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MacBook Air hands-on review

Two weeks of watching someone pulling a laptop out of an envelope on TV can leave an impression on the mind. So I was glad to see a complete absence of said stationery in the Apple store MacBook Air display.

I start giving the Air a good look over. 0.7 inches thin and 3 lbs light, with such an unblemished look that my camera has difficulty focusing on it. I instantly want one.
It will slip into an office envelope” says a store assistant to a customer standing next to me. Thanks for forcing me to recall the advert which has almost driven me into therapy.

I carry on tinkering. The multi-touch trackpad is great and makes surfing a breeze. It’s really large, with a smaller button than usual. No problem with that, I never use the button on my MacBook anyway. Surfing and general Leopard navigation seems quick with 2GB RAM and unhindered by the slower Intel 1.6 GHz Core 2 Duo processor. Videos play smoothly from Apple’s website. The Air seems very quiet, although in the noise of the store it is difficult to really tell.
The little door which opens on the right hand side reveals limited connectivity options. One USB port, a mini-DVI port and a headphone output. Pretty weak, but the USB port can be converted to an ethernet connection using an optional accessory and further USB ports could be gained through a hub. There’s a mini-DVI to VGA adaptor included in the box. The optical drive is an extra $99, but remote disc (which allows access to the optical drive of a Mac or PC), is included.Placing the Air directly on top of my MacBook proves that apart from the thickness, the two laptops share similar width and length dimensions. This unfortunately is one of the weaknesses of the Air. Whilst it is thin and light, you basically need a regular MacBook-size bag to carry it around…unless you have an office envelope sitting around of course.
The MagSafe power connection is very solid, better than the current MacBook. What happens if we pull it out…? The fully charged battery calculates remaining runtime as 3h 43m. Not bad, but not the quoted 5h, and I’m not even doing anything with the laptop. Start the envelope advert running and battery life drops instantly to 2h 27m. I stop the advert and do some general surfing, after five minutes the battery life indicator settles down at 3h 05m. Once that runs down, there’s no second battery option.
After a bit more playing around I’m feeling completely comfortable with the Air. The screen size and weight make it a great Cloud computing laptop. Several people come and go, some on the phone to friends and family: “Yeah, you’re really going to like this. Should I bring you back one? It is a bit like spending a lot of money just to lose a couple of pounds on your MacBook though. I’m not sure what you’re gonna gain.”

I agree. Money no object I’d definitely get one of these, but apart from the weight advantage it’s basically the same size as my MacBook, slower than my MacBook and doesn’t do anything my MacBook doesn’t already do. But if you’re considering dropping a load of cash on a MB or you own a larger MB Pro, then the Air is worth thinking about. As a first Apple laptop it’s a very desirable option.
Neil Berman


Feb 2, 2008 - Posted by | Apple, Hardware, Reviews |

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