Friday, December 17, 2010

The new Apple Mac Book Air review

For reasons I won't go into I got my hands on one of the new 11" MacBook Air's yesterday and had to set it up with various programmes etc. As a Windows/PC user of long-standing what did I think?

Hardware-wise it's impressive; it really is that thin and has so far run without making a single sound. I guess a lot of that is down to the new default Solid State Drive that's been fitted. One claim that's made a lot by the 'fanatic' crowd is how light it is in weight - it's not that light. Okay it is compared to other laptops; but that's like saying an elephant is smaller than a whale; either way you wouldn't want to tuck one under your arm and walk about with it.

Again on the hardware a neat little touch with the power lead - it's magnetic. Get it close to the socket on the left and it's sucked into the correct position. Not only is the socket small, but it's flat and so sits very easily in place - and it's got a light on it. Erm yeah, no really this is great as the light changes colour depending on the battery charge - no need to hover over a battery indicator. Just little things.

A trackpad as is standard now and this is where I have some problems. I've had another 'standard' laptop user try it and wonder why it wasn't registering mouse clicks - that's because it acts like a membrane you have have to 'click' it that is it's not touch sensitive in that way you have to press down to click. Now in some respects this is a good thing no accidental clicking; however it also responds to more than one finger's pressure and that gets a little problematic. I'll deal with this as I delve into the software.

Boot was quick, but then with a SSD and 4Gb of RAM I'd expect it to be. Programmes aren't the instantaneous thing that people rave about, but quick enough. Now they are pretty much instantaneous when you open a programme again. Why? Because Mac OS X never shuts anything down - it's like Outlook always lurking in the background. So tap the red X in the top left corner and you think you've closed it? Nope still there running in the background. How did I find this out? Opera!

The default setup browser for us is Opera - secure, fast and with easily transferable file settings. I open Opera, make some changes, 'close' it and reopen to find none of the changes have taken effect. Ah you have to File|Quit instead to actually close the thing.

So yeah quick start programmes, but only because it cheats.

As just mentioned I needed to transfer some stuff across to it over the network; access was easy and I admit faster than any Windows OS I've used; however transferring multiple files across was where the trackpad totally failed.

I selected the first file, I shift selected the last file; and found only two files selected. Ah Mac's must be a different key combination - nope. I end up on the Internet and Shift select is the correct way of doing it; so where's the problem. I try to use the trackpad to hold and sweep a selection. Oh yeah that worked well. Totally useless, it's so sluggish at moving around when you have to keep your finger pressed down to register a click.

I read some more internet bits and ah I need to set the view to List. See by default you see the icons and if you try to shift select a batch it doesn't work, but if you get them all lined up in a list it does - oh well that's easy [sigh].

I test some Word documents in Open Office, the window opens to about a third of the screen. Ah yes Mac OS seems to lack a Full Screen option, press the + button and it just fills vertically while retaining the horizontal width. Try to resize it and again the sluggish trackpad comes into play.

Next up is the perma-menu situation along the top of the screen; this changes depending on which programme you select; great except as I've said programmes don't close. So select an icon from the dock at the bottom and the menu will change without the programme necessarily appearing on screen. Now there are ways to change all this behaviour, but this is the default way it's set-up.

Other fun things I installed Opera and it put a Drive on my desktop; after the installation (yeah again I'll grant that's a good way of doing it) the drive wasn't removed and no Opera Icon appeared anywhere. So I clicked it and it asked if I wanted to install it again. No I want to run it. I had to use Finder to locate and run it - and no despite installing it to Applications it didn't appear in the Application window pop-out on the dock. After a reboot (due to updates) the drive had been removed. Was Opera still there? Yes and I managed to work out how to get it onto the dock and Applications pop-out by dragging it there (again sluggish trackpad not helping).

So yeah all in all I could get used to it, but it's not the life-changing experience that those in black turtle-necks would have you believe.