First look: On cloud nine with Apple's MacBook Air

It's 'a truly innovative product,' but going lightweight means trade-offs

1 2 3 Page 3
Page 3 of 3

Both are inspired choices for reducing bulk, though there is a trade-off: The MacBook Air offers the least amount of storage of any current Mac. The 1.8-in. drive holds 80GB of data and spins at a relatively leisurely 4,200 rpm; the SSD, while faster, is smaller, too. It holds just 64GB of data -- and adds a whopping $999 to the price of the laptop.

Whether that poses a serious problem will vary from person to person. If you're buying, choose wisely -- and check your bank account first!

So should you buy one?

There can be no real question that the MacBook Air is a truly innovative product. One close-up look at its incredibly bright, clear screen; its stunningly light and thin design; the inclusion of multi-touch functions; and the combination of wireless technologies show that the MacBook Air continues Apple's tradition of next-generation innovation and design. But does that mean that it's the perfect portable Mac for everyone?

Probably not.

Several factors may limit its overall effect on the market. First, the subnotebook market is small. Many users aren't willing to sacrifice features for portability. They want speed. Or a big screen. Or every variety of port available. Although Apple's latest laptop strikes a better balance than most of its competitors, it isn't for everyone.

MacBook Air

A truly innovative product, but not perfect for everyone. Image courtesy of Apple.

Anyone looking for a portable Mac as his main machine will find the MacBook Air somewhat limited. Yes, you can get the optional USB SuperDrive, but there's still no FireWire or an audio-in port -- each of which can be issues for someone wanting to do professional or consumer video or audio work. The limited hard drive capacity could also be an issue.

Enterprise environments will likely hesitate because of the lack of built-in Ethernet. Although the USB add-on solves that problem, the port limitations and reliance on other hardware will likely be turn-offs to large-scale enterprises, particularly given the $1,799 starting price. For not much more than that, you can get a 15-in. MacBook Pro or even two entry-level MacBooks.

The MacBook Air imposes limits on expandability. It's doubtful that users will be able to upgrade the hard drive, and the built-in 2GB of RAM is soldered to the motherboard. While 2GB is fine for most users now, down the road, that may not be true.

Those caveats aside, for users who want a second Mac for the road, the MacBook Air could put you on cloud nine. If you already own another computer to balance out the MacBook Air's limitations at home or work, you may not even notice them. Even if you don't rely on another Mac, an external hard drive -- either connected directly or shared via an AirPort Extreme or the new Time Capsule -- may be all you need, though it's still a wise idea to get the USB SuperDrive.

For users who want a Mac that goes anywhere and weighs next to nothing, the MacBook Air is an incredible solution. Any road warrior will love both its size and weight, as well as the battery life. While there may not be a huge number of Mac users ready to pay for such portability, there is no doubt a market for the MacBook Air -- especially when you consider that it is aggressively priced compared with the competition. And like all Intel Macs, it allows you to run both Mac OS X and Windows.

The MacBook Air won't be out for another couple of weeks, but anyone who spends a few minutes with the machine will be amazed on many levels. It may not be the portable Mac for everyone, but no one can say that it isn't an incredible achievement. And for those for whom it makes sense, it is also an incredibly sophisticated next-generation computer.

Related News and Discussion:

Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

1 2 3 Page 3
Page 3 of 3
7 inconvenient truths about the hybrid work trend
Shop Tech Products at Amazon