Photo of Jamie & Lion

The personal site of Jamie Knight, a slightly autistic web developer, speaker and mountain biker who is never seen far from his plush sidekick Lion. View the Archive

Topics: Autism Development

Thoughts on the MacBook Air & why i have a non work computer.

I grew up in the 90s and computers have been part of my life since a young age. We had a family computer since when i was in primary school and i used it for homework and researching things (such as lego instructions!). Since then i have always had a computer for work use but a few months back i brought myself a MacBook Air to be my “non-work” computer. This article looks a little at how the MacBook Air is for day to day use and looks a little at why i could never go back to having only a work computer.

What makes a home computer?

Before going into to much detail, i thought i should answer the question about how i define what is a home computer. For me, my home computer is the computer which i am unable to work on. I don’t have my software tools to to work installed at all. My home computer is what i use once i get home to check on twitter, facebook etc. I use it to manage my media collections such as photos and music. I also use my ‘home’ computer for non work projects, such as study or researching lego parts.

Why did i choose an 11” MacBook Air?

As i would be using the computer for studying i knew i wanted a Mac. All of my study notes have been produced using Pages.app and the Macs include the Voiceover screen reader which i am very comfortable using. I did consider and research Windows 7 based options, but i was unable to find anything compelling back in January (however, now i would take a close look at Samsung Series 9!). For my home computer i wanted to keep hassle to a minimum so, for me at least, Mac was the way.

Once i had decided i was going to have a Mac, i had to make the choice between a desktop or a notebook. I went for a notebook as i would need to be able to take it into university with me. Once i had decided on a notebook this led me to the MacBook range. It was a close run thing between the entry level white MacBook, or the MacBook Air.

In the end i went for the Air, while the standard MacBook was more powerful it was really overkill for my needs. My main use for the machine is a little bit of photo editing and writing. I valued portability over pretty much everything else (as i would be carrying it around at uni and for years to come) and the tiny little air suited the bill. Another aspect which was important to me was that i could use the MacBook Air comfortably without a desk. The small size and low weight of the Air means that its more comfortable to use when lounging on the sofa. No desk required!

I cannot talk about the Air without talking about the cost! As i went for the larger 128gb system it was not cheap coming in at over £1000. However, as with my original MacBook (now on its 6th year and 3rd owner and still going strong!) i expect to keep this machine for at least 3-5 years if not longer, so i do not mind making a large investment now. I find Macs do retain their value well so even if i do sell it before hand i will recoup the majority of the investment. The only part of the spec which is a bit stingy is the minimal RAM allocation. The 4GB RAM option was unavailable when i purchased mine, so i am stuck at 2gb forever now. The internal SSD can at least be replaced in the future if i so wish, with 480gb models coming down in price.

Pros and cons to using a MacBook Air as a home computer:

As with any trade off, there are both pros and cons to using the MacBook Air as a home computer. For me there are two big cons, and two bigs pluses. Lets get the bad news out of the way.

The Air is VERY light on ports, the two i miss most are the SD card slot, and an ethernet port. These two ports would make my life easier! The second con is that the hard drive space is limited. While i am still only just hitting the 69gb used mark, i do expect to hit the storage limit in a couple of years time.

The first big plus however is performance. As it has an SSD on board at a similar price point to the non SSD equipped 13” MacBook it feels far more responsive. For most of the things i use the MacBook Air for, this responsiveness is more important than pure grunt. Going from the Air back to my work MacBook Pro feels like quite a slow down!

The second big plus is again the portability! As the Air is so light and small, throwing it in my bag when i’m traveling or taking it into the office with me is easy.

Why have a home computer?

I have explained why i choose the Air for my home computer, but you may still be asking why have one in the first place? Surely the MacBook Pro i have for work can serve my needs while also keeping my backup routine simple?

While the MacBook Pro is a very capable machine, it is, foremost my work machine. As i am self employed it has become increasingly important to me to separate between home and work to prevent myself undue stress and worry. Its way to easy to go to check my email, or to edit some photos and end up doing client work or worrying about a long to do list.

The Air however, is a separate system entirely. I cannot work from it (though i can stay in touch with clients, an important balance!). This means that when i leave the MacBook Pro in the office i have no ability to work even if i feel i should. This helps to reduce my stress levels enormously and has helped me to relax.

Another benefit to having the Air is that it means that i am not so worried about its condition or its data. I consider the data on the Air somewhat expendable (i have multiple backups) and while i would be upset if the Air was damaged it would not have any wider financial implications. I feel happier leaving my essential work equipment in the office, rather than carting it around the country with me!

Although i am talking about the separation of home and work computing there is one interesting side benefit of having the Air. I have a greater understanding for the computing environment of the majority. I know most people don’t have Airs; but the setup and use i have for the air, mimics how most people use their computers. This mindset i have found to be a big change from the mindset when using work computers. It has provided me with some insight into how most peoples use computers.

So with all that said, what do you all think? Should i have gone for something different? Do you separate you work and home computing? Let me know what you think in the comments!.

Published: 28 June 2011 Permalink

Commenting is closed for this article.