Apple sent a M1 MacBook Air for testing in late November. I’ve spent the last two months using it as my everyday mobile computer. This write-up is not a conventional product review, it’s about the experience. View it more as a glimpse into a possible mobile computing future.

At first sight there’s little to tell the new M1 MacBook Air from the most recent model that now sits in the cupboard. There was no choice. It had to go in the cupboard. If they sat side-by-side on the desk I’d need to open both (or mark one) to know which is which. From the outside they are peas in a pod.

In fact its worse that that because when I set-up the new MacBook Air, I copied all the settings from my old one. Which means the opening display on both is identical.

The only physical difference are the small icons printed on the F4, F5 and F6 function keys. You have to look to notice. They show controls for MacOS’s Spotlight search, dictation and Siri features.

A globe printed on the function key at the bottom left of the keyboard tells you this can open an emoji picker. It’s not something I ever use. That’s because I learned to use Command-Space to open Spotlight. Apart from testing that they work, I have yet to use the other new functions.

Clues

There are a few more clues to help distinguish the two MacBooks. The M1 model is much faster. We’ll come to that in a moment.

The battery goes for hours longer between charges. We’ll look at that in more depth later.

Apple’s M1 MacBook Air is cooler and quieter. There is no cooling fan. It doesn’t need one. Mind you, the fan on the older MacBook Air doesn’t kick in until you push the hardware. With my writing work, that’s not common.

I’m a journalist. I spend the bulk of my MacBook time writing. I prefer lightweight writing apps over the big, sprawling word processors. Yet there are jobs where I have to use Microsoft Word. In normal use none of the writing apps in my toolbox draw on enough resources for the cooling fan to kick in.

Goodbye humming fan

To get the fan humming I’d need to run a media creation app or do a demanding spreadsheet or database task. It also hums when playing games.

That said, the old MacBook Air can still warm up during a lengthy work session. After two months with the M1 model, I’ve yet to detect the merest hint of processor heat.

Given that I spend the bulk of my MacBook time writing, I didn’t expect to get much of a performance kick from the M1. After all, it doesn’t help me type faster.

Processor intensive

Yet, in practice there are dozens of small processor intensive tasks that now work faster. I rarely used dictation on my Mac. It wasn’t great. It is now. The new MacBook Air shows how much processor speed changes that experience.

Likewise Siri. Because I’ve been a touch typist for years I tend to use keyboard commands others might prefer speech.

Movies load faster. Complex web pages perform better. On the odd occasion where I need to edit a photo, clip audio files or chew through a lot of data it all happens at speed.

I’ve never had a problem waiting for a MacBook Air to wake-up when I open the lid. It happens in a few seconds. With the M1 model, it happens in fewer seconds. That’s not a big deal, but I like it.

Pushing Safari

The other effect is more subtle than that. I’ve learned not to have more than a handful of apps open at any given moment and to not push Safari by opening lots of tabs. That could test my old MacBook Air. These restrictions have gone. when. testing this, I got bored opening new apps and tabs long before the new Air began to struggle with the workload.

You can benchmark the new Macs to get interesting looking figures. These numbers may mean something to certain people. Yet I’d argue everyday use matters more: The new Macs offer a much improved experience. It feels more fluid, more natural, there’s less of a gap between what you might want from a computer and what you get.

One aspect of the M1 Macs that worried users was the 16GB limit for system Ram. The MacBook Air never had more Ram, but MacBook Pro models could have 32GB. Desktop Macs could have 64GB.

In the event, it’s not an issue. M1 Macs have a design that does more with less Ram.

To my surprise I found I ended up more excited and enthusiastic about the new M1 MacBook Air than expected.

The new normal

The problem with performance boosts is that higher speeds soon become normal. As an acid test, I fired up the old MacBook Air. I wanted to know different the new experience was. The test confirmed it, the M1 MacBook is much better.

There’s a link between a fast processor like the M1 in the new MacBook Air and gigabit fibre.

Few, if any, everyday applications that push a gigabit fibre connection to the limit. Yet having plenty of headroom means you’re never going hit a speed barrier. Likewise, even if you have modest computer needs, there are times when headroom is useful.

Say you’ve spent months working from home on gigabit fibre. Then, say, you return to the office and a more modest connection speed. That connection now feels laggy and flat, even though it may be fast by accepted standards.

That’s how the M1 MacBook Air feels after using the Intel model.

Battery

One reason I switched from Windows to a MacBook Air seven years ago was the improved battery life. I could get more than ten hours from the MacBook. The Windows machine it replaced struggled to do three hours.

At that time I had a job working part-time in an office. I’d take my MacBook on the bus and work a full nine-hour day without hunting for a power outlet. Two years later the MacBook could still last the entire working day. It changed how I worked.

The Air had enough battery life for a long-haul flight. Enough to work in the Koru lounge and for the trip to, say, Singapore with a few hours of down time for naps or meals.

Apple’s M1 MacBook Air almost doubles that time. I won’t be taking any long-haul flights soon, but, if I did, it would get me to Barcelona or Paris.

Working from home, I can go a couple of days without charging.

This is the start

It’s interesting to realise that Apple used its new processors first in low-end models. There are M1 models of the MacBook Air, the entry-level 13-inch MacBook Pro and the Mac Mini. The message isn’t that subtle. If Apple’s low-cost laptops are this fast, what can we expect from more expensive models?

Which leaves us with another question. How is this going to affect the Windows laptop and PC market? At the time of writing, Apple’s low-end Macs are at least a generation ahead of Windows computers. When Apple releases its Pro model computers that gap could be wider.

Let’s stop and qualify that last paragraph. The NZ$2200 eight core M1 MacBook outperforms almost every Intel-based laptop. This includes models costing twice as much. There may be faster Windows laptops out there. Good luck finding one.

Fanless

Intel can’t build a fast fanless Windows laptop. The Air is silent. If that matters to you, that’s an Apple advantage its rivals can’t match.

When I first switched back to Macs from Windows, I configured my MacBook to dual boot Windows and MacOS. I stopped doing that years ago. If there’s a spare Windows licence in my home, I can no longer find it.

Reports suggest a MacBook Air runs Windows faster than native Windows laptops. That has to rattle Intel.

Last week Intel responded with its own set of cherry-picked benchmarks in an attempt to prove… well, it’s not clear what that goal was other than to muddy the waters.

No doubt Intel will respond. But from a computer user point of view, you now need a powerful reason to choose a Windows laptop over a MacBook.

The Guardian reviewer Samuel Gibbs gives Apple’s 2020 MacBook Air five stars.

In form and function the MacBook Air is just a few shades short of the perfect traditional laptop. If you don’t want a more modern convertible, you’ll struggle to find a better consumer machine than this.

The keyboard is finally as great as the trackpad, the battery lasts long enough for a work day, it’s light but strong and the screen is beautiful, while the little things such as Touch ID work great. You also get two Thunderbolt 3 ports and a long support life.

Sure, the screen could have smaller bezels and the webcam could be better – why Apple hasn’t put its excellent Face ID into its laptops I have no idea. You can’t upgrade the RAM or storage after purchase, there’s no wifi 6 support, nor SD card slot or USB-A port, but by now most will have enough USB-C cables and accessories, and if not, now is the time to buy them.

As the headline suggests, this is a positive review. The pluses are big, niggles are minor. It squares with my long term MacBook Air experience.

I’ve used MacBook Airs for the past six years. I’m on my second one. Every member of my family now has one. They are by far the best laptop for writing and other light computing tasks. There is more than enough power for everyday users.

Apple MacBook Air 2020

Price and productivity

When I write about Apple products1 there are always readers who complain about the price.

That misses a lot of context. You’re not just buying the hardware, you are buying into a different way of using computers.

Macs come with a suite of productivity software that costs extra if you buy a Windows computer.

They also come with a complete, fully realised, this is a word I hesitate to use, ecosystem.

Apple’s world is not necessarily better or worse than what you’d get with Windows or for that matter with Android or a Chromebook. But if it suits the way you work and think, the relatively small margin you pay for an Apple will pay off immediately in terms of improved productivity.

My freelance writing business quite literally took off when I switched back to Macs from Windows.

You may experience something similar. You may also experience the same kind of improvement moving from MacOs to Windows or from anything to Linux or any other operating system. This is not a one-size-fits-all world.

What my experience says does not work, is attempting to do things on the cheap. Skimping saves you dozens or maybe hundreds of dollars. Being unable to work productively will cost you thousands.


  1. It’s not only Apple, people say similar things about any premium hardware product ↩︎

Nothing bad happened switching from the 2015 MacBook to the iPad Pro. If there were any surprises they were all good ones.

Every Friday morning I pack a computer, coffee money and a banana in a briefcase. Next I catch a bus to town where I work in a client’s office. Although I interview people, make phone calls and attend meetings, I write for most of the day.

Until three months ago my Friday-working-away-from-home computer was an Apple MacBook Air. It served me well. The MacBook Air has more than enough battery life to get through an eight-hour day. It is light, portable, has a great keyboard and runs all the apps I need.

Then I switched to a 2015 MacBook. It was a review machine borrowed from Apple. My goal to understand where the new MacBook fits into the bigger productivity picture.

Comparing MacBook keyboards

In hindsight I found the 2015 MacBook keyboard isn’t as good as the MacBook Air’s. I didn’t notice this at the time. The difference became noticeable when I returned to the MacBook Air earlier this week.

Despite what you may read in other reviews, the 2015 MacBook keyboard is fine. It just doesn’t deal with touch typing as well as the Air.

There’s not much in it. On a scale of one to ten I’d give the 2015 MacBook keyboard an eight. The MacBook Air keyboard scores nine out of ten.

To put it another way, I’ve not used a better laptop keyboard than the MacBook Air’s in recent years.

If this seems fussy, remember touch typing is what I do all day. For me this is one of the most important aspects of a portable device. A better keyboard makes writing more efficient. That’s money in the bank.

2015 MacBook battery life

The 2015 MacBook’s biggest negative is battery life. My two year old Air can no longer last for the ten hours it did when it was new. In part because I now leave wi-fi and Bluetooth on all day. Yet it still gives me well over eight hours.

From the outset the 2015 MacBook battery struggled to last the full eight hours I work in town each Friday. That Retina screen sucks juice.

For weeks I had to devise power-saving strategies such as using my phone for mail and browsing.

That’s not the best way to work and didn’t solve the problem. In the end I gave in and took the power cable with me. It wasn’t optional.

USB-C works for me

Others may whinge, but the single USB-C connector doesn’t worry me. I use Wi-Fi and Bluetooth for everything. I’ve heard people complain about the feeble processor. It doesn’t make a difference to word processing or browsing.

The Retina screen is a delight. Not that it makes any difference to my writing productivity. While the Force Touch trackpad is handy, there’s no obvious productivity gain.

I like the way there’s no fan in the 2015 MacBook. You never find yourself wondering what that strange humming noise is.

To be fair, the MacBook Air rarely uses its fan. Sorry to sound repetitive, this also has nothing to do with productivity.

Apple iPad Pro 2015
Apple iPad Pro

A bigger advantage was the 2015 MacBook’s reduced weight and size. Having less to carry in my brief case may not sound like a big deal, it always felt like a bonus during the commute. It’s a more of a benefit when travelling on an airplane.

Even so, on balance the lower-priced MacBook Air is a better option for my Friday work. That’s clear now after three months with the 2015 MacBook. There’s not much in it, productivity and battery life trump smaller and lighter. Your requirements may differ.

Enter the iPad Pro

When the review iPad Pro arrived I wasn’t sure where it would fit in the productivity picture. At first I doubted I would want to use an iOS device as my Friday computer for the next three months.

I worried about the lack of a trackpad, about the keyboard and what iOS might mean in practice. There was a fear I may not be able to use all the apps I need.

Despite these worries, I took the iPad Pro with me for my regular Friday gig. I decided if the first week was a disaster, I could always switch back to the Air.

Rivals the MacBook

In the event, the iPad Pro was anything but a disaster. It proved a great Friday computer. The iPad Pro could be better than the 2015 MacBook for working away from home.

My iPad Pro is the cellular version. I’ll write more about that in another post. It weighs 723 grams. The Smart Keyboard adds another 330 grams. My 13-inch MacBook Air weighs 1.35 kilograms. The 2015 MacBook is 920 grams.

The iPad Pro is larger than the 2015 MacBook. With a connected Smart Keyboard, it is about the same size as the MacBook Air.

In practice the iPad Pro is as portable as the 2015 MacBook. It puts any extra size and weight to good use. At 12.9 inches, the display is larger than the 12-inch display on the 2015 MacBook. It has more pixels, 2732-by–2048 compared with 2304-by–1440.

A beautiful view

This makes more difference than you might suspect. I get a better overview of my words and can read them better on the bigger screen. The text is clearer, crisper. It makes proofing easier, which means improved quality.

You would need to buy a lot more laptop to get a screen like this. Microsoft’s Surface Pro 4 gets close with its 2736-by–1824 resolution across 12.3 inches. The result is better all-round writing productivity.

The iOS 9 slide-over feature makes multitasking practical. I’m no fan of doing more than one thing at a time. Being able to read, say, an email brief while working on a story is useful.

Keyboards

On Friday I used the Smart Keyboard. If I didn’t have that, the larger iPad screen can display a full-size qwerty keyboard. At NZ$319, the Smart Keyboard is expensive. Even so it is a better option than on-screen typing for all but the shortest jobs.

Thanks to the iPad Pro’s large size, the on-screen keyboard is full-size. There’s no tactile feedback, so it’s tricky, not impossible, for touch-typing. It’s the best screen keyboard I’ve ever seen, even so, you wouldn’t want to write War and Peace on it. It’s fine for quick notes.

There are some similarities between Apple’s Smart Keyboard and the Microsoft Surface Pro Keyboards. The keyboard uses the same switches found in the 2015 MacBook keyboard. Instead of the MacBook’s butterfly mechanism, the Smart Keyboard use a custom-designed fabric. When you type, the fabric’s springiness provides the action.

I didn’t have problems with the Smart Keyboard. While it’s not as comfortable as typing on the MacBook Air, it isn’t bad. I’d rate it eight out of ten. On Friday I wrote a little over 1000 words without a slip. Let’s see what I think in a few weeks.

Say it loud

Compared with the MacBook, the iPad Pro has loud loudspeakers. There are four channels of sound, so music plays better than you’d expect from such a thin device. It can be surprising the first time you hear it, even more surprising if you hold the tablet and feel the bass notes vibrating.

One of the biggest criticisms against the iPad Pro is the lack of quality business apps. Although there is no shortage of good iOS apps, few are optimised for the bigger format. My work is writing, so I need word processors. There is no shortage of choice in that department.

On Friday I wrote stories using Apple’s Pages word processor then converted them to Word format before sending. I could have written in Word, the iOS version is excellent. Where practical, I prefer writing in Markdown. My licences for Byword and iA Writer work on the iPad Pro. Both apps are great on the Pro — I’m writing this using iA Writer.

Still an iPad

Apple avoided creating a hybrid device. The iPad Pro is still an iPad. It doesn’t aim to be a PC on the desktop and a tablet on the couch, like, say, Microsoft’s Surface Pro. That’s not a good or a bad thing. It just is.

There are no business apps that I need, that don’t work on the iPad Pro. There are other things that I want to do that work better on OS X or Windows. Last week I needed to deal with data on the family NAS drive — that’s not something the iPad can manage well. I also had to install fresh firmware on a router, the job required an Ethernet-connected PC.

Still the iPad Pro is big. It is fast. And it can do a lot of things that might not be practical on smaller, slower tablets. So far I’ve found it can replace my laptop for my core business applications. It is a great writing tool. I can use it to earn my living. And that’s what matters most to me.

iPhone 6

There are times when even the lightest, slimmest laptop is more than you want to carry. And times when there’s not enough room to use a MacBook Air. That’s when an iPhone 6 Plus is useful.

Earlier this month I tried to work with my 13-inch MacBook Air while flying in economy class. Although the tray-table had room for the computer, there wasn’t enough space to type.

Break out the iPhone 6 Plus

I’ve been using the iPhone 6 Plus for six months now. It’s a good size for two thumb typing. The text shows large enough to check your work, although that depends on the writing app you use at the time. Best of all, the screen shows enough words for you to understand the context of what you are writing.

The iPhone 6 Plus is the best writing tool that fits in a pocket. I’ve used it to edit, update or finish off news stories while traveling on Auckland buses and ferries or sitting in cafes. This was the first time, other than artificial review-style tests, when I needed to write long-form journalism on the phone.

Normally I find the iPhone 6 Plus is fine for emails, admin and short bursts of text, but prefer something with a physical keyboard for longer writing jobs.

There were deadlines to worry about so I decided to push the technology beyond my comfort zone. I wrote a lengthy feature, two news stories and two detailed article outlines during the flight.

Plenty of good iOS writing apps

There’s no shortage of iOS writing tools to choose from. I had five loaded on the phone. So I took the opportunity to try them all.

All my iOS writing apps have clean user interfaces and all work with OS X as well. That last point is important.

Byword is the cleanest, perhaps that’s why it is my favourite. I find the simplicity is well suited to iPhone two thumb typing. It uses Markdown to embed codes like bold or headline levels in what is otherwise plain text. Best of all Byword documents are easy to read while you are editing.

Microsoft Word and Apple’s Pages iOS app performed just as well in the cramped conditions. It’s good to know serious productivity is possible in such circumstances.

Sideways scrolling with Google Docs

Google Docs didn’t do as well. It’s clean and straightforward, but I couldn’t discover how to restrict the page width on the phone, so found myself continually scrolling right to left and back again.

Maybe that’s avoidable. Sitting on a plane isn’t the best place to learn how to use unfamiliar software.

iA Writer is an old favourite that didn’t fare well as expected in my enforced iPhone writing test. Although the software works fine, I found the typewriter-like font it uses is difficult to read on the small screen.

Thumbs up to iPhone 6 Plus writing in an emergency

To my surprise I managed to write more than 1500 words with my thumbs during the journey. There was barely any physical discomfort, despite writing in such cramped conditions.

The onscreen keyboard wasn’t a problem. In practice I found using the keyboard in the portrait position, that’s holding the phone upright, worked far better. When you tip the iPhone 6 Plus on its side there’s a bigger onscreen keyboard with more keys, It was harder to use and took up too much of the display to be practical.

The biggest annoyance was constantly switching between the working document and reference notes.

When I got to my hotel thanks to the magic of Bluetooth, Continuity, WiFi and iCloud my iPhone output was available on my MacBook almost immediately. Microsoft’s OneDrive was the laggard at synching. It took minutes while iCloud and Google Docs took seconds.

Error prone after MacBook Air

Some of the work looked just fine. However, I noticed a couple of plane-written documents were riddled with typos and other errors. This has always been my experience with iPhones, they cope well with simple writing, but the small screen makes them imperfect tools for proofreading. I make a lot more errors than when I type on my MacBook Air keyboard.

The Google Docs document was in worst shape. I put that down to the horizontal scrolling problem. That made checking my work on the go next to impossible.

Lesson: iPhone writing works, not ideal

Overall I was happy with the experience. Battery life wasn’t an issue, there were no ergonomic headaches, the device worked well in the circumstances. About an hour into the experiment I wondered if an external Bluetooth keyboard would help my productivity. An hour later I was convinced that wouldn’t solve anything and would undermine the usefulness of a writing device that fits in a pocket.

I didn’t get as much done as I might have done with the MacBook Air. But I got far more done that if I read a magazine or watched in-flight movies.

Better still, I managed to hit the deadlines. That wouldn’t have been possible without the iPhone 6 Plus. I estimate I worked at about three-quarters my normal speed, allow a bit more for the extra corrections needed and that’s still a productive flight.

Apple Macbook AirLast June I switched from a Windows 8 desktop, without a touch screen, to an Apple MacBook Air.

Four reasons prompted the move:

  • For the first time in ages I needed portability and my older Windows laptop was too long in the tooth.
  • After looking at and test-driving UltraBooks I saw Apple’s 2013 MacBook Air cost the same as a comparable Windows 8 PC. In the event I picked up a 13-inch Apple MacBook Air with a 256 GB solid state drive for NZ$1700.
  • I’d been using an Apple iPad for a year and an iPhone for a few months. It was clear Apple’s technology stack suits the way I work.
  • The MacBook Air’s thin, light design was important but more than anything I couldn’t go past its claimed 12-hour battery life

How did it work out?

Portability

Although I didn’t work away from home as often as expected, when I did, the MacBook Air’s thin, light design  was everything I hoped for. It did service at four or five away from home conferences and many client offices around Auckland. I also used it on planes and in cafes.

Because I’m a journalist, I need a decent keyboard and a good, readable screen. Windows UltraBooks offer  similar hardware, to date no-one has improved on the six-year-old MacBook Air format.

MacBook Air all-day battery

Battery life isn’t what it was. A year ago I could work more than ten hours on a single charge. Today there’s still enough juice to last a whole day away from home. I get about eight hours out of the MacBook Air now.

I rarely feel the need to pack a power supply when I’m working in someone’s office which means I can slip the computer into a neat leather case.

In part the shorter time is because battery life declines over time. However, I’ve changed the settings and now crank up the screen brightness which drains power faster. I also tend to leave Bluetooth and Wi-Fi on even when I’m not using them.

Even  so, I’d say Apple delivered on its battery life promise.

Keyboard, screen

I worried about ergonomic problems when I moved from a Windows desktop with full keyboard to the MacBook Air. There were none. Even when I ran into serious eye problems earlier this year, the MacBook and its ability to zoom was just fine.

Some complain the MacBook Air doesn’t have the high-resolution Retina display found on the iPad Air or the MacBook Pro. Presumably a big increase in pixels would push the battery harder — I prefer to stick with the existing display.

One other point, the MacBook Air’s 3:4 format screen is better for writing than the thinner postbox-shaped displays found elsewhere.

OS X, applications

Moving from Windows to OS X didn’t present any serious problems. A year on I still have to look up how to do obscure, rarely performed tasks on the Macintosh operating system. But I didn’t experience any hiccups. OS X is stable, I can go a long time between reboots and I’m not always sure they are necessary anyway.

Microsoft makes it easy to switch from Windows to OS X. My Office 365 subscription means I have to put up with out-of-date Office apps.

When I wrote Two months with the MacBook Air I said:

The 2011 Mac version of Microsoft Office is a disappointment after the 2013 Windows version. I find myself using it less and less preferring other tools. Unless Microsoft fixes this, I won’t renew my Office 365 subscription when it lapses early next year.

That didn’t happen because my Office 365 licence is shared with the other computers at home and my iPad, iPhone and Windows Phone. Damn it, Office 365 is too good a deal. And anyway Microsoft says a refresh is due soon. Maybe. In the meantime, I’ve been using Apple’s iWorks software.

What happened since buying the MacBook Air?

Microsoft’s first generation Surface devices were on sale when I bought my MacBook Air. I passed over these because the original RT Surface was underpowered and the first generation Surface Pro was both a touch underpowered and overpriced.

Although Chromebooks are not ideal tools for journalists and professional writers, their throwaway price and ridiculously low management overheads make them worth thinking about. OK. I’ve stopped thinking about them. The keyboards, screens and writing software are not up to the job. Let’s move on.

To me the Surface sits somewhere between the MacBook Air and the iPad. It’s a tablet, but the letter box-shaped Window means it’s not so comfortable switching between portrait and landscape modes. It’s a tablet, but I bet few Surface owners choose not to buy the optional keyboard.

Microsoft Surface

In practice Surface feels more like a touch screen laptop. I’ve nothing against touch screens. They have their place, but when you bang out words for a living, you don’t want to move your fingers too often from the keyboard to the screen. When I spent time with a Surface I ended up with horrible wrist pains from that action.

Despite all that, second generation Surface devices — and more recently the Surface Pro 3 — are fine alternatives to the MacBook Air. Surface would be my second choice behind a new MacBook Air.

Three things give the MacBook Air an edge:

  • A better, squarer display is important for writing. I need to see more lines of text and not a greater width of text. Incidentally, it’s harder to proofread across a wide measure. And the 13-inch screen makes for better writing productivity.
  • Microsoft’s newer Type Cover 2 keyboards are better than most tablet add-ons, but they are not as good for my kind of bashing out words typing style as the MacBook’s keyboard. Also, having the keyboard as an add-on means there’s something that conceivably could get left behind. I can’t risk that.
  • Microsoft’s Surface makes the MacBook Air look inexpensive. A 2014 MacBook Air with 13-inch screen and 256GB storage costs NZ$1650. A Surface Pro 3 with the same storage and a typewriter style keyboard is 25 percent more expensive at NZ$2077.

One year on

So far I’ve not mentioned what is perhaps the most important aspect of owning any work computer: productivity.

Life with the MacBook Air is more straightforward than my time with Windows. I doubt I’ve spent more than an hour or two doing anything resembling maintenance since I got the computer. In contrast I spent a couple of hours last week fixing a minor problem on my daughter’s Windows laptop.

The hours I’ve regained are more than worth the price of the computer.

At the same time, OS X does better at getting out-of-the-way than Windows. There’s a better focus on the user interface and that leads to greater productivity. On the flip side, there’s less flexibility, but that’s not what I look for in a work tool.

After one year I’m still convinced I made the right decision with the MacBook Air. I’d certainly buy another, perhaps after the next refresh or the one after that.

Battery Diag MacBook Air

Ironically, because the Apple McBook Air has a longer battery life than earlier laptops, there’s more need to watch how much juice is still in the tank.

In the old days you just knew you didn’t have much time left. With ten hours or so of computing from a single charge, it’s easier to lose track.

Battery Diag from the Mac App Store is a the best tool I’ve seen for monitoring the battery. It’s free and pretty, with a design that echoes the iOS 7 design found on iPads and iPhones.

The app runs in the menu bar, so you can get at it quickly, it sips resources and stays out-of-the-way until needed.

Click on the menu bar icon to get a report on the amount of power left both as a percentage and as a time estimate. There’s also an indicator showing the state of battery health and number of charge cycles. Further information, including battery temperature and power usage is hidden behind an I icon.

The clever bit is that if you’re running out of juice, you can tinker with your open apps and usage to trim the power drain and extend the time remaining.

Recommended.

Battery Diag 

Snugg MacBook Air Leather caseThere’s nothing complicated about the Snugg MacBook Air 13-inch case but that’s a good thing. It’s a closely fitting leather envelope protecting the computer from knocks, scratches and spills.

Although the case is minimal adding little in the way of bulk or weight to the MacBook Air, it is not quite featureless.

Three magnets sit in the flap making it easier to close — and stay closed. A soft material called nubuck covers the inside the case making it easy to slip the computer in and out.

There’s a cardholder that’s big enough to carry large-sized paper business cards, but not big enough for a credit card. A pocket on th the back is large enough to hold a few sheets of A4 paper, maybe a brochure or, when I’m at a press conference, a media kit.

Snugg 13-inch MacBook Air case design

When viewed from the front, there’s a cut out on the left-hand size that allows you to charge the computer without removing it from the sleeve. I thought this was unnecessary until I used the feature one night in a hotel room.

The review case is made of business-like black leather. That suits me fine. Apart from anything else it is anonymous. I can leave my MacBook in the case on the back seat of my car and it looks more like it holds boring documents than a stealable computer.

If you find black too corporate, there’s a choice of nine colours in total including two shades of pink.

If there is an omission, it’s that Snugg’s case doesn’t leave enough room to carry a power supply. My MacBook Air runs for better than eight hours on a single charge. This means the case works best for short trips. It’s perfect for running around town or a day return flight from, say, Auckland to Wellington or Christchurch.

Snugg also makes a leather iPad case.