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Style Over Everything

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Contrary to what some of my readers think, the TrustedReviews office is not populated by blindly loyal Apple fans. OK, so three of us went to the trouble of unlocking US iPhones, and many of us consider Mac OS to be an infinitely better operating system than Windows, but that doesn't mean that we'll blindly laud every Apple product that spawns forth from Mr Jobs' loins. A case in point is yesterdays launch of the MacBook Air - if ever there was an exercise in style over substance then this is it!

It seems that the design team at Apple were so obsessed with creating something as thin as physically possible, that they forgot to squeeze the features into that svelte chassis. At just under 2cm thick at its thickest point, the MacBook Air is undeniably thin, but I can't help but view it with a sense of déjà vu. Back in 2004 I reviewed the Sony VAIO X505VP, which was also about 2cm thick, and caused much wanting and longing among technology enthusiasts, myself included. So, if Apple is looking for plaudits for creating a super-slim notebook, it's about four years too late. Add to this the fact that the Sony X505VP weighed only 822g, compared to the MacBook Air at 1.36kg.
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Putting the size and weight comparisons with the VAIO X505VP to one side, Apple has brought a woefully under-featured notebook to market in the shape of the MacBook Air. The fact that the MacBook Air lacks an optical drive doesn't bother me so much, despite the fact that the smaller and lighter Sony VAIO TZ series has an integrated DVD writer. The Sony TZ is simply a special case, and the vast majority of ultra-portable notebooks ship sans optical drive. But having no Ethernet port? That's just lunacy!

Apple's reasoning (read excuse) for not having an Ethernet port is that 802.11n is a better option than wired Ethernet. Now, I'll admit that Draft-N is a very capable wireless networking protocol, but it would appear that Mr Jobs has never tried to get online in the Press room at CES. Trying to get a stable wireless connection in a confined area with literally thousands of 2.4GHz devices all transmitting is, as Mia Wallace would say, an exercise in futility. Anyone with a modicum of sense will find the nearest Ethernet cable and plug it into their notebook - not an option with the MacBook Air. OK, so you can buy a USB to Ethernet adapter, but that's adding cost and highlighting another major issue.
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The Sony X505VP was just as slim and far lighter almost four years ago.

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Almost as unbelievable as the lack of an Ethernet port is the fact that a 13.1in notebook only sports a single USB port. Even the tiniest ultra-portables that I've reviewed manage to squeeze in two USB ports, in fact even the old VAIO X505VP had two USB ports. So, assuming that you're having to use the USB to Ethernet adapter, that means that you haven't got a USB port free to use, say, an external mouse as I do when I've got a lot of work to do. You can't even plug in an external optical drive to read a disc without unplugging from the network. The obvious answer would be to carry a USB hub with you, but then you're adding more bulk and weight to your mobile setup and potentially beginning to negate the point of an ultra-portable machine in the first place.

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