Macbook Air Review


by - November 8th, 2010


On this blog I’ve reviewed a few dedicated ereaders, as well as the iPad, but I’m yet to look at a single one of the most popular digital reading devices out there – the modern personal computer. PCs probably provide the worst digital reading experience, yet most people still do the bulk of their digital reading on a computer of some kind. Not just that, but the vast majority of novels are written on computers. And seeing as this is NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), I thought I’d take the opportunity to review one of the latest laptops available: the Macbook Air.

Conversations about what kind of computer you use are kind of like political discussions – generally only interesting if you agree. Otherwise everything that comes out of the other person’s mouth sounds like absolute twaddle, and you can’t find common ground. So for those people out there who hate everything to do with Apple, it may do you good to read no further.

Nonetheless, let me say what a delight this laptop is to use. The model I’m reviewing is the 11.6″ Macbook Air. As far as pure grunt goes, it’s a complete lightweight. It has only a 1.4GHz Core 2 Duo processor with only 2GB of RAM, both of which are upgradeable at purchase time (but not after, as everything is soldered to the board). Plus it only has a 128GB hard drive. But this computer does not feel like a lightweight. The hard drive is an SSD (solid state drive), which is the kind of memory those USB sticks have inside them. In other words, they don’t spin like optical hard drives (making the Air completely silent), and they’re very fast and small. The SSD makes the Macbook Air feel much faster than its specs would have you believe (if specs are something that have you believe anything, that is). I’ve been using a 2007 model Macbook for years, which had upgraded RAM and a faster processor than the Air, and it feels horribly sluggish in comparison. Applications like Word and iTunes, which take several seconds to load on a normal computer open instantly on the Air. It wakes from sleep instantly, and boots up in 14 seconds. Not that you really need to shut it down, as it boasts a deep sleep mode that can apparently conserve the battery for up to 30 days on standby. Although from the numbers alone it should seem like an expensive, underpowered machine, the Air does not feel at all slow.

Where the Air comes into its own is its size. Having a full size keyboard and very decent screen means that you get the same experience writing (or reading on the web) on the Air as you would on a much bigger laptop, except it weighs only a little more than an iPad, and is only a couple of inches longer. Unlike an iPad, you don’t need a heavy or bulky case, either, as it’s made of solid aluminium. I’ve now written a few thousand words on this thing, and it’s a beautiful experience. It’s so light it doesn’t feel like there’s anything on your lap, and it doesn’t heat up more than a couple of degrees even after hours of use.

When I first used an iPad, I thought it could completely replace my laptop for almost everything. That turned out to be not so true. The iPad is an excellent device for consuming content (with the notable exception of flash video) – be it on the web or through an app to read books and PDFs. It also has a ten-hour battery life, which blows the Macbook Air’s five hours out of the water. But the iPad falls down when it comes to content creation. I’ve tried writing on an iPad, even with an external keyboard, and it’s a pain in the arse. The touchscreen interface is not ideal for writing or editing text.

If you’re considering going digital when it comes to reading, then the Macbook Air, or something like it, should be a consideration. If you’re someone who writes for a living and likes to read, I’d recommend the Macbook Air and a dedicated (and far cheaper) ereader like the Kindle. If you’re someone who mostly consumes content and writes the occasional email, then an iPad with a cheaper, bigger and faster computer is a great combination to cover your digital reading needs.


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Joel Naoum (113 Posts)

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3 Responses to “Macbook Air Review”

  1. Pat Says:

    They seem like a good idea, but have you noticed any problems with its lack of ports and connecting various other equipment? I know Mac have improved on the previous Air and added a USB. But does it have a FireWire or any screen connectors? And has any lacking feature become an issue?

  2. Joel Blacklock Says:

    There are two USB ports and a mini-display port for connecting a bigger monitor. But no Firewire. On the 13″ model there is apparently an SD card slot too. And of course there’s no CD or DVD drive. If you’re after a primary computer, and you use a computer for more than writing, manipulating a few photos and web browsing, then you might want a bigger computer. But for anyone with fairly meagre needs, I’d argue the compromises are worth the portability.

  3. DeGruen Says:

    I have the 13″ Air and I have to say it’s gorgeous. It’s now just over 8 hours since I took this off the charger and moved to a cooler spot in the house and according to the power settings I still have 2 hrs 12 minutes of battery left – that’s a hefty 10 1/4 hrs of use on one battery charge. I’ve been checking emails, surfing the web and written a couple of letters with MS Word as well in that time.
    I’ve deliberately left it off the charger because I wanted to see how long I could work normally before the battery gave out.
    I’m working with the brightness on the middle setting, my one concession to power saving.
    I get the same display setting as on my 15″ Macbook Pro which makes me think that I can probably sell it now because I find the 13″ display excellent at this setting.
    All in all, I’m very pleased with my $1,599 MBA. Money well spent, and I have no hesitation recommending them to everyone.
    …and I’m not a mindless fanboy either. I also have an Asus U43JU; and a Sony Vaio Z series.
    People keep whittering on about how much the Air costs, but they keep comparing it to Netbooks. You know, those little underpowered single core plastic things. The Netbook is to the Air, as a motorised wheelchair is to a Ferrari – not in the race.