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.”