Air

I'm a bit disappointed in the newly-announced MacBook Air. I want one, but... I don't.

The good:

  1. Super-thin form factor: 0.16" to 0.76".

  2. MacBook Pro-style aluminum case.

  3. Small size: 13.3" widescreen display.

  4. 802.11n wireless (dual-band 2.4/5 GHz).

  5. Intel GMA graphics (very well supported on Linux, even if it's not as 'powerful' as nvidia/ATI).

  6. Backlit keyboard.

  7. LED-backlit display.

  8. Multi-touch trackpad (though I have no idea how well-supported or useful it'll be on Linux).

Unfortunately, we have quite a bit of the bad:

  1. No built-in ethernet (USB dongle sold separately, but that rules out gigabit).

  2. No built-in optical drive (I expected this; I don't mind).

  3. Only one USB port. So if I get the USB ethernet dongle and/or the external USB optical drive, I have to choose which one I want to use. And if I'm somewhere where there's no wireless, and I have to use a USB flash drive, I have to disconnect the network. Lame.

  4. Non-user-replaceable battery. (I imagine it's possible, though somewhat difficult, like replacing the hard drive in my PowerBook was.) This is somewhat annoying for me since I tend to have the machine on 24/7, and as such I'm a bit harsh on the battery (I leave it plugged in while fully charged for long periods of time).

  5. RAM is not upgradeable (soldered to motherboard). Comes with 2GB standard, so probably not too much of a problem.

  6. Relatively slow CPU given today's state-of-the art. (Granted, 1.8GHz dual-core should be plenty for me.)

  7. The IBM X-series used to use the 1.8" 4600 RPM hard drives, but switched back to 2.5" drives because of large performance problems with the 1.8" drives.

  8. No dedicated graphics memory (144MB shared with system RAM).

  9. Only a single speaker (mono sound). Though, do you really notice stereo separation with a pair of crappy speakers about a foot apart?

  10. A concern: will the laptop hold up? It's very thin. Aluminum is definitely bendable (as my 12" PowerBook which no longer sits flat will confirm).

  11. MacBook-style keyboard. I'm not a huge fan of the keyboard on the MacBook I have at work. I far prefer the keyboard on my PowerBook (and on the MacBook Pro).

I'm not considering buying one now; not only should I not be spending the money now, but I wouldn't dare buy first-gen Apple hardware. So fortunately there will be time to see if my concerns about the laptop's durability are warranted, ditto for my concerns about hard drive performance. And it's possible there might be a refresh in 6-8 months that includes better graphics, more RAM, a faster CPU, or even (however unlikely) an extra USB port or an ethernet jack.

I guess the issue is that I was really hoping for a 12" (or 13.3", though I'd prefer 12") MacBook Pro, essentially an Intel-based replacement for the 12" G4 PowerBook. I knew that wasn't what Apple was going to announce, but I was hoping it wouldn't be too far off the mark.

I'm still undecided, but I'm going to give myself at least 6 months to think about it, and probably more. Likely I wouldn't buy one until the fall. There's also the hope that there will be a major MacBook Pro refresh before then that improves the MBP situation a bit. Given the introduction of the MBA, I seriously doubt they'd start selling a 13.3" MBP, but it's possible they might somehow make the 15" MBP more attractive to me. Unfortunately, I just don't really like the MacBook's aesthetics; I wouldn't really consider buying a 13.3" MacBook for myself. We'll see what happens, I suppose.