Comparing Apples to Oranges [Updated]

Macworld’s Jason Snell recently test-drove a MSI Wind running OS X. In his two pages of ponderings on the little notebook, Snell does something that I found surprising: comparing the Wind to Apple’s MacBook Air:

While the Wind is not a terrible laptop, it most definitely feels cheap. Apple’s Aluminum-clad laptops all feel solid, and even the white plastic MacBook feels sturdy. The Wind’s plastic skin feels thinner and more flexible, especially on the bottom—it feels more like what you’d find in a clock radio or other cheap consumer appliance.

Snell is right that netbooks are secondary machines (albeit I missed that observation in my first reading of his piece), but comparing the build quality between something like an MSI Wind or an Asus EeePC and a MacBook is like comparing your dad’s old Dodge Dart to a new Porsche. The answer may be so obvious that the question didn’t need to be asked. 

Using a Wind will make anyone miss the Air, but that doesn’t mean the Wind is a bad machine – just not one that Snell (and many others) would use as their primary computer. Indeed, no one in their right mind buys a netbook like the Wind to edit videos, but for surfing, email, writing and some light photo work any netbook is a great machine – most people don’t need the oodles of power that full-sized notebooks offer anyways. For example, as great as my HP Mini 1000 is, it’s not a replacement for my MacBook Pro or my iMac – I use different systems for different things. I wouldn’t even think about running iMovie on my HP Mini, even though it’s running OS X now (more on that later this week).

Not to mention the Wind is around $450 at most retail outlets – a far cry from the $1799 Apple wants for the Air. 

More from Snell:

…Apple has, thus far, refused to make any Mac that isn’t a complete computer that can be plausibly used with the full range of Mac software, including iLife and iWork. If Apple made a netbook like the Wind, that philosophy would have to be hauled to the trash can. I just can’t see it happening.

I agree with that. If/when Apple releases something between the Air and the iPhone, it will be capable, but the MSI Wind is capable, as long as the user keeps their expectations in line with the fact they spent less than $500 on a notebook.


Update: After receiving an email from Macworld’s Jason Snell, I’ve altered this post a bit. Thanks for the input, Jason. – SH