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Mossberg: MacBook Air is Beautiful, But Limited

Mossberg: MacBook Air is Beautiful, But Limited

by , 8:20 AM EST, January 24th, 2008

The Wall Street Journal's Walt Mossberg went hands on with Apple's new MacBook Air and found that the ultra-thin notebook computer is beautiful, but there are features missing that may turn disappoint some frequent travelers.

"Apple finally has entered the subnotebook market, introducing a lightweight laptop meant to please road warriors," Mr. Mossberg said. "But, typical of Apple, the company took a different approach from its competitors. The result is a beautiful, amazingly thin computer, but one whose unusual trade-offs may turn off some frequent travelers."

While the full size keyboard and 13.3-inch display were a pleasure to use -- and a friendly departure from the smaller keyboards and displays typically found in subnotebooks -- the bigger display could be too tall when flying coach. The single USB port, no built-in optical drive, no Ethernet port or modem card slot, and the lack of a user removable battery might scare off some potential buyers.

For travelers that don't need to rely on those features, however, the MacBook Air is a dream come true. "It's impossible to convey in words just how pleasing and surprising this computer feels in the hand," he said.

The notebook computer ships standard with an 80GB hard drive, 2GB of RAM, a 1.6GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor, built-in AirPort Extreme, and a back-lit keyboard. Mr. Mossberg commented "In my tests, the MacBook Air's screen and keyboard were a pleasure to use. The machine felt speedy, even with multiple programs running."

Battery life clocked in at about 4.5 hours, which is about 30 minutes less than Apple advertised. Using Apple's new feature that lets MacBook Air users access the optical drive in other computers worked as it should -- except when installing Windows on your notebook, or when playing music CDs, or DVD movies.

"If you value thinness, and a large screen and keyboard in a subnotebook, and don't watch DVDs on planes or require spare batteries, the MacBook Air might be just the ticket," Mr. Mossberg said. "But if you rely on spare batteries, expect the usual array of ports, or like to play DVDs on planes, this isn't the computer to buy."

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