I bought an old 11-inch MacBook Air instead of an iPad, and I love it

I’ve been using an 11-inch MacBook Air for the past year and a half, and I love it.

I’d wanted an 11-inch Air ever since they came out (2010 or 2011?). I remember looking at them at my university’s bookstore and being amazed by how tiny and cool they were. I couldn’t afford one, and I never bought one, but I never lost my fondness for them.

Fast forward to the summer of 2022. I wanted a new device for a very specific travel-related use case. I’m a full-time YouTuber who makes car camping/travel/adventure videos. I wanted a cheap machine to take with me on my trips, and I had basically just two things that I needed to do with it: 1) transfer/back up footage from SD cards to an external hard drive at the end of the day, and 2) write in my journal and take notes. I would not be editing photos or videos. The device would be spending days at a time in a hot, dusty car (which is why I didn’t want to take my primary computer). And I wanted it to be super cheap so that if it did get broken or stolen or whatever, I wouldn’t be too upset about it.

My first thought was to get an iPad, but the thought of having to do extensive file management on iOS and also needing to use all kinds of workarounds and dongles didn’t appeal to me. And while I do see the appeal in general of iPads, they’ve never really clicked with me. I either want my phone or a laptop, never something in between.

And then I remembered the computer I’d always wanted and never owned: the 11-inch MacBook Air.

I went to eBay and purchased a 2015 model with a 1.6 GHz Intel i5 processor and 8 GB of RAM. And I specifically looked for one that already had a new replacement battery put in because I’d be using the laptop unplugged most of the time, and I knew that an older machine like that would have a factory battery in poor condition. The computer set me back $207.88, including tax and shipping.

I’ve now been using the laptop for a year and a half, and I’m in love with it. Apart from the use cases that I mentioned earlier that it’s been great for, I use it for stuff that I think most people would use an iPad for. Writing emails, quick research, some YouTube watching, making outlines, fleshing out ideas, taking to a coffee shop or the library. It’s my around-the-house computer while the primary laptop that I do my work on remains docked in the office.

It’s just a fun, perfect little device that delights me every time I open the lid.

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Great use case for that computer. :person_facepalming:t3:

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I had one for years. It is still my favorite computer made by Apple. I was really sad when they discontinued it.

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Are you planning to use OpenCore Legacy Patcher after Apple switches it from vintage to obsolete status? I wouldn’t feel comfortable using an unpatched OS that’s no longer receiving security updates unless it was offline full time.

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The 11" Air was definitely my favorite laptop ever. I really, really wish Apple would bring it back. Even my 13" M2 Air feels so bulky compared to it.

I’m tempted to try the OpenCore Legacy Patcher on mine to see if I can get some more life out of it.

The curious thing is that they now (more than ever) have the ability to make a useful ultralight but they don’t seem interested. I gues it is because of the 13" MBA?

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It may also be that, like the iPhone Minis, the 11" and 12" MacBooks just didn’t sell all that well, even though their small fan bases loved them.

And Apple knows that most of those fans are still going to buy something else in the Apple ecosystem, even if they’re not as happy with it.

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Here is mine that I’ve had since new:


I took the photo a month ago to show how it makes a good computer for running Scrivener. However that is about its limit. I bought the base computer just to check it out (I really don’t like laptops) with a 64GB SSD and 2GB RAM. Frankly as a portable writing instrument it easily beats the iPad + keyboard combo. Roughly the same size. A new one with an M3 (or even an M1) would be fantastic.

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+1

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I 100% agree, especially as a pure writing instrument. The only exception is if someone wants to write with a stylus. Once you add a Magic Keyboard, an iPad starts getting pretty thick and heavy, and the Mac versions of writing apps are almost always better than the iPad versions.

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I bought that MacBook Air in 2010 or '11. It was responsible for me abandoning Windows in favour of the Mac and I’ve never regretted it. Maybe 6 months ago I bought the M2 MacBook Air 14" and I really love that machine. A Mac is so much more useful than an iPad (I should know, my house is home to about 4 iPads of varying ages and sizes). I also have a desktop Mac (M1 Mac Studio) and having two Macs in complete sync with each other is really great too.

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iPad’s are nice as well. I use it along with my 14”
Macbook. The iPad is great for media consumption, some light computing, but I really like when playing music. The 12.9” screen displays 2 pages of sheet music perfectly, and I can just turn my head to turn to the next page while playing the piano. Thanks to sidecar, the iPad also server a great portable screen to supplement my Macbook’s built in screen.

The iPad is also good for taking on trips. If it gets damaged or stolen, I still have my Macbook safe at home.

I would say one replaces the other, so much as they complement each other.

i have eight of these in case the current one dies (like one did the other day because a single drop of tea in the wrong place but i took the ssd out, wiped the drops of tea off and it’s fine!)

this machine does everything i need it to do just like the OP and i can chuck it in my bag and not even notice it’s in there. the best one they ever made was the 2.2ghz 2015 model with a factory fitted 512gb ssd which has the same faster bus as the 13". not so easy to find these days but worth keeping an eye out.

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Looking at one of these as a Scrivener and note taking machine for writing on the go (Scrivener iOS just does not cut it). Does anyone know if my Apple Notes will sync to this on an older OS or will I need to go the OpenCore route and get Sonoma on it? I’m guessing feature updates for stock apple apps are tied to the OS releases?

I fired up my old 11" MBA (shown above) that runs Sierra, and Notes synced, but not perfectly. So I would expect there are new features that don’t sync back to the MBA.

Pleasantly surprised, but off topic, when I fired it up I noticed it had Circus Ponies Notebook installed and running! A nice bonus.

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I picked up a 2015 11" air this week (i5/4GB/500GB SSD/HD6000) It was cheap and in great condition with no battery or screen issues.

It ran Monterey native but I’ve patched it to Sonoma and it’s running great all things considred. I had to go to Sonoma really as I could not sign into iCloud on Monetery - there was a restriciton that I never knew existed in that I needed to be on the latest OS to sign in to iCloud?!?

I’m on the road this week so it will be coming along as my writing & editing machine as I’m working on the second draft of a novel. Having desktop Scrivener & MS Word along with a real keyboard is going to be great :nerd_face:.

Scrivener iOS just doesn’t cut it for me. I’d tried going to a simpler (and very expensive) app (Dabble) which does work well on iOS but it was too limited for editing - great for a first draft though.

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I’m curious if an 11" MacBook with an M-something chip would really be that appealing to the masses in the way that Apple would want to sell it at scale, especially now that an M1 MBA can be had for so cheap through 3rd party outlets (cheap in relative Apple price terms anyway).

I love this kind of tech hoarding :slight_smile: Before music streaming or the Apple Watch came along, I kept a stash of the square iPod Shuffles on hand because I had a habit of leaving them at the gym or losing them from my hoodie pockets when I was on campus.

I’m about to wipe my early-2015 13" MBP and switch it over to running Linux. I figure it’s easier to just make a clean break and not have to worry about which features still work or what might break in the background while trying to sync two different versions of macOS. Running Monterey on a nine year old device is also not enjoyable imo.

If that experiment goes well I suspect even a very old 11" MBA could make for a perfect Obsidian machine.

I like the iPad as a do-it-all research and writing tool, but the killer feature for me has always been reading/annotating PDFs with the pencil. It’s just so nice to be able to settle down in a chair and read something the same way I would if I printed it out. I don’t think I would feel quite as keen on it if it was my primary/only computer, though.

The handwriting recognition on the M2 Pro is also much better than I ever expected it to be, and I often find switching over to handwriting can be helpful when I’m being too precious about getting ideas out on the keyboard.

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