Without a doubt, this is one of the niftiest-looking laptops we’ve ever tested. At 3 pounds and just one inch thick, it’s slightly smaller than Toshiba’s R500 (reviewed November 2007). But while the R500 was a capable, fully-featured portable PC, the MacBook Air makes serious compromises to maintain its petite profile.
The most obvious sacrifice is the Air’s lack of an optical drive—something other ultraportables, including the similarly svelte R500, manage to include. To compensate for this lack, Apple provides a utility that lets you use an optical drive on another PC or Mac across a network. Performance left something to be desired, but we were impressed that the feature worked at all.
Unfortunately, the optical drive isn’t the Air’s biggest omission. We’re even more put off by this portable’s dearth of external ports—it includes just a single USB port, a multi-format video-out, and a headphone jack. No mic, no PC Card, no modem, no Ethernet—enjoy waiting for a multi-gigabyte file transfer using the Air’s 802.11n Wi-Fi.
The Air doesn’t, however, compromise in terms of performance. While the Air came in last in most of our benchmarks, it’s more than fast enough for typical desktop-application use. We wouldn’t want to convert 5GB of photos from RAW with it, but for browsing the web, watching movies, and checking email, it’s plenty sufficient.
With an Ethernet port and a couple more USB ports, this would be a killer laptop.