The MacBook Air has arrived, a third MacBook model that brings incredibly small size to the MacBook line at a premium price.
The best news we have about the MacBook Air was its video-out prowess. It seems to have the same skills as the MacBook, namely that it will drive a 23in Apple display as a secondary display. For someone like me, that's a key feature - speaking as a guy who uses his MacBook at work hooked up to a 23in display, robust video-out features are important.
The good news is, MacBook Air ships with two video adaptors in the box, one for VGA, one for DVI. An optional S-Video adaptor is also available. And for those who simply must have Ethernet connectivity, Apple will sell a USB ethernet adaptor.
There's no optical drive in the MacBook air, and David Moody, Apple vice president of worldwide Mac product marketing expressed to us the ambivalence that Apple seems to have about the current state of the computer optical drive: "Some people will need [an optical drive] Others... maybe."
If you want a MacBook Air but are afraid that you're going to run into a situation where you simply must have an optical drive, Apple will sell you an external USB SuperDrive, nicely colour-matched, specifically for the MacBook Air.
For basic optical drive needs, though, Apple's new Remote Disc software will let the MacBook Air take control of the optical drive on a Mac or PC.
The MacBook Air comes with software you can install on Macs or PCs, enabling the feature. Then when you click on Remote Disc in the Finder's sidebar, you'll see a list of all the computers on your local Bonjour network that have Remote Disc installed. Click on a computer and one of two things will happen - either you'll just take control of the drive, or (optionally) the user of the other computer will be prompted to allow you to take control.
When we tried the feature out, it worked seamlessly. We double-clicked on a remote PC across the room, and after about five seconds we could hear its optical drive quietly begin to whir. Within another few seconds, the Microsoft Office 2008 install disc appeared in the Finder on the MacBook Air, just as if we had inserted that disc in the MacBook Air's nonexistent optical drive.
Open the magnetic latch of the MacBook Air and peer inside, and you'll get a sight that looks a lot like a miniature combination of the MacBook and the MacBook Pro. There's aluminum everywhere, with the exception of the black backlit keyboard and the 13.3in display. That display, at 1,280-by-800 pixels, is slightly smaller than the one on the MacBook, but its higher resolution means it's got the same number of pixels as its larger cousin.
Just above the display is an iSight camera, flanked by two small micro-perforated circles. The one on the left is an ambient light sensor, which lets the MacBook Air automatically adjust the brightness of the display and of the keyboard backlighting. the one on the right is a microphone.
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