Photos: Hands-on for longer with Apple's MacBook Air

It's time to get down and dirty with the MacBook Air. We got some hands-on time with the slim new laptop and our first impressions are double-plus good. But not everything pleased us

Nate Lanxon Special to CNET News
3 min read

Last night we gave you the first look at the range of new Apple products. As you can imagine, time was short. But the realisation that the MacBook Air was the most exciting announcement did not slip us by, so today you've got our MacBook Air hands-on redux, with knobs on, not to mention bells and whistles.

Let's not beat around the apple tree; it's thin. You know that. In person though, it seems even more amazing. Someone asked us on the phone last night, "Doesn't something that thin feel like it's going to snap or bend?" The answer is no. It's sturdier than a gel-enhanced Andrew Lim hairstyle. Also bear in mind that the 4mm-thick part is right at the edge. The rest of the system gets gradually thicker towards the 19mm edge at the rear, like a slice of cake. Apple cake, maybe.

The most fun element is the multi-touch track pad. Zooming in and out of images was great fun and uses the 'pinch-and-stretch' technique adopted in the iPhone and iPod touch. If you can imagine rotating a physical photograph with two fingers on a table, you can have a pretty good guess at what it's like to rotate a photo on the Air, since it works in exactly the same way on the touch pad. We didn't get to use this feature in other applications so we're not 100 per cent sure how this works within, say, a video-editing program. But we will. Soon.

Although it's an exceptionally thin laptop, it's not sized like an ultraportable. The keyboard is as large as the new iMac keyboard, so typing on it is instantly comfortable, with no need to adjust to tiny keys.

But not everything is positive. Jobs was probably correct in saying that most people in the market for this sort of laptop won't miss the optical drive, but few will be happy with a single USB socket. If you're syncing your iPod, you won't be watching a DVD from your external drive. If you're watching a DVD on your external drive, you won't be copying data to an external hard drive. Oh, and if you want to publish holiday photos to Flickr, you'll need to unhook that mobile phone you're using for Net access in order to plug in the digital camera. Bugger.

Another thing missing is a microphone socket. It may not seem like a big deal, but it will be for some. Because the machine is so light and portable, it's great for podcasters on the go. Apple includes GarageBand and promotes the ease of podcasting with a Mac, but don't expect to use that slinky condenser mic, because you'll have nowhere to plug it in. You'll have to make do with the internal microphone. There's also no Ethernet port, although 802.11n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 2.1 are present.

So there are good points and bad. Obviously an external hard disk, DVD drive, USB microphone and USB hub will be essential tools for some people to carry around, somewhat defeating the object of having something so easily portable. If that's you, just get a MacBook or MacBook Pro. Relocate to the Moon if you want these heavier options to weigh the same as the Air. And don't forget the massive price tag: from £1,199 -- or more than five times as much as the Asus Eee PC.

We'll have a full review for you as soon as physically possible, but for now click through for some up-close and personal shots of this featherweight thoroughbred. -Nate Lanxon

That'll be that lovely multi-touch track pad then. It's pretty large.

Thin really does mean thin. The keys are similarly weightless and that raised portion you can see below the display is where you'll find the built-in stereo speakers.

Here we are with the lid closed. The traditional backlit Apple logo remains unchanged on the lid's exterior.

The small selection of I/O sockets sit behind a flap on the right-hand side of the keyboard.

The iSight camera sits in its usual position.

This is where the heat escapes underneath the system. In common with iPods, you can't replace the battery yourself, which is maddening. But it's CE approved, so that's a relief.

The redesigned MagSafe connection is in its usual place, but older, larger adaptors will cause the Air to be raised up on the left-hand side.

Don't miss our previous hands-on with the MacBook Air here.