Apple’s first MacBook Air launched in 2008, and in issue 53 we got our hands on one for a full review. However, it wasn’t quite the hit Apple had expected it to be – the cost of the device was high and it wasn’t hugely powerful. We suggested a few interesting improvements for Apple if it wanted to make the MacBook Air a success…
System specs • 1.6 or 1.8GHz Core 2 Duo processor • 2GB Ram • 80GB hard drive or 64 GB solid-state drive
Learn more… • www.apple.com
Available from… • www.apple.com/ukstore
The MacBook Air has arrived amongst a lot of controversy. On the one hand it’s the sexiest laptop in the universe, and on the other it’s missing an awful lot of features. So what is the big deal? Has any laptop ever had everything? Or has our expectation of Apple risen so high that they’ll never live up to it? It’s a tough call.
The MacBook Air is impossibly thin, measuring just 0.16 inches at its thinnest point and 0.76 inches at its most rotund. Of course the thinness also means it’s very light, weighing in at just three pounds. It’s far sturdier than you’d think, being crafted from anodised aluminum, and when you open it up and begin to use it, the first thing that strikes you about the Air is just how well put together it is. The whole keyboard is sunk into a tray so that the screen can lay flat on the keys when closed. Below that is the newly sized trackpad.
In order to fit all the specifications for a respectable Mac into this wafer of a laptop, Apple has managed to get early access to some new technology from chipmakers Intel, managing to shrink one of its Core 2 Duo processors by 60 per cent. There’s the option of a 1.6 or 1.8 GHz core 2Duo processor, it has 2GB of Ram, and the choice of an 80GB hard drive or a 64GB solid-state drive. This means that you get a decent computer for your money, but performance-wise this won’t set the world on fire.
The other features of the MacBook Air are tales of haves and have-nots. There’s no optical drive, but there is Remote Disc, which is a wireless way to access the drive of another machine. Because of its diminutive stature there is only one USB port, so if you need more then you’ll have to cart a hub around. You also get a micro DVI input and a headphone jack in the collapsible bay. There’s no ethernet port, but in this day and age, who really needs it? You also get an iSight camera for iChatting and a very cool ambient light sensor that will illuminate the keyboard in darker places.
The other major selling point for this laptop is the trackpad. It’s the only one of its kind in the line-up, and has technology taken straight from the iPhone. We now have two brand new gestures, as well as those we already know. The pinch will shrink and enlarge font sizes in Safari, icons in Finder, and zoom in and out of pictures in iPhoto and Preview. Two-finger scrolling is also standard fare from the other laptops. Three-finger swiping is new, and will skip you back and forth through pictures and web pages. Then there is rotate, perhaps the coolest gesture of them all. Semi- circular motions will rotate pictures, and will no doubt soon be finding their way into a number of other applications.
In terms of fitting into the current laptop line-up, the Air sits between the MacBook and the MacBook Pro. This is based mainly on price, as it’s possible to get a MacBook with better specifications for less money. The Air lacks the raw power and the disc space of other laptops, and because the Ram is so tightly packed, Apple has furnished it with an ample 2GB. But there’s no option to upgrade.
Overall, this Mac is a beautiful creation with cutting-edge technology at its heart, and no Mac fan will be able to resist the feeling of awe when around it. That aside, until Apple can squeeze a faster chip, more USBs, and an optical drive into something of similar size, then it’s going to be overlooked by people who use Macs for the professional advantage they give. If you have another Mac and money to spend on a serious piece of lap candy, then the MacBook Air will give you plenty to smile about. On the other hand, if you need one Mac and need it to be portable, you’d better look at the rest of the line-up.
Pros: Perfect if you frequently travel and need something to lighten the load that still offers good specs.
Cons: It’s expensive, and you can’t upgrade the memory or hard drive.