The MacBook Air Tugs at My Heartstrings

| Editorial

The iPad 2 is a fantastic device, especially when you own an older MacBook. However, if a new MacBook Air comes into your life, it’s suddenly a battle for your heart.

I’ve been using an iPad ever since they started shipping in April 2010. It’s been a constant companion, especially when I’m in front of the TV set. Once, when I was sick, I watched an entire movie with the iPad on my lap, lying on the sofa. (Well, Cashback with Emilia Fox if you must know.) The iPad is everything we’ve all said it is. And more.


MacBook Air (13)In July, I was fortunate enough to acquire a 13-inch MacBook Air, 4 GB RAM. It shipped with Lion, and I’ve been using it as a test bed for several Lion tips and how-tos. It’s especially sweet now that I’ve fixed up the login screen and Dashboard backgrounds.

It Must be Love*

And a funny thing has been happening. You see, the MBA replaced an aging 2006 MacBook Pro, and there was just no excitement with that aged Mac. It was cool in 2006, but with 2 GB of RAM and being rather heavy, it was suitable only for work when I wasn’t at my work desk. Routine stuff. Yawn.

Imagine my surprise when I realized that the MBA is out and out fun. It’s slim. It’s light. It has a lighted keyboard for those dimly lit evening trysts. It offers me the UNIX command line. I’m getting seven or eight hours on a charge, so I never really have to use it with the charger. (That’s a game changer.) It’s fast — I mean really fast. It has no internal moving parts, so it’s a quiet beauty. All of a sudden, the MacBook Air leaps beyond being a mere sucessor to the old MacBook Pro. It has a new, lovin’ feeling about it.

Back in April, during the quarterly earnings report, Apple’s Tim Cook recalled something that Steve Jobs had said before:

If the Mac company were a separate company, and the iPad company were a separate company, what would the Mac company build to compete with the iPad? And I think the answer is the MacBook Air.”

Just wow. Apple did exactly that. The MacBook Air with Lion feels special in your hands. It has that certain heft and stiffness. The aluminum feels warm and smooth. It opens up to a beautiful screen that already has a keyboard attached. It lures you into its exotic lair and holds you there, transfixed by its elegance and beauty And it even knows exactly, to the second, what time it is. By contrast, an iPad, especially when embedded in some kinds of cases, is, well, just a disembodied display.

Of course, you can do wonders with an iPad, but Apple knows, very keenly, the difference between what a MacBook Air can do and what an iPad can do. The MBA design cleverly emphasizes that very subtlety. Achieving that is deep a concept, a Zen, and it goes beyond words.

The MBA reaches out and tugs at my hearstrings. It makes me want to use it, sometimes even when the iPad is nearby. That’s design brilliance.


* by Rickie Lee Jones


Lee Dronick

Cashback? I remembered it as a short film from a while back. I just checked at and found that there is indeed a full movie version. Great flick, I like art films.

Yesterday I suggested to my cousin that she replace her cranky Acer with a MacBook Air. “But the Acer is only six months old.” Yeah, but you just busted a blood vessel talking to tech support on the phone trying to get the clunk out. I have another friend who travels a lot, but pops into libraries, senior centers, and such to use the computers; I also suggested she get a MacBook Air and use the free WiFi offered at many places.


The MBA is the first time I’ve seriously considered buying a laptop as my primary computer. While I still need the power of a desktop for most things, the MBA finally makes sense as a budget emergency replacement for my current system.


I purchased my first iPad (an iPad2) in June.  I purchased a 13” MacBook Air in July.  In August I sold my iPad to a friend for almost what I paid for it and used the funds to help pay for an base-level 11” MacBook Air.

I realized that having an 11” MacBook Air is simply better than an iPad because it’s a real computer that I can real productivity work on.

Dave Hamilton

I am a recent (i.e. this week) owner of an 11” MacBook Air. I have to admit, though, choosing the 11” didn’t come easily. I knew I wanted it for its compactness, but I was initially convinced the screen would be too small.

Do yourself the favor and challenge your assumptions. Go play with these machines. Take advantage of Lion’s full-screen mode for apps like Safari and Mail. This is where the Air really shines. Swiping between apps is like butter, and the resolution of the 11” in screen is crisp and easy-to-read.

To me the only benefit to the 13” is the larger battery. Otherwise the 11” is perfect.


I currently use an 2008 iMac and my wife has a white MacBook. When it is time for an upgrade, I will get a MacBook Air and she will get the latest iPad. With selling both our current computers, the transition won’t cost much either. The only question is my patience - next year, next year!


Heartstrings may be too close to an anthropomorphic association for me, but the 13” MBA I bought about a month ago has almost changed my life. I’ve virtually abandoned my home office housing my MacPro, opting instead to lounge on the couch operating it and the Mac Mini I use as a media hub remotely via screen sharing. The Air is so reassuringly sturdy I have no concerns picking it up and carrying it with me to every room in the house. And with such good responses - wickedly fast on and off, and going to sleep without a murmur - it has become the go-to system for all my browsing and email chores. E-commerce and transactions are still done through a wired connection, but the portability and speed of the Air allowed me to arrange my schedule those activities into just a few hours a week. The rest of the time I can roam the scatter, stay in touch, and be productive. Yes, I love my Air.


I know! I have an 11-incher, it’s just gorgeous. (The computer, of course.) It’s almost enough to be a reason *not* to be happy of the blessing of being my own boss and working from home, thus not needing the slim machine all that often. Almost.


I bought a 13” mba and returned it after I found I was getting only 3 hours battery life. Ymmv


John:  You wicked Tempter.  Apple has gotten a good deal of my money, yet now you tempt me to spend even more for a MBA.  And if that weren’t enough of doing evil, we discover that you have an open marriage, where Mrs. Martellaro must share your affections with yet another Apple device, the MacBook Air.

But I guess that she, Mrs. Martellaro, not the MBA, knew what she was getting into when she married a computer-geek engineer, a breed which is know for its infidelity when it comes to technology.

John Martellaro

Jake: Apple should have replaced it under warranty.  A good battery (on a 13-inch) should get 6-7 hours.

John Martellaro

Nemo:  Not mention my polygamous relationship with browsers!


Now that I have had an iPad for 4 months, here is my assessment.

An iPad is an awesome CONSUMPTION device - you can read books, review the web, look up stuff, etc, with great ease.

An iPad is a terrible CREATION tool. Not only are inputs methods cumbersome, but the applications that are available, are difficult to share with a desktop environment, there are no easy or consistent file sharing paths. iTunes, DropBox, etc. are options, but take a few steps to get there, and not consistently supported - each app uses a different path. Once something is created on an iPad, AND you get it to a computer, any edits there cannot be moved back. It is just too painful to move back and forth, the applications on the iPad too limiting (with exceptions), and the input ease of use, just not there.

A far better solutions - at least for users like me, that are constantly generating content, not just consuming it - would be a very lightweight notebook running a standard OS with tools that produce data that can be easily shared. The MacBook Air clearly fits this bill.

The lack of direct printing support (it can be done, but not easily), no file system (data kept in the applications themselves) and ultra-light weight applications, make it a non-starter for the heavy computer user.

As a result, my use of the iPad has dropped off to almost nothing. I look up TV show schedules and occasionally surf the web to look up something. Other than that, I have no good use for it.

However, I can see this being an awesome device for minimal, limited portable input, and just great for portable information access.

A MacBook Air is the best of both worlds.

I see the biggest advantage of the 13 is the SDXC slot, allowing removable storage expansion in a fast format, for relatively inexpensive prices, while maintaining portability. If the 11 had that, the 11 would be a slam-dunk.


Ah yes!! I must play my Rickie Lee Jones music…

Lee Dronick

Not mention my polygamous relationship with browsers!

My wife ran off with my best iPad!

As a result, my use of the iPad has dropped off to almost nothing. I look up TV show schedules and occasionally surf the web to look up something. Other than that, I have no good use for it.

Yes, great for looking stuff up, checking email, taking notes, but it is also light in weight and has no clamshell that is vulnerable to breakage if dropped. That is why my wife took my iPad, to take it school, but she does her homework on her MacBook Pro.


I am running a G5 powerPc on Tiger. IT is wonderful, but it’s showing its limitations.
Like me, getting slower and not very happy with much multi-tasking.
So it looks like the 13inch MBA for me.
I’m just a bit uneasy about the wireless aspect of it; without the ethernet.
I guess it’s just an age thing.
I like the fact that it runs Lion straight out the box; i’m the world’s most chicken-hearted installer.
So with the addition of the USB optical drive for it; I suppose I’d better buy it.
Glad to read you are having fun with the beast.
Byte the good fight.


You sold me on the MBA 13 in your last article, John. But I have to wait another full year till my MB is five years old. It’s my rule for I was brought up on anticipation and conservation that will make worthwhile the wait, so I tell myself.

I’m with you, kirkrr, the iPad is great for what it does but the MBA, perfection articulated. And CityGuide, I know what you mean by life changing. I make any journey an excuse just to touch and dream whenever I pass the Apple Store Cathedral. And yes, Nemo, this Tempter so twists my sobriety but his words bring joy to anticipation and keeps the journey fresh.



I have a deal with my wife - if I want any new toy, I have to sell existing toys in order to fund the purchase. The result has been fewer, but better toys. The MBA acquisition will be the result of the exit of the iPad2 and MBP 2.2ghz core2duo, 4gb, 320gb HD 15 inch from my toy box.

John Martellaro

kirkrr:  One of the MGG sponsors is  Dave H. recommends them for selling used equipment.  Also, there is Apple’s reuse and recycling site that will buy back your old Macs, etc.



You wax poetic., but the Air inspires poetry. A number of my colleagues have happily taken the plunge. I foresee an Air in my future as the CPUs become yet more powerful. 

I am a recent (i.e. this week) owner of an 11? MacBook Air. I have to admit, though, choosing the 11? didn?t come easily. I knew I wanted it for its compactness, but I was initially convinced the screen would be too small.

I am getting my wife a MBA very shortly, when she hands over her two year old 13 ” MBP to our son, whose MacBook is getting long in the tooth. I took her to the local Apple store to play with the machines. Initially, she dismissed the 11” out of hand - until she played with it. Currently, she is undecided (which is why I haven’t bought it yet), but my advice to her was to go with the 11”. I think you’ve nailed most of what I said to her about why, but both are beautiful beasts.

Paul Goodwin

My wife has a 2006 MBP that will be replaced by a MBA. she has an iPad 2 and loves it. It’ll be interesting to see how she uses both in the future.

Oh, yesterday she bought me an iPad 2. She felt sorry for me using my iPhone4 so much for browsing and email. I have to say I’m ecstatic with it. Snappy performance, bright screen. The 9 in screen is plenty big, so I can see where an 11 in MBA would be fine. But I too wish it had the slot. I’ll probably have to get her a MBA for Christmas. Then I’ll be envious of that. But I have an 11 month old iMac that I’m perfectly happy with.

Incidentally, the TMO web pages perform 1000% better on the iPad than on the iPhone.


If you are sick, you should not be ?laying? on the sofa.  Your partner might catch your disease.  I recommend that you just lie on the sofa alone.

Log in to comment (TMO, Twitter or Facebook) or Register for a TMO account