I’ve had a Macbook Air for almost two years now, getting one in the fall of 2011. It was the first Mac I’ve had as a professional in the IT world, and I thought it was a great machine. I had read reviews from Brent Ozar, Joe Webb, and Aaron Bertrand. I had seen these gentlemen speaking and working on their machines at various events and finally decided I’d had enough plastic and cheap construction from vendors.
Over the last decade, I’ve had as my laptop:
- 2 Dell Dimensions
- Toshiba Qosmio
- Lenovo W510
- HP Netbook
Of these, the netbook is still in use by my daughter. One of the Dells, from 2003 actually, still works though the wireless radio is almost dead. The others have all died with various motherboard or power issues. Actually the other DELL may work. The battery died and I couldn’t find an adapter, so I moved on from that machine.
When I moved to the Air, and OSX Lion, it felt like a complete switch at first. The OS works differently, and I was slightly concerned. I knew I could run Windows easily with VMWare Fusion, and that was my first purchase. After powering up the machine and getting connected to my network (a snap in OSX, despite me not knowing much about it), I downloaded Fusion.
A Few Differences
Installing things on a Mac is somewhat strange. It often involves a window that asks you to copy a folder into your Applications folder. That’s about it, and it starts working. Once I had things running, I could easily pin them to my dock for easy access, however the thumb-and-three-finger pinch was how I primarily found most applications, preferring to keep my dock clean.
A few things took getting used to and re-configuring for me. The lack of a delete key might have been the most frustrating thing for me. I learned the Function+backspace works, but that was never a natural keystroke for me. Alt+tab, the cut/copy/paste commands work the same, though with the Command key instead of control. Right clicking was accomplished by configuring the two finger click to pop up the menu.
However for the most part, things just worked. I easily worked with the machine, and even switched back and forth between Win 7 (under Fusion) and OSX without issues. My daily work of going through email, writing, browsing, all worked well. The main apps I used (Chrome, Evernote, SQL Server, twhirl) ran fine. One of the hardest things to get used to was the lack of a need to click an “OK” button once I’d made a change.
I tried the full screen versions of some apps (Chrome, Safari, Pages, Evernote), but I found it to be annoying for me. I preferred a few windows that I could switch between easily. I never used the Dashboard thing, and for the most part this was a tool that did it’s job.
The downsides of some software was apparent with OSX. No Live Writer, which I’d depended on extensively. I never did find an OSX replacement I liked. I also found Keynote to be a pain at times with some of my slides, especially shapes like connectors. They would be moved in Keynote, which was a pain to reformat. A few other minor software utilities I couldn’t run on OSX but found replacements for were slightly annoying, but not a big deal.
The Things I Loved
I have to say that I loved all the gestures and natural scrolling on the Mac. Using two fingers to move up and down through pages of text felt incredibly natural. When I borrowed my wife’s Wintel laptop and that didn’t work, it was annoying. I’ve had an iPhone for about 3 or 4 years, and that might have helped, but I instantly loved scrolling, as well as pinch and zoom. I never want a trackpad with buttons again.
The startup routine, especially from sleep, was amazing. I could actually grab the machine from my bag in an airport, sit down, and start working inside of 10 seconds. It felt like no sooner had I opened the lid than I could type in my password. I haven’t had a Win 8 laptop, so we’ll see how that goes, but compared to all my other machines, this was one of the best things.
Backup – Using Time Machine is just slick, smooth, and easy. Way smoother than anything I’ve seen under Windows. I could get back files much easier than I could with any Win 7 or earlier OS.
The size – thin and light. I could grab the machine with my thumb and index finger by one corner and carry it. Haven’t found another laptop I could do that with.
The last thing I really enjoyed was the ability of the machine to remember things. It remembers network connections, it pops up login boxes, it remembers settings with projectors. I’ve had some Wintels that did this, but none as well or smoothly as OSX.
Overall it was a fantastic laptop for me. I presented on SQL Server topics at two or three dozen events, giving probably a 100 talks with this machine and it worked every time. The one crash I had during a presentation was my VM locking up. I flipped back to Keynote and finished my talk while the machine restarted.
This was the best built, best performing (ergonomically) laptop I’ve ever had. If I could get to 16GB with this thing, I’d still be using it.
I guess there’s one more really annoying thing and that’s the lack of the easy ability to delete files. Right clicking and sending to the trash, or dragging there never felt right. I wish I’d have been able to highlight a few files and press a “delete” key.