MacBook Air - Second thoughts

Yesterday, I sounded pretty enthusiastic about the newly announced MacBook Air. Now, having slept on it, I feel that I might have been off the mark.

Yesterday, I sounded pretty enthusiastic about the newly announced MacBook Air.  Now, having slept on it (not literally), I feel that I might have been off the mark.

MacBook Air

The biggest problem with the MacBook Air is that once you scratch away the sex appeal of an aluminum clad ultra-mobile, you start to see the compromises that Apple had to make to bring this product to market.  The first compromise that struck me today was the hard drive.  80GB.  That's not a drive for a portable computer, that's an iPod drive.  After years of encouraging users to buy and make digital content, an 80GB drive seems woefully inadequate for today's needs.

MacBook Pro

Then there's that 64GB SSD drive that costs an extra $999.  It seems that Apple believe that the notebooks can't be too thin and their customers too rich.  As a second drive, this might have had some takers but given that this will be your one and only drive, the price is pushed to stratospheric levels and your storage capacity serious curtailed.

Then there's the non-expandable memory.  2GB is your lot.  Now using memory soldered directly to the board is nothing new - other companies do this - but this combined with the small amount of disk space means that making use of Boot Camp or Parallels is going to be tough.

Then there's the battery, which can only be replaced by sending the unit back to the Apple mothership and paying a fee.  No carrying a spare battery as insurance.  I also don't like the idea of the locked-in battery acting as a ticking obsolescence time bomb.

That one USB port also sounds awfully limiting.  I know, it's not often that you hook up more than one device to a notebook, but that's because things like Ethernet, modem and so on and built-in.  I can imagine that single USB port on the MacBook Air becoming quite busy.

Which leads me onto the the fact that the MacBook Air doesn't have built-in Ethernet or modem.  Fine if you don't use them, but it's a major pain to have to carry about dongles if you do, which sort of makes having a small, light portable a moot point.  Also, it all adds to the cost.

There's also no HSDPA/3G/GPRS support, which means that you might need to add a wireless broadband dongle.  Another use for that USB port.

Another compromise that struck me today is the lack of a built-in microphone.  More work for the USB port.

Then there's the processor.  I'll let my blogging colleague George Ou tell you that story.

Oh, and don't let that "thinnest" and "lightest" stuff pull the wool over your eyes.  Take a look at the Fujitsu Q2010 which is only 0.5 mm thicker than the MacBook Air and weighs 1 kg (and comes with a lot more features).