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The MacBook Air: A Decade’s Worth of Legacy (mjtsai.com)
104 points by mpweiher on Jan 16, 2018 | hide | past | favorite | 147 comments



Argh... I can't talk about the Macbook Air without getting angry. Angry at Apple's direction.

I bought the second generation MBA (the first good one) in 2011. It was a fantastic laptop. It was pretty much the right compromise of power vs weight vs cost. I loved how you could get a pretty darn usable Macbook for (eventually) like $1200.

For the first couple of years other manufacturers just couldn't compete with that much hardware for that price.

But then it got a bit long in the tooth. I, like many, was waiting for a screen upgrade (particularly to a retina screen). Other manufacturers were increasingly producing better hardware and smaller bezel displays. Yet no update from Apple (after about 2015 or so).

And then... the Macbook came out, which spelt the end for the MBA (a 12" MB and 11/13" MBAs were too many SKUs for Apple). And the MB was a terrible compromise. One port (also for power!). Terrible keyboard. Horrible performance.

And now we have Macbook Pros that have:

- Removed the super-useful Magsafe connector

- Added a stupid touchbar no one cares about

- Used a much worse keyboard and trackpad to save like 0.5mm in width; and

- Cost 2x+ as much.

Thanks for that, Apple.

All I wanted was an updated Macbook Air.


>- Removed the super-useful Magsafe connector

>- Added a stupid touchbar no one cares about

>- Used a much worse keyboard and trackpad to save like 0.5mm in width;

I have 2 of the new Touch Bar MBPs (one for work and one for personal) and those 3 things are something that sold me on the computer after I had purchased it. I had no intention of using the TouchBar and felt like they didn't need to mess with the MagSafe or the keyboard and yet all 3 of these things have won me over.

The TouchBar is amazing to me and something that I use regularly (made even better by BetterTouchTool). Being able to scrub through media while still having hands on the keyboard and then switching immediately to editing tools is a godsend for me.

The USB-C connector is a much better option, in my opinion, than MagSafe was (even though I really liked MagSafe) simply because it's not a proprietary connector and it's not limited to charging. I'll happily give up a dedicated port for charging when I don't have to buy chargers from Apple and the port doubles as an I/O port. In hindsight, MagSafe was convenient when laptops weighed and ton and could easily get pulled down by the standard laptop charger plug. I've had all different laptops for years now and can count on one hand the number of times MagSafe would have saved me a slight bit of trouble.

As for the trackpad and keyboard, I much prefer the feel of the new keyboard and I can't tell a difference between the trackpads simply because I prefer the larger trackpad. The "click" feels exactly the same in day-to-day use. The keyboard feels much more stable and even to me and I don't find the travel to be greater to one side of a key or another so it always feels like a solid press.

Maybe it's just me but I love the new Macbook Pros. I'd love to see an updated MBA with a Retina display instead of the 12" Macbook but I have no complaints about the Pro line at all and I'm a professional media creator and developer.


>In hindsight, MagSafe was convenient when laptops weighed and ton and could easily get pulled down by the standard laptop charger plug.

Didn't you get that inversely? It's today's lighter laptops that can MORE easily get pulled down by the standard laptop charger plug.

Absent a magsafe style solution, the easiness of which a laptop can be pulled down is an inverse factor of its weight.

>I've had all different laptops for years now and can count on one hand the number of times MagSafe would have saved me a slight bit of trouble.

That's still up to 5 times. And that's with YOUR use cases, others (e.g. less mindful, with pets, with kids, working on cafes, etc) can have it even much worse.

But even 1 time, never mind "measurable on one hand" times, of avoiding getting a laptop dented, with broken screen, etc, in a decade is a good ROI.


>Didn't you get that inversely? It's today's lighter laptops that can MORE easily get pulled down by the standard laptop charger plug.

No, but I probably should have been clearer in my meaning. The chargers now plug in via a very tiny port that is easily removed with minimal force. The larger, heavier laptops of the past had the more standard wall-wort plugs that needed to be pulled straight back to remove them. USB-C unplugs too easily to ever be a risk for a computer getting pulled down and computers are too light now to actually disengage the MagSafe ports. It's a tough balance where too powerful of a magnet won't disengage a light computer and too light of a magnet causes the charger to fall off at the lightest touch.

As for your second point/question, I was mainly saying that paying a premium for a MagSafe connector is less worth it to me than having a non-proprietary port that is also multi-function since it's very uncommon for the use-case that MagSafe was designed for to happen nowadays with computers. I have yet to hear a current story where MagSafe saved someone's computer or where the USB-C cable trashed someone's computer by getting pulled and not releasing. MagSafe was awesome for its time but I think it's not as useful with today's tech.


Where to begin?

Okay, so USB-C has a long pull. It’s not a short simple disengage that can occur at any angle. You can’t snap off a USB-C plug by rolling at an angle, without inflicting wear at best, or connector damage at worst.

The lighter the laptop, the more likely the laptop will be pulled by the binding of the tension clip, especially if the angle of pull is unintentionally wrong and accidental.

That the laptop is lighter is good, because on a bad drop off a table top, there’s less impact damage or probability of screen breakage, but a trip over a cord or an excited pet can still send the laptop flying MORE EASILY, not less.

The heavier chasis weight merely means that damage was more readily inflicted on the conductive ring-and-pin DC port itself, or the adapter wire, by serving to anchor the chasis in place, than would a lighter chasis get launched across the room.

The lighter chasis means a lesser magnet should be used to link the magsafe connector to the power port, but either way, magsafe wins. It’s the better design every time.

Back in the day, the magsafe connector saved multiple fragile components, preventing HDD head crashes, dents, bent plugs, sceen smashes and frayed power cord internals. But now, with SSD drives and gorilla glass monitors, and commodity cords, laptops are more durable and survivable on a drop than years ago.

Either way, it’s still extremely disconcerting to drop a laptop, no matter that they can withstand more abuse than the bad old days, and magsafe power connects were a reassuring presence.

Fortunately, it’s low technology, and USB-C is an open standard, so after market solutions could jump into the market for a save. It doesn’t have to be an Apple product exclusive anymore. It could be an Otter Box durability sweetener included with their hardened clamshell wrappers, or a Belkin accessory, or whatever dongle-du-jour company puts something out. It’s just that no one has pushed into that area yet.


The Griffin BreakSafe cable, among others, push into that area.


>I have yet to hear a current story where MagSafe saved someone's computer

Because it's a non-story. Magsafe saved my macbook a few times in Uni. I was working in Cafés, in uni with the cable going straight away from the table and at home with pets. I probably would have needed a macbook per year without magsafe. While I agree it's great to have a standardized USB-C plug, magsafe was the one thing where I didn't mind paying the Apple premium.

We could have a magsafe USB-C port. With enough people having a Macbook today this could become standard. And you'd just need a simple ($50) adapter cable to connect the two.


Not sure if you knew this, but there’s a bunch of companies who make MagSafe like USB-C cables. Not only do you get the safety benefits of a magnetic breakaway cable, you also get the benefit of it not being proprietary.

I find it ironic that everyone always beats up on Apple for having proprietary connectors (more for phone admittedly), but then when Apple does do something standard, they still get beat up. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t I guess.

Personally I love that it’s USB-C as now I can use an external battery with my Mac when I need extended run time without having to pay super premium prices for something like HyperMac’s old system. That and the fact I can plug power in on either side is a huge plus to me.


>I find it ironic that everyone always beats up on Apple for having proprietary connectors (more for phone admittedly), but then when Apple does do something standard, they still get beat up. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t I guess.

Or, one can think of it as "judging each case on its individual merits". For other stuff, it makes less sense to have a proprietary connector, whereas for magsafe it provided something good.


As much as I feel like USB-C has been a huge fiasco on my new Touchbar MBP (way more work than I expected), you're right about Magsafe. I tripped on it and flung my 2011 Air onto the floor. No damage, but it's getting pointless, and anyway, those magsafe2-1 converters are useless -- I've bought 5, they all fail.


One disadvantage of magsafe is that siting cross legged and working on your lap is a hassle. The magnet disengages very easily. However I would rather have magsafe than see my 15 inch pro flying in the air when my 4yo trips over the charging cable :)


What? The L-shaped magsafe is ideal for sitting cross legged. All other power connectors jab into the side of my leg. And I've never had the magnet disengage


i _wish_ i had a proper use case for the touchbar. six months in, still haven't figured out what to do with it, apart from, you know, pretend it's the top row of a keyboard.

i sort of forget about the keyboard until i use my old macbook pro and remember what i'm missing out on. and even that one was a step down from the previous gen.


Install BetterTouchTool and you can make it do pretty much whatever you want. I like the defaults for stuff like Final Cut Pro and Safari but if you don't use those then there will be limited utility for you outside of regular function keys or media controls.


> Being able to scrub through media

Isn't that something you could do with a modifier key and the touchpad?


Technically yes but not in the same way that I can with my Touch Bar since it's completely visual which would not be the case with the trackpad. I also switch tabs in Safari on the Touch Bar and do plenty of other things that are all just quicker and faster with the Touch Bar. On top of that, it's not like I lost the trackpad by having the Touch Bar so I could still do it the way you're describing, if I was inclined to do so.


Removed the super-useful Magsafe connector

Just one data point, I'm very happy with how this worked out.

Unlike Apple's terrible huge proprietary chargers, I now have portable battery packs and cheaper USB-C chargers all over the place that charge both my phone and MacBook Pro, and, best of all, they can go on both sides depending on where I'm sitting. The cables slide out pretty easy so MagSafe isn't even needed IMHO.

I am hugely happy with the new MBP, with having to blast the keyboard with air occasionally being the only irritation.


I agree. I consider not having to buy $89 (after tax) chargers from apple a huge win, being able to charge from either side of the laptop is yet another bonus.

I did like the magnetic connector though.


>* I consider not having to buy $89 (after tax) chargers from apple a huge win*

It can also be a huge, "my laptop just got fried because of a BS el-cheapo charger" loss.

https://www.theverge.com/2016/2/4/10916264/usb-c-russian-rou...

https://www.makeuseof.com/tag/best-usb-c-chargers-whats-safe...

https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2016/mar/30/amazon-cl...

Don't give up on those Apple or Belkin charge cables just yet...


> I now have portable battery packs and cheaper USB-C chargers all over the place that charge both my phone and MacBook Pro

This isn't true if you buy both an Apple phone and computer, you have to get an Android. Just more evidence of Apple's backwards and confused direction as of late.


Or buy a lightning to USB-C cable for under $10 on Amazon. No dongle required!


I also had the 2011 MBA and loved it.

What disappoints me even further since 2016, separate from the laptop regression is how badly Apple dropped the ball on the monitor side.

The previous gen Thunderbolt display doubled as a lovely hub for Ethernet/audio in&out/traditional USB ports/Firewire/Thunderbolt. Convenient way to restore all the usual ports to the svelte MBA, and bonus, all on a PCI bus (i.e. fast).

Enter the LG 5k: the panel itself is fine, but the enclosure is butt ugly, costs more, and has none of the above.[1]

It won't charge things when a laptop isn't connected.[2]

Years later, finally we got power and video on one cable...but the monitor is a 3rd party sub standard mess, and good luck if WiFi devices are nearby. [3]

[1] https://9to5mac.com/guides/thunderbolt-display/

[2] https://www.apple.com/uk/shop/reviews/HKN62B/A/lg-ultrafine-...

[3] https://arstechnica.com/gadgets/2017/01/apple-lg-5k-display-...


I used a mid-2013 MBA as my main work machine for 4 years and loved it. I also hoped for an updated MBA. But what would an updated MBA look like? Let's keep the 13.3 inch screen and full size keyboard, and:

  * Upgrade the screen to a retina display
  * Shrink those old-fashioned bezels
  * Integrated GPU only is fine
  * Update the 2 USB ports to USB-C/Thunderbolt 3 with power delivery
  * Current generation CPU
  * Keep the weight about the same
We've just built the 2-port MacBook Pro. (w/out touchbar). It's slightly less wide and deep than the MBA, thinner overall than the MBA's thickest point and a mere 20 grams heavier.

Of course it is somewhat more expensive than the MBA, but you cannot expect upgraded technology for free.

tl;dr Apple did an "upgraded MBA" when they bifurcated the MBP line, and nobody noticed.


But with worst keyboard


I don't have a problem with the feel of the "scissor v2" keyboard on the 2017 MBPs. It's reliability and robustness is an open question though.


I love my MB — it’s a great Emacs machine. I never plug anything in except power, and it’s faster than all sorts of earlier machines I’ve used. I even got used to the keyboard.

But...the goddamned keyboard has failed twice. In fact my mb is at Apple being replaced right now. Warranty, sure, but I can’t write much code on this iPad!


Had a MBA for 5 years and it was the best computer I'd ever had by a mile. A couple of months ago I upgraded to the MBP without the touch bar ($700AUD just didnt seem like good value to get something i'd never use).

Fair to say that it's a significant upgrade and using the MBA now feels like a real step down.


When you tie yourself to a single manufacturer then you're going to be disappointed very often. It's impossible for one manufacturer to have the perfect product for everyone.


This is a true statement, but how does it relate to what the other poster wrote? Wishing for Apple to do a better job has nothing to being tied to a single manufacturer.


Because of the very truth of the statement. It is highly improbable and most unrealistic for a single entity to satisfy the wishes of all people at all times. Therefore tying oneself to a single manufacturer is inevitably in the long run going to result in disappointment.

Wouldn't you agree?


Disappointment is inevitable no matter your hardware/software poison of choice.


No, because that hardware company is also the exclusive beneficiary of the software company.

If it was just about hardware, I'd consider other options.


Which type of software you work with that exists solely on Mac and no other platform?


I'm not sure you read my comment. I had already agreed with you in general.

I was asking for you to connect your comment to the one which you had replied. As it is it's just a completely out of the blue, like stating "many people enjoy French fries" or something.


I like the change to USB-C charging. I found magsafe to be annoying because I'd constantly knock it out.


Ditto to everything you said. Just bought a $4,000 MacBook Pro and seethed with resentment.


Here's what I'll do to solve your problem: I'll buy a maxed out 2015 MBP 13''. Using 2012 one for a couple years now at work, and it's one of the best laptops I ever had. If Apple doesn't wake up I'll switch to Windows once Microsoft has properly figured out integration with the new linux subsystem.


> For the first couple of years other manufacturers just couldn't compete with that much hardware for that price.

Exactly. But today the world is full of cheap MacBook Air knockoffs.

The challenge now, as it was then, is how does Apple leverage its manufacturing strengths to produce a laptop that no one else can at the same price?

The answer is the new MacBook and MacBook Pros. A success in the sense that no one else can produce such laptops. A failure in that few would want to. The MacBook knockoffs look like better machines.


I sometimes get frustrated by the fact that to do iOS development I have to buy an way over priced laptop that has a laundry list of "design flaws", when there are far faster and more practical windows and even linux laptops on the market.

If it weren't for the fact that I do some iOS development, I would have ditched the Apple laptop/desktop scene by now.


You've set the stage for how strikingly bad this current situation is: the keyboards in all new Macbook & Macbook Pros do not work as keyboards (the keys fail when they should not). The way to fix this is to make the laptops thicker so there is room for keys that work. Apple will not increase thickness.

So... when will the keyboards be usable again?


When they remove the keyboard entirely and replace it with a giant trackpad with a keyboard section. They will do this when they can make the trackpad sensitive enough to do so.


Sony’s VAIO X505 had some impressive specs when it first debuted in 2004. It was just 0.38 inches at its thinnest point, and used Intel’s ultra-low voltage Pentium processor. It was the first laptop to feature a "chiclet" keyboard, named for its small rounded keys that resemble Chiclets gum. All of this was packaged into a $3,000 notebook years before Apple unveiled its MacBook Air.

https://www.theverge.com/2014/2/6/5385716/sony-vaio-iconic-p...


That laptop certainly looks revolutionary. But while we're on the subject of Sony ultra-portables: I am a little sad that there's been no update to the Sony VAIO P-Series of laptops which are literally pocket sized.

I had one, and aside from the screen refresh it was so crazy how absurdly portable it was.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sony_Vaio_P_series


I really loved mine. The screen was actually fine, the main issue was that it used a Z series atom, with a powerVR gpu cribbed from early smartphones and absolutely abysmal performance. The screen was high quality, the system just couldn't refresh it worth a damn and stuttered on even 480p youtube

I would pay more than they want for that new Psion or the GPD pocket 2 for an updated vaio p with just a modern atom, or basically the specs of the GPD win. The rev2 with the trackpad on the screen glass was basically the perfect form factor.

I can't believe these still sell for what i paid for mine in 2011~ when it was barely old, which was about $400


The whole market for such flatlined as smartphones ascended, it seems.

Also, these days Vaio is no longer a part of Sony and thus likely can't chase niche markets as much.


Boy, i loved those! I remember browsing lots of japanese and hongkong sites to find one with EU-shipping. Does anyone know similar current devices?


There's a couple recent products that hit similar niches:

GPD Pocket: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/gpd-pocket-7-0-umpc-lapto...

GPD Win 2: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/gpd-win-2-handheld-game-c...

Ockel Sirius A: https://www.ockelcomputers.com/sirius-a/

I have the original GPD Win, and it's a surprisingly competent PC for being roughly the size of a Nintendo 3DS XL. The keyboard is terrible for typing on, but that's kind of expected with its gaming focus.


I got a pocket... the keyboard lets it down a bit, I hanker after the Psion 5 keyboard.

Unfortunately the team trying to bring back something like the Psion are the same people who are not bringing the Spectrum Vega to its backers, but instead seem to be spending the backers money on frivolous lawsuits.


I have a GPD Pocket too, and I concur with you - the keyboard is one iteration away from being acceptable. But, is it not still a kick-ass machine? I really love mine, and I look forward to any revision we may see from GPD in the future - and/or competition along similar lines. Finally a decent unibody not of Apple heritage!


What made the vaio killer was that it's super wide width allowed for an almost-normal keyboard(think 12in powerbook or old ibm X series, not some super micro thing like very small japanese laptops usually have). I wanted to love the pocket, but the keyboard just looks so awful comparatively


And let's not forget its earlier sibling, the Sony 505G, which I had back in...1999. I don't quite remember what keys it had, but it really changed the way I thought about laptops. The 505 series really changed the game.


This was my brother's machine in the early 2000's, and I distinctly remember how aesthetically pleasing it was.

I was personally an Thinkpad X series guy, but that magnesium body (?) of the Sony laptop was beautiful.


Yeah, I was going to suggest about the X-series. Even today there is a good X-series lover. I’d say Thinkpad X design was legendary and revolutionary of its time, and surprisingly still very popular today.


That takes me back -- I remember when Japanese laptops were so innovative that there was an entire site (dynamism, I think?) devoted to localizing and providing them to US customers. Now it seems like Apple has really driven the laptop industry and that Japanese laptops are chunky, underspecced, and overpriced...


I was working at Best Buy in '08 when one of my regular customers came in to buy a MacBook Air when his X505 started to age. Those Sonys were impressively built but with a price tag to match. They keyboards on them were a bit more condensed than on the original MBA, if I recall correctly.


the VAIO PCG-505 came out in 1997! That thing was amazingly futuristic. 24mm at the thickest part, less than 3 lbs, ran linux just fine, and the battery could be swapped while in a soft sleep.

http://museum.ipsj.or.jp/en/computer/personal/0104.html


the pcg-505 was my primary machine from 2000-2007 and i loved it!

had sony not fumbled over itself, i might still be using a upgraded version of that machine, rather than the macbook pro's i've used since (i'm hoping apple doesn't have a similar implosion, but it's looking sketchy at the moment). apple didn't really surpass that machine with the air, it was the retina macbook pro's that were the next step up.


I worked in a tech shop at the time and had to do more than a couple of RAM and HD swaps on those little punks. Talk about a living hell...


Probably the favorite of any laptop I have ever owned. Lightning fast with the SSD (compared to the 250/320GB spinner in the 13" Pro at the time), very sleek, great touchpad/screen/keyboard...

And then 11" was a new level of portability. The 2013 model brought battery upgrades that were so far ahead of the rest of the thin and lights.

Perhaps the best part: the low price of $1099 made the 13" Air a bargain. Cheaper than the worse 13" Pro! And the 11" model was another $100 less. Combine that with discounts from retailers like B&H, Best Buy, or MicroCenter and you could get a brand new Mac for $799 at various times. Very unlike Apple.


And great battery life, for such a light machine.

I liked it much more than my current 2016 MacBook "Pro".


I agree about the battery life but the non-touch bar MBP is a gem. It's as light as a MacBook Air and I've bounced it around a few times accidentally (no damage, unlike my Air). The new screen and touch pad are great too.


For me my next purchase would probably still be a Macbook Air. Right now, I'm using an Air it I love it. The comfortable enough to work and use anywhere. But I wont be buying any time soon. The one I'm using now is about 3 years old. It's still reliable and haven't noticed a single problem with it. This comparing to my brother's 2 year old MBP riddled with LCD problems.

I've had MBPs before and it seems they tend to break easier. They are a bit hot and heavy.


Also I can't help but continue to notice the reliability complaints people have about new MBP keyboards. I love my Macbook Air keyboard.

I'm still doing fine with my 2012 MBA. The battery was shot, so I replaced it. I'd love to see Apple continue making them...


This week I had the battery replaced in my mid 2013 Air. First time I’ve had a computer for anything like this long and not wanted to bin it. A bigger SSD and more RAM would be nice but it remains my ideal laptop. They were definitely on to something.


Yup. My 2011 Air is my favorite machine ever. Getting a bit slow though, past year or so. Takes a long time to wake from sleep. Battery warning has been on forever.


The SSDs in the Air are replaceable, but new units are insanely expensive. I've been looking to swap out my 128GB SSD with a 256GB unit (Mid-2013 MBA). An OEM 256GB SSD is around $450, the OWC Aura (seemingly the only compatible third party unit) is $250 -- better, but still hard to justify. There are used units on eBay, but I don't like using second hand hard drives.

Are there any other options out there?


There are but there are some heavy caveats and they don't really work all that well. For example, I recently purchased one of these Sintech adapters[0] and a Samsung 960 Evo. NVMe drives are technically supported in the latest High Sierra, but clearly there are huge issues with the NVMe SSD drivers and OS X still. While I appreciated the higher speeds and capacity at a better price, ultimately having OSX hard reboot due to kernel panics two or three times a day made me give up on this experiment. I'll probably try it again sometime in the future though.

0. http://eshop.sintech.cn/storage-adapter-2013-mac-pcie-ssd-c-...


Pretty sure you can get an adapter to convert the world of M.2 drives into the MBA propietary plug. A little bit of Google-fu should connect you to it on popular online stores.


Last year, instead of replacing my mid-2011’s battery for a few hundred dollars, I sold all the parts and bought a mid-2015 with faster CPU and 8GB RAM.

After selling the included Beats Solo3 (academic purchase), it was close to a free upgrade.


Is this to say you deconstructed the machine and sold individual parts (on eBay)?

I'm surprised doing so would have such a good return.


Yes. Apple keeps a tight grip on its supply chain, so spare parts are hard to find.

But I think I sold the wifi card to someone building a hackintosh.


Are they that expensive? I mean, after a quick Google I couldn't find anything with a huge price[1]. That WiFi card goes for £13.

I'm interested (and I'm sure others would be), where did you sell the parts and did you use any disassembly guides?

1. https://www.ebay.co.uk/p/Genuine-Apple-MacBook-Pro-Early-201...


I just pointed out that part as being one that could go into any computer.

Sold the parts on everyone's favourite auction house. Lots of repair guides out there, I used ifixit's.

Even though it's a 2011, lots of bricked systems out there that you can get functioning again for $0-$200 dollars in spare parts and a few hours of your time.


I took the plunge with the second gen MacBook Air after seeing fellow devs at WWDC haul them around as if they were nothing. I initially noticed the slower HDD and performance hit, but didn't miss it after the first week. The mobility was a huge boon. I was working for myself and often meeting clients or working from the coffee shop, bar, etc. I held on to it until the MacBook caught up in size/weight.

Source: me. I write iOS apps.


Once the SSDs became standard (or a reasonably-priced option, I forget), the Air hit its stride, I think. I had a 2010 that I did dev work on (iOS and Mac), and it was great with plenty of power for what I was doing. My wife still has a hand-me-down 2011 that works fine. Getting a bit long in the tooth, and she sees more beach balls than she should, but it does what she needs it to do.

I can’t imagine having to work with one with the old iPod drives in them. Those things were dogs what with a small amount of RAM and a severe penalty for hitting disk. But, hey, I’m glad it served your needs! :-)


Interesting…the original MacBook Air I know was pretty slow and underpowered. How did it feel developing on it?


I was upgrading from a medium spec second gen Intel MacBook Pro so the performance hit wasn't as drastic for me. Development was fine honestly. The Air was my primary development machine for the next 4 years.


The killer feature for me of the 2nd-gen Airs was the battery life. It’s the first time I’d been able to go all day without plugging in (for light management-type work).

All day was a step change. I was sad when my new 13in MBP needs plugged in at lunchtime. The screen and other specs are much better of course but I’d become used to leaving my PSU in the office all day while zipping around.


Absolutely true. The 2016 MBP sure has a nice screen and all, but basically half the battery life for twice the price.


The MBP isn't the successor to the air though - that'd be the Macbook which I think has similar battery life and a nicer screen.

I'm not sure why Apple still makes the air since the Macbook seems like the obvious replacement.


From a design point of view maybe, but the price of the MacBook is far too much for what you get.

The 2011 MacBook Air was a good replacement for the discontinued white MacBook. It was a lot more modern, but retained the same price point. It still continued to fulfil the role of the entry level Mac.

The current MacBook doesn’t do that though. It’s too expensive to be entry level - similar spec’ed to a MacBook Air, it is $300 more, for some new colours and a slightly better screen? Ok it’s a little more portable, but it’s not like the MacBook Air is bulky... The base model having an underpowered processor definitely isn’t helping it’s reputation - it’s like the original MacBook Air all over again.


The MacBook, when it’s plugged in, has no ports. For me, that’s a showstopper.

The MBA has MagSafe, two USB ports, Thunderbolt 2, and an SD card reader. That’s as much as the expensive MBP, and more useful day-to-day (for me) than the “cheap” 2-port MBP that was actually pitched as a MBA replacement by Schiller, IIRC.


> The MBP isn't the successor to the air though

The 13” non-touchbar MBP was actually announced as a MBA replacement when it was introduced if memory serves.


I had macbook pros the last few years, last year I went plain old macbook. It has the power, the portability, and has the awesome battery life.


I am writing this on a 2011 macbook air -it's my battered lightweight notebook computer and still my main device. My next laptop will be a chromebook. I only really continue to use the mac for a small handful of mac specific hard drive run software programmes such as Adobe Creative Suite 4 (the last disk based version).

I replaced the battery last year and am unimpressed by newer Mac products.

Apple have completely lost me as a customer after years of my buying their hardware. I use an Android phone and consider Google to be the new Apple at this point in history.


I am writing this on a handed down 2003 PowerBook G4 12" — it's my battered lightweight notebook computer and still my main device except for when I am being paid. I am not sure what my next laptop will be. I am looking at overpowered fan-less mini PCs, but have decided to wait for breakthrough CPUs, maybe massively parallel open cores — I could be waiting a while.

I use the PowerBook mostly to type, code, and debug. The code most often runs on other hardware, although from time to time I have compiled the latest modern versions of software I use for the PowerBook.

I keep it plugged in as much as I can and have yet to replace the battery. I am also unimpressed by newer Mac products as the iPhone appears to be their focus.

Apple never really had me as a customer after decades of my using their hardware. I sometimes use an old Android phone without data and consider Google to be the new Microsoft at this point in history.


What are you running on your PowerBook? Linux? MacOS with Firefox? If it's the latter, do you still get browser updates? Do you never have the urge to watch web videos at native resolution, or do you use it precisely because those kinda distractions are not available?

I'm asking because I still got a 2005 G4 12'' somewhere, and I'm wondering whether I should do anything with it.


I'm on a gigabit connection which helps my old Air chug along, but I can't watch 1080 video without herky jerky interruptions and fan huffing and puffing. That's a drawback...

I have managed to cut MSFT out of my life for the most part but in many ways I agree that Google are now their equivalent...


I'm really liking the pixelbook hardware. My only complaint is that I wish it was a hair thicker with a U series instead of Y series processor. Those couple extra mm and a small fan will get you a 30% general boost and a 50%+ sustained boost in performance.


It's always interesting how people in the Apple bubble just ignore what the 90% of computers that are not Macs are doing. It's like when people talk about the IPhone as completely new but ignore Blackberry and Nokia Communicators. Sure, they were not nearly as good, but they were there.

The Air was Apple's reaction to netbooks which were appearing at the time. I remember seeing an Air for the first time, which instead of an AUD 300 netbook was AUD 1200 or something. But it still looked super neat. The early machines with Celerons or something had pretty dismal performance at high price. But when the i5 machines came out with SSDs they were and are sweet.

This is being typed on a MBA from 2013. The battery life is still very good and the performance is fine for most things I do with it.

However, if I bought a similar machine now it probably wouldn't be a Mac because well, Apple just don't care about much or perhaps most of the range now and the Windows machines have got better and better. Surfaces are where people most excited.

I still have a netbook too. When you're travelling and don't want to take a machine a $AUD 250 netbook is remarkable. A 'real' computer that I do a few things on that is cheap enough to be almost disposable.


>It's like when people talk about the IPhone as completely new but ignore Blackberry and Nokia Communicators.

Nothing anyone else produced held a candle to the original iPhone. Details matter, user experience matters. Dismiss these things at your own risk.

I would hate for startup founders to read these sorts of comments and come away with the idea that they can ship dogshit but sell it based on specs anyway.


Yes. If you want to see the legacy of the Macbook Air, you probably need to start with Netbooks and end with something like the latest LG Gram or Acer Swift 7 from CES 2018.

Apple participated in the space, and put in a great effort, but the story neither starts nor ends with Apple's products.


Definitely.

Oh, there was also the failed 'Ultrabook' thing from Intel that was Intel's attempt to certify effectively Air clones.


I just bought another Air after returning a 2016 "Pro". I've been using my 2015 Pro for the last 3 years, and worried about it breaking down so wanted a spare. I've had 2 of them before and they are the best machines I've ever owned.

If Apple released a MBA with retina display and 16gb of ram with the same battery life, I've pay at least 2x the current price for it.


The new Pros are effectively Airs in weight but not in battery. What about the 12inch MacBooks? Aren't they effectively Airs minus the ports (a dongle could solve that problem).


In my experience the 12inch Macbook is not an Air replacement. The CPU is super-slow, and the keyboard is very poor (maybe I just got a bad one I don’t know... but I find it almost useless).


I had one of those too, and ended up returning it. I have large hands and found the form factor very uncomfortable. The CPU is also slow and the keyboard sucks (particularly disliked the arrow key configuration).


> The base model shipped with a 4,200-RPM hard drive straight out of an iPod...A 64 GB SSD option was available for a whopping $999.

$1k is not expensive for a high-quality Ultrabook...In fact, I'm pretty sure the Macbook Air is still around that price. Have laptops really gone up in price since 2008?

...oh wait. A little research [1] suggests that the optional SSD added $1k to the price, bringing the total to $3100. That is and was expensive.

[1]: https://gizmodo.com/345101/adding-a-64gb-ssd-to-the-macbook-...


> A 64 GB SSD option was available for a whopping $999.

> $1k is not expensive for a high-quality Ultrabook...In fact, I'm pretty sure the Macbook Air is still around that price.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I read that as being $999 for the drive upgrade option itself. The total price for the laptop would have been higher.


Exactly. The whole MBA with SSD was over USD 2000.

[T]he useless laptop equipped with a solid state drive can be had for the low, low price of $2,598.

2008-07-03, https://techcrunch.com/2008/07/03/apple-drops-price-of-ssd-m...

I remember everyone thinking it was "useless" too.


The originals were, IMO, something for upper management to show off with. It could be argued that the machines could be used for productive work, but it was ungodly high price to pay for such an underpowered machine. For half the price and a pound more in weight, a lot of machines would mop the floor with the Air.

That’s not to say that cramming it into a case that size wasn’t impressive, and it was a rough preview of the nice Airs Apple would later build. Just two years later an Air was my main dev machine.


I'm wondering whether we will see the same evolution with the current thin MacBook line - from underpowered "concept" to main working machine.


Almost certainly that's the plan ... unless they can get you to switch to an iPad Pro instead.


> The originals were, IMO, something for upper management to show off with.

Even at that time I never could understand how the MBA could be used for showing off with. To me (lack of speed, lack of ports etc.) it was rather a device that shows to everyone that the user does not care about good technology or usability and has a desire to throw money down the drain. In other worse: A device that you use when you seriously want to be ridiculed.


Unfortunately it's neglected by Apple now. The 2015 MacBook is nice, but it has a quarter less battery life and two thirds less CPU TDP. Yet the MacBook Air's design hasn't changed in years and features a screen that is not very impressive now. (I don't care about Retina, but contrast and viewing angles matter — somehow it gives me eyestrain if used for long periods.) It also has stopped getting thinner and lighter, though in fairness maybe they've pushed it as far as they can without sacrificing performance.

Maybe they'll revive it with Ryzen Mobile, or stuff that into the MacBook. I can dream. For now I want a new laptop but have nothing to buy because, relative to my current 2013 13″ MacBook Air, the new MBAs are virtually identical, the MacBook Pro is too heavy, and the new MacBook is at best a sidegrade (the screen, Rose Gold finish and greater compactness are nice but the performance would be the same or worse).


It's still a very compelling option as a second computer that you'd want to take around with you. I bought one few months back and its powerful enough for common development tasks. Considering that Macbook Pro RAM has been capped at 16GB for some time now it makes sense to buy a powerful PC for running stuff plus a Macbook Air for portability.


The only thing holding me back from buying one is the low quality/resolution screen.

How has that affected your work? Any thoughts to share?


Actually I don't see any practical issue with the resolution. I do mostly backend programming using IntelliJ/Jupyter so it works for me.

A 1080p screen would be a nice addition though. Plus for the sub-$1k price point I think the overall specs are pretty good. Not to mention the battery backup. The macbook air really lets me use a laptop like a cellphone - charge overnight and use all day.


Gotcha. I use a macbook pro for work and it makes it really hard to get used to the washed out colors and lower resolution screen of a lot of PC's and the macbook air, not to mention the touchpad.

I'll drop in to the Apple store and give it another shot.


The 1440x900 isn't retina but it's so much more usable than the 136x768 of the 11" model which really could have used an upgrade. The 12" MacBook screen is so much nicer.


If you want a portable Mac but with a better screen, have you considered the 12" MacBook? It's thinner and lighter than the Air and has a Retina screen.


IMO the 12 inch MacBook is a weird proposition since it neither has the power of mbp nor the battery backup of mba. From the anecdotal reviews I read in various forums it’s performace is somewhat lower than the mba but I’m not sure if that’s true.


I downsized from a maxed out 2015 15" MacBook Pro to a maxed out 2016 12" MacBook. I've owned an 11" MacBook Air in the past as well (~2012).

I thought there would be a large step down in power, but it's not really noticeable for my workloads (native mobile and full stack web development with Docker, some graphic design with Sketch, etc.). The only time I've ever really felt it made a significant difference is when I have 100+ tabs open in my browser (bad habit). You can get 16GB with the 2017 12" MacBook though, so if you're buying new, that's not a problem.

The battery life between the 12" MacBook and the Air is roughly the same, from memory. Maybe newer Air models are better, but both are good.

I'm not really sure what makes it a weird proposition. The MacBook having less power than the heavier, more expensive MacBook Pro is to be expected, isn't it? And the Air is just the cheapest model they keep around for the students. The 12" MacBook is for the average person.


Agree with sibling comment, they are great machines if only the screen weren’t so tiny. Ideally I’d be able to do some actual work in a pinch, but it might be hard on that screen.

They do have a force touch touchpad though, another reason I’m hesitant on am mba since those are still mechanical.


i didn't like the idea of the non-mechanical force touchpad either, but in fact after a couple days of use it feels the same, you forget it's not really mechanical until you try clicking it with the power out and it doesn't click. It does fine.

And I even have my settings so you really need to 'click' to click, a tap is not a 'click'. Same as i did with the mechanical version. It does just fine, really.


I use a 13" MBA as a development machine and find the screen good for the work I do. (Admittedly not anything too graphically intensive.)

I do find the 1440x900 a useful improvement over 1280x800, in that the 1440px width allows for 2 side-by-side 80 column text views (assuming 8px character cells and giving some room for controls, etc.)


That is a huge font. With X11 fixed 6x10 or 6x13 font you get two 80-column screens at 1024, and three at 1440. At 74 columns you can get three screens on 1366 displays.


I don't think my eyesight is quite that good, and I've never been impressed with the X11 fixed fonts (particularly at that size.)

FWIW, I've used 8px as a benchmark for character cell width for years. The original PC's I used were CGA machines with 640x200 displays. 80 column text implied 8px character cells. (Even then, MDA's 9x14 character cells were much higher quality... I think the reason 8px works better these days is due to anti-aliasing, etc.)


The problem with original wasn't only hard drive, but overheating CPU. The heatsink was basically a thin piece of metal, not exactly a heatsink.

Watching any flash video was impossible for more than few minutes.

Skype calls were impossible for more than a few minutes.

HD video was impossible for more than a few minutes.


This is so true. I remember that I had to pause video playback after about 30 minutes or you would experience jitter. The next generation did not suffer from this problem, but I'm still kinda disappointed in Apple for selling such a bad product. A $1000+ laptop that cannot play 30 minutes of HD video is just sad, even in 2009.


It wasn't even just the heat either, it was how incredibly aggressively it throttled and how obnoxious the fan was


By far my favourite computer ever. I recommend it to everyone that asks me which computer to buy.

The battery life is what makes it. The first time I could leave the house without a charger and not be worried.

Interactive performance feels the same as my MBP. Development is fine, from JS to Common Lisp.

Great systems. I'll keep buying the as long as Apple keeps making them.


The sad thing is how the Air design has infected all their other laptops including the awful non-pro 2016+ Macbook Pros


Funny thing is that the Air had better battery life than the 2016 "Pro"...


That’s not at all surprising. There’s a reason it kept the low-res screen for so long.


But overall performance of the two are not equivalent.


I switched to Mac with the Mid-2012 i7 Air. Cost me just under A$2000 after updating all the internals

It is still my home computer and have not noticed it slowing down!

I'm glad I chose this over the newly released 13" pro retina. The low DPI screen means this thing flies!

I can't see any reason I would to upgrade in the next year or two - appart from a new battery, and my power adaptor just started fraying.

A new Air wouldn't be significantly more powerful & would cost more than my original (Australian dollar doesn't convert as well now).

Although, having just got into audio production, I think I'm almost at the performance ceiling. CPU fan gets quite loud while using Logic with 15+ tracks & effects, but it still runs great.

I need to replace the battery - I think this will make it like an new computer.


Try Reaper. Much more efficient processor-wise than Logic.


I've managed to avoid the Air cult, mostly because I need extra beef, and Air never seemed to have it.

But I sure am glad there are machines like the GPD Pocket around. I'm not entirely convinced the two, at each ends of various spectra as well as legacy, are inter-linked, however.

Which is to say the Air "was inevitable", its just that Apple did it 'best'.

Its taken a fair bit for other vendors of electronic junk to catch up with the Air factor, though, but I do wonder about what the future may hold for the GPD Pocket 2. It has the potential as a 'just as good Air experience', only .. you know .. fully open.


Also have a look at the Gemini PDA.


It'd be awesome if Apple made an anniversary Macbook Air with upgraded internals, like Lenovo did recently. Would buy one in a heartbeat.


They have, it is called the macbook. Smaller, lighter than the air, retina screen, great battery.


the only thing that lenovo did worth wile of their anniversary machine was use the keyboard with a cult like following form the x20's machines


After All these discussions and comment over and over again, it is clear the problem is simply: Pricing / Product Position, and Trade Offs.

Most wanted a updated MBA, which many has pointed out that is basically MBP. And that is right, the MBP is what we wanted except the pricing. The same goes to Macbook, it doesn't replace MBA. Then there is the issues with trade off on Keyboard, thinness, and single port with Macbook

I.e Keyboard Issues and Port aside, people have problems with its value proposition against the MBA. It is either MB Pro is too expensive, or the MB Air offers too much value.

It was also noted that the discontinued MB Air 11" was the best selling Laptop at its time, simply because it was the cheapest .

There are also lots of consumers buying the Macbook Pro simply because the current Macbook is inadequate for them. Be it size or power.

Really, the MBA is Mac Mini, used to be the most valuable in the lineup, but is now neglected.


I got a 2017 13in Touchbar Pro after getting the top spec 13in MBA in 2013.

The battery was worse, it was heavier, same speed, keys constantly got stuff stuck under them. Only benefit was bright screen and better resolution. Returned it immediately.

I eventually got the new top spec MacBook, and its the spiritual successor to the air. I can't recommend it enough.


Doesn't it have the same butterfly keyboard as the new Macbook Pro?


Man I wish the Macbook was 13" instead of 12!


The huge flaw with the 13" MBA was that although thinner and lighter, it had a bigger footprint than the 13" MPB. Particularly crucial with confined deskspace such as coffee shop, flying, on a train. Add in lack of RAM and retina and it was never compelling for me much as I adore thin and light (and happy with new 12" MBP for it's further reduced footprint, although the RAM situation is maddening).


I have the mid 2012 model, it's okay. Definitely was never usable for me as a primary computer with 4GB of RAM. It was just something light that I can bring on the road. I find a Chromebook is better for this use case now. The keyboard is good, I will give the MBA that. But open Gmail in Chrome (with no other tabs or apps opened) and the MBA starts tapping out like that is some kind of big ask.


I still use my air from 2011 and love it. Its slow-ish performance also keeps my code in check :)


My MacBook Pro died just after the Air came out, so I went with that. Used it as my primary machine until 2016 when I got a proper desktop. But I still carry it with me everywhere. The battery only lasts two hours now, but it's enough.


Every time I pick up my new 13" MBP some tiny part of me notes that it just feels so much bigger than the 13" Air it replaced. I hope Apple brings it back by the time this one is ready for replacement.


It's showing its age now. My partner's work Air is so much bigger and heavier than my xps 13, it seems obscene that so many Airs are still sold as standard issue at many workplaces.


Let's not forget the Air kept a non-IPS screen for ten years, too.


My air is my main development machine. I've got the mid 2013, the only think I'd need to be happy using this for more years to come is more ram.


I count on performance in my Macs, and for the price, the Air never delivered.

If my use case was browsing, emails and word processing, great. But I’m a professional audio producer and film editor. No dice.


That's like saying you passed on a Fiat because you need something to move furniture.

Right tool for the job. The Air was never intended for your job.




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