11" MacBook Air

Concept: 4 out of 5
Execution: 4 out of 5
Yeah, but: Soon to be known as "the old model."

The Long Version: Maybe I'm just old-fashioned, but I don't expect laptops to be fast. I expect them to be small. I don't really understand the whole "desktop replacement" monster laptop appeal; it seems like an expensive way to buy a computer that's neither fish nor fowl.

The 11.6" Macbook Air is definitely a fish.

There have been plenty of great reviews that look at the enclosure, construction, performance benchmarks, and all the rest of the specificity of the machine. I read them all, and now that I own one I don't care about any of it. Sure, I did spring for the ram upgrade and bigger SSD for the 1.6GHz model, but now that I have it none of the tech specs matter.

What does matter is that it's already connected to my home WiFi network by the time I have the lid open. It's usable from a cold boot after fifteen seconds. It weighs nothing, is happy in my Hadley Pro, and fits like a glove in a backpack that's so narrow that I have no trouble checking the traffic behind me when I'm on my bike. What really matters is that I consistently get five or more hours of web browsing, typing, music playing, and photo editing out of it. It's sprightly enough for any task that wouldn't be crippled by the small screen size – video editing wouldn't be any fun, for example – and although the screen is a little small, it's very good. This is no netbook.

This is the twenty-fifth review that I've written with my Air in the three months since I bought it, and it's made my prose clearer if less funny. (Editing will do that.) All of the images for my daily photo project have been run through Lightroom and uploaded from it, and I carry it with me on a regular basis. My previous laptop was a white 13" Macbook Amateur, and even though that's not a big machine, I would never have hauled around its five-pound self just so that I could do some writing during my lunch. Size absolutely matters, it's just that bigger isn't always better.

Like anyone who should consider the Macbook Air, I also have a desktop computer. It's connected to my scanners and printer, has terabytes of storage, and runs twin displays that are each bigger than my TV. No laptop is going to be a sensible replacement for that, so why try? Indeed, before I bought the Air I was shopping for one of those magical and revolutionary tablet computers, but fortunately I came to my senses in time. (No keyboard? How am I supposed to write anything?) Instead, I'm the fortunate owner of a computer that's powerful enough for me to do real work with and small enough to be with me when I need it. While putting my little AirBook next to a 17" MacBook Pro is good for a few laughs, I wouldn't trade machines.

One of those backlit keyboards would be nice, though.

last updated 24 july 2011


  1. Nerdy question: with two computers, how are you handling syncing any files between them? Like photos, for example? That was one of the things that drove me nuts when I tried having both a Macbook and an iMac; even with pretty nice online syncing tools, I just couldn't get into having to manage two computers.

  2. I rarely do the same thing on both machines, so moving files around hasn't been something I need to do very much. But I do have a cheap NAS drive on my Wifi network that I'll use for things like music and photos that I may want access to from both computers, or anything that I'm starting on one machine and finishing on the other.

    I'm also set up to be able to log in to each computer from the other, which can be handy for the occasional time when they're both running.

  3. the new macbook air has a backlit keyboard!! finally haha
    i'm seriously debating whether i should sell my yr-old 15" macbook pro for a macbook air..
    it's so heavy compared to my friend's air.. i'm so jealous

  4. The backlit keyboard is the one feature of the new Airs that I wish mine had. It looks like the battery might last a little longer, which is quite an accomplishment considering the improved processor performance, and the Thunderbolt port will surely be useful some day. But that keyboard - if I could spend a little money to have them update my current machine, I absolutely would.


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