Completely Unteathered

Erica Kastner · February 4, 2008

It’s not very often that I get to seriously consider what my next Mac will be.  My 4.5 year old PowerBook is on its last leg with a broken display and dwindling performance.

I’m stuck trying to decide between two options.  Option 1 is to just get a MacBook Pro.  A workstation in my lap.  Option 2, however, is a bit more intriguing: get a MacBook Air. 

I know, you’re saying to yourself, “hey, for only $100 more you get a wider screen, a ton of ports, a lot more storage, and improved performance.  As a developer why would you even consider a less powerful machine?”  It’s because I’ve been toying around with the idea of becoming untethered. 


It’s true that MBP is significantly faster than the MBA.  The 7200RPM BTO hard drive option would blow the MBA’s puny 4200RPM drive.  The MBA has its video memory shared with the main RAM.  Games on the MBA wouldn’t be very good and I wouldn’t want to do any serious video editing.  But when I think about it, when’s the last time I played a computer game or edited video?  In all honesty, web development is more memory intensive than anything.  Macworld recently found that, while the MBA is slower than the MBP, it’s still significantly faster than the last PowerBook (which was significantly faster than my current machine).  So any of Apple’s current offerings would be an improvement over what I have now. 


The largest hard drive you can have installed on the MBA is 80GB.  I’m already filling up my 100GB drive and as I watch more online video, take more pictures, and listen to more music, my space requirements are only going to increase.  This is probably the primary factor that’s holding me back.  However, I’ve found that storing my photos on a network share over a 54Mbps wireless connection offers no serious penalty.  With an 802.11n connection, it would be even snappier.  Thus, storing all of my photos on our home server will leave me plenty of room (21GB) to work with on the MBA.


This is where the MBA shines.  The MBP is quite heavy.  I haven’t held the MBA yet, but from what I hear, it’s amazingly lightweight.  It would be nice to have to lug less weight around.  It would also be nice to have a more compact laptop for on the plane.  I loved my 12” iBook in college and the MBA’s 13” screen would be an adequate size. 

I also like the idea of a multitouch trackpad.  However, it’s expected that the next MBPs will have that as well in the next couple of weeks.

Overall, it’s the portability that really draws me to the MBA.  While the power of the MBP is compelling, to me it seems like buying a Ford F-350 for my commute to work.  I’d rather go with the Honda Civic.

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