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Macbook Air: It's for real

When the original Macbook Air was released, I was crushed. 
I thought it might be the ultimate VO2Go laptop computer, but due to several shortcomings, primarily the inclusion of a single USB port, it was a completely unsuitable, let alone over priced.  Steve Jobs surprised everyone with the announcement of the re-invention of the Macbook Air, and let me tell you, this time Apple got it right.  This truly is the netbook that we were promised never to see from Apple.   OK, that's not entirely true, but let me explain...
When netbooks came onto the scene, their small size, affordable price, and solid state drives made them winners.  I quickly adopted the use of netbooks for VO2Go kits because beyond size, they performed adequately for the needs of most voice-actors.  Netbooks do have shortcomings, mainly in the lousy keyboard layout and noisy fan that spools up quickly to handle almost any load on the tiny Intel Atom processor.   Dell's Mini 10 came the closest to perfection, when they briefly produced a model with zero moving parts:  No spinning hard drive, no fan, total silence.  But for whatever reason, perhaps the relentless price battle for cheap netbooks, they removed the option to include an SSD (solid state drive).   Even with a spinning drive, they are still a great option and operate nearly silently, but battery life and performance suffers.
To be fair, the Macbook Air is in a different class than a true netbook.  By definition netbooks almost unanimously utilize an Intel Atom 1.6Ghz single core processor, a maximum of 2GB of memory (1GB typical), and a 160GB harddrive.  The MBA's entry level model has an Intel Core 2 Duo 1.4Ghz processor and 2GB of memory, with the option to upgrade to 4GB, the critical two USB ports, an mini displayport, a webcam, 802.11 b/g/n WIFI (the fast kind), and a 64GB SSD.  Beyond that, it runs the (what I consider superior) Mac OS operating system, and is built with the quality that Apple is known for.  It's thin and incredibly light, but doesn't feel flimsy at all.  The keyboard is no smaller than that on any other Macbook, and the trackpad is large and easy to use.   It lacks an internal DVD drive, like all netbooks, and in most cases you won't miss it.  If you do something as nutty as install Windows 7 (yep, I did), get the DVD Superdrive from Apple for $80 and make life easy.  
What really blew me away when I finally got my hands on one setting it up Bill Ratner was the snappy performance!  While on paper it doesn't sound all that impressive for a $1000 laptop, don't let that CPU speed fool you.  Ghz is only a part of the equation, which became evident when I first booted the laptop from off to desktop in under 20 seconds.  While RAM (memory) also plays another large role in performance, it still takes a long time to load all of the operating system and applications into RAM from the comparitively snail-paced hard drive.  The SSD reads and writes bits of information VERY fast, and makes the MBA in day to day use feel like a much higher spec'd Macbook Pro or iMac. 
I can go out on a limb and say that you could use this as your every day computer at home and on the road.  Yes, an 11" screen is pretty darn tiny for office use, but just connect a 24" LCD display for $200, problem solved.  All you need is the mini displayport to HDMI adapter and HDMI cable and you're set.  Store all of your audio on an external USB drive, 1 TB units are under $100, and storage is not a problem.  You get the best of both worlds with the lightning fast SSD for the OS and cavernous size of the USB hard drive for audio.  It also wakes from sleep almost instantly, like an iPad, and can use any USB audio device, NOT like an iPad.  I was surprised to see that it DOES have a fan, but you can only hear it if you place your ear directly to the vent by the screen hinge.  Brilliant.  
In the case of the system I setup for Bill Ratner, we loaded Windows 7 with the Bootcamp utility.  This gives him the option to boot the Macbook Air into Mac OS or Windows 7.  The ONLY reason to do this would be to run a special app that must have a native Windows OS running, AudioTX Communicator being the culprit here.  Bill likes having options and redundancy, so he's got that covered running ATX in Windows and Source Connect Pro or Twisted Wave in Mac OS.  With a Sprint 4G USB modem installed, Bill can work wirelessly anywhere via Source Connect or ATX, depending on the data speeds he can get at the location.  With a Shure X2u in one USB port, and a USB hub in the other carrying the load of the modem, iLok dongle, and USB mouse, the Macbook Air doesn't break a sweat. 

Special thanks goes out to Beau Weaver, our voice-over geek guru in the field, who gave me his full report on his Macbook Air experiences within days of its release to the public.  It wouldn't have been as brain-dead easy (and risk-free) to setup for Bill if not for Beau's first-hand experiments and thorough report.