Travis Isaacs

Father of two. Fitness & food junkie. Co-founder of Front Desk. Creator of Keynote Kung-Fu. Grapevine, TX.

Downsized

19 Jan 2011

This post is ancient history. My apologies for any dead links or broken images.

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/s180.45 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.