June 23, 2012
Laptop upgrade time! The trusty old Intel Pentium Samsung had served its purpose for a good few years, but like all technology theses days, it was becoming outdated very fast, and as my work load gets bigger I decided that an upgrade was due.
I have always been under the opinion that a laptop should not be used as a primary machine. For me the whole point of a laptop is portability, providing the ability to get work done when you are out of the office. My current primary computer is 27″ iMac which is absolutely perfect for web design, especially when combined with a secondary 23″ external display. I think most people given the option would choose to work on machine like that rather than a laptop if both were available. The extra real estate is just invaluable.
Laptops generally have much smaller storage than desktop computers and get bogged down much easier. Having the iMac at home with everything on it means you can keep a laptop less cluttered and is the perfect combo.
Of course you can’t carry a 27″ iMac around with you all day, so a laptop is still needed. My previous Samsung laptop had a 13.3″ screen and I firmly believe this is the perfect size for a laptop. Anything bigger than 13″ starts to seriously hamper its portability, and for me, anything below 13″ is getting too small to get any serious work done.
After using my iMac as my main machine for a couple of years, I have also have come to love many workflow increasing features OS X provides. By no means do I hate Windows, I actually think Windows 7 is a great OS, and had no problem using it on my old Samsung, but now more than ever I find myself missing features like expose or hot corners when I go back to windows. This played a big part in my decision to get an Air. It just makes more sense to have a unified experience across my primary and portable computers.
Ok, so enough about about why I got the new MacBook Air. Is it actually any good?
I said earlier that my main reason for needing a laptop was portability. Obviously the MacBook Air ticks all the boxes here. Yes there are quite a few comparably portable “Ultrabooks” around, but none of these come with OS X, and only a few get anywhere near the Air in terms of build quality. This thing is incredibly thin but feels as solid as a brick. No bends or creeks here.
Interestingly, I learnt a few days ago that every morning before opening shop, Apple staff set all the laptop screens to precisely a 70 degrees angle. Why? Because for the average person 70 degrees is not quite the right angle for them to view the screen while standing, this forces them to correct the screen themselves and touch the laptop. Apple is so confident in the quality of its materials and build, that by forcing people to interact with them, they will be won over by their quality feel when they touch them!
Its very light too. Much lighter than my old Samsung, and I would go as far as saying that you would barely notice it in a rucksack on your back. Again this is another tick in the portability box!
Ok, so you probably already knew that the Air is small and light, but how does it actually perform in real world tasks? I deliberately waited for Apple to refresh the MacBook line at WWDC, this means that the Air I am writing this from has a new Ivy Bridge i5 dual core processor clocked at 1.8GHz with 8gb of Ram, and a 256gb SSD.
This is the first computer I have owned with an SSD, and its incredible! I knew it would be fast, but this laptop boots in under 12 seconds, opens Photoshop CS6 in under 2, and generally blazes through every day tasks. I think this shows that today there is too much emphasis placed on faster and faster clock speeds, but in reality processors have become so good that past a certain point most people aren’t going to notice any discernible difference, and in fact they are often held back by the other components of the computer. My iMac has a 2.8GHz quad core CPU, and in most cases, due to this SSD the air performs tasks more quickly, it really is impressive.
The battery also deserves a special mention. Currently, my battery level is at 83%, and has an estimated 8 hours 32 minutes remaining! That would be impressive enough, but I have already been working unplugged for a good hour and a half. All with wifi connected, about 8 tabs open in Safari, and and few tabs in Photoshop. I may be wrong, but I don’t know of any other laptops that can get close to this kind of battery life.
This set up is bloody amazing. I have only been in possession of the Air for two days but I can see it is going to be the perfect companion to my iMac. I intend to keep the two in sync using Dropbox, so will write a bit about how that goes once I have had time to experiment a bit, but for now I am going to go away and marvel at this things battery life, general speed and portability some more. It’s true that you pay a premium for Apple products, but I also believe that there is no all round better ultra portable laptop than the Air today. Sure there are a few that my tump the Air in certain areas, but none offer the all round quality package Apple do, and couldn’t be happier with my new Air so far.