A tale of two MacBook Airs

I have a little netbook that I borrowed from my step-daughter for our trip to England and haven’t bothered to give back yet. (I don’t think she uses it much) I love the portability since my main computer, a MacBook Pro 17″ is kind of tethered down most of the time, but the tiny screen size is hurting my back (I kind of crane forward to read things, and it hurts after a while). So when Apple announced the new MacBook Air (MBA), I had two thoughts:

  1. A computer that’s lighter than a netbook but with a decent sized screen would be great for that sort of use
  2. A new MacBook Air should drive down the resale value of older MacBook Airs, making them affordable

So I contacted a few frieds I knew who had the old ones to see if they were selling and upgrading. Two of them were, one with an older one with a hard drive, but the other with year old one with a SSD. If I’m going for portability, the SSD was obviously the way to go. Obviously Apple agrees, since the new ones don’t have a hard drive option. But here’s the age old problem with Apple products – just because there is a brand new model, the resale price as seen on recent eBay auctions has not come down much, if at all, on the SSD ones.

So my options are currently

  • Buy a perfectly good 1 year old MBA with 2 years of Apple Care on it
  • Buy a brand new MBA with exactly the same options (RAM, SSD size, etc), slightly smaller and with much better battery life and with 3 years of Apple Care but for $450 more
  • Buy a brand new MBA with 4Gb of RAM instead of 2Gb, for $550 more than the used one.

I’m wracked with indecision on this one. I probably don’t need 4Gb of RAM on the computer I use when I’m not at my main computer, since it won’t be doing as many tasks (I’m currently got 21 Chrome tabs open, plus iTunes, Terminal, Skype, Word, and Remote Desktop) but that’s the sort of thing I’m likely to throw in just for future proofing if I buy one new. The difference in specs between the old one and the new one are pretty minor, except the battery life. And is that really worth the extra $450? That’s what I can’t decide.

Oh yeah, and there’s always option 4 – forget about buying a MBA, put the money away, and when my shoulder heals up a bit buy a SpeedStroke kayak ergometer. It’s about twice as much, but it would probably do me a lot more good.

13 thoughts on “A tale of two MacBook Airs”

  1. The seemingly minor difference in specs between old and new models is misleading. The new MBA is a lot faster than the old. It boots in seconds, and the all-flash design means that everything loads insanely fast.

    It was easy to dismiss my wife’s old MBA as an overpriced netbook, but if I had an extra $1500 lying around, I’d replace my year-old MacBook Pro (which I use for work) with a new MBA.

  2. I haven’t seen an old SSD MBA personally, but I understand that the old SSD-equipped MBAs are not nearly as fast as the new ones. In the old MBA, the SSD was an older generation of SSD, and it had to go through a harddrive-sryle imterface. In the new MBA, the flash chipa are soldered directly into the mainboard and the whole hardware design is focused on making good use of those chips. So hardware-wise it really is an “iPad with a keyboard”, not a laptop retrofitted with an SSD.

    (Of course, that could all just be Apple reality-distortion marketing speak.)

  3. Me, I’m a PC guy, but an SSD is really good. My “big” laptop is a 15inch-CoreDuo with 4 GB of RAM at 1680×1050 and an 160 GB SSD (intel) and my “small” Laptop has 6 GB of RAM at 1366×768 and 80 GB SSD (intel, too). The “small” one has 6-8 hours battery time if I switch off the wireless and use a less bright screen. I _was_ running virtualization stuff on both of them, so I needed the RAM, but in the 90s you only bought RAM if and when you need it. I probably will not buy a laptop without a SSD anymore (or swap immediately), but the 80 GB SSD is a bit small if you using virtualization much. It does work fine for all the documentation-related stuff I currently use it for. My former employmer does not need me anymore so I probably will not switch the SSD. The “c300” type of SSD is real fast, the 64gb and the 128gb are a bit throttled, but the 256gb isn’t.
    I never had eclipse start so fast.

  4. In the new MBA, the flash chipa are soldered directly into the mainboard and the whole hardware design is focused on making good use of those chips.

    Y’see, my grizzly attitude to hardware just makes this sound like a bad idea – when the flash craps out, you toss the entire machine instead of replacing the SSD. Or when SSDs halve in price in a year, you don’t get the option of upgrading. Not to mention my expectation that when the flash craps out after a year, Apple will refuse to fix it stating that flash memory has a known lifespan and any failure must be due to over-use.

  5. One Apple product that *has* suffered depreciation with the introduction of a new model has been the AppleTV – I just picked up a second unit for our bedroom for a mere $75. They’re quite plentiful on Craigslist now.

    Some people still seem to think that they’re still worth 95% of the original retail (and unsurprisingly, they aren’t managing to sell them at that price), and others yet crow about the hard drive being a huge advantage over the Gen-2 (it’s really not) and try to justify their prices that way….but that’s a whole other story.

    Also, somewhat OT, but Paul, did you happen to notice that this blog template doesn’t play nice with the Safari in iOS? I tried to make this comment this afternoon but something on the page kept minimizing my keyboard when I tried to enter text – was the first time I’ve ever experienced this. Touch on text entry box, keyboard popped up, a second later the keyboard minimized. Every text entry box did this. Weird.

  6. Whatever you do, DO NOT buy a RAM upgrade from Apple. The exact same RAM can be had for a fraction of the price from Kingston. The phrase “Apple Tax” has never been so apt as when applied to their “$800″ 22” monitors and their “$400” RAM chips.

  7. I think john has a point. why not get a 24inch or 27inch for at home usage and a 15inch laptop which uses much less energy because of less pixels?
    a samsung t240hd does the job for me (1920×1200 resolution), especially in winter, when I’m more at home.

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