Notebooks Guide

Apple MacBook Air review

Apple MacBook Air

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Macbook Air Exterior

If Looks Could Kill

If there's one thing that Apple can do extremely well, it is designing products that look good. The MacBook Air is undoubtedly one of the sexiest notebooks we've ever laid eyes on, and this is a sentiment we don't think anyone, even Apple haters would care to deny. Being incredibly thin and light is only part of the equation of why the MacBook Air seems so appealing. While most - if not all - notebooks share a generic trait of being rectangular and flat edged, the MacBook Air features curved edges that are responsible for its paper thin illusion. Looking around the notebook, we also found that there were no unsightly removable compartments; its silver aluminum chassis retaining a smooth single piece countenance all over.

At this point, we're sure a couple of red flags would have popped up. Firstly, there is a reason why notebooks have flat edges, and this is to accommodate the various connectivity and expansion ports. The MacBook Air, as you would have noticed from the images above, has nothing. It does feature a small flip-out connectivity panel on its right, which has all of its three connectors: One headphone jack, one USB 2.0 port and one micro DVI port that requires the use of a dongle for standard VGA/DVI connection. If you want Video Out, it's through the same port, but the Composite and S-Video adapter are separate, and optional items. That's it, there are no other connection or expansion possibilities on the MacBook Air. No FireWire, No Ethernet (No Ethernet!), No memory card reader, No ExpressCard slots even and ultimately, no optical drive.

To be fair, the MacBook Air features something called Remote Disc, which allows you to use an optical drive on a networked PC. Of course, you will still need to have permission to use the said drive (if it is not your own machine), and physical access (how are you going to put in any discs otherwise?). Remote Disc is also not a full fledged drive replacement, as there are a lot of restrictions placed on what you can do, such as ripping or burning CDs. Basically all you can do is read data CDs and install software.

Now, what happens when you're on the road, traveling, and have no network access? Apple offers two accessories to solve this problem. First there is the USB Ethernet Adapter, which allows you to connect to LAN at areas where WiFi is unavailable. Secondly, there is the proprietary external USB SuperDrive. If you're sharp, you'd have noticed that both peripherals mentioned are USB based. Problem is the MacBook Air only has one USB port! Yes we understand that not everyone needs to use both devices together. You can also get yourself a USB hub. But, in all scenarios, it just means more hassle, and a lot more baggage (mostly the little knickknacks) to carry along. We also used the word 'proprietary' to describe the SuperDrive, because even though it plugs into a standard USB port, it can only be used with the MacBook Air.

The curved design of the MacBook Air calls for a different MagSafe power adapter too, which is smaller, lighter and has an angled connection point. The MacBook Air's MagSafe adapter is cross-compatible with regular Macbooks and vice versa. However, while you can use a regular MacBook's MagSafe to charge up the Air, the downward angle of its connector means that you cannot use it in all situations, such as on a flat table top, where it will snap away.
 

On the topic of the MacBook Air's only connectivity panel, we've seen and heard of complaints that there isn't enough headroom to accommodate larger USB devices, or even some 3.5mm headphones/speaker jacks. While this may be true, we've actually had no problem utilizing the ports with our equipment. Even the large Patriot Xporter XT Boost 32GB USB flash drive managed to fit in properly. Still, for those with this issue, the only way out would be to obtain cable extenders.

The MacBook Air also doesn't have any upgradeable components. Its battery is integrated and RAM chips are soldered onto its logic board. With maybe an exception of the HDD, the specifications that you get when you buy the MacBook Air is what you'll have to live with till it dies on you.