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New MacBook Air: The best ever

Paul Venezia | Nov. 3, 2010
Apple's spectacularly responsive new MacBook Air is the best Air yet -- and might be the best MacBook, period

It took about 2 hours to migrate 100GB of data from one to the other over the 100Mbps Ethernet dongles. Following that, I was immediately able to log into a session on the new Air that was completely identical to the old Air, with all my preferences, applications, documents, and settings already there and waiting for me. Needless to say, it would take far, far longer than 2 hours -- and cause significant frustration and stress -- to replicate all of those settings, reinstall all of those applications, and copy all of those files manually.

New MacBook Air: Caveats and concerns

As impressed as I might be with the new Air, there are a few issues, but they're exceedingly minor in the face of the stellar performance. First is the aforementioned lack of a power light. Call me old-fashioned, but I like to know if my laptop is on or off.

Another minor quibble: Even though the power port is now horizontal and flush with the left side, the power adapter is still angled at 45 degrees. In one position, it blocks the USB port on that side. Flipping it over is easy enough, but it can be a pain in some situations where the cable needs to bend back toward you.

Inexplicably, there's no remote IR receiver anywhere on the new version, so if you want to use your Air for presentations, you'll need to purchase a Bluetooth presentation control accessory or use an iOS device connected via network -- bummer.

Finally, the reliabilty of the flash-based storage subsystem remains to be seen. Given Apple's track record with flash-based devices like the iPad, iPod, and iPhone, I have to believe the company gave plenty of thought to the dependability and longevity of the SSD, but the usage models for those devices are far different than for a Mac OS X-based laptop.

Mac OS X does not implement TRIM, which handles wear-leveling and garbage collection to prevent SSDs from slowing down over time. It's unclear whether that or a similar technology will be necessary for maintaining the new flash-based storage in the Air, but time will tell.

Given the spectacular responsiveness of the new MacBook Air, it's a good bet that the next run of MacBook Pros will sport the same flash-based storage with beefier CPUs, greater RAM support, and larger screens. But they'll also be bigger and heavier -- and that's where the Air stands apart. It has the oomph to handle just about every general-purpose task you can throw at it while weighing in at less than three pounds. I'm not going to use my Air for heavy video editing with Final Cut Pro or to mix down 32 audio tracks in Pro Tools, but I'll reach for it when it comes to all of my other daily tasks, wherever I happen to be.

One thing's for sure: This Air is easily the best one yet.


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