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MacBook Air verdict: Seminal computer, five reasons

The Apple MacBook Air, as it turns out, isa seminal product.

The Apple MacBook Air is a seminal computer. There I said it. I'm not going to pretend that my opinion is the final word (or anything close to it) but I will weigh in by saying it's a ground-breaking product. After using it for about two months, here's why.

(Note: I am not a Mac enthusiast. This is the first Apple I've ever owned.)

This is not a CNET review. The CNET review is here.

MacBook Air
MacBook Air Apple

1. Very thin, very light but comparatively fast. That's no mean feat. Subnotebooks I've had in the past (e.g., the Compaq Evo N400c) were thin and light but slow. Usually compromised by an ultra-slow hard disk drive (more on that below). The Air is not a speed demon but it's not slow either. (It uses a full-blown Core 2 Duo 1.8-GHz processor not a slower ultra-low-voltage processor). Granted, this is a subjective evaluation. But day-to-day subjective experience matters too.

2. Solid state drive (SSD): The SSD is revolutionary. At first, I thought the SSD was, at best, a fascinating novelty. But it has turned out to be one of the most practical, useful hardware improvements to a notebook computer since the active-matrix color liquid crystal display, in my opinion. I can't overstate enough that hard drive bottlenecks have been virtually eliminated. I could give a number of examples but here's the most salient: No disk thrashing. On my other (faster, high-end) PC notebook, lots of open applications means lots of disk activity. Which slows everything down. This has not happened on the Air. A blessing.

3. Sturdy. For a sub-one-inch-thin notebook, it feels remarkably solid. Enough said.

4. Battery life. The consensus is that the Air's battery life is bad to awful. I can only compare the battery life against the other PC notebooks I use. The Air beats them all. For what I do on the Air (a lot of open windows, occasional moderate Web development, writing), it lasts anywhere from three to five hours. In this sense, I agree with this post that says using the Air as your main, do-everything computer (which I do not do) is missing the point of what the Air is intended to be (and will result in lousy battery life).

5. Looks. You can't beat the aesthetics. The Starbucks status factor can't be ignored.

Notes. Obviously, the Air has its (well-publicized) shortcomings. I will mention three: It can get hot occasionally, the keyboard is OK but not great, and the high price is off-putting. But I will say this: for a cutting-edge, groundbreaking design, it has surprisingly few faults. (The fact that it has few ports and no optical drive has not fazed me one bit.)

Here's another take at Macworld.