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Jewish World Review
March 14, 2008
/ 7 Adar II 5768
Yes, It's Really Thin and Really Light!
NASHVILLE, Tenn. Let's concede the first and most important point:
the $1,799 MacBook Air from Apple, Inc., is really thin and really
light. At its thickest, the computer is 0.76 inches tall, slimming
down to an amazing 0.16 inches at its thinnest. It weighs only 3
pounds, and that's less than half the heft of the 17-inch MacBook Pro
that's in my office.
If you travel frequently, or if you have any care for your shoulders
and back, the MacBook Air is as close to a must-have as any computer
can be. The incredible lightness of this computer's being is so
alluring that not even the strongest of restraints could keep that
ultimate road warrior, Odysseus, from its clutches.
This was most plainly evident when I wandered the halls of a
convention in Nashville, Tennesse, toting the MacBook Air in a
briefcase. The computer itself was almost negligible in terms of its
presence: I didn't really feel it in the bag. Yet, when I needed to
check e-mail or do some writing, the power of the MacBook Air was
there, ready to respond in an instant.
As you might imagine, there are tradeoffs for any "downsizing" of a
notebook computer, and the MacBook Air, announced in January, is no
exception. Most obvious among the "omissions" is the lack of an
optical drive: you can get an external one for $99 extra. The built-in
speaker is mono; if you want to have stereo sound, headphones are
required. You can connect the computer to an Ethernet network, but
it'll require a $29 adapter and the "sacrifice" of the computer's one
and only USB port. The battery is not user-accessible; Apple stores
can replace a worn-out battery for you. There's no express card slot
for add-ins such as a broadband wireless card.
Those are the negatives, if you elect to view them as such. On the
plus side, the MacBook Air's built-in 802.11n wireless
networking, the top level of Wi-Fi at present, is available, as is the
latest version of Bluetooth. At my hotel, the Wi-Fi worked quite well;
at the trade show, I used a Sierra Wireless broadband adapter and
AT&T's 3G data network with good results, even deep within the Gaylord
Opryland Convention Center.
In operation, the MacBook Air performs as well as any portable Mac
I've used. It comes with 2 Gigabytes of RAM; no more can be added. The
$1,799 model ships with an 80 Gbyte hard disk drive. Add $1,299 to the
price tag and you get a MacBook Air with a "solid state," or
flash-memory chip, 64 Gbyte hard drive, the advantage being no moving
parts in the hard drive.
The 13.3-inch (diagonal measure) LCD display is quite nice, as is the
full-sized, backlit keyboard. The MacBook Air's trackpad
incorporates new technology that lets users employ "pinch," "swipe,"
and "rotate" gestures to perform various tasks. It takes a bit of
learning, but the end result is rather pleasant.
The lack of an optical drive made things a bit challenging at the
start of my evaluation. Apple has revised its "Migration Assistant"
program to handle transfers from an old Mac to a new one via Wi-Fi,
but I wasn't thrilled with the estimate of a 19-hour transfer process.
Instead, I opted to use a Time Machine backup of my old system and
restore those files to the new unit. All went well, I'm happy to say.
Apple later told me users could create an ad hoc Ethernet link for
I'm jazzed about the MacBook Air, but will do some more testing of its
newer features, such as the one that lets you use another computer's
optical drive, via Wi-Fi, as your own. The results, and more analysis,
will appear here shortly.
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JWR contributor Mark Kellner has reported on technology for industry newspapers and magazines since 1983, and has been the computer columnist for The Washington Times since 1991.Comment by clicking here.
© 2008, News World Communications, Inc. Reprinted with permission of The Washington Times. Visit the paper at http://www.washingtontimes.com