As you probably know by now, I currently carry around a 13-inch MacBook Pro. It’s the mid-2010 model: 2.4GHz Core 2 Duo, 4GB of RAM, and a 250GB 5,200RPM hard drive.
I’ve been fairly happy with this setup for the longest time. But recently I’ve begun to feel cramped on its relatively small screen. In fact, I can only work with one window at a time; needless to say, it’s a painful experience. Yet at the same time, it’s a pleasure to carry around because of its small size, so I’m really at a crossroads right now: should I give up portability for a bigger screen, or give up the ability to multitask for the sake of saving my back?
Thankfully, I may not have to worry about that much longer. For a while, the rumor mill has been churning one out that says Apple is working on 15- and 17-inch MacBook Airs. Such a machine would quickly solve both of my problems for my computing needs, and I could continue being a happy editor while I’m on-the-go.
But like I said, this is just a rumor, and it may not come true. And unfortunately, I’m not sure that it will.
Apple’s MacBooks are known for many things, not the least of which is a fantastic balance of power and battery life or portability and battery life. The MacBook Air really only shines in the latter pair of attributes. It uses flash memory in lieu of a hard drive, sure, but other components – like ULV Intel processors and integrated graphics – really kill its chances of being called a mobile powerhouse.
Apple’s MacBook Pro line, however, offers a lot of power and decent battery life, but portability takes a hit. Every size of MacBook Pro, be it 13-, 15-, or 17-inches, is only just under 1-inch thick. This is to include powerful discrete GPUs, quad-core processors and the battery to power the two.
Meanwhile, some competitors that are jumping on the Ultrabook bandwagon are hitting a perfect balance of all three. They include speedy Intel processors, solid-state drives, and even dedicated graphics in some cases. Most of them are also cheaper than Apple’s offering while providing those crucial components. Still, most are under my ideal 15-inch size.
It’s hard for me to justify the purchase of a PC if a 15-inch Ultrabook ever made it to market: I’ve been using a Mac longer than I’d been using the iPhone! But since I started using the Mac in the Leopard days, my needs have changed. I’m the managing editor of Pocketables; I do much more with my computers now than I would’ve ever dreamed of doing back then. Because of that, I need power, portability, battery life, and screen real estate. My MacBook Pro isn’t offering any of those save for portability.
For me to stay with the Mac, that needs to change. Specifically, I need a quad-core CPU paired with 8GB of RAM and a 1GB GPU – that can drive a 15-inch display – in a package that is less than 0.8-inches thick and 3-pounds heavy. I don’t think that’s too much to ask for, but maybe it just isn’t possible for Apple yet at a decent price, even though I’d happily pay up to $2,000 for it.
And that’s what scares me so badly. Apple has always been more expensive compared to the competition. Even if Apple does introduce a 15-inch Air that does the stuff I need it to, it’ll probably be outrageously priced. At that point, Dell, HP, and other competitors will create something similar to it for a cheaper price. If that happens, then I really don’t have a reason to stay with the Mac.
I still have a couple of years on my AppleCare warranty, so if I absolutely have to wait, I can. It’s not an ideal situation, but I’d rather wait for something that will completely fit my needs than buy something prematurely and be disappointed. I don’t have a preference towards the software it runs, but it needs to be powerful enough to do the tasks I need it to. If that’s a Mac, cool; if not, cool.
I guess we’ll see next week at WWDC (Worldwide Developers Conference) what Apple’s going to do for the rest of the year for Mac laptop hardware. I’m not looking to buy quite this early, but I’d like to know that Apple will be able to please me next year.