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First evening with a MacBook Air: a quick review

3 min read

I've been using personal computers since before I could write my name, but grew up hating Macs. To me, they were expensive, style-fascist icons that represented a kind of elitism that I was allergic to. Computers should be for everybody, and I felt like the Mac represented an ideal of something that was only available to the wealthy. (We were not particularly financially wealthy when I grew up, but my parents always did make sure we had a computer, from the Sinclair ZX81, through an 8-bit Atari, to a series of MS-DOS PCs, and I learned BASIC and written English at more or less the same time.) I did finally buy a MacBook Pro a couple of years ago, but mostly because I'd managed to destroy the plastic casing of a series of PC laptops, and I realized I needed something made of metal. I drive my laptops hard.

So I want you to know that this comes from a position of non-fanboy-ness: the MacBook Air is astonishing.

It's only got 4GB of RAM, but I guess the solid state drive and high IO performance makes up for it, because it performs at least as quickly as my MacBook Pro with 16GB. The processor is also a little slower, but the only time this has revealed itself so far was when initializing Xcode for the first time, and it paused briefly. The ten hours of battery life - allegedly up to 15 on Mavericks - should more than make up for that. I don't think this is going to be a video editing workhorse, but guess what? I rarely edit video.

Where are its speakers? They're like magic, because the sound is far better than on my Pro, or any laptop I've ever owned, and I can't see them anywhere. Are they behind the keyboard? The sound just opens up and fills the room. It's fantastic. And the rest of the Air is silent. No fans, no nothing.

I'm installing all the usual development tools on it, of course, and I'll be using it as a development web server and everything else I could possibly need. The fact that I can do this with a machine that weighs under three pounds and has a battery that will last a transatlantic flight is a freaking revelation.

My MacBook Pro's wifi died this year, and it couldn't be replaced without a significant expense, so it's just become my new desktop machine. Don't feel bad for it: I expect I'll be using it for years to come (every other part of it works really well). But barring any major gotchas, an Air seems like a much better portable machine. I just wish it came with a retina display.