More than the initial crew of USA Today + WSJ + Newsweek have gotten their hands on the Apple MacBook Air and the hands-on comments and reviews are coming fast and furious. The laptop has gotten its share of both praises as well as knocks, but there’s something I’ve read too little of, or where it has appeared, it’s been glossed over in less than a sentence or two. The question shouldn’t be ‘Is the thinness worth the compromises’, it should be does the thinness really break new ground for laptops?
We’re not talking about comparing a MacBook Air to a 2.5″ thick HP’s from the 90’s. Nowadays, there are plenty of small laptops with vertical dimensions in the vicinity of 1″. These laptops come with full size keyboards, integrated optical drives, plenty of ports and weigh about 4lbs. Key here is that these laptops have the same footprint as the MacBook Air. With that in mind, I’d challenge that in almost all instances, if you have enough space for the MBA, you’ll have enough room for a Sony SZ or Dell XPS M1330. That quarter or half inch difference in thickness just isn’t the limiting factor in most situations. It won’t make a lick of a difference when you’re trying to open up your laptop in coach, with the seat in front of you reclined. What you need in those situations is a laptop with a smaller footprint, not something thinner. When I read the first part of the title of this article at ZDNet, I thought Russell Shaw was going to hit on this point. Unfortunately, he went the way of cost, not something that will probably deter most potential buyers of the MacBook Air.
As well, I’d like to point out the 0.16″ minimum thickness measurement is more of a technicality than a real-world reality. Apple, in its marketing genius, has measured the very tip of the tapered front. As far as I know, all other laptop makers measure thickness from the base of the laptop, not accounting for any tapering of the base, towards the front of the laptop. Based on that same criteria, Dell could have marketed the XPS M1330 w/ LED as ‘starting at 0.5″ thick’ (I just did a quick measurement). And Dell didn’t even attempt to make the front into a cutting edge to allow for a marketing exercise. Thin? Sure, but the MBA’s more like half an inch thick at its thinnest point, using conventional measurement techniques, that are actually of any use for comparisons to other laptops.
Apple has always been very successful at eliciting that initial ‘Wow’ reaction. I most certainly was impressed when I read about the MacBook Air for the first time. But as I did my due diligence, it quickly lost its lustre. When considering the MacBook Air, this is the question you should be asking yourself:
“Is the quarter-to-half inch decrease in thickness and 1lb difference worth the worse performance, far less flexibility of ports, no optical drive, lack of removable battery, and the same footprint as something like a Sony SZ or Dell XPS M1330, meaning in almost all cases, where they won’t fit, the MacBook Air won’t either?”
What’s your answer?