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Mac Again: Picking the Right MacBook

- 2008.02.29 -Tip Jar

In my last column Iwrote about Microsoft Office 2008 for Mac and how its newfound Exchangesupport allowed me once again to use a Mac as my primary computer afteralmost two years in Windows.

Now that the software allows me to use a Mac, the question movedfrom whether or not I can use a Mac as my primary computer to which Macto use.

I'm a laptop junky. Even if I didn't travel frequently, I stillwouldn't even consider a desktop, but I do travel, a lot, and as aresult have used laptops as my primary computers since the mid 1990s.I've had many laptops over the years and usually own two at a time.Perhaps my favorite laptop ever was Apple's 12" PowerBook. I currently own a used one, the1.0 GHz Rev B. model that I bought on eBay for $550. This is a terrific computer, but a 5-year-old G4really doesn't have what it takes to be my primary computer thesedays.

MacBook Air Temptation

I'd been eyeing the MacBookAir since it was announced and have made numerous trips to my localApple Store to admire it. My first thought was that I would wait a fewmore months, and once reliability data (initially quite promising)started coming in, I would buy the base hard drive model. I was at theApple Store to buy my copy of Office 2008 (I need the pricey fullversion for Exchange support) and, as usual, I played with the MacBookAir.

MacBook Air
The MacBook Air

I came so close to just buying it.

The Air is gorgeous, small, light, slim, and downright beautiful. Ithas only one design issue that really bothers me, and that is theinability to change batteries on the go. I could keep my PowerBook andget an extra battery for longer flights, I reasoned. The old PowerBookwasn't fast enough for a primary computer, but it was more than up totravel-duty.

Another Temptress

So what stopped me from getting the Air? Quite simply, it was theMacBook. Actually, it was the original MacBook andlast October'sMacBook that both stopped my Air purchase. The original MacBook wasa machine that caused me no small amount of lost productivity andhassle, with Apple having to replace mine three times following abotched repair, resulting in a computer that I owned for 6 weeks butonly had working in my possession for two. I lost confidence onreplacement number three (a seemingly good machine) and switched to aWindows machine (I was using Windows Outlook on the MacBook too). I wasvery leery of playing early adopter again.

black MacBookThe new (before February 26) MacBook was the otherreason I didn't buy the Air. The Air that I was playing with wasstraddled by a 15" MacBook Pro and ablack MacBook, while two white MacBooks and a 17" MacBook Pro wereacross the table from it. I didn't even look at the Pro models, as thesmallest is far too large for me, but my eyes did keep moving to theblack MacBook as I played with the Air.

I know the MacBook design rather well. As mentioned before, I ownedone of the very first black ones, my daughter has the second generationwhite entry-level model, and my wife has the 2007 entry-level whiteMacBook. I shifted my attention to the black one, played with it,opened applications, typed on the keyboard, watched a video file. Theprice difference between the Air and the black MacBook is only $200,but of course I would buy the SuperDrive for the MacBook Air (another$100).

Back in Black

In the end, I bought that black MacBook, not because of the pricedifferential, but because it had twice the hard disk space (needed forBoot Camp), was noticeably faster in use, and finally because I couldchange batteries on the go (I bought a spare). Of course, that theMacBook, then in its third generation, was a mature and proven productwith a solid reliability record in all (save the first generationmodels) was a very strong motivator as well.

My only regret is that I missed my return window to get the newmodel by 10 days, which would have given me a slightly fasterprocessor, double the RAM, and 90 GB more hard drive capacity. Since Iupgraded my MacBook to 4 GB RAM anyway (not through Apple), itmakes very little difference.

I Still Love It

So how do I like being back on a MacBook as my primary computer?Well, honestly I loved the design the first time and still do. It's abit heavy for running around all day, but these days my local travel isfar less, though my long-haul travel is more. The MacBook is smallenough to take with me on overnight trips, lasts long enough on itsbattery to be useful, and I can pack the spare for longer trips. It iscomfortable to use, convenient with everything built in, and very fastand stable.

It's not as small and light as the 12" PowerBook, but it's a lotnicer for watching movies in flight and actually lasts a full hourlonger on battery than the PowerBook ever did. On the 12" PowerBook Ialmost always had to carry a second battery when I flew, now I onlyneed it when flying round-trip on the same day without time to rechargein between or for transpacific flights.

Maybe I'll get the Air next year and move the MacBook to anotheruser, but I'm in no rush. Despite being sold as a consumer model, thereis nothing cheap about the current MacBooks. LEM

Andrew J Fishkin, Esq, is a laptop using attorney in Los Angeles, CA.

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