MacBook Air's thinness, flash drive point to notebook future

Its basic concept--a relatively high-performance notebook PC in an incredibly thin and lightweight package--will be copied by all the major notebook suppliers.

After using the solid-state-drive version of the MacBook Air for about 10 days, the notebook's potential is what sticks with me the most. The seminal construction and the influence this will have on future designs is what sets the Air apart.

Note: This is not a CNET review. The Apple MacBook Air CNET review is here. What follows is a brief personal observation, not a review.

In day-to-day use, I am impressed by the Air's boot times (under 30 seconds), resume times (instantly from sleep mode), and lack of hard-drive "thrashing" that occurs invariably on my HP laptop when running many applications (including development environments) over a period of days. Admittedly, none of these three are mind-blowingly better than my HP (Core 2 Duo, 3GB of memory, 7200-rpm hard-disk drive) but they are a big enough improvement to make a difference.

MacBook Air
MacBook Air Apple Computer

MacBook Air solid state drive
MacBook Air solid state drive Apple

As to benchmarks, I would concur with the benchmarks done at Bare Feats. Their conclusion: "The MacBook Air's 64GB [SSD] excels in small random reads and writes. That explains why it boots so fast, wakes so fast, and launches apps so quickly...When it comes to sequential READS, it beats the HDD significantly in medium to large transfers...The weakness with the SSD lies in the sequential write speed." Subjective use bears out the fast read times. But, to be honest, I've never been able to notice any difference between my HP and the Air in write speed.

The main point of this post, however, is what the MacBook Air augurs. The Air is no doubt the first of many svelte SSD-based notebooks to come from a host of manufacturers. And solid-state drives will only get cheaper, bigger (in capacity), and faster in the coming years. I believe Intel when it says: "The interface sequential performance for SSDs can be designed so that the only limitation comes from the selected storage interface (SATA 1.5 or 3.0Gb, USB 2.0 400MB/s, or SAS 3.0Gb)." In other words--as Intel goes on to say--SSDs can saturate the read and write bandwidth of the interface, which hard disks cannot necessarily do.

Needless to say, the design of the Air is irresistible. Its basic concept--a relatively high-performance notebook PC in an incredibly thin and lightweight package--will be copied by all the major notebook suppliers. Even with the Air's well-publicized shortcomings (which I won't repeat here), that's a good thing.

About the author

Brooke Crothers writes about mobile computer systems, including laptops, tablets, smartphones: how they define the computing experience and the hardware that makes them tick. He has served as an editor at large at CNET News and a contributing reporter to The New York Times' Bits and Technology sections. His interest in things small began when living in Tokyo in a very small apartment for a very long time.


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