Sooooo…I was doing some quick shopping yesterday, and when I came out of the Albertson’s, I found (or rather didn’t find) my backpack with my old Air in it missing. A quick call to the Albuquerque Police Department got me a “file a report online”…nice. After using my iPad to call it in, and to file an insurance claim, I got permission from “She Who Must Be Obeyed” to pick up a new laptop. A not-impressive visit to the Apple Store — usually so helpful — and I had my new MacBook Air 13″.

Setup was both very easy and a giant pain in the ass. The initial setup, with iCloud, setting up the email accounts, etc. was fast and flawless. Software upgrades and adding Sophos anti-virus, Caffeine, and Dropbox, had me on the latest Yosemite version within an hour of getting the thing home. Then I started trying to get it to do handoff with my iPhone and iPad. Getting iMessages and FaceTime turned into an hour long exercise in swearing and gnashing of teeth. The issue turned out to be the iPhone, in the end — between two-step authentication, app-specific passwords, yadda yadda I finally got it working, but it was not exactly “Just working”.

So, how’s it stack up to the old Air? It looks almost exactly the same as the last version, except the power cable is different. I swear, Apple changes its power cables every damned iteration of a machine so you have a collection of useless power cables. It’s got a Thunderbolt port, two USB ports, an SD card slot (which is very handy for an extra “hard drive”.) It’s got a 1440×900 screen resolution with an Intel HD 6000 with 1536mb card. There’s backlit keys, where the old late 2010 didn’t.

Performance is noticeably better for video. YouTube, both Flash and H265 ran smoothly and the fans never kicked on. I have most of my media on a 2TB external drive that the old Air hated talking to. The new Air played all of Zombieland last night over wifi from the external drive without the fan coming on, nor any lag. So for video playback, it’s much, much improved.

Battery life is incredible! The original 2010 Air was getting me seven hours of use after four years of service, still pretty damned good for a new laptop. The 2015 Air gave me six hours of use, including watching a full movie, and still had 50% of the battery left. With moderate internet use, I should be able to get a good 10-12 hours of use out of the laptop.

The latest iteration of OS X Yosemite has a few nice touches, the most obvious being the new Photos app. It’s a lot like iPhoto, but with a much more stripped down interface, and it seems to be less intrusive (so far) when trying to, well, anything. iPhoto used to jump to the rescue whenever you tried to sync devices; Photos does it, too. I loaded a 32gb-sized photo library into Photos and it took about three hours with organizing, etc. I didn’t really see a dramatic difference between the function of the two programs, save Photos seems faster — especially pulling pics from the SD card. Likewise, iTunes seems a bit less sludgy, lately, and was pulling from the SD card library, or from the external hard drive with nary a hiccup. The old Air would have be stuttering and freezing during the whole process.

So in closing, the new MacBook Air isn’t the hot, trendy machine it was four years ago, but it’s still a damned good computer with got a lot going for it, and I would suggest the utility is higher than the new MacBook. (The point of which, I will admit, eludes me.) The battery life is second to no other laptop, it is remarkably able at handling big projects and gaming, and with a 256GB SSD and a 256GB SDXC card, it’s equal to the base MacBook Pro for storage space. It’s thin and light — especially useful for someone on the go a lot (or who rides a motorcycle and doesn’t want a ton of weight slung over his shoulder…) It’s less pricey than the model was a few years ago, gives better performance, and still looks great when you’re pretending to write your novel at the local coffeeshop.

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I had been looking to upgrade the Lilliputian drive space on my Late 2010 MacBook Air — it has the 128GB SSD and is very fast and effective, but has always made storage an issue. From the jump, I got a 64GB SD card for the machine as overflow for pictures and the others things that quickly gum up a computer’s memory. I tied it to a wireless 2TB drive…but that doesn’t come with me outside of the house, and the 64GB…well half that gets eaten up in pictures, the other in music.

I was on the cusp of a $170 SSD upgrade to a 256GB stick, then realized, I could just as easily drop a similar-sized SDXC card in the side of the machine for half the price. I settled on the PNY SDXC card with 256GB — effectively trebling my “hard drive” space.

Installation was simple: put it in the side of the Air, bring up Disk Utility and “erase” the card, setting it up for OS X Extended (Journaled). This took about two minutes. The PNY runs at at advertised 90MB/s, and that seems about right.

It took about a third the time to load the 50GB or so of material from the old SD card, plus my 35GB of music from the iTunes drive. So far, reading and writing is about as fast as hitting the laptop’s SSD. The only time there’s a lag is when you first hit the SD card after a bit of a wait or sleeping the computer. Once you start using it, no noticeable issues.

Total cost $80 to treble the “hard drive” space, and it allows you to pull the card and any important or sensitive information if you are traveling with the laptop. Bonus when going through airport security. There’s also the plus that you can use it on any other laptop (if you leave it in FAT format.) As for longevity: the first SD card is still going strong after 6 years — fist in an old Dell machine, then 4 years in the MacBook…so at least as long as the average laptop’s service time. The only real issue is that the card sticks out of the side of the laptop, and could be at risk for preakage, but it hasn’t happened in the time I’ve had it, and I’m not the kindest person to his laptop when traveling.

If you’ve got a MacBook Air 13″ with the 128GB SSD, this is a no-brainer for upgrading the machine on the cheap.

I don’t see a lot of these around the internet, but like cars and appliances, it’s nice to know what the longevity, etc. of an expensive piece of equipment is likely to be.

My then-girlfriend bought me my first MacBook Air in October 2010, four years ago, mostly because I had so loved my first iPad she thought I might appreciate the aesthetics of the device and the small size and weight — important at the time, as I pretty much went everywhere by motorcycle, and it would fit in my tank bag. Here’s the initial impressions of the computer.

So, four years on, how is it? The body is still solid, doesn’t creak, and still looks great — no scratches or blemishes to speak of. The display is still clear and bright, with no pixels burned out. I don’t have quite as much need for the size, as I either work at home, or when the kid’s in daycare, which means I’m in the “cage” (car), but it’s still the most comfortable computer to use that I’ve owned.

Once I got used to the Mac interface, I found it worked quite well, although they really need to work on their help references; when you run into issues, you often have to go online and hit the Apple support boards to find answers. The Air has had four or five friggin’ OS changes since I bought her, and I suspect Yosemite — the latest — is going to see the end of support for the pre-2012 machines. That’s perhaps the one issue with Apple — they don’t do backward compatibility for more than a five or six years, then you are on obsolete OS and tech (the original iPad that found it’s way to my little girl is now in that limbo — none of the app she has are upgradable, and it can handle the new iOS8.) However, I’ve met plenty of folks still pounding along on decade old MacBooks and happy to not have the latest and greatest.

To that end — with Mountain Lion, the Air started having issues with video and running up the fans on the computer. For the first few months I didn’t even know it had them; I never heard them. The video card just can’t handle the new Flash and H.265 streams without get seriously hot. Even web sites with Flash would also run the machine hot and drain the battery. Up until recently, I used Chrome for most of my web work, but recently found the newer version of Safari was faster and did a better job of keeping the various ads from killing battery life.

As they’ve moved out the various OS, I saw negligible improvement or reduction in performance, battery life, etc. I was lucky and had none of the bugs that hit some of the machines for wifi and other problems, so I can’t comment to those that did. Yosemite was a sharp improvement in the user experience: you can make and receive phone call without getting your lazy ass up to find your phone (if you have a newer iPhone on iOS8), do text messaging the same, and their productivity suite has mostly recovered from the gutting it got to make it talk to the iOS version better. All the iCloud stuff is nice, but I don’t use it because I’m too cheap to pay for space, and too security conscious to throw all my data out where people can get at it easily. (I still pull the SD card with my personal stuff when traveling. Screw you, TSA.)

The older CPU is more than ample to handle most of my daily chores — i can have as many as six docs open, a few tabs on Safari, iTunes playing something that is stored on the external drive and have nary a skip in performance, although when it comes, it’s inevitably iTunes that’s the culprit. Battery life at 300 cycles, four years in, is about 6-7 hours doing some writing, some web surfing, and the like. If I turn off the wifi, it jumps about 2 hours. The original 6700 mAh is now 6067mAh (90%)…that’s pretty friggin’ good for a four year old machine. None of my old laptops had a battery survive more than two years before they had to be replaced. With the curve these batteries have, I can anticipate another year to two before battery failure.

So if you are in the market for a MacBook Air and don’t want to pay premium prices for a new one, a used laptop looks to be a good buy; if you want a new one, you can expect to keep it for four to five years before it slides out of the support stream…and even them should be usable. That’s only rivaled by my original Compaq from the late ’90s, and the 10″ Dell Inspiron I knew was still running like a top at six years old when I saw it last. (Sold it.)

I just picked up one of these cards to act as a media drive for the MacBook Air.  I have a lot of media — mostly pictures — that I did not want on the SSD, as it’s only 128GB. While I was in no risk of running out of space on the drive, I wanted to effectively add another 50% to the storage on the machine, and the SD Card only sticks out only a wee bit, so it’s no trouble to leave it in the machine while I bang about town.

It’s advertised as having a 15MB/sec transfer rate, but I’m not seeing that — depending on what it’s moving, it’s between 8-10MB/sec. Downloading from it is faster, however, than adding to it. For small files, it’s pretty much instantaneous. For moving a gig or two of files, more like a 10 minute process.

You’ll have to swap it out, if you are loading files from a camera’s SD card, unless you load the pics through a USB cable from the camera, but it seems to work well. I haven’t tried, yet, to see if iPhoto and iTunes will store to it, but since I keep most of the photos out of the former program, it’s not normally an issue.

It’s a good, cheap solution for adding memory to the MacBook Air without resorting to a big USB memory stick.

I’ve got to say, when I first started playing with the Macbook Air, I wasn’t certain I was going to be too thrilled.  I love the size, weight, and the marathon battery life…but I’m not as enamored of the graphic interface as I am Windows 7.  I can’t get my favorite word processor suite (WordPerfect) for Mac, but I can use Open Office 3 to open the old .wpd files.  I’ve been using Pages, which has some very nice features, but I miss being able to configure a button bar in my word processor so I could shortcut everything as I want it.

I’m not a fan of Apple’s lock-it-down mentality, between iTunes trying to take over everything (and not talking to my iPad from time to time) and iPhoto — I can see where this OS is very popular with people who don’t want to delve into how the computer works, what its doing, or where its putting files.  That aside…

I love this bloody thing!  So far, the fan has kicked on twice since I’ve had it:  once was during an upload for Acrobat Pro 9.  The other, not surprisingly, was while running Flash video.  (Yes, Flash eats battery life [supposedly knocking almost a third your battery time on the Air] and processing cycles — even on my Dell!)  The computer is fast enough for most things I do, and I’ve only gotten the beach ball of doom twice — during the iTunes/iPad snafu last week and Acrobat load.  The screen is bright, crisp, and I have used it outside in full sunlight without issue.  It runs cool, and usually noiselessly thanks to the SSD hard drive.  I got around the lack of an optical drive with the external SuperDrive, I’m using a USB thumbdrive for media I don’t want to clog the 128GB SSD with, and I really appreciate the 12-14 second boot time from off to up and running.

As an aside, I have left Flash off of the machine (it doesn’t ship with it; you have to download it), and instead use this workaround when I want to watch Flash video:  I boot up Google Chrome (it has a Flash extension) and watch the clip in question.  I then shut down Chrome, killing the Flash process, and getting back my processing and memory cycles.

So the verdict after 2 weeks with the Macbook Air 13″:  It’s a damned good laptop that looks fantastic and works very very well.  Is it worth the $1300 or so the girlfriend paid for it?

Yes.

I called this a “quick impression” over at the personal blog…but realized it was hardly “quick” at about 800 words…

Scott did good!  After busting my ass for the last few weeks putting together the house, my girlfriend ordered me a Macbook Air 13″ (the new one) for a Christmas/thank you present.  It arrived today all shiny new…

So, first impressions:  It’s bloody thin!  The thickest part is the same as the iPad, the front is practically flush with the table, making typing incredibly easy.  It fits quite well in my backpack — although in the box, it barely fit in my Maxpedition sling bag (one of the zippers could not be fully closed.)  And it is very, very light — about the same weight as the Walther P99 fully loaded that was sharing the bag with it.  Maybe a shade under 3 lbs.

Opening the box, you get a power cable, including an extension cable.  You get a small box with the warrant info, instruction booklet, and a USB restore “disk.”  The computer fires up immediately — they have it in sleep mode coming from teh factory in China and it’s darned impressive.  You open the lid and boom! you’re up.  The screen is bright, crisp, and has a 1440×900 resolution.  It looks great.  The battery had only suffered a 20% or so drain on it’s trip to the States.  I can believe you’ll get the advertised month on sleep out of it.

I played with it for about 5 hours or so — including synching my iPad and downloading docs and pics from a USB key.  I still had 13% of the battery left when I plugged it in.  The fan has not kicked on once — it’s superbly quiet, well made — the aluminum body is thin, but there’s no creaking when picked up or typed on.  the keyboard is comfortable and responsive.  The touchpad took some getting used to.  I couldn’t get it to respond until I gave it a good press and heard click! — there’s your left button.  Two fingers together and click for right button, PC folks.

There’s a learning curve on moving from PC to Mac, and I still think the PC stuff makes a bit more sense for how they do things — especially in Windows 7, but the Air is nicely easy to use.  Mine came with the iLife and iWorks installed.  It’ll read .doc and .dcox files, .pdf, and for the old WordPerfect stuff I downloaded Open Office 3.2.  With all of my documents, some of my music, the downloaded movies from iTunes for the iPad (more on that in a moment), and a few picture files (I’m keeping most media on an external drive, if I don’t use it a lot) — I’ve got 93GB of 128 left.

Speed: it’s fast — on par with my 2.26GHz, 4GB Ram Dell Inspiron 14.  Maybe a bit faster on opening programs.  Start up from off is about 13 seconds, and it’s about 3 seconds from sleep.  The solid state drive makes things smooth, swift, quiet, and cool.  I like it.  A lot.  Granted, I do primarily heavy word processing, page layout, Acrobat stuff, with heavy web surfing and email, some picture manipulation…it’s more than enough, but I could see where games might be a bit jumpy on this platform.  But then again, a lot of graphic intensive games on the iPad work just fine and it looks like Apple is angling to use a lot of the same app design for the new OS X upgrade.

iTunes — the bane of most people’s computer use:  the new iteration is good and smooth, but it’s still a kludged mess, overall.  HOWEVER…you can set up home sharing and move the stuff you purchased on iPad or cut to iTunes from your PC to your Mac.  It took about half an hour to move a few movies from the old Dell to the Air.  No issues.  Firefox, Thunderbird, Dropbox, and Open Office loaded no issues. Fonts transferred with no issues.  Merging my contacts from the iPad — no issues, but the iCal doesn’t look to synch with the iPad.  I’ll look into it later.

Reloading the battery took about 2.5 hours from 13% percent, and the power cable has a cool magnetic clip — the cord snaps to the side of the Air by it’s own volition and if you accidentally kick the cable (not that I did, mind you!) it simply unplugs and doesn’t drag your machine off the table.

So, for the 1.86GHz, 4GB Ram, 128GB SSD Air (late 2010), I found my first day with it to be, in a word, delightful.  It’s incredibly light and thin, the keyboard and touchpad are excellent, as is the general build quality, the screen is bright and clear, and the performance is top notch for the average, non-gaming user.  Style/design is unbeatable — this thing is stunningly beautiful.  For a PC user, the Mac interface will take some getting used to, but the next update promises to move the look and feel closer to the iOS devices like the iPad (which I am in favor of), so those issues might disappear.  Was it worth the $1200 or so?  Yes.  Unequivocally.