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In-Depth Review of the MacBook Air With Photos 244

Engadget has the first really in-depth review of the MacBook Air that I have seen with plenty of great photos and specifics. They do a great job of highlighting the highs and the lows with plenty of concrete examples to back their claims up. It seems that while the MacBook Air is a great step towards ultra-portable computing, overall the pricepoint is just too high. Which is not surprising from a new Apple gadget I guess.
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In-Depth Review of the MacBook Air With Photos

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  • by sayfawa ( 1099071 ) on Saturday January 26, 2008 @09:38AM (#22192760)
    I thought it was a well thought out review. Carefully worded to back up every statement so neither the fanboys or haters could jump all over him as being biased. Though some probably will. Only thing that irked me was how there were several lines that go something like "unlike most ultraportables, the MBA has..." or "also rare in an ultraportable is...". Well, who started calling this 13.3" thing an ultraportable anyway?

    Anyway, it did actually make clearer to me who would want this laptop.
  • Re:Banish DVD (Score:3, Insightful)

    by CastrTroy ( 595695 ) on Saturday January 26, 2008 @10:14AM (#22192948) Homepage
    Well, considering that 4 GB SDHC cards are common, and currently only cost $30, I think that eventually giant (by comparison) DVD media will disappear. Sure it's too expensive now, but give it 5 or 6 years. I still want something that doesn't get damaged by scratching like MiniDisc, or SD. Maybe some kind of bluray tech in a MiniDisc formfactor would be nice.
  • Re:Price-point? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by matt4077 ( 581118 ) on Saturday January 26, 2008 @10:21AM (#22192990) Homepage
    Percentage point has actual meaning. In fact, the media is quite good in getting it wrong, i. e.: "Today the FED raised interest rates by 0.25 percent".
  • by zakezuke ( 229119 ) on Saturday January 26, 2008 @10:31AM (#22193030)

    Well, who started calling this 13.3" thing an ultraportable anyway?
    It's under 5 pounds, and while it does have a larger than average foot print, it's pretty damned thin, and the fact that it uses that custom cpu, 1.8inch (thought it was 1.7) HD puts it into the ultra portable class.

    As I was discussing this with someone else, I would call it an ultra portable based on it's weight (sub 5lbs) and its thinness. For me, and keep in mind I'm not buying this, thinness represents more usable space savings. A 1/4 inch off the top to me means extra room for a couple of shirts or 75 to 150 sheets of paper. A 1/2 inch off the sides to me represents traveler sized shaving cream, tooth paste, perhaps a travelers brush and maybe a razor. The space crunch in my bag comes from thickness not width.

  • by JonathanBoyd ( 644397 ) on Saturday January 26, 2008 @10:31AM (#22193036) Homepage
    That article's a mess: poor grammar; photos that focus more on looking arty rather than providing information (the fourth one down is near useless); horrendous distortion in some of the shots (the second one down makes the screen look like it's melting); and attempts to make the writer look smarter by using fancy words that the writer doesn't even know the meaning of (you cannot have an eliolated [] CPU). If you can get past that though, the content's not bad. I'm curious about what battery life would be like with the brightness turned down, WiFi and BLuetooth off and just using Office/iWork for some actual work. Just using TextEdit I was able to get 8 hours out of my old iBook, but my MacBook can't stretch that far.
  • by Aphrika ( 756248 ) on Saturday January 26, 2008 @10:56AM (#22193198)

    News flash: portability is expensive
    Sort of... although I think thin is the expensive kicker here. The Asus eeePC is cheap and - dare I say it - a lot more portable and feature-laden than the Air (removable battery, 3 USB ports, ethernet).

    The other issue is that as the Mac hardware is essentially now the same as a PCs, there's not much stopping the likes of Sony from designing a similar form-factor laptop. Apple have proved the concept works, although I can envisage some people carrying around a bag of cables and adaptors to get the most out of it.

    On another note, I was interested to see how Intel shrunk the Core 2 for the Air - it seems they shrunk the PCB block rather than the chip die itself, which would make shrinking it a lot cheaper overall. Very nice work though - hopefully it'll encourage them to make their chips smaller overall in future.
  • Re:nice try (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Jeff DeMaagd ( 2015 ) on Saturday January 26, 2008 @12:31PM (#22193858) Homepage Journal
    Both systems make different compromises. MBAir has more memory and a lot more CPU power, but that blog post doesn't really seem to acknowledge that.

    The blog post you linked used some specious reasoning to show that the X1 is better at some of the comparisons. I think the X1 looks generally better, but the biases used to show that the X1 is better by a huge margin are as over the top as an Apple cheerleader's biases.

    I'll take just one example here. The calculation for "pixels per inch" is completely wrong and shows a fundamental misunderstanding of how it's measured. Ppi is a linear number, it's how many pixels you need to line up to make one inch, you don't take the number of pixels on the screen and divide it by its diagonal length like that blog did. For example, a common ppi for desktops is about 100, give or take a few. Notebooks might have ppi numbers of 100, 125, 150 and a few are a bit higher than that. But there are no notebooks with ppis in the tens of thousands. I think the X1 might still be better with that, but it's best to not use a false argument to reach a conclusion, even if the conclusion ends up being the same.
  • by shagoth ( 100818 ) on Saturday January 26, 2008 @01:14PM (#22194158) Homepage
    I was an Apple loyalist through the worst of times, I was first out the door to buy a Titanium laptop. I have diversified a lot in the last couple of years. Those things said, I really, really want to like the MacBook Air. It's a gorgeous machine. It evokes the same kind of visceral "must own" response that the original Titanium Powerbooks did. This machine makes too many compromises to be a primary machine for the serious poweruser or developer. No ethernet, no WWAN, no optical drive, no firewire and oddly no audio-in. In headier times, having one of these machines for sofa browsing would be great, but that's not where I am right now nor or most of the computing "professionals" that I know.

    It's hard to know the target market for this machine, though it's clear the machine was designed for Steve personally. I'm sure that this machine will look great sticking out of the designer backpack on the passenger seat of a new 3-series BMW that Mommy and Daddy bought for college commuting, but it's hard to relate to a market that far removed from the kind of office that has machines in varying states of assembly. The MBA is a glorious consumer machine but the slashdot crowd is not the core market for this product.

    Ultimately, the slashdot crowd isn't Apple's market at all and it's a happy accident for Apple that slashdot intersects with other products aimed at Apple's core demographics.
  • Misses the point. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by quibbler ( 175041 ) on Saturday January 26, 2008 @01:25PM (#22194234)
    As Engadget does too often for my taste, the review misses the point of this product entirely. Please pull your head out of the tech-sheets long enough to look at the thing as a 'product' not a 'laptop'

    The MacBook Air is not for old-school hardware-centric geeks. Its not for 'road warriors'. In fact, I think the crafty (doubtless purposeful) acronym "MBA" should tell you alot. This product is designed for management types, social types, the fringe of the tech-savvy users. I will go so far as to say if you don't love the MBA, you're not in the the target market group. All the MBA nay-sayers remind me of film critics panning a movie like StarWars saying how trite, contrived, overstated, and juvenile it is. The fact is that for millions (billions?) of people, StarWars is the magnum opus of film. If you don't agree, you're not wrong, worse you're just he wrong reviewer, and too tunnel-visioned to realize it.

    This article actually comes closest to the truth by repeating itself on how solid the keyboard/engineering 'feels'. Bingo! Two points. (I'd have to see the audio port in question- that sounds like a possible legitimate problem.) But look, the target market doesn't care about how much gigahurtses or how many RAMS it has... The target market for the MBA cares about looking really good at client meeting and having a beautiful, dependable machine. And by this measure, the MBA solidly delivers.

    The only competent criticism I've seen from this review (or really from any review) is the lack of 3G/Edge built in for always-on internet. While I'm sure it would be a great boost to the product and the image of the MBA to have it, I say with almost certainty that this was an issue with the carriers, not Apple's engineers.

    Finally a smidge about the tech: 2gb isn't enough for you? 2gb is overkill except for hardcore adobe geeks. I'm pleased they put that much in. MacBooks ship with 1gb, and almost nobody ever goes over 2gb. Remember, this is OSX, not Windows. Ethernet, HD, processor: all are ample for the aforementioned target market. No optical drive? for what? Who actually installs software after you buy the machine? Oh, I get one for $99? Should I buy two incase I need to install the software again? Are you familiar with the target market yet? This is a laptop for people who don't like computers, to love.
  • by constantnormal ( 512494 ) on Saturday January 26, 2008 @02:02PM (#22194534)
    In virtually every review of any computer, with few exceptions, the reviewer treats the product as if it is intended to be of general use by all computer users. The truth is that no computer is of general use for everyone. People don't complain that the OLPC is underpowered, or lacks a DVD burner -- it is obviously targeted at a specific market segment. A Macbook Pro is also targeted at a different market segment -- one that attempts to replace a desktop machine, while sacrificing little along the way. The Macbook targets the cost-conscious portable computer user, who needs a machine that does a bit of everything, sacrificing perfection for cost. It's a heck of a bargain, and sells accordingly. The MBA targets a different market segment.

    The MBA targets the upscale mobile user who needs a notebook for traveling, that sacrifices little in the uses one encounters while traveling. This would seem to hit the mark. How many people carry stacks of DVDs to watch while traveling? Especially when so much content is downloadable and with Apple pushing iTMS video rentals. I can easily see airport wifi video rental franchises catering to this market. Does it run Office? Yes -- either the OS X version of Office, or Windows via a variety of ways. Corporate email platforms supported? check.

    The horsepower seems perfectly adequate to me, as I surf the web and am typing this on a 1 GHZ iBook G4 (my desktop machine is a venerable Powermac G5 dual 2 GHz machine, something that is pretty close the the MBA in horsepower). The 1.6/1.8 GHz Core Duo seems admirably powered to me, perhaps not to a full-time gamer, but THAT'S NOT THE MARKET THIS IS TARGETING.

    If we compare the competition in this marketplace, the MBA seems very robust, with more horsepower, a better display, better keyboard, and a price that is comparable to its ultralite competitors as well. For a traveling business person, especially one with a corporate-supplied notebook, this would be a VERY desirable machine. Gotta have the corporate-approved Windows install? Install it via Boot Camp and run Windows, Apple is still happy to make the sale and get an entry into the corporate markets.

    Watch and see if these machines don't start showing up at business conferences, or accompanying CEOs on weekend golfing boondoggles via the corporate jet. Or with journalists (broadcast and print) who travel a lot. Heck, a significant amount of production feature film editing has been done using less capable notebooks than this in the not-too-distant past -- although no one would use a machine of this performance level today, when others are better suited to the task (it's a DIFFERENT MARKET).

    The biggest failure I can see, given the targeted market segment, is the lack of a cellular connection capability. And given that such a feature would lock one into a particular cellular network, I can understand the omission -- but a space to add such a card at a later time would have been nice.

    Fer the FSM's sake, pull yer heads out and quitcher moanin about it not being the machine made personally for YOU. That machine does not exist, and likely never will. It's why we look at what's available and choose what best suits our needs. Just because I have no use for an OLPC or a high-end GPU, does not mean that those things are doomed to failure, it only means that I have no use for them. Nothing more.

    If a given product satifies nobody's needs, or has a competitor that is superior in either price or fit, then it is in danger of failure. The Macbook Air is not.
  • by Daniel Dvorkin ( 106857 ) * on Saturday January 26, 2008 @03:16PM (#22195022) Homepage Journal
    Who cares what someone who packs his computer with toiletries thinks?

    An awful lot of people make frequent overnight or two-day business trips, for which packing one carry-on bag, including both computer and toiletries, makes the most sense. Of course you don't pack them in the same compartment, but a good multi-compartment laptop case designed for the frequent flier will allow you safely pack everything. And yes, in that case the thickness of the laptop is the limiting factor for how much other stuff you can take.
  • Re:Price-point? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by paulthomas ( 685756 ) on Saturday January 26, 2008 @04:31PM (#22195474) Journal
    I think the OP meant that these are in fact "percentage points." The financial press usually accurately presents this by giving information in terms of basis points, a scaled shortcut for "percentage points". This eliminates potential confusion that over whether you mean a change in the reported percentage number or a percentage change in the reported percentage number. That is, a 3 percentage point drop from 6% to 3% is actually a 50% drop in the rate.
  • by willy_me ( 212994 ) on Saturday January 26, 2008 @04:48PM (#22195592)

    Great comment, but I would like to make one observation.

    The biggest failure I can see, given the targeted market segment, is the lack of a cellular connection capability. And given that such a feature would lock one into a particular cellular network, I can understand the omission -- but a space to add such a card at a later time would have been nice.

    OSX can simply utilize a cell phone as a cellular connection via a bluetooth link. Since those who purchase a MBA will most likely already be carrying a cell with them, it's no big deal. One might however want to utilize a USB cable to ensure the cell doesn't run out of juice while in use.

  • by shmlco ( 594907 ) on Saturday January 26, 2008 @05:18PM (#22195776) Homepage
    "You can actually sell electronic gear on a level competitive with Dell, or anyone else. ... extremely cool, extremely well engineered electronics."

    Typical financial analysis from someone whose probably only managed and owned a paper route.

    The first point to consider is that if they concentrate on hitting Dell's price points they'll have to do the same as Dell and start going for the cheapest components they can find. They'll also have to cut R&D, design, and materials costs. As such, those "extremely well engineered electronics" will begin to be anything but.

    And speaking of R&D, one has to remember that Apple, unlike Dell, has an entire operating system division to support. Cut costs and reduce margins, and ultimately you begin to cut out all of those things that make a Mac a Mac.

    Next, what's wrong with being high-end? Do you see Lexus or Mercedes or BMW or Jaguar going after the econo-box market?

    Further, you're making a common assumption that the "make it up in volume" approach always applies. Making more machines means higher fixed costs, as you need more factories, suppliers, shipping, management, etc.. And I'm willing to bet that Apple is already getting the best deals possible from its suppliers. Besides, do you know how many more machines they'd have to sell to make up the difference if they cut prices 30%?

    Which leads us to the next point. You're assuming that price is the primary reason people aren't buying Macs. I mean, it can't be proprietary software needs, Window's requirements, comfort levels, corporate hardware requirements, existing software ownership, lack of games, or the "if it isn't broken too bad then there's no need to fix it" mentality.

    If the market isn't ready to switch, then cutting costs simply means cutting revenues.

    Finally, take a peek at Apple's stock performance vs. Dells []. I'd say they're competing quite well.
  • by itsdapead ( 734413 ) on Sunday January 27, 2008 @10:45AM (#22200026)

    The Asus eeePC is cheap and - dare I say it - a lot more portable and feature-laden than the Air (removable battery, 3 USB ports, ethernet).

    OK - I've got an EEE and am not particularly inclined to buy a MBA, but I'm not sure about "feature laden". You've picked out some strengths - Ethernet, USB ports, portability and removable battery* but rather neglected RAM (512M vs 2G), storage capacity (4G vs 80G), CPU power (630MHz x 1 vs 1.6GHz x 2), screen (800x480 7" vs 1280x800 13"), trackpad (tiny with scroll area vs. humungous with multi-touch), keyboard (tiny vs. full size) and Bluetooth (none vs. 2.1EDR)...

    Oh God, did I just try to compare specs on a £220 computer largely aimed at kids with a £1200 Apple aimed at jet-setters? The EEE is a credible "alternative strategy" if you want a second computer to travel with, but there's not much sense comparing feature lists - you'd use them in different ways.

The only function of economic forecasting is to make astrology look respectable. -- John Kenneth Galbraith