Despite years of wanting “the perfect setup”, an iMac in tandem with a MacBook Air, I’ve come to the conclusion it just doesn’t work for me. Sure, it’s nice going on the odd day out with the Air, knowing I can check eMails and do any emergency work if I need to, but if you spend a week or weeks away from home as I recently did, having two machines is a bit of a headache. Even despite the many cloud sync options available today.
This year I’ve been fortunate enough to own both a MacBook Air and iMac. For the most part it’s been excellent. Work has been sync’d perfectly over Dropbox, making it easy as pie to pick up from where I left off during the odd day trip. But anything longer than a day or two and it starts to become a real problem.
Applications get updated all the time. Maintaining two sets and having to keep them up-to-date not only hogs bandwidth, it takes time when I should be working. When I have big projects on, I forget command line tools or helper apps I’ve installed along the way. Not to mention app preferences, email signatures, keychains and the like (this was great in MobileMe, but is no longer in iCloud…). If this were Twitter, we’d be calling it only a #firstworldproblem, but the fact remains that many people would like a two-computer setup, but I’m just saying I’m not sure it’s worth the extra effort.
Then there’s the matter of iTunes and iPhoto. I like to have my photos on the move, but I hate having to double copy photos back on my iMac when I get home. The same for Music, redownloading everything from iTunes and keeping Playlists in sync. I’ve actually recently become a paid Spotify and I’m really happy with that.
The cloud is supposed to be the answer to everything, but it’s not realistic with our current average internet speeds to expect people to store 50GB iPhoto or iTunes libraries online. For work purposes, Dropbox has been incredible and I’m constantly recommending it to people. But again, Dropbox is for documents and the odd media file and not really practical or big enough to sync my photo and music library.
Things are changing however. I can see potential in Apple’s iCloud for example. They’ve tried to address the photo issue with Photo Stream and music with iTunes Match (US). I can’t help but think these are designed with silicon valley people in mind and not your average person who doesn’t live in a city. Calendars and Contacts are great, but the rest still feels like we’re in the early stages (for example, Apple’s productivity suite, iWork, hasn’t yet been updating on the Mac but has on iOS).
So, I’ve decided to sell up. I want one Mac that is powerful enough to not hold me up when working, but portable enough not to break my back while travelling. I’m replacing both machines with the “Ultimate” MacBook Air: 13″, 1.8Ghz i7 (BTO only), 4GB RAM, 256GB SSD. I’ll write up my first impressions and post them shortly. Meanwhile the 11″ Air has been sold and the iMac will be going up shortly (contact me if you are interested).