The MacBook Air Is a Horrible, Horrible Product

by Tanner Godarzi Jan 18, 2008

I’m not one to immediately write off any product as horrible without considering what it can do, but in all honesty, I think the MacBook Air is a misplaced product.

The whole point of an ultra portable is to be just that: easy to carry and easy to use. Many companies have tried and actually pulled off some amazing designs without losing functionality or making up for it by targeting a different demographic. The MacBook Air is just really, really thin. How thin you say? Thin enough to fit in a manila folder while retaining the MacBook’s form factor and shaving off 2 pounds. Essentially the scarred child of the MacBook and MacBook Pro that had a bad case of bulimia.

But what does the whole package get you? A usable Mac, one a road warrior who relies on the Internet more than local apps might fall in love with. Besides it being so thin (did I mention it was thin?), you have to make some serious compromises. Only 1 USB port, no Firewire, no Optical Drive, and worst of all, no user replaceable battery.

Did I also mention the price? For an extended period of time, you too can not only compromise on essential features but also pay far out the wallet for it! At a cool $1800 for the baseline model, you can enjoy a seriously powered down MacBook that sets itself apart from its bulkier counterparts by being really, really thin. So thin that you’re being charged a premium for the removal of what makes a laptop a laptop.

So far, Apple really screwed up on this one. It’d be nice if the MacBook Air was the entry level model to the MacBook family due to its lack of features, but instead Apple thought it necessary to further muck up the branding by pricing it just under a MacBook Pro and a lot more than a MacBook, both of which would eat the MBA for breakfast with room left over (you know, because it’s so thin.)

Besides that, Apple really drives home the point that physical media is dying. Great, Steve, but the library of DVDs and software isn’t shrinking. What’s a movie loving consumer to do? Buy them all on iTunes! Who needs an optical drive, just repurchase everything in lower quality, did I mention you can now rent it too? Did I also mention that the thin form factor just makes it that much better?

“In redefining thin, MacBook Air has shed something you no longer need: the optical drive. That’s because MacBook Air is built for the wireless world. So instead of watching DVDs, you can rent movies wirelessly from the iTunes Store.”

But wait, it only has an 80 GB Hard Drive! No matter, we’ll just upgrade it to make room for all that great content I’m downloading, oh wait. That’s right, non upgradeable. Did I also mention you can defeat the purpose of an ultra portable by attaching a removable hard drive or keep it mobile by going on what Apple says…

“Mac OS X Leopard brought you Time Machine, the built-in backup that automatically copies files to an external drive. And now, Time Capsule—the new hard drive plus Wi-Fi base station—lets you use Time Machine to wirelessly back up your files. It’s effort free and yet another way MacBook Air lets you live and work untethered.”

The only positive thing I’ll say is the design is decent. The concept totally contradicts itself, though; it’s not smaller in any way, only thinner and lighter. The price point is the real killer also, as the lack of features could be compensated with a lower price point. But in all honesty, the MacBook Air is an abomination that only waters down features.

Did I also mention that it’s really thin?


  • Tanner the 2 digit twit sez: @zato3, look up the word frugal then come back with a valid argument.

    So buying a MBAir is not “frugal”, and that makes it a “horrible horrible” computer? Is that the best lie you can come up with?

    zato3 had this to say on Jan 21, 2008 Posts: 26
  • The MBA is beautiful piece of technology, and a testament to the ingenuity of Apple and the fabricators & assemblers gathered in China.

    The MBA is not upon what I will spend my dwindling bucks. I expected the much requested updated 12” (to give my G4 a rest). The ‘old’ 12” is the right size, and has the connections and interior space to have been upgraded to a useful, dual-core, 160GB,‘road machine’.

    hotep had this to say on Jan 23, 2008 Posts: 13
  • If you have a Blackberry, you don’t even need a machine that costs this much money and has so little to offer.

    syndrome477 had this to say on Feb 25, 2008 Posts: 1
  • Absolutely. If a Blackberry or iPhone does all you need, don’t buy an Air (ie: you don’t need a full fledged Mac on the go so don’t pay extra for it!). If larger size isn’t a problem, get a regular laptop and don’t by an Air. etc etc.

    In fact, best that you always look at your needs, and buy the product that fits them.

    (sorry, fallen for troll?)

    Greg Alexander had this to say on Feb 25, 2008 Posts: 228
  • @Tanner Godarzi:

    I have to agree with everyone who says that just because a product isn’t for you doesn’t mean it’s horrible or missed the market completely.  First of all, it appears the market doesn’t agree with you.  There’s rumors that the MBA is selling out in Apple stores as fast as the stores can get them:

    I think the niche for the Air exists.  I think there are enough people who own a desktop, who want a laptop, but only want the bare essentials in a laptop.  I think Apple has provided that.  Minimum weight, durable construction, usable keyboard, sufficient screen, wireless connectivity, adequate battery life, and enough storage if you swap stuff with a larger desktop hard drive.  In fact, I’ll go as far as to say that Apple screwed up by investing space in the mini-DVI port, which screams “I’m a real laptop, and use me as a desktop as well!”  Better to have maybe a mini Firewire port, a card slot, or another USB port.

    Apple has done enough with the Air as a first gen product to keep it alive.  In the future, I expect more HD capacity and speed, better battery life, cellular wireless, and likely some tricks we can’t think of right now.

    I look at the Air a lot like the Saturn Sky, or simply any two-seater, no storage roadster.  The Sky is totally out of character for what most Saturn customers want.  It’s a second car, a toy, offering style and performance with a brand normally known for utilitarian transportation and frugality.  But Saturn needs the Sky for two reasons: it brings more people into the show room, and it gives Saturn engineers a platform to test envelope pushing technologies that will trickle down to its other products.

    The Air is going to operate the same way.  I’m sure traffic at the retail stores is especially high, as people go see if the Air is really that thin.  And while they’re there, they’ll look at a MacBook, or a MacBook Pro.  Maybe they’ll realize that the current slate of Apple laptops are actually decent values, despite the perception that they’re especially expensive.  And now, Apple engineers and suppliers have a reason to make super-thin 160 GB hard drives, or cheaper SSDs, or really small cellular antennas.  It’s almost an added bonus that there are enough people with the funds and the want/need for an Air to make a business case for it.

    Taco John had this to say on Mar 21, 2008 Posts: 5
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