Archive for January, 2011


A week with the 11″ MacBook Air: Loving it.

I’ve had my new 11″ MacBook Air for about a week now and I must say that it is a fabulous machine.

In the week that I have owned it, I have taken it on a business trip to Ottawa, used it in a hotel, with tethering, and have pretty much been using it as my main machine, occasionally switching back to an older IBM ThinkPad R50p with a 1600×1200 IPS display to finish some print work.

I’m still terribly impressed with the speed of the machine.  The weight, size, and battery life also impress me.  At 2lbs, with the width of the machine, it completely disappears along with files when I was traveling.  It is in no way a burden to carry with you.  Yet, when push comes to shove, it’s just as capable as my 13″ MacBook at editing websites and doing other “real work”.  the 1366×768 display is a perfect size and resolution for the machine.

I’m also impressed with the keyboard.  I think I actually prefer it to the 12″ PowerBook keyboard, and it is definitely a cut above the 13″ MacBook and 13″ MacBook Pro keyboards.  I still find the HP 2710p keyboard to be my favourite, but the Air’s is a close second.  Excellent work, Apple!

Finally, the battery life:  I can easily get 7 hours on the machine, though if I know I will be a while, I tend to drop the screen brightness quite a bit.

All-in-all, this is a stellar machine.  It’s actually the first laptop I’ve been excited about since the original Asus EeePC 701 that started the netbook genre.  When I show it to people at work (which is normal for me, as I advise people as a part of my job), they are shocked first by the size and capability of the machine, and then are equally shocked to hear the reasonable price.  There’s no doubt in my mind that Apple have a complete hit here.  (And trust me, I’m not one to sing praise lightly.)



11″ MacBook Air Thoughts: It’s FAST with 2GB of RAM

Six years ago, I bought my favourite new computer. It was a 12″ PowerBook G4 running at 1.5GHz, with 768MB of RAM, and a 100GB HD. Since then, I have owned a first-generation MacBook, a 15″ MacBook Pro, a 13″ unibody MacBook Pro, and a late-model 13″ MacBook. Along with this, I have had a slew of netbooks, laptops, and even a trio of tablets.

My second favourite computer has been an HP Compaq 2710p, later to be renamed to an EliteBook. This machine is a 12″ tablet with a perfect keyboard, a ThinkPad light, and my first decent solid-state drive.

Today I purchased what will likely become my third favourite computer: The 11″ MacBook Air.

My new 11" MacBook Air

What distinguishes these three machines above all of the others that I have owned and used is that they all do what they are designed for perfectly. They are small, light, have a great screen and keyboard, and excellent battery life for their class. The second two are silent, or are nearly so, the first was the quietest machine I had owned to that point.

I’ve only had the 11″ MacBook Air for a day, but I’m already certain that I made the right choice in this machine. It is simple and elegant in a way that only Apple and Palm seem to be able to do it. The machine is lovely.

I decided to buy a MacBook Air a few weeks ago but struggled with which model to buy. I was bracing myself to plunk down almost $2000 for the 13″ with a 256GB SSD, 4GB RAM, and the upgraded CPU. My thinking at the time was that it would replace a few laptops for me. I had been planning to dual or tripple-boot the machine and make use of the 1440×900 display. Before committing to such a large purchase, I went to Future Shop to try one out. There, I briefly tested the 256GB SSD model with 2GB of RAM. From my very limited testing, the machine seemed very nice and undoubtably thin, but it was also quite a bit bigger than I had envisioned. There’s just no getting around this with a 13″ screen.

The next day, I borrowed a base-model 11″ Air from the Campus Computer Store. I installed my common apps, Firefox, Coda, Acorn, and a few others, and tried to actually work with it for an hour or so. Then I bought it.

I was blown away with how usable it is. In fact, for my use, it feels faster than my 2.2GHz 15″ MBP at work.

With this in mind, I changed my plans entirely and opted for the base-model. 1.4GHz CPU, 2GB RAM and a 64GB drive.

At the time of writing, I have about 25GB free with a selection of music, a few movies, Microsoft Office, Adobe Creative Suite CS5, and the Apple Developer Tools all installed.

At first I didn’t realize why the machine seemed so fast with only 2GB of RAM. Then it occurred to me: We max out RAM to avoid swapping from fast RAM to comparatively slow hard drives. With this machine, the SSD is so much faster than a traditional hard drive, that swapping is far less expensive than it is with a traditional hard drive, thereby rendering the RAM upgrade less critical.

Perhaps if you’re running HUGE programs that require gobs of RAM, it is worth the upgrade. For me, running fairly complex programs, often many at a time, the base $999 MacBook Air is more than up to the task.

As far as I am concerned, the 11″ MacBook Air is the best laptop that Apple has released.  For anyone that is interested in quality over brute-force, I recommend that you to at least consider when you’re buying your next laptop.

I was going to write a review of the Air, but there are already several excellent ones out there.  Here are a few that mostly capture my opinions of the machine as well: