Macbook Air: First Impressions

The svelte 13″ Macbook Air is a delight to hold.

In the spirit of full disclosure — I didn’t buy a new Macbook Air! However, my buddy Laurie did, placing his order online just days after Steve’s October 20th keynote. Laurie had been looking to enhance his mobile computing workflow for a while now. While he’s been successfully utilizing his iPhone and iPad while mobile, Laurie found iOS devices lacking in a few key areas such as file access/management as well as working with “lite” iOS versions of Mac software such as Filemaker Pro.

When Laurie’s Macbook Air arrived, I was fortunate to steal a few minutes with it. As you’d expect, the Macbook Air is meticulously crafted, amazingly thin, unbelievably light and most important of all… a fully functioning Mac! You can comfortably hold the 13″ MBA with one hand and although very light, feels like a sturdy machine. The machine powers on and is ready to go in less than 10 seconds, though Laurie generally keeps his MBA in sleep mode when moving about which means instant on! So far Laurie reports the battery life is quite good, though he’ll likely get a more realistic picture after a few weeks of constant use.

As there’s no user upgradable parts in the Macbook Air, Laurie wisely chose to max out his RAM and SSD options at 4gb and 256gb respectively. Though he’s got plenty of storage on board, Laurie’s using MobileMe for cloud storage of all his working files which gives him access on any of his Macs. On the topic of DIY repair, Apple has chosen to seal the Macbook Air with proprietary screws preventing the average user from cracking the case. If you’re curious, the folks over at iFixit.com managed to get one apart for all to see.

Currently Laurie is using the usual office productivity apps on his MBA including OpenOffice, Filemaker Pro, Mail and Safari. In the coming weeks he plans to install Adobe CS4 and perhaps Parallels to run Windows 7. I’ll be curious to see how well the Macbook Air works with those processor/RAM hungry applications.

Initially, Laurie had planned to completely replace his iPad with the Macbook Air, but has since had a change of heart. When Laurie’s working with clients in meetings, he finds the iPad less intimidating than a laptop and easier to work with interactively. So, I guess there’s no used iPad in my future! 🙁

As for the new Macbook Air — its small, light, relatively snappy and not too expensive. Do I see one in my future? In a word…NO (or rather, not yet). Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to have one but I’m still living my one machine portable life which means I need a little more horsepower for my daily chores than the Macbook Air provides. I work with big images, audio, video and run multiple OS configurations within Parallels. My current Macbook Pro RAM configuration tops out at 6gb and I even find that a tight fit at times. Currently, the most RAM you can install in an Macbook Air is 4gb. Perhaps Apple will figure out a way to steal some of that SSD space for virtual memory in future models.

Another missed opportunity for Apple is the lack of a 3G option (similar to the iPad) in the Macbook Air. That would have really upped the value proposition for me… I’m hooked on getting email on my iPhone.

Maybe one day I’ll buy a condo, settle down and migrate to a well-configured 27″ iMac as my main machine. Then I can get an 11″ Macbook Air to appease the digital nomad within!

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