I ran across an interesting post today by Dave Winer over at Scripting News. Dave very wisely warned the fanboys before he even started the post: If you’re a Mac fanboy, save yourself some grief and don’t read this piece. You won’t understand it and you won’t like it. If you ignore this warning don’t […]
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On the Air (MacBook) – Impressions

MacBook air

I ran across an interesting post today by Dave Winer over at Scripting News. Dave very wisely warned the fanboys before he even started the post:

If you’re a Mac fanboy, save yourself some grief and don’t read this piece. You won’t understand it and you won’t like it. If you ignore this warning don’t complain to me!

Wise words, but contrary to Dave’s recommendation I read the post and I think you should too. Dave’s first impressions are almost dead on and really deserve the mention because in a lot of ways they mirror my own. Let’s take a look at what Dave had to say, and in doing so I’m toss in my thoughts as well. Keep in mind this is about the 11″ Air, not the 13″.

1. There are tradeoffs.

Well naturally. When you give up 2.2 pounds and 2″ of screen space you’re going to sacrifice a few bits and bobs.

2. The screen is seriously small. No Ethernet.

No JOKE! If you’ve got old eyes and don’t like small text. This is not the device for you. Eye strain isn’t something I’m complaining about yet, but the text is seriously small. No Ethernet is again a good complaint. If you’re a network worker (IT) you know the value of being able to plug directly into a network device and figure out WTF is going on. WiFi is not a solution for everything especially when the WiFi is Fubar. If you’re thinking of using the Air for IT work, you better just go ahead and invest the $30 in a USB network adapter from Apple.

3. If I’m seriously expected to think of this as a netbook, I really resent that it costs almost $1000 more than the last netbook I bought. — 3a. That netbook cost a lot less, but did a lot more. Longer battery life. Larger disk capacity. Three USB’s not two. Ethernet. SD card slot. I know why we need all those things. All of them. Why does Apple think it can ship so much less and charge so much more and not force product comparisons? They’re depending on the Reality Distortion Field keeping from people from being even slightly pragmatic in reviewing this product.  Permanent link to this item in the archive.

I don’t think Apple billed the Air as a netbook, so I don’t know if one can in a review really expect a fair comparison to netbooks. Jobs clearly said a while back they don’t know how to build a netbook. And they didn’t. BUT I agree with the general sentiment here. Apple DID target the netbook market whether they intended to or not. The size is in line with netbooks, unfortunately the price and the feature set is not. Dave is dead on the money here. They took stuff away, and charged a lot more for it. HOWEVER when I was using a netbook regularly – I was constantly bitching about the slowness of the device. I haven’t felt that way about the Air once. And compared to the netbooks I’ve owned the form factor of the Air is dammed near perfect.

NOTE: I’m skipping 4 & 5 because I haven’t seen speed issues with Dropbox (I don’t use it) and I like Dave would have travelled with the iPad along with my MacBook anyway (Air or not).

6. I’m thinking about returning it. Not sure if this is going to fit into my workflow.

I can’t speak to Dave’s workflow but I can speak to mine. And my sentiments are fairly similar. I’m not a coffee shop squatter like many of my blogging brethren so while weight is important its not deal breaker level. Today I am a squatter because my wife’s car is in the shop next door and I’m stuck, but typically when I’m at home I have a nice desk with a huge monitor. I spend a lot of time on RSS and Twitter and when I’m posting I’m in a browser. So, for that stuff the Air has been spectacular (not hooked to the monitor). Where the Air fails in my workflow is Xcode. I’ve tried, but its just a bit too small screen wise to open up Xcode and be productive. On the other hand while the 13″ MacBook Pro is slightly cramped it is a decent size to work on. So the trade off in screen size / weight for me isn’t ideal. And where the Air really fails is with Ethernet. I do side work setting up home/small offices which absolutely requires ethernet connections. Sure I could buy the adapter, but my MBP only weighs a couple pounds more and doesn’t require other crap (like an external drive) which I need on occasion to burn driver disks/ISOs. Contrary to popular belief the CD-RW/DVD drive is NOT dead.

7. iTunes still sucks.

Amen Brother. But I haven’t found anything that does as much and is any better. (If you have something – hit the comments)

8. The thing that really ticks me off is this — why not, for all the extra money and missing basic features, push the envelope… How about putting a Wimax modem in there.

Apple did push the envelope. They took a ton of shit away and charged us to do it. Most companies either don’t add or do add then drop the price. Apple did the opposite!

I don’t want Wimax/3G in here – especially not if it added size or reduced battery life. I’d rather get a MiFi if I needed it, or I’d tether my phone. The other reason is – until the carriers get their shit together and standardize on a network type and stop trying to charge the cost of a Civic lease every month for connectivity, I don’t see the average Joe (even the average Mac owner) forking over the dough. So if only the minority wants it, why include it?

I guess basically, at this point, I’m not thrilled with this purchase. But that’s a first impression. Don’t trust it, I don’t.

Unfortunately, I have to agree. Keep in mind that this is my first impression as well, but unlike Dave I’ve had the Air for about a week so I’ve had a bit more time to form an opinion.

So, let me wrap up my first week impressions here. If you value mobility above and beyond all else, the Air is excellent. I love the speed, size and battery life (85% and 6.5 hours left). I love the quiet of no spinning HDD. I love the speed of the SDD. Really, there’s a lot to love about this machine. But at the same time, there’s a lot I’m left desiring. The screen isn’t ideal (but its a deal better than a 7-10″ netbook), I would love more USB ports, I miss the sleep light, I miss the superdrive and I miss ethernet. I guess the best summary from me so far is something I said when Jobs announced the price:

And I hadn’t even used it yet.

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