Updated with battery life stats, by popular demand. We can all agree that the MacBook Air is a slick-looking little laptop. It's so thin! You can't argue with that! But if you're in the market for a small, high-performance laptop, is it the best option? I pored over specs for four similarly positioned and more-or-less similarly priced laptops to see if you'll get your $2,500 worth out of the Air. Let's go to the chart, shall we?
It turns out that, surprise surprise, you pay a premium for a tiny form factor. The MacBook Air is seriously expensive for the guts you get inside, but Apple isn't the only company guilty of charging insane amounts for smaller computers. Just look at the Sony Vaio TZ150N, for example. $2,999 for a 1.06 GHz processor? Are you kidding me? I don't care how small, it's still a rip-off.
The best deal—if you don't mind an extra pound of weight and half-inch of thickness—is the Dell XPS M1330. It bests the MacBook Air in nearly every single category, delivering about 30% more processing power, 50% more memory, over 300% more hard drive space, plus a dedicated graphics card. All of this, for $500 less. But also, two hours less of battery life, thanks to the new smaller and more efficient Core 2 Duo processor in the MacBook Air.
But it's really no surprise that a form factor as striking as the MacBook Air's warrants a premium price. Super-slim and light laptops as a category have yet to come down from the stratosphere, dollar-wise. It's a form factor that SSD just makes loads of sense for, lightening them up and cutting down on battery life, but that drives the price up even further for the time being. Chips are still getting smaller and screen technology keeps improving. In a couple of years, these form factors will be reasonably priced with great specs, but until then, prepare to pay a huge chunk more for a bit less power, just so you can brag about having the thinnest computer on the block.