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Mossberg: MacBook Air not for everyone

updated 01:25 am EST, Thu January 24, 2008

Mossberg reviews MB Air

Apple's new MacBook Air has received plenty of critique, both positive and negative, since its unveiling at the keynote during Macworld Expo. The Wallstreet Journal's own Walt Mossberg had a chance recently to review the new ultraportable, and while he agrees the laptop definitely has a place in the bags of road warriors, some users may not care for some of the features that Mossberg finds lacking.

Mossberg's initial impressions were those of surprise, saying "it's impossible to convey in words just how pleasing and surprising this computer feels in the hand." He continues, "it's so svelte when closed that it's a real shock to discover the big screen and keyboard inside." The larger screen has a small downside; Mossberg notes that it could easily bump against a reclined chair on an airplane.

The lack of a removable battery seems to be among the largest of setbacks, requiring users to be near power should the battery run dry. He also says that this could impact users negatively should the battery need servicing, since the work will have to be performed by Apple itself.

Mossberg is also concerned at the lack of ports readily available on the chassis; users are required to buy a $30 adaptor should they require Ethernet connectivity. The lack of an optical drive in the unit means that users who entertain themselves with movies on long flights will require the external DVD drive, which is available for $100.

Battery life was favorable, as Mossberg was able to get over three hours of battery life while making the computer as inefficient as possible, by disabling any power management, turning on WiFi, and several other power-hungry tasks.

He feels that the MacBook Air executes remote installs rather well; Mossberg was able to install several applications without effort, but came with the minor inconvenience of having to disable the firewall on a Windows PC.

The Air's screen and keyboard were well received, and he says for the price, the entry-level model is rather competitively priced. Mossberg was less emphatic about the price for the deluxe model, which is almost double the price, thanks to the solid-state hard drive.

Overall, Mossberg cautions users that routinely watch movies or carry extra laptop batteries with them, as well as those who require advanced connectivity. He welcomes the physical presentation of the device, and says that anyone who requires a small computing platform and that don't have any of the above concerns should enjoy the MacBook Air.

by MacNN Staff



  1. Athens

    Joined: Dec 1969


    One USB port a problem

    The lack of battery access and the single USB port are both problems for me. For one, if you want the optical drive connected you lose the ability to connect to a hub. You can't connect the hub unless third party builders build one that supports the optical drives power needs. I think I will wait for 3 things to be addressed, Firewire port, 2 USB ports and GB ethernet port or 2 USB ports, GB ethernet port and a Cardbus slot so we have the option of putting firewire or anything else in it.

  1. nhmlco

    Joined: Dec 1969


    one port not a problem

    If you really think you need FireWire, Ethernet, mutliple USB ports, AND an optical drive then buy a MacBook or the 15" MBP.

    People need to accept the MBA for what it is and what it can do, and not try to make it into something else. If it's not for you, then fine, but don't insist that Apple turn it into a 17" MacBook Pro.

    BTW, you realize, of course, that at 5mm an ExpressCard is THICKER than the MBA is at its thinnest point?

  1. e:leaf

    Joined: Dec 1969



    So what you're looking for, then, is a MacBook Pro.

    I have a MacBook Pro, and can't remember the last time I needed either a FW or USB port except for my iPhone (which means that 1 port is more than sufficient). The only time I can remember using the optical drive in the last 6 months was to install Leopard, a feat that can be accomplished via Remote Disk or the optional optical drive. 99.9% of software is available as a download anyways, and I wouldn't use the drive to watch DVDs because of how much juice is drained (I use VIDEO_TS files ripped on my Mac Pro) so the optical port is right up there next to moot. And no, this won't be a secondary machine as many people insist the Air must be. It will be my primary machine (as in I'll use it 95+% of the time) while the Mac Pro will be used in support.

    I'll be glad to be rid of the extra weight for stuff I don't use.

    The Air is the future of mobile computing. In 5 years very few notebooks will have these bulky ports and disc drives. In fact when we see one, we'll wonder how anyone ever needed all the bulk.

  1. rtbarry

    Joined: Dec 1969


    here we go...


  1. Appleman

    Joined: Dec 1969


    one usb port a problem

    with my MacBook Pro I only use to use one usb port, so no prob. The rest is a matter of getting used to it. The only real matter would be that it isn't a 10 inch, but then who wants that? Buy an iPod touch or iPhone if you want a smaller screen.

  1. UpQuark

    Joined: Dec 1969


    I agree...

    it isn't for everyone. if you don't like it - don't get it. How hard is that. .and why the drama if it doesn't fit your needs don't get it.

    I would love a Ferrari, how come they don't make a cheap one just for me?!

  1. Feathers

    Joined: Dec 1969


    what if...

    With the absence of firewire there is no target disk mode and the absence of ethernet further reduces connectivity, which is fine so long as everything is working...but what happens if you have disk corruption? Put Diskwarrior in the wait there isn't one, try target wait, no firewire. The whole system profile assumes reliability...which is fine if the system is reliable, but what if..?

  1. testudo

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Re: what if

    The lack of ethernet also assumes you have constant access to WiFi.

    What if you're in a location that doesn't have it, you could rely on connecting your iPhone to your mac, but that's not allowed (it would work if you had a capable cell phone with a data plan, like most of them, but the iphone lacks the capability).

    Or in a location that doesn't allow it? Oh, you could buy that extra ethernet adapter, but that's something else you have to carry, and if you plug that in, you can't use anything else USB.

    But I agree with Walt on one thing. It's not for everyone. Such insight, Walt. Now, if someone can show me a computer that IS for everyone, that would be something.

  1. Roehlstation

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Not for everyone...

    If Apple made a computer that is perfect for everyone, they would only need to sell one model.

  1. bobthenob

    Joined: Dec 1969


    thank you



    / thank you, Roehlstation

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