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Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Love the new MacBook Air

Three generations of MacBook Air - newest on top, oldest on the bottom

I've been using my third generation 13" MacBook Air for a couple week now, and it's the most amazing computer machine I've owned.  I'm sure the novelty will wear off, but right now it's a total joy to use this laptop, and like many products, it's the little things that makes it great.  There's no benchmarks or anything scientific in this review.  These are just my observations, which in the end are what really count.

As a preface, I've owned and heavily used the previous two generations of MacBook Air, also thought those were great machines, but they had some serious limitations. The moment you had a few office applications up as well as a programming IDE, the machines slowed to a crawl.  Sometimes it was just as slow with a browser with 10 tabs open, which is pretty common for me.

I always buy computers fully loaded, with the maximum available RAM and hard drive space and speed available at the time, knowing it is going to be obsolete the day I receive the computer.  I am sure this puts me in some odd quadrant of whatever personality test you might wish to throw at me but I've learned to accept myself with this one defect.  So be it.

On this particular model, "About this Mac" tells me I have:

Hardware Overview:

  Model Name: MacBook Air
  Model Identifier: MacBookAir3,2
  Processor Name: Intel Core 2 Duo
  Processor Speed: 2.13 GHz
  Number of Processors: 1
  Total Number of Cores: 2
  L2 Cache: 6 MB
  Memory: 4 GB
  Bus Speed: 1.07 GHz

I'm fairly sure the biggest difference is the amount of RAM available, but the machine certainly feels faster as well.  But on to those little things.

The Weight

The last MacBook Air was so light, I could never tell if I had it in my backpack or not.  In fact, I once left it in California and travelled the whole way home thinking I was carrying it, when I wasn't (luckily a colleague was on the plane the day after me and brought it home).   This one is even lighter, and I have the same problem...I'm always looking in my backpack to make sure I have it.

The Keyboard

I wish I could describe the keyboard but I can't.  Go to the Apple store and try it out.  But it's fast.  For whatever reason, I seem to be able to type amazingly fast on this keyboard. I guess you don't have to push down on the keys as hard.

The Battery Life

The batteries on my previous Airs probably lasted between 2-3 hours.  It typically couldn't make it through a flight from Chicago to San Francisco, yet here I am somewhere over the Rocky Mountains with over 6 hours of battery life left.

The Reboot

Holy crap this thing reboots fast.  You used to have to go get a cup of coffee every time you rebooted an old MBA.   Now, it reboots in what seems like 10 seconds.   I'll actually have to time it to find out for sure, but it's fast.

The USB Ports and Video ports

There's now 2 USB ports, and the video jack is no longer in that fold down door that was impossible to open while the MBA was flat on a table.  Yay.

The Screen

Well, hell - the 1440x900 screen is beautiful and of course has a lot more real estate than the 1280x800 version.  However, I do tend to do a lot of browsing in the "flower + '+'" mode so that I can actually read the text on most web pages.

All in all, where I thought the previous MBA's were too underpowered for anyone doing any type of programming, this generation finally supports enough RAM to make development possible.  Even if you don't do any of that, this is a great machine that I highly recommend.
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