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Macbook Air Review – Is It The Future Of Laptops?

By Erik Folgate

macbook airLast spring when the iPad came out, I said to myself, “Okay, I guess that means they’re getting rid of the Macbook Air.” Why? Because when the Macbook Air first came out, it didn’t have anywhere near the response that the iPhone or iPad had in terms of amount of sales in record-breaking time. A lot of people did the “Oooo and Ahhh” about the razor thinness of it, but questioned if it was a solid laptop solution for people who had heavy computing needs. Well, I was obviously mistaken about Apple getting rid of it in their product line. Instead, Steve Jobs came out yesterday and said, “The Macbook Air is the next generation of Macbooks.”  This didn’t sit well with some of the Mac-heads that rock a 17″ Quad-Core Macbook Pro tricked out with a 2 terabyte hard drive and 8 GB’s of RAM.

Can the Macbook Air really ever replace the hardcore gamer’s or video editor’s Macbook Pro? I think what Steve Jobs was saying is that while the Macbook Air may not be everyone’s laptop answer in the near future, it still represents what all laptops will ultimately become. That is, he believes in a the next 3 to 5 years, all laptops will lose the hard drive, become even more portable than they already are, and not have an optical drive. We’re moving to a disc-less universe. The days of installing a program with a disc will soon be over, and the Macbook Air, in true Apple fashion, is leading the way in a trend that I agree will catch on in the future. It’ll just take time and development to get all of the power that many gamers and multimedia designers crave into such a small device.

Now, for my review of the gorgeous looking Macbook Air:

The New Macbook Air

  • The 13.3-incher is running 1440×900 pixels, which makes it a higher pixel density than even the 15-inch MacBook Pro. It features a 1.83GHz Core 2 Duo Processor, a max of 4GB of RAM, NVIDIA GeForce 320M graphics, a full size Multi-Touch trackpad, two USB ports, an SD card slot, Mini DisplayPort, and a FaceTime camera. The battery in this thing is unbelievable. It has a 30 day standby time, and 7 hours of wireless web usage. It costs $1,299 for the 128gb solid state drive and $1,599 for the 256gb solid state drive.
  • The 11.6-inch is mostly the same specs, but has a woeful 1.4Ghz Core 2 Duo Processor, a smaller 1366×768 resolution and only 5 hours on wireless web (I guess because they had to shrink the battery packs). It costs $999 for the 64GB solid state drive and $1,199 for the 128GB model. It does not have an SD card slot.

The Good

  • Jobs called the Macbook Air the result of what would happen if “an iPad hooked up with a Macbook Pro.” Apple took the best pieces of the iPad and the traditional Macbook Pro to create a hybrid.
  • The battery life, oh the battery life!
  • Instant on, no traditional boot up time. This is a direct result of the move towards flash storage instead of the traditional hard drive.
  • It’s razor thin, measuring 0.68 inches at its thickets post, 0.11 inches at its thinnest point, and weighing in at 2.9 pounds and 2.3 pounds for the 13 inch and 11.6 inch, respectively. It’s the ultimate portable laptop.
  • Solid state hard drives, which are smaller, faster, and more efficient. They’ll soon phase out EIDE and SATA drives.
  • Full-size keyboard and Multi-Touch trackpad.

The Bad

  • It’s a great solution for the uber-mobile user, but not the user whose laptop sits on their desk most of the time.
  • The price is a downer. While the price points are $200 lower than the previous line of Macbook Airs, I would have hoped that the 11″ model would have been closer to the $699-$799 range to compete more with Windows netbooks.
  • Not enough power for the “power user.” These are the same processors used on the previous Macbook Airs, not the new Core i3, i5, and i7 processors found on most new computers these days.
  • Solid State drives limit the maximum capacity of these computers to 256GB (128GB for the 11.6 incher).  Anyone with a lot of music, movies, and pictures could easily eat up the space.
  • Lack of ports. All it has is an SD card reader, power plug, two USB ports, and a Mini DisplayPort.

My Take

I sort of look at these new product rollouts from Apple in a more visionary perspective, which is obviously how Steve Jobs and his cronies look at it too. Jobs knows that more and more Apples are starting to creep into homes and businesses, but it’s still taking a while to chip away at the Windows-based PC’s market share. I truly believe that the iPad and now the Macbook Air is their attempt at continuing to win the hearts of the average computer user. And that’s why I was surprised by the higher price tag. At $499 for the iPad, that appealed to a lot of demographics. A $1,600 laptop still only appeals to the Mac-for-life types and the upper middle class.

The Macbook Air, if you can afford it and not finance it, is a great option for the average computer user. If all you do on a computer is check your mail and Facebook, upload and edit photos, write a few papers, and create a few presentations here and there, then the Macbook Air is a great product because it’ll never feel like you’re carrying around a laptop yet you’ll have plenty of power. It’s also a fantastic product for students who are always on the move. I thought that the iPad was a little impractical for students, because of all of the writing and presentations they do, but the Macbook Air fills the voids of the iPad nicely with its full-size keyboard. Still, many hardcore computer users will scoff at the fact that this is the future of Macbooks and laptops.

I could give you a hundred reasons about why I switched to using Macs and why it’s SO much better for the average user, but that’s a completely different review. If you’re in the market for a netbook or a highly portable laptop because you a travel all of the time or you’re a transient student, I think the 11.6″ model at $999 is a great option. If you were a true Money Crasher, you’d wait a couple of months and buy an Apple Certified Refurbished model for 10 to 20% cheaper. This is the ultimate way to get a great deal on a Mac.

What are your thoughts on the new Macbook Air? Is it worth going out to buy one right away?

(photo credit: cult of mac)

Erik Folgate
Erik and his wife, Lindzee, live in Orlando, Florida with a baby boy on the way. Erik works as an account manager for a marketing company, and considers counseling friends, family and the readers of Money Crashers his personal ministry to others. Erik became passionate about personal finance and helping others make wise financial decisions after racking up over $20k in credit card and student loan debt within the first two years of college.

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  • Kevin Vesga

    There are already portable, disc-less laptops. They’re actually called netbooks though. Admittingly they’re far less powerful than the Macbook Air, but they’re also cheaper.

    • http://www.erikfolgate.com Erik Folgate

      Yeah, I agree, Kevin, I think price was a big downer in this update to the Macbook Air. It’s definitely more powerful than a lot of the other netbooks out there, but it’s still not a true laptop replacement for people with heavier computing needs, which is why I thought they should have priced it a little lower, but the solid state hard drive probably kept the price at a premium.

  • http://freefrombroke.com Craig

    I’d rather wait and see what they do to the regular line of Macbboks and Macbook Pro’s. Still, the Macbook Air looks pretty slick.

  • Steve

    Bought and returned an iPad when I saw this. Haven’t used a Mac computer in forever (OK, since the early 90s for desktop publishing), but I’m back because this design and function fits what I think most consumers want: much more function than a netbook packed into a a fabulous form. I hate to say it, but I’ve sipped the Apple Kool Aid!

    • http://www.erikfolgate.com Erik Folgate

      Yeah, I think think for many people who liked the extreme portability of the iPad but wanted a real keyboard, they will migrate over to the Macbook Air. It’s funny because the Air has been out for a while now, and this update is generating a lot more buzz than the original product announcement.

  • Keuris

    The reason why the 2010 Air is such a phenomenon is because of the much lower cost compared to the original release of $1699. the 2010 Air’s price tag of $ 999 is more of an acceptable range of price to consider than the first time Apple introduced the Air. I think it is a great line of hybrid that brings something new to the table but, It would of been a much bigger success and a much simpler purchase for a consumer looking into their first Apple computing purchase if it were priced from $699 – $750 for the 11″ model. Keep in mind Apple anticipates to sell 700,000 units hmmm not likely

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