Five essential accessories for your Apple MacBook Air

January 27, 2008

apple-macbook-air-10ax As thin and light as the MacBook Air is, it’s still “slow” (relatively speaking) and users of the laptop will have to make do with one USB port, one headphone jack and one external monitor connection.  It lacks even the most basic of connections which is a severe drawback.  If you can deal with carting a few extra accessories then it’s highly advisable to pick up these five.

A USB hub.  Since the MacBook Air has only one USB hub, it would be advisable to pick up a third party USB hub with at least four ports to expand your functionality.  If you want to use more than one USB device at a time, you’re going to need it.  Which is oh, say 99.9% of us.  I suggest looking up the “Mini Mirror Hub” as it will go nicely with the MacBook Air (or any Mac for that matter).

The Ethernet USB adapter.  Apple, in its definite wisdom decided to leave a dedicated Ethernet port off the MacBook Air.  It would be nice to have an Ethernet connection where you only have access to a wired jack or want a faster connection than wireless can provide.  Thanks for this Apple.  At least you can buy a USB Ethernet adapter, probably the second most important thing on this list.

An Ethernet cable.  Since the MacBook Air doesn’t have an Ethernet jack it stands to reason that it doesn’t come with an Ethernet cable.  You’ll only need this if you don’t have a spare cable lying around somewhere.  At least some of you will so this isn’t aimed at everyone.

Optical drive.  It’s possible to do without an optical drive on-the-go unless you are going on a plane ride and would like to watch DVDs.  However, wouldn’t it be nice to be able to burn media while you are at home and relatively stationary, of course it would.  The other cuts Apple made are bad enough but to not have an optical drive built-in, please.  I’m afraid you’ll have to use Apple’s external SuperDrive and it’s not even a guarantee it will work over the USB hub because Apple pushes extra power over the USB port specifically to power the drive.  The external SuperDrive was designed to function with the MacBook Air only.

Carrying case.  It’s nice to be able to show off the thinnest and lightest laptop from Apple but it’s probably not a good idea to carry it under your arm.  When traveling your laptop should always be carried in a protective case, especially a laptop that costs $1,800 to $3,100.  The company made a big deal of being able to fit the Air in a manilla envelope so why not buy the AirMail manilla carrying case.  Or go for something that can carry the laptop and your accessories.

It’s sad to say that this list brings the laptop up to what can be found built-in to your run-of-the-mill $499 PC laptop (save for the carrying case) and you don’t even have to carry “extra” things with you.  With the Air, many of us would be carrying the USB hub, Ethernet adapter and a flash drive on a regular basis.  And if you want to use both with the Air at the same time, you’ll be needing that hub.

The fact Apple had (Intel) to engineer this product is sad.  I could have designed a laptop at least as useless as the MacBook Air is.

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23 Responses to “Five essential accessories for your Apple MacBook Air”

  1. Steve Jobs Sells Overhyped & Underspecced Shite:

    Accessory #1 – 1997 Mitsubishi Pedion laptop. Because then you would actually be carrying around the worlds thinnest laptop in case you care about that stuff, not just one that Steve Jobs tells you is the thinnest.

    Accessory #2 – Sony Vaio TZ laptop. Because then you would actually have a good tool instead of just looking like one.

  2. Ken:

    If you’re going to run anything drawing juice from your hub, best get one with it’s own power adapter.

    Why do you keep writing about this laptop since you hate it so? It’s not going to fit your idea of what a laptop needs to be, no matter how you try to cram it into your reality by adding the very items left out by the design team on purpose. I can see this being useful for Sales and Marketing folks for the wow factor. I wouldn’t buy one, but you act like the Apples going to stop selling the Macbooks.

  3. Jonathan:

    I don’t like the MacBook either what with its lack of dedicated graphics…

    Apple should make a 13″ MacBook Pro and that would make them piles and piles of cash… which the MacBook Air won’t…

    As for the MacBook… the screen is… well… not the best and the case isn’t perfect either so the line needs updated, I’ll be waiting…

    The “engineers” work for Steve Jobs, Steve Jobs is the only one that would actually use this… this… thing…

  4. Josh:

    I think everyone is missing the ENTIRE point on this. This laptop is not designed to be a DESKTOP REPLACEMENT. Its designed to be and ultra-portable laptop. Its designed for those who don’t need an Ethernet cable, a bunch of usb ports, or constant access to an optical drive.

    Get it straight! This is an ultra-portable laptop, NOT a desktop replacement!

  5. shiruba:

    I don’t understand these silly articles. Yes, I have a small USB hub for my current ultraportable. I use it only at home, though, when I need to plug in the printer, etc. No, you don’t need an optical drive to bring with you, rip the DVDs and put them on the hard drive – it’s not rocket science. (or, you know, buy them on iTunes like they suggest, of course, if you’re into that). Also, you don’t have to use the external drive they suggest. You’re right as well, I would buy the external exthernet dongle, “just in case”, but most of the time there is wifi MORE often than there are wired connections available. And what are you doing that you need 100baseT so badly? Even streaming video works fine on wi-fi.

    If you want to bitch, bitch about something lacking from this that other ultraportables DO have and that’s important, PCMCIA. Without that, it’s hard to use 3G internet cards, etc.

  6. Ken:

    I think everyone understands who this is designed for.While Apple fanbois are always receptive to the strange idea that lack of something is a positive (3G anyone?), what exactly does this thinness do for you? I keep hearing how innovative and visionary this laptop is, but I’ll be damn if I can figure what makes this better than other ultraportables. There have been thinner laptops, HP had one in 1997: http://www.news.com/Mitsubishi-unveils-notebook/2100-1001_3-205190.html
    Toshiba’s was thinner with 2 usb and one ethernet ports in 2000:
    http://reviews.zdnet.co.uk/hardware/notebooks/0,1000000334,10000319,00.htm

    Ripping DVDs is a time consuming pain in the ass, and I don’t see the person this is aimed at ripping DVDs. There’s quite a few business that do not allow wireless because of security issues. The multitouch pad looks cool indeed, but that will probably be added to the Macbook Pro lineup. I’m not saying it’s a bad design, I just don’t get the swooning rapture over it.

  7. Frank:

    First, I agree it is over priced for what you get. Lets look at this realistically. Do you need all the accessories NO. I just bought the MacBook Air and love it. It is my I phone companion. I travel a lot and just need something for email access and the office vps or surf the web. I do not watch movies, nor play games. This is a live saver for me because it is light and easy to travel with. I will agree with the USB Ethernet because some hotels do not have wireless and sometimes for security I like to use Ethernet. I did not buy it as a desktop replacement. I can use my MacBook Pro for that. I bought it for what it is, An increadable ultra light notebook

  8. Jason Warren:

    Writers who are not road warriors should not write articles about road warrior gear. (Music, Movies, etc.) God bless Apple for creating a laptop that does not waste my energy dragging around things that no true road warrior ever uses. Got one on day one and love it.

    A million air miles per year.

    Jason

  9. steve:

    You folks are a hoot. All worried about the wired ethernet cable, ever hear fo wireless? hahaha. As for leaving things out, thats how you make it light, duh. And for those who have to carry the bloody thing around, you understand the lightness advantage.

    Only downside is cost, but otherwise, very useful device.

  10. michelle:

    I have it and I love it. It is not for everyone, but if you all ready have a desktop, why not get a laptop that you can actually carry around with you all day without your shoulder hurting. As for everyone on this site that has a problem with Apple I have a solution for you, stick with windows, no one cares if you do. As for me I use windows when I have to but I now prefer Apple.

  11. Andre:

    i have one, version 2.
    i use it as desktop replacement
    i do 2d and 3d graphics
    i dont use cds for 2 years now
    i use external Hds instead
    i simply split the usb port
    i love my air
    u dont have it? u dont know it.

    thx

  12. frank:

    I have an mba rev2, from november 08.

    I had an mbp17″. I loved my 17″, but it’s heavy. I thought I could never transition to my air. Screenspace, speed, connectivity etc.

    Ever since I bought this i completely stopped using the mbp. I always carry my air in my bag, don’t even notice it’s there.

    I bought the external cd drive. It’s been in a closet all this time, never used it.

    I travel a lot, to remote and desolate places and for that I love the air, not to haul all that stuff i don’t really need.

    Agree on the usb ethernet. Though I only used it less than 10 times.

    For heavy video editing (10bit uncomp) I use my Macpro. Though sometimes use the air to edit in an offline dv resolution, this works perfectly.

    Hate one thing; it charges slowly, 4hrs+

    Despite that, I love my air.

  13. TL:

    I find it weird that people tend to complain about Apple products but rarely post any positive solutions. I have been building PCs for over 7 years and made my switch fairly recently. I have the macbook air (ver. 2). It’s great because I am now entering a professional work environment and I can easily carry my macbook air in my brief case. When I come home it connects to my airport extreme (and airport expresses) so I have instant access to my external harddrives, my bose sound dock, and my printer, all wirelessly. I seldom use my cd drive, so I like that I do have to carry it everywhere. I cannot remember the last time I had to use my superdrive. I do love watching dvds at home, because I can put the dvd in my desktop and watch it on my macbook air all throughout the house without having to worry that I will damage the disk when I move location. With a bit of creativity, you would be amazed by what you can do. The macbook air is amazing, but it is not for everyone. I recommend it more to people who have professional careers.

  14. Anton:

    Cool!

  15. chris:

    Apple did not make this computer for people who are using tons of usb devices, compact discs, and ethernet cables. They made it for people who use torrents, wireless internet/devices, bluetooth, and portability. This computer is the next generation of technology. Apple simply wanted to show its users that this is POSSIBLE. And awesome too. I am getting one.

  16. Lozza:

    A WORD TO THE UNWISE. I have an Air, I love it. I use it on the plane, train and around town – with Docs downloaded or shared from my ‘main’ G5 tower. I thought the Air was a joke when it appeared – now I ‘get it’. Those out there that bitch – shut up and get on with your sorry lives – it’s not for you – never was – that’s why you don’t understand it. Do this – find which Mac is – use it – be happy. Oh – and get a life !
    Cheers

  17. Dave:

    To those stuck in the windows world…you will never appreciate a mac unless you actually try one. I am working on my Ph.D and wouldn’t think of carrying another laptop other than my Air. The Air is designed to be a portable addition to those of us who use other macs. If you are looking for an all-in-one laptop; this is not for you. If you have another mac and want the ultra-portability, then this is for you. There isn’t a pc out there that can touch a mac; believe me I’ve had them all. I watch other members of my cohort struggle with their pc’s; I can turn my mac on, retrieve what I’m looking for, and shut down before their pc’s even finishing starting windows.
    Before you bitch about something, be sure you are making logical comparisons to realistic expectations. Mac’s are the only way to go for those who expect performance and reliability. Step out of the box with your windows mentality and step into a whole new world of computer excellence.

  18. Big Fan:

    This Australian family loves all things Apple. It started with our ipods. Then an imac, airport extreme, macbook, now air. Look at the function, design & style to see the appeal.
    The Big mac stays at home for all the grunt work, all the fun and freedom, we have macbooks. Weight does matter when your an active family of bike riders.
    Our schools only run Window based PC’s, very frustrating with way too many viruses.

  19. Mike S:

    I like Laptop Smart Feet to raise my Macbook for better viewing and ease of use. They also provide a built in cable organizer. Found them at newpcgadgets

  20. Beenthre Donethat:

    Buy a ultra underpowered PC, put Win7 on it and rest easy. Someone of course will point out that the king has no clothes. To each his own I guess, and idiot will remain one and put in stupid posts (present company excepted).

  21. Jacob Anthony Stapleton:

    This article seems to me to be written by someone who has no grasp on the interconnecting concepts of design or in fact the future of mobile technologies and certainly no regard for the pioneering manor which Apple applies to all of it’s products.

    De-cluttered by unnecessary widgets to thrust your USB hub and connect more unnecessary crap. The MacbookAir provides the mobile communicator and designer with an extremely versatile tool, it’s ethos lies with simplicity.

    With the laptop in many entities becoming an over zealous smaller version of desktop computers carrying a similar array of connectors and hardware the Macbook Air breaks down to the bare essentials and in the process creates a computer which is more than capable at completing all but the largest print media design tasks (to put its power in perspective) and a mobility to usability compromise which allows for unprecedented feel and precision when completing tasks.

    Think of the Macbook Air as a model for the furutre of all laptop design or at least the first step towards the future. The future of mobile computers will no doubt lie somewhere between Apples new iPad tablet design and this product.

    The majority of points you raise in your article are perhaps relevant if the Macbook Air should be used for tasks at home or in the office. But, as a mobile tool for working on the fly throughout metropolitan environments, there is no rival to the Macbook Air.

  22. beyoand borders:

    Just got my first Air, the SSD version. I travel to far flung and remote places and I write. I just completed a year of doing just that and hauled a 4.7 lb. 12.1″ ibook G4 for what felt like 10′s of thousands of miles over some very rough territory. Now that all is said and done, I decided to make the next journey easier and get a light weight and solid state {no moving parts} computer. It would be nice if Apple had added one more USB port {for speakers+ the XHD}, but the superdrive isn’t entirely necessary.
    I carry a 500 GB XHD and have a couple hundred DVD’s/movies and documentaries, plus audio books, books, interviews and files, tons of music and photographs, all in. So really why not carry an external hard drive with a wall worth of a library that you can hold in the palm of your hand, and then just plug it in to your Mac Air and travel like light. Since ease is possible, why not have it. I did it the other way, traveling heavy, with the 4.7 lb.+power inverter adn cord+DVD’s, not knowing then what I know now and I’ve only had my Mac Air for a few days and already I am taking it everywhere and my load is easier, and no DVD’s to tote either, like I hardly know I am carrying it, the MBA.
    When I was in Asia, the Thai’s in the tech centers would laugh at me because I had a Mac and I would just quietly say, “You don’t know what you’re missing because a Mac is like Flying, a PC is like walking.”, and sometimes tripping, over viruses.
    I just added that last observation in because I had a PC for a couple of years and to be honest, I hated that thing. We had a bad relationship, and it was mostly because of the viruses, and then having to run the anti virus software All the time. I made the switch and though Mac’s are expensive, of course, you pay for quality, and it is a pleasure actually to play, er I mean work on a Mac. It was engineered to be so user friendly. I cannot imagine ever going back. It would be like going to hell again. Yikes!

  23. hwu:

    With wifi, bluetooth and cloud based computing/storage, Air design is on the right track. Please move on, Mr stone-age.

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