Apple introduced Retina screens in the MacBook Pro a few years ago and I never took the plunge. I had no need for a 13” laptop at the time and bought a 11” MacBook Air1 a year later. What convinced me was its small size and long battery life, and I needed a mobile typewriter and access to Lightroom when traveling, to be able to offload my memory cards and perform a preliminary selection of the shots I took—this would later turn out to save me hours of work.
I’m still using that 11” Air today and quite frankly, I couldn’t have made a better choice. The thing with the smaller of the Air siblings is that I don’t have to think whether I should take it with me or not whenever I go out—I just throw it into my vertical messenger bag2. It’s light enough that it doesn’t bother me even if I’m out and about for the whole day and it’s long battery life means that I rarely need to take a charger with me.
It does have two issues though, however minor they may seem to most.
The biggest issue is the screen. It’s a TN panel and not exactly known for being accurate in displaying colour. This is troublesome in Lightroom, during post processing. While I can mostly rely on the histogram of each shot to make the necessary adjustments to my RAW files, I do have to confirm the colours on my 4K desktop screen once I return home. The second issue is the resolution of the screen—while I don’t mind it not being Retina that much3, it’s 1366×768 resolution makes for a poor working environment. I use most of my software in fullscreen mode, which is rarely the case on an external display with a 2560×1440 pt workspace—this is mostly due to the few vertical pixels. At a mere 768 points, every saved pixel is a luxury.
The preliminary verdict on the 12” MacBook Air is out already, despite the machine not being officially announced by Apple yet. The internets are saying that it will be only good for Facebook. I beg to differ. If the rumours are true and it will indeed have a smaller footprint than the current 11.6” model, with a larger screen4, then it will be perfect for me. Naturally, everyone has different priorities, but these are mine: portability and long battery life.
The rumour regarding the single USB Type C connector is a strange one, though it does make sense if you think about it. The first MacBook Air was barely usable for most people. It debuted in a time when a DVD drive was a must, the HDD had to be big and a laptop needed multiple ports to be usable. The Air had none of those—no SuperDrive, a small HDD5 and one meagre USB port. Today’s 13” Air is not that much different from a MacBook Pro in terms of expandability—it has two USB ports, one Thunderbolt port which allows daisy-chaining, audio ins and outs and even an SD card reader. I don’t use any of those. I can’t even remember the last time I actually connected a pen drive to my Mac. People will of course cry, shout and scream over the loss of all of those things, despite not actually needing them. Nothing new.
I only use the MagSafe connector on my Air and it has saved my computer from flying off the table on a number of occasions, detaching itself automatically at the right moment. I cannot point out how important this is to me. The thing with the rumoured USB Type C connector6 is that it isn’t magnetic, at least not according to its spec. Will Apple go back on this idea? I hope not. Perhaps the cable will detach at the charger instead? That still leaves the potential for snagging and pulling on it, along with the Mac, but it is a solution. Perhaps the cable will detach just past the connector? Whatever Apple chooses to do, I trust them to make the right decision.
Rumours aside, I don’t really need a new Mac—an extremely mobile typewriter in my case. I do however want a better screen for those times when I use Lightroom and I do want it to be Retina, with much improved colour accuracy. Hopefully it will indeed ship soon, just so I can have a new toy.
Which I really don’t need.
- Mid 2013 model. ↩
- An STM Scout XS which is officially designed for an iPad. ↩
- My eyesight is not perfect unfortunately and while I don’t see the pixels on it anyway, when using it on my lap at least. ↩
- With a smaller bezel naturally—the one on the current Air is huge. ↩
- Or a very expensive SSD. ↩
- It can be used as a charging port besides the typical USB shenanigans. ↩