Hirohito and Akihito match wits at the shogi table
Hirohito and Akihito match wits at the shogi table
The new Star Wars movie looks fantastic.
Star Wars VII: CAN’T WAIT
Top four phrases you should definitely not say to Americans
Mmmmmmm mcdonalds hash browns…
This sounds totally awesome but I have a checklist if stuff I want this to do before I take the plunge:
- Play media files like avi and mp4
- Netflix (with VPN support or Hola unblocker)
- A halfway decent web browser just in case
- A workable way to watch Youtube etc
If it has all that I might install it for my tv PC and then I’d control it with Xbox controllers or something. I currently use Windows non-optimized for the TV so it would be convenient to have a better interface that also happens to run games. I would even consider upgrading to ac wifi to take advantage of streaming. And of course if this all works out positively I would almost certainly buy a steambox as my next tv PC when the current one needs an upgrade or replacement.
It would be nice to have Pocket or another read later service. And of course the ultimate would be to have AirPlay or Chromecast style support but now I am just dreaming.
Update: I didn’t realize that Chromecast-type streaming is essentially a core feature of the OS. A Steam OS machine will be able to stream games from a PC running Steam. I wonder if it will allow other types of streaming as well.
Aqua Wave Hunger Force!!!
Before getting my MacBook Air, I had been in the market for a new laptop for a while as my 10-year-old Toshiba was starting to really show its age (though I have to give it credit for performing admirably after the SSD upgrade). In no rush, I spent quite a while reading reviews (relying heavily on Anandtech and The Verge) and trying out various models in the store. Windows 8 just feels very wrong to me (and on models like the Toshiba Kirabook, the default display settings made everything very tiny and hard to use), so I was kind of predisposed against Windows 8 and decided to bide my time until either something really good came out or Microsoft fixed the software.
Then late last year, a friend of mine (Roy from Mutant Frog) bought and immediately became a huge fan of the 15” MacBook Pro with Retina display. He (like me) is a long-time Windows user, so his enthusiasm for Macs encouraged me to give them a serious look, thinking they might finally be worth the premium.
After seeing the reviews of iPad-level battery life in the new MacBook Airs I decided it was time to pick one up. As cool as Retina displays are, paying more than $2,000 for a laptop just seemed excessive, so this model looked to be the perfect balance of performance and price. (I opted for getting extra memory but not the CPU upgrade, and purchased AppleCare to limit the risk of having such an expensive piece of hardware).
After a little more than a month, I can say I made the right choice — I am really, really digging this machine. It is really light for its size and capabilities, quite fast for most tasks, plays games (if they are old or on low settings), and gets pretty ridiculous battery life. Oh and a big bonus is my wife likes to use it (she loves her iPhone but never warmed to the iPad). I have found it to be the perfect on-the-couch machine that doesn’t have all the limitations imposed by the iPad.
Continuity - One thing that really blew my mind was setting up Google Chrome. A few seconds after signing in with my Google account, ALL my bookmarks, settings, apps, and extensions were installed on the new laptop. Given that Chrome is basically where I do at least 80% of my computing, this was a big help (though as you’ll see in the Cons section, the Chrome experience isn’t perfect). Dropbox worked as you would expect, which is to say perfectly.
For some reason the connection to my NAS has been a little iffy, but generally it works.
In my experience, there is hardly anything that I can do on a PC that I can’t do on the Mac. So much is done via the browser these days that it is surprisingly not much of an issue (except for some games - see the cons section).
Speed and usability - Pretty much all the tasks I have used so far other than games (Web browsing, video, Microsoft Word, etc.) are really snappy. Also, the trackpad is really really responsive and makes it easy to use without a mouse. In my store tests, the trackpad was one of my favorite features on the Mac vs. Windows and I still love it.
Battery life - The big headline feature of this year’s models is extended battery life, and I am here to report that it is pretty amazing. Depending on what you do, you really can expect to get iPad-level battery life. That is a big condition though… Running a lot of programs, playing games, and watching videos will reduce battery life considerably.
The most impressive display of the MBA’s battery life came a few Sundays ago, when I helped out some friends with a live video production they were doing. I had to leave in the morning, meet some friends for a picnic, and then head to the production. Starting at 100% when I left the house, I used the laptop on and off while riding the train and that night ran it more or less constantly (including about an hour streaming video) for something like 6 hours (albeit at low-ish brightness). At the end of the night my battery was down to just 40% or so. It is almost as much of a powerhouse as the iPad, except you can do regular computer tasks if you need to.
Portability - Because of the awesome battery life, this feels much easier to carry around and use than a typical laptop. I can carry it around without also bringing the AC adapter, which makes for a very light load (3 lbs). Since I have the 13” model the weight is definitely more noticeable than the iPad, but if the MBA is the only heavy thing I need to carry then it is no problem to lug around.
Flash - I have read a lot of online posts about how awful Flash is, but having it on the MBA feels like a real plus compared to the iPad. Back in the day I loved Flash games like Nanaca Crash and now that I have a laptop on my couch I can return to that and a lot of other cool Flash-based activities. This morning I was obsessing over Knightmare Tower, which is free on the web but $2.99 in the iOS app store.
My wife uses it - Mrs. Adamu has really taken to the MacBook, to the extent that she rarely if ever powers up her desktop anymore. She likes that it turns on immediately and can be used on the couch. I had to help her set up bookmark syncing on Firefox (and will set up Dropbox when she needs it), but that was pretty painless and I certainly don’t mind doing it.
Mac OS X - For the most part I have learned how to use Mac OS X, but there are still a few quirks about it. For example, having a thin white menu bar at the top of the screen all the time makes me nostalgic for my school days when all the school’s PCs were Macs, but I am used to the way Windows apps work and like that they usually don’t use up screen real estate unnecessarily. The keyboard shortcuts are quite a bit different, but at this point I basically have them down. I like that you can easily remap the Caps Lock and other keys right within the settings (unlike in Windows where getting a Mac wireless keyboard to work properly was a pain and a half).
I should note that the learning curve of going from Windows 7 to Mac OS X is probably a lot smaller than going from Windows 7 to the daunting and counter-intuitive Windows 8.
Chrome doesn’t work that well - Although it was nice that Chrome imported all of my bookmarks and settings, there are some aspects of it that don’t work very well. For one, it hangs for about 3 seconds when you first open it and try to type in a text input field.
But the most annoying aspect is that YouTube doesn’t work right. The sound stops working after a while (but it will work in Safari or other programs), and sometimes when it does work the audio randomly becomes tinny (again this isn’t a problem in other browsers). I hope Google fixes this.
Trouble with MIDI - I have an electronic drum set that I would love to hook up to the MacBook to record music onto, but so far I have not been able to make the connection work.
Lack of support for legacy Mac programs - Apparently at some point OS X stopped supporting Power PC applications. What that means is that the Mac versions of older Blizzard games (Starcraft 1 and Warcraft III specifically) will not install unless I go through a long process. I tried using Parallels desktop but it is unfortunately slow. I guess that means that if I want to play SC1 on the machine I will need to run Boot Camp and have a dual boot setup, which I had hoped to avoid.
It gets hot sometimes - If I am watching a video or just using it for an extended period the MacBook will get hot. Still, it is not nearly as hot as my previous laptop. This is only worth mentioning as a con vs. the iPad.
Miscellaneous thoughts and conclusion
Now that I have this MacBook, I find myself using the iPad a little less at home. For my commute, having an iPad around is nice if I want to watch Starcraft 2 replays or play iOS games. The MacBook is simply too bulky and heavy for that sort of use to be an option. At home, for most purposes I prefer to use the MacBook. But for instance last night I watched Laputa on TV, and I preferred the iPad to check tweets or look up Japanese words I didn’t know. The iPhone would have worked but I prefer having a bigger and more readable screen in settings like that.
My desktop has a harder time attracting my attention, however. I am typing this on the desktop (because my wife is using the MacBook!) but I just find it more convenient to open the laptop on the couch rather than travel to the computer room to use the PC (this has a lot to do with the fact that it’s summer and I don’t want to leave the AC). It is kind of too bad given that I only just recently finished installing a new graphics card and migrating the motherboard to a new chassis. At this point my desktop is mostly a gaming machine.
All in all I feel like I made a really good purchase. Had I opted to get a cheaper Windows model (or even a Chromebook but that is basically out of the question), I would not have gotten the speed, battery life, trackpad, and that make using this so pleasant. So if you’ve made it this far and you are in the market for a laptop, I would enthusiastically recommend spending the extra money to get a new MacBook Air over a cheaper alternative.