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MacBook Air media honeymoon turns into divorce

Battery, RAM and hard drive all sealed inside; battery replacement echoes iPod fiasco

Media coverage of the MacBook Air turned sour today as disappointing details emerged about the new laptop. Stretching from technology blogs Engadget and Gizmodo as far as Germany’s mainstream online publication Der Spiegel, articles and blog comments berated Apple’s design decision to seal in key components of the MacBook Air. Even unofficial Apple blogs were littered with ugly remarks.

The battery option for the Osborne 1 (above) could be fitted by the owner. That was 1981.

The battery, RAM and hard drive in the Air are all inaccessible to the owner, which means that when you run out of power away from home you need to stop and find a plug. There’s no way of carrying a spare battery, so owners will need to plan their journeys carefully and possibly carry the power adaptor. We will have to wait to see how realistic Apple’s 5 hour battery life claim is in real usage. My MacBook’s battery is rated at up to 6 hours, but in practise I get around 3.5 hours.

One thing’s for sure, there will be all sorts of third party add-ons to provide portable power to the Air…which will kind of defeat the purpose in the first place.

My $599 3.8 pound unltraportable (above) came with two batteries as standard, to allow me to keep on being ultraportable. That’s cool.

The Air ships with 2 GB of RAM, which is already at a decent amount but you can’t add more yourself once you get it home. The hard drive is also out of bounds for owners.

So to swap out the battery if it starts losing charge, you will need to get the Air to Apple. A bit like the old days with the iPod fiasco. If you live around the corner from an Apple store then this will just be an inconvenience. If you need to send it in by courier because you’re far from an Apple emporium, then you could be without your laptop for a while.

Let’s not even get into the data protection issues of having to hand a laptop over to a third party.

I said yesterday that the MacBook Air was stunning, but more evolution than revolution. Today it just seems like a stunning toy for people who limit their travels to the local coffee shop.

Hands-on review to come…

Neil Berman


Jan 16, 2008 - Posted by | Analysis, Apple, Computing, Hardware, Mobile | , ,


  1. Hmm, all true but given the usual life time of a notebook, these potential issues seem to be a minor disadvantage. I had my battery exchanged only once (and I have owned/used at least 6) and I am happy to give my MacAir away for a day in 5 years AFTER being the coolest guy in every Starbucks and Business Class flight for about a year and still enjoying the design for an additional 2 years. And how many Laptop users upgrade their RAM to 4 Gig or buy a new harddisk? Perhaps not the ones that buy an Apple and pay a premium for design anyway. Biggest disadvantage I see is the missing DVD drive. No one will carry an external one on a plane or so.

    Comment by Anonymous | Jan 18, 2008 | Reply

  2. you’ll be cool…up until the point where you ask the air steward if there’s in-seat power…whilst the guy next to you plays DVDs on his battery powered Vaio.

    Comment by Anonymous | Jan 19, 2008 | Reply

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