After using the MacBook Air intensely since it arrived in February, I am beginning to feel the limitations of its pokey 1.6GHz processor and 2GB of RAM. I knew what I was getting into going in, but I was convinced that I could make it work. Initially the tradeoff of less CPU and RAM was worth shaving two pounds off my daily notebook heft but as I use the MBA more and more I'm increasingly frustrated by its molasses-like performance.
(I'm not complaining about the 80GB hard drive, either. With some careful data gymnastics I've found it pretty easy to live within 80GB, with the exception of Parallels disk images. Those, my friend, are a bear. To hell with music and photo libraries damnit! I need Windows XP!)
Take my morning routine, for example. Every weekday I launch Flock and open a bookmark of 14 sites in tabs, then I launch NetNewsWire, then Adium, then Mail. This process easily pegs both processors and sometimes make Flock totally unresponsive for several minutes. I sometimes have to force quit and re-launch Flock to get it working again and have to wait a few minutes for everything to refresh.
Granted, it's a tall order.
Loading multiple Web pages, RSS feeds and IMAP accounts is undoubtedly resource intensive, but it's not video effects rendering or high-end Photoshop plug-in work for Pete's sake! It's mostly network access. I wouldn't expect it to completely hobble an Intel Core 2 Duo running on an 802.11g (sometimes n) network. But maybe I'm pushing the limits?
When I add the dismal performance of Excel 2008 and Parallels (hello beachball!) to the mix, the MBA performance is starting to become a liability that I never had before with my MacBook Pro.
Perhaps it's the applications? Maybe Flock is a resource hog. Maybe I need to purge the gunk from all my IMAP folders. Maybe I need to repair permissions. Re-install everything from scratch? Nuke and pave?
As I re-read what I just typed I can't help but think that I have a mild case of battered MBA-owner syndrome. "No officer, I don't want to press charges against the MacBook Air. I fell down the stairs. Honest."
I stand behind my diary posts about the MacBook Air though. It's a great machine for light-duty users, frequent fliers and Mac-daddy executives, but for resource intensive users I recommend a top-end MacBook Pro with 4GB of RAM.
Is the paltry 2GB of RAM, 1.6GHz processor and 80GB hard drive inside the MacBook Air planned obsolescence? I can't help but think so.
(Sad Mac logo courtesy of Wired.)