MacBook Air first impressions

I’ve been a die-hard user of Apple’s MacBook Pro since the first ones came out back in 2006. Prior to that, I used the older style G4 Powerbook. I’m a linux / command line person at heart, and I prefer Apple’s approach to the operating system for many reasons.

Recently, as no surprise to those who know my klutzy ways, I dropped my MacBook Pro 15″ – I’d only had it about a year. To say “dropped” would be an understatement. I fell while coming into my office, and rather than skewer myself on some equipment, I decided to throw the MacBook and save my own life. In reality, again as no surprise to those who know me, my life was never at risk. Sure seemed like it at the time… So, the MacBook went flying, hit the hard corner of the desk several times as it flipped over and down onto some other hard surfaces, then finally the floor. The screen cracked, one corner of the unibody case was flattened from the normal curve to a sharp edge, there were two large dents in the top near the Apple logo, and there were parts inside that sounded loose.

Thankfully I had a full backup from earlier in that day, so I was safe there. So, I needed a new primary system. Timing worked out that the new MacBook Air came out about 2 weeks after the fatal accident. I placed my order for the 13″ 2.13Ghz system with 4GB RAM and 256GB SSDs as soon as I could. It took a few days for it to be built and shipped, and arrived while I was on a business trip.

So far, I’m very happy with the system. I had converted my MacBook Pro to use two Intel SSD’s, and had done similar conversions on all of my work machines. The speed that an SSD adds is well worth the upgrade, not to mention the heat reduction, battery life increase, and noise reduction. The “flash memory” in the MacBook Air is extremely fast, and has more than enough space for my critical data. The screen is awesome in such a small package. I can do all of my terminal sessions, remote desktop, web browsing, and email without having to jockey too much around. The speed of the system hasn’t been an issue for anything other than flash based videos, which tend to send both CPU cores up to 80-90%.

Even when the system is working hard, I never notice much heat through the chassis – it has been 100% quiet – never have heard a fan of any kind, although I see one in the diagrams that are available on the ‘net. The keyboard and mouse are essentially identical to the MacBook Pro with one exception – the backlighting. I was disappointed to find out that the Air doesn’t have backlit keys, but so far it’s not been a huge problem.

The two amazing things that I am still in awe of are the battery life and the weight. I knew it was going to be light, but it still seems so much lighter than I would expect. I can hardly tell whether it’s in or out of my bag. For the computing power and convenience, it’s amazing how light it is.

The battery life is what has impressed me the most. I can go a whole day of my normal computing schedule on one charge. This means at least 5 hours of usage, potentially more depending on what’s going on. I used to carry the larger MacBook Pro charger with extension cable everywhere, and it always got in the way in my bag. Now I don’t even carry a charger because I know I will have enough battery for everything I need.

This is the best system I’ve owned since the first MacBook Pro came out in 2006. I hope that the trend everyone seems to be talking about continues, and that Apple comes out with even more portable and longer running systems of similar type.

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