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You are here: MacNN Forums > Hardware - Troubleshooting and Discussion > Mac Notebooks > Seriously considering buying Macbook Air!

Seriously considering buying Macbook Air!
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Jul 30, 2008, 04:08 AM
 
Hey everybody!

Im going to start at a business school (Bachelor) late August 2008. In connection with this I have saved enough money to buy a notebook in the price level of a Macbook Air (the cheap one). I would like to know if I should spend all my hard earned money on this fantastic and indeed innovating notebook? I can't really get a clear picture of whether the notebook is more a gadget than a computer?? Could somebody help me listing the pros and cons for this notebook? My needs are; Low weight, Average speed, + battery time. Does the nbook fit my needs?

Is the notebook available in other colours than standard grey?

Cheers!
( Last edited by Airborn; Jul 30, 2008 at 04:26 AM. )
     
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Jul 30, 2008, 07:00 AM
 
Get it. It's a fantastic computer, which I am typing this message on as we speak
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Jul 30, 2008, 07:11 AM
 
Do search on this forum. Unlike other laptops from Apple this one is quite polarizing. There's little ground, people either love it or think apple made a huge mistake with the configuration, size, price etc.

Specification wise its similar to the MacBook, which you'll get more computer for less money.

AFAIK, the MacBook Air is not marketed as desktop replacement, so its limited in the number of ports it provides, i.e., no firewire, one usb slot. a slow low capacity 4200rpm hard drive.

its a wonderfully designed computer but certain sacrifices were made to make it so small and light. Those sacrifices need to be considered before purchasing it.

The MacBook Air comes in brushed aluminum only, the MacBook comes in white or black.
     
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Jul 30, 2008, 09:41 AM
 
Maflynn makes valid points.

From my perspective, I came to the MacBook Air from a PowerBook G4 15"

I have a firewire drive that I sold and got a USB 2 one for external storage, which I attach when I am at my desk (to a hub) which also has my iPod plugged in.

Your milage may vary, but I find this computer more than adequate for my needs (no intensive rendering or production).

The MacBook Air is a stunning computer, and perfectly fits your needs (Low weight, average speed, + battery time)
( Last edited by Naplander; Jul 30, 2008 at 09:45 AM. Reason: Read "his / her needs")
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Jul 30, 2008, 10:50 AM
 
Based on your criteria, the Air is a fine choice, but frankly, not one I would make. It is a beautiful design, but to achieve it, they made sacrifices. If you are ok with those decisions and are conscious of the repercussions, then go for it. In short, you are giving up significant hd space, firewire, additional usb ports, and the DVD drive... all for $700 more than the MacBook.

My .02....
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Jul 30, 2008, 01:48 PM
 
Yes it would be a great purchase.

But the MacBook is more powerful and its for less money, you could for instance buy an external hard drive, a bag, case, printer, external keyboard and mouse for less money than the MacBook Air.

That said if you are just looking for something to slip into your bag, perform relatively low intensive tasks such as word processing, web browsing, iCal etc. then the Air is a nice choice.

But its hard to sell someone a notebook for such a steep price when it can only ever contain 2GB's RAM compared to the MacBooks 4GB RAM. That said the notebook spec wise is MUCH lower potential wise and future proof wise than the MacBook. The only advantage comparing both baseline products is that you will get an extra GB RAM (which is cheap anyways) and the multi-touch keypad.
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Jul 30, 2008, 03:18 PM
 
The Air sounds right for you... I can get about 6.5 hours of note-taking like usage out of mine.

Originally Posted by kenna View Post
But the MacBook is more powerful and its for less money, you could for instance buy an external hard drive, a bag, case, printer, external keyboard and mouse for less money than the MacBook Air.
The MacBook is also bigger and heavier with shorter battery life.
     
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Jul 31, 2008, 03:01 AM
 
Actually, the MB is slightly less wide (12.78 vs. 12.8 inches) and less long (8.92 vs. 8.94 inches) than the MBA thanks to the ridiculously large bezel on the MBA. The only real size difference is that the MBA is thinner. The difference in weight is 2 lbs.

The MB offers a lot more performance and expansion options. Plus it's got a 4 GB RAM ceiling and an easily replaceable disk.

IMHO the MBA is not for somebody who uses "I have saved enough money to buy ... (the cheap one)" in his first sentence. That implies money is an issue in this purchase and in such a case the MB clearly offers lot more bang for buck. Especially, when all you can afford is the slower MBA. The MBA is indeed an awesome computer. It's just not mean to be your primary Mac. Rather a mobile companion if you already have another beefy Mac.
     
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Jul 31, 2008, 03:46 AM
 
Originally Posted by Naplander View Post
Get it. It's a fantastic computer, which I am typing this message on as we speak
Ditto.
     
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Jul 31, 2008, 03:47 AM
 
Originally Posted by Airborn View Post
Is the notebook available in other colours than standard grey?!
They come in any colour you like, as long as it is standard grey.
     
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Jul 31, 2008, 07:30 AM
 
As I mentioned, I believed its a beautifully designed computer but Simon hits the head on the nail. Its not a computer for everyone.
The max memory and hard drive size will be a huge constraint for many folks.

I own a MBP and I recently had to upgrade my hard drive from 160 to 320 because I ran out of space. The two larges culprits in my usage was iTunes and the Aperture Library. While the MBA is not geared for Aperture, 80 gigs can quickly disappear with today's applications and data.

Only the OP can determine if the MBA is right for him, personally I think its a great computer but the limitations have prevented me from even considering such a machine.
     
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Jul 31, 2008, 04:21 PM
 
IMO the Macbook Air is a poor choice for a student. Although it ranks high on transportability and coolness factor, it is a terrible value when compared to MBs on the lower end or to MBPs at similar price point. Just go to Apple's store website and compare complete specifications among all the laptops. Note for instance that MBAs only have USB2 connectivity, a very significant limiter because USB2 performs so poorly on Macs.

What a biz student needs needs most of all is overall flexibility in a laptop. Even if you never do graphics work, the extra screen real estate and pixel count of a MBP is a huge benefit for the spreadsheets that you will spend lots of time in. Also note that students generally use a laptop as a desktop replacement, and MBAs are weak boxes, sacrificing power and versatility for size.

Since you have the funds to be considering a Macbook Air I recommend that you go with a Macbook Pro, which is a much stronger tool and a far better value. MBPs will probably refresh in the September/October time frame, so you should be able to find a best-value refurbished MBP now. Note that students lose critical work all the time, so add at least one external FW 800 hard drive for daily backup and any time you are away from the backup drive and have more than a couple of hours of work that is not backed up burn a CD/DVD.

As a student I carried a laptop heavier than my current 17" MBP in a backpack, no problem. I do not think the small weight savings of the Macbook Air is worth all the lost power, flexibility and screen real estate. Whatever laptop you buy, max out the RAM via third party. One good source is OWC: http://otherworldcomputing.com/.

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( Last edited by SierraDragon; Jul 31, 2008 at 04:40 PM. )
     
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Jul 31, 2008, 04:57 PM
 
Originally Posted by mduell View Post

The MacBook is also bigger and heavier with shorter battery life.
Whilst it maybe heavier, I seriously think you'd have to be weak to notice the difference in lbs, if you look towards a backpack your not even looking at an extra books difference, weight really isn't that great a factor imo when the MacBook is light anyways.

That said as a secondary computer I think the Air is amazing and maybe if I had the extra cash I would have bought an iMac 3.06Ghz and an Air to go with it, but since cash is important for both myself and the thread starter I think a MacBook or MacBook Pro is the wise choice.
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Jul 31, 2008, 06:24 PM
 
To second kenna, laptops have gotten to the point (Apple laptops at least) where they are all pretty light.
I am a 5 foot female with a macbook that goes EVERYWHERE with me on campus. It is so light even when it is the only thing in my backpack I check twice to make sure it's in there.
As a business student, it will be very important for you to make good first impressions. One can certainly make an impression with a macbook air.

Some notes about my purchase:
-I only had enough money for the macbook and wanted ultra portability, as I said this thing goes everywhere with me (comp sci classes, chemistry lectures, computational research lab, chemistry labs, study groups, conferences, etc)
-I filled up the 120gb hard drive pretty quickly with projects, tv shows, etc, so being able to upgrade the hard drive (and the memory) on my own was a major money saver
-I dock my laptop to a 19in monitor, speakers, an external keyboard & mouse, and a usb hard drive for time machine. Consider the set up you have currently and make sure it will fit in the smaller number of ports in the macbook air.

I don't think buying the macbook air would be foolish, but you would get much more for your money with a macbook or macbook pro.
     
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Jul 31, 2008, 08:17 PM
 
Originally Posted by idykenano View Post
To second kenna, laptops have gotten to the point (Apple laptops at least) where they are all pretty light.
I´m going to third on this one. Nowadays the benefit of a lighter laptop is just marginal at best. Having said that, in my book is all about specs and form factor. Maybe the next story doesn´t apply to you, but recently I bought the entry level MBP (matte screen) for home use. I began to use it and figured it was just a bit big to use it on my lap while watching TV at bed (yeah, I know I sound like a grand pa). Well 2 weeks later I went back to the store and picked up an entry level MacBook, just because I could handle it a bit on the careless side (regardless of the weight!). The MBP isn´t seeing much action to tell you the truth and somehow I might regret buying it for the use it was supposed to do (I know, I screwed up on that one).

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Jul 31, 2008, 09:47 PM
 
I would say definitely go for a MacBook. As others have said, they're cheaper and more powerful. And even though they may not be as slick as the Air, it's not as if they're huge and bulky. They're very portable. I've even seen girls carry MacBooks around in their purses.
( Last edited by BoingoBongo; Jul 31, 2008 at 09:53 PM. )
     
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Jul 31, 2008, 10:19 PM
 
Originally Posted by Simon View Post
Actually, the MB is slightly less wide (12.78 vs. 12.8 inches) and less long (8.92 vs. 8.94 inches) than the MBA thanks to the ridiculously large bezel on the MBA. The only real size difference is that the MBA is thinner. The difference in weight is 2 lbs.
And at about twice as thick, that makes it substantially bigger. The MacBook is 70% heavier.

Originally Posted by Simon View Post
The MBA is indeed an awesome computer. It's just not mean to be your primary Mac. Rather a mobile companion if you already have another beefy Mac.
My MBA is my only Mac. I've got FreeBSD servers at work and a Windows desktop at home for the heavy lifting.

Originally Posted by SierraDragon View Post
MBPs will probably refresh in the September/October time frame, so you should be able to find a best-value refurbished MBP now.
The best value refurbs are just after an update, since they drop another generation and $200+ down on the price latter, not before.

Originally Posted by kenna View Post
Whilst it maybe heavier, I seriously think you'd have to be weak to notice the difference in lbs, if you look towards a backpack your not even looking at an extra books difference, weight really isn't that great a factor imo when the MacBook is light anyways.
Could I/he carry a 5-6 lb laptop? Certainly, I used to carry an 8lb laptop. Do I/does he want to carry the extra 2-5 lb? No.
Hopefully you can get your books as pdfs these days, making them nearly weightless.
     
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Aug 1, 2008, 03:53 AM
 
Originally Posted by mduell
And at about twice as thick, that makes it substantially bigger. The MacBook is 70% heavier.
I already posted the exact specs.

My MBA is my only Mac. I've got FreeBSD servers at work and a Windows desktop at home for the heavy lifting.
Precisely my point. Anybody who does more than web, mail, and Office needs more than just a MBA. If it's going to be your sole computer, you shouldn't get a MBA. If you have other beefier computers to do heavy work a MBA might be a nice mobile companion.

The OP clearly does not fall into that category. He's a student on a budget. He should get a MB or refurb MBP.
     
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Aug 1, 2008, 04:01 AM
 
Another angle. The MBA is limited to 2 GB RAM. If this is going to be your only computer and you plan on keeping it for more than a year, you need to get something else.

The cheapest MBA is $1799. It's a slow 1.6 GHz machine with 2 GB RAM and a measly 80 GB HDD.

The same money OTOH would buy you a 2.4 GHz MB with 4 GB RAM, a 250 GB HDD (not to mention Ethernet and FW400 next to just USB), and you'd still have an extra $300 to put towards AppleCare or any peripheral of your choice. Or, the same money would get you a refurb 2.4 GHz MBP with a much larger screen, 4 GB RAM, and a whole lot more expansion capabilities.

Seriously, you seem to be on a budget and getting this as your primary computer. A MBA would be a really bad choice in your case.
     
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Aug 1, 2008, 07:08 AM
 
I'd like to hear from the OP again and see what he's now thinking based on all of the opinions offered here.
     
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Aug 1, 2008, 03:59 PM
 
"The cheapest MBA is $1799. It's a slow 1.6 GHz machine with 2 GB RAM and a measly 80 GB HDD."

My how times have changed.

I remember when those specs would have been considered fantastic!

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Aug 1, 2008, 05:24 PM
 
If you love the form factor, have plenty of money, and don't need a screamingly fast machine, it's wonderful. I real joy to interact with.
     
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Aug 2, 2008, 08:35 PM
 
i use the Macbook Air as a main computer. It is such a step down from having a desktop or a Macbook Pro.

but for word processing and light light weight you can't beat it. I went with it for ultimate portability.

You can always attach extra drives and I think 2Gb is fine for a b-school student.
     
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Aug 2, 2008, 08:50 PM
 
Originally Posted by msuper69 View Post
"The cheapest MBA is $1799. It's a slow 1.6 GHz machine with 2 GB RAM and a measly 80 GB HDD."

Here they are, even less expensive, for $1699.99 if purchased by 08/04/08:

http://www.amazon.com/Apple-MacBook-...7724506&sr=1-1

They'll probably have more rebates immediately following this one too.
( Last edited by DCJ001; Aug 4, 2008 at 12:12 AM. )
     
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Aug 3, 2008, 12:08 PM
 
or with an EDU discount
     
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Aug 3, 2008, 04:44 PM
 
A lot of good points made here. I have owned a few mac notebooks including a macbook, but now im in the market again and the MBA just looks sooooo good lol... even if it lacks in other areas.
     
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Aug 4, 2008, 06:23 AM
 
Originally Posted by mduell View Post

Could I/he carry a 5-6 lb laptop? Certainly, I used to carry an 8lb laptop. Do I/does he want to carry the extra 2-5 lb? No.
Hopefully you can get your books as pdfs these days, making them nearly weightless.
Well you've just answered the question for him, I think its important for the threadstarter to make that decision on his own by weighing up weight to performance ratio, i'm pretty sure if the Air was your only computer you'd be annoyed come a years time when the specs are low for the industry standard; especially considering the 2GB maximum RAM slot considering 8GB is soon to be/is a possibility.

Therefore I agree with everything Simon has stated in the thread, he also converted my laptop want from a MBP to a MB. I'm completely satisfied that he did, I love the MB.
( Last edited by kenna; Aug 4, 2008 at 06:31 AM. )
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Aug 4, 2008, 05:27 PM
 
Originally Posted by kenna View Post
Well you've just answered the question for him, I think its important for the threadstarter to make that decision on his own by weighing up weight to performance ratio
And in the first post he says "My needs are; Low weight, Average speed".
     
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Aug 4, 2008, 07:55 PM
 
Originally Posted by mduell View Post
And in the first post he says "My needs are; Low weight, Average speed".
True, but he also asked for the pros and cons and stated he could only afford the bottom of the range Air, so whilst he will get what he asked for an love the Air, he may also want to consider future proof performance and so people are just offering him advice.

The Air is a great machine, I think thats the first line of my first post in here

*edit* "great purchase"
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Aug 5, 2008, 04:29 AM
 
I think it's important to point out that the OP is obviously on a budget and buying a single computer. The MBA is neither a low-cost computer nor an adequate sole computer.

It is my understanding that this thread is not about how good or bad the MBA is, but if it is the right or wrong computer for the OP.
     
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Aug 5, 2008, 07:42 AM
 
Originally Posted by Simon View Post
this thread is not about how good or bad the MBA is, but if it is the right or wrong computer for the OP.
It seems that all MBA thread degrade into this argument.
     
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Aug 5, 2008, 08:20 AM
 
Originally Posted by MacosNerd View Post
It seems that all MBA thread degrade into this argument.
Yeah, somehow the MBA polarizes a lot. I guess it has something to do with people's expectations when it came out. Many had longed for a 12" MBP, others wanted a MB lite, again others wanted an Apple EeePC. In the end we got a product geared at a very specific crowd at the upper end of the price spectrum. Lots of disappointed people on the low-end.

Anyway, personally I think the MBA is a very nice computer. I really like it a lot. Regardless of that, it is not the ideal Mac for some people. And I strongly believe it all but ideal for the OP.
     
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Aug 5, 2008, 11:30 AM
 
As an academic who bought an MBA four months ago, I read this post with interest, worried that I was going to be proved to have made a mistake. Nothing I have seen does that, and so I would like to recommend to the thread-starter that you do go for the MBA.

I use text editors/word processor, internet, email, photos, music, video watching.
I have found the MBA absolutely up to the task. Yes, it may not be 'as much computer' as you could get for the same price, but I don't need all the power of a MBP, and would have thought that the same thing would hold for you.
As for the ports - I was worried about this to begin with. This is my only computer. I bought a superdrive and have found it useful to have around. But I have noticed how rarely I need it. I have a hub on my desk for my printer, external hard drive, ethernet connection and iphone. Most of these would be manageable in other ways eg wirelessly with the right devices.
The main advantage of it is its portability. The thinness really does make a difference. Before I would think twice before taking my laptop round with me. Now I take it everywhere. You can also use it in more places - eg I could use it on the tiny table of an airplane. My boyfriend has a MBP so it has been easy to compare. I think that the MBA should appeal to more users, but we are all tricked into thinking we have to have the maximum processing power etc. etc. that we can buy, when I don't think that's necessarily always a good thing.
I have found the MBA a joy to use and own. The worries I had before I had it - eg too few ports, too small screen and too little processing power were quickly dispelled.
Enjoy whichever one you go with!
     
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Aug 6, 2008, 02:36 PM
 
Jo offers an interesting alternate view!

Funny thing is that i'm unsure the threadstarter even cares, he's not been back since he made the thread!
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Aug 14, 2008, 10:21 AM
 
Originally Posted by Andy8 View Post
Ditto.
ditto!!!

I luv mine underpowered as it is
     
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Aug 14, 2008, 03:09 PM
 
Listen. The Macbook is not heavy or big.

The Macbook is portable, and amazingly fast, has a big hard drive, looks nice, has more ports, AND IS CHEAPER!

The Macbook Air has one USB and doesn't have an optical drive. It comes with low RAM and a small Hard Drive.

Get the Macbook. It's incredible, portable, cheaper, and future-proof.
     
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Aug 14, 2008, 10:57 PM
 
I'll make the decision even easier- if its your only computer - MB

If you have a desktop already - MBA!

Apple made this computer for someone who has a computer already and needs something for on the road - presentations or doing light duty research.
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Aug 15, 2008, 01:18 AM
 
What about podcasting? I read that the MBA overheats badly when doing things like that, or video editing.

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Aug 15, 2008, 04:01 AM
 
Originally Posted by starman View Post
What about podcasting? I read that the MBA overheats badly when doing things like that, or video editing.
What does "overheats badly" mean? Gets hot like a MacBook Pro? Or crashes?
     
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Aug 15, 2008, 04:21 AM
 
The Macbook Air is cool. I love it, but I promise you will not regret buying a Macbook. You can use the spare money then to buy something nice instead of wasting everything on a slower computer with no optical drive and one USB port.

The Macbook has the best value out of all Macs.

Get it, you won't regret it.
     
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Aug 15, 2008, 04:42 AM
 
Originally Posted by applesbiggestfan View Post
Listen. The Macbook is not heavy or big.
Compared to the AirBook, it is.
Although I don't own one (I own a 15" ProBook), the difference feels as significant as going from my first laptop (a real laptop, the PowerBook G3 Kanga) to my 12" dual-USB iBook in terms of size.

I'm still tempted to get an AirBook as the next machine, even though I need a fast GPU for Aperture and more than 2 GB RAM. Plus, I don't like RAM that's soldered onto the mainboard (that's what killed my PowerBook G3).
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Aug 15, 2008, 09:30 AM
 
On the MBA "overheats badly" for most people means that it gets so hot that it first shuts down one core and then drops the CPU clock to the point where it becomes slow as molasses. It has been reported countless times on this board. The early firmware update changed the fan threshold which somewhat mitigated the problem, but it's still there and people still suffer from it. Especially when they use the MBA in hot places.

I had hoped that Apple would go with the SL series of 22 mm package Penryns to fix the issue. Unfortunately marketing will probably rule that out since it won't allow Apple to advertise higher clock speeds (even though these SL Penryns would be faster than the current MBA CPUs, they would still come with 1.6 and 1.86GHz CPU clocks). And also all current rumors are suggesting Apple is going for higher clock rather than lower TDP. The most likely candidates now seem to be the SP series. At 25W TDP they will run quite a bit hotter than the current MBA CPUs. Bummer if you were hoping for a cooler MBA with more battery life.
( Last edited by Simon; Aug 16, 2008 at 08:34 AM. Reason: spelling)
     
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Aug 15, 2008, 02:05 PM
 
Originally Posted by Simon View Post
I had hoped that Apple would go with the SL series of 22 mm package Penryns to fix the issue. Unfortunately marketing will probably rule that out since it won't allow Apple to advertise higher clock speeds (even though these SL Penryns would be faster than the current MBA CPUs, they would still come with 1.6 and 186GHz CPU clocks). And also all current rumors are suggesting Apple is going for higher clock rather than lower TDP. The most likely candidates now seem to be the SP series. At 25W TDP they will run quite a bit hotter than the current MBA CPUs. Bummer if you were hoping for a cooler MBA with more battery life.
I saw this coming when Intel released their spec sheets and I have mixed feelings on it.
They could save 3W (20->17) and go with the 1.86Ghz part (plus the ~10% generational efficiency impovements) or burn another 5W and get all the way up to 2.4Ghz. Given how Apple likes to push CPU clockrate I somewhat expect them to do the latter, but I still have hopes they'll move toward countering Dell in the "run all day" market and do the former.
     
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Aug 16, 2008, 08:37 AM
 
The question is if Apple will use the SP9300 on the high end and use the SL9400 on the low end or if they will go SP on both. In the former case I'd recommend people go with the lower end because of the heat and battery life. But I have this bad feeling it's going to be SP9300 and SP9400 only. Hot MBAs coming up.
     
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Aug 16, 2008, 07:30 PM
 
FWIW - My son has the first generation Macbook and the lack of hard drive space really bugs him. (What is it 60GB 80GB?)
It was fine for a bit but it spawned new interests (photos mainly plus music) and now he finds the lack of space of space a real problem.
So - even if it is "just for school" be aware that the hard drive space may be problematic.
Best of luck whatever way you go.
     
   
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