Setting up a new computer used to entail hours of installing programs, copying data and, worst of all, getting back all your settings so make sure your desktop is just as you like it. Apple's Migration Assistant takes care of all this, as I was reminded yesterday when a brand-new 11-in MacBook Air arrived at MacFilos Towers.
It really is a breeze. After switching on the Air and plugging in the power supply I simply connected an ethernet cable between my MacBook Pro and the new device. Since the Air has no FireWire port, your options are limited to ethernet or wireless network. Both work equally well, but ethernet is faster. The Air also lacks an ethernet port, but Apple sell a USB ethernet adaptor for £25 and this works faultlessly.
Once you have entered the PIN number supplied by the receiving computer into the Migration Assistant box on the donor, transfer begins. I had about 80GB of data and this took two hours. The joy of Migration Assistant is that when you first open the new computer you find everything exactly as it was on the old. All the programs work with no need to enter registration codes; your wireless network connects, your dock and all settings are exactly as you want them.
Since the new Air has the 128GB disk I did a bit of housekeeping to cut down on the data. For instance, I deleted a few programs I no longer use (but keep on my main computer just in case) and I deleted Parallels desktop which I use only once a year for my tax return. This saved over 10GB of space for starters.
The new 11-in Air is a strange but cute little beast. The 16:9 letterbox screen is a bit of a surprise, but the high definition (1366×768) is a great boon. While the fonts are smaller, you see more or less what you would see on the larger 13.3in MacBook Pro, so you don't feel at all short changed. However, after the sleek edge-to-edge glass screen of the Pros, the wide aluminium frame of the new Air is a bit retro; but I can understand the weight and size constraints which led to the design.
For travellers, the new 11-in Air is probably the perfect companion, arguably better than the iPad because it is a real computer that does everything you want. It weighs 2.3 pounds compared with the iPad's 1.5, and while the depth is about the same as the iPad, the Air is a couple of inches longer. Unlike the iPad, though, travellers can use this new device as a mothership for synchronisation of iPhones. There are few compromises, other than diminutive size, and the Air is a fully capable computer for most use. Despite the lowly 1.6GHz processor of my upgraded Air, it doesn't feel at all slow compared with the 13.3in Pro. The flash memory has a lot to do with that, plus I upgraded the RAM to 4GB and that can make a big difference.
I've owned one of the original 13.3in MacBook Airs since they were announced. While the first iteration did have a few flaws, primarily overheating when streaming video, it was compromised by the one USB port and, in my opinion, the large footprint. The new 11-in model addresses all these concerns. I love the way Apple have shaved off inches from the footprint yet have retained the full-size keyboard we all know and love. Apple (in the person of no less than Steve Jobs) said they would never make a netbook. Well, they have done it now – sort of – and it was worth waiting for. It's just not called a netbook but it does the same job.