My Take on the MacBook Air After 30 Days

I have been quietly using the new MacBook Air for the last 30 days. I haven’t written about it until now, because, frankly I didn’t know if I would like it. However, after using it for 8–12 hours a day over the last month, I can honestly say it is the best computer I have ever owned.

Someone Holding the MacBook Air

When Steve Jobs announced the new Air computers on October 20, 2010, I was intrigued. While I have always been impressed by this model’s size, I couldn’t imagine it replacing my beloved MacBook Pro. I saw three major obstacles:

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  1. Hard Drive. I have a lot of media files—112GB of music and 60GB of photos. I had already upgraded my MacBook Pro’s hard drive to 500GB. I couldn’t figure out how to cram all of this into the Air’s maximum drive size of 256 GB.
  2. RAM Memory. I also had 8 GB of RAM on my MacBook Pro. I keep a lot of programs open and often use large memory-intensive programs like Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator. The most RAM you can get on the Air is 4GB, so I figured the Air would slow to a crawl.
  3. Screen Size. I use a 27″ Cinema Display at work, so even my MacBook Pro’s 15″ screen seemed like a compromise. I had become used to it, but I couldn’t imagine going down to the Air’s 13″ screen.

However, two of my power-user friends, John Saddington and Michael Sliwinski, had bought the new MacBook Air and were raving about it. It fact, they were gushing that it was the best computer they had ever owned. So I decided to take a second look.

I purchased the 13″ Air with 256GB flash drive, the 2.13GHz processor, and 4GBs of RAM. I also bought a G-Technology 320GB G-DRIVE slim Portable (i.e., external) USB Drive. It was only $99.95 and matched the fit and finish of the Air.

The first thing I did was relegate all my media—music, photos, and movies—to the G-Drive. When I analyzed my usage, I realized that I didn’t need constant access to these files, especially since I keep my favorite music on my iPhone and only access my photos once a week or so. Everything else fit on the Air’s drive, and I currently have 122GB of drive space free.

Here’s what I love about the Air:

  • It’s incredibly light and thin. It weighs less than 3 pounds and is only .68 inch thick. In fact, for overnight trips, I have stopped carrying a briefcase. I just tuck it in the outside flap of my Eagle Creek Tarmac 22 carry-on bag. Ryan Bingham, George Clooney’s character in Up in the Air, would be proud of me.
  • The battery lasts a long time. Apple says “up to 7 hours.” In my experience it is 6–8 hours, depending on what I am doing. I no longer have to take an airline power cord, except for international flights.
  • It is really fast. This surprised me. The processor is only rated at 2.13GHz. My MacBook Pro is 2.66GHz, yet the Air feels much faster. This is probably due to the flash drive, which makes programs and files load faster.
  • It boots in less than 45 seconds. If the computer is completely off, from the time I press the on switch to the time I get the login screen is 15 seconds. After entering my password, everything is loaded and ready to go in another 30 seconds. The amazing thing is that this includes nine background apps (e.g., Alfred and Typinator) and the six major apps (e.g., Apple Mail and Google Chrome) that I use in my normal workflow.
  • Big programs and multiple programs run fine. I still use Photoshop and Illustrator and can’t tell any difference. Granted, I don’t edit very complex files, but having half the memory on the Air as compared to my MacBook Pro has turned out to be a non-issue. I also still run as many programs concurrently as I used to with no noticeable degradation in performance.
  • The screen size is just fine. I noticed a difference during the first couple of days, but I quickly got used to the new size. In fact, I haven’t thought about it until I started writing this post. When I speak, I almost always use a Keynote slide deck. This works no differently on the Air. I plug the Air into the projector using a Mini DisplayPort to VGA Adapter. The display is the same as the MacBook Pro, albeit a tad smaller.

The only thing I really miss from the MacBook Pro is the backlit keyboard. This is really nice in low-light situations like an airplane at night. Other than that, the Air has completely replaced my previous computer. (By the way, I don’t use a desktop computer. This is my sole machine.)

If you are in the market for a new laptop, I recommend taking a look at the Air, especially if you have been considering the MacBook Pro. In addition to the benefits I listed above, it is also about 30% cheaper. I can’t imagine going back to a bigger machine.

Question: Have you considered the MacBook Air? You can leave a comment by clicking here.
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  • http://www.facebook.com/skadi696 Skaði Meic Beorh

    I am a published author (small presses with no escrow to secure NY Times bestsellers) who has been fortunate enough to always have a computer to work on… well, since 2000. Previously, I used a typewriter, and before that, for six years I wrote it all down in notebooks. I am seriously praying about getting a MacBook Air. I appreciate very much your article on this product.

  • Rhett Grant

    PCs vs Apple and vice versa.  I am sure there are good things about both OSs.  I started out with a Commodore 64 and then graduated to a McIntosh Plus.  Over the years, my 3 children all have apple products and I jumped to PCs.  Now I am jumping back to Apple.  I have been using the iPad 2 and I am seriously considering the new Mac Airbook because of its outstanding portability and processor performance and flash drive.  With all the critics about Apple recently, I find it odd that the Autocad Developers (Autocad a very robust program) use Apple products to enhance the capabilities of Autocad!  Keep up the good work Apple and PCs! 

  • Sara

    Hi can you please tell me what the best accessory to get for this would be as a gift for someone who owns one? Thanks

  • Curls

    Im currently at war with myself. The sensible side says imac 27. The heart, the person inside craves for the SSD performance of the macbook air coupled with a cinema display. Im a web designer / graphic designer / design lad. Nothing mega mega processor intensive, I spend most of my time flipping between applications…Im just thinking that SSD will have the edge over the imacs hdd?

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      I can’t speak for the iMac 27. I have never used one. The SSD performance is awesome. It makes the whole computer feel really fast.

  • Daniel Miguel Villa

    Thanks for the encouraging comment. Now if only my wife says “ok”….

  • r k

    I never wanted an Air. My mind was set on MBP 15. Until I saw the Air with my own eyes and touched it. Now I am real confused. I still bought the MBP 15. I want to do lot graphic stuff, I’ll be using Photoshop and other related stuff a lot. So people keep telling me I made the right choice by getting this. I shouldn’t change it. MBA won’t be able to handle it. But they have the same RAM size. 

    True, I only want it because of it’s slickness. And I’ll probably carry it with me more, if I get it.. I wont carry the 15 inch much. Tell me why I should keep my MBP and not swap it. Or tell me why I should. (other than the obvious no CD/DVD, Less GB, and smaller screen). I only have few days left. HELP! 

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      I have an MBP. It is great. However, I also have a MBA and love it. I have used the MBP in a couple of months. I can do everything on the MBA, including Photoshop. Because of the flash drive, it seems much faster.

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  • Rabbitwild

    Yes, I have a new 11″ macbook air, it has 1.6Ghz processor, 128Gb flash memory and 4Gb RAM, it has a backlit keyboard, the new ones with the Sandy Bridge come with this now.  It is the fastest computer I have ever used, I was told that because the operating system is so much better on a Mac, that it’s like having a 3.8Ghz processor on a PC.  I love it!

  • Andrew

    Michael, 

    What bag do you use now for your daily work? I’m looking for a bag to carry my 11″ MB Air, iPad 2, a couple of file folders, and power cabling. Wondering if you have any suggestions?

  • Cfeddema

    what about the 11″ air? Do you think this screen is too small?

  • Vee

    I bought my first Mac a week ago and went with the 13″ Macbook Air.  I was totally LOST from the time I turned it on and just stared at it for 5 min thinking WTH is this and WHY did I do this?  Well, I went to my PC and downloaded some information.  After one week, I’m addicted to my Mac and I’m learning how to use it quite easily as “reading is fundamental”.  I also purchased my first ever iPhone (4s) and an apple TV.  I not now addicted to Apple products.  Like some of you, I’m using my PC now to watch HuluPlus and read that that’s on it’s way through Apple TV.  My PC with Windows 7 crashed all of the time when I had to sync certain items using the USB.  And the connection time before I could begin to work was so long that I could fix a dinner plate while waiting.  Also, on the PC, Explorer loads these long scripts which freeze the applications.  So unproductive.  I am a VERY pleased Mac convert!! 

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  • Ditech

    Just got one, hope it works out like you said. I like to have a computer on me wherever I go and also tend to run many programs all at once so I may need to get a flash drive..If it helps. Thanks for sharing this info!

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  • Robert Mathenge

    this is great mike, i just got an air for the new year’s and it’s awesome..though the HD is 120 GB but the ram is 8 GB and the processor is 1.8 Ghz i5 intel processor, but I store a lot of my stuff online, so it’ prefect, I can’t believe how light it is ….

  • http://www.sunganani.com/ Sunganani L. Manjolo

    I hope you have back up for your machine as it is the only one! Thanks for this review. I am working on migrating from windows to Mac

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      I have multiple backups, onsite and off.

      • http://www.sunganani.com/ Sunganani L. Manjolo

        Just checking. It can be a nasty experience to try and recover data.

        • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

          Been there. Done that. That’s why I have so many backups. ;-)

  • Funkygnarly

    After going through several Toshibas and Dells, I finally convinced my husband it was worth the somewhat hefty (on our budget) price tag to switch to the Mac Book Air.  I am in love… I’m currently an online student and the portability of this laptop versus others I’ve had in the past is outstanding.  The speed can’t be beat either.  The only drawback I’ve encountered is that I had recently bought Office for my Toshiba and I really don’t want to buy it again for the Mac.  I will NEVER go back to a Windows based PC or laptop.  

  • jfrink1

    I know this article is old, but it was really helpful! Thank you!

  • ahmed

    well i just bought it last night