On the 19th of this month, I bought my brand-new 13” MacBook Air powered by Apple’s flagship M1 chip. I have never owned an Apple device before so this happens to be my first time. Today I would like to share with you a few facts I like and don’t like about it in comparison to other Windows-driven Laptops. By publishing this post, I am not looking forward to writing a full-blown review or condemning Microsoft Windows and Laptops that are not Apple. I am just sharing my observations so that you will be able to make an informed decision if you are planning to buy a new Laptop and lost between Apple and Windows. [Photo by Mayur Roshen from SR Photography]
The Physical Profile of my MacBook Air
It’s no exaggeration that the body of any Apple device is made of recycled aluminium and therefore something to kill for. The MacBook Air is not an exception. Colour-wise the device is available in silver, space grey, and golden pink. While pink looks girlish (no offence ladies) I find space grey to be very appealing and gender-neutral.
The trackpad is large and designed to use with the Apple Pencil. It’s super sensitive and so smooth you feel like you are on a glider. You can trash that Mouse. It supports so many gestures you will never look back. I will talk about the keyboard a little later in this post. The 13” retina display is so good if you break it a replacement will cost you around LKR 100,000 (498.80 USD). The microphone and speakers also feel good enough although the webcam supports only 720p while other Laptops come equipped with 1080p. According to Apple, however, their M1 chip enhances the visual quality of the output.
That was about the exterior. Let’s consider the interior. The Air I bought boasts 8GB of physical memory and a 256GB SSD. There are 158 gigabytes left in the SSD even after installing all the apps I need. In my Dell Vostro 15 3568, after installing everything I have only 75GB left for me. Talking about the battery After a full charge, I can use the Air for up to 10 hours whereas the Battery on the Dell lasts only for 6 hours even in power-saving mode. On my MacBook Air however when on standby mode, the battery could last up to 17 hours. The M1 Microprocessor is an 8-core (the more the merrier) chip accommodating CPU, GPU, and the Neural Engine (I have no idea what that is?) The device doesn’t have any ventilation fans because they aren’t needed. In Apple’s own words “No fan, no noise, just Air”
The only disadvantage the way I see it, unlike its Windows-driven counterparts the MacBook Air doesn’t have any I/O ports except two Thunderbolt/USB 4 ports and a 3.5 mm headphone jack. Therefore, you must spend around LKR 13,000/- (64 USD) on a USB C Hub if you want to connect a pen drive, an ethernet cable, an HDMI cable, or insert a camera memory card. But don’t let that stop you from upgrading to this awesome device. If you just want to connect a pen drive or a portable hard drive you can always buy a single port USB C converter for less than 2,000 rupees.
It’s not fair by the charger unless I say something about it. The cable is two meters long. If that isn’t enough you can take the charger apart and connect it to an extension like it is in the video below. Notice how small the charger is. It can easily fit into your shirt pocket.
The backlit keyboard is very useful to me because I work a lot at night or early in the morning in a dimly lit room. I don’t need to look at the keyboard while typing but when it’s very dark typing gets difficult. macOS even has a function that allows you to control the keyboard’s brightness.
Apple’s MacBook Air and even the Pro are all about ultra-portability. Therefore, the device weighs only 1.27 kilos. The perfect weight for my backpack. My Toshiba NB 500, Satellite L755, and Dell Vostro 15 3568 however weighed 1.15, 2.58, and 2.18 kilos. That was about the physical or the hardware profile of my new MacBook Air. Let’s consider the software profile to see what’s in the store for you if you decide to buy this device.
macOS Big Sur and Software Compatibility
Next, let’s look at the operating system. The latest version of macOS is called “Big Sur”. For an operating system with an extreme focus on privacy and infosec it’s not annoying at all, (Unlike Windows). After using the Air for mere eight days, I realized it’s not exaggerating that Mac owners seldom use antivirus software despite there being malware targeting Macs. Therefore, if you settle for a MacBook Air you can save on your annual subscription for Kaspersky.
The inbuilt fingerprint scanner or “Touch ID” makes logging into my LastPass Vault a breeze. I can view, edit, or copy items in the vault without typing the lengthy master password. I can also unlock Big Sur without typing the password. Most Windows-driven Laptops don’t have this feature. One disadvantage compared to Windows, however, in Windows, you can log in to your computer even after a reboot without typing a password if your hardware supports fingerprint authentication. In Big Sur and the operating systems before it, however, you can’t log in using Touch ID after a reboot. You must type the password.
Then comes the “File Vault” that allows you to encrypt your device as well as any pen drives, portable hard disks, and memory cards, etc. (For some reason I am unable to encrypt external drives which I will post on MacRumors my favourite forum for Mac users) Although Windows offers BitLocker you need to be using Windows 7 Pro or Windows 10 Home to be able to encrypt a drive. Home editions allow decrypting only.
Unfortunately, however, macOS cannot read or write to drives encrypted with BitLocker. Let’s look at the AirDrop function before considering the other drawbacks. AirDrop lets you transfer files between Apple devices on the same network over Wi-Fi or Bluetooth. Back in the studio where I work, we use iMac Pros for editing and AirDrop comes in handy when I want to exchange files with my colleagues. Best of all AirDrop doesn’t have a file size limit. Windows on the other hand don’t have a similar feature.
Now let’s consider the drawbacks. macOS can read from NTFS formatted drives but requires additional software if you want to write. I use Paragon NTFS which cost me LKR 4,000/- (19.95 USD). There are free alternatives but not so reliable. Further, macOS doesn’t support typing in true-type Sinhala fonts even though you can open documents prepared in true-type fonts. Fortunately, it supports Unicode and that makes “Helakuru” a perfect companion.
Speaking of software compatibility, macOS supports a wide array of applications including Microsoft Office 365 as you can see in the screenshot below.
There are many other apps freely available for your Apple device. However, I faced difficulty when searching an FTP software. Of course, there is Cyberduck and Filezilla but none met my expectations. Afterwards, I had to settle for “Commander One” which is still not even close to WinSCP the tool I used in Windows 10. The BullZip PDF Printer doesn’t have a version for Mac and finding an alternative was a headache. Picasa although no longer being developed can be installed in Windows 10 but not in Big Sur. The inbuilt “Photos” App is okay but not as good as Picasa.
Other useful features of my MacBook
One can say Windows Laptops also support most of the functions available in Apple devices. I agree with them. However, the problem is it’s difficult to find one device with all the functions. For example, a Windows Laptop may have all the functions I have mentioned in this post but no Fingerprint scanner. If the fingerprint scanner is present, there’s no SSD. Sometimes when the hardware is perfect the operating system is not so. For example, HP Spectre X360 14 comes with Windows 10 Home preinstalled not Pro. I love my MacBook Air because unlike even the priciest Windows-driven Laptops it has almost everything built into it.
Uniformity is another plus point in Apple devices. I wanted to buy a Hard-Shell Case for my new MacBook Air and all that I did was drop by an Apple Authorized Dealer and tell him I need a Hard-Shell Case for a 13” MacBook Air. Good luck finding a hardshell case or keyboard skin if you are using a Windows-driven Laptop.
Although I spent a fortune on my new device (LKR 239,500.00 / 1,194.62 USD) I know in the long run it’s more of an investment than an expenditure. When considering the user experience the device is worth every cent. It’s shockingly responsive and Macs are famous for running fast even after many years down the road. Although the AppleCare+ extended warranty costs around another LKR 45,000/- it’s a 3-year internationally recognized insurance policy for my device. After all, accidents happen with mobile electronics. While AppleCare+ isn’t the kind of option I will use every day, it just might be the most valuable addition to my Air in the event of a drop or an electrical surge. When I consider all of these I can hardly imagine going back to Windows. So, farewell to Windows, and hello macOS!
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