Realizing the MacBook Air’s Limitations When Diagnosing A Hardware Issue

by Gregory Ng Feb 07, 2008

People have been discussing the limitations and sacrifices when it comes to the MacBook Air. “You get a slimmer form factor but a slower processor.” or “The full size keyboard is nice, but what about the lack of optical drive?” or “Yeah, it’s a stylish computer, but no user replaceable battery?”

Well, after the 2 hours I spent last night with Apple Technical Support, I have experienced the limitations first hand as it pertains to diagnosing a specific problem.

I was one of the early ones. One of the people who hit the refresh button on the Apple Store website repeatedly after the end of the Macworld keynote until I could place an order. I got through 10 minutes after it went on sale and waited patiently for 2 weeks for it to arrive.

And after a jawdropping experience of unpacking my MacBook Air (the packaging is simply breathtaking in its minimalism and sophistication), I was ready to start moving into my new computer.

The only problem is when I tried to make a language selection on my startup screen, I realized the button on my trackpad did not work. I called Apple technical support and this began my 2 hour ordeal highlighting the limitations of the Air and ending in me having to send back the unit in exchange for a new one.

The problems occurred when trying to diagnose the problem. After 15 minutes of being on hold, a helpful tech got on the phone and asked me about my problem. He admitted to me that because the Air is so new, he didn’t have much information. In fact, the serial numbers hadn’t updated in the system yet so he was unable to pull up my record based on my specific unit.

After explaining the issue, he asked if I could please put in the Systems Disc One that came with the computer. I told him it was a good thing I purchased the USB-powered Superdrive. I plugged in the Superdrive and inserted the disc. He asked me to try to use the trackpad tap feature. I told him that it did not work. He asked if I could click anything on the screen. I could move the cursor and in some cases could advance further down the setup process by using key commands, but could still not click the buttons.

He asked if I had a USB mouse to plug in. I told him yes, but then quickly realized the 1 USB port was being taken up by the Superdrive! So, here I was with one USB port and 2 necessary USB devices.

In the end, I was able to run enough tests over the phone to prove that it is indeed, a hardware issue, not a software one with the trackpad button and I am receiving a new one in a week or so.

Although this is a small example of an issue with no optical drive and a minimal amount of ports, it will be very interesting to see how other issues with this first generation machine will be affected by its “compromises.”

P.S. The Air is amazingly light and simply gorgeous to look at. Also, my initial concerns of it being too delicate were dismissed immediately. The form factor may feel light as a feather but it is solid as a rock.


  • My MBA arrived on 4 Feb and the decision was made two days later by an Apple Technician that the computer needs to be returned. My MBA problems started when I attempted migration from my MacBook via wireless, first, and then via an ethernet connection. Both were extremely pokey so I performed a Time Machine backup of my MacBook to an external USB HD and then plugged this drive into the MBA for use with Migration Assistant. All seemed to work OK, but my Airport icon on the menu bar was always hollow even though I could connect to the internet with the MBA. With a restart, the blue screen of death took over an hour to clear, but the Airport icon problem persisted. We tried resetting permissions and several other procedures before attempting a fresh install of Leopard from an external drive. When it failed, the Apple Tech pronounced the MBA and sent me home with a case number to use when calling AppleCare. I’m still awaiting a call from Apple Service with an authorization for return of this MBA.

    I’ve had many, many Macs since my original one that I bought on 24 Jan 84. This is the first bad experience that I’ve had in 24 years of Macs so I’m not complaining. I had many more problems in the past with PCs. I look forward to putting a new MBA to work in my business.

    macgyverh had this to say on Feb 07, 2008 Posts: 2
  • I thought the idea of the Air would have been to use a BlueTooth mouse instead of a wired one. Just wondering.

    iPirate had this to say on Feb 10, 2008 Posts: 3
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