POC Blog

The random technotheolosophical blogging of Reid S. Monaghan

AVP - Air vs. xPs

So, now that Apple has puffed up its chest and strutted in arrogant superiority once again, I wanted to throw my two cents in about how the buzz about the newest MacBook amounts to some hot gaseous substance derived from the name said product (ie Hot air).  I recently reviewed my new Dell XPS m1330 purchased right before the AIR Mac announcement.  With the specs of my PC so much in my mind I watched the AIR announcement with some interest.  I left with only one word - unimpressed.  Of course their will be MacIdolaters claiming that this machine will make you float through airports and reach some sort of quasi Buddhist enlightenment, but I feel this is a product which many struggle.  In this battle royal comparison review I will do two things.  First, show that the MacBook AIR simply does not match up to other devices - I will use my XPS m1330 to illustrate.  Second, I will speculate on why this Macbook needs work or it may just disappear into thin air.  Finally, I will laugh at my Mac friends - because I love them and they evangelize me - maybe I won't laugh too much.

The Matchup - AIR vs. XPS 

 Features Commentary

H: 0.16-0.76 in
W: 12.8 in
D: 8.94 in
W:3.0 lbs

H: 0.87 to 1.33 in
W: 12.5 in
D: 9.4 in
W: 3.97 lbs

Both are small, but the AIR clearly wins the size competition.  The Dell is less than 4lbs and hardly a burden, but AIR is tiny even though its 3lb weight is not the lightest in the world. Advantage - AIR

OS OS X Leopard Windows VISTA

Commenting on this one is a religious affair.  I love VISTA, Mac folks love Leopard.  Just so people will not whine - Advantage - AIR

Screen 13.3 LED Backlit
13.3 LED Backlit

Both have screens using the bright, power saving, thin LED backlit screens. Advantage - Draw

Processor 1.6 GHZ Core 2 Duo
2.2 GHZ Core 2 Duo

Advantage - XPS

Memory 2 GB
3 GB

Even with VISTAs memory hunger, 3 GB still is better than two. Advantage - XPS

Hard Drive 80 GB, 4200RPM, 64 GB SSD option
200 GB, 7200RPM, 64GB SSD option
This one is embarrassing.  The XPS has the largest 7200RPM drive while the AIR uses the smallish, slow drive used in iPod Classics.  This clearly hinders the air as a serious primary computer which might be used for say...editing video.  Clear Advantage - XPS
Video Subsystem 144MB of DDR2 SDRAM shared with main memory Dedicated Nvidia GeForce graphics with 128MB dedicated memory

Again, no contest.  The AIR has a shared video subsystem, the XPS a dedicated graphics card - Clear Advantage - XPS

Optical Drive None, optional external SuperDrive
8X DVD+/-RW Slot Load Drive

Now, I know Apple wants you to think that not having this is a feature because you can use another computers drive wirelessly.  This however is ridiculous.  What if a friend hands you a disk and says - check out my wedding DVD/photos? You are out of luck.  Clear Advantage - XPS.

Input/Output MicroDVI with adapters, one USB 2.0 port, one headphone jack
HDMI (high def video), VGA, 2 USB 2.0 ports, Firewire port (for dig video cams), Express Card Slot, Multi Card Reader (SD, MMC, Mem Stick), Fingerprint Biometics security, 2 audio headphone jacks for sharing, microphone input jack

No contest here.  The AIR has crippled I/O greatly limiting what you can connect to the machine.  Again showing this is not a good primary machine.  Clear Advantage - XPS.

Networking Wireless N, Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR
Wireless N, Bluetooth 2.0 + EDR, 10/100 Ethernet, optional wireless broadband from SPRINT, Verizon, AT&T

Yes, the world is wireless and both have the same wireless network features.  The XPS adds a hard Ethernet port and an option for wireless broadband - Advantage - XPS

Keyboard Nice backlit keyboard with ambient light sensor. 
Great keyboard, no backlight

Advantage - AIR

Track-pad Large trackpad, mulit touch gesture support
Small trackpad, pretty standard

Now I use the keyboard for so many things that the idea of learning touch chords on a track pad to rotate a photo sounds stupid.  But the cool factor goes to the AIR though I don't see the point.  Advantage - AIR

Cool Factors Ultra thin, Nice looking, integrated web cam and microphone
Thin, Nice Looking, included Express Card IR remote for multimedia and presentations, heat sensitive touch buttons for media and volume control, integrated web cam and microphone...fingerprint logins.

Advantage - XPS

Battery Non Removable, 5 hour
Removable battery with multiple options. I purchased the 6 cell (4 hour) and optional 9 cell (6 hours)

Again, a non removable battery is silly.  No secondary possible on the AIR and you have to get Apple to get a new one.  Batteries loose capability over time so this again is a clear advantage.  Clear Advantage - XPS

Price $1799 $1734

The price on the XPS includes the extra battery and a machine with far superior features. Clear Advantage - XPS

Bottom Line - The Macbook AIR is at best a secondary machine.  Its poor hard drive, no optical drive (though they say this is cool), no removable battery, crippled I/O options, underpower machine without dedicated video option.  This is a very limited machine which puts it clearly in a "second or third machine" option.  Yet with the price a very high $1799.00 for the baseline configuration it is priced in the high range for even a machine with some kick.  Yes it can fit in an envelope - great.  But I do not want to be able to mail my laptops...I want to be able to do serious computing tasks.  The question I was left with in looking at the AIR was this: How many rich MacIdolators are out there who want a thin Apple toy to supplement their MacBook Pros or iMacs? For I think they might be the primary market for this device.  For me, I would not trade my XPS m1330 for any MacBook - let alone one as anemic looking as the one called "AIR."  OK, I decided to not laugh at my Mac friends.

If you still want something to be excited about in Jobs' recent announcements, you can now pay 4 dollars to rent a movie to watch on tiny screens.  If you want to watch with friends in the living room, well you can pay another 229.00 bucks to do something as complicated as watch a movie on your TV...This is a "good deal?"  Good grief at least with something Netflix you can get your movies and watch them with friends without giving Apple another substantial chunk of your bank account.  I see why Wall street did not buzz after the recent worship service of the cult of Mac.  

For more on MacBook Air you can see the following: