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For some reason we were never able to get hold of a first generation MacBook Air. That's hardly surprising; I'm entirely sure Apple knew full well it was over-priced, under-featured and would nonetheless sell simply on the basis of it being, first, a new Apple product and, second, an awesome thing to behold.
Apple didn't need to explain to those who could afford one why they should buy a MacBook Air. As a money-no-object design statement to show off in Starbucks, the Air still has few rivals.
Still, the first generation Air took a lot of flack. It's use of PATA drives made the SSD version no faster, despite the extra cost, battery life was pretty poor and a number of users reported problems with the hinges breaking on their systems.
The answer from Apple is the second revision of the MacBook Air, using nVidia's 9400M chipset, as now sported by the entire MacBook range, giving a much needed update to the Air's internals along with an even more needed price drop.
That's not to say that the MacBook Air isn't still very expensive. Two configurations are available, one with a 1.83Ghz CPU and a 120GB hard drive costs £1,149 with an upgrade to a 2.13GHz CPU and a 128GB SSD pushing the price to £1,349. By anyone's standards that's expensive, and it keeps the Air out of the reach of the average consumer.
As such, common convention would have you believe that those considering the MacBook Air are either more concerned with having an enviable laptop with which to impress (or make jealous) friends and colleagues, or simply have more money than sense.
The thing is, I'm not sure that's true.
The MacBook Air is decidedly not without precedent or rival. Sony beat Apple to the punch by leagues, with the X505VP - launched in 2004 - as well as its (at least spiritual, if not literal) successors, the T2XP, TX1XP, TX2XP, TX3XP, Vaio TZ, and the Vaio TT. Not only are Sony's ultra-portables more portable - thank's to their smaller chassis - than the Air, but ever since the T2XP they've also come with built-in disc drives; not to mention that they provide many hours more battery life than any other laptop, even besting most netbooks. And while I think the TT is the least desirable ultra-portable Sony has made to date, I still can't think of any other laptop I'd trade my TZ for; save perhaps a MacBook Air.