What's up with the MacBook Air single USB port and where is the flash card reader?

What's up with the MacBook Air single USB port and where is the flash card reader?

Summary: You have all probably seen the news about the new MacBook Air announced this morning by Steve Jobs and now that the glitz and glamour of the keynote is wearing off people are diving into the details. One major issue, IMHO, that Adrian Kingsley-Hughes pointed out in his first thoughts was the lack of a removable battery. The problem with the USB solution is that the MacBook Air, actually all of the Apple notebooks, do not include any kind of media card reader so if you want to upload any photos/videos you have to take out your USB modem, connect a card reader, move the photos/video onto the hard drive, and then reconnect your USB modem to connect again.

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You have all probably seen the news about the new MacBook Air announced this morning by Steve Jobs and now that the glitz and glamour of the keynote is wearing off people are diving into the details. One major issue, IMHO, that Adrian Kingsley-Hughes pointed out in his first thoughts was the lack of a removable battery. It isn't such a big deal with iPods or the iPhone that lasts all day for the most part, but to not have a removable battery on a notebook computer is an interesting strategy. I do have to admit though that I only have a single battery for my MacBook Pro, but then again I primarily use it at my house as my only PC since I only get a bit more than 2 hours on the go with it.

MacBook Air

While I think the MacBook Air looks slick with its slim form factor, it doesn't seem to be a good device for the mobile worker with the single USB port and no ExpressCard slot. The only options remaining for connecting wirelessly without a WiFi hotspot are to use the USB slot with a USB modem or connect to your mobile phone via Bluetooth. The problem with the single USB port solution is that the MacBook Air, actually all of the Apple notebooks, do not include any kind of media card reader so if you want to upload any photos/videos you have to take out your USB modem, connect a card reader, move the photos/video onto the hard drive, and then reconnect your USB modem to connect again. You now also have to carry a USB flash card reader and it just continues to boggle my mind why Apple, who tends to focus on media, can't make integrated flash card readers a standard across all of their notebooks. Am I missing something here?

To truly be a MacBook Air, Apple should have added a 3G radio for people to pop in a 3G SIM card. It would be more difficult to use a 3G EV-DO integrated solution because then the device would have to get a separate service plan just for data access, but the Sony Vaio UX devices have integrated EDGE data options and Apple could have bumped that up to a 3G option.

I will be skipping the MacBook Air and was really hoping for an Apple Tablet, but it looks like I'll have to keep holding out and maybe we'll see something like this in 2009. Can Apple at least add a flash card reader in their notebooks the next time they make a hardware announcement?

Topics: Apple, Hardware, Laptops, Mobility, Networking, Wi-Fi

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29 comments
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  • What's up with people wanting SUBnotebooks with 1,000 bits of hardware?

    Yes, you're missing something here.

    Have you ever heard of a USB hub?

    It boggles my mind that because you have an issue with
    WiFi (most of us don't) and apparently use your digital
    camera continuously that you want to balloon back up a
    SUB-notebook to include 4 USB ports and an
    ExpressCard slot and a media card slot and a SIM card
    slot and a...what else would you like on a SUB-
    notebook? Perhaps a pizza oven as well? What about
    the people that want to save weight & space on their
    lap/desk/tray-table?

    Luckily for the world, USB hubs exist. For those that get
    to their hotel and want to plug in a printer and media
    card reader and iPod and optical drive and a USB modem
    and whatever else, they can delve into their carry-on or
    their checked luggage and drag out a (fairly light but
    bulky) USB hub and all the devices they want to attach to
    it.

    I have a full-size PowerBook and I'm perfectly happy it
    has no media card slot. I don't use my digital cameras
    that often, and when I do, I plug in a reader. The rest of
    the time, adding extra slots I don't use much would just
    make my laptop that much bigger, and I do drag it onto
    planes so giving-up less-needed slots is just fine by me.

    FAR more important than a media card slot would be an
    ExpressCard slot (& yes, my full-size PowerBook has
    one), so, Apple, please DON'T add media card slots to
    your notebooks.
    jayk_z
    • I agree. This model is about thin and light

      I have an HP 2510p ultra portable issued by my company and like it alot. However, if I can get it thinner and lighter, I'll take it and that is exactly what Apple has brought forward.

      I don't need a spinning drive, I don't use it. If I want to watch a movie I download it or rip it from my desktop first. For my DSLR camera, I bought a USB card 5 in 1 reader I can place in my shirt pocket. I have not seen it but it sure looks nice. I'm more concerned with it's fragility than the number of option holes it has.

      Clearly, this notebook is not for everyone. Certainly not the Frys shopper but it should appeal to many.
      Prognosticator
      • Say what?

        "I have not seen it but it sure looks nice." Okay...
        MWPollard
    • Aren't Subnotebooks for the road warrior?

      I would think that subnotebooks and ultra portable PCs are for those who want to be productive on the go, with a minimal amount of extra gear tagging along. While I understand you could use a USB hub to use all of your peripherals, I would think something like wireless connectivity anywhere is a primary usage scenario. Granted a USB EV-DO modem is a fine solution and you won't be needing the USB for uploading photos all of the time I still think Apple should include an integrated card reader.

      Having an integrated card reader is the easiest way to get digital photos off of your camera and onto your notebook. With Apple's focus on digital media I would have thought this would have been a no-brainer for Apple and am not convinced it takes up that much space in the device.

      An ExpressCard slot instead would be fine too since there are ExpressCard media readers too so adding one of them would have been fine. However, I think an ExpressCard slot would have taken even more room than the card reader.

      I LOVE Apple notebook hardware, which is why I shelled out $2,000 for my 1st gen MacBook Pro a while ago. I am sure the MacBook Air is a sweet machine too, but it just has a few too many compromises IMHO for the true road warrior.
      palmsolo (aka Matthew Miller)
      • No.

        Not neccesarily.

        This particular model is a consumer model not a Pro model. It is not marketed toward the business user. That at least is my understanding.
        Tigertank
      • What do most people consider essential? The Web, or their camera?

        A subnotebook is about stripping down to bare
        essentials.

        I guess it all comes down to what you think is
        ESSENTIAL.

        What matters more to most people...being able to
        connect to the Internet...or having a built-in slot for
        their camera memory card?

        To me that's a no-brainer question. No matter where I
        am, if my laptop is on, it's most likely that I'm at least
        ocassionally using the web (or wishing I could, if I'm
        someplace with no connectivity). So I pretty much want
        connectivity nearly all the time. How often am I pulling
        pics from my camera? WAY less often than "nearly all
        the time".

        I'm betting most people are like me. Which means if
        you're going to add any slot, add ExpressCard before
        adding a media card slot. That way if you're sitting
        someplace with no WiFi available, you still have a route
        to get connectivity, without lugging extra wires/gears/
        peripherals.

        Should Apple also add a media card slot? I still don't
        think so. It isn't what I consider essential. Do most
        people? I don't know.
        jayk_z
    • I agree AND...

      Card slots are a waste of space!
      The manufacturers keep inventing NEW card types. Now your new card doesn't fit into your 3 month old laptop. Forget about that.
      Every year or two, I just buy the latest card reader. $20-30 and done.
      GSavage777
  • I'm looking at a Dell XPS M1330 ....

    ... with a faster processor, 3 gigs of memory, 200 gig
    7200 rpm hard drive, DVD burner, bluetooth, and built-in
    wireless card, 85 watt/hour battery, and fingerprint
    reader for $1800. (IE: similar notebook)
    Sorry, but for the price, the Apple is a dud.
    kd5auq
    • You forgot to mention your Dell weighs as much as a chair

      .. I suppose it's as big as one but, hey, carrying a chair around is a great thing with all the airport lines.
      Prognosticator
      • This particular Dell is the same size as the Apple!

        It weighs a little more, but not much.
        kd5auq
        • No, it's not, it's twice as thick. (N/T)

          (N/T)
          buddhistMonkey
    • You also get..

      Dell's legendary service. And the opportunity to call India for free.
      msalzberg
    • I do not like my Dell - Don't do it

      I have a brand new Dell D830 - basically topped out with RAM etc... but it realy is not very good. I constantly have to restart it. When I switch from Wi-Fi to Wired networks, I have to go into the control panel and "enable" the various connections. Nothing is automatic. To me the phrase "Dude, You got a Dell" is a curse.

      Good luck with the Dell pal. BTW, my co-worker with the MacBook has literally no issues with his laptop. The 4 of us with these Dells all fight them every day.
      007baf
      • I OWN a Dell and...

        What a waste of money THAT was!!
        J U N K!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
        GSavage777
  • MacBook Air?: It's just an 'extra-slim dongle'

    nt
    D T Schmitz
    • i wonder...

      ...how many different blogs you can post the word "dongle" on today?
      lostarchitect
      • I thought that was his name.

        Don Gle.
        msalzberg
    • Huh huh huh

      He said [i]Dongle[/i]
      Tigertank
  • Where the hell is the floppy drive!

    And the SCSI port, and the RS232 port, and the SVGA
    big-ass connector, and the PCI slots, and ...

    Blah, blah, blah. It's high time we all learned to do
    without wires and plugin do-dads while traveling. If
    this laptop takes off in the market, expect to see 3rd
    parties step up with lighter, smaller, cordless peripherals, or at least multi-port, multi-function plug
    ins that make the most of the single usb jack. Apple is
    really good at spurring change.
    Len Rooney
  • i don't travel with...

    a printer, or a keyboard, or a usb mouse, or ANYTHING that i would want to plug into my computer, with the exception of my camera, which i can plug into that one usb port with no issues. most hotels have wifi. i can check this in advance, of course, and if they only have ethernet i can bring a usb to ethernet adapter. that's about it. i don't think any of those are issues. (and a card reader? come on!)

    however, the lack of an interchangeable battery is an issue, and the lack of a reasonably sized HDD is also an issue. but the ports are not a problem.
    lostarchitect