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Me and My New MacBook Air: A Non-Geek Point of View

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The new MacBook Air is awesome. Really, really awesome. It almost makes me happy that my (also very nice) MacBook Pro died last week (a premature death, since it was only a couple years old). Having been a happy MacBook Pro user for the past three years, I grappled with whether to get one of the brand new Retina display models or to go with the sleek, light MacBook Air.

As a writer, I bring my computer with me everywhere; it is the nerve center of my professional life. It’s also powered-on many, many (too many) hours a day with numerous applications open on my desktop. And my Mac was dead, so I couldn’t really wait the week or two for the Retina models to make their way into my hands.

So, I went for the MacBook Air, 13-inch version, i7 Core. I packed it with 8 gigabytes of RAM and a 512 gigabyte solid state drive (SSD), knowing that my usage patterns stressed even the 8 Gig CPU of my 2011 MacBook Pro. I was curious about how the brand new Air would perform compared to my Pro, similarly outfitted.

All I can say is “Wow!” The thing barely breaks a sweat going full throttle with many apps open, including Chrome (with five open tabs), iChat, Word (with four documents open), iCal, and a few other third-party applications to boot. With all that open, the system is only using about a third of the available resources, and nearly a week later (without a restart), I’ve yet to hear the cooling fan trigger. It’s quiet, cool and damned efficient.

Although it’s a bit smaller than the 15.4” MacBook Pro to which I’d become accustomed, I have to say that the display is more than adequate for writing, browsing, watching Netflix movies or anything else I’ve wanted to do. The Pro had a matte high-definition screen, and I was concerned about eyestrain with the Air’s glossy display. I needn’t have worried; there is virtually no glare on the screen, to my mild (and pleasant) surprise.

With my old MacBook Pro, I’d shied away from using the Mail (and Outlook, for that matter). As a Gmail user, I tend to keep every email I get, which amounts to thousands of emails sitting in my various mailboxes. I never could get Mail to work well on my old Mac—the beach ball of death loomed over my display far too often, as it gamely tried to sync to my Gmail account. So I just gave up.

Browsers, too, tended to bog down the CPU, even with 8 gigs and the SSD. I would wander between Firefox, Safari and Chrome, since each would seem to drain the system’s resources idiosyncratically. I never quite knew which one would do better on any given day. (And, no, I never bothered to figure out why that was.)

So, imagine my surprise with this lovely new device. I’ve been using Chrome with a lot of open tabs, and it’s barely registering on Activity Monitor. Smooth, fast, cool, and just a pleasure to use. All I can say is “thank you Ivy Bridge” (the new Intel processor that powers the new MacBooks).

I have to admit that I started with a clean installation. I didn’t transfer anything over to the new machine from the old. All my documents and videos and anything else of value had been copied over to Dropbox. I re-installed my key software applications, easily finding the old serial numbers in some of those thousands of Gmails I’d kept (See? there is a method to my oversize-email-box madness). I reinstalled applications from the Apple App Store, which, smartypants that it is, remembered what I’ve purchased. Up and running in a little less than an hour with everything I needed, pretty much right where I’d left it.

Safari and Chrome (which I prefer) maintained my old logins and bookmarks (but not passwords), and even histories, so picking up right where I’d left off was pretty effortless even without cloning my old drive. (Neither browser is machine-dependent; your settings and bookmarks are available upon login.) My iTunes items were already either on my phone or iPad (or in iTunes’ purchase record) so, again, it was incredibly easy to restore everything.

Speaking of iPad, I’m beginning to wonder whether my iPad 3 is now a redundant machine. The Air is so light and small, it’s really just as portable as my iPad—and it’s much more powerful (and easier to type on, did I mention?). With the iPad set into its Zagg Folio keyboard case aboard, I believe my iPad is nearly as heavy as the Air, so where’s the advantage? I might just sell my iPad 3, and get a new Kindle altogether.

One of the things I really love about the MacBook Air (besides its size and overall awesomeness) is the typing surface. My wrists rest comfortably on the aluminum, and because the front of the surface is so thin, my wrists don’t get irritated like they had with the thicker MacBook Pro. For a writer, always typing, hours and hours a day, this is a real blessing—and a huge improvement over the Pro (for me, anyway).

After more than 20 years using a computer, I think I’ve finally found the perfect computer. MacBook Air, I think this will be the start of a beautiful relationship.

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About Barbara Barnett

Barbara Barnett is publisher and executive editor of Blogcritics, as well as a noted entertainment writer. Author of Chasing Zebras: The Unofficial Guide to House, M.D., her primary beat is primetime television. But Barbara writes on an everything from film to politics to technology to all things pop culture and spirituality. She is a contributor to the book called Spiritual Pregnancy (Llewellyn Worldwide, January 2014) and has a story in Riverdale Ave Press' new anthology of zombie romance, Still Hungry for your Love. She is hard at work on what she hopes will be her first published novel.
  • Pat

    I enjoyed reading your article because you described my same situation in layman’s terms. I too am moving from a Pro to an Air but I have the mid 2010 version of the Pro so I might experience an even greater ‘wow’ factor than you described.

    Thank you for taking the time to write down your experience. It makes me feel good about the Air that I ordered this morning and cannot wait for it to arrive next week.

  • Cyrano

    Many thanks for this article. I’ve been eyeing an MAB for some 3 months. I use & love Google Chrome and was not sure how it might handle Chrome with multi-tabs open. Thanks to your description, I think I’ll pull the trigger today. Thanks!

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/barbara-barnett barbara barnett

    Thanks guys. I can’t say enough about the new Air. I’d gone back and forth several times, and this computer completely suits my needs in every way.

    Go for it!

  • http://www.chanatown.net David Chan

    Nice piece Barbara! I too am grappling with MBA vs. rMBP (retina Pro). Sounds like you spec’d out the Air. Nicely done – should last you awhile. Enjoy!

  • Mary Lockala

    Thank you for your most informative and helpful article. I am dying to get a new MacBook Air and the information-especially about no glare-just won me over! I loved the fact that you used lay terminology to explain things, and also the fact that you described not transferring everything from you former MacBook Pro (my ideas as well). Gratitude for a great article in my humble opinion.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/barbara-barnett barbara barnett

    Thank you Mary (and David). Glad you like the article. I’m a geek, but I’m a non-techie geek. I know my way around personal technology, but strictly as a consumer :)

  • Alex

    8GB CPU? … Ram? x

  • Anonymous

    cyano are you retarted of course a macbook air can handle google chrome *facepalm*

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/barbara-barnett barbara barnett

    I’ve had as many as 10 tabs open on Chrome, and the computer barely breaks a sweat.

  • Macek

    “The thing barely breaks a sweat going full throttle with many apps open, including Chrome (with five open tabs).”

    “5 tabs”? Lol. I’m lucky if my Chrome has less than 30 tabs open at any time; no exaggeration.

    That said, my new Macbook Air isn’t breaking a sweat with even 30 tabs open :)

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/barbara-barnett barbara barnett

    I can have Firefox, Safari, and Chrome open (and playing Netflix) and still no problems.

  • chris

    thanks for writing this article. you helped me make my final decision as I was in the EXACT same situation. macbook pro 15″ died. while i loved that computer, i often opted not to take it with me due to the weight, but was always hesitant to get a macbook air with its previous limitations of storage, ram, processor et as i am a heavy user of multiple apps and tabs simultaneously. i had one of the very first macbook airs – had it for about 2 months and it became useless due to the hard drive space. sold it and got the 15″. but now with the option to trick the air out to 512, 8gb, and the i7 processor – along with your article – there was nothing further to think about when my macbook pro started to die out.. as you did, i started from scratch and i am so glad i did. everything is working seamlessly. the thing is crazy fast and while i do love my ipad mini, i can see how this will take over for lots of its activity given that i am a keyboard kinda guy! thanks again for easing my mind for this decision. it was a chunk of change to upgrade the air to its max, but well worth it. i cant believe the power packed into such a slim, small device!. all the best, Chris

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/barbara-barnett barbara barnett

    Hey Chris…thanks for sharing. I’ve had it now nearly a year, and I am still in love with it. It goes everywhere with me!