Apple MacBook Air – Review

By Dan Collins on 14 January 2013
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Apple’s slogan, “Think Different,” has been eclipsed in the past few years by the runaway success DSC_0771of the once near-bankrupt computer maker, largely thanks to the unprecedented features and cutting-edge design of each new iPod or MacBook it released. Despite Apple’s current position as one of the world’s most valuable brands, the first-generation of any Apple product is generally short-lived, with the quick revision bringing the product from luxury good to tool, a process the MacBook Air is now in the final stages of.

The first MacBook Air was heavy (although light for its time), slow, less than reliable, and not terribly memorable. One or two of them would be off in the corner of each Apple store, and seeing them in an airport lounge was almost as rare as seeing a Maserati at Walmart. As a product, it simply didn’t add up: high price tag (well above a fully loaded MacBook Pro), no optical drive, and a small solid-state drive, which was more or less unheard of at the time.

The second generation was entirely new and, unlike its predecessor, affordable. Performance improved to within one standard deviation of the more common, basic MacBook Pro model, and this model was smaller and lighter than ever. The most recent revision offers solid-state storage large enough to make it a practical machine for heavy users, a backlit keyboard, and better dual core processors. And what is best, it works, unlike my third first-generation MacBook Pro with Retina display that it is currently standing in for as I type this



Ignoring the fun-sized 11-inch model, the Apple MacBook Air is unchallenged as the king of portability, with a usable, 13.3” display and up to 512 gigabytes of solid-state storage. The laptop is physically minute, 0.68” (17 mm) at its widest point, tapering down to an edge that looks dangerously sharp. At 2.96 pounds (1.35 kilograms), it weighs less than an iPad. The battery life, even with constant use and charging an iPhone, is excellent, making it less urgent to find electrical outlets between flights. It is even small enough that the passenger sitting in front of you in cattle class won’t destroy it by reclining his seat all the way back on a flight.


Since the MacBook Air uses solid-state storage, and lacks an optical drive altogether, there are fewer things to break. What I have found in my time with the Air, as well as with the Air users I know, is that unlike my Retina MacBook Pro, which has suffered several faulty displays,  it’s very durable. More importantly, parts are in abundant supply at Genius Bars around the country, meaning that lengthy service outages are less likely, as they may be with a brand-new model that has a common failure and back-ordered replacement parts.  Best of all, is that upgrading the computer’s memory, is now possible as an end-user task.


With top notch portability, a reasonable price, and reliability that no longer competes with Italian automobiles, the MacBook Air lets the user take full advantage of its core feature: it’s a Mac. Mountain Lion, the latest operating system, integrates seamlessly with the iPad and iPhone.  In addition, iCloud is starting to get a solid footing for cross-device synchronization, and very few obstacles remain that preclude using it in the most PC-centric world. Accomplishing anything is simple, but not too simple (unlike what users may experience on an iPad, for example).  The graphics are excellent, and the keyboard has been fine-tuned through the generations of Apple products to my idea of perfection. A feature bound to become a favorite for the road warrior, is that text messages sent to the user’s iPhone are simultaneously delivered to the built-in messages app, making transitions from office to mobile to home seamless, and responding to a text message just a three-finger swipe away.


Like the “Little Giant” Boeing 737, it doesn’t seem to be anything like the ultra-portable netbooks that were popular for a month or two back in 2009 (once again, ignoring the existence of the 11-inch model, which is simply too small for me in terms of screen size). The keyboard is full-size, the multi-touch track pad is generously sized and placed where one’s fingers expect it to be, and with the Thunderbolt and USB 3.0 connections, it can connect to any peripheral or display (though often times with a $49 adaptor). Wirelessly, the Air can stream to an HDTV using an Apple TV, which I actually had success with, unlike with my higher-resolution 15-inch MacBook Pro.

Click here to continue to Page 2Paying the price for portability, Connectivity, and Genius Bar support

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