as a normal laptop. The keyboard worked just like the MacBook keyboard, which was so popular they incorporated it into the iMac keyboard. It’s really nice for people who type well. For hunters and peckers like me it’s nice, but you won’t notice anything spectacular. The touchpad is quite a bit bigger than the MacBooks and MacBook Pros, but this is to allow for the multitouch feature that they added to it. Multitouch allows you to to use different finger gestures to, say, flip through photos or rotate them in iPhoto. Kind of cool but after doing it a few times the novelty kind of wheres off. This is not the sole reason to get this because everyone is assuming the next models of MacBooks and MacBook Pros will incorporate this. Lastly and most notably are the features it doesn’t have, but it’s not as bad as it seems.
TFL: The thing is so small and thin… what’s missing?
GS: Let’s be clear: if you’re looking at this as a workhorse that will allow you to expand it and upgrade it, pass. Buy the MacBook. It’s not as sexy, but it will allow you to upgrade memory and has more inputs and a smaller screen. If you need an ultra portable laptop that you will hardly notice when carrying, and if you do most of your surfing wirelessly without the need to hook up a bunch of stuff, then this deserves a serious look. A lot of people are out there saying this is not your main computer. If you can live without some of the noticeable bells and whistles that were sacrificed for the good of thin, then this can definitely be your main computer.
TFL: Is it practical for everyday use? What sorts of uses should folks get this for (other than being the envy of their friends)?
GS: The lack of optical drive, ethernet port, and the limit of just one usb port are noticeable, but Apple has etiher figured out a way around it or said “meh” about it. Optical drive is a biggy. Solution: a) an optional external SuperDrive or b) share the drive of another computer. It just has to be on the same wireless network and you can use it as a drive to load software to it. Personally I would only need that for loading Office or Photoshop on it, so 100 bucks for a drive I will hardly use doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense. Movies? I can rent them on iTunes now.
TFL: Any other downsides?
GS: It depends on what you can’t live without. Most people under normal use will not miss anything on the MacBook Air. It has one USB port– enough for hooking up your iPod or a printer. Seriously consider getting an Airport or Airport Extreme. You’ll like the flexibility of a wireless network, and you can hook up your printer to it and print wirelessly. Very cool for most Apple users, a down right must for MacBook Air users. The thing that bothers me the most–and it’s nit-picky–is the magsafe adapter. It’s under the MacBook Air and it’s a little annoying to hook it up and unhook it.
TFL: Is this a replacement for the MacBook?
GS: Not really. They are designed for two distinctive customers at two distinctive price ranges. The MacBook is for students and home use where customers need a little more flexibility. The MacBook Air is for people where portability is the main thing. The MacBook Air is a sexy little laptop that will be able to handle most stuff that dads throw at it. (Keep it away from the kids, though, unless people like seeing a grown man cry where you live.)
TFL: Any other comments?
GS: For a lot of dads out there, this will be a tough sell. $1799.00 is pretty close to a MacBook Pro that can do a lot more than the MacBook Air. But having traveled with a MacBook Pro, this thing would be a traveler’s best friend. It has plenty of processing power for people who find the MacBook adequate, but if you need serious processing power, take a hard look at the MacBook Pro.
You can reach Gabe at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Gabe Stampone and his family live in Rochester, NY.