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

Topics: Autism Development

Living with the MacBook Air, 8 months on.

I purchased my 11” MacBook Air back in January after a period of consideration. I brought it primarily too be my personal machine. For my university work and for my personal computing needs such as managing my photos, chatting online and using social media. I thought after 8 months of hard use i would report in on how the Air is to live with day to day.

SSDs are fast, but you get use to it.

When i first wrote about the MacBook Air one of my first take away points was that the Air is an extremely fast machine. While its CPU (a 1.4ghz Core 2 Duo) is not to quick the SSD makes it snappy for most tasks i use it for. This too largely still holds true, except that over time i have gotten use to the speed of the SSD and now everything else feels slow.

Over time i have gotten use to the speed and this has taken the edge of off the amazement. I am now use to the speed and expect it from every machine i use.

RAM trumps hard drive space.

When i brought the Air i was torn between the 64gb SSD + 4gb RAM model, or the 128gb SSD + 2gb RAM model. My worry was based around how much space i use for storing my personal photo collection. With the macbook being a mostly sealed system i wanted to ensure that i did not run out of space.

In the end, i went for the larger SSD at the expense of the RAM. The model with the higher RAM was not available and this should have been a hint to me that more RAM going forward would be worth the expense.

My worries about space have so far proved unfounded, in the 8months since i purchased the Air i have only used 41gb of disk space. However, the Air is low on RAM and will get into difficulty when running multiple heavy applications (iPhoto + iTunes + Safari with 15 tabs etc). As the RAM is soldered to the logic board it cannot be upgraded, the SSD can.

Avoid beta software unless your brave & willing to accept issues

I am an OSX & iOS developer so i had early access to the OSX Lion beta. The Air was only non production machine i could install it on so i installed it a few months before lion was eventually released. On the whole Lion is extremely smooth on the Air but there are a few limitations which cause me much frustration. For example, broken screen zooming (requiring a restart to resolve) and patchy WiFi issues. I understood what i was letting myself in for when i installed the Lion beta, but in hindsight it would have been better if i had not. As my personal machine, i want a machine that works, installing and fiddling with beta software is too close to work for me.

With me all the time, use every day.

Although my uses have changed since i purchased the machine, one thing which has held the machine in good stead is its portability. Originally i was expecting to use the machine for 2 years more of university, in the end i took and early exit from university and took a job. However, the Air comes into work with me everyday. I use it at lunchtime and for managing my social life. Its become the computer i take most places. So much so, that i am writing this on a train back from a training event! Which leads on to my final point.

Better than the iPad.

While i do love the iPad, the Air, for me is simply better as the one item i carry with me all the time. The iPad mostly stays at home and is used to consume media / web browsing. However, when mobile i vastly prefer having a proper keyboard and mouse and using the touch screen interface for writing is a miserable experience!

The Air is so far my favorite computer i have ever owned, its very portable, fast enough to be useful, and after 8 months of use continues to impress me daily.

Published: 18 September 2011 | Categories: , Permalink

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