Steve Jobs and his talented team of industrial designers created yet another lust-worthy product with the MacBook Air.
But here's the thing: as undeniable as the Apple ultraportable's appeal is, the MacBook Air is laden with limitations. Plus, there are several thin-and-light Windows notebooks that skirt many of the MacBook Air's drawbacks. Here's a quick look at three Windows competitors.
Also note that the MacBook Air isn't Apple's first foray into ultraportable computing. As you can see onTraveler 2.0's Web site, a TV commercial for an early 1990's Mac mini notebook.
Toshiba Portégé R500
Unlike the MacBook Air, Toshiba's Portégé R500 manages to offer a built-in optical drive. The R500 weighs only 1.2kg compared to the MacBook Air's 1.36kg. The chassis is also super-thin, measuring 20mm thick. (According to Apple the MacBook Air is 19.4mm at its thickest part.)
Toshiba's ultraportable offers three USB ports; you get only one with the MacBook Air. The R500 also offers a removable battery, a full-size D-Sub video port, a PC Card slot, Ethernet and FireWire connectors. On the MacBook Air, all these features are absent.
The MacBook Air has a few advantages over the R500. For example: the R500 has a 12.1-inch LED-backlit display compared to the larger 13.3-inch LED-backlit MacBook Air screen. Also, you'll pay more for the R500 than for the MacBook Air. One R500 model we've reviewed, offering an internal optical drive, is $3300 and included only 1GB of RAM, compared to the $2499 MacBook Air's 2GB.
Toshiba also has plans for a new version of the R500 with built-in 3G mobile broadband – something the MacBook Air lacks. No word yet on when the updated model will be available in Australia.
ASUS has had its hand in the ultraportable market for some time and the ASUS U3 is one of its latest ventures. It offers the same sized 13.3in screen, but weighs in slightly heavier at 1.75kg and is a touch thicker than the MacBook Air, measuring 243mm at its thickest point. It also lacks in the RAM department offering a mere 512MB. However it does offer significantly more ports, including HDMI and eSATA.
An Express card slot is also present and three USB 2.0 ports. Of course there's also a VGA port. While it doesn't include an internal optical drive it does come accompanied by an external drive.
Fujitsu LifeBook Q2010
Designed for the regular business traveller, the ultra-slim Fujitsu LifeBook Q2010 ultraportable, is one of the lightest notebooks we've ever seen.
The Q2010 scored points for its extreme portability, offering wireless networking in the form of a 3G adapter, allowing it to reach speeds of up to 1.8Mbps. Its main disadvantage is its Intel ultra low voltage 1.2GHz CPU, and it only sports 1GB of DDR2 RAM, so it doesn't shape up to the MacBook performance-wise. However, it offers an Express card slot, FireWire, two USB ports, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. You don't get a built-in optical drive, but it includes a dock with an optical drive and more ports. Despite its size the keyboard is actually quite comfortable to use.
Although the Q2010 is fantastic on its own, travelling with the dock, power adapter and machine itself makes it heavier than most ultraportables.