Ah, the new computer smell. The new Macbook Air is here!
I have been searching for a netbook for a while but when it came down to it I really didn’t just need another little computer device, I needed a lightweight version of my Macbook Pro. I didn’t want to give up my software environment; I have all of my Rails scripts set up for the Mac and I know that the Mac creates a development environment that is close enough to our staging and production servers that I can develop on the laptop with confidence that it will work on our ISPs.
Taking it out of the box it’s amazing how small this thing is. While it is still 3 lbs., that’s still 2.5 lbs. lighter than my Pro. So giving up the DVD, the big battery, and the screen realestate means that this thing feels feather-light.
The keyboard is responsive and has enough key travel to be comfortable. I’m not liking the backlighting as much as on my Pro’s gray-colored keys. There’s just something about the light poking out from under the keys.
Speaking of lighting, the automatic screen-dimming/keyboard-illumination detection is weird. By tilting the Air back and forth it responds quickly—a little too quickly. It means that while just shifting sitting positions the screen brightness changes a bit.
The pulldown flap on the right for the headphones, USB, and mini displayport is neat and tidy. It’s very very compact so anything other than iPhone/iPod headphones and a USB hub is probably a no-go. (See below for another note on the headphones.)
The solid state drive now is up to 128 GB, which means that after the operating system is installed and the system is up and running you’ll have about 96 GB left. Not a whole lot of space but definitely tons more breathing room than those puny 8GB SSDs in other netbooks—you can actually carry your work projects on this thing.
I was a bit worried that the compact screen would mean I’d feel claustrophobic but actually having 79% of the screen size I’m used to turns out not to be too bad.
iLife ’09 is awesome. The new music lessons are pretty cool. The newly redesigned interface is a bit confusing to me at the moment…
The SSD is really one of the key reasons I wanted this laptop (besides the lightness of the computer). I can’t say that I’m feeling its blistering speed right now, but I think the computer boots up much faster than my Pro. I’m just hoping that the SSD lives up to its promise of being the shock-resistant solution to my rough handling of laptop computers.
Speed-wise, the Air is snappy enough that I really haven’t noticed that much of a difference from the Pro. Granted, I haven’t tried to play any games or anything with serious graphics demands, but I’m confident that this little computer will keep up just fine.
Now for the weird/bad stuff. The bottom edge of the Air really digs into my forearms. The thing is blade-thin at the edge and instead of having a neatly-rounded or beveled edges it has a sharp ridge.
Also, there is this annoying buzzing sound that seems to happen intermittently when the fan isn’t running. Many people have pointed this out on the Apple forums here, here, and here. Some people thought it was the hard drive that was clicking, but my computer and the other computers have solid-state drives.
The mono speaker isn’t great, in fact because it only comes out one side it’s downright weird. It’s like when you have a head cold and your left ear is plugged up. Because the sound emanates from under the arrow keys it changes quality as you type. Then again plugging in the iPhone headphones solves these problems. (But since the jack is recessed a little bit behind the lip of the flap, good luck actually plugging in anything other than iPhone headphones into that jack. You’ll need some kind of an extension or a USB for the audio input/output.) But you didn’t get the Air because you wanted to be blastin’ tunes in the coffee shop, did you?
The pinch-zoom gesture works great on the iPhone, but on Safari it’s a mess. It is way too sensitive and ends up just making it a chore to resize the text so you can continue reading.
Finally, the LCD has these weird very light bands in them. I think it’s the LCD lighting. I can’t be sure.
UPDATE: After running the computer overnight and installing things the clicking sound went away. It’s almost like the fan was stuck and after the fan was running for a while things were sufficiently greased up. It’s actually spooky having a computer that makes no noise now.