MacBook Air is very polished and very thin

When Steve Jobs, Apple Inc.’s CEO, announced what Apple calls its, “Thinnovative” notebook, I could not wait to get my hands on the three pound, slim-enough-to-fit-into-an-interoffice-envelope, MacBook Air.

From the minute I saw the sleek and elegant black box that contained the notebook, I knew I should expect what was inside to be of the same or greater esthetic caliber. I was not disappointed when I opened the box. MacBook Air was indeed very polished and very thin, measuring only 0.16-inches at its thinnest point and 0.76-inches at its thickest.

From its all-aluminum case to its 13.3-inch LED widescreen display to its full size illuminated keyboard, it was hard to believe the MacBook Air was as light and thin as it is. After giving the notebook a quick once-over, I didn’t see a USB port anywhere on the unit. However, after more careful searching, I found a pull-down door on the notebook’s right hand side that revealed a USB port, headphone jack and micro-DVI plug.

On a more technical level, by running on a 1.6GHz Intel Core 2 Duo Processor with 4MB of shared L2 cache, with 2GB of standard memory and an 80GB solid-state hard drive, I found the notebook was able to run smooth and efficiently.

From a more personal standpoint of being an avid-PC user, it took me some time to get used to using a Mac unit and operating system. MacBook Air comes equipped with Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard and with the new iLife ’08 software.

The MacBook Air does not come with Apple’s iWork application suite, which includes its word processing program, I wanted to install Microsoft’s Office 2008 for Mac on it. There was one problem though; MacBook Air does not have a built-in optical disk drive, which made trying to install the software, which comes on a CD, a challenge. While an external optical drive can be purchased separately, I did not have that option available to me. I therefore had to enlist the help of a co-worker who has a Mac computer to install the software on his computer before transferring it over a shared network connection to the MacBook Air.

Once the software was installed, I had no problems doing my work on it. Its lightweight form factor and its portability aspect was superb. Whenever I took it with me to various industry events, it not only attracted stares, but in fact, it also turned some heads a full 360 degrees and sparked questions such as, “how do you like it?”

Perhaps what I enjoyed most on MacBook Air was that its illuminated keyboard adapted accordingly when exposed to changes in different light environments. Therefore, if I were typing in an office with the lights on, the keyboard would appear as normal. However, as soon as the lights would start getting dim, the keyboard and even the display screen, would light up and become brighter to compensate for the darker lighting.

The one thing I didn’t like though, was that the backlit keyboard option would drain the battery power quite quickly. What helped though, was that the backlight option can also be turned off or set lower by simply pressing a button located above the keyboard.

MacBook Air also features a built-in 37-watt hour lithium-polymer battery, which Apple says can provide up to five hours of battery life. When using the notebook at its “balanced” battery setting, I found I had about three and a half hours on it before I needed to recharge. I’m assuming the up to five hour use is with the display’s brightness turned down and wireless capabilities turned off.

Also, not really having used a Mac before, I was unaware of this program called Photo Booth, which comes with the notebook. Once I discovered this, myself, along with everyone else I showed it to, had great fun with it. Photo Booth is a photo taking program that utilizes MacBook Air’s built-in iSight camera that features 16 different visual effects that users can choose from. Some of my favourites are settings such as comic book, mirror, dent and glow. When selecting some of these options, you can quickly turn what would otherwise be seen as a “normal” picture, into one that looks very abstract and alien-esque, think big eyes combined with a small head.

What made MacBook Air difficult to use in some cases was its multi-touch gesture capabilities on its trackpad. Apple has designed this so users can use pinching and swiping motions to shrink and magnify what’s on the screen. But even after using the notebook for a good few weeks, I could never quite figure out how to use it. I would sometimes find that icons on the desktop and even programs would shrink or enlarge themselves if I wasn’t careful with where my fingers were placed on the trackpad.

Trackpad confusions set aside, MacBook Air is a sleek and very professional-looking notebook that I very much enjoyed using. Its Canadian price point of $1,899 isn’t so bad either and to top it off, MacBook Air also comes with 90 days of telephone support and a one-year limited warranty with the option of extended warranty coverage.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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Maxine Cheung
Maxine Cheung
Staff Writer, Computer Dealer News

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