Switching to a MacBook Air

I love minimalism. I try to practice it in most areas of life, but one place it seems to have eluded me is in the area of computer hardware. For years, I aspired to have MacBook Pro. After years of plastic-shelled iBooks and MacBooks, I took the plunge in 2011 a unibody 13-inch MacBook Pro, which was the first MacBook Pro to sport the new (at the time) Thunderbolt spec.

Since then I've used and abused it, even spilling a beer on it. When my wife upgraded to a 15-inch model, I jumped at a chance to sell mine and gain a faster processor and double the memory.

Apple's MacBook Pro line proved to be a decent machine for me, but over the past year or so I've flirted with the idea of a sleek, sexy machine that has just enough computing power to get me through my daily tasks of checking email, surfing and contributing posts to this blog. Occasionally, I'll also use my laptop to troubleshoot network problems for friends and family along with some web design and server configuration and updates. Given my power requirements, it was clear that the MacBook Pro line was overkill for my daily tasks. However, when the MacBook Air line came out, it was grossly underpowered and wouldn't meet my needs. I needed something in between the offerings, so I waited.

2014 proved to be a good year to take the plunge. I purchased a June 2013 revision Air. The configuration I chose was a 128 GB flash storage, 4GB RAM model with a 1.3 GHz Core i5 (Haswell) processor. The results have been amazing.

I no longer have to wait for the hard drive to to spin up each time I boot into OS X. Waking from sleep has been a transformative experience as well, since my Pro would frequently have a delay ranging from a second or two to several dozen seconds just to get to the unlock screen prompt. Not the most efficient way to spend my computing time - waiting to unlock my screen from sleep. I've noticed exceptional improvements using FileVault disk encryption as well, taking the "whole disk" encryption time down from was was upwards of four hours down to just 20 minutes. Surely part of the speed can be attributed to the fact it's not encrypting as much data, but the fact that read/write/seek time for a spinning platter is no longer an issue.

I suppose one of the more exciting benefits to upgrading my machine is the enhanced screen resolution. My MacBook Air boasts a 1400x900 native resolution in the same 13-inch space that my old Pro would display a meager 1280x800 native resolution. The difference between the two is night and day, and with a tweak or two, has the immediate feel of a Retina MacBook Pro without the pricetag. Of course, the Retina squeezes even more pixels into the same space, but for those that need a middle-of-the-road model without the Cadillac features, it's a nice compromise.

for external connections, it has exactly what I need: two USB 3 ports, a Thunderbolt connection in the event I want to dock it to an external display, 3.5mm audio in/out for jamming to Spotify at the local coffee shop, and a new (for me) MagSafe 2 power connector. The best thing about the external connections it sports is probably what it doesn't come with. I haven't used an optical drive for either reading or burning a CD/DVD since 2012. I doubt I ever will again, since all my data transfers are done through USB thumbnail drives, email, or CloudApp. Installing applications is done primarily through the Mac App Store or direct download from the developer's website.

I was initially concerned that going from a 500 GB spinning platter hard disk to 128 GB of flash storage would cramp my storage style. I've actually been able to adjust quite nicely. Just in case I find myself low on space, I researched and decided to purchase a Nifty MiniDrive for my Air in red, for a little flair (there's just something about bold red accents on a muted color scheme I really grok). The device is essentialy a microSD adapter for a MacBook's SDXC card slot, allowing you to upgrade to an extra 64 GB of storage on the fly. As higher capacity microSD cards hit the market, the expansion possibilities are endless. If you decided to pick one up, opt for a Class 10 or U1 card. You'll thank me.

I'm extremely happy with my decision to switch to a MacBook Air. Some might consider this a downgrade, but I think downsize is a better adjective. In the end it's perfect for my needs and is might lighter to carry around. Perfect for a quick jaunt into the city to blog for a few hours at a coffeeshop, and expansive enough to really get down and dirty with some network troubleshooting or editing photos in Aperture.

I'm glad I made the switch.