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Hands-on with an Apple Mac netbook

We stick Mac OS X on an MSI Wind

There's no doubt that netbooks are the current hot trend. However, Apple hasn't yet produced one. The web maybe awash with rumours of the possibility of a Mac netbook, but we can't wait to see if one appears. Instead we created on our own, in a bid to imagine what an Apple netbook might feel like.

You get what you pay for

But after spending quite a bit of time with the Wind, I've come to appreciate much about Apple's hardware design.

Take the MSI Wind's wireless networking. Yes, the Wind supports Wi-Fi (although not the faster 802.11n specification) and Bluetooth. But for ages I couldn't figure out why my Wi-Fi card wasn't working, either in Mac OS X or in Windows XP. I thought I was going to have to return the system as defective until I discovered, much to my chagrin, that in order to turn on Wi-Fi, you've got to press F11 key.

This is a frustrating tendency, common among PC makers, to wire up hardware features to keyboard shortcuts. (It's F6 to toggle the included webcam on and off.) Yes, Apple has joined this trend by connecting function keys to brightness and volume controls, and more recently to Expose, Dashboard, and iTunes controls.

But the MSI Wind takes this a step too far. I also don't quite know the purpose for the eight green lights on the front of the Wind. Okay, they'll tell you if you're using Bluetooth or Wi-Fi, if your computer is asleep, if the battery is dead, if the hard drive's being accessed, and I don't know what else. But who needs to know? Apple's choice of a single, subtly pulsing light to indicate sleep status is more than enough for me.

While the Wind is not a terrible laptop, it most definitely feels cheap. Apple's aluminium-clad laptops all feel solid, and even the white plastic MacBook feels sturdy. The Wind's plastic skin feels thinner and more flexible, especially on the bottom - it feels more like what you'd find in a clock radio or other cheap consumer appliance.

And I realise now why someone at Apple demands full-sized keyboards for all the company's laptops: the Wind's compact keyboard and its too-small keys make my hands grow weary after spending almost any time typing on the Wind.

Laptop buying advice

NEXT PAGE: Why we can't live without Apple's trackpad

  1. We convert an MSI Wind to get an idea
  2. MacBook Mini from Earth-U100
  3. You get what you pay for
  4. Why we can't live without Apple's trackpad
  5. So what if it were made by Apple?
  6. Why Apple won't do it

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