Product Notes: Apple MacBook Air
January 15th, 2008
On January 15th, 2008, Apple introduced the MacBook Air, the first of a new notebook line. The MacBook Air is Apple's first true lightweight notebook since the PowerBook G4 12-inch and their first serious entry into this market since 1997's PowerBook 2400c. With its 3.0 pound minimum weight, it has the potential to meet the needs of many of the University's Mac OS-based 'road warriors', most especially those that do not use many peripherals.
The MacBook Air is an extremely thin 'no-spindle' (with the solid state drive) or single-spindle (with the hard disk drive) 13-inch widescreen notebook designed to run Mac OS 10.5 Leopard. It uses low-voltage (LV) Core 2 Duo processors running at 1.6 GHz or 1.8 GHz.
The 13-inch display is the same general specification as that on the MacBook. For input, the MacBook Air includes an oversized multi-touch trackpad which supports two-finger scrolling, pinch, rotate, swipe, tap, double-tap, and drag capabilities. This gesture-based input resembles that of the iPhone.
The MacBook Air includes many features of Intel's Santa Rosa chipset, but is the first Mac for many years not to include at least one FireWire port. It is also the only current Mac without an integrated optical drive (an external 'SuperDrive' is optional). The MacBook Air also displays Apple's sometime predilection for closed design - the RAM is not user-upgradable and the battery is not user replaceable.
Like all other current Apple notebooks, the MacBook Air has received a Silver rating from EPEAT and is Energy Star 4.0-certified.
Configuration & Ordering Notes
Several notes when ordering a MacBook Air:
See ISC's Notebook Purchasing Guide for more configuration hints. As of January 2008, configuring a MacBook Air to the Lightweight Notebook specification can be done for approximately $2,000.
Apple has built somewhat of a 'tweener' here, pulling the optical drive out, but retaining a 13-inch screen from the MacBook. They've also pulled much of the connectivity that many professional users need, which is probably one reason this isn't the MacBook Pro 13-inch.
Apple is not the first to bring good and interesting current design to the lightweight notebook market. In particular, Lenovo, Sony, and Toshiba all have competive offerings in this market and some of them, such as the Lenovo ThinkPad X61 and the Toshiba Portégé R500, do not make nearly as many compromises as the MacBook Air does.
ISC sees the MacBook Air as being an interesting and competitive choice among lightweight notbooks available in early 2008. ISC will be following up with a full review of this product as soon as it has completed testing.
--John Mulhern III, Senior Project Leader, ISC Technology Support Services (January 15th, 2008)
Information Systems and Computing
University of Pennsylvania
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