Macbook Air: What a rip off or is thin really that in?

When Steve Jobs unveiled the Macbook Air at his keynote, Dave Legg (our coder here at Neowin) immediately contacted me and showed me the link to the demo of this wonderful product, my jaw dropped. How was this thing so thin? How does it stay cool despite sporting an Intel Core 2 Duo? I was on my merry way to find specs, needless to say I was disappointed when all the facts became clear.

Apple have seemed to master the way of selling hardware at inflated prices and touting it as the next best thing to sliced bread, and lets face it.. consumers lap it up but I have a feeling you'll be ripped off at the price they are asking!

We have yet to see the effects of heat and will we be ok with taking the "Air" on an plane and then having the battery run out less than half way across the Atlantic? Usually we'd be able to swap out the empty for a second battery, but not in this case. it's not upgradeable or even removable!

I doubt I will educate any person that swears by Apple hardware, but at the very least lets draw a comparison to a relatively cheap Sony VAIO with Mr Jobs latest offering.

Macbook air @ $1799*:

  • 13.3" 1280x800 Screen
  • 2GB RAM nonupgradeable
  • 1.6 ghz Intel Core 2 Duo
  • No optical drive
  • 80GB HDD (4800 RPM P-ATA Drive)
  • Wifi: a/b/g/n
  • Bluetooth: Yes
  • Camera: Yes
  • Fingerprint scanner: Yes
  • Card reader: None
  • Battery: 5 hours, non removable
  • Graphics: Mobile Intel® Graphics Media Accelerator X3100
  • Ports: Headphones, Micro DVI Out, 1 USB
  • Weight: 3 lbs
  • Thickness: 0.75"
  • Dimensions: 12.8" x 9"

Sony VAIO @ $1400*:
  • 13.3" 1280x800 Screen
  • 2GB RAM max 4gb
  • 2.0 ghz Intel Core 2 Duo
  • DVD±R DL / DVD±RW / DVD-RAM
  • 120GB HDD (5400 RPM)
  • Wifi: a/b/g/n
  • Bluetooth: Yes
  • Camera: $30 extra
  • Fingerprint scanner: Yes
  • Card reader: Memory Stick, Memory Stick Pro, SD, xD, MMC
  • Battery: 4-6 hours depending on battery size, removable
  • Graphics: NVIDIA GeForce 8400M and Intel GMA X3100
  • Ports: USB /10/100 Ethernet/Firewire/Micro SD Port (*up to 8GB)
  • Weight: 4.2 lbs
  • Thickness: 1.5"
  • Dimensions: 12.5" x 9.3"

So I ask, are you paying $399 extra for the fact that it's so much thinner, a little lighter and has a lot less features? Is thin really that in, and more to the point that costly?

You decide!

*Prices mentioned are US dollars and the Sony VAIO had the custom option of a $30 camera added

Reference: Sony VAIO SZ740

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I'd prefer to be able to burn a CD/DVD whenever I want without having to carry around an external drive or install a program on the computer closest to me. I have a 13.3" Toshiba, and there's no way I'd bring it back just to get lower specs and a slimmer form factor. Also, what about the people who want to run Time Capsule and use a mouse? A USB hub would sure disgrace the super slimness of this laptop.

Though the backlit keyboard is a nice touch.

If you want a cheeper Apple laptop with a 13" screen then and all the features of the Sony quoted buy a buy a MacBook, they start at $1099.

If you want something smaller, thinner, lighter and more portable and are willing to give up or dont need a DVD drive and other ports then get a MacBook Air for $1799.

There is no compromise, there is no rip off.

If you feel a MacBookAir is a compromise and cant understand that to get it to that size and weight certain things needed to be left out such as the DVD player and intel will charge more for the smaller chip (at least in the short term, until other companies use it) then buy a normal MacBook or the Sony. If they didnt take things out it would be a MacBook.

If you already have a computer and want an ultra light and thin notebook then get a MacBookAir. Compared to other utra portable laptops out there its not any different. External components, missing ports and higher price.

The only thing different as far as I can see it that Apple actually tried to come up with a nice design for it.

Man what a flamebait article...

I love how bananas are compared to oranges... since the specs of that Vaio you posted are more comparable to a macbook... which would cost a lot less than the Vaio.


The Macbook Air competes directly with other products on the utra portable market, that is to say the Sony Vaio TZ series for example, which are not the laptops you have seemingly used in your article. To get a similarly specced laptop which is as light and as thin (i.e. something weighing 3lbs, roughly and inch thick) from the TZ series, you are looking at $2,500. Even then the CPU isn't as fast as the Air, the screen is also smaller in fact.

Now the Macbook Air is not without compromise. For me personally, missing firewire, digital audio out and the remote which ships with all other Macbooks is a huge oversight. The biggest compromise is no Physical LAN connection, which is the instant reason I would not buy a Macbook Air. I am also not keen on the built in battery.

However the point remains that if you want a laptop with better specs, you can pay less if you don't mind it being thicker, this is the same irregardless of Manufacturer, be it Apple, Lenovo, Vaio etc; but if you travel a lot, and are not in need of the DVD drive etc, then I personally think the Macbook Air is competetively priced.

That is not actually true. Pricing up a macbook on the US version of the apple store, it comes to $1,324 with the same hardware spec as the Vaio, and when you throw in the price of the card reader which the Macbook I priced up doesn't have, the prices are actually pretty similar, with a difference of maybe $30-40

God, I love Apple products. They look good, perform well, and I'd have one in a heartbeat if they weren't so overpriced.

The issue I have with the Macbook Air is the lack of physical network connectivity. Wireless is great to a point, but when every man and their dog has a wireless network, and you can't get a stable connection for love nor money, a physical connection is the only option, which is now impossible on the Air. I presume some company will make a USB ethernet adapter for it, thus further increasing the weight and convenience penalty when you find you have to have a DVD drive too.


If you check the Macbook Air specs page, at the bottom it shows accessories. One of which is a USB to ethernet adapter made by apple, to go with their USB to modem, and micro DVI adapters.

An issue to some, a feature to others. That's the whole point of the design, to be completely cable free.

And yes, the lack of an ethernet port can be called a 'feature' in this case, because it allows for the ultra-thin design which is one of the most important aspects of the product.

This is product is obviously not for everybody (at least not for someone who regularly needs an ethernet port, an optical drive etc.). But nobody can't deny it's extremely attractive for a small minority that has access to wireless technology at home and work.

well done apple.

imho id have neither a Sony Vaio or the Mac , ill stick to my XPS M1330 (which is cheaper than both)

^^ CD dragon LOL bud Im with ya on that!! Long Live Chickenhead!!!

I haven't seen an actual screenshot yet, but chances are I'll want one. Then I'll get one. Then I'll immediately load Vista Business or some form of Linux on it. Assuming this is a tablet. If it's a laptop I won't waste my money. A Micro SDHC slot would be nice, though :(

I love it when people try to distinguish between their non-Macintosh computer and their Macintosh by calling it a PC. The Macintosh IS a PC.

A couple of points people seem to be overlooking when comparing prices:

- Innovation: this has basically a custom Intel chip created especially for it.
- Quality of materials/build: the whole thing is made entirely of aluminum and the finish is ultra high quality.

Those two features alone seem *much* more expensive to me than just cramming an optical drive ($100) and some USB/Ethernet ports ($10).

I was just about to say about the custom design of the MacBook Air has probably caused a slight "bump" in the price. I do enjoy Apple's innovative products, however I use either system, PC or Mac, just to get the job done. (ie. word processing or programming in a terminal).


LOVE LIVE AMIGA!

The only thing keeping me from switching from Windows to something like Ubuntu or Mac is game support. If either could get support for that (unlikely), I'd be in.

LipSmacker said,
The only thing keeping me from switching from Windows to something like Ubuntu or Mac is game support. If either could get support for that (unlikely), I'd be in.

Why not just use Boot Camp if you have games that aren't available on Mac.

Actually, the question is why not use a console?

I find the concept of turning a 1k (or more) computer into a toy seriously offensive. I'm all for the occasional java-game break but why spend so much time and money in hardware upgrades and drivers and such when you can just buy a Wii, or a 360 or even a PS3 and be set for the next 4-5 years?

jgrodri said,
Actually, the question is why not use a console?

I find the concept of turning a 1k (or more) computer into a toy seriously offensive. I'm all for the occasional java-game break but why spend so much time and money in hardware upgrades and drivers and such when you can just buy a Wii, or a 360 or even a PS3 and be set for the next 4-5 years?

Simply put, too many great games are either PC only or not near as good on a console. For instance, TF2. Online play using a PC destroys using Live.

jgrodri said,
Actually, the question is why not use a console?

I find the concept of turning a 1k (or more) computer into a toy seriously offensive. I'm all for the occasional java-game break but why spend so much time and money in hardware upgrades and drivers and such when you can just buy a Wii, or a 360 or even a PS3 and be set for the next 4-5 years?

Consoles are inferior to PC's with latest GPU's. 360 or PS3 have GPU similar to "nVidia 6800". PC with 8800GT GPU is 4 times more powerful than console. PC with with nVidia 8800GT can run latest games at native 1920x1200 resolutions without any problems. Consoles run games on 1280x720 resolution and up scale it if output resolution is higher.

PC games cost 25% less. It means that if you are a gamer then you can save money for better PC equipment. PC's also have more powerful GPU, means that PC runs strategic games better. You can turn older PCI-E PC to very powerful gaming "console" just by adding fast GPU (~£170). Console/FPS games usually doesn't require powerful CPU. You can play Crysis with Intel P4 + 8800GT with 1920x1200 resolution perfectly with medium + some high settings. Note that on high resolutions anti-aliasing and anisotropic filtering is less needed because higher resolution (1920x1200) means smaller pixels, means object borders are much less jagged than on smaller resolutions (1280x720)

kraized said,

Why not just use Boot Camp if you have games that aren't available on Mac.

becasue a MAC running bootcamp is more expensiv to buy than any PC

I'm really surprised that this many people ^^^^ bothered to get hot under the collar about an article which is as badly written as this.

I use ALL MS stuff, don't have a problem, but when I do, hell, as an IT professional it keeps me in a job. I'm sure Mac has it's pros and cons (never used it sorry)....why do people still maintain one is BETTER than the other.

This is coming from a Microsoft man, through and through (for my sins).

  • GUI Operating System? +1 MS +1 Apple
  • Ability to run business critical applications with stablitity - +1 MS +1 Apple
  • Ability to burn CD's and other media - +1 MS +1 Apple
  • Ability to incite trolls on forums - +1MS +1 Apple


For my mind...they are both equally adept at performing the majority of day to day tasks.

Increase the peace! This article is dire....just because it's more expensive doesn't make the product less than satisfactory, it makes the product margin over-inflated that's all!

You are allowed to like something, and not want to use it you know - have an open mind people

Neobond said,
So how does it (the Air) burn media then seeing as it doesn't even have an optical drive?

You buy the DVD accessory or use the new Remote Disc feature.

Wiggz said,
I'm really surprised that this many people ^^^^ bothered to get hot under the collar about an article which is as badly written as this.

I use ALL MS stuff, don't have a problem, but when I do, hell, as an IT professional it keeps me in a job. I'm sure Mac has it's pros and cons (never used it sorry)....why do people still maintain one is BETTER than the other.

This is coming from a Microsoft man, through and through (for my sins).

  • GUI Operating System? +1 MS +1 Apple
  • Ability to run business critical applications with stablitity - +1 MS +1 Apple
  • Ability to burn CD's and other media - +1 MS +1 Apple
  • Ability to incite trolls on forums - +1MS +1 Apple


For my mind...they are both equally adept at performing the majority of day to day tasks.

Increase the peace! This article is dire....just because it's more expensive doesn't make the product less than satisfactory, it makes the product margin over-inflated that's all!

You are allowed to like something, and not want to use it you know - have an open mind people

I agree, I use both, but prefer a mac, probs due to being a designer and using it at college (not a single windows machine in the design dept)

I disagree with Wiggz, One is better than the other but at different things:

As much as i love Apple, I find Windows more work-inciting: Office for Mac is nice, but if i had to write a whole essay, I'd rather use Windows... the windows version is so "plain" that you get into robot-mode and just start pressing those keys.

On the other hand, I would hate to use the media center to replace frontrow. The apple media experience is just so much better in terms of looks and simplicity that i seriously suffer a little everytime I play with my brother's laptop.

I'm a strong supporter of the Apple for home, windows for work philosophy, I think most people would benefit from that.

Neobond said,
So how does it (the Air) burn media then seeing as it doesn't even have an optical drive?
Just pay some more and they'll let you in on that...

kraized said,

You buy the DVD accessory or use the new Remote Disc feature.

So you will splash even MORE money just to end up with same size and weight of equipment as Sony VAIO.

evo_spook said,
I agree, I use both, but prefer a mac, probs due to being a designer and using it at college (not a single windows machine in the design dept)

How did you like being taught that you're too stupid to use a PC or a mouse with more than one button?

Skwerl said,

How did you like being taught that you're too stupid to use a PC or a mouse with more than one button?

dunno, you tell me what its like being stupid?

The macs were used in Design departments due to have Mac only programs of Illustrator, Photoshop Freehand, Quark, Ready Set Go and Laser Print technology and Postscript.

These only came to the PC much later. Hows it feel that you need to buttons to do somehting when the talented can get by with one?

It seems strange even when Mac users say they use both and only have a personal preference to use a Mac due upbringing, they still a need to make unwarranted attacks.

evo_spook said,

dunno, you tell me what its like being stupid?

The macs were used in Design departments due to have Mac only programs of Illustrator, Photoshop Freehand, Quark, Ready Set Go and Laser Print technology and Postscript.

These only came to the PC much later. Hows it feel that you need to buttons to do somehting when the talented can get by with one?

It seems strange even when Mac users say they use both and only have a personal preference to use a Mac due upbringing, they still a need to make unwarranted attacks.

a lot better than needing two hands, having to hold the apple button and click your mouse to right click, is a lot harder than right clicking.. at least i can right click with one hand:)

and the integrity of the site just went down the pan , seriously after reading the first draft no wonder it was edited , i thought journalists where supposed to be in the middle and not biased in anyway , guess i was wrong , regarding the new laptop , if people want it so be it if they dont they dont , so what if they charge an arm and a leg for the thing , if the market is there why not exploit it ? more fool them for parting with money , just amazes me the amount of people bitch and whine about computers and operating systems

In a perfect world Apple would be sentenced for highway robbery. I'll stick to my windows machine and be thankful that I'm not being charged a premium. It's your money, spend it how ever you see fit.

r3drum said,
In a perfect world Apple would be sentenced for highway robbery. I'll stick to my windows machine and be thankful that I'm not being charged a premium. It's

your money, spend it how ever you see fit.

You mean the same price as the other windows ultra portables like the Sony? They're priced more

so you going to stick to them?

r3drum said,
I'll stick to my windows machine and be thankful that I'm not being charged a premium.
Actually you are being charged a premium, the Windows charge. Oh yes before I get called an Apple fanboy, I run Windows Vista Home Premium, I also freely use OS X and Linux, so I'm pretty much neutral on this subject.

The cheapest tiny Sony Vaio starts from £1399, it has the older Intel chipset with the older built in 950 Intel graphics, it has a 533mhz FSB and a 1.06 ghz CPU, the hard drive is 100GB but the speed is the same at 4200 rpm, it HAS a DVD writer built in but it also has a smaller screen and a smaller keyboard and it does not have wireless N or Bluetooth 2.1. and it comes with Windows Vista Business.

A base Apple Mac Book Air with superdrive is £1264.01 and that's with the full 13.3" screen, full backlit keyboard, 80GB 4200rpm drive and Bluetooth 2.1 EDR, Wireless N, 1.6GHZ CPU with a FSB of 800MHZ. So if yo compare the Mc Book Air to the competition it doesn't look like bad value at all if all you want is a small light portable workhorse. That you can run OS10.5 and Vista and Linux on! The non-removable battery may be an issue for some but Apple will replace it for free and charge the same for it as the rest of it's laptop battery's. And it's 5 hours life is when your using all the wireless features of it.

kraized said,
And it's 5 hours life is when your using all the wireless features of it.

I very much doubt THAT is achievable. Battery lifetimes are usually given in the best case scenario, with minimal feature usage.

FloatingFatMan said,

I very much doubt THAT is achievable. Battery lifetimes are usually given in the best case scenario, with minimal feature usage.


Looks like that 5 hour battery life was rated with the wireless features on. Now imagine if you turned them off.

I guess you get what you pay for. Although they're both quite small, the "Air" is on a completely different level... First of all it´s a Mac (that also runs Windows if you want to), the VAIO doesn't run OSX...

Then when you look at it, it's a "real" ultra-portable, not just a small laptop with a bunch of things crammed in just because you can. It's about the purpose, about being really light and portable, not about the usual "I've got more things in here than you, muahahah".

It's definitely a sign of things to come I guess, i rarely use my optical drive, only need it when installing software. The over-the-air drive access seem really nice, not something new, but nice.

It may be expensive but it definitely kicks ass. Just my opinion...

I agree completely. This laptop is not for the teenager that wants to play his cool new game at high settings. I doubt its even aimed at the guy who wants to watch the odd movie. I would sau that this is mostly aimed at the highly mobile person (professional or not) that just can't be bothered to be carrying a heavy laptop or doesn't want to bulk up his carry-on.
Students (albeit wealthy ones) will also find this a godsend. I carry my macbook in my backpack all day, it was a bliss when i switched from a 15" Dell.. now imagine doing that jump all over again!

evo_spook said,
Has the article being edited, I'm sure it was slightly different 10 mins ago? I'm sure it mentioned "junk"

Looks like it. :confused:

kraized said,

Looks like it. :confused:

I liked original article more. It was not very "politically correct", but it had "soul".

But the Apple is still way thinner and that is what some people want, and you can still run bootcamp on it...

I get the feeling that it would be incredibly difficult to install. I've never had success installing windows from USB optical drives and you can forget about that networked optical drive (which isn't anything new or impressive yet received ridiculous applause)

I take Neowin is in favour of starting flame wars?

but if anyone gets incited by the tone of the article then they will get banned.

Sorry, its not on, you can't have it both ways. If you want a nice clean happy, war free site then you can't incite.

+1

LOL, then they can ban me. Life goes on.

Once again, Apple leads the way with progressive, innovative products, making the rest of the industry look like also-rans. People who consistently back the wrong horse can't stand it.

Can't even compare the Air to the Vaio. The Air is 0.75" thin and runs OS X. That's the point.

LTD said,
+1Once again, Apple leads the way with progressive, innovative products, making the rest of the industry look like also-rans.

I hardly call the Air progressive and innovative. Sure, it looks great, but other than that, it's really nothing new. Now if they could give me a 0.75" thin laptop with an optical drive, Ethernet port, 4 USB ports, a user replacable battery, THAT would be progressive and innovative and worth the $1,800 base price.

People who consistently back the wrong horse can't stand it.

Hence why all the Mac and *nix zealots hate Microsoft... :cheeky:

Any Apple news, good or bad, seems to attract the lynch mobs with their flaming crosses to the threads. I really don't think Apple news should be on the front page because of this (not that this stops the said mobs from coming into the Apple forums).

Vaio runs Windows, Apple runs OSX.

As far as I am concerned, there's no battle there - if I want to get work done, I won't have any Microsoft products anywhere near my mission critical platform.

Well I guess you guys who don't really work and have your parents pay for your living don't have to worry about these things - the rest of us do.

And yet, the vast majority of the business world uses Windows, and runs mission critical tasks on Microsoft software; with little to no problems.

I work for a living; I develop mission critical software on Windows that; if it fails, could KILL someone. It's never failed yet.

Oh, and that Vaio CAN run OSX... It's just not legal!

daPhoenix said,
Vaio runs Windows, Apple runs OSX.

As far as I am concerned, there's no battle there - if I want to get work done, I won't have any Microsoft products anywhere near my mission critical platform.

Well I guess you guys who don't really work and have your parents pay for your living don't have to worry about these things - the rest of us do.

Are you trying to be ironic or something? The world runs on Windows...deal with it.

Andhow can you not get work done on windows.

seeing as the windows laptop in this case is more powerful it would be a more effective work machine.

As for what work you do on a plane, well i's prtty muh down to graphics or Office stuff.

if it's graphics stuff, Adobe works as well on both systems, and if it's office, the best tol for the job i stil Microsoft Office, no matter what platform you're on.


And since I know you're going to throw the stability card, I'll just tell me that when I ran XP my computer didn't crash, and with Vista my computers don't crash either.

daPhoenix said,
Vaio runs Windows, Apple runs OSX.
As far as I am concerned, there's no battle there - if I want to get work done, I won't have any Microsoft products anywhere near my mission critical platform.

A hell of a lot of people get a hell of a lot of work done using Microsoft products, including mission critical work. Trying to imply they can't is just stupid fanboisim.

evo_spook said,

really? pssss - no it doesn't

yeah it runs on UNIX - banks, healthcare... in fact all oracle mid-tier machines run on linux boxes.

marty87 said,

yeah it runs on UNIX - banks, healthcare... in fact all oracle mid-tier machines run on linux boxes.

They may have *nix servers (But Windows Server certainly has a very sizable portion of the world's server market share), but almost all of their clients are Windows, and that means that they probably have a Windows AD server.

daPhoenix said,
Vaio runs Windows, Apple runs OSX.

As far as I am concerned, there's no battle there - if I want to get work done, I won't have any Microsoft products anywhere near my mission critical platform.

Well I guess you guys who don't really work and have your parents pay for your living don't have to worry about these things - the rest of us do.

Oh dear oh dear I almost saw your line of thinking until your last line buddy.

You dont process mission critical stuff within windows eh, I take it your happy with a single figure % market share for your apps then.

FYI I design and support mission critical systems within the Pharmaceutical industry and due to this we are bound to comply with FDA regulations which are validated on Windows systems.

We aint all spotty youngsters staying with mummy and daddy you know, despite your generalist and trollish post my friend

Well done Apple for this "innovative" laptop (/sarcasm) IMHO I wouldnt touch either laptop with a bargepole both over priced and overhyped by both companies...Ill stick to my XPS-M1330 backported to XP thanks cheaper and better than both sub-notebooks

daPhoenix said,
Vaio runs Windows, Apple runs OSX.

As far as I am concerned, there's no battle there - if I want to get work done, I won't have any Microsoft products anywhere near my mission critical platform.

Well I guess you guys who don't really work and have your parents pay for your living don't have to worry about these things - the rest of us do.


Interesting....
From psychological point of view, people often "judge/assume" other people in the same situation/same past experience as themselvees.
So you are implying you are the kiddy staying with your parents?

Richteralan said,

Interesting....
From psychological point of view, people often "judge/assume" other people in the same situation/same past experience as themselvees.
So you are implying you are the kiddy staying with your parents?

So you are saying it was bad to stay with your parents when you were a child? Past experience perhaps? :P
I don't know where you got the "psychological" point of view, but that argument would get you -100% on a university paper.

what do you use for wirting documents?.... servers are mission critical, and there no way in hell i'd run an apple server, they are just plain flaky from all my expierience...

I suppose those Apple fans will be ok with taking the "Air" on an plane and then having the battery run out less than half way across the Atlantic, usually you'd be able to swap out the empty for a second battery, but not in this case. it's not upgradeable or even removable!

You use the Airline power adaptor. The battery is replaceable, just not user-replaceable. Apple sells batteries for the MBA and can install it for free.

I just got back from America and was flying on an Airbus A330 (relatively new aircraft) my seat didn't have a power adapter unless of course you meant business class?

kraized said,

You use the Airline power adaptor. The battery is replaceable, just not user-replaceable. Apple sells batteries for the MBA and can install it for free.

Well, unless you plan on calling Apple, setting up an appointment, then visiting their store when your 3 hours of battery life is almost up for a fresh battery... Yes, it's replaceable. However, most people that work in a truly mobile environment like to keep a spare battery handy so if they're unable to mount up to AC, they can continue working.

Neobond said,
I just got back from America and was flying on an Airbus A330 (relatively new aircraft) my seat didn't have a power adapter unless of course you meant business class?

It's not up the the manufacturer, rather the airline. For example, Air Canada has upgraded some planes to offer power in economy class, but others do not have it...even if the planes are the same model/year.

most airlines dont havea dapters in econmy.. if you fly business then god luck to you..... also i cant believe anyone in their right mind woudl defend not having a user replaceable battery on a laptop.. whocares if they replace it for freee.... i can replace it myslef for free and not have to pay some form of $$ to take it to apple.. and waste my time in the process...