Apple MacBook AirBy Frank Ohlhorst | Print
The choices for portable computing have never been greater. And the choice for which PC you buy and support, as always, comes down to price versus performance. Netbooks and MacBook Air look convenient, but do they have the power? Ultralights have features, but are they light enough? And what are we paying for? Here’s a look at today's choices for mobile computing.
Apple MacBook Air
The MacBook Air comes in two flavors: a 1.6GHz version and a 1.86GHz version. The gigahertz notation obviously pertains to the installed CPU, in this case, an Intel Core 2 Duo processor with 1,066MHz front-side bus.
Of course, there are other differences between the two models—the $2,500
higher-end unit features an SSD 128GB disk
drive, while the $1,800 lower-end unit is equipped with a 120GB SATA drive.
Those are the primary differences between the two models. Most businesses are
willing to eschew an SSD drive and 0.2GHz of
performance to save $700 in initial purchase price, and in reality, the
performance between the two models doesn’t merit an additional $700.
That begs the question: Is a $1,800 MacBook Air a viable option for serious business user?
No, but there’s a catch.
That catch being whether or not the user needs to run Macintosh-specific software. Even so, Apple does offer other notebook systems that are a little bigger, heavier and cheaper that can run most of those applications faster, such as the $1,500 2.4GHz MacBook.
At less than 1 inch thick and under 3 pounds, the MacBook Air is a svelte system that is sure to impress almost anyone. A 13.3-inch LED backlit display offers a crisp image, while sipping very little energy. Battery life hovers around 4 hours, and graphics performance is pretty speedy, thanks to the Nvidia GeForce 9400M graphics subsystem. (New versions promise significantly longer battery life and performance.)
One cannot deny that the MacBook Air is an impressive piece of engineering and is arguably the sharpest looking subnotebook around, but Apple had to eliminate a lot of features to get there. Users will find the unit has no integrated optical drive, lacks an Ethernet port, has only one USB port and offers no 3G connectivity. The unit also lacks a PC Card slot and the battery can’t be changed (users are unable to bring a spare to extend unfettered use). For those looking to hook up to external monitors or projectors, a special cable is needed—the unit has no standard VGA/DVI port on it. Looking at those shortcomings, it becomes clear that the Apple MacBook Air is a poor fit for the mobile business user.
On the other hand, for the executive looking to impress, there probably is no better piece of executive jewelry to carry around.