The MacBook Air was the pick of the products announced by Steve Jobs during his Macworld Expo keynote speech yesterday, and we've already published our first look at what's said to be the world's slimmest laptop. But is Apple's latest creation all hype and no substance, or the next must-have hardware from the world's coolest consumer electronics manufacturer?
A quick surf around the web reveals that initial reactions are varied. Every analyst Wired spoke to expected the MacBook Air to do big things. "Apple's clearly responding to what is an actual real trend right now: the popularity of the ultra-light laptop," said Creative Strategies' Tim Bajarin.
Christopher Null, from Yahoo Tech, is the only blogger we found to dispute Apple's claims that the MacBook Air is the world's thinnest laptop. According to Null, the Sony X505 was 0.7in thick and was released in 2003. Furthermore, "it'll set you back $1,799, which is on the inexpensive side for ultra-light notebooks with specs like this".
Mark Hattersley, editor of PC Advisor's sister title Macworld UK, shares Null's sentiment and feels the MacBook Air's biggest problem is its price. "It simply offers less than the MacBook, but costs more money. You pay £500 more for the privilege of not getting an optical drive, Ethernet port, FireWire socket and a slightly slower hard drive and CPU," he said.
Meanwhile, Rob Griffiths, editor of Macworld US, agreed that the price is steep and feels potential MacBook Air buyers would be paying a high price by trading off hard disk space and an optical drive in favour of an ultra lightweight machine, especially in the eventuality that the hard drive develops an error and OS X needs to be reinstalled.
"I can't boot off the Leopard DVD unless I fork out the extra $99 for the USB-powered SuperDrive and with no FireWire port the use of FireWire Target Disk Mode is out. And I won't be able to use that cool and oh-so-handy 'borrow a drive from another Mac' feature, as the hard drive won't be bootable. So barring the extra $99 for the SuperDrive, the only solution will be to boot from a USB 2 hard drive that's been prepared with a disk-based version of the OS X installer," explains Griffiths.
Probably the biggest issue that irks Griffiths is the fact the battery isn't removable. Although, five hours continuous use of the lithium polymer battery is guaranteed, the likelihood is that you'll get caught short on a long journey and your MacBook Air will be pretty useless. Griffiths also points out that according to Wikipedia the life expectancy of lithium polymer batteries is 24 to 36 months, with a claimed 80-percent capacity retention after 500 full charge/discharge cycles.
"We won't know how the MacBook Air's battery holds up until its been in the field for a while, but it will definitely provide less than a five-hour charge as it ages. With Apple's other laptops, this isn't an issue as you can simply purchase a new battery and install it yourself. But what will one do with the MacBook Air? Will you have to send it to Apple to replace the battery? Can it be done while you wait? Nobody knows, but clearly, it's not something the consumer will be able to do at home," he adds.
But other than short hands-on demonstrations on the show floor at MacWorld Expo, nobody's put the MacBook Air through an in-depth test so far. So, the general consensus is to advise consumers to think carefully before purchasing and if possible wait until the second, third and possibly even fourth generations appear.