I’ve noticed that the Apple fans have been raving about the announcement of the MacBook Air, so I started looking for information on it, as even non Apple fans seemed to be impressed. In my opinion, although the Air has some nice features and is a nice looking machine, it just doesn’t cut it in terms of price, performance, and interoperability. To show this point, I would like to compare the Air to the laptop that I have been eying for some time now, the Thinkpad X61 or X61s.
In terms of weight, the MacBook Air is advertised as 1.36kg, a respectable lightweight notebook. The Thinkpad X61 is listed as 1.41kg with the X61s being 1.24kg. These weights are usually the lightest the laptop can be without any additional options. The weights are rather close, so lets see the stock features and compare.
Both the Air and the X61s come standard with a 1.6GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor and an 80GB hard drive. The Air comes with 2GB 667MHz RAM, Bluetooth, and 802.11 a/b/g/draft n wireless, which are options that must be added to the X61s. The Air has a 13.3 inch screen while the X61s has a 12.1 inch. The thickness of the Air is 19.3mm (0.76″) and the Thinkpad is 20.32mm in the front and 27.94mm in the back. Neither come with an optical drive. Overall, the performance specs of both laptops can be made very close. Configured with identical hardware, the Air costs $1799.00 and the Thinkpad X61s with the options is $1354.00, a significant difference in my mind.
To me, the main differences are in the physical (the Air is thinner with a larger screen) and in the connectors that are available. The conneectors are something that is very important to me and is one of the main reasons that I think i would be unable to use this laptop. The Air has a very limited set of ports, namely 1 USB port, a mini DVI (useless to me) and audio. The X61s has 3 USB ports, VGA, ethernet, 1 PC card slot, and SD slot. There have been countless times where I needed multiple USB ports and in my opinion an ethernet port is not an option. The expandability of the Air is quite limited and is something that would be very difficult for me to deal with.
What it boils down to is the MacBook Air is Apples entry into the ultralight notebook arena that falls short of the other players already on the field. I’m sure that there are people who find the Air to be what they want, but it is not exactly a deal when there are more powerful laptops with less weight that cost significantly less.