MacBook Air: thinnest but not lightest (Updated 2x)

MacBook Air: thinnest but not lightest (Updated 2x)

Summary: When Steve Jobs introduced the world to the new MacBook Air here on Tuesday he accurately referred to it as "the world's thinnest notebook." While that statement is true, it comes with a small caveat–it's the world's thinnest currently shipping notebook.

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When Steve Jobs introduced the world to the new MacBook Air here on Tuesday he accurately referred to it as "the world's thinnest notebook." While that statement is true, it comes with a small caveat–it's the world's thinnest currently shipping notebook.

MacBook Air: thinnest but not lightest

In his keynote address Jobs showed the graphic above comparing the MBA to the previously thinnest notebook, the Sony Vaio 505 TZ91. The TZ91 (pictured below) is the 10th anniversary edition of the original Vaio 505 and is actually 1.17 inches thin with the normal (six hour) battery and 0.88 inches thin with the light weight (three hour) battery.

Sony Vaio TZ91 Notebook

Update: According to a PC World review the Sony Vaio 505 Extreme (pictured below) was not thinner than the Macbook Air. The measurement I used (9.7 mm / 0.37 inch) is for the thinnest part of the Vaio. The notebook is wedge shaped and increases to 21 mm or 0.8 inches.

"One of the first things noticeable about the computer is its thickness, which is .4 inches at the front growing to .8 inches at the back where the body and display are hinged together."

Sony Vaio 505 Extreme

More of the "who's thinner" debate after the jump...

The Toshiba Portege 2010 notebook (pictured below) was 0.01 of an inch thinner than the MacBook Air at 0.75-inch. But it also is discontinued.

Toshiba Portege 2010 notebook

There's no doubt in my mind as I write this (flying high above the Bay Bridge on my way back east) that Sony's engineers are actively working on a new, even thinner notebook to unseat Apple. It's a pride thing. How long do you think Apple will be able to hold the "world's thinnest" title? Will it become an arms race?

As a story by Michelle Kessler in USA Today deftly points out there are several Wintel notebooks that are lighter than the MacBook Air:

Toshiba, Lenovo, Fujitsu and Sony are just some of the companies already making laptops that weigh less than the 3-pound Air. Toshiba's Portege R500 starts at 1.72 pounds, while Lenovo's ThinkPad X61 is 2.7 pounds.

But then again, Apple's not claiming that the MBA is the world's lightest notebook, just the thinnest.

Sony's Senior Vice President Mike Abary took the opportunity to take a cheap shot at the MBA, calling it "really similar to a product that we came out with four years ago."

Ouch.

No matter how you look at it, these "world's best" titles are just marketing. They give Apple bragging rights for a little while, allow them to increase their coolness cachet which ultimately sells units to rich executives, trustafarians and (ahem) bloggers. But at the end of the day a notebook computer is just a tool and what you do with it matters more than how you look with it. Or at least it should.

What's your take? Can your notebook computer ever be too thin or too light?

(Special thanks to Nobuyuki 'Nobi' Hayashi for the graphics)

Topics: Apple, Hardware, Laptops, Mobility

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41 comments
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  • Well the Toshiba and the thinkpad...

    both have 12 inch displays and not 13 inch, so there is a difference
    mrOSX
    • And this is relevant how? (nt)

      .
      ye
      • Well, I don't know about you...

        but the one part of the computer I interface with at all times is the screen. That one
        inch difference translates to a screen that's more than 10% larger. I, for one, think
        that's relevant.
        msalzberg
        • Do you consider the 12" PowerBook a failure?

          And how is screen size relevant to thickness. Stop pretending that Apple somehow
          has the know how to create a 13" thin laptop. I see no reason why anyone else
          can't make one too. They just didn't feel the need.

          You fanboi's are so funny. If Apple would have made the MacBook Air with an 11"
          screen you'd be praising them on how they made it smaller. You'll attempt to
          illustrate just how "innovative" Apple is by adjusting your story accordingly. Apple
          has done NOTHING special here with the MacBook Air. There's nothing innovative
          here. Deal with it.
          ye
          • Re: Do you consider the 12" PowerBook a failure?

            "There's nothing innovative here. Deal with it."

            That's the wonderful thing. If I choose not to, I don't have to deal with it. If you don't want one, don't buy one. I'm not going to as it doesn't fit my needs. I would, though, like some of its innovations.

            The added functionality of the track pad is an innovation I would like. Not sure what other notebooks have, but this sounds pretty innovative to me. I mean, I thought the MBP was pretty good being able to left click, right click, scroll 360 degrees and drag windows without even having to use the one button. Add to that zoom (pinch), rotate and page forward and back (swipe) and you have one hell of a usable track pad.

            Also, being able to remotely access optical drives from other computers is pretty innovative as far as I'm concerned.

            That said, I would agree that the MBA is not a ground breaking product except for design, style and intuitive usability, which are right up there. It won't suit all, but I think will sell enough for Apple to proceed with versions 2 and 3. Who knows, those versions may have even more innovation.
            A Grain of Salt
          • My issue is with the MBA has nothing to do with the computer itself.

            It's with the claim of being the thinnest. It's not. The Toshiba R2010 holds that
            title. And the fact it is no longer shipping doesn't remove that title (contrary to
            what the author of this blog thinks). Apple is proclaiming right there on their home
            page that it is "The world's thinnest notebook". They are not proclaiming it to be
            "The world's thinnest [b][i]shipping[i][/b] notebook". They're being deceptive. Giving
            the illusion they're innovative when in reality they're not.

            I like the MBA. Having used the R2010 and now the R200 for work and owning a
            Vaio 505G and 505VE personally I'm the target market. And as I've said before if it
            would have been available at the time I purchase my MacBook I would have likely
            bought one.

            What I don't like is Apple being deceptive and the Mac fanbois pretending the size
            is something new and innovative. It's not.
            ye
          • can we quit using "fanboi"?

            use of the term "fanboi"is so played out. especially when spelled with an "i".
            lostarchitect
          • No. (nt)

            .
            ye
          • ok, but...

            you'll bear the mark. noone takes you seriously when you use the term.
            lostarchitect
  • RE: MacBook Air: thinnest but not lightest

    One thing apple cannot afford not to be is cool. They
    have to make products like this, even if they fail, as did
    the cube.
    paul@...
  • Thinnest? Please. Is .01" really that big of a deal?

    And if it is Sony wasn't the only laptop that beats the MacBook Air. The Toshiba R2010 was .01" thinner at .75":

    http://www.csd.toshiba.com/cgi-bin/tais/su/su_sc_outFrm.jsp?moid=263476&rpn=PP201U&ct=DS&soid=637947&BV_SessionID=@@@@1307489109.1200691684@@@@&BV_EngineID=cccfadeddhjijdgcgfkceghdgngdgmn.0

    Yes, it's no longer shipping. Amazing how Apple has convinced the masses they're the first with this thickness.
    ye
    • Apple's the first to make one that isn't

      a piece of flimsy plastic, cramped keyboard, myopic screen crap.
      frgough
      • My R200 is solid, the keyboard and screen are fine.

        It's funny how the Mac fanbois will try and excuse Apple's lies.
        ye
  • Fact checking

    Jason, I'm glad you are doing some fact checking
    because I was 10 minutes away from telling you were
    an idiot for not doing it.

    The Portege 2010 is 0.75 inches at it's thickest. It's
    also 0.6 inches at its thinnest. Do you know if the
    dimensions include the footpads?

    It could be argued that with the MBA tapering to 0.16
    inches that it is indeed thinner than the Portege
    2010's 0.6"-0.75" thickness compared to the MBA's
    0.16"-0.79" thickness.
    THA1210
  • Since when did "thin" even matter? According to sales, it doesn't.

    Prior to this week "thin" was a novelty. Sure, tick notebooks are a pain but we've gotten to a point in the industry where (especially with Macs) the products are thin enough that going any thinner is inconsequential. So to treat "thin" like it is something so highly desired is silly because while it impresses people at a sharper image, it will get passed over due to the fact that price/feature/durability will win over the practical consumer. And I will be very surprised to hear whether or not our own Jason Ogrady would still claim "this is the notebook i've waited for the last decade" IF a similarly priced 12" Macbook Pro comes out next Macworld.
    Urkel
    • Exactly right!!

      I've noticed that Apple has used this tactic of hyping a single feature by using so many smoke and mirrors hoping to prevent us from realizing just how useless a feature really is. The ability to resize pictures with 2 fingers on the iPhone is a great example. The thinness of the Air is another.

      When hyped by the master salesman that Jobs is, we think "Wow!! I can resize pictures with 2 fingers on my iPhone!!" When you actually do it though you realize "Oh, I've never wanted to resize pictures with 2 fingers on my cell phone."

      When hyped by corporate America that we are being given the chance to buy "the worlds thinnest notebook" (ignoring the fact that it isn't), we think "Wow!! This laptop is so thin, I can put it in a manilla envelope!!" When you actually do it though you realize "Oh, I've never wanted to put my laptop in a manilla envelope."

      That is when buyer's remorse sets in. :)
      NonZealot
      • Buyers' remorse :D

        LMAO... yes, after the MacAir honeymoon is over, there will be plenty of buyers' remorse. Very, very funny - you made me laugh violently - Thank You!

        :D
        Don Collins
      • Well, some people...

        have the imagination to understand the possibilities of the demonstrated
        capabilities.

        I suppose if one did nothing with their computer but troll ZDNet, posting anti-
        Apple messages, one wouldn't know that there are many applications that benefit
        from the ability to resize and zoom; some, in fact, actually have that ability [b]as a
        menu choice.[/b] Examples of this include Excel, Word, AutoCAD and Visio.

        On an iPhone, the ability to resize a Web page is probably a good thing. You use
        that same two-finger gesture. In fact, it was demoed at the keynote when the
        iPhone was announced. Zooming in on a Google Map would be the same. How do
        you zoom in on Google Maps with that N95 you keep bragging about?

        Now, for those who actually understood that this is a demonstration of a
        technology, and not just about resizing a picture, this opens up a lot of possibilities
        for a laptop.

        Say, for example, you're working on a large spreadsheet on your laptop. Now, you
        can pan and scroll by using two fingers on the trackpad - oh, sorry, your computer
        can't do that - well, anyway, you can move around a spreadsheet with two fingers
        on a Mac. You can select some cells, and with that same two-finger resize gesture,
        change the font size. You can do the same with a text document. Now, what if you
        want to zoom in on a portion of a large spreadsheet? You could press Control and
        use the scroll wheel - oh, sorry, you can't do that, either, can you? - to zoom in on
        the screen, but that works slightly differently. So, that two-finger gesture comes
        in handy, there too.

        So, people with just a little imagination got the fact that there's more there than
        resizing pictures. Others, I guess, have to be shown every little thing.

        Similarly, most people understood that bringing out the laptop in a manila
        envelope was just a demonstration of its size, not a recommended method of
        transport.
        msalzberg
        • Your attitude is totally unjustified.

          [i]Say, for example, you're working on a large spreadsheet on your laptop. Now, you
          can pan and scroll by using two fingers on the trackpad - oh, sorry, your computer
          can't do that - well, anyway, you can move around a spreadsheet with two fingers
          on a Mac. [/i]

          Funnily, you can do that with one finger on a PC. You just slide your finger down the right-hand side of the trackpad. Ta-da!

          [i] You can select some cells, and with that same two-finger resize gesture,
          change the font size. You can do the same with a text document.[/i]

          Sounds cool, but totally unnecessary. Select cell (or text), highlight textbox and scroll til you get what you want. The displayed image changes to preview the size you have selected without selecting it until you are ready to select it, at which time you tap. Difficult, huh? or not.

          [i]You could press Control and
          use the scroll wheel - oh, sorry, you can't do that, either, can you? - to zoom in on
          the screen, but that works slightly differently.[/i]

          Yes, actually you can. The holding control and scrolling on spreadsheets (assuming that you are referring to Excel) is not a Mac feature, it's an Excel one, and if you hold Ctrl and scroll, you will zoom in on the portion of the spreadsheet that you are looking at. Sorry to burst your bubble. If you like that feature, you can thank Microsoft for it.



          So, your smartass tone is completely unnecessary, and since none of your points were valid, your superior attitude is just ridiculous. Since you apparently don't know better, you may want to cut the attitude, it makes you look like a troll and nothing more. Regardless of whether you like what he had to say, you lowering yourself to his level doesn't make you any better than he is.
          laura.b
          • Well, tell me how to do that..

            on my Dell Latitude D800 with Vista. Since I didn't buy a Dell OEM version of Vista,
            I have no trackpad drivers, only mouse drivers. Dell doesn't have Vista drivers AT
            ALL on their website for the D800.

            But, assuming you're correct (and I'm sure you are - your posts generally raise the
            intelligence level here), please note that I said "pan and scroll." Can you do that
            without moving the cursor? Up, down, and side to side? It sounds like a silly thing,
            but it's one of the things I miss the most when using Windows.

            Next, I said select and resize. Not select, go to the menu, and then resize. Again,
            and it may sound silly, when I'm working on a laptop with a trackpad, I prefer to
            move the cursor a little as possible. Also, as I said, scrolling doesn't seem to work
            with my Dell trackpad.

            Control and scroll on a Mac is different. It is a magnification feature, not a true
            zoom. Zooming with two fingers on the trackpad is just an extension of pan and
            scroll, which, as I've said, is one of those unnoticed features that you really miss
            when it's not available.

            As for lowering myself to his level...ouch! That hurts.
            msalzberg