Who is this?

Technology Editor of Times of London until July 2010. Now swimming in the freelance shark pool, with abiding interest in games, gadgets and what it all means. If you're looking for product reviews, head elsewhere. Unless it's a really nice product. This is more of an attempt to sift out what matters from what doesn't. With a bit of gossip thrown in for good measure. I'm also learning to use Blogger as I go along, so please bear with me.

Thursday, 21 October 2010

MacBook Air too pricey? Build your own

Hmmm. The new MacBook Air.

£849 for a lightweight laptop?

Overall, it seems the verdict on last night's Apple announcement was a collective shrug of the shoulders and a worldwide picking of teeth.

Steve Jobs has always said that Apple would never produce a netbook because he didn't believe that netbooks were proper computers.

My own experience with the lovely, well built Nokia Booklet 3G bears him out. I used to take this on trips to events and shows but it was so s-l-o-w to do anything that I spent as much time swearing at it as typing on it.

I always used the constant round of tech trade shows as a way of testing laptops and netbooks, because it seemed to me that you couldn't do them justice in a lab or an office. Only when you've spent a day with one slung over your shoulder, then need it to spring swiftly into action - loading images, video and editing documents for a tight deadline -  can you hope to give it a fair run out.

In 2009, Apple loaned me a 13-inch MacBook Pro, so I took it to Germany. After one day on the show floor I thought my shoulder was going to fall off. On the plus side, it was easily the most productive machine I'd ever tested of that size. But on a rainy day, when the updates are blowing in the wrong direction, my shoulder still aches at the memory.

So, I can see the attraction of the new MacBook Air. While it's not going to break any records for speed, it will preserve soft tissue and not leave you dangling while you wait to get something done.

I do wish, however, that some of the features present on my Nokia Booklet 3G could have been incorporated into the new Air. A 3G slot, for a start. The Nokia has saved me on several occasions by allowing me to remove the SIM card from my phone, pop it into the computer and connect to the internet at no extra charge.

Apple seems reluctant to incorporate such features into its machines, preferring to push you to a new SIM card and a data deal you won't use as much as you think you will. I don't like this.

Anyway, if you have £849 and upwards to spend on a new MacBook Air, you'll probably love it to pieces, despite all the things it doesn't do.

But, if you've just spend £500 on an iPad and don't want to give the Church of Steve any more cash for a while, here's a suggestion: make your own.

For less  than £50, you can buy a carry-case for the iPad with a built-in keyboard from Amazon. It looks just like a laptop, but isn't. (Why is the image sideways? Because some PR people and photographers are half-wits, that's why.)

As long as your computer use doesn't extend much beyond web-surfing, e-mail, document writing and editing, and simple photo work, you should be fine. And you can always take the iPad out and use it as nature intended.

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