I have been searching for the best laptop, to be used by a wireless professional, I have looked at so many of them, from Dell, HP, Asus, Lenovo and even the Microsoft Surface Pro 3. My criteria, for this choice are it has to be lightweight, it has to have a good battery life, and it has to be stable no constant problems or blue screens of death.
Almost all of the software that is used by a wireless professional is Microsoft Windows based, so naturally I was looking at the latest ultrabooks. I tried almost everything that was out there but they all had their problems, to heavy, not enough battery life, bad display, uncomfortable keyboard. I saw a Microsoft Surface Pro 3, it was lightweight, had decent battery life, great screen. The downside to the Surface Pro 3 was the keyboard was flimsy and awkward to type on I could live with this though.
Another downside to this device was the fact that it ran Windows 8.1 and I tried to like it, I really did, but it was just so frustrating, I couldn't find anything or understand this touch screen interface, click this tile? Huh? I decided this was the best out there and I would just have to live with it, because you can't have everything.
I just couldn't force myself to make the purchase, it just didn't feel right. I hopped on Twitter to ask my fellow wireless lan professionals what they thought about it. What i discovered was people were having the same questions I had. Another point that was brought up was the USB 3 port on the surface doesn't play well with wireless survey software, it would keep disconnecting, even at the slightest touch. A support issue was raised with Microsoft by many people and it appears to have fallen on deaf ears as the issue wasn't even addressed.
This was a deal breaker for me. Great I was back at square one, what was I going to do now. I started to ask around on Twitter what other people were using and to my surprise folks were using an Apple Macbook Air, I had never even considered this, because Macbooks are for artsy graphic oriented types, and that certainly wasn't me. There was also not that much software for the wireless lan professional out there that ran natively on Apple products.
I decided to do some more research, I went to Best Buy, and it was really hard to find the Apple section, it was tucked away in a back aisle and it only had 3 laptops out there. I instantly noticed, how great the screen looked the color depth was amazing, the keyboard was incredible, and they were so light and easy to carry around. The price was on the more expensive side, and there was no way to upgrade the memory or hard disk after the purchase, at first this really put me off.
I went home and did some more research, I started to read about the new ultrabooks with the Intel core M processor that were going to come out someday. When the first one came out, the reviews were less than positive, the battery life was terrible and the machines were actually slower than previous generations and cost more.
I needed to make a decision, my current laptop was on it's last legs. I gave it some thought, and I decided to get the Apple Macbook Air. I went to Best Buy to purchase it and found out some interesting things. They only sold the model with 4 gigabytes of ram, and 128 Gigabyte SSD, I could have purchased this as is and it would have been fine. That is not the way I work I am always thinking about the future and remembering there is no upgrades after the fact. I went home searched on Amazon.com and found they also only sold the model with 4 gigabytes of ram.
I Googled around a bit and found a site called Adorama. They were running a sale and I could get the Macbook Air with 8 gigabytes of ram, 256 gigabyte solid state drive and a three year warranty (Applecare) for a few hundred dollars more than what Best Buy charged. I ordered the Macbook Air, and it arrived a few days later. It was very easy to setup, and the battery lasted all day, it had the latest 802.11AC wireless, and it was the fastest laptop I have ever used.
I am so happy with this laptop, if only there was a way to run wireless site survey software on it and wireless protocol analyzers and all the other assorted tools, it would be perfect. I got on Twitter and started asking folks what they did and how they used it.
I found out you can run Windows based products on a Macbook Air, and there are two different approaches to this. The first is through the use of virtualization using either Vmware Fusion, or Parallels, this allows you to run Windows on top of OS X ( the Mac operating system). The Second way is to actually load Windows on the Macbook Air through a process Apple calls bootcamp this is where Windows is actually running on the Macbook. Apple provides a bootcamp installation wizard, I will talk all about how to install bootcamp in my next blog post.
If you plan on running Windows on your Macbook, either through virtualization or using bootcamp, make sure you have enough memory and enough hard disk space. OS X runs just fine with 4 gigabytes of ram, but Windows will really benefit by having 8 gigabytes. Next, make sure when you purchase your Macbook you get a large enough hard disk.
The most common complaint I hear from folks after they have purchased a Macbook Air is that they wished they would have gotten more memory and more hard disk space. So, save yourself some stress, get 8 gigabytes of ram and at least 256 gigabyte SSD, trust me, you'll be thankful later.
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