Thin Is In

The New 11" MacBook Air

For years I relied upon desktop computers, but I’ve used three different styles of Dell laptop computers at work over the years and a laptop has been my main machine at school for seven years.  At home I’ve owned laptops from Toshiba and Averatec and on the road I rely upon a small Asus netbook or my iPad and, of course, my iPhone.  This is in, and if I’m not careful that will be true for my wallet as well.

I love the diminutive size of my 10″ netbook and use it to edit photos and videos and create blog posts when I’m out on a day hiking trip.  But some of its inherent compromises chafe. The keyboard is slightly smaller than normal and, more troublesome, the screen resolution is 1024 x 600 instead of the 1024 x 768 most software and websites expect.  That creates a lot of unnecessary scrolling.  And, even when overclocked, the Atom processor and slow hard disk are real bottlenecks.

I made a project of selling books, CDs, and DVDs earlier this year to pay for a decked-out Apple iPad.  And it is wonderful to carry about the house for reading news, web browsing, and the like.  I don’t find it useful for productivity, however, as it lacks the physical keyboard and applications I need for my photo, video, and blogging work on trips.  It is a consumption tool.  But it was invaluable for accessing my electronic program guide at a recent National Science Teachers Association conference in Kansas City, and I used Google Calendar with it to plan my sessions and keep up with school emails, etc.  In recent months I found I wasn’t using the 3G service on my iPad, so I let it lapse, although I re-upped for a month while in Kansas City since WiFi access in the convention center was spotty.

For my day hiking trips I would love to have a small netbook that had the style, build quality, and instant-on features of the iPad while providing a full-size physical keyboard, software applications, and good screen resolution.  And Apple has created just such a machine – at an Apple price.

The first generation of the thin MacBook Air was intriguing but clearly underpowered and overhyped.  So although I’d like to get a Mac someday (with dual-boot to Windoze), it did not tempt me at all.  But the second generation is another story.

The new 11″ MacBook Air is almost as thin as my iPad and a couple of inches longer.  That’s a great size for travel and the machine boasts a full-size keyboard, big glass trackpad, and full-resolution screen with a five-hour runtime on a charge.  They used a lower-voltage processor, however, which hampers its performance.  But then they compensated with a solid-state 64 GB or 128 GB flash drive system.  That’s pricey, but eliminating the bottleneck of a Winchester hard disk is a big boost.

So I’m seriously considering a visit to an Apple Store soon to try out the 11″ Air.  Quality comes at a price premium, however, with this thin wedge of aluminum costing anywhere from $1100 to $1600 depending on upgrades.   I could buy two or three highly rated Windoze netbooks at that price!  But its features might just win me over if I can find a way to slim down the net cost.  My remaining old computers and stereo components aren’t worth much on the used electronics market, although I still have a few hundred books I’ll probably never reread which I could try to sell.

Or maybe I should just stick with my Windoze netbook, buy a lottery ticket, and dream.  As Spock once said, “After a time, you may find that having is not so pleasing a thing after all as wanting.  It is not logical, but it is often true.”

About Granger Meador

I enjoy day hikes, photography, podcasts, reading, web design, and technology. My wife Wendy and I work in the Bartlesville Public Schools in northeast Oklahoma, but this blog is outside the scope of our employment.
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