My (nearly) perfect computer

MacBook Air

The MacBook Air

Wow, did I make a good choice.

In late August I upgraded from my trusty 15″ MacBook Pro (late 2008) to a 11″ MacBook Air (mid-2011).  I was pretty nervous about the switch.  I’ve been the productive owner of a 17″ Power Book so this represented a fundamental change.

I am very glad I waited for the MacBook Air update AND positively delighted with the machine.  Specs as ordered:

2011 MacBook Air Specs
MBA Specs

Part of this transition included migrating from a 500GB drive (in the 15″ MBP) to the 256GB drive in the MBA.

Unfortunately, I was overly optimistic about my ability to downsize.  I found an awesome after-market upgrade in the Other World Computing OWC Mercury Aura Pro Express SSD upgrade drive.  I now have less space than before but having offloaded a bunch of long tail content (e.g., ten year old family photos) to a RAIDed network server at home I have a comfortable amount of storage.

It won’t surprise anyone who has or has considered getting a “netbook” that my list of concerns (in order) were:

  1. keyboard usability
  2. screen real estate
  3. battery life

Keyboard Usability

Though I had done my time at Best Buy and Apple stores fiddling with the 11″ MBA the proof is in using the machine regularly.  Despite knowing the keyboard dimensions and layout were identical to my Apple bluetooth keyboard I still had reservations.  I’m delighted to report that after four months the keyboard is perfect.

Screen Real Estate

I have two 24″ monitors on my desk (shout out to Screen Recycler) so screen real estate at the office is not an issue.

When I’m out and about the small size and weight of the machine way more than balance out the reduced screen real estate.  That said, I’ve noticed some applications and even websites are making assumptions about screen sizes.  I first noticed this on an HP netbook I bought a couple of years ago and again with the MBA.  Until now this has only been an annoyance and hasn’t stopped me from using any applications.

I’ve started using Spaces more.  I appreciate it’s utility when using a single physical screen.

Battery Life

Awesome.  Turn the display down a little and I can do email and surf for three to four hours.

Unexpected Upsides

  1. Speed: The speed with which this machine runs is absolutely amazing.  I am giving a lot of the credit to the SSD.  The dual i7s also get kudos but the SSD is crazy fast.  For my fellow Pythonistas out there I can configure and make Python 2.6.7 in 1m and 26s.  Wow…
  2. Instant boot:  the machine boots from cold before I’m ready to login.  For most of my purposes it eliminates the need to sleep the machine which I find contributes a bit to reduced reliability and spinning color wheels.
  3. Working on an airplane:  it’s now possible.  Good stuff!
  4. Wireless LAN speed:  I thought I’d be using the USB-Ethernet adapter a lot.  The WiFi chips in the MBA are pretty fast.  Just did a speed test (thanks Speakeast.net) and got 36Mbps both directions.

Conclusion

If you’re a business user (i.e., not a technical user for whom the screen size or slight CPU compromise is palpable) a MacBook Air should be on your list of machines to consider.

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