11" Macbook Air vs. 12" Powerbook side-by-side comparison:
A photo gallery

I was near an Apple Store yesterday, so I decided to visit and look at the new 11.6" Macbook Air. 

People who know me always tease me because I still use my trusty 12" Powerbook (Rev C, from 2004). I have refused to give it up because I absolutely love the small form factor but still has a full-size keyboard. (Well that, plus the fact that I hate spending money.) And for the time, it had a non-crippled video card with basic GLSL support so I could at least do some basic OpenGL development on it. (I still refuse to buy an Intel GMA.) But Apple abandoned this form factor so I have been left stranded without an upgrade path.

Now 6 years later, it looks like I have a potential replacement. I'm the type of person that still prefers having dedicated workstations (desktops) for heavy computation and a lightweight, compact portable for travel. Most of my destination points have more powerful machines available so brute computational power is a lower priority for me in a portable. However, I am a developer so I spend most of my time in Xcode, text editors, and compilers, so something like an iPad is not a suitable candidate for me.

The other major consideration for me is the video card. I am not likely to buy a 15" or 17", so among the Airs and the 13" Macbook and Macbook Pro, they all seem to contain the same exact video card. Since they are all the same, this drastically simplifies my decision process. And since it is not an Intel embedded graphics chipset, I can actually consider these machines as viable candidates.

Anyway, I expect to be harassed by people for the coming months about the new 11-inch Macbook Air, so I figured I would take a look at one myself.

My first impression was that I was very disappointed that the width is so much larger on the 11" Macbook Air compared to the 12" Powerbook. The Powerbook wastes no space with borders around the keyboard. I really liked this design. I feel like the Air has tons of wasted space width-wise. I recall traveling in China and using the hotel room safes. My Powerbook just barely fit. I'm a little curious if the Macbook Air would still fit.

Other than that, everything else was as expected...thinner, lighter, faster. I wanted to give Xcode a try on the new Macbook Air to see how development might feel. With compiling, it is hard to know if your bottlenecks are CPU or disk I/O bound. If the performance is dominated by disk I/O, then the Macbook Air might have a chance to outperform a full-blown Macbook despite its significant CPU speed disadvantage because of the SSD. I would like to know this information. But unfortunately, none of the machines at the Apple store had Xcode installed.

I remembered to take photos of my trip. So enjoy my photo gallery below.



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