I sold my beloved 17” MacBook Pro today. She was a gem—beautiful matte screen, smoking fast Intel X25 SSD, and a second hard drive in the optical bay.

The man who bought it will no doubt love it as much as I did.

Today I’m carrying a top-of-the-line 13” MacBook Air. It’s spec’d out with a 256GB SSD, 4GB of ram, and a 2.16GHz Core 2 Duo:

You almost miss it

This machine is a dream. It looks and feels like someone traveled into the future and brought it back. It’s too thin to be real. I’ve owned the last 3 generations of MacBook Pro, and this Air is by far the best machine I’ve ever carried.

Get Real

I’ve hear it all the time—“The Air is nice and all, but I do real work.” I shared the same skeptical attitude. I spend hours a day in Photoshop, Keynote, Aperture, running Rails or Java apps locally, Xcode, testing/developing in my Windows VM—all things that one would consider real work.

I’ll cut to the chase—the MacBook Air handles all of my real work like a champ. Actually, “handle” is an understatement. You see the MacBook Air has a little secret under it’s rigid unibody enclosure—that proprietary SSD. My Intel X25 SSD was fast, really fast. The MacBook Air’s SSD is smoking fast.

Uncached Sequential Read/Write

  4k write 256k write 4k read 256k read
MacBook Air 256GB SSD 146.3 MB/s 159.41 MB/s 20.02 MB/s 180.45 MB/s
Intel X25M 160GB SSD 80.29 MB/s 62.96 MB/s 35.61 MB/s 202.25 MB/s

Uncached Random Read/Write

  4k write 256k write 4k read 256k read
MacBook Air 256GB SSD 30.93 MB/s 163.98 MB/s 11.59 MB/s 109.43 MB/s
Intel X25M 160GB SSD 71.74 MB/s 71.89 MB/s 9.60 MB/s 174.53 MB/s

Apps launch near instantaneous. Reboots take under 30 seconds. It’s so fast that it’s invisible.

Day-to-day life with the MacBook Air is a dream. It’s feather-light, silent, and runs cool as a cucumber. It hardly makes a dent in my bag on my daily bike commute to the office. Don’t even get me started on the battery. It’s practically bottomless.

Ten-out-of-Ten, Right?

Well, close. Maybe a 9.5. I have made a few sacrifices. I occasionally miss the ethernet port when transferring big files over my home network. The lack of a backlit keyboard stinks, but it’s not as big of a deal as I thought it would be. As a photographer I do miss the FW800 and ExpressCard connections that my MacBook Pro had. I can’t tell you how painful it is to dump a 16GB compact flash card over USB.

My biggest hesitation to switch from a 17” was the significant loss of pixels. The more pixels, the better in my world. However, the reality is that I’m plugged into a 30” Cinema Display 90% of the time (which, by the way, the Air pushes like a champ). Even when I’m not plugged in, the built-in display is a dream to use. Sure, it’s less pixels, but the DPI is perfect. The backlight is crisp, and it’s not too glossy (my old MacBook Air was a matte display).

Frank Chimero nailed it today in his post, “The Setup:”

I realized that I valued freedom more than power, flexibility more than blazing speed. I want the choice of being able to be mobile, and to carry around my whole setup with me at all times without much inconvenience.

Like Frank, I value my Air’s mobility far more than I valued my MacBook Pro’s speed. I don’t know if I can ever go back.


  1. Steve Brewer said:

    I have the previous generation Air, and I love it. Concur on all points – freedom is worth more than power.

  2. Tim said:

    Great write-up, Travis. I’ve thought about an Air for the same reasons, but I’m holding out to see the new MBPs. The battery life certainly makes the Air should attractive, and I’m encouraged to hear Photoshop behaves nicely.

  3. Rich said:

    Good write up. I would be interested in how the Air handles After Effects.

  4. Travis Isaacs said:

    @Tim, Photoshop has been a non-issue in my experience. In fact, my Air launches Photoshop near instantly (even with a robust type library).

  5. Loren said:

    Wow.. you may have convinced me to switch! Thanks for writing this from your perspective as someone who does “real” work.

  6. Brandon said:

    Nice write up, oh apple how you make me want to spend money I don’t have yet.

  7. Will said:

    I’ve got to stop reading about these, it just makes me want one. I have the 13″ MBP and it’s great, but considering I haven’t used the superdrive even once, it’s got some unnecessary weight and bulk to lose. Decisions decisions….

  8. Travis Isaacs said:

    It’s a slippery slope will, be careful.