When Apple CEO Steve Jobs first unveiled the latest version of the MacBook Air on Oct. 20 during a press event, some wondered how the product would fit between Apple's 13.3-inch MacBook and the company's iPad tablet. After all, those other products provide mobility and a certain level of productivity. Both the previous version of the MacBook Air and the company's latest model seemed ripe for cannibalization.
But after spending the past week using the 13.3-inch MacBook Air, boasting a 1.86GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor, 2GB of memory and a 128GB solid-state drive, it's clear that Apple's laptop fits quite well at the crossroads between portability and usability.
The first thing that will strike customers when viewing the MacBook Air is its outstanding design. The main enclosure is made from a single piece of aluminum that oozes sophistication. Plus, it's extremely thin, measuring just 0.11 inches at its thinnest.
The computer boasts Apple's glass trackpad, which allows users to control on-screen functionality with several gestures. In fact, owners can "pinch" to zoom in on a page, swipe their fingers across the trackpad to move forward and back, and use three fingers to drag windows around. The experience takes some getting used to, but once customers get the hang of it, the MacBook Air's trackpad becomes extremely handy.
Since I only reviewed the 13.3-inch MacBook Air model, I can't say how well-designed the 11.6-inch model is. But when choosing between the two models, it's important to consider the display size differences. On paper it might not seem like much, but when in use the difference is quite noticeable. If you will be doing some serious work on the device, the bigger screen is your best bet.
Although the MacBook Air comes with a full-sized keyboard, it doesn't have backlighting. So unless you are a fantastic touch typist, typing documents at night is practically impossible. Hopefully, Apple will rectify this major omission in the next iteration of the computer.
However, perhaps the biggest omission from the MacBook Air-and one that was also missing from its predecessor-is a disc drive. If users want to install a program from a disc, they have two choices: opt for the ridiculously expensive MacBook Air SuperDrive add-on, which costs $79, or use another computer's drive.