The MacBook Air: After three weeks
by jgn on Saturday, May 3, 2008
My development has switched to all-Mac-and-Linux 95% of the time, and so it was time to replace my aging ThinkPad with a Mac laptop. I have found that in the last two years, reducing the weight of my shoulder bag by even a pound or two can make my life much more livable, so the Air seemed like a good choice. Naturally I was concerned by the relatively slow speed, lack of connectors, and the RAM limitation . . . but . . . it sure is light!
Here are the pros and cons as I've experienced them:
Everything that's good about OS X and the Mac platform generally; good riddance Windows.
Speed and memory has been good enough for Rails.
The lack of connectors is a huge deal, especially if you want to use the external superdrive. The Air's external superdrive cannot be plugged into a hub (even if the hub is powered). Because of this, you cannot run the superdrive and, say, external USB keyboard, mice, etc., or use the Mac USB-to-ethernet connector. So when using the superdrive, you must rely on Bluetooth (for keyboard and mice) and on your wireless network. These are tough requirements, but if everything is working, it could be ok.
Which leads me to my real gripe. The bluetooth connectivity between the Air and Apple's new bluetooth keyboard is awful. I am constantly losing connections. This has been reported on all of the Mac boards. Despite a recent firmware upgrade that was supposed to help, the problem is ongoing. Some theorize that the issue is competition between bluetooth and 2.4ghz wireless -- I can control that a bit, but I am in an area of Cambridge that is saturated with wireless connectivity at 2.4ghz across all channels. I am constantly using the superdrive to re-burn some old CDs, and I also use a separate keyboard, mouse, and monitor when working at home: So I must have reliable bluetooth. The only thing that seems to work is to completely remove all bluetooth devices, shutdown, start back up, and re-add (i.e., re-pair) the devices. That is very time-consuming. Another interesting tidbit is that the bluetooth system preference will lose the "don't wake because of bluetooth devices" setting if you remove them all. So have to remember to re-set that. This is all a far cry from bluetooth on the ThinkPad, which in my experience was flawless.
So . . . I love the Air, but I may have to acquire a separate Mac just to rip CDs (so that I can use external devices with USB instead of with bluetooth). Or I suppose another option would be to use a non-Apple external CD drive that can work through a hub.