Blog Post

The MacBook Air Doesn’t Get Enough Credit

I’m typing this article on a MacBook Air. It’s the best notebook I’ve ever owned, and it’s a notebook that is severely underappreciated by anyone that doesn’t own one. Anyone reading this on an Air knows that it’s truly the lightest, full-featured notebook available and an absolute pleasure to type on for hours due to the exceptionally thin front lip and bouncy keys coupled with a super wide trackpad in a body that’s just over three pounds. Unfortunately, the MacBook Air has a bad reputation.

Anyone who hasn’t owned one simply doesn’t understand. They see a speed that tops out at 2.13Ghz, and an SSD at only 128GB of storage, and that’s before they nearly faint when finding out it has only 2GB of RAM and a single USB port. The next question is always, “How do I burn CDs?”

Back in the 90s, Apple had a program where it would give you one of its computers risk fee for around 30 days as long as you provided your credit card number (in case you don’t send it back). It was a genius program, because many people who’d heard Macs were terrible would try one and be hooked after only a few days. The same might have happened to the iPad if Apple hadn’t marketed the heck out of it leading up to release day. People knew it would be amazing, but the general consensus was, “What do I do with it?” That’s where the MacBook Air sits today. It’s a machine that most people want but simply don’t know where it fits into their workflow.

I’ve been a Mac user since early 2000, and back then, when working from a café or library, everyone would stop by my tangerine iBook and ask, “Are Macs really worth it?” After the success of the iPod and the Intel switch, people stopped asking, because many people were already Mac users. They already had one in their bag. The sale was made.

That didn’t start happening to me again until late 2009, when I purchased a MacBook Air. I was skeptical, but I had a 17” MacBook Pro at my desk and thought if I didn’t like the Air, I could send it back within two weeks. Two weeks later, I sold the 17” MacBook Pro and bought an iMac. Today, when I sit at a café, that same coolness of owning a Mac back in 2000 takes people over when they see the Air. Their first question, “Is it worth it?” Yes. Yes it is.

People at Apple know this. I know employees that are designers, product managers and retail workers at Apple who all tell me that they love the Air and that it’s the most underappreciated machine in the notebook lineup. If Apple knows it, why doesn’t it do something about it?

There’s a trend at Apple that I see repeatedly. The machine with the lowest sales remains stagnant until Apple gets around to fixing it up. The Mac mini was plagued with this problem, and sat dormant from a design perspective from 2005 to 2010. The Mac Pro has far worse sales than the mini, and it sees a minor speed bump once every 18 months, but if you own a PowerMac G5 manufactured in 2004 and sit it beside a Mac Pro that just arrived from Apple yesterday, they look strikingly similar. Just compare a PowerBook from 2003 to a MacBook Pro today and you’ll see where Apple spends most of its time innovating.

The MacBook Air’s design has remained unchanged since it was introduced in January 2008, when the SSD model cost close to $3,000. Apple continued dropping the price and enhancing the features, to where today’s high-end model can be had for just over $2,000 and can handle most everyday tasks. If a laptop is your only computer and you do any digital media creation, the Air isn’t for you. If you have a desktop computer and occasionally fly across country only working on spreadsheets, PowerPoint documents or watching movies, the Air is going to be your new best friend. I’m not a designer, and I’m not a digital magician. I’m just a guy that writes, emails, reads news and watches YouTube videos, and for that, the MacBook Air is the best machine money can buy.

I’m not going to speculate what the next Macbook Air should have. I’m only here to make a case that anyone that hasn’t used one should give it a shot and that Apple needs to throw some marketing dollars behind it so everyone else knows what we MacBook air owners have known for a long time: It’s the best notebook Apple makes and it also happens to be the smallest. It’s a machine for 75 percent of the portable Mac users out there, and too many people are buying more than they need when the MacBook Air fits in just nicely.

38 Responses to “The MacBook Air Doesn’t Get Enough Credit”

  1. That’s true that the new Macbook Air is more expensive than the iPad and to get an Macbook Pro you can add few hundred more but you also get more weight and cumbersome.

    I’m a photographer and always wanted to take a laptop with me on a shoot. I work on location so the less I carry the better so one backpack full of equipment and a lightstand is already very heavy. Just add a PC laptop or a Macbook Pro in the backpack and I will definitely say bye to my back after few sessions. So I jumped on the new Macbook Air 11″ and upgraded it to 4GB and 1.6Ghz. What a dream! I can add it to my gears and it doesn’t take too much space, not too heavy and powerful enough for me to do pre-editing on the train back home with Lightroom! At the end of the day if I feel a bit tired, I can just remove the MBA from the backpack and hold it in my hand to relief the back a little, it’s small enough and in a black neophrene case it is quite discreet.

    Look wise, I don’t care about the edge to edge glass screen, less glass = less weight. More CPU would be helpful although it’s enough for most of my work. More SDD space also cool but not required. A back lit keyboard is definitely useful though as I like to work at night in bed while my missus is sleeping by my side.

    So is it worth the money? Damn yea, I now can work on the go without killing my back and the work station looks sexy :-)

  2. captaincol

    I am totally with this sentiment. However to Bryan I say: The MacBook Air and iPAD is the ultimate travel combo. Together in a tiny bag they are almost not there. The Air has a great screen and keyboard and is perfect for most work purposes. The iPAD excels for all browsing/reading and is fine for 95% of all my email responses and the battery life is brilliant. I will be upgrading both pieces of kit when appropriate. Together they are less much less backpack/briefcase hogging than a single full factor laptop.
    I do not think I will buy a MacBook pro ever again.

  3. I’m sorry but the MacBook Air is NOT a full featured notebook. How many USB ports does it have? And a CD drive? I commonly use 2-3 USB ports on my laptop at once, meaning with the Air I’d have to carry a USB hub as well. And a CD drive in case I need it (burning CD’s for friends, installing new programs, ripping new CD’s and syncing them with my phone, etc.). With a full featured laptop you would only need to carry a USB cord with you to accomplish all this. With the air you need 2 usb cords, a usb hub, and a portable CD drive. That sounds awesome…

  4. I was going back and forth between the air and the 15 inch macbook pro for over 6 months. I had no idea which one to choose.
    In the end, I settled for the mid-range 15inch MBP. The only thing that pushed my toward this was the spec update that came out earlier this year, and a small price drop for Australians.
    I would still like to get the air, but it still is very expensive, and my MBP is basically brand new. I did buy an iPad, which is a semi-decent compromise, considering I have the 3G model, and I can be connected to the internet everywhere.
    Maybe I’ll look at the next generation, but for now, it was to expensive, especially when compared with the ipad with what they can both do.

  5. If you want to be more mac than anyone else, and proclaim how the masses just don’t “get it” buy an air.

    “I’m not a designer, and I’m not a digital magician. I’m just a guy that writes, emails, reads news and watches YouTube videos, and for that, the MacBook Air is the best machine money can buy”

    If you don’t want to create, and just want to consume wouldn’t you be better off buying the much lighter, thinner, and much, much, cheaper iPad?

    It is a well designed machine. But it is expensive. If you want small and light an iPad will probably do. If you need more robust storage and computing power the air just ain’t gonna cut it.

    Course the money for an air is all worth it if you want to be part of a very exclusive club.

    Lets face it. Macs aren’t very mac anymore. Nearly every one has one of there devices if not one of their computers. If you want to be more mac than anyone else, and proclaim how the masses just don’t “get it” buy an air.

  6. John Stone

    In Sept 2008 my partner began to have the idea of getting a notebook pc so that she could work on the train on her bi monthly train trips. She already has two pc portables but the idea of carrying either of them around was an anathema. They were both far too heavy. She can type really quickly and the right kind of keyboard is important for her so I took her around the shops so that she could try the different netbook pcs – e,g eeepc, protege, acer aspire etc. All of these were in the uk pound 300 range.

    None of these had a good enough keyboard.

    In Dec we happened to be in a shop about to get xmas presents when she saw an Air, tried it and immediately decided that this was the portable she wanted and she bought it on the spot. (UK pounds £800 [end of line just before new model]). I must admit I didn’t like the idea – no dvd drive, no expansion, only usb port for data – clearly rubbish.

    Both she and I now fight over it for travelling. It does everything including me working on indesign and photoshop. It may not be the fastest thing on earth but set that against its weight and size and its a no brainer.

    The main drawback is at airport security, many security people want to inspect it because they are surprised that it is so thin or alternatively that they do not believe it is a computer and want to see it in action. The advantage is also at airports – when it falls on the floor when trying to cope with major jet lag, baggage inspection and security inspections – it is very resilient.

    The Air is a computer for travellers. (Portable computers are for those who occasionally move from room to room or whatever and do not have to carry hand luggage, cameras, and all the other essentials for travelling.)

    The Air is wonderful computer to travel with and use for serious work. Anyone who doubts this should just try travelling with an air and then with a macbook pro.

    As for my partner she is now beginning to hate ms windows and is wondering why she has two hefty pc potables.