MacBook Air: It’s All About the Hardware

23 Nov

The computer industry is obsessed with software and services. That’s not surprising given that most of us spend countless hours moving between and staring at applications on our computer displays. When we think about our computer we think about what we use it for, which is software, not so much for the thing itself.The MacBook Air is the first machine in a long while that has me thinking more about its hardware than any of its software. Despite having a relatively pokey CPU, my MacBook Air’s hardware still boosts application performance because of the device’s flash storage system. Opening, closing, and executing applications and tasks that require any I/O function are flat out quick. Hands down, it’s the most responsive computer I’ve ever used.

Then there’s the wonderful trackpad. It feels so much nicer on my fingertips than when I use Ubuntu on my aging, but eminently serviceable IBM ThinkPad T43. More importantly, now there are new ways I can leverage OS X through the trackpad’s advanced user interface.

Great operating system UIs let me move within and between applications and tasks, windows and files using hardware in the way that suits me best. The more choices I have, the more efficient I’ll be at using the machine and its software. The MacBook Air trackpad has added new, logical choices for me to use.

Inside documents on my other computers I can jump around via function keys on my keyboard or through scroll bars with my mouse. With the MacBook Air’s trackpad I can now also move inside files by gliding two fingers up or down the trackpad and the document with roll up or down the screen accordingly. It is now my preferred way to move within a document. To me, that’s a radical step. It took me years to get comfortable using a mouse to scroll up and down a file when keyboard shortcuts were so much faster. Now, however, within a couple of weeks I’ve embraced the two-finger scroll on the new trackpad as the best way to work inside a document.

Plus, the clever trackpad has broadened my choice for how to navigate between open applications. Let me explain with a typical scenario:

I’m typing in Pages. I want to change the song I’m listening to. With my MacBook Air I can:

1. Hit the F4 button and open my Dashboard widgets, one of which lets me flick through iTunes’ selections;

2. Hit the F3 button and launch Expose’ so I can find the iTunes window and click into it and make my change;

3. Move the cursor to the Dock and pick iTunes and a new tune;

4. Close window after window until I find iTunes on my display and can choose a new song.

And now I can also:

5. Swipe four fingers across the MacBook Air trackpad, which brings up the Application Switcher and lets me pick iTunes and make a new selection.

Adding this fifth option gives me another easy and useful method to find my away around an 11-inch display cluttered with too many open windows.

I could also extol the virtues of the responsive keyboard, the tight packaging, and other hardware traits. But those items, I think, are about taste and fashion and not about true hardware improvements that benefit all MacBook Air users. That is, because of the MacBook Air’s sophisticated hardware I waste less time fooling around with ways to get to the software and more time actually using it. And ultimately that’s what great hardware does: makes using software a better experience.


One Response to “MacBook Air: It’s All About the Hardware”


  1. Tweets that mention MacBook Air: It’s All About the Hardware « Croisan Views -- - November 23, 2010

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Mark Everett Hall, Mark Everett Hall. Mark Everett Hall said: MacBook Air: It’s All About the Hardware: A review of Apple's newest laptop computers #macbookair […]

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