21 February 2008

My main machine

David Morgenstern noticed my recent posts, and speculated that the MacBook Air was my primary computer. He’s right.

The machine isn’t perfect (I keep seeing reflections in the glossy screen, and I miss the peace of mind the Kensington security slot gave me with my MacBook Pro), but it does all the things a computer needs to do for most people.

And yes, it could be faster. But it doesn’t lag in normal operations, and I don’t need to compile an entire application that often. The speed penalty is really minimal compared to an existing machine (if I were weighing an MBA against other current machines, the difference would be a little more pronounced).

And even though it’s not the speediest Mac you can buy, it still beats the dual G5 tower in compiling the larger code base:
Power Mac G5: 3:31.4
MacBook Air: 2:53.1
I do want to correct one thing David wrote: “He’s … a game player.” Yes, but I wouldn’t recommend a MacBook Air (or a MacBook for that matter) for any computer game that makes heavy use of 3D graphics. The Intel integrated video (GMA X3100) is simply not up to the 2 year old Radeon X800XT that’s in my MacBook Pro. However, the MBP should do just fine for casual games (like the ones we create at GameHouse). And I’d guess the lower-powered chip is, well, lower-powered: it uses less battery and thus generates less heat.

As I mentioned earlier, I did take a few steps to make sure the MBA would work as a sole machine. I got the external DVD/CD drive so I can burn CDs if necessary. I put my music on an external drive (it actually would fit on the internal drive, but things would get way too tight). I already had an external portrait display to use as a second screen.

I still marvel when I pack up the MacBook Air — it’s so much lighter than my MacBook Pro. And the slightly smaller size makes it easier to use on the bus (and presumably on an airplane, but I don’t fly every day). And I appreciate the times it’s quieter (not always, as the fans kick in when hitting the disk a lot, like a large Time Machine backup).

I think I’ll be tempted to replace the machine in a year, when solid state disks are more affordable, but I suspect I’ll be replacing it with a similar machine. I’m a convert.


Conrad said...

Now that it has been a few months are you still happy with your choice to use the Macbook Air as your main machine? I have read that Jason O'Grady has gotten frustrated with the speed over time. Have you had similar experiences?

David Dunham said...

Like I said, I think I will be upgrading the machine earlier than I might otherwise, to get more internal disk capacity and speed.

But I have the MacBook Pro sitting there, and I'm not using it. It's faster (especially in GPU performance), has a bigger disk, and gigabit Ethernet. So I think that says I'm happy with the MacBook Air.

What I actually want most on the machine is a security port, so I can leave it in a hotel while travelling.