Apple Buyer's Guide: From MacBook Air To XServe - InformationWeek

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Infrastructure // PC & Servers

Apple Buyer's Guide: From MacBook Air To XServe

We compared the Mac Pro, MacBook, MacBook Pro, MacBook Air, the iMac, the Mac Mini, and XServe, to help you choose the Apple computer that's right for you.

The processor isn't as fast as much of the rest of the Mac line, but it's fast enough, a true Intel Core 2 Duo processor, running at either 1.6 GHz or 1.8 GHz, and it sips power like a miser. Included memory is good at 2 GB of 667-MHz DDR2 SDRAM standard, but there is no capacity for further expansion. The 13.3-inch glossy screen is absolutely brilliant, and the backlit full-sized keyboard and multitouch gesture-supporting trackpad are usable even in cramped quarters.

The stylish iMac desktop has a clutter-free all-in-one design.
(click for image gallery)

The battery life is good, but the nonremovable battery is perhaps the most questionable design feature in the Air -- you can't carry an extra battery for extended off-power use, and to replace it eventually you'll have to send the unit back to Apple.

But it truly does fit in a manila envelope (varies between 0.76 inches and an amazing 0.16 inches thick), weighs almost nothing (3 pounds), and is small enough to use even in a normal coach airline seat. You'll definitely want to spring for the optional external optical Superdrive (add $99 to the $1,799 starting price), as well as the USB 2.0 to Ethernet adapter ($29), since the Air has neither included. The hard drive option (80 GB) is fairly small by usual laptop standards, and the optional 64-GB solid-state drive which, along with a faster processor, takes the Air to a stratospheric $3,038, is clearly only for those who really need it or for whom price is no object. In short, the Air does not make as good a desktop replacement as either the MacBook or MacBook Pro, but for pure portability, the Air truly is on top of the world.


The new iMac looks like nothing more than a sleek Apple LCD monitor, but amazingly Apple fit the rest of the computer into the well-designed all-in-one case as well. Both the 20-inch screen model (starting at $1,199) and the higher-end 24-inch variety (starting at $1,799) are good, solid, all-around performers, providing everything a desktop user could want in one compact package, without the sprawl of clutter and wires a typical desktop offers.

With maximum 4 GB of 667-MHz SDRAM, up to a 1-TB hard drive, an 8x SuperDrive (CD/DVD burner), built-in camera, and bundled iLife software suite, the iMac provides just about everything an individual or family could need in a desktop package, minus the mess, and at a reasonable price point.

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