ND – Sunny, Cloudy, Blue
I recently got to play with…
…Apple’s new (for 2010) MacBook Air, and I was really quite impressed. The obvious level of engineering here is right up there with many, if not all, of Apple’s other devices and clearly comes from the same parent as the iPad.
In particular, the sheer small size of the 11 inch model is really quite impressive as a portable device, even if it is larger than my still excellent ASUS Eee 901 PC in two of its three dimensions. The optical illusion created by the Air’s silvery form, mixed with its maximum thickness of 17mm against my Eee’s 38mm makes it slip into a whole new category of small, despite only besting my Eee in one dimension.
However, this optical trick allows even the tiny 11 inch Air to house a decent sized screen and full size keyboard and trackpad, and will no doubt be a little easier to tap out War and Peace on than my Eee.
The 11 inch Air has a bright and vibrant screen, slightly less annoying reflective glass than my iMac and a battery life that, while excellent at an estimated five hours for the 11 inch model, still doesn’t match the seven hours I’m still getting out of a freshly charged Eee a full two years after I began using it in anger. Yes, I know that the larger 13 inch Air also claims seven hours, but “larger” is the operative word here and my focus is on the ultimate portable notebook computing device.
The big area where the new Air’s have seen criticism is in the choice of processors, with both devices sticking with the previous generation of Intel Core 2 Duo’s. Whilst the 13 inch Air now sports a 1.86GHz clock, the 11 inch runs at 1.4GHz which appears to be pretty pedestrian, but is part of the tradeoff for that ultimate portability and usage durability. There are options to order with 1.6GHz (11 inch) and 2.13GHz (13 inch) processors, but neither option fundamentally changes your experience.
Whilst I admit I don’t do this every day, I have been known to climb up the side of old New Zealand volcanoes, with relatively heavy Nikon digital SLR camera equipment and my Eee in a backpack. I could have tried to lug a back-breaking monster computer just so that I could run Aperture 3 at 3GHz for less than an hour before the battery dies, but I often don’t need ultimate supercomputer performance in such situations, and can return to my iMac for the heavy lifting work.
In other words, for many of the things I wish to do when I need portability, the Flash storage inspired rapid pace of the junior Air is all I really need. I don’t need to lug my entire music, photo or film collection with me, but I do want connectivity, functional durability and a rapid on/off capability with which to work.
As a portable computing device, the upper 128GB Flash storage option of the little Air is quite enough when portable, and quite frankly picking up a 32GB USB Key from eBay is a pretty inexpensive and lightweight extension should you need it.
I love my Eee having carried it on my back around Hong Kong and New Zealand for five weeks, along with a bunch of other places, and it’s the perfect portable companion today for my iMac when I get home. I also now have the pleasure of a new computing experience with the recent purchase of an Apple iPad. But in three or four years time, when I decide my computing needs require a general update, the grandchild of this Air is likely to be my portable weapon of choice.