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Mobile Macs

To date, I have owned seven different Macs in the last nine years. I just ordered number eight this morning. Of those Macs, three have been desktop variants and have served distinct purposes. The rest have been Apple notebooks.

  • PowerBook G4 (1GHz)
  • 12” PowerBook (1.33 GHz)
  • Mac mini (Early 2006)
  • 24” iMac (Early 2008)
  • Mac mini (Late 2009)
  • 13” MacBook (Aluminum)
  • 13” MacBook Air (Late 2010)

Of all these mobile Macs, the one I had the longest was the 12” PowerBook. It truly was the perfect Mac in my opinion. Folks have different reasons and priorities when it comes to purchasing a Mac. For me, its portability over performance. Over the years I have found that a speced-out small form-factor Mac more than meets my needs.

Why the 12” PowerBook Rocked

When I purchased the 12” PowerBook, I bundled it with a 20” Cinema Display. I was in college and had spent that last year with my first Mac, the 15” PowerBook. The 15” was a really great computer and a tremendous introduction to Mac ownership. However, the weight of the 15” turned me off to ever owning another notebook of that size and weight. The 12” PowerBook offer a great spec boost while making my mobile setup, lighter and easier to move.

I had the 12” PowerBook for over five years. The setup was, the best of both worlds. I had all the computing power I required for a young web designer and I was able to throw it in my bag and head to Starbucks at moments notice. Power and mobility. A few years later I busted open the PowerBook to up the storage and max the memory. This particular notebook truly taught me the potential longevity of Apple’s products. What has solidified that perspective for me is the 20” Cinema Display I bought eight years ago is still going strong.

The Intel Equivalent

When Apple transitioned their computers to Intel-based systems, the 12” pro model didn’t make the jump. So, I waited for a comprable Intel version of my much beloved 12” PowerBook. Eventually the aluminum unibody MacBook was unveiled. I sold my loyal PowerBook and grabbed up a decked-out 13” MacBook. At that point the MacBook Air had been out for some time, but it lacked the power I needed and it held a price I couldn’t justify.

The MacBook lasted me nearly two years. It really held up too. One of the great advantages the 13” MacBook offered was a larger screen resolution. Rocking the 12” PowerBook, I was limited to 1024 x 768 when away from the Cinema Display. That kind of space gets cramped quickly in Photoshop. The extra pixels of the 13” really helped with my design work.

A Change in the Air

Then Apple revamped their MacBook Air line. It was a doozy of an update too, one which made clear Apple’s intentions of the future of notebooks. The Air now came in two variations, 13” and 11” and they were much, much more powerful than their predecessors. Apple had dropped the goofy compartment to hold the USB, DisplayPort, and audio jack from the original design. What they added remains incredible.

The 13” still has the best out-of-the-box resolution of Apple’s MacBooks. At 1440 x 900, the screen simply blows the 13” Pro away and has the same number of pixels as a base-model 15” Pro. Apple also added another USB port and an SD Card slot. For someone like me, who want the most possible out of the smallest, the new Airs were right up my alley.

The 13” had my attention hands down. The 11” was pretty cool, but it just couldn’t get speced-out like the 13” could. After much debate and oogling, I came across Ben Brooks’s review of his recently acquired 13” Air. Like me, one of Ben’s first and favorite Macs was the 12” PowerBook. His review removed any doubts. So, I bought the 13” Air with the fastest processor and maxed out storge and memory. I can say it is the replacement for the 12” PowerBook I have been searching for.

About a Year Ago

My wife inherited my aluminum MacBook. She liked it and did prefer it over her bulky 15” Windows machine. But, some time after I had purchased the 13” Air, she noticed the 11” sibling. Around the time Apple updated the Airs again last summer, a friend was selling his 11” Air. We bought it off our friend and sold the old MacBook. While getting the Air setup for my wife, I really came to enjoy the size of the computer.


Today, I bought a refurb1 speced-out 11” MacBook Air (Mid 2011). This setup has the potential to be the most-powerful2 and smallest computer I have ever owned. Meanwhile, there is acually a performance boost in this change from a 13” MacBook Air (Late 2010) to a 11” MacBook Air (Mid 2011).

But, why now?

Here is what a concerned me as I made this decision: this model is nearly a year old and surely due for an imminent update. But, even so, if I waited I most likely would have purchased a refurbished previous generation. I’m content with where my 13” Air is performance-wise, I’m just looking for the slightly-smaller form factor.

Here is what influenced my decision:

  • Financially, I can do this right now.
  • I intend to purchase a Thunderbolt Display in the near future, a device my current Air cannot fully support.
  • I’ve been using AirDisplay for some as a mobile second monitor.
  • I’m going to WWDC for the first time and I want my bag to be as light as possible.

As for the last point, I’m convined that will be the ultimate week to test out the Air. I am currently the only designer on my team right now3. If an emergency should arise, I’ll have real world scenarios to put the Air through. If I find the Air does not meet my needs, I’ll have ample time to return it and revert back to the 13” I know and love.

  1. Half of the Macs I have purchased have been either used or refurbished. 🢕

  2. When Apple updated the Airs last summer, it ended up that the speced-out 11” was actually a bit more powerful than the seced-out 13”, according to AnandTech’s review🢕

  3. We’ve traditionally had two designers. 🢕