Why You Should Care About the New Apple MacBook Air

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What's 0.11 inches thick, weighs 2.3 pounds, and can stay powered-on from its battery for up to 30 days? I'll give you a hint: it's not a new tablet computer with a robotic-sounding name. These impressive specs belong to Apple's new MacBook Air. But if you look beyond the bragging rights, you'll find a construction and an operability that's going to redefine notebook computing.


As we've come to expect from Apple, the details surrounding the New MacBook Air sound like the stuff of pure science fiction. It's an impossibly thin computer with no hard drive, a blazingly high-resolution display and a large glass trackpad that responds to multitouch. Wi-Fi and Bluetooth come standard, but in 2010, features like this are barely even newsworthy. Where this computer really shines is the manner in which it bridges the gap between Apple's ferociously popular handheld portable devices and the more powerful computing abilities of the full Macintosh OS. After years of wild success and division at Apple, the new MacBook Air symbolizes convergence.

If you've ever tried out one of Apple's iOS products, then you've experienced the behavior of a device that's "Instantly On." You pick it up, touch the display and in an instant you're cranking away. With a tap of the thumb you open some apps, play a few games, listen to music and so on. But just as quickly as you began you can close it, put it down and walk away. It's flash memory that makes this operation possible and the new MacBook Air will allow you to carry over your impulsive and erratic computing habits to a full-blown notebook. I'm fairly certain that this is great news!

The tough exoskeleton of the new MacBook Air is ready for battle (and backpacks).

The most reassuring thing about flash memory is that it doesn't have any moving parts, so it's much better suited for the bumps and bangs of everyday mobile computer use. In the place of a spinning hard drive or a typical SSD enclosure, the new MacBook Air is equipped with an array of flash drives mounted directly on its incredibly small motherboard. This consolidation is one of the key attributes which will help blur the line between gadget and workstation for years to come.

But the memory isn't the only component that's rock solid. The body and display housing are both cut from single slabs of aluminum, making it the strongest "Unibody" Macintosh yet. When you strip this computer down to its bones, it looks like the blast shield from a futuristic tank, or a robot designed for battle (a killer android, perhaps). It's clear that this machine has been designed for everyday use; designed to live in a backpack or a large purse, to be constantly at your side and always on.

There are two different-sized models that are going to tempt you to open up your wallet. One model has a "large" 13.3-inch display. This one is roughly the same size as the last generation MacBook Air. One of the most exciting things about this announcement is the introduction of the 11.6" version. It's the ultra-portable Mac that many longtime Apple devotees have been waiting for.   

When the original MacBook Air was first introduced, one thing that left many scratching their heads was its overall size. If the idea was to create a computer that was as light as air (yet made out of metal), why not offer a smaller model as well? It's great to still have the option to choose a 13.3" model. More screen real estate is a wonderful thing. But having the option to get a super-compact model that could painlessly slip into the bag you carry everyday is the clincher. That's the Macintosh for which people were waiting.

While its size and overall vibe may remind you of a netbook, this is not role that the MacBook Air was designed to play. This is a computer with a full-sized keyboard that can run all of your day-to-day applications. Its Core 2 Duo processor, while not bleeding edge, still has plenty of teeth to handle most of your non-intensive graphic design, audio and video production needs. It's going to be a sweet mobile computer for photographers, DJ's and all of those people you see at your local cafe. However, there's a chance that the folks at the hardware store may opt in as well.

The introductory price for a new MacBook Air is just a hair shy of $1000. You have the option of selecting the 11.6" version with 64 or 128 gigs of flash memory. On the 13.3" model you can get either a 128 or 256 GB version and they're all available for pre-order right now at B&H! The slightly larger body of the 13.3" model includes an SD Card slot. All models have stereo speakers, a built-in microphone and iSight camera, a headphone output and a MagSafe power adapter.

One of the more interesting new innovations is that instead of getting installation discs (there's no optical drive), software comes on an included USB installation thumb drive, which can easily be popped into one of the two USB 2.0 ports on the new MacBook Air. If you have other software on discs, Apple provides you with a wireless method for loading them onto the MacBook Air. Or you can pick up the external MacBook Air SuperDrive, which is an optical DVD drive that plugs into a USB port.

If you want to take a break from staring at its compact display, all of the new MacBook Air models feature a mini-display port. This enables you to attach a second monitor, or to connect to an HDMI input on your TV. The mini-display port can deliver resolutions up to 2560 x 1600 pixels. However, the MacBook Air itself has an NVIDIA GeForce 320M graphics processor, so while it's awesome to be able to plug into a larger screen, the display built into this computer is still pretty sweet on its own.  

So why should you care about any of this? Well, in the years since the first MacBook Air was announced, the Apple family has undergone some considerable changes. A new relative named iPad showed up out of nowhere (outer space perhaps), and really broadened our perception of what a computer can look like and act like. More importantly, it informed the designers at Apple of what was most important to people who needed an ultra-mobile computer. They wanted a computer that's ready for use at the blink of an eye. They didn't want to be concerned with battery life. They wanted a machine that's durable. You should get this computer if don't want to have to buy another one for a long time, or concern yourself with maintenance. This is why you should care about the new MacBook Air.

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All I need to know at this point is, where do I sign?

 "It's going to be a sweet mobile computer for photographers..."

No, not really.  No SD slot.  Not much storage.  They don't get Photographers at all.

Now take this same device, but add two SD slots so you do perform in-the-field backups, and I'd buy one in a heartbeat.  Sure, I can add a bunch of attachments to accomplish this, but that defeats the purpose.  A Notebook at half the price lets me pop in cards and have backups easily, and has the power to run LightRoom with a fair amount of storage.

Oh yeah - you might want to edit this sentence.

 "However, the MacBook Air itself has an NVIDIA GeForce 320M graphics processor, so while it's awesome to be able to plug into a larger screen, the display built into this computer is still pretty sweet on its own.  

It give the impression that the writer thinks the graphics chip is part of the screen - It isn't.

masterofgoingfaster wrote:

 "It's going to be a sweet mobile computer for photographers..."

No, not really.  No SD slot.  Not much storage.  They don't get Photographers at all.

The 13.3" does indeed have an SD slot.

masterofgoingfaster wrote:

 "It's going to be a sweet mobile computer for photographers..."

No, not really.  No SD slot.  Not much storage.  They don't get Photographers at all.

Most professional photographer deal with CF cards so thats not really such a drawback anyway. If you have an entry level camera, get an entry level computer. douche.

masterofgoingfaster wrote:

"It's going to be a sweet mobile computer for photographers..."

No, not really.  No SD slot.  Not much storage.  They don't get Photographers at all.

The 13" version has a built-in SD slot and larger SSD storage (and longer battery life) and is still wafer thin.  That one will run Lightroom or Aperture just fine, though it won't hold your entire libary.  Just be sure to opt for the memory bump to 4GB when you order one, because the memory on the 2GB model isn't upgradable later (without replacing the mainboard).  Part of the compromise with any tiny laptop.

It might be more accurate to say "they don't get masterofgoingfaster".  ;^)

masterofgoingfaster wrote:

Now take this same device, but add two SD slots so you do perform in-the-field backups, and I'd buy one in a heartbeat.  Sure, I can add a bunch of attachments to accomplish this, but that defeats the purpose.  A Notebook at half the price lets me pop in cards and have backups easily, and has the power to run LightRoom with a fair amount of storage.

One SD card should be fine if you are going small (size- and weight-wise).  If you don't mind bringing a behemoth then, yes, your 17" laptop will have a larger screen and larger hard drive and (at least on a MBP) longer battery life, but you lose the small form factor.  These really have to be seen in person to get a feel for how much smaller they are than the big, clunky, ******* laptops most people lug around.

Remember, these aren't meant to be your only computer and they *definitely* aren't for everybody.

masterofgoingfaster wrote:

Oh yeah - you might want to edit this sentence.

 "However, the MacBook Air itself has an NVIDIA GeForce 320M graphics processor, so while it's awesome to be able to plug into a larger screen, the display built into this computer is still pretty sweet on its own.  

It give the impression that the writer thinks the graphics chip is part of the screen - It isn't.

RE: Graphics, the tradeoff these make with Intel C2D processors + 320M graphics chip is huge in terms of video playback capabilities vs. the so-called "improved" Intel i3 or i5 with their pathetic integrated "HD" graphics chip.

You have to look at the architecture of these tiny laptops as a unit, you either get the i3 processor and the **** HD integrated graphics and lower resolution or you get the C2D and the much better 320M and the higher resolution LED-backlit display.

masterofgoingfaster wrote:

No, not really.  No SD slot.  Not much storage.  They don't get Photographers at all.

Now take this same device, but add two SD slots so you do perform in-the-field

So you dont think you can use an SD card with anything but an SD slot? Adapters dont work?

HINT: "Universal Serial Bus"

 I've been looking for a Mac book for my daughter's photography and her broadcast videos (from tape - just bought a brand new Sony from B&H but wish I had gotten the ones that use cards)....we used SD and CF cards for the cameras. It's taking up so much room on her mac laptop for school and on my iMac.  Any suggestions? 

Denise wrote:

 I've been looking for a Mac book for my daughter's photography and her broadcast videos (from tape - just bought a brand new Sony from B&H but wish I had gotten the ones that use cards)....we used SD and CF cards for the cameras. It's taking up so much room on her mac laptop for school and on my iMac.  Any suggestions? 

In respect to video work, the new MacBook Air is really more of a mobile computing device. It could be useful for non-intensive mobile video work, but for a computer that's primary use is going to be video editing, you're much better off with a MacBook Pro. I recently bought a 15" i5 MacBook Pro with a 2.4 GHz processor. It handles Final Cut Pro 6 just fine.

Here's a link:

http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/685878-REG/Apple_Z0J4_0003_15_4_Ma...

Great Email machine!

Meh.  Bleh.

The missing SD card slot is not a killer.  They still make usb card readers.  Or how about a wifi SD card?  I'd rather have the smaller size.

 The 13.3" model could be pretty sweet for pixel peeking.

How good is the display?  As good as the iPad?

IPS? RGBLED?

The only question here is: Why should I special care for one more computer?

Ohhh, yes, it's Mac, we should bow down all.

Sam M5allery wrote on
10/21/2010 - 16:49.

 In respect to video work, the new MacBook Air is really more of a mobile computing device. It could be useful for non-intensive mobile video work, but for a computer that's primary use is going to be video editing, you're much better off with a MacBook Pro. I recently bought a 15" i5 MacBook Pro with a 2.4 GHz processor. It handles Final Cut Pro 6 just fine.

Sam,

Will it also handle SD and CF cards as well for all her photography?

Thanks!

Denise

Denise wrote:

Sam Mallery wrote on
10/21/2010 - 16:49.

 In respect to video work, the new MacBook Air is really more of a mobile computing device. It could be useful for non-intensive mobile video work, but for a computer that's primary use is going to be video editing, you're much better off with a MacBook Pro. I recently bought a 15" i5 MacBook Pro with a 2.4 GHz processor. It handles Final Cut Pro 6 just fine.

Sam,

Will it also handle SD and CF cards as well for all her photography?

Thanks!

Denise

The 15" MacBook Pro with the i5 processor that I linked in my comment has a built-in SD card reader. For Compact Flash cards she'll need an external card reader. Here's an example of an external CF card reader that would work:

http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/548842-REG/Kingston_FCR_HS219_1_19...

I have the earlier version of MacBook Air... and recently the sound just packed up on me. I've checked on several Mac fora and this seems to be a very common problem. Yet, Apple is strangely tight-lipped about it, and their authorized service center hits you with a whopping bill to replace the card because they don't know what else to do. And what of the amazingly flimsy hinges?

Wonder if this "fantastic, futuristic, blah blah" new MacBook Air is going to be plagued by the same issues. I'm personally less of an Apple fan now than I used to be... their research-centric (as opposed to customer-centric) approach is too pompous for my liking.

The flash memory array and durability make this an appealing field machine.  However, why USB 2.0 when USB 3 is out and is blazingly fast?  An no firewire?  It is otherwise an attractive option with the 256 GB option in the larger model.

I would guess that the problems that surfaced with the first generation Air have been addressed.  We will see.

The flash memory array and durability make this an appealing field machine.  However, why USB 2.0 when USB 3 is out and is blazingly fast?  An no firewire?  It is otherwise an attractive option with the 256 GB option in the larger model.

I would guess that the problems that surfaced with the first generation Air have been addressed.  We will see.

The flash memory array and durability make this an appealing field machine.  However, why USB 2.0 when USB 3 is out and is blazingly fast?  An no firewire?  It is otherwise an attractive option with the 256 GB option in the larger model.

I would guess that the problems that surfaced with the first generation Air have been addressed.  We will see.

Screen is too small. Not enough storage. No sd or cf readers. This is NOT the perfect notebook for photographers. I'm disappointed in B&H's decision to swallow their integrity and try to push this as a solution when it's far from it.  

Shame on you B&H...

I'd say it's absolutely ideal for mobile photographers.  Man, people think inside the box too much.

You're out in the field shooting.  You have a compact USB SD/CF reader with you.  You can shoot, dump your photos quickly for brief review, to clear off your card, etc.  Then bring everything home and transfer what you shot from your MBA to your main machine.

Nobody's telling anyone to give up their primary home machine and use a Macbook air instead.  Looks to me like more of a supplemental computer for on-the-go tasks.  For that, even the low-end 11" model seems great.  Certainly better than reviewing photos on your dSLR's LCD.  It takes awhile to fill 64GB with photos, so I'd wager most people could even take this on weeklong photo outings out-of-country and still have plenty of space.

If you wanna use this as your main machine, yeah the screen is too small, there's not enough storage, etc.  That's not what it was designed for.  This could be a main machine for someone who just does internet and word processing tasks.  It's designed for mobility, not for raw horsepower.

unregistered wrote:

I'd say it's absolutely ideal for mobile photographers.  Man, people think inside the box too much.

You're out in the field shooting.  You have a compact USB SD/CF reader with you.  You can shoot, dump your photos quickly for brief review, to clear off your card, etc.  Then bring everything home and transfer what you shot from your MBA to your main machine.

Nobody's telling anyone to give up their primary home machine and use a Macbook air instead.  Looks to me like more of a supplemental computer for on-the-go tasks.  For that, even the low-end 11" model seems great.  Certainly better than reviewing photos on your dSLR's LCD.  It takes awhile to fill 64GB with photos, so I'd wager most people could even take this on weeklong photo outings out-of-country and still have plenty of space.

If you wanna use this as your main machine, yeah the screen is too small, there's not enough storage, etc.  That's not what it was designed for.  This could be a main machine for someone who just does internet and word processing tasks.  It's designed for mobility, not for raw horsepower.

Kudos!

This says it all.

A new Core 2 Duo CPU laptop computer in late 2010? Absolutely ridiculous.

Why B&H doesn't sell 4GB RAM models ?

I'm going to buy 13.3" 128GB SSD 4GB RAM.

Any chance to buy it at B&H next week ?

We do -- the custom-configured options usually take a few days to get entered into our system after a product announcement, but they've been available for order for about a week now.

The system you are interested in is listed right here -- http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/740990-REG/Apple_Z0JG_0001_13_3_MacBook_Air_Notebook.html

Jim Fisher wrote:

We do -- the custom-configured options usually take a few days to get entered into our system after a product announcement, but they've been available for order for about a week now.

The system you are interested in is listed right here -- http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/740990-REG/Apple_Z0JG_0001_13_3_MacBook_Air_Notebook.html

So, may I order it and expect it to be shipped next week ?

Out of curiosity, how do I get from here
http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/search?ci=13223&N=4294250031+4294948826
to there
http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/740990-REG/Apple_Z0JG_0001_13_3_Ma...
Any button I missed ?
May be I'm missing some other great stuff at B&H ? :)

I can't answer the shipping question -- I only write about the stuff. :)  Sam said in his reply that he spoke to our buyer and was given the indication that the custom systems would be in "soon..." If you were looking for a more concrete answer, my best recommendation would be to call our sales number -- the guys on the phone can (hopefully) give you a concrete estimate on shipping.

I'll look into why the MacBook Air filter isn't bringing up all of the new systems -- definitely an oversight on our part! Thanks for bringing it to our attention.

F wrote:

Jim Fisher wrote:

We do -- the custom-configured options usually take a few days to get entered into our system after a product announcement, but they've been available for order for about a week now.

The system you are interested in is listed right here -- http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/740990-REG/Apple_Z0JG_0001_13_3_MacBook_Air_Notebook.html

So, may I order it and expect it to be shipped next week ?

Out of curiosity, how do I get from here
http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/search?ci=13223&N=4294250031+4294948826
to there
http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/740990-REG/Apple_Z0JG_0001_13_3_Ma...
Any button I missed ?
May be I'm missing some other great stuff at B&H ? :)

As far as actually having the 4GB 128 13.3" in stock, the computer buyer told me:

"We will have it soon, I hope."

There's a chance we may have them in stock next week, but we can't guarantee it.