Deirdre Saoirse Moen

Sounds Like Weird

Explaining Some Hardware Whinging—I Love My MacBook Air

07 January 2015

Apple Store Stairs-colorefex-700
First, I want to say this: though I worked at Apple to September 2013, I have no actual knowledge of Apple’s future hardware plans. So, on the off chance that I happened to sign an NDA relating to the device I’m commenting about, I honestly didn’t know that that was the case. I believe every hardware NDA I signed was for a product that’s already shipped.
9to5mac posted this mockup of a purported future 12″ MacBook Air.
In short, I hated it.
In 2013, I switched from a 15″ MacBook Pro—I’d had several over the years—to a 13″ MacBook Air. I did it after Rick made the same move, and for the same reason: believe it or not, it’s actually faster on day-to-day activities, despite the slower CPU.
It’s also cheaper.
So what’s in the new report that I hate so much?

  • No Thunderbolt. I rely on Thunderbolt RAID for backup. That RAID array is Thunderbolt only. I also rely in an external 2TB hard drive I use just for graphics library (and Aperture) storage.
    Look, I love Thunderbolt. I’ve invested heavily in it. If Apple’s dumping it on my preferred laptop model three years in, I’m pissed.
    I don’t use Thunderbolt for displays, and I understand USB-C can drive displays. Thunderbolt is still a better, faster technology. By all means, replace the existing USB connectors with USB-C. That makes sense.
  • No MagSafe Connector. It’s proposing to use power through a single USB connector. John Gruber talks about why that’s a mistake.

    As enumerated earlier, I have numerous questions regarding Mark Gurman’s report that the upcoming next-generation MacBook Air does away with all ports other than two: a USB Type-C and a headphone jack.
    But one that I keep thinking about is MagSafe. I can definitely see getting rid of classic USB — it’s old and thick. Thunderbolt, sort of. But MagSafe? When Apple announced MagSafe back in 2006, I knew they were solving a real problem, not an imaginary marketing problem. Tripping over power cables and yanking laptops off tables and onto floors was a real issue. I had an iBook way back when that ultimately died after one such incident too many. If anything, Apple has made MagSafe 2 even easier to pull apart, not harder. Switching to USB Type-C seems like it would take us all the way back to days when tripping over the charging cable would take your laptop along for the ride.

  • Keyboard squeeze. I don’t think I’ll like this. If anything, the 13″‘s keyboard is already too narrow.
  • Elimination of physical key feedback. That’s a big nope from me. If that’s the way Apple’s headed for all keyboards, I’m going to have to look to Microsoft as my preferred keyboard vendor. That’s a painful thing to say.
  • Elimination of the SD Card slot. I love that I don’t have to keep track of some small doodad, and I can just pack my laptop, my cameras, my iPad/Phone, a power cord and a lightning cable when I travel. It’s one more thing I have to track, and I’d really miss this.

In short, this looks like a light-use computer for people who either a) don’t use computers or b) use another computer as their primary computer. I’m one of those people who uses a MacBook Air as my sole computer, and that’s the way I’d like to keep it.

So Why Not Go to a 13″ MacBook Pro?

13″ MacBook Air tricked out with 8G (max) memory and 512G (max) Flash & 1.7 GHz CPU: $1,749 (before other things like AppleCare and any accessories).
Here’s the thing: a 13″ MacBook Pro does not have the same amount of area on the screen. So, in order to get the same effective 1440×900 resolution, I’d have to go back to a 15″ MBP. Further, I can’t go with an 8GB and have the same effective memory because retina uses more memory.
15″ MacBook Pro with 16G (only) memory, 512G (min) Flash & 2.5 GHz (min) CPU: $2,499. I could argue that, for a true replacement, it’d also have to bump up another $500 for the 1TB flash because, again, the retina machine will use more memory for things like swap, so the real price is $2,999.
Twelve hundred bucks is a lot of difference for better external drive support and a better power cable.
Update: more thoughts in this post.
Photo credit: Rick Moen.

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