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Laptops

MacBook Air. Apple’s best product ever

The Air is marking its 10th anniversary and I'm celebrating the one Apple product that's never let me down.

Technically Incorrect offers a slightly twisted take on the tech that's taken over our lives.


A trusted friend.

Sarah Tew/CNET

I take it for granted.

I know you aren't supposed to do that in relationships, but, in this case, I suspect my MacBook Air is flattered.

How many tech products can you rely on without thinking?

How many have you ever relied on?

iPhones? Hah. I've smashed the screens once or twice. They've stopped working too. And when I took them to the Apple store, the verdict was always the same: they have water damage.

Water coincidence that this meant I'd need a replacement, I thought at the time.

Apple didn't immediately respond to a request for comment about the prevalence of water-damaged iPhones. 

My MacBook Air, on the other hand, has never faltered. Not once.

Which, frankly, is odd for a product that celebrated its 10th birthday yesterday.

No, I haven't had the same Air for 10 years.

In fact, I first bought the 2010 version, one that was a little more developed that the original.

But not once has a MacBook Air of mine simply given up the ghost and let its spirit fade into the ether.

This is my third. Or is it my fourth? (I sometimes indulge myself when I feel like a new, shiny computer, especially when there's a slightly newer version. I'm human, ergo weak. The older ones still work.)

Largely, they've all looked and felt similar, yet I've never seen something that was so obviously superior that I had to send the Air to the Old Laptop's Home. (It's a cupboard under a bookshelf.)

Yes, there's been an Air of progress over the years.

MagSafe, for example, which Apple has now taken away in favor of selling as many losable dongles as possible.

At the core, however, I couldn't believe that a computer could be so light and thin. And, well, work.

This is how Steve Jobs presented it in 2008 at Macworld. He didn't pull it out of a hat, but out of an envelope.

Every time I packed it into my carry-on, I couldn't believe that this thing weighed next to nothing -- relative to any other computer I'd seen -- and could sit happily next to my books, my magazines and all the other nonsense I carry onto planes.

I've taken it to many countries.

I've dropped it on the sidewalk and on the floor. I've dropped it in airports, as well as at home.

I once left it at Newark airport on the security conveyor belt, as I absent-mindedly rushed to catch a plane. (Actually, perhaps I was just rushing to get a drink.)

It returned, a few days later, still in one piece.

It has the scars to prove that I own it, but, even though I use it up to 16 hours every day, it's as reliable a companion as I've ever had.

I didn't even bother to buy it a cover for years – I know, I know, how dare I? – but it rolled with every punch of the keyboard and every scream at the screen. 

It's one of those products where, when you looked at it, you were sure something must be wrong with it. No traditional hard drive? What? 

And I admit that the battery life has never been wonderful. (In any relationship, you have to tolerate something, don't you?)

But the minute I got one, it was as pure an example of "it just works" as I can remember. 

I know that you might have owned one of these things and it may not have worked for you. Either emotionally or literally. 

And Apple has been remiss at not updating it. Why, it doesn't have a Retina display. Or Touch ID. The battery life never got better. 

But isn't it something of a tribute to this now really quite old machine that when the 12-inch MacBook came along, few people were supremely excited? And when the MacBook Pro came, it drove some people bonkers with its faintly silly Touch Bar.

And it's not as if the competition suddenly brought out a much better version, as some would say they did in phones.

I've had Apple store employees try to upsell me on the new MacBooks. They ended up downcast.

I know that I'm now supposed to forget the Air ever existed.

Apple is peddling the idea that the iPad Pro is the future of the computer, with commercials in which a young lady claims she's never even heard of the word "computer."

But try writing with one on your lap  -- that's how I roll – and, though its screen is gorgeous and its sound is booming, you'll see it has a little way to go.

My, if only Apple could have made the Air better. For now, it's like driving a 10-year-old car. 

And what's wrong with that, if it's a good one?

Read CNET's original 2008 review of the Apple MacBook Air