Apple MacBook Air

By Frank Ohlhorst  |  Print this article 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.

Frank Ohlhorst Frank J. Ohlhorst is the Executive Technology Editor for eWeek Channel Insider and brings with him over 20 years of experience in the Information Technology field.He began his career as a network administrator and applications program in the private sector for two years before joining a computer consulting firm as a programmer analyst. In 1988 Frank founded a computer consulting company, which specialized in network design, implementation, and support, along with custom accounting applications developed in a variety of programming languages.In 1991, Frank took a position with the United States Department of Energy as a Network Manager for multiple DOE Area Offices with locations at Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL), Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPL), Argonne National Laboratory (ANL), FermiLAB and the Ames Area Office (AMESAO). Frank's duties included managing the site networks, associated staff and the inter-network links between the area offices. He also served at the Computer Security Officer (CSO) for multiple DOE sites. Frank joined CMP Technology's Channel group in 1999 as a Technical Editor assigned to the CRN Test Center, within a year, Frank became the Senior Technical Editor, and was responsible for designing product testing methodologies, assigning product reviews, roundups and bakeoffs to the CRN Test Center staff.In 2003, Frank was named Technology Editor of CRN. In that capacity, he ensured that CRN maintained a clearer focus on technology and increased the integration of the Test Center's review content into both CRN's print and web properties. He also contributed to Netseminar's, hosted sessions at CMP's Xchange Channel trade shows and helped to develop new methods of content delivery, Such as CRN-TV.In September of 2004, Frank became the Director of the CRN Test Center and was charged with increasing the Test Center's contributions to CMP's Channel Web online presence and CMP's latest monthly publication, Digital Connect, a magazine geared towards the home integrator. He also continued to contribute to CMP's Netseminar series, Xchange events, industry conferences and CRN-TV.In January of 2007, CMP Launched CRNtech, a monthly publication focused on technology for the channel, with a mailed audience of 70,000 qualified readers. Frank was instrumental in the development and design of CRNTech and was the editorial director of the publication as well as its primary contributor. He also maintained the edit calendar, and hosted quarterly CRNTech Live events.In June 2007, Frank was named Senior Technology Analyst and became responsible for the technical focus and edit calendars of all the Channel Group's publications, including CRN, CRNTech, and VARBusiness, along with the Channel Group's specialized publications Solutions Inc., Government VAR, TechBuilder and various custom publications. Frank joined Ziff Davis Enterprise in September of 2007 and focuses on creating editorial content geared towards the purveyors of Information Technology products and services. Frank writes comparative reviews, channel analysis pieces and participates in many of Ziff Davis Enterprise's tradeshows and webinars. He has received several awards for his writing and editing, including back to back best review of the year awards, and a president's award for CRN-TV. Frank speaks at many industry conferences, is a contributor to several IT Books, holds several records for online hits and has several industry certifications, including Novell's CNE, Microsoft's MCP.Frank can be reached at frank.ohlhorst@ziffdavisenterprise.com

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