I’m Getting (MacBook) Air Sick.


So, reviews are pouring in on the device, and it’s enough to make you pull your hair out.

Why can’t anybody review this machine for the purpose it was intended? If I see one more tech pundit explain to me that this really needs to be a second Mac, not a primary machine, I’m gonna puke.

I guess I shouldn’t complain. At least these guys figured it out, whereas someone like Dvorak takes a look at the machine and is still clueless.

Anyway, that this was clearly a secondary machine was obvious only milliseconds after it was announced.

What’s next? Publishing a revelation that the Mac Pro is not a good portable machine?

Oh, and thank the Maker that we have Engadget to let us know the Air is the slowest Apple Mac. OMG!! Who would have guessed? Good hard-hitting reporting there, E, now I know I can’t replace a top-end PowerBook Pro with this thing. Of course, since my brain is in the “ON” position, I already knew it would be the slowest — the specs have been available since it was announced.

You can argue that many people aren’t tech-savvy enough to know the above, or don’t know Apple’s lineup well enough. But I’d counter those people aren’t reading these articles, and aren’t likely to any time soon. Most of those reading these are at least somewhat tech-savvy, and are treated like morons.

Seriously, this is some lazy (or perhaps just routine) reviewing. Grab the Air, run the standard stuff and be done with it. It’s a wonder they didn’t put the iPhone through these same “tests”.

Since most people have one machine (desktop or laptop), it’s clear a satellite like the Air is a niche machine. Still, the fact that it may only be a realistic option to those with a higher “computer budget” than most of us is not relevant to its ability to perform the function. Why not test it in light of that intended niche? I’m not saying it will pass or fail. On the contrary, my whole point is I’d like to see a realistic analysis of how it performs in that role.

As a second machine, a lot of “flaws” identified in these reviews are probably no such thing, or certainly much less so. Imagine this as a machine with a subset of data, none of the big gun apps (like Final Cut, Logic, etc.) and easily in touch with the main machine via Back to my Mac.

How does it work in that capacity? That’s what I’d like to know. My gut tells me it would work very well, but no reviewer seems willing to tell us.

15 thoughts on “I’m Getting (MacBook) Air Sick.

  1. I understand you so much! There’s so much hate about this laptop…
    By the way, I’ve purchased a macbook Air and I’m really glad.
    By the way, there are good reviews too. http://www.maconair.com seems to love the device)

  2. There’s no reason why the MBA couldn’t be the primary Mac for a lot of people. With a Time Capsule and the external DVD it’s a very viable option. Not cheap, but beautiful!
    My current MB is my primary. It has never been plugged into ethernet, my Time Machine external drive is USB, it’s 13″ display is just gorgeous and if I need extra screen real estate I can plug a spare LCD screen into it. If money was no object, I could definitely live with an MBA.

    Some folk are grumbling about the MBA being a slug, the slowest Mac on the rank. GET A LIFE!! We all know that all computers are wildly overpowered for what most of us do most of the time. Remember when a 16MHz SE30 was a real muscle machine? We couldn’t believe how fast and capable it was. To complain that the MBA isn’t a MacPro is like moaning that your Porsche can’t pull a plow.

  3. Well said Jeremy.
    Besides the consumer who purchases the MBA as a specific tool for occupational needs, I believe that in this day n’ age, including the prevailing economic situation, there is a staggering amount of affluent people who will purchase the MBA, either as a primary or as a “satellite” secondary device, and their educated decision will be based on form over function.
    And why not !!! the MBA is a nice bit of kit that exemplifies Apple’s ethos, posture and design principles, obviously it was not created to pander to the mass market, but to fill a certain niche, while pushing the technology envelope and working as a transitional tool, for prospective devices.

    Could SJ’s use of (pushing) the envelope also have been a subtle metaphor for future development design? ultimately, Apple created the MBA because they could afford to, while establishing a new chassis for laptops of whatever dimension using Intel’s 45nm Penryn based Core 2 Duo and Core 2 Extreme processors or even the “Nehalem” micro-architecture / processor, “due” late 2008.

  4. Tom,

    I think there is room for both opinions. My wife for instance is not interested at all in remote disc and announced her intention to buy the external DVD drive with the Air. My “dig” at reviewers that are unable to put themselves int he shoes of the consumer was not aimed at yourself BTW. Your common sense approach and ability to see through some of that muck is why I read your stuff.

  5. Jeremy and Chuck,

    If your wives are going to use this as their primary machine, won’t they be feeding off of your DVD drive when needed via the CD Remote capability?

    I see what you’re saying, and that’s fair enough. To me, however, as long as the MBA is beholden to another Mac (or PC) for its optical drive then it is already somewhat a satellite system.

    Obviously, these are personal choices, and my opinion is no better or worse than anyone else’s. But as a “true” primary machine, it seems it would need a DVD drive and at least the DVI converter and USBI hub. If used in that manner, it makes little sense — the MacBook stomps all over it in that capacity, and for less money to boot — which is what the reviews are saying.

    Maybe this is just a semantic issue, and my use of the term “satellite machine” confuses the issue. Put simply, I see this machine going primarily into households that already have a Mac or PC that it will be “tethered” to. I believe reviews of it should assume that and judge it accordingly.

  6. Not a primary machine? When the vast majority of computer users only need web and email access, and maybe photos? Hardly. I have to disagree, Tom. There are a boat-load of people who would see this as a primary machine. My wife for one. Our CEO as another.

    My day consists, as a Mac admin, of reading emails, surfing the net, remotely accessing client systems and servers, and checking various systems and services. I don’t want a MBA, but I could get by with it, and have much less to carry to and from work than my MBP 15″. I love it, but boy it seems heavy sometimes.

  7. Width-wise it’s just not small enough for an ultra-portable – the depth is not terribly useful given how thin macbooks are already.

  8. I am feeling the same kind of frustration reading the ridiculous (an mostly negative reviews) of the MacBook Air. It seems as if people are just looking for Apple to make a mis-step nowadays and they believe they have it in the Air. Perhaps this will turn out to be the case, but it will be a self-fulfilling prophecy, created at least in part by the reviewers themselves.

    I do disagree with your assertion that the Air is not a primary machine however. I understand why you say it and I think it will be true for a large segment of the market that is interested in the product. My wife however is thinking of getting one and she will be using it as her main machine. I also know several other people that are going to do this as well through my work.

    I feel that the MacBook Air is in the same category as the MacBook itself. It’s not a Pro machine by any means. It’s also not intended for “roadwarriors” in my opinion. This means that although all the criticism of it as not being powerful or full-featured enough is so much hot Air (is that a pun?), it still seems to me to be a perfectly adequate “primary” machine for those that would otherwise be satisfied with the current plastic MacBooks.

    I see a lot of school teachers, students and yes, soccer moms, with MacBooks and while to my geeky eyes, they look like underpowered plastic junk (like the iBooks before them), I realise that this is only *my* view. These are lightweight, easy to use and very *popular* machines. They are almost always used as the primary machine of the person that buys them and they are almost always used simply for browsing the web, getting email, writing papers and storing some snapshots.

    In a very similar fashion, the MacBook Air could easily be the primary machine of the average consumer, regardless of what any of us Pro users and geeks think. The main failing of the reviewers of the MacBook Air in my opinion is their seeming inability to put themselves in the shoes of the average consumer as opposed to what they themselves want from a laptop.

  9. Glad you enjoyed my entry!

    Back in the olden days, when I was growing up, Consumer Reports used to do text reviews of products. For each product, they would show a subjective review of what they thought of it, how well it was designed, and so on.

    Now they are just bubbles that say how well the products did on ‘objective’ tests, but I thought the subjective reviews were much more interesting and worth reading. We have some of this in sites like epinions.com (which I participate in when I buy stuff).

    Is it no wonder that a company like Apple struggles in the public consciousness when reviewers are trained to compare statistics and not consider subjective attributes of things? In that context, they are especially unqualified to review something like the MacBook Air, which in statistical terms make no sense whatsoever, and yet many people will buy and love it.

    What really shocks me is that there are so many people who would trade off a readable screen and a usable keyboard against a laughably small screen, an unusable keyboard, a DVD burner and two more USB ports. Since I am using my keyboard and display 100% of my time, my USB ports about 1% of the time and my DVD burner about 0.0001% of the time, you can tell that my usage (other than the need for a bigger screen and disk drive) is not troubled by the compromises people have made such a stink about.

    I remember that with the iPhone, the same people who yelled and screamed about the high price and the onscreen keyboard were in line overnight for it when it shipped. I suspect the same thing will happen here. I don’t think there will be lines because it’s expensive, but I think it will sell.


  10. James,

    I read Jason’s piece as well, but I couldn’t mention them all. However, thanks for pointing out the comment he made, which is ridiculous.

    “Who says it’s meant only to augment your current computers”? Common sense, Mr. Snell. I know this just as surely as I know the Mac Pro is not meant as a portable, even though Apple doesn’t actually say it isn’t.

    And What the heck does Mr. Snell mean when he says “a full-on Mac laptop”? If intelligent people were to guess what it means, then the fact that the MBA has no DVD — and lacks many common ports — would be indicative of it NOT being sold as a “full-on” Mac, wouldn’t it? Case closed. Sheesh.

    Consider this: When Jobs introduced the PB G4 a few years back, he went out of his way to make sure everyone knew this was a full-featured notebook. By contrast, for the MBA he went out of his way to specifically discuss the compromises they made and what got left out. Does Mr. Snell, or any of the other geniuses writing these articles, act as if they realized or understood that extremely important distinction? Apparently not.

    In Mr. Snell’s case, the obvious purpose of the MacBook Air was overridden by his desire (assignment?) to write a cool “diary” about squeezing his life into 80GBs. Whatever.

    They don’t get it. Maybe they don’t even want to get it. They’d rather do the same ol’, same ol’ reviews, or play an angle. Form over substance, and then defend that form from all comers.

  11. What is really sad is even Jason Snell of Macworld doesn’t get it. He is going to review the MBA as his primary laptop and he wrote an article on how painful it was to reduce his disk space down to under 80 GB. When someone pointed out that this was not what the MBA was meant for, he responded,:

    “Who says it’s meant only to augment your current computers, Walt? Apple seems to be selling it as a full-on Mac laptop, not some sort of sidekick product.

    Me, I’m a full-time laptop user. If I am to adopt the MacBook Air, it must be my main system. I have a large external drive at work for when I’m at work, so that’s similar to having a main system. But not the same.”

    Article is here: http://www.macworld.com/article/131801/2008/01/macbook_air_austerity.html

    comment is here: http://forums.macworld.com/thread/97765?tstart=0

    This is sure to turn out badly and then he will write an article on how woeful the MBA is and what was Apple thinking. It is very frustrating.

  12. David,

    Thanks. Those aren’t bad ideas at all.

    And let’s not forget needing a file we left on the main Mac and using Back to my Mac to get it (or maybe iDisk).

    And what about the great Syncing capability of .MAc to keep the two machines in sync?

    One could argue it’s unfair to test these since it requires a .Mac account. But that “accessory” is a natural for this scenario. The $99 spent on this would be worth far, far, FAR more in my opinion than the USB CD drive.

    I consider this a “real world” primary/satellite scenario.

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