So I Got an Air

December 15, 2010

Last Monday, a silicon angel (hmm, might not be the best choice of adjectives) in a FedEx suit (and, strangely, an unmarked Dodge Caravan) arrived at my door with my new MacBook Air. It’s been a good week and a half.

After the Air was introduced I avoided the Apple store for about a month. This is a significant act of the will since it’s only about two miles from my house. But I knew that seeing the Air would probably set some cogs in my brain to churning, wondering how well an Air would fit in my workflow. And if I could figure out a way to afford it. Well, I went to the store, the cogs slowly started gaining momentum, and here I sit typing on an Air.

I got the base model with an upgrade to 4gb of RAM. I never considered the 13″ screen, partially because of budget, but mostly because 11″ was what I wanted. I didn’t consider a processor or storage upgrade, completely because of budget. I won’t do a full review — David Sparks and Ben Brooks have already done a fine job of that — but here are some thoughts on my experience so far.

It’s Small

I mean, it’s really small. And light too. I still marvel at it when I see it on my desk. And it makes my old 13″ MacBook Pro look like a crazed leviathan. Or something like that. So small apparently that case manufacturers aren’t sure what to do with it — somebody really needs to make the perfect bag for this. I have yet to find one and the Apple store, as of a week ago, still wasn’t carrying any.

64gb is Plenty

Really. It is. I transitioned from a 13″ MacBook Pro, which was my only computer, to a dual setup of a base model iMac and this Air. The iMac becomes my HQ and my primary machine for media and doing design work. So, all I need on the Air is my Dropbox folder with all my active projects (about 4gb), the iWork suite, and my day to day apps like OmniFocus, Yojimbo, Scrivener and CSSEedit and Espresso for development work. No iLife. Photoshop for editing on the go, but none of the rest of the Adobe Creative Suite. I copied over about 4gb of essentials from iTunes too. And you know what? I have about 28gb free. (Patrick Rhone describes the same experience.)

It’s Snappy

This has been said in every review of the Air, so I’ll just confirm it. It’s really really really responsive. I mean really. I was concerned about having only a 1.4gHz processor, but everything moves in and out of the flash storage so fast that apps load more quickly than on my 3.06gHz iMac. PhotoShop CS4 loads in 5 seconds, probably twice as fast as the iMac. Of course, the processor means rendering will be much slower, but I rarely work on anything larger than a 1500×1500 design comp, and the processor has been sufficient for that.

5 Hours is Really 5 Hours

The 5 hour battery life claimed by Apple is the most reliable battery life claim I’ve had in an Apple laptop. I usually work in a coffee shop until mid-day, and then work from home in the afternoon. I have yet to use the power adapter for the Air anywhere besides my desk. Which is nice because the power cord with the longer cable attached takes up as much space as the Air in a bag. (Not that I have a small bag yet, because manufacturers still haven’t sorted that out, even after my plea above.)

It’s Small

Yes, I already said that, but this is the other kind of small…the almost too small kind of small. It’s the one critique I have. I was worried that the 11″ might not have enough screen space to be productive. That’s not an issue, because it has more pixels than my 13″ Pro had — 25000 more, in fact. But those pixels are packed into a smaller space. Text is crisper, but it’s also smaller. I find I’m adjusting the text size in apps like Notational Velocity to see things better.

So, yes, this has been another gush about the MacBook Air. I’m sure there is more I could say, but I’ve gushed enough for now.

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