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Yes, the rumors were true, Apple has launched the Macbook Air, an ultra-light 13.3” laptop that does not have an optical drive. This will give Sony much needed competition in the uber-thin laptop category. In this post, we will tell you if the SSD upgrade makes sense and we compare this laptop to the Sony Vaio TZ to see if Steve Jobs is overselling the MacBook Air, or not. Click on the title to see the full post.

Form Factor

  • 0.16 to 0.76 x 12.8 x 8.94 inches (0.4 to 1.94 x 32.5 x 22.7 cm)
  • 3lbs (1.36 kg)

The Specs

  • 1.6 – 1.8Ghz Intel Core 2
  • 1.3.3 widescreen LED 1280×800 pixel
  • 2GB of RAM
  • 80GB HDD or 64GB SSD
  • Optional external optical drive
  • Integrated Intel Graphics

Comparison with the Sony Vaio TZ

MacBook Air Sony Vaio TZ
Display Size 13.3 11.1
Display Res. 1280×800 1366×768
CPU Core D 1.6Ghz Core D 1.2Ghz
RAM 2GB 2GB
HDD (4200rpm) 80GB 100GB
SSD 64GB No
Optical Drive No Multi-Format Burner
Graphics  Intel GMA X3100 Intel GMA 950
Weight 3 lbs 2.65 lbs

Steve Job’s comparison with the Vaio TZ is not really fair because that one includes an optical drive. I like the better display on the Vaio, but the display size is a little detrimental to the keyboard ergonomics. It is pointless to argue on the details, both laptops will offer a similar experience, but I think that Apple wins on the cool factor and on the price. Honestly, at somewhat equal configuration, the Vaio TZ is just too expensive, by a large margin. The Macbook Air wins.

Should you get the SSD version?

Solid state drives (SSD) are cool these days, but should you get one? In theory, they do have some benefits:

  • Battery life improvement
  • Better shock resistance
  • Faster handling of many small files (seek time)

However, I don’t know anyone who “needs” to spend $1299 on a 64GB SSD (and a slightly faster CPU) to reach the grand price of $3100. Honestly, you won’t even feel the CPU difference. Now, I do know a lot of people who “want” an SSD. You got it: “need” and “want” are two different things. I would not recommend this upgrade.

Design Compromises

I started by writing “design flaws”, but the points below aren’t flaws, they are compromises. I’m talking about the fact that the battery is sealed and about the concealed ports (USB, micro-DVI…). The sealed battery might be an issue in the long run, when it will hold less and less power or if it dies.

Update: The MacBook Air battery costs $129 and Apple will change it for you – hopefully right away, but I don’t know for sure.

I don’t yet know what Apple’s policy about this (will they change it for you?), but this is something that buyers should look into.

Conclusion

I welcome the entry of Apple in the super-thin laptop category because it will put pressure on Sony to get their act together and stop the overpricing of their Vaio line of laptops. Even at $1800, it is difficult to find an equivalent sub-notebook that is cheaper, even from Asus (U1 Series, S6FM Series). For windows users, I bet that it’s possible to install XP or Vista, but we should see the first test pop up on the web soon. We will keep you posted.

Do you you want/need this laptop, why? What’s your take on it and what else would you like to know about it?

Filed in Apple >Top Stories.
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