Gasping for more than Air

28 Comments

Features_hero20080115Ok, the wave of hysteria should now be subsiding over the MacBook Air. Everyone who hasn’t already done so, please take your seats so we can move on. Thanks. Let’s now get past the on-stage presentation of the device and look a little closer. I see a few aspects in the official specs that might have some folks gasping for more than Air…

First up: the device is light and thin (although I think it could have been lighter). To keep it that way, Apple made some design choices. One is a non-user-replaceable battery. We’ve been down this path with the iPhone and folks weren’t happy about it then on a device that less than 25% of the investment of the MacBook Air. It remains to be seen how much an out-of-warranty replacement will be and how long you’ll be holding your breath. You know… without Air. ;)Next, a single USB port. Let’s think about that for a second. As a mobile device user you want connectivity. Integrated WiFi will work, but not everywhere, so perhaps you’ve invested in a high speed USB modem like I have. Pop it in and… hey, where did all my USB ports go? Not a huge issue, but something to consider, especially if you used to just popping in peripherals like a card reader…Let’s look at the innards now. You’ve got a choice of a 1.6 GHz or 1.8 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo that’s custom built for this device. Clearly, there’s a compromise here in terms of processing power and heat build up. Folks that want a powerful yet portable device might not be too enthused with these two choices. They’ll be fine for most and I suspect the next product cycle will get into the 2 GHz range. Just how warm will this device get is a valid question…More on the inside in terms of RAM. You get as much or as little as you want, provided 2 GB will work for you. There’s no option to add more as the spec page says the 2 GB is on-board and I don’t see an easy to open panel like I do on my Eee PC. Again, it’s a happy medium, but people wanting to run OS X and another operating system in Parallels or VMWare Fusion might want three or more gigs in there.The multi-touch trackpad is nice, but at this rate, I’ll be running out of fingers by 2010 or I’ll have to use two hands on the trackpad. ;) This is a feature I’ll have to try. I love the two finger click and scroll currently in my MacBook Pro, but I’m not sold on the three finger bit just yet.A 64 GB Solid State Disk for $999? That’s a large chunk of change because Apple went with a small drive size. The 1.8-inch SSDs tend to cost more per gig than the 2.5-inch drives.What other aspects are lacking in your opinion as a mobile device user? Is this enough of a “thin and light” solution that would cause you to spend more money for a MacBook Air versus a five pound but more powerful MacBook?

28 Comments

Muliadi Jeo

There are too many other devices that is much better than Apple Air in this arena. Just name a few:

Sony VAIO G2 – with optical only 2.4lb
Sony VAIO TZ – with optical only 2.7lb
Panasonic R6 – no optical but 1.8lb
Asus U series – another good sub 2.5lb contender

The razor thin design is not new. Sony has introduced the super thin X505 2 years ago. If Apple wants to enter this arena, they have to do better than that.

Nathan Youngman

While it looks very nice, certainly a step up from my old 12″ Powerbook, it doesn’t quite fit for my use right now. I prefer to backup to Firewire (faster), though I suppose my main drive supports both and with Time Machine it’s usually negligible. So the main lack for me is in the video department, and lacking dual-link DVI. Plus my MacBook Pro is always out of space with 80GB. Perhaps by the time that gets upgraded (next rev), I’ll be in the mood for some Air.

Gaurav Sharma

@Willy, TX isn’t a modern notebook and is severely outdated and not generally available any more(single core, terrible keyboard, etc) so not a valid comparison. their current model (TZ) gets 6-7 hours but is not in the same league in terms of ergonomics (screen, keyboard, trackpad) or performance (cpu, graphics), yet the same weight. anyone used to the ergonomics of a thinkpad/macbook wouldn’t even think of a TZ as an option. sony’s SZ is a more valid comparision and at the same price it lacks LED and is far heavier and thicker. I mentioned 8-10hrs and for that you need a 9-cell battery on the TZ which is huge and sticks out of the back making it even more awkward to use. it speaks volumes that apple quite explicitly used it to demonstrate the advantages of their new macbook vs “the current best”, and I’d imagine the next VAIO will look more like the air rather than vice versa in coming generations.

Anthony

I thought my MacBook was pretty small to begin with. The battery life isnt all that compelling either and its even worse that I can’t switch it out. I was a little disappointed with the announcements this year. Idk, I guess I was hoping apple would come out with a completely new product which I didn’t know I needed until they showed it to me. Oh well I guess I’ll just get to save my money this year.

Jahan Khan Rashid

Ok here in the UK te top end Macair costs the same as the top end vaio tz:
Yes the tz doesnt have wireles N or a faster processor but the TZ
Is smaller
Has 2 USB Ports
Has Ethernet
Has a dual layer dvd writer
Has a memory stick reader
Has an sd reader
Has WWan/HSDPA Modem
Firewire
PC Card
Better Batter Life
User Swappable Battery
Stereo Speakers
Has the option of buying a docking staton for home/office use
Has the option of buying a longer life battery
Built in vga output.
Fingerprint reader

So your in the middle of nowhere or an area with no wifi coverage, with the mac air you either have to have:
A Bluetooth mobile phone with built in hsdpa or
a usb hsdpa modem (using that one usb port up!) for a decent internet connection so you cant use your superdrive or vx nano mouse or usb mem stick or sync your ipod classic etc.

Road Warrior….no chance

So your in an airport and have the standalone mac air with no cluttery extras, you see a film on dvd in duty free that you wanna watch “oh bollocks i dont have a dvd drive!” but ok you can download the film off the itunes store….great, so i setup my macair and connect to the airport network, i start downloading but hang on my flights in 2 hours and this films gonna take 4-5 hours to download because hardly anywhere has wireless n networks yet here in the UK and this film is gonna use all my fair use policy up!!

Im sorry but the macair is more suited for home use or office use only not fully on the road like other laptops/umpcs have been doing for over a year now. Th macbook air in my eyes only gets “portable” status, not ültraportable

Ill still buy one primarily for use aroud the house/office and as a desktop, i feel my vaio tz or vaio ux1xn will get the “road warrior” status!

GoodThings2Life

The negatives definitely outweigh the attraction, pun intended.

Corrupted Mind

The Air is a mixed bag for me. I’m currently living with a Q1 so in terms of where I’m at I’m very UMPC friendly. Upsides? Battery life and size. Downsides? Footprint (I think I still need a desk to use this) – weight, price. The software side looks good with the Air though and enterprises or academic institutions that invest in this will have drive sharing all built in out of the box. For me, my next purchase will probably be a Asus R50A (again not perfect but the best fit). Personally, I think Apple have taken the right course by not releasing a tablet. The ipod touch and multitouch pad will act as “baby wheels” for users to get used to non-traditional UI’s. I doubt we’ll see a tablet from Apple until they can “perfect” it. That said I think they may have missed a trick by not experimenting with the size of the Air. The success of the EEE and some of the UMPC’s have gotten users more familiar with the 7″ screen.

Patrick

I think I’m more dissapointed about the fact that Apple didn’t make a tablet. I don’t really have any strong feelings for or against the air – its undoubtably beautiful though, like all of Apple’s products, which will certainly make it popular. I’d call the Air a ‘fashion laptop’ rather than a productivity tool, and I can see this more of a ‘heart’ than a ‘head’ purchase. My hope is that all the gains in miniaturisation that we see in the Air will make it to an Apple tablet

Bruno

@Gaurav Sharma: I regularly get 6+ hours WITHOUT the extended battery on my Sony TZ and 8 hours on the TX. Check your facts.

Willy

Bunch of nay sayers. This and that. If I give you one for free, you will drool you ass all over it and then you make good comments. Just reserve your comments until the product comes out. It’s not easy as a company like Apple to survive under such high demand of growth for a public firm.

Robert Kawaratani

I think that the “negative” comments are appropriate for the most part. In some ways it reminds me of the old Cube which was gorgeous but not very practical (expandable). However, the form factor is very practical in the sense that the keyboard should be comfortable to type on for most users unlike many of the ultralightweight Japanese notebook computers.

Jamie Poster

@cyberluddite

Agreed. Another good one for comparison is the forthcoming 11″ Ideapad. Now that one looks like a real ultraportable!

Jamie Poster

It kind of reminds me of the Samsung Q30. In fact, it looks like an upgrade to that, more than anything else. This is why the Air doesn’t strike me as being that revolutionary — particularly when we’ve seen ultraportables with basically the same capabilities for a few years.

cyberluddite

It’s too big to be a subnotebook. It’s too underpowered for anything else. It’s not really good for anything but the smug factor as far as I can tell.

The asus 11″ ($1799) would get you :
slightly more pixels – 1366×768 vs 1280×800
ULV core 2 duo (a REAL subnotebook cpu)
real battery life + options
more storage 100gb vs 80gb
4 usb ports vs. 1
ethernet. i mean, really, come on apple.
card reader
bluetooth + a free mouse
2 year inclusive warranty
1 year accidental damage!
fingerprint reader
expresscard slot
mic jack
2.2 lbs vs 3
may even come with 2 batteries in the box? (unconfirmed)

Oliver

Why I like my X60 tablet better…

– replaceable battery
– higher resolution screen (1400*1050)
– PC Card slot (for my EVDO card… sure, I could by a USB dongle and use up the one USB port)
– SD card slot
– Ethernet port (I use ethernet in the office)
– VGA port (wouldn’t want to carry around/lose that little mini-DVI to VGA dongle)
– docking station (!)

It may not be as sexy looking and runs Windows, but it ultimately meets my needs better.

I had hoped for something the size (and price!) of the Asus Eee PC from Apple, as a more lightweight mobile platform.

ArchiMark

Even though I’m a big Mac fan in general (typing this on my trusty ol’ white MacBook C2D….) and have used Macs primarily since ’86, I’m very disappointed in Apple’s latest so-called subnotebook….

While it’s very nice that it’s so thin, it’s still quite large in size/footprint since it has the 13″ display.

So, if you stop and think about it all you’re getting is a MacBook minus the optical drive and other goodies in a thinner package and ethernet connection is not included, you need to get a dongle!

What I’ve wished Apple would release is some sort of small tabletPC like device (preferably a convertible style design, but that’s just me…)…ie, something much more innovative and different than just a ‘MacBook on a diet’….

Unfortunately, in the notebook arena Apple hardware-wise is just not that exciting to me anymore, they just keep rehashing previous designs in slightly different wrapping.

Where is something unique like the OQO, tabletPC’s or other UMPC’s seen coming from Apple??

On a more positive note, I do really like OSX and other Mac software, but hardware-wise Apple just is into window dressing for the past few years.

The last really innovative Apple notebooks were the Duo Dock (?) subnote and the Pismo notebook that had removable bays that the user could configure the way they wanted; dual batteries or an optical drive/battery, etc…

So much for ‘Think Different’….

Anyway, just my 2¢….

;-)

Sumocat

I don’t see this outselling the Macbook or MB Pro, but I think it works for most people who want an ultra-portable. Most people do not carry an extra battery, even if they get less than five hours. (I don’t carry a spare). The single USB port is easily overcome with a hub. (I connect all my accessories through a single plug.) The specs are solidly limited by the space restrictions, but again its speedy enough for most people. (I get by on less.) Overall, I think it is plenty adequate, but that doesn’t mean it won’t tank. (Remember the Cube?)

Gaurav Sharma

The 2710p has similar battery life (possibly less) with the 1.7kg battery (vs the <1.4kg air). the non-tablet 2510p hp is around the same weight as the air but has 2-3hrs battery at that weight. to get 5+hrs you have to add a battery bringing it way above the air's weight range.

the only notebook with comparable cpu at the moment (LV intel) is the thinkpad x series, and that has a lower resolution screen, is thicker and heavier with the 8-cell battery (which you need to get a comparable battery run time to the air).

it’s not a case of a slick design, apple’s technically outdone all of their competition. the *only* person who can complain about battery life would be someone with a ULV notebook they use regularly with extra battery slice regularly expecting 8-10hr run-times – how many of there are those?

Bill

Thin and light.. looks cool. Not at all suitable for someone who travels much. The battery is a deal killer, period. I’m sure aftermarket secondary batteries will step in so you can plug the thin device into a thick second battery, totally defeating the purpose. And one usb port?? Waste of time and money, but the packaging is going to be cool, and it’s a cleaver, thoughtful design, and you can bet that apple won’t have enough to meet demand at first.. so it will get snatched up quickly by the apple faithful.

TateJ

I like it. It would be perfect replacement for the 12 inch powerbook in my digital photo bag. I will be curious to see how well it sells at those prices.

Now I have to see what I can sell to come up with the money.

TateJ

I like it. It would be perfect replacement for the 12 inch powerbook in my digital photo bag. I will be curious to see how well it sells at those prices.

Now I have to see what I can sell to come up with the money.

wileyj

The new Fujitsu specifies that it weighs 1KG so probably about the same weight and it is a tablet and it has a changeable battery.
The HP 2710p weighs only 12 oz more than the Air head.
It will be interesting when Kevin and James get one to review and compare for us
..wiley
NW Houston

Andrew Forde

Well, I can see why some people are wowing at this. I like the idea of the lightness without reducing the screen or keyboard – that’s a good point. The battery life, if valid for real use, is also pretty good for a working day.

I think you need to consider where this is being pitched. For me this is designed for the user that needs to travel – the slower processor is ok if you are not crunching video. The ‘small’ hard drive is ok for that if you are carrying just what you need rather that your whole music / movie collection. The lightness of the device is ideal if you need to keep it with you constantly. The keyboard and screen we already know are great to work on.

The battery is the real concern for me. At the moment I don’t carry a spare battery for my MacBook but I know that I can if I want to. If this device is really designed for the traveler even 5 hours battery life is not enough. It means I either need to find a power socket or buy some sort of external battery.

Engadget (I think) are suggesting the same sort of price for a replacement battery for the Air as for the Pro. That at least is ok but of cause you can’t change it yourself whilst working – you will need an Apple store to do it making it a real replacement and not a spare.

All-in-all a mixed bag for me. I love some aspects, so-so about some of the others. I think if I saw it I would want one but I have no regrets buying my MacBook 2.2GHz two weeks ago.

Dave P

I am totally unimpressed, save for the fact that it looks cool. I have worked with a lot of laptops that I wish were lighter, never any that I really wanted to be thinner. It makes for a good photo but has limited practical benefit.

Lack of 3g connectivity is bad enough. Lack of a replaceable battery is a deal killer. I count on carrying a spare battery and battery charger so I don’t have to suddenly find a power outlet. This falls into the “what were they thinking” category of idiocy.

Most disappointing is the lack of tablet capabilities. I was really hoping for a new Newton – a tablet done with an Apple’s skill at interfaces.

Oh, well. It’s a nice enough next gen OS X machine but it gives me nothing, other than style, that I can’t get on any number of Windows machines.

JC

Apparently, the memory is soldered onto the motherboard. It’s highly unlikely anyone will be upgrading the memory (at least not easily).

An extra $1000 to upgrade to a 64GB SSD is apparently the going rate across manufacturers, AFAICT. I think 64GB SSD are still too expensive to be practical for the typical consumer.

Not everyone needs the fastest processor on the market. Not everyone does computationally intensive work on their laptop. Some of those people might find it worth the money to shave two pounds off their traveling weight without losing a good sized screen or a keyboard one can touch type on.

Everyone else can go buy whatever they were going to buy before. Not every computer is good for everyone.

I do hope the attention Apple brings spurs other companies to bring 3lb or sub 3lb laptops into mainstream release. (In some case, this means taking their existing laptops and letting someone besides Dynamism sell it.)

Gaurav Sharma

I think they’ve outdone themselves this time. Those weaknesses are valid but they’re minor or just a non-issue for most, including myself – you don’t get a notebook that elegant without making comprimises – sony did the same thing with the VAIO Z1 years ago – they sealed everything but it weighed 2.1kg vs 2.4kg for the plastic “changeable hdd” edition (VAIO BX) that came later. I’d imagine if they didn’t go with the all sealed encloure & no-optical you’d be looking at closer to VAIO SZ territory today – fairly uninteresting.

What I absolutely dig though is the form factor. It’s perfect. Get any smaller than 13.3″ for 1280×800 and you’re making a comprimise to get the smaller size with less readable pixels. 13″ fits in any bag designed to hold A4 paper, so any smaller wouldn’t make sense (unless you go 12″ non-wide XGA). I had a hunch Apple wouldn’t make comprimises in this area of usability and I’m glad they didn’t.You could argue 12″ wide is still enough for full QWERTY (19mm pitch) but 12″ display just doesn’t cut it anymore when you can get *much* lighter 13.3″ notebooks for the same price. Apple’s set the bar here for mobile form factor.

One thing that would bug me is lack of trackpoint but they’ve done *so* well with the trackpad it’s almost again a non-issue.

Last thing (since I know you love your 2710p!) is Tablet PC. This is the only thing I’d really hold against this device compared to competition. But the reality is this is a 1lbs lighter machine with *larger* display and faster CPU. Perhaps tablet PCs need to get the size right first. Hopefully perhaps next year someone will produce a 2lbs A4 1/2inch Tablet PC.

It’s amazing for Apple to come out with something like this now though. It just makes all the front-runners in the PC race (X61, 2710p, even the VAIOs this time) look hugely bloated.

Also: 64GB SSD!

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