Is Solid State Technology an Advantage on a Boat?

RIP, I’m in mourning for my departed MacBook, even though its 1-9 keys didn’t work.  Turns out it was going to cost more to fix it than buy a new one.  But mostly I was mourning the hassle that I always encounter when setting up a new computer.  Keep in mind, I haven’t had to do this for awhile.  But first things first … what computer….

I’ve been a Mac person so long, it had to be a Mac.  The MacBook 13″ was perfect for a long time … until it accidentally through a combination of factors, got condensation puddles that caused “liquid damage” and thus RIP.   For the “rest of the sad story”, click the link.

MacBook Pro 13

MacBook Pro 13″ on bottom and MacBook Air 13″ on top – thinner, lighter and solid state hard drive.

My son, who knows quite a bit about this stuff,  said the new one had to be Air, Air, Air.  I wasn’t convinced.

Bottom line, I bought a 13″ Air, with the following reasoning….

Prices were essentially the same, so it was a matter of picking the right laptop for me.  The specs for Air are a slower processor and much smaller storage … like half of the 500 GB, I had with the MacBook.  I used 121 GB storage on that MacBook, and I have thousands of photos that are backed up on an external hard drive as well as individual USB flash drives — in other words, don’t need to be there.

The Air has something called “solid state technology” and the MacBook has a normal hard drive.  In other words, the MacBook has a spinning platter and moving parts, the Air has no moving parts and a solid state hard drive.  It’s also thinner and lighter.  Because it has no spinning parts, there’s no need for a fan to keep the spinning parts cool.  In theory, solid state should be better aboard a boat.

MacBook Air reporting for duty aboard Winterlude

MacBook Air reporting for duty aboard Winterlude

No need for a fan to cool off the laptop?  I see this as a major advantage, the old Mac got really really hot even with the aluminum platform iLap it sits on allowing the air to distribute under the laptop.  And when it’s hot, the fan runs all the time.  🙁  Sometimes I even plug in a 12v fan to blow under the platform and cool it more.  The fan created a bit of noise, although since that’s all I’ve ever had, I’m used to it.

So no moving parts, no fan.  Two pluses.  But a 50% reduction in hard drive storage space… and a processor half the size of the MacBook.

Another plus … without the CD/DVD drive and spinning hard drive, the Air uses less electricity – the MacBook had a 60 watt power cord and the Air has a 45 watt power cord – dividing watts by volts (110) tells us that the MacBook uses over half an amp of electricity and the Air uses .40, not a huge difference on the face of it, but when you factor in the inverter deterioration factor with the 12V batteries, it looks to me like it might mean the MacBook uses almost twice as much electricity.  I’m not an electrician, so I have no idea if this is real, but based on what I do know, it appears possible.

Another shot of the Pro vs Air.   Hope we made the right decision...

Another shot of the Pro vs Air. Hope we made the right decision…

Because the processor in the Air has to power less stuff, it can be smaller and still run faster.  Part of the “less stuff” means no CD/DVD drive – can I live without one?  But I haven’t used it in … years?  So if I need one I could always get a USB external CD/DVD drive.   I’m not certain if the Air any faster online, but it definitely turns on in a much shorter time frame than the MacBook.  And it loads programs much quicker.  So far I’m pleased with the choice.

We shall see if the “solid state technology”, less power draw, faster everything loading, no need for a fan to cool spinning parts proves to be worth the lack of hard drive space.   My external hard drive is trig size, so I’ll just need to be a big more conservative on keeping clutter off the laptop.

Anyone with experience with solid state technology aboard?  Please leave a comment and share.  Hopefully I didn’t make an expensive mistake!  🙁


  1. Steve Reade says:

    Hi ya, I’ve used my MacBook Air on deliveries with it running Open CPN constantly 24/7 with a USB connected GPS and I’ve powered it with a 12 volt charger. Sweet as… Lovely machine..

    • Great news, Steve! 12v charger? What charger do you have? I’d love to have a 12v charger, but the Apple store told me there wasn’t one. THANKS! Jan

  2. I love Macs and purchased a Macbookair-11″ just before we moved aboard last fall. Although I’ve never had a problem with a mac in 20 years of owning them, my new macbook air crashed its solid-state drive in November (after 3 months of use). The authorized Apple Service Center repairman (in La Paz, MX) told me that it was a fairly common problem with the macbook airs, so I don’t think it related to our sailing life. Hopefully Apple will have corrected the problem in yours. PS-doing Apple warranty work in a foreign land was not easy!

    • Yikes! I can appreciate the frustration of trying to get approved warranty work on anything outside the U.S. I’m glad you were able to get it resolved. I was told to keep backing mine up regularly (which I do anyway) because apparently a negative about solid state technology is that it’s much more difficult to retrieve the hard drive data once it crashes. So I’ll have to be more diligent. Thx for sharing! Cheers — Jan

  3. Found this online a little while ago, haven’t got around to ordering it yet:
    You’ll need this adapter:

    I’ve got a mid 2011 MBA, been working great with zero problems so far.
    I do use Onyx (free) once a month or so, going through every option to “clean” everything, definitely gets it back up to speed.

  4. Larry - DH says:

    Jan – you made a good choice. SSD (solid state disk) is the new standard for performance and reliability. Statistically any disk can fail and both spinning and SSD are reliable. But SSD is (statistically) more reliable. You will get lightning fast performance and far greater reliability. As you noted you’ll also get longer battery life. SSD has less sensitivity to environmental factors such as magnetism, vibration, heat/cold, and shock. This is a huge advantage all-around, especially on a mobile device that gets carried around in a bag and car/boat.
    But we haven’t addressed your moisture issue. The issue is condensation. If you leave the computer on a desk near an open hatch, and night is falling, you’ll get the same condensation inside the computer and on its components that you do on your cabin. When the computer is powered on it generates heat (all the active components do, not just the hard drive) so they don’t get condensation. So this isn’t generally an issue on a running computer that’s IN USE (not sleep mode).
    So the answer to condensation is to put away your computer into a closed case while it’s still warm, when it’s not being used. Only take it out when you want to use it, and don’t leave it out except during times when you know condensation won’t be an issue (e.g. mid-day on a sunny day during moderate humidity).

    • Thanks Larry! This is the first time in almost 14 years that I’ve lost a laptop due to condensation. You’re right, I wasn’t diligent enough – years and years breed complacency and I happened to be the next victim. These days, I’ve been putting the Air in the microwave oven whenever I’m not using it — the laptop AND the microwave. David wanted me to put it in the oven, but the oven is full of baking stuff & cutting boards, so no go. Not sure the microwave is necessary, but I intend to get more dessicant packets to put in my laptop bag. THANKS for the reassurance the solid state wasn’t a big mistake. So far I LOVE the Air … and I really LOVE the SD card slot right in the Air, my old MacBook didn’t have such luxuries. Cheers! Jan

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