Macbook Air rocks. 5 things PC notebook manufacturers will never understand.

After one month with the Macbook Air as my main computer for work I must say I'm just amazed by the machine. In the beginning I had a few complaints about it and had to figure out some stuff and configure it properly and limit the fan to 4500 rpm. However once these have been taken care of, I began to feel really happy about my Macbook Air.
  By no means it's a perfect machine. Nothing's perfect. But indeed it's not very far from perfection. Actually I can't understand why other PC notebook manufacturers simply "don't get it" and although this machine has been almost a year on the market and other manufacturers claim to have a "Macbook Air killer", they fail to understand what makes this machine so great.
1.  Great Design. It's all about curves.
Ask any man on the planet: what makes a woman sexy? It's the curves! Marylin Monroe, Bridget Bardot, Salma Hayek... the sexiest women on the planet have curves. What makes a notebook computer sexy? You guessed it - the same thing - the curves! Just have a look at the Macbook Air, have a look at its curves and touch them... Macbook Air is sexy and looks stunning. It's thin, but it's actually not THAT thin... It's the curves that make it appear so thin. PC notebook manufacturers don't get it. They continue to manufacture "plastic bricks". Bricks are very useful and solid... but they are not sexy. Just like Volvo cars.
Just have a look at Toshiba R500 (the lightest laptop ever made) and HP Envy... nice, but still typical laptop bricks. Not sexy.
2. Magsafe. Power cord that doesn't kill.
OK, this one is not Macbook Air specific. It's in all of the Macbooks. And it's brilliant. And I can't understand why nobody ever thought about it before. With so many $$$ going into research and development, none of the big laptop companies like Dell, IBM Lenovo, HP or Toshiba thought about something that simple. Just before Christmas I had my "Magsafe moment". I was helping my wife clean our house and prepare for the festive days... while charging my Macbook Air on my desk... and then I accidently stepped on the power cord of my beautiful laptop... and nothing happened. My Air just stopped charging, but it didn't fly out of my desk. A "normal" PC laptop would. Just like in the PC vs Mac ad:
As far as I know, Magsafe is patented by Apple (filed in 2005), but does that mean noone can now produce a similar solution? It's been more than 20 years laptops have been on the market... and noone thought about it before?
3. Backlit keyboard. Typing in the dark.
Again, not only in Macbook Airs, Macbook Pros and the new high-end Macbook have it, too. Backlit keyboard. How brilliant is that? And it actually adjusts its light to the ambience in the room! How many times did I find myself with a PC laptop in a dark room... and couldn't type because of the dark keyboard (and I do touch-type!) and with the Air... I see my keyboard in any environment.
PC notebook manufacturers thought about this problem in the past... and all they came up with is the lamp in the Lenovo Laptops... A lamp? How lame is that?!
4. Big Trackpad with gestures. Fun without mouse.
I got a Logitech Cordless Mouse (bluetooth) for Christmas and it's a great piece of hardware... and very useful when I have my external monitor plugged in as a secondary display for my Macbook Air. However, without the mouse, working on the Macbook Air with the built in BIG Touchpad is just fun. Again, why nobody thought about it before? Why are the trackpads so tiny on the laptops? Why my previous TabletPC, Lenovo X60 had this stupid trackpoint? Why some Dells have both trackpoint and trackpad? And it has gestures. My old Toshiba M200 had the "scrolling" gesture on the trackpad and it was great... and it was it. Nothing more. My Macbook Air has great two-finger, three finger and four-finger gestures. (I have a first-generation MBA so I had to use this hack to enable four fingers on my machine). Really? It only Apple could come up with this? They had to invent the iPhone to think about the gestures?
5. Few hidden Ports. Why do we need so many holes?
Many will disagree with me on this one, but hear me out. I bought my first laptop in 2000 and it was a Compaq Armada. I've owned 8 laptops since. 3 x Fujitsu P series (my wife still has her p1610) and the rest where from different manufacturers so I've tried totally different approaches to mobile computing. I just know what I use in the laptop and what I don't use. And I love my elegant "almost-no-ports" Macbook Air solution.
External display. I use it all the time. I use the Mini-dvi to DVI adapter to connect to my external monitor on my desk and I carry the mini-dvi to VGA adapter with me in my gadget bag so that when I need to connect to a projector to show a presentation or something, I can do it quickly. This way I have great quality digital output on my desk and my Air works with all the projectors when I'm on the road.
One USB port. Brilliant. I bought a pretty Belkin 7-port USB hub I use on my desk as my ultimate "port replicator" solution. I have my LAN to USB adapter connected to it, external drives, pen-drives, USB headset... and more... and all of this can be connected to my Air with just single plug-in. (I don't need a USB mouse anymore since I use a bluetooth mouse now). I also carry a very tiny 4-port USB hub in my gadget bag just in case I need more ports when on the road. I don't remember myself using it though.
DVD Superdrive. I have it and when I need it (one or two times a year) I use it. Other than that I find myself using USB pen-drives more often and in my home-office I borrow the DVD drive from my "home server" machine.
Really. Your mileage may vary but I don't find myself using so many ports and I can't understand why you'd need them. OK, when you have a PC laptop you need to use a USB mouse because either your touchpad is small and sucks... or you don't have bluetooth built in :-)
Conclusion - why don't they get it?  I consider myself an advanced notebook owner. I've been a strong TabletPC envagelist with my Toshiba M200 and Lenovo X60T. A Toshiba M200 is still my home-server actually (I have all the external disks and printers connected to it). I didn't want to change to Macbook Air because I loved the TabletPC features... but I wanted to learn the OSX platform.
Between 1990 and 2000 I had traditional PC computers. In 2000 I bought my first laptop and have never had a "normal" computer since. Laptops are my main machines so I think I know a great deal about them. I've owned Compaq, Fujitsu, Toshiba and IBM Lenovo... and as most of them where TabletPCs, they were all pretty high-end machines.
At this moment, after owning Macbook Air for more than a month now, I can sefely say that this piece of engineering is the closest to a perfect laptop. It's not perfect. It has some design-flaws and some issues. But the above 5 reasons why it's so superior to any other previous notebook I've owned just make me think... why oh why with all the R&D at hand, none of the PC manufacturers came up with these simple solutions.
Do they really not understand? Is it so difficult to "get it"? Is only Apple capable of this kind of innovation?
 Thanks to the Apple site, and Apple in the real world flickr group and others for the photos.

Posted on Saturday, December 27, 2008

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Dec 2, 2009 16:19
I'm sorry but this review is centered around yourself and your own lifestyle. You are not sure the everyone wants the "sexy curves", thinks they are actually sexy, absolutely needs a backlit keyboard, needs only three ports, and has the money to pay for a MBA. It's purely your opinion and I respect it, but anyone looking to buy a MBA should look elsewhere for an objective review.
Michael Sliwinski
Dec 3, 2009 00:42
Sothos, thanks for your comment.
I'm really sorry you feel the review has been about myself. It wasn't meant like this.
But yes - it's all my opinion and you may agree with it or not. Sure.
The point I was actually trying to make was this - Notebook makers have all been focusing on specs, specs and specs... but in most cases (I'm not saying all, but most) specs on longer matter all that much. Whether you have 2.5 GHZ or 2.6GHZ Processor is irrelevant, you won't feel the difference anyway.
I'm not saying everyone should be buying MBAs now and I agree they are expensive, but what I'm saying is that it'd be nice to focus on the overall user experience of a laptop, not just specs. What's outside starts to matter even more and I really think the looks and great features of MBA should be carefully analyzed by notebook manufacturers.
I used to work on a top-of-the-line Lenovo Thinkpad and while it's a great Laptop/TabletPC, it's flat out ugly. And it was more expensive than the MBA, so it's not about the money, it's about the focus on User Experience - this is what I dig about MBA.
Trust me, if you spend in front of your computer 10+ hours a day, it's nice to have a good looking one for a change :-)
J. Lopez
Dec 14, 2009 18:43
I totally agree with you on all of your points! I have the first gen model, and have been completely happy with it's performance! I am a web designer, graphic designer, and illustrator and the air has handled it all.
Curves are sexy, and slim light weight design have been the top selling points for me. I feel the same way about too many ugly ports on plastic unsightly PC laptops. OSX makes life easier, and i also run windows XP through VM ware to test browser compatibility.
People are used to having a lot and using very little. After spending a little more, I now slimmed down my computer bag, and gained more reliability. My next computer will be the next gen AIR. I don't have a lot of money, but the air is priced less than trendy PC slim version books, so price wasn't an issue.
Great article man!
Michael Sliwinski
Dec 14, 2009 22:47
Thanks J. for your great comment!
I bought the first gen Air last November and I've been happy with it. I've moved to last gen SSD model this summer because I was given a good offer from local Apple retailer and I could sell my Air for good price, thus not paying a lot for the upgrade. I needed the Nvidia chip to handle two monitor setup better.
Again, not that I'm a rich person, but my Air is my ONLY MAIN computer, it's my tool, it's my office and I'm spending like 10-12 hours a day in front of it, so I want to have something I enjoy working with. Thanks for sharing the same passion :-)
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Jan 16, 2010 16:34
The first time I saw Macbook Air, I told to my self, it will be my new notebook. I like the style of Macbook Air. It is so slim
Michael Sliwinski
Jan 17, 2010 10:05
When I saw Macbook Air for the first time, my wife was laughing at a fact that I was lusting for this computer... and after more than a year of working exclusively on the Macbook Air, I'm not switching to anything else. After all this time I'm still amazed how this computer looks, how it works and how slim it is :-)
Lola LB
Jan 17, 2010 12:39
I find this review very amusing. Of course, I'm a MacUser - I've been using Macs ever since I worked on a MacPlus doing page layout back in college.
I'm now on a MacBook Pro. I'm looking forward to that iTablet, whenever it does come out . . . this will be really handy for when I'm out and about and I know there will be times when I'm waiting in line or something, so might as well read a book or magazine, or whatever.
Michael Sliwinski
Jan 17, 2010 19:29
While I love my Macbook Air, I have mixed feelings about the Apple iTablet (iSlate?), if it's ever going to ship... I still don't get it where the revolution will be... but than again we never expected a revolution with the iPhone and we did get one... so let's wait and see :-)
Apr 7, 2010 07:28
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Oct 9, 2010 19:10
Great review! but may I have few questions?
I;m currently testing MacBook Air and I have observed two main flaws: first, it can get really hot; second, when it's hot it gets very loud.
How do you find this?
I'm asking because I need to decide if I want to stay with MacBook Air or go back to MacBook Pro. I don't see much difference in the performance (though Pro has 4GB of RAM and better CPU), but Air is so light.
Could you share with me your thoughts?
Michael Sliwinski
Oct 10, 2010 16:20
I use coolbook to cool my Air down and smcFanControl to limit RPMs of the fan to 4500. Without these two tools my Air was practically un-usable. I don't remember the links but Google these two things and you'll find solutions.
As I mentioned in the article, the Air is not perfect, but if you correct these two things, it'd be really close to perfection. OK, more RAM would also be great, sometimes this bothers me, too. But I just try to limit the amount of apps I'm launching at a time and then it's really fast. And launching apps with SSD drive is fast, too :-)
Thanks for your comment and good luck, Kuba.
Oct 13, 2010 14:49
Thanks Michael for your feedback!
Chris Shaul
Nov 29, 2010 20:48
Hi Michael, Thanks for the article. You make a lot of good points, but one correction, my last 2 Dell computers have had a breakaway cord. If you trip on the cord it separates at the cord. Although the Air releases at the laptop, the Dell releases mid-cord.
Michael Sliwinski
Nov 30, 2010 21:40
The newest Macbook Air lacks backlit keyboard and has more ports, yet it still rocks the laptop world. The magsafe is fantastic - hope the Dell breakaway cords work great, too. Thanks for your comment, Chris!
Mike St. Pierre
Dec 24, 2010 17:30
Michael, totally agree on all of your points! I am on my third MacBook and simply can't imagine going back to PC. The form factor is simply amazing and the OS is stable, something I can't say about Windows.
Michael Sliwinski
Dec 28, 2010 12:34
I'm a little over 2 years a Mac user and can't imagine going back to PC. No way. I still can manage PC but wouldn't work to have it as my main machine... never again :-) Thanks Mike!
Jan 2, 2011 23:08
Hi there, i've just bought the 2010 MBA and previously was a devout PC/ IBM compat laptop user, but as soon as i saw the new air i knew i had to have one and can honestly say i absolutely love it! And have not felt the lack of optical drive at all. Think about it, how often do you use one of those dusty old things anyway! Windows was really starting to annoy me, the OSX is solid, not to mention the battery life. Well done Apple!
Aug 9, 2011 23:17
Hi Michael, I really enjoyed your review, and I totally agree with all your points. I've been a PC user for ten years, had my MacBook Air for two weeks, and absolutely love it. Fail to see the point of the first comment. It's a review, so of course it's going to be subjective. Doofus.
Michael Sliwinski
Aug 9, 2011 23:53
Macbook Air is my perfect working machine - barely weights anything, has a full-day battery life and is beautiful. Glad the Air also works great for you Nathan and Bill - thanks for your comments. And the aluminum body is very durable. Much better than my older plastic laptops.
Aug 10, 2011 01:50
beautifully said Michael!
Apr 8, 2012 10:25
3years old article, but still true. seems they will never get it :-)
Michael Sliwinski
Apr 8, 2012 11:49
Other notebook manufacturers have different priorities... and can't match the Macbook Air in feel and power. Thanks for your comments Bill and Michael!
Apr 8, 2012 15:26
Apr 8, 2012 15:38
Windows are catching up with the hardware - Im gonna switch back. At the end of the day, its the most popular OS in the world, for a reason. Mac is limited. With better hardware, Windows will come back on top