MacBook Air

It’s super light. The display is gorgeous. The performance is adequate. The keyboard works great. I never really noticed the backlit keyboard, but it’s nice to know it’s there. The single USB port is annoying. The no-built in CD is for the most part, fine, except for when the lack of a USB port is bothering you. The weight is great. The form factor is superior to any other ‘ultraportable’ – it’s absolutely perfect.

However, it has a nasty tendency which pisses me off something fierce:

If you do anything that makes it run at full CPU, and use the graphics chip pretty moderately, it will actually shut down one of the cores (!). I can trigger this by playing a flash game for like 10 or 15 minutes. Or from watching YouTube. There are some fixes, which I will speak about in a moment.

My theory is that Apple had designed the MBA to work with Intel’s new Atom CPU. But Intel said “Sorry, that’s going to be another 6 months.” Apple said, “screw you, Intel, we need to release this. Help us out.” Hence the release of the un-codenamed non-roadmap weirdo CPU that powers the MBA. It uses too much juice and runs too hot for the chassis it’s in, hence the weirdo CPU speed throttle and core-dropping.

One of the workarounds I heard of was to reapply the thermal paste between the CPU and the heatsink. Some on the Apple Support Forums swear by this. I’m not dicking around with that stuff because you know I’ll end up destroying this damn thing that way. Instead, I sent it to Mike’s Mac Shop – my former employer – to have a motherboard swap. Unfortunately – that didn’t seem to help. Grrr.

The final thing I had heard of doing was grabbing this software called CoolBook and installing and configuring that so as to ‘under-volt’ the CPU – giving it less power than it’s spec’ed to use. I don’t like the UI on this program, and the documentation is super-sparse. And I don’t like having to pay $10 to fix this problem which seems to me like Apple’s fault.

But damn, if it didn’t fix the problem. I can’t make it drop a core anymore. The laptop works the way it’s supposed to know. I can make it get pretty damned hot, mind you, but both cores stay up.

So I’ll certainly update if I feel like coolbook’s not doing the trick – but it sure as hell seems that it is now.

Once the MBA gets ‘refreshed’ with actual volume quantities of Intel’s Atom CPU, buy one. They’re great. The USB thing will bother you though, so be prepared.

2 thoughts on “MacBook Air”

  1. Well, it’s not that much non-roadmapped, and Apple was not going to release MBA with an Atom probably since Atom is a low performing single core processor without out of order execution capabilities (low performing in comparison to Core 2 Duo P7500 powering the Air). and anyway, Intel released the custom processor for Apple. If they asked for Atom, Intel would probably give them Atom in time.

  2. Interesting! I just read the Intel PDF, and the Atom is only 1.6 GHz. It *does* permit two threads to be running, but that won’t be the same as two cores – I assume we’re talking about some kind of hyperthreading-esque solution. You’re right, my anonymous friend, it would probably not have enough ‘oomph,’ for a full-fledged MacBook.

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