MacBook Air: Sexy, Skinny as a Supermodel

Carrying around Apple's MacBook Air is like dating a supermodel: She's going to turn heads with her beauty, she'll improve your self-confidence, and you can go everywhere together — from crowded nightclubs to cramped airplane flights. You'll be happy in the end, but there's sure to be a friend who just doesn't approve.

MacBook Air is a mega-desirable computer that blends aerodynamic styling with serious innovations in an itsy, bitsy three-pound package that is a blast to use. The $1,799 model comes with a generous 2 GB of RAM, an average capacity 80 GB hard drive and is already in short supply at Apple stores.

As soon as you slip the laptop out of the box you'll want to play with it. It's ¾-of-an-inch thick at its thickest point, while a magnet keeps the two halves closed, making its rounded edges look like a stretched-out clam shell. The whole thing is about the size of a magazine.

Once the computer is open, even a mere mortal will feel secure balancing the lightweight computer in one hand. Users will notice that the MacBook Air is not your average scaled down sub-notebook that PC makers have been making for years with miniature 10-inch screens and inhumane cramped keypads that would give the most successful of hand models a complex.

Inside the world's thinnest notebook is a wide, glossy, bright 13.3-inch LED screen, and a full-sized keyboard with backlit responsive keys that light up when they know you're in a dark room.

A tiny camera and microphone are placed at the top of the screen for free video chatting, along with a souped-up trackpad as wide as the space bar to help you move around the screen that is able to understand finger gestures like the iPhone to help in manipulating screens and documents. (Pinch the trackpad to shrink or enlarge a photo. Swipe across the pad to go to the next Web page.)

So how did Apple engineers squeeze a full-size computer into such a small case? By tweaking size and shapes of components, they've used every last millimeter of space inside and they had to make decisions on what to leave out of the system.

Engineers chose a slimmer hard drive that has less capacity than most would like, a slimmer battery that raised the cost, and eliminated many of the input/output ports traditionally available on larger computers. A hidden door on the side reveals the single USB port, a port to connect to a larger screen or projector and a headphone jack. The only other plug on the machine is an ingenious power cord that connects magnetically and comes apart if someone trips on the cord instead of sending your computer tumbling.

There was no room for a built-in networking port for the common Ethernet standard (a cable that connects to the USB port is an extra $49), but the latest wireless networking is available with Bluetooth 2.1 and Wifi 80211.n.

There is no optical drive in the Air either. Instead, a new technology called "Remote Disc" makes a CD or DVD drive in a Mac or PC on your same network available to share on your Air.

A nice concept, but you can't add music from a CD to your iTunes (although purchases from the Apple store are encouraged) and you can't install copy protected software like Microsoft Office from a CD/DVD even if you have the installation code. It also requires a software install on the host machine and an authorization process.

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