Today, we continue our discussion of the MacBook Air. In Part One, we discussed choosing the right size and configuration, and talked about functional cases in Part Two. Today, I’d like to talk to you about battery options. But first, let’s start with storage.
Some of the things that distinguish the MacBook Air are its portability and small size, but these are also its curse. As I said in the first segment, the problem is that going from a 128 GB SSD to a 256 GB is $300, and the read/write times on the 128 are actually faster. (This is currently the case with my 11.6 inch MacBook Air, 2011 release.) I would submit that if you are going to need the faster processing and larger size SSD, that you wait for the prices to come down. Even now, you can buy SSD’s that can be retrofitted.
For those of us who don’t want to break open our pretty, new MacBook Airs, there are other options, which come in the form of external hard drives. In the past, hard drives were quite expensive, but drops in price and increases in capacity have made them a viable and economical option.
I like the Verbatim Leather Wallet 640GB 3.0 USB Portable Hard Drive for several reasons. It is a USB 3 hard drive, and it is also a SATA hard drive. You can plug a SATA cable into the drive, or it comes with its own SATA cable with a USB plug, so you can connect it to any standard USB port. And of course, if you have a computer running USB 3, it’s really going to fly. When I was looking for a hard drive, I was looking for something that is small, inexpensive, and has a large amount of storage, which is exactly what I found in this device. It is important to note that there are a few different models, including a USB 2.0 version, so using the above link will make sure you get to the one I’ve discussed here. I originally saw this drive at the airport for $170, and fell in love with it, but wanted to find it at a lower price. As I said, the drive has a 640 GB capacity, fits in a shirt pocket, and is wrapped in leather, and it’s only $68. Ironically, the USB 2.0 version is $86.
As I’ve mentioned before, I have my SSD split into two, so I have BootCamp with Windows 7 64-bit on one partition and Lion on the other. Considering that I have 60-some gig on each side to play with, that’s not a whole lot when dealing with either Windows or Lion. So when I’m home, I keep it plugged into my desktop, and I perform a backup frequently. Then, when I am traveling, I take it out of the computer, put it in the case with the laptop, and I’m all set. Whenever I need something, which isn’t all that often, this is perfect. I had the opportunity to use this awhile back when I was doing something and I blew some drivers away, and had to go back to the original BootCamp which I kept on the drive. The drive has been amazing because it helps when I need the extra space, but I didn’t have to invest in the bigger SSD. It doesn’t drain my battery a lot, and I can store things quickly. I highly recommend this particular Verbatim Drive because it’s rugged, it looks good, it feels good in the hand, and it’s economical and fast.
And now that we have a way to efficiently back up, let’s explore some power options. First, we’re going to talk about the Duracell DRINVP175 175W Pocket Inverter with 2.1 Amp USB Port. This is a power inverter, and one nice thing about it is that it is about $50 cheaper than an adapter specifically designed for the MacBook Air. It also has the advantage that it gives you access to a 3-prong outlet. You can even plug in a power strip for multiple devices. This inverter is sleek, small, and ideal for use in a vehicle or plane. At $43, this is an unbeatable price, especially when compared to our next device.
The QuickerTek External Battery For All of Apple Inc.’s MacBook Air is priced at $399. This is a situation where the thinking is that if you have a MacBook Air, you’ve got beaucoup bucks. I’m sure this device is awesome, but I didn’t buy one. $400 for a battery that’s going to give me 6-10 hours of additional use from the MacBook Air is more than I need. Because of all the available devices, and because they can do so many things, I don’t need that many hours of charging time when I’m on the move. I would assume that if you do, $400 is a good price to pay, but before you do, it’s a good idea to consider all your options. This one is a lot of money, and it’s heavy! At a pound and a half, it weighs as much as the MacBook Air and requires a special Mac adapter. I’ve put it here for the sake of full disclosure. But in the type of connected world in which we live, in most cases, we are rarely disconnected from power for any length of time. By dimming my screen, I get approximately 5.5 hours of battery life on Windows or Lion. For the most part, this more than meets my needs.
The next device is the Energizer XP18000 Universal AC Adapter with External Battery for Laptops, Netbooks, and More. The thing about this is that, much like the power inverter, it is open, so you can use it with your laptop, netbook, or Mac. At $143, it is a little expensive, but could be great if it is something you need. If you opt to use one of these, you’ll need to consider the overall strategy of how you use the device. It might or might not all fit in the Waterfield Designs case I reviewed earlier. That is a small case for essentials. If you carry a small arsenal of stuff, you might consider a larger case. It seems to me that this would fit the ticket much better than the $399 battery. Personally, I carry the power inverter because I don’t have much need of a battery. The inverter is the right price, and can be great if you are in a pickle and really need to plug in your device.
Finally, I am still just as enamored with the MacBook Air today. I know that some time has passed due to the death of Steve Jobs and also the Amazon Kindle Fire fiasco, but I’m just as excited about this computer. In the fifteen or so years I’ve been carrying portable devices, this is one of my favorites, and the price was worth every penny.
In part four of this discussion, we’re going to talk about the one question I keep getting over and over and over. The MacBook Air is a great device, but the iPad II is considered by many a productivity tool. So which should you get, and are they equal? Please do send in your questions. We’re also going to have a few other people who have MacBook Airs on the next podcast to talk about their experiences.
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