Product Review: MacBook Air

12 Feb 2008

My mother always told me it’s the little things in life that count. She probably didn’t mean to extend this to one of the lightest and slimmest laptops on the market but when I set eyes on the MacBook Air I knew she was right.

Apple’s MacBook Air is total eye candy. The impossibly slim and super stylish aluminium-encased beauty with its 13.3-inch widescreen drew jealous stares everywhere I went. This must be what it’s like to drive a Lexus with Brad Pitt in the passenger seat.

You cannot help but wonder how Apple can manage to provide this functionality when the MacBook Air feels as light as a feather.

At 3lbs it literally feels like you are holding no more than a bundle of papers: the perfect mobile companion.

Beauty aside you don’t want to shell out €1,700 unless it has the performance to match and, admittedly, first impressions leave you somewhat conflicted.

While it packs a punch as an ultra-compact notebook with a full-size keyboard and generously-sized screen, you can’t help but instinctively look for the DVD drive and various I/O ports, such as digital media card slots.

This machine is, as Apple says, for the wireless life. There is no optical drive and a single USB port is hidden away beside a DVI port for a projector or external display screen and a headphone connection.

If you need to use DVDs you will have to pay for a SuperDrive, which costs €89 and if you use an Ethernet cable to connect to the internet, you are going to have to pay €29 for the USB Ethernet adapter.

While the SuperDrive is lightweight, it is not something you want to carry around, dangling from your MacBook Air.

However, many people will have a wireless network set up in their home or use Wi-Fi hotspots in public places for their internet connectivity and Apple could be seen as being ahead of its time in adapting the laptop to what will undoubtedly be the future of web access.

Once you have a wireless network you can also transfer over all your data seamlessly to the MacBook Air and if you need to install software from a DVD you can always wirelessly network with a PC or laptop that has an optical drive and install this way.

What sold the MacBook Air for me was the little innovations like the Multi-Touch function.

Using your mousepad you can rotate pictures onscreen by rotating your fingers. If you want to resize pictures, text or icons pinching your fingers together or pulling them apart will do it.

This is a nice ergonomic touch for those who find the text in web browsers too small to read without squinting, as is the backlight keyboard that lights up when it detects a drop in light levels.

Aside from the lack of a DVD drive, I really felt I was getting the user experience of a powerful top-end laptop that did not have to make any compromises despite weighing a mere 3lbs.

The MacBook Air may be a good option for someone looking to replace their ageing laptop but is not ideal as a first buy: you will not find it so easy to install software or transfer any digital media you have stored on DVDs.

I think the mobile power user is most certainly the target consumer.

Pros: Weighs 3lbs, full-size screen and keyboard

Cons: No optical drive or Ethernet connection

Price: €1,700

By Maire Boran