The agony and the ecstasy of the new MacBook Air’s battery

MacBook Air 12 hour batteryI’ve had a new MacBook Air (13-inch, Core i7, 8GB RAM, 512SSD) for a week and put its notable enhancement through its paces. Apple’s new 12-hour battery indeed lives up to and surpasses the hype, but the machine has one drawback: incomplete mobility.

One thing I love about doing some of my work on my iPad is having the choice of where to do that work. It’s not just my living room, or the coffee shop a walk away, or the office co-op I can reach by train. Thanks to my iPad’s 4G data plan, I can sit in the middle of a neighborhood park or even Millennium Park in the heart of Chicago and get things done. I can take an Amtrak to see a friend and not worry that WiFi isn’t on the trip’s itinerary. I can truly be mobile while I work and play.

For all the incredibleness of the MacBook Air’s new battery, the device is still dependent on WiFi hotspots and, let’s face it, the internet is an essential ingredient these days for getting most things done. Now, keep in mind that adding 4G radios to the MacBook Air likely poses its own share of challenges that Apple has clearly decided to avoid for the Mac, at least so far. In general, it seems like 3G/4G radios have never been very popular in notebooks for some reason. Plus, a 4G radio would add weight to the MacBook Air—renowned for its thin and light design—and, of course, affect that incredible 12-hour battery or, in PCMag’s case, 15-hour battery.

I don’t say this as a criticism, I bring it up as something to consider when you’re in the market. For the first time, a MacBook has trounced the iPad’s battery life, but there are still some important differences in where that newfound portability can take you.

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