First Impressions Of The Apple MacBook Air 13.3 inch
I recently bought an Apple MacBook Air and having used it for just under a week thought I would put down my first impressions. I should say straight off the bat that I come from a traditionally PC and Windows background and this is my first foray into Apple Computers and Apple OS.
The particular MacBook Air I bought is the 13.3” widescreen with a few optional upgrades (which I couldn’t resist) including:
- 2.13 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor
- 4GB Ram (DDR3)
- 256GB Flash Storage (it comes standard with the 13.3” model)
- iWork Preinstalled
- USB Ethernet Adapter (although it does have built in Wi-Fi)
- External SuperDrive
Some of the standard specs of the laptop include 6MB shared L2 cache, NVIDIA GeForce 320M graphics processor, 1440×900 native resolution, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR, and dimensions of of 0.3-1.7cm (tapered) x 32.5cm x 22.7cm (HxWxD).
Initially I was trying to keep the costs down but admittedly got a little carried away, although I managed to hold off on the impulse to add Microsoft Office, the Mini DisplayPort to DVI Adapter, and Final Cut Studio (this one is mostly because I still can’t decide between Final Cut Studio and Adobe Premiere).
I should also say that there were two primary purchasing decisions for this particular computer (prior to the optional upgrades) which were:
- To obtain a small, light, long lasting battery, computer for use when travelling
- To take a look at iPhone/iPad software development
From the point of placing the initial order there were several email confirmations, including the order summary, an order update saying the order is being processed, a shipment notification (for assembly), a transit notification (for delivery), and the final billing document. From the point of ordering to receipt of the item it took 7 days (not the estimated three days on the order) and it was good to receive the email updates so I could see what was going on.
At this point I did consider doing one of those video openings you often see on websites like YouTube but eagerness got the better of me and it was soon unpacked.
In the box was the MacBook Air, the charger, a pack containing instructions and stickers, the software reinstall drive (flash drive based) which should make reinstalling an easier task, and the USB Ethernet Adaptor (which was optional).
Fortunately, the MacBook Air was already charged which meant it could be switched on and used straight away. It did take quite a few minutes of watching the onscreen Apple Logo before the Mac OS X display, and welcome video, leapt into their multimedia action. Then, the now familiar looking Apple Dock appeared at the bottom of the screen ready for use.
Overall, the MacBook Air is quite thin, and slightly wedge shaped so the depth tapers off towards the front of the keyboard – which makes it look thinner than it is overall and it also feels quite light which owes a lot to the solid state drive for storage (though it’s not as light as I was expecting).
On one side of the Air lies the power adapter socket (MagSafe protected in case it is inadvertently disconnected – a common occurrence in our household with lots of kids), a USB 2.0 socket, headphone socket, and a microphone area.
On the other side of the Air lies the Mini DisplayPort, another USB 2.0 socket, and an SD card slot. To be honest you can get much more complete specification information from the Apple MacBook Air Site so I won’t go into too much further detail here.
Once opened the screen feels roomy and bright and it pivots down behind the keyboard slightly, presumably to cast some light over the keyboard. There is no back-lit keyboard which makes it harder to use at night or in low-light conditions (which is a shame when you want to use it in bed).
One of the more striking things to notice is the sheer size of the touchpad area – it is huge in comparison to the keyboard area (see the image above). It’s also Multi-Touch touch pad which is useful once you get used to how it works, oh and clicking means pressing the touch pad down which offers a satisfying “click” feeling.
The screen image, whilst a little reflective, is pretty good with clear images and bright colours. I also tried it outdoors several times and found no major issues in typical outdoor light conditions.
The iWork ‘09 software which includes a spread sheet application (Numbers), a word processing application (Pages), and a presentation application (Keynote) seems perfectly usable – possibly not as feature rich as Microsoft Office but I haven’t had opportunity to give it a real road test yet. It was interesting to note that the machine was supposed to be pre-installed with iLife ‘11 but it actually arrived with a different, earlier, version although a massive update seems to have brought it up to the correct version.
Overall the MacBook Air experience has been a pleasant one and it is light enough and small enough to
carry around whilst also having just enough oomph to be useful when travelling. The extra memory will probably help a great deal particularly when dealing with multimedia based applications. A number of the places I go regularly require MAC registration before connecting to the wireless access point, to find this you need to head into System Preferences (on the menu bar), click Network, select the AirPort connection, then click on Advanced – the MAC address is given in the AirPort ID field.
There are a couple of things I am planning with the MacBook Air. First off, I am planning to install Windows 7 on the MacBook Air using the Boot Camp utility so it will be interesting to see how it performs compared to the Mac OS X that is currently installed. Secondly, I want to integrate the Air into the office local area network which means connecting it up to the network HP Laserjet and the HP OfficeJet whilst also linking it into the Buffalo TeraSation NAS. Thirdly, I want to use the Air for putting together video clips produced using the Canon EOS 550D which at the moment will involve using iMovie until I can be swayed between Final Cut and Premier. I will post an update on how these projects come along.