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MacBook Air: This slim, sexy three-pound cutie might best be described as the love child of an iPod and a MacBook. Like the iPod, its battery is sealed inside and not user-replaceable. It has a 1.8-inch, 4,200rpm, 120GB hard drive as does the iPod Classic; a single analog audio-out minijack; and connects to the world through a single USB port. (Well, yeah, it also has a Mini DisplayPort, but you know what we mean).

Like the MacBook, it has a 13.3-inch glossy display, a full-size keyboard, and runs a full version of Mac OS X. No Ethernet nor optical drive, although Apple will sell you a USB-tethered MacBook Air SuperDrive for $99.

Also, like both the MacBook and the MacBook Pro, you can opt for a 128GB solid-state drive instead of the stock HDD for an extra five-hundred bucks. Unfortunately - also like its two siblings - that SSD isn't one of the new, fast Mainstream SATA Solid State Drives from Intel, which at this writing only ship in the 80GB capacity (160GB units are coming Real Soon Now).

Needless to say, the Air isn't for everyone. If, however, you travel extensively and have a "real" Mac back at your home or office, this li'l slip of a thing could be a boon companion.

MacBook Air: B+

Input devices and displays: Let's cut to the chase: The ill-named Mighty Mouse is crap, the wired and wireless keyboards are far less deplorable but still suboptimal, and the Cinema Display line is gorgeous but hella overpriced.

Where do we begin with the Mighty Mouse? Its dual buttons, to be kind, have less than fully positive clickability, its squeezable side buttons give poor feedback, and its miniscule scroll ball may be fine for equally miniscule hands, but normal humans will find it annoyingly, well, miniscule.

But what's most galling about the Mighty Mouse (available in both USB-tethered and Bluetooth versions) is that in a world populated by such fine mouse-customization software as Kensington's MouseWorks, Logitech's Control Center, Microsoft's IntelliPoint, and Macally's Input Manager, Apple steadfastly refuses to give users any decent degree of control over button customization. C'mon, Steve - you've finally given us two buttons, ferchrissakes. Why not go all the way?

Apple Wireless Keyboard

Where's the keypad?

Apple keyboards, both USB-tethered and Bluetooth, are an acquired taste we'd rather not acquire. Although we've talked with many users who find them perfectly acceptable, their lack of full-travel keys and adequate tactile feedback make them more toy-like than workmanlike.

And although we vowed above that we'd not diss Apple products for their prices, we'll make an exception for the Cinema Display line. Apple makes lovely displays with good brightness, color, contrast, viewing angle, and refresh rates, but they charge an arm, a leg, and a spare kidney for them. Case in point: The excellent 30-inch Apple Cinema HD Display runs a cool $1,799. The excellent 30-inch Gateway XHD3000 display can easily be found for under a thousand bucks. Case closed.

Apple Mighty Mouse: D-

Apple Keyboard: B-

Apple Cinema HD Displays: B

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Next page: Apple Computer Inc.

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