The new MacBook Air is pretty, but is that enough? | Tech/Gadgets


The MacBook Air’s chassis is made from 100 per cent recycled aluminium and is particularly fetching in gold. — Picture by Erna Mahyuni

KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 24 — It’s funny how we’ve gone from “will Apple ever update their laptops” to “oh God, not another MacBook this year.” 

I got to play around with the latest MacBook Air and I was curious to see if it would change my lukewarm feelings about the range.

The MacBook Air was a real game changer when it first launched. So thin, so light, so long lasting (battery-wise) and for a long time, it was only the more serious content creators who wanted MacBook Pros. 

Everyone else? They wanted a MacBook Air.

Under the hood

The laptop I got was the base, or lowest-spec model of the range, which was the entry-level model with an Intel i3 dual-core processor and 8GB of memory.

On paper, you’re not getting a bad deal. RM4,399 for an Intel i3 processor, 8GB of RAM and 256GB of RAM.

Still, for that much you could get a Windows laptop with an i5 processor and probably the same amount of RAM and storage. You wouldn’t, however, have a Mac.

The Retina screen’s brightness is still pretty good on this model. Apple’s laptop screens are also a great reason to get a Mac; cheaper Windows laptop displays just can’t compare.

While you still have the headphone jack, there are only two USB-C ports on this, one which you will need to charge it with.

The good news: The battery lasts long enough so you could safely go around 9-10 hours, depending on what you’re doing, on a full charge.

The bad news is you will have to join the dongle fraternity if you wish to plug in external devices. You’ll get used to it, honestly.

Living with the Air

The best thing about the Air is still its lightness. There is something to be said about the beautiful gold finish; the radiant halo of its exterior reminds you just why Apple products have the reputation they do.

There’s a reason most creatives favour Apple because making beautiful things with equally beautiful tools… there is a kind of magic about it.

If you do get one, I cannot recommend the lowest-spec model; I did not enjoy my time with it. 

The problem lies with the limitations of a dual-core processor and the increasingly resource-hungry nature of browsers and modern web pages.

Yes, it’s ridiculous that the various web pages I need for work also guzzle memory and processing power like a marathon runner chugs water during stops. Try putting a web conferencing app on top of all that and it will not be a pleasant experience. 

The first week with the MacBook Air was very annoying. 

Still it felt nice to return to the old scissor switch keyboards. It made me nostalgic about the time I bought my first Mac years ago, 30 minutes after I placed my hands on a 13-inch MacBook Pro. 

The only keyboard I’ve loved more was on an old-school Lenovo Thinkpad.

With the return of the scissor switch keyboard, the MacBook Air's keyboard feels a lot more comfortable to type on. — Picture by Erna Mahyuni
With the return of the scissor switch keyboard, the MacBook Air’s keyboard feels a lot more comfortable to type on. — Picture by Erna Mahyuni

I never really minded the butterfly keyboards; they just needed getting used to and I had never experienced the key malfunctions that others had.

Yet the scissor ones felt like coming home. It reminded me of the old days when I wrote more than columns and the odd tech review, of days writing personal essays or rushing 10-page features for freelance clients.

I just wish the cooling was more efficient on this generation’s Macs. Despite the SSD hard disks, they take twice the startup time of a Windows machine.

Casting the video from my browser to my TV felt like I was revving up a car; the fans got annoyingly loud. It made me miss my old 2009 13-inch MacBook Pro that survived so much punishment and never overheated, despite my pushing it to its limits. 

It doesn’t make sense to me that my self-assembled desktop PC takes mere seconds to start up while with the Mac, any Mac laptop of the last three to four years, I can go downstairs and make myself tea in the time the computer takes to boot up.

Not for me, but maybe you?

As someone who started reviewing laptops 15 years ago, my standards are a bit more exacting. No, I wouldn’t buy this because a machine that is more suited to word processing and web browsing and not much else wouldn’t appeal to me.

For someone whose needs are light and who is frequently mobile, I can still see the appeal of an Air. The gold version is still one of the best-looking laptops out there and its sleekness as well as decent battery life are still good selling points.

Then there’s the fact you get the operating system free for the laptop’s entire lifetime, not to mention access to Apple’s ecosystem of free apps. 

Its low-maintenance, low learning curve and high resell value. If you run terminal apps that require even less processing power (hello sysadmins) this is not a bad machine to take to work.

Anyone else? Rather than plump for the i5 versions of the MacBook Air, just get a Pro. Seriously. If your budget doesn’t stretch that far, contemplate a Windows machine but also take into account software costs. 

With a Retina screen, the MacBook Air has one of the best screens of any current ultraportable. — Picture by Erna Mahyuni
With a Retina screen, the MacBook Air has one of the best screens of any current ultraportable. — Picture by Erna Mahyuni

The latest MacBook Air still hasn’t made me love it but I can see why other people would. It’s a sexy, highly portable device and what it lacks in power it somewhat makes up for in looks.

You can purchase the MacBook Air either online or at your nearest Apple reseller with prices starting from RM4,399.



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