I have owned my MacBook Air for a little over two months now. My previous piece regarding the matter sung the praises of the device. When I originally wrote that piece, the device was brand new to me. So, after living, working, and playing on the machine for a couple of months what do I think of it now? I still think it is a great machine. I use it for nearly everything I spend waking hours on– I write with it, I do design with it, and every now and then, manage to get some entertainment out of it.
Currently, I am a design student at a local university, and I heavily use my Air in all of the classes I am currently enrolled in. It’s wonderful to just carry your own machine around instead of using the lab computers, and having to transfer work from those computers to my own at home. It’s all right there in one small package I can lug around all day with comfort. That’s something I cannot say about my MacBook Pro when I was carrying that backbreaker around.
Besides school work, I occasionally do design work for clients. In both cases it’s wonderful to use a computer that quickly launches the Adobe Create Suite apps. This isn’t as indicative of a faster processor, as it is the solid state storage. I no longer need to keep the Adobe apps open and in the background sucking up precious system memory. If I need to get to one of the apps quickly, it launches within four seconds or so. It’s wonderful.
Of course, I do most of my written work on the Air as well. In fact, the very words you are reading, as with most words I write, come from the Air. As I’ve stated before, it’s not so much that I can’t write with my iPad, as it is habit to write with a Mac. It’s an ingrained habit, but not etched in stone. That’s a tale for another day however.
Lastly, I found that I can comfortably get somewhere between seven to eight hours of battery life depending on what I’m doing. That is, if I’m doing something light such as web browsing and writing an article, battery life is phenomenal. If I’m doing something more processor intensive such as design work, battery life is still good, but drops to around 5 hours when starting with a full charge. This is great considering I’m at school for twelve hours two days a week; I can get through most of the day, on a single charge.
During the school year, I do not have much time to do the things I find enjoyable. Things such as video games, watching movies, experimenting with software, and other extremely nerdy things. However, I did have time over the Christmas season to play on my MacBook Air, and as with my work, it handled the things I love to do better than the MacBook Pro it replaced. For instance, rapidly aging games such as Half-Life 2, Counter Strike Source, and Doom 3 played beautifully on the Air. Considering the age of those games, that’s not a hard feat.
Throwing a new game such as Duke Nukem Forever* at the machine makes for quick load times (again, due to the SSD), but the built-in Intel HD Graphics 3000 can’t quite keep up with a game like Nukem at maxed out settings, but can hammer through nonetheless. In short, it depends on what your personal level of acceptable graphics performance is considering the size limitations of the device.
Watching movies on the MacBook Air is an odd, if not outright frustrating endeavor. Sure, renting, or even buying a new movie from iTunes is cheap, and convenient enough, but what about the years of backlogged DVDs I have laying about? I’m certainly not going to buy all that stuff again. Sure, I could rip the DVDs and save the images on my Air. This takes up a lot of storage space, the rip quality is suspect, and it’s a hassle to do this for every single DVD I own. I could buy Apple’s external SuperDrive, but I’m tight, and after spending quite a bit of money for the machine, I would feel nickel and dimed. Plus, it’s another dongle I would have to lug around.
My last option for watching movies is Netflix (which makes me pay for the same content again), and is my current solution.**
In a semi-perfect world a nice solution to this problem would be to use Apple’s Remote Disc software for more than software instillation. Currently Remote Disc does not support DVD or CD playback. Remote Disc of course, allows the MacBook Air to “borrow” another computer’s optical drive for installing software from a disc. It works beautifully for software. If I had to guess, Apple couldn’t include DVD or CD playback due to licensing issues. Plus, Apple is making a push for digital distribution, and has a vested interested in that path becoming the dominant form of distribution.
In an absolutely perfect world, it would be great if Apple released a version of iTunes Match for movies. Scan a DVD’s barcode and let Apple handle the rest. From there, a user could download or even stream a movie down to their computer. This will never happen however- it would be a licensing nightmare for Apple, and something movie studios would never agree to.
In other words, prepare to lose your DVDs when buying the MacBook Air. This should go without saying, and I suspect most people have moved farther past DVDs than my household has anyway.
For me the MacBook Air has been a mostly a step up, and not a step down. I now have more storage than my MacBook Pro ever did (256GB compared to 160GB), a more-pixel dense screen, faster storage, and greater portability. All of this matters to me. With the exception of DVD playback, I have not been pinched by the lack of optical drive. I was amazed at how little I actually needed it.
The MacBook Air is a great little machine. My experience with the device so far has exposed few shortcomings. That said, if you are someone who needs nothing more than raw processing power, look no further than the MacBook Pro.
*Duke Nukem Forever is a very pretty game, but it is terrible to play. The only thing to find here is 90s nostalgia.
**It is not expensive, but still irks me that yet another content industry has found another way to squeeze money out of me for the same thing I bought years ago.