MacBook Air Is My Gadget Of The Year

Kevin Tofel, who writes about consumer mobile technology for GigaOM, yesterday posted list of his top seven favorite gadgets of 2010. He didn’t pick any winners, but he did inspire me to write a post of my own. Unlike Kevin, I decided to pick a winner.

I essentially focused on devices that are part of my daily life and were launched this year. My list had four devices: the iPad (s aapl), the Sprint Overdrive Mobile Hotspot (s s), the Sonos S5 and the MacBook Air. Having just acquired the Roku Box and the Microsoft Kinect (s msft), I didn’t quite have enough time with those two to make an informed decision, though at first blush, I absolutely love those two gizmos. Roku, incidentally is on NewTeeVee’s list of top five video gadgets of 2010.

My most important question when picking the device was actually pretty basic – can I live and work without the particular gadget? So from that perspective, here is my pick.

MacBook Air 2010 Edition:

The 2.13 GHz, 256 GB Storage, 4GB RAM, 13-inch screen version of the MacBook Air is my gadget of the year.

The Back Story

It is safe to assume that at some point or the other in my life, I have owned most if not all models of Apple’s PowerBook and MacBook line-up of portable computers since the introduction of OS X. Whether it is the aesthetics, or it is the ease of use of the software, I have always found working with Apple’s devices easier. However, there was one problem with them – they were almost always heavy, which was quite a pain considering that I travel a lot for work and often work from remote locations.

So three years ago when Apple announced the MacBook Air, I was quick to order it. It was underpowered – a slow processor, anemic memory capabilities, a tiny hard drive and a somewhat limited set of expansion options. The battery only compared to my stamina. Nevertheless, the weight of the device was right and it was worth the many compromises. It forced me to essentially respect the less is more philosophy in new ways. The Mac Book Air’s second version got a little better, especially as Apple offered SSD drive options. I upgraded and loved taking it along when I travelled. For other times, I used a 15-inch MacBook Pro.

A Machine For All Reasons

And then in October 2010, Steve Jobs introduced the new MacBook Air. The newly redesigned, unibody version of 2010 MacBook Air had some clever technology hacks, that improved the performance almost exponentially. Indeed, our own Apple channel here at GigaOM aptly dubbed this new MacBook Air “the future of notebooks.”

I had initially received the 13-inch 1.86 GHz version of the machine for review. I felt it was underpowered and wanted more storage and more memory. I ended up spending extra dollars and snapped up the top of the line unit and have not regretted it for a second. And within two hours of using this device, I knew it was time to make this my main machine.

A sturdy body and a great keyboard complemented a speedy SSD drive, faster processor and more memory. And the best part was – the battery lasted forever. Going to New York? No problems – this laptop cruised across the country without needing a charge. The dedicated graphics chip makes it easy to watch videos, which look so much better on the old fashioned screen. (I hate those glossy screens, for some odd reasons.)

More importantly, Apple made some tweaks that allowed the computer to turn on instantly and wake-up from sleep mode even faster when you flipped open the screen. Open the screen and start taking notes, writing a blog post, manipulate a photo or upload a video.

Getting on the web and replying to email is almost an instantaneous act. Furthermore, it doesn’t get hot like other Apple laptops – though Adobe’s Flash (s adbe) when used inside Safari or Mozilla Firefox does cause the computer temperature to go up – but since I use Google’s Chrome (s goog) browser, it doesn’t matter that much to me.

Why is it my gadget of the year?

I use it almost 12-to-16 hours a day: in other words, it is almost always on. I often watch Netflix (s nflx) on it, I use it as my music console, I use it write, reply to emails and surf the web. It slides into my favorite bag (which unfortunately was too small for a regular laptop) where it snugly sits keeps company with my iPad, my Moleskin notebook, my Sprint 4G Overdrive Hot Spot and my beat-up Montblanc pen. It aesthetically pleasing, it is well constructed, it is well priced and it is not ostentatious. It is a classic, much like a well-made plain white shirt. I get more use from this device than anything else I own. It makes working fun.

And the One’s That Didn’t Make The Cut

My Runner-Up: Sonos S5, in tandem with the Sonos wireless dock is perhaps the second most used device in my apartment. It is a high-quality sound system, it is affordable and it has spectacular sound. If you live in a small apartment, this is a great option.

And in the third place: The iPad didn’t make the cut for the top spot, mostly because of my work rhythms and how I do it. And despite my own early excitement, I have not been able to make it an efficient part of my work flow.

That said, I read almost exclusively on the iPad, thanks to great apps like Evernote, Instapaper, Reeder and Flipboard. I often compose memos to myself using Writer and during baseball season, the At Bat app from MLB. In fact I wouldn’t know what to do during the baseball seasons without the iPad and MLB app.

And had the MacBook Air not shown up this fall, well, iPad would have been my runner-up for 2010.

Why Not a Single Phone?: You will notice that there isn’t a phone on the list – reason is simple: I have a love-hate relationship with by Blackberry Bold (s rimm). I will not use the iPhone as long as it has network problems. Android doesn’t do it for me, but hopefully things will be different next year, especially from Samsung, which has started introducing great looking Galaxy Series of devices in the market.

I am currently enamored with the new Nokia X3-02 (s nok) device – a feature phone that combines touch with traditional phone elements. It is inexpensive, it is super sleek and it has enough web services built into it to make it useful in the brave new world of connected phones. It is aesthetically appealing and is well-designed phone, though the build in camera is of poor quality.