2018 Apple MacBook Air, Real World Review

2018 Apple MacBook Air, Real World Review

It seems as though I purchase and use a laptop, specifically Apple laptops, for about 6 years before getting a new one. My very first Apple computer was a 2006 MacBook Pro which was one of the early Intel powered MacBooks where Apple was transitioning away from the PowerPC chips. I used that MacBook Pro until 2012 when I bought a new one, a non-Retina 15″ MacBook Pro. Here we are 6 years later again, in 2018 and I decided to buy a new MacBook, this time the just announced Air.

I always wanted the Pro models so I could have the necessary power I wanted to be able to edit some video when I used to go to church. I also liked to run virtual machines which required a substantial amount of resources as well. The two Pro’s I had always did everything I wanted them to do. However, this time around I wanted to go in a different direction; lightweight portability.

I’ve considered the MacBook Air’s in the past but the big turn off’s of the older models were a lack of real power, the big ugly and silver bezels and no Retina screens. So I never bought one. Now with Apple’s new update to the line they remedied those things and made me very interested in it.

My life and work has changed considerably over the last six years in that I’ve left church and religion behind which means I no longer edit audio and video. I’ve also received a promotion at work which means I’m now an executive administrator and no longer a systems administrator dealing with enterprise class hardware and software. Now my skills and abilities are put to use by my words, not by the systems I can build.

With those major changes in mind, I knew that I no longer needed the power of the MacBook Pro. My new job entails many meetings, travel and a lot of writing and reading. The new MacBook Air fits the bill perfectly for me and my current needs. It is lightweight, ultra portable and has a very long lasting battery. So far I’m getting better than 15 hours of usage from it on a single charge. At 2.75 pounds it’s much easier to carry around than the old MacBook Pro which was larger and weighed a lot more. The smaller design of the Air also means I don’t need as big of a bag to carry it and a few things around with me. I also really like the tapered design of the Air and it just makes it feel even more portable and easier to open up.

I know a lot of people have been complaining about Apple’s new butterfly keyboard style for the past 3 years on the MacBook Pro’s. Apparently the 2018 MacBook Air has a 3rd generation version of the keyboard. This is my first experience with this keyboard and I quite like it. So far I haven’t had any problems with it. On the past Pro’s apparently people were getting numerous typos’s, repeated letters or letters that wouldn’t register when pressed. But so far so good for me on this new Air. I actually feel like I can type faster on this style than other more traditional keyboards and my typo’s aren’t any worse than before either.

In fact, I’ve been using it at work and on the road at meetings a lot since I received it on launch day. I’ve been writing and working on policies, letters and reports with it as well as picking up work on my book again. To date I still haven’t had any issues with the keyboard.

As for the screen, this is my first experience with a Retina screen. It is very nice and with the slimmer and black bezels it is so much better than the older generation Airs. There are however complaints about screen brightness. Apparently it only goes up to 300 nits. I agree it could be a tad brighter, but I’m not really complaining about it. Its plenty bright enough for my needs and most of the time I don’t even have it at full brightness anyhow. I assume that the 300 nits was a battery cost saving measure by Apple. The brighter they make the screen capable of, the shorter the battery life will be. But that’s just a guess on my part.

Another thing I really like about this laptop is that I can actually use it as a laptop. For instance, right now as I am typing this, the Air is on my lap with a blanket between it and my legs. With my older MacBook Pro even just typing a simple blog post and doing no other tasks, having it in a position like this would get my legs, and the laptop very hot. It required a good amount of airspace around it to stay cool and keep the fans from spinning up. What I would do with the Pro is either keep it on a table or I had bought a laptop tray thing to keep it on so it wasn’t in direct contact with me and had some air flow around it. This MacBook Air does not do what the Pro did and stays nice and cool, or at least just room temperature. I’ve not yet heard a fan spin up once on this machine.

Now for some people the lack of ports on this new Air can be a problem. It only has a 3.5 mm headphone jack on the right and two USB-C/Thunderbolt ports on the left, either of which can be used for charging. For me this minimal port offering is not an issue. I rarely plug anything into my laptops anymore and do everything online or over my local WiFi LAN. I did buy a USB-C to USB-A cable and a USB-C to Lightning cable just in case I might need them.

Apple boasted a little bit about the speakers in this model compared to the previous model. I don’t normally listen to music or much of anything on the laptop. I’m a bit of an audiophile and listen to lossless music on a DAP (digital audio player) or on the Mac mini which has an external amplifier and DAC (digital to analog converter) setup with some very nice Sennheiser headphones. But with that said, I did listen to some music on the Tidal app with the lossless music subscription and the speakers sounded decent enough for what they are. They are small, thin and narrow and in an ultra portable laptop. They sounded ok and didn’t make my ears bleed or anything.

A couple of other things that I like are the force touch trackpad which has a larger area than my old MacBook Pro. Having the ability to click or tap anywhere on the pad is very nice compared to the older one where you had to click/tap only on the bottom. Another thing that is valuable is the Touch ID built into it. Having that is huge as far as convenience goes and double so when used in conjunction with Apple Pay on websites that support it. That combination is so much more secure and safe for your PII (personally identifiable information).

The other specifications of my 2018 MacBook Air are that I went with the optional Space Gray color,  16 GB of RAM and went with the 512 GB SSD. I don’t normally buy the AppleCare support on products and I haven’t done so with this either. But given this is a big update to the Air and the known history with the butterfly keyboard on the Pro’s, I’m considering buying the AppleCare+ just in case. I still have a month to decide before I am ineligible to buy it anymore.

All in all, I’m very pleased with the 2018 Apple MacBook Air. I recommend it to anyone who needs a general purpose laptop for the basic things such as web browsing, email, writing and the sort of casual use one might use a computer for. If you are into very intensive tasks such as audio and video editing, or photo editing, doing lots of other high CPU usage tasks, this might not be the right choice for you. The MacBook Air excels at everyday general use which is probably what most people do anyhow.

I’m looking forward to another 6 years before I need or decide to buy a new laptop.

 

Writing

Writing

Since I started this blog, my interest in writing has increased. I just haven’t increased my actual writing yet! Doh! I did however make it out to Borders today to look up any books on writing. I walked out with two small books, at a hefty price I might add. What I didn’t want was a technical book on writing or a school-type book. No, what I was looking for was a book about the topic from actual writers; the people who write for a living novels or non-fiction type of stuff. I wanted a book to help me free myself in writing and getting started. I guess I want to write what I see and feel. I was looking for a book to help me with that. Something to help clear out the obstacles and the preconceived notions that hinder a writer.

I found a book called “Writing Down The Bones, Freeing the Writer Within” by Natalie Goldberg.

I started reading after I got home this afternoon. I am several chapters into it already and it is quite good. It’s along the lines of what I thought I was looking for. The author takes a no nonsense approach and is telling the reader to simply write. Don’t bother with punctuation or editing or controlling your thoughts as they go from mind to paper. When I read that, it reminded me of a class I had in high school and a particular assignment we had one day. I don’t recall all the details of what the instructor said, but the idea was to write for maybe 30 or 60 minutes anything that came into your mind, be free, be uninhibited with your writing. So I took that literally and did just that. I don’t remember what I wrote about specifically (and I wish I could have that paper with me today) but I do recollect that there was a lot of randomness to it, jumbled thoughts and ideas and such.

After the instructor collected everyone’s papers and reviewed them he came back the next class singing my praises for following his instructions. Apparently I was the only one who took him at his word. He said there were others who wrote good and decently, but they kept to a theme or controlled their thoughts while writing them. I was the one who was uninhibited, free and without guide. I had just written down whatever came into my mind. I am certain it was full of grammatical errors, misspellings and run-on sentences.

I was quite happy with myself for just writing like that and then even more pleased when I got an ‘A’ and lot’s of praise from the instructor for my assignment. I guess it’s too bad that I hadn’t continued on with writing after that because I am now only trying to get into the practice and hobby of it.

The other book I purchased is “If You Want To Write, A Book About Art, Independence and Spirit” by Brenda Ueland. I flipped through it and read a few pages throughout and it piqued my interest enough to get it. I think it falls into the same category as the first book I mentioned.

I have recently given up a favorite hobby of mine only because it is an expensive hobby and at times controversial. I love firearms and target shooting. But they are so expensive and ammunition is getting more and more expensive all the time that I cannot afford to shoot much anymore. Therefore I decided to give it up and I’ve sold all my rifles, save one, and had one pistol destroyed by my local Sheriff’s Department. This pistol was a cheap $100 special brand new. To fire it, I had to hold the magazine upward and pushing forward for it to be seated correctly to allow the next round to be fed into the chamber after firing. I felt that it was a safety hazard and was reluctant to sell it to someone for fear of them getting hurt while using it. So like I said, shooting is an expensive hobby and I just don’t want to play anymore.

That leads me to my new hobby that I want to take up: writing. Writing is much cheaper than shooting! All I need is a pen and paper, or a computer which I already have. However, I am thinking of getting a MacBook Air, that ultra thin and light laptop that Apple makes and use it just for writing or blogging. Obviously, I can do that from my iMac or my MacBook Pro. But I want something a little more comfortable to use. The iMac is my desktop computer and I have to sit a my desk to use it. It’s not overly comfortable to sit at for long periods of time. I spend a good part of my day sitting at a desk or standing in front of computer servers and then I am at the gym later on. So when I get home I am pooped and would rather relax in my recliner or on the couch. So I want a laptop to use while on the chair or couch. I already have a laptop, the MacBook Pro. It’s a great laptop, but it is a bit bulky and heavy to curl up with. Plus, it tends to get quite hot when sitting on your lap. I have a real nice aluminum laptop cooler I use with it to draw the heat away from it and keep the heat off of me. But that adds more weight and awkwardness to it, thus making it uncomfortable to curl up with it.

When Apple first released the MacBook Air a few years ago, I liked it, but thought I had no use for it. I felt it would be a great laptop for a journalist or writer or someone always on the move. I still feel that way and now I hope to be that writer who can make good use of the MacBook Air. I read a discussion forum on Apple’s website tonight about the MacBook Air and it’s use for writers and the remarks folks made were mostly positive which is encouraging to me.

Now all I have to do is come up with the $1600 for one! They’re not cheap by any means, but with Apple, you usually get what you pay for: quality and elegance. I spent just over $3,000 for my iMac about 18 months ago and I haven’t been disappointed. It just works and that is what I want from a computer. I spent too much time on Windows based PC’s fixing things. Sometimes it was problems that came up from seemingly nowhere, and other times they were caused by me tinkering with things making them do what they weren’t meant to do. But with this iMac, I don’t tinker anymore, nor do I care to, and it doesn’t present me with problems at all. It’s been a great machine so far and a good workhorse.

I look forward to getting a MacBook Air, as I am experienced and happy with Apple’s products. But I look forward to doing more writing and not so much as to make a living at it (at least not right now) but as a hobby and something to occupy my “me time” and give me some fulfillment. I also enjoy reading a lot and will be happy to do both from now on.

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