Apple’s products are usually more expensive than competitors. The iPad costs a pretty penny, the Apple Watch is twice the price of leading Android smartwatches, and the company even charges developers $100 a year for the privilege of using its app stores.
However, the MacBook Air is different from all this. It actually is better value for money than any Windows laptop at that price.
I’ve been a Windows user for ages and always criticized the famed “Apple Tax”, but when I wanted to buy a new laptop, I found myself in a peculiar position. None of the Windows laptops in the same price range as the MacBook Air offered all of its myriad selling points in a single package.
Unbeatable Battery Life
Go to any technology press conference, or just watch a recorded conference online. You’ll see a dark room full of journalists with a glowing Apple logo on virtually every lap. For several years now, the MacBook Air has been the weapon of choice for travelling professionals because no Windows laptop offers the battery life that it does, in such a compact size.
Recently, only the Dell XPS 13 has offered a fight, but it costs a few hundred dollars more. Things changed since the introduction of some new Chromebooks, which finally have comparable battery life in the same form factor, but there are other sacrifices you have to make in the process. However, if you calibrate and maintain your MacBook battery, you’ll never feel let down.
Portability and Durability
Apart from the battery, the lightweight nature and small form factor makes the Air perfect for lugging around wherever you go. The weight is negligible, but more importantly Apple’s uncompromising build quality is what makes you not fret about carrying it on the road. So far, I’ve lost count of how many times I have dropped my MacBook Air—and I don’t use a cover.
It has survived a glass of beer spilling on it. It has been exposed to unrelenting dust and heat, as well as multiple outings to the beach. It continues to soldier on in a house full of furry cats and a livewire puppy. All of the Chromebooks I have used (and I have tested quite a few) don’t inspire the same confidence in their build quality, and I have had the HP Chromebook die on me after a drop.
Knowing that your laptop will weather most storms instills the confidence you need from your main work device. Plus, it’s easy on the eyes too.
Reliability is a key aspect of any good purchase. Naturally, the hardware is durable and the impressive battery life means you know it’ll turn on when you lift the screen. But we often forget about the software, and some of the best is pre-installed. As much as I like Windows and use it on my primary desktop PC, I have to admit that Mac OS X is the stable option I choose in crunch situations.
If I’m on a tight deadline, I can’t risk Windows freezing or crashing on me, which has happened with far more frequency than OS X. It’s not that OS X is infallible, it has crashed on me too; but when you’re under pressure, it’s all about likelihood of failure and trust. I’ll trust OS X to not fail. I don’t yet have the same faith in Windows.
The Mac vs. Windows war is a little silly. In terms of usability, neither operating system is clearly superior. Both have enough great features, and the OS you are more accustomed to is the one you will prefer using (and switching is not a big deal). Don’t bother fighting about that.
Smart Money Decisions
Unlike most other laptops, the MacBook Air enjoys a high resale value mainly due to the aforementioned reasons of reliability and build quality. Apple makes it easy to exchange your old MacBook Air for a new model, but you could also sell your second-hand laptop for a pretty price.
It also works the other way around too. The reasons that give the MacBook Air a high resale value also make it a great second-hand purchase. If you’re on a budget, check out these three great stores for refurbished MacBooks. If you buy used, run through a few exercises to speed up that old MacBook and you’ll be glad you made that decision.
With money, there’s also the software argument again. If you want to buy a Windows laptop, you’ll need to spend a good chunk of additional dough for Microsoft Office, unless you want to use free Office alternatives. Apple throws in the entire iWork and iLife suites for free.
Things to Watch Out For
We’re painting a pretty picture here, but let’s be fair, not everything is hunky dory with the MacBook Air. There are a few major sacrifices you will have to live with:
- No touchscreen.
- Expensive proprietary chargers and cables.
- Not as easy for DIY fixes and upgrades.
- No optical drive (but that’s not a problem).
- Not a good gaming experience. In fact, gaming shouldn’t be a priority if you want to buy a MacBook Air.
The Bottom Line
None of these are deal-breakers because the battery life and portability far outweigh the drawbacks. Ask yourself right now: why are you looking to buy a new laptop? Chances are, it’s because your battery is running out quickly, you’re finding the device a little slow, or you want something more portable. That’s what the MacBook Air will give you.
These same three factors are big draws of Google’s Chromebooks. Then again, you don’t get a full-fledged desktop operating system and you miss out on fantastic OS X apps.
Still, we’re curious to know what you think. Are the low-cost Chromebooks tempting you away from the MacBook Air? Are there any fantastic Windows laptops that you would rather buy at the same price? Maybe even the Surface? It’s time to start debating in the comments!