Further MacBook Air Thoughts

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?

9 thoughts on “Further MacBook Air Thoughts”

  1. Some good points… I’ll have to write them down to jam in the faces of some of the obnoxious Mac fanboys at school. God, I swear they absolutely refuse to listen to the slightest shred of truth when it comes to Macs. No matter how reasonable or intelligent they may be normally, as soon as the topic turns to Apple or Mac they just shut their brains off and refuse to listen to logic.

    I do have to admit though, I was wowed a bit (a lot) by the initial advertising too. Even the Mac ads are pretty.

  2. That Macs aren’t 100% superior to PCs.

    Not that they suck. I would never say that. πŸ˜‰ I think I might ditch my laptop as well in favour of this handy-dandy Wii browser which I am now using in spite of Vista’s hardest attempts to cause my mental breakdown by being stupidly unintuitive.

  3. I`m sure you know what that ‘truth’ is, Rene. You know, the times when I try to argue that there are plenty of alternatives to the shiny white plastic things and all I get back is the, ‘but that alternative is crap’. No reason, no explanation. Just that they’re not as good as what Apple makes. Period.

    There are plenty of Mac users who aren’t like that, and you are at least open to suggestions, even if you don’t take them. πŸ˜‰

    Apple has gotten away plenty of times with overpriced products, ones that exist only because regardless, there are still people who are paying for them. It’s really not Apple’s fault, it’s the consumers. I mean why should Apple change how they operate when people will still scramble to the stores and lay down more money than the need to? It’s about status, the icon. Apple has definitely done a good job there. Then again, that’s not to say I haven’t wanted and iPhone or a MacBook Pro. I merely don’t act on my first instinct, which is more than can be said for many consumers.

    I always find it funny to listen in on the keynote speeches by Jobs. The audience is always so enthralled. I’m very jealous of Jobs’ charisma and his stage presence. It’s pure talent. To hear the crowd reactions to some of the more mundane or trivial announcements, you’d think he’s giving away money or holding a magic show up there on stage.

    You know, now that I think of it, it sort of is like a magic show… Very little of it is actually real. Just tricks and audience perception.

  4. Regarding the whole Mac/pc argument…I am perfectly happy with my pc. If you get a good antivirus on a pc it will run just as fine as any mac. A good antivirus can cost up to $50 dollars a year. Thats fine with me. I will save money by just getting a pc.

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