Apple 1.6GHz MacBook Air

Apple 1.6GHz MacBook Air

For such a thin laptop, the MacBook Air feels sturdy and durable. You really have to pick it up to appreciate it.

 

It’s possible that the MacBook Air is too good-looking—the laptop equivalent of a smokin’ hot chick. Yes, it’s gorgeous. You want to touch it, hold it, show it off to your friends. You feel cool just having it on your arm. But at the end of the day, does it offer enough depth to keep you happy? Or will its long list of shortcomings make you wonder if this electronic eye candy is really worth it? If we were scoring just on design, the Air would easily receive five stars. The engineering that went into it—from Intel’s custom-built Core 2 Duo processor on a 60 percent smaller die, to a motherboard the length of a new pencil—is beyond impressive. And the huge, 5-inch trackpad with Multi-touch support is our favorite feature. You can pinch to zoom in or out, tap windows to move them, and use three-finger swipes to move forward and back in your browser history. The full-size backlit keyboard is a pleasure to use, and the LED-backlit screen is bright (but, as with the MacBook’s display, you’re out of luck if you prefer a matte finish to glossy).

 

Building a laptop this small requires trade-offs, and Apple did an admirable job of working around the problems caused by the Air’s reduced feature set. Yes, there’s no optical drive, but if you need to install software from a disc, Apple’s Remote Disc feature lets you borrow the optical drive of another computer on your network. This solution works well with Macs (no additional software is needed if the “donor” Mac is running Mac OS 10.5.2), but to use it with a PC, you have to have the MacBook Air’s Leopard Install Disc handy, install some software on the PC, and then change the CD and DVD Sharing setting in Windows. You can’t use Remote Disc to watch a DVD, rip a CD, or play a game off of a disc. (But Remote Disc does let you boot the Air from the Install Disc if you need to reinstall Leopard.)

 

The Air’s lack of FireWire means the traditional Migration Assistant won’t work, but Apple introduced a Wireless Migration Assistant that can transfer your files and settings from another Mac wirelessly. It works well, but is much slower than the FireWire version. And if you have a FireWire camcorder, you’re, well, screwed—you won’t be able to import its video into the MacBook Air.

 

The Air’s 4,200-rpm parallel ATA 80GB hard drive is slower than the 5,400-rpm serial ATA drives in the rest of Apple’s notebook line. And don’t forget that Leopard takes up some of that space, leaving you with a little less than 64GB for your files. So prepare to tote a USB external drive, or perform frequent wireless backups to a networked storage system, like Apple’s Time Capsule.

 

In fact, many of the solutions for the Air’s problems require optional hardware. Its lack of wired Internet connectivity is fixed with a $29 USB-to-Ethernet adapter or a $49 USB modem. If you need an optical drive, the sleek $99 external SuperDrive works well, and is USB powered. Because the Air’s battery probably won’t last for a cross-country flight (more on that in a minute), you should pick up a $49 MagSafe Airline Adapter. Feeling nickel-and-dimed yet? An Apple Remote will cost you another $19. Apple does include dongles for connecting a VGA or DVI monitor, though.

 

Apple claims a battery life of 5 hours with AirPort turned on. For our battery test, we left AirPort and Bluetooth on, kept the screen brightness at 50 percent, and played songs in iTunes while Web surfing. The battery died after 3:14, a huge disappointment. And charging it to full took a little more than 4 hours. Since you can’t pack a spare battery for easy swapping like you can with the other Mac notebooks, road warriors will be frustrated.
We didn’t have issues with the ports, although you might need an extension cable to fit bulky plugs into the single USB port. The Air comes with 2GB of 667MHz SDRAM, and you can’t add more (the MacBook is easily upgraded to 4GB maximum). That said, 2GB should be enough for normal office tasks. The Air’s benchmarks were the slowest of any Mac notebook we’ve tested—you can read about the test results at www.maclife.com/macbook_air_specs—but if you’re not gaming or working with huge video files, the speed is acceptable.

 

The bottom line. For some people, the Air will be worth it. Bloggers, for example, who use Wi-Fi and don’t need to encode video or deal with huge image files, will love this svelte wonder. For a highly portable Web-surfing and productivity Mac, it rules. We’re also excited about what the Air (and its solid-state drive option) means for the future of notebook design. But if you use your current Mac for heavy-duty tasks, you might find the Air’s power underwhelming. It could still make a good “sidekick Mac,” but it’s much more of a mistress than a wife

 

COMPANY: Apple

CONTACT: www.apple.com

PRICE: $1,799

Specifications:1.6GHz Intel Core 2 Duo, 2GB DDR2 SDRAM, 4MB shared L2 cache, 4,200-rpm 80GB hard drive, Intel GMA X3100 graphics processor with 144MB of DDR2 SDRAM shared with main memory, 13.3-inch glossy TFT LED-backlit widescreen display, one USB 2.0 port, micro-DVI port, analog audio-out, iSight, 802.11n AirPort Extreme, Bluetooth 2.1+EDR

Gorgeous design, Multi-touch trackpad, bright LED-backlit screen, backlit keyboard. Remote Disc even lets you boot from the installer disc.

Disappointing battery life; small hard drive; lack of optical drive, FireWire, and built-in Ethernet limits its usefulness for many.

 

 

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benet

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Maccreate

I work in Germany and recently made a trip to the U.S. While going through security at Frankfurt Airport, I was surprised to see my MBA sent back through the scanner. When it came out, the agent asked me to remove it from the sleeve. When I did he looked and said, "Ooh, you have the new Mac laptop!" He called two of his fellow agents over - they asked me to open and turn on the MBA, all the while the line in security was on hold. While not a typical reaction, it really is a machine that receives second and third looks. Lastly, the MBA suits all of my needs, and I have no regrets about this purchase.

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Bennu

I am still mad at ALL Consumers who have dis'ed this product.

This is not for Video or Audio, as it has come to pass with Mac users. Apple is driving toward getting regular users to their platform, and the MBA fits the bill. As far as speed, we are back to the days of laptops being behind desktops, deal with it!

Yes, the MBA is a great second Mac; for the road; and people who don't want an iPhone.

No Optical Drive!?! Stop! The only time you should need one is to reinstall the OS, all your other CD/DVDs should be made into .dmg, and get your other software downloaded. I have worked like that for 3 years, and the battery drain from a DVD is the same as using your hard drive.

Small hard drive, no problem, don't keep all of your music/photos/movies in one place, until SSD are up to 500GB, you could lose your work and memories; Hence, the iPod classic 160GB.

No one is being pratical when they air their complaints on this laptop, and forgetting that the others are due for an upgrade. And with the MBA, Apple could have made total changes to MB/MBP, to be the first with new smaller processors, we don't know, so stop complaining, go back to work with what you have. Complain about the speed of QT/Compressor when encoding for SD/HD/Internet!

[Hint Mac|Life: Review the Elgato Turbo H.264 against QT/Compressor on an iMac/Mac Pro.]

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Craig

I agree with you Bennu. It is what is is. It does what it's designed to do and it's practical. It is however overpriced. About $900 overpriced. If it is indeed an accessory to a desktop. It should cost accordingly.

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n8leclair

Wouldn't a regular Macbook be billed more appropriately for regular consumers since it's the cheapest laptop model? As for suggesting changing dvd media into .dmg files, what "regular" user knows how to do that and what "regular" user would opt to go with a SSD for a grand more?

Just because some aren't as impressed w/ the MBAir as you doesn't mean they're wrong or over-critical of it. What ppl are paying for is a stripped down lappy in a sleek and slim case that needs new and expensive hardware to go into it because of size restrictions.

I'm really excited to see what Apple can do w/ this tech for future products but it seems that the MBAir is going to be the sacrificial sheep so to speak to test out the waters.

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Anonymous

A little correction, the Macbook Air does not have a disk based hard drive, which means the HD (or in this case SSD) cannot have a RPM speed or disc spindle speed rate. The Air has a solid state drive thus the high cost of the storage device (price), and no RPM to measure. The speed of the solid state drive would be determined by transfer rate since there are no moving parts in the HD. The transfer rate or speed of the SSD would depend on manufacture of SSD, type of memory used for solid state storage drive, other memory schema technology implemented by the manufacture, and how and what kind of interface the SSD is using (PATA, eSATA, PCIe, etc...) with the computer.

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Anonymous

The MBA comes standard with an 80GB hard drive; the Susie is correct. The SSD drive you explained at great length IS OPTIONAL. So much for your "correction." Do not pass go, do not collect $200.

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Anonymous

Actually you have the option of either flash based memory or a traditional Hard drive...the model they tested was utilizing the traditional version. Thanks for playing.

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