New MacBook Air Hits the Web Working Sweet Spot


The iPad (s aapl) is a pretty nice mobile web working tool, especially if you don’t need to do any of your heavy lifting while on the road. But the new MacBook Air, with more processing muscle, better graphics and access to OS X and all the applications that go along with it, is the better tool for the road warrior.

Let’s talk about portability. The iPad is a great small computing device. A 9.7-inch screen is small enough to not take up much space in your bag, but also provides a decent amount of screen real estate so that you won’t find yourself squinting. And it only weighs 1.5 pounds (1.6 if you spring for the 3G-capable model). But, that weight doesn’t factor in a case, stand or keyboard, all of which are pretty much required if you plan to use it to do work on the road.

The new MacBook Air provides either a 11.6-inch or a 13.3-inch display, depending on which model you choose. Even the smaller display will make a big difference in terms of usability over the iPad, especially with long periods of use. It also comes with its own keyboard. The weight penalty for all this added convenience? Only an extra 0.8 pounds with the 11.6-inch Air, or 1.4 for the model with the larger display. Not bad at all when you consider that covers all your bases.

And how about price? I’m leaning towards the 11.6-inch MacBook Air, so I priced it out with the upgrades I’d need; the only one I really wanted was the extra 2GB of RAM. That brings the total cost, with shipping, to $1,099. If I wanted to get an iPad with the same storage capacity, I’d have to opt for one of the top-tier 64GB models. The Wi-Fi-only model is $699, but I can’t tether my iPhone to an iPad like I can with the MacBook Air, so I’d probably want to spring for the Wi-Fi + 3G model. That’s $829. Add in the cost of the Apple Bluetooth keyboard, and we’re already at $889. Include a case that doubles as a stand, and you’re up to around $929.

For an additional $170, you get the convenience and software library of OS X, an easier design to work with on the road, more screen real estate and more muscle under the hood. I haven’t even mentioned how much better the Air is as an at-home solution, and it’s already looking like the better bargain.

Speaking of the home office, the MacBook Air works nicely there, too. With its new upgrades, it has almost as much power as the 13.3-inch MacBook, depending on the options you choose, and has video out capabilities via Mini DisplayPort. Plugging it into an Apple Cinema Display will provide all the desktop computing ability most web workers need (and you can add another screen using one of the two USB ports on the new Air, if you need it). And, as you would expect from an Apple product, it’s a very nicely designed and packaged device. Here’s Janko from our sister site NewTeeVee unboxing a 13-inch model:

The new Air looks like a great solution for web workers both at home and away, but that’s not what really makes it the best proposition for the forward-thinking web worker. No, the key differentiator with the Air is that it truly lets you create, unbridled. You can write without feeling hindered thanks to the full-size keyboard, and edit photos and do graphics work thanks to the NVIDIA 320M graphics and Intel Core 2 Duo processor. You don’t have to settle for just “the best you can do on the road” any more, as is the case with netbooks. At this price, and in this size, the Air will let you do the best you can do, period, no matter where you’re working from.

Are you thinking about getting a MacBook Air? Let us know what you think of the new models below.

Related content from GigaOM Pro (sub. req.):

Comments are closed.