Why I WILL Return my MacBook Air

The topic of buying a MacBook Air, and Why I Won’t Return my MacBook Air is getting more and more interesting. When I am thinking through it, I surprisingly find how a single decision relates to a broad range of topics, including the valuation of time, decision making process, losing face, desire for the better. Let me examine these one by one.

The Value of Time

The key reason I won’t return the MacBook Air is about time. Waiting for another two weeks, and also bear the risk of initial shortage of supply, or even longer if I want to ask someone to buy it from Palo Alto and bring it to Shanghai to save about 10%? Or imagine enjoy the new laptop right now at desk of my hotel, at SFO airport, on plane (I heard the battery last for 7 hours which fit into my schedule), show it off to Wendy and try to hide it from the sight of Yifan?

Hmmm… It is so appealing the happiness NOW, is more valuable than the happiness of tomorrow. (An experiment from another psychologist shows that people generally value $100 right now, v.s. $1000 the same day after 10 years).

It leads to the broader question: what is exact the value of NOW, vs even few hours later. A typical example is about buying a book. You enter a bookstore and you see a really good book. You know it for sure that Amazon offers 20% off of the same thing. Still, there are a lot of people (including me) want to buy it now, v.s. wait for its delivery even the second day. If the difference is, let’s say, 1 dollar, most people don’t bother. Just buy it. If the difference is $20, not sure. The different becomes $200? Most people would buy it online. Why is that? Shall I see the value of NOW vs 24 hour later is $20 on average? Where does this price comes from? Proportional with daily salary, or anything else? I am just very curious.

OK. That is factor #1. As a rational decision, shall we take the dollar amount cost of “waiting” into consideration and compare it with the value a better processor brings?

Decision Making Process

Another interesting finding I got was, the time and energy needed to make a decision does not vary too much for things with different dollar value. Choosing the flavor of ice cream is as time consuming as choosing a MacBook, and not proportional less easier than choosing to buy a house, a round of corporate financing.

Rationally, I understand that buying a house is a bigger decision. Sometimes, just because I like the shape of window, or it is 2 miles nearer to work, we’d choose a house over another one, which easily cost us the money to buy a MacBook every month for the next few years. But the decision to choose which model of MacBook is equally time consuming. Why is that? Is it because the human brain develops without the concept of money 1 million years ago so it does not have that function (without good training on that)? Or is it because both decisions cost the same circle of CPU time of our brain, regardless of the value?

A lot of people choose to form some “my favorite …” to help on that. “My favorite is strawberry” – that helps me a lot in choosing my flavor for ice cream, and that is the tendency I squeeze myself into just a small corner of the world, with no chance to explore the chocolate flavor, or the land at the other side of the sea.

What bothers me is, why I spent some much time on this decision at the first place.

Losing Face, or Mianzi

I agree that there are some type of feeling losing face involved to claim I won’t return it in the last blog. I actually thought it was not a factor at all, but after deeply replay what I thought, I admit it was a factor. However, with just marginal impact.

People know me I openly admitted a lot of thing that makes me to lose face on this blog. I enjoy the fact to discover how stupid I am, because I am just a human. Just like life is perfectly imperfect, I am perfectly stupid a lot of times. Let me share something embarrassing that I didn’t tell in the last post. I actually visited the Apple Store the last night in Palo Alto, and wandered in it for half an hour, and still didn’t make up my mind to return it. I called Wendy and shared how embarrassing I was to spend so much time on such a simple decision, while I can make a decision worth of few million USD, in an hour.

But, I don’t feel bad about it. Benjamin Disraeli said “Fear makes us feel our humanity.”, my incompetency to make a decision quicker also makes me feel my humanity, and I am genuinely curious about why is that.

The Desire for the Better

Well. I admit if I had known about the news, I won’t buy it. I just didn’t know. Why? Just because lack of time and energy to track the new tech stuff. I didn’t open the box of MacBook Air not because I don’t see the value of NOW, as I just mentioned, it is because I think it is a bad idea to open the box to check out what’s new at 3 am after finish some important documents. I already regretted to open Nexus One at Night during my last trip in 2010.

The deeper reason why I didn’t trace the technology trend as I did when I was college graduate is, I started to find more source of happiness, and think it is less and less important for my life (a sign for aging?). I chased Intel 8086, 286, 386, 486, Pentium, Pentium II, Windows 3.2, 95, 98, Me, 2000, XP in my old days, and I chased the release of many product, but my recently ignorance of technical trend actually made me feel better.

I didn’t notice the slowness of iPhone until someone tells me how powerful the future iPhone will be. I didn’t complain about not able to share the photo wirelessly to my iPad until I watched the launch of iCloud of OS 5. “Stupid!” I should NOT have watched, which let me aware of how out-of-date my current iPhone is, even before OS 5 is available.

That desire for the better aligns our desire to get a bigger house, a better car, more money in the bank account (how strange it is that most people think bank account balance more important about the quality of the breakfast before their face). Shall we simply get rid of the desire, or at least constrain it a little bit by focusing on just a few desire, not everything?

I WILL Return my MacBook Air

After thoroughly examine what I thought, and explorer the reasons behind every thought, I felt great satisfaction about know the humanity of myself better. The value of getting a MacBook Air right now is not that important to me. I still want it, but I can wait for another month. I will return it on the way to Stanford fireworks tonight, with peace in my mind.

If you have another reason that I should or should NOT return it, please leave a comment. It will increase my level of happiness if you share this article to your friend (my humanity also include certain level of vanity).

11 thoughts on “Why I WILL Return my MacBook Air

  1. Well I’m glad I have written this somehow “provocative” post Jianshuo. I’ll write an e-mail to you explaining a little bit about myself, I think you will be surprised ;-)

    I hope you’ll enjoy your brand new Macbook Air. I will enjoy mine for sure (I’m switching from this 13″ to the 11″).

    Can’t wait to find the time to write to you.

    Cheers !


  2. Hi everyone, I am checking in at Apple Store in Palo Alto. I just returned the MacBook Air, and I started to get interested in iMac 27 inc 3.4GHz. Big screen, and nice system. Is there any news that there will be an upgrade in near future?

  3. hah I totally disagree with you. Your initial impulse is to buy it. Your job has all to do with technology and certainly Apple is at the cutting edge. I would think it comes down to you can afford it or not which you clearly can. You travel alot, like I do, on those long international flights 7 hour battery comes in handy. It is a great machine and will give you satisfaction. You will also get years of use out of it. yes you can wait one month but why? Unless there is some kind of awesome upgrade. You work hard reward yourself. In a few years when its older and somewhat obsolete give it to your son or a friend or relative who cant afford such things. I find even laptops two years old there is always some nephew or niece in the family that can use it. or do as I do sometimes put movies or music on it like a portable TV while I am writing or working.

    What you have is buyer’s remorse. We all get it. Its amazing I will agonize over some small decison to spend $20 but think nothing of going to a kTV and tipping some girl $60. This is how people are wired. It will be useful to you and your family. I did the same think with the iphone. Should I wait, do I need it, I already have a blackberry why do I need another phone. should I get a cheaper phone. As it turned out the item was so awesome. Even two years later its a wonderment. I can work, watch movies , play games use skype etc etc. keep the machine. There are alot more serious decisions to agonize over this is not one of them

  4. you can check http://buyersguide.macrumors.com/

    three years ago, I was an apple store @ miami (back home in 2 days)and asked the apple guy to confirm if the RUMOR of upating macbook is true. I even opened macrumors.com and pointed the news to the poor guy. he replied: i have no idea. but if you buy here and ship to china, its still cheaper. thanks for giving me the hint. finally i didn’t buy it . LOL

  5. Jianshuo, the iMac 27″ is simply AWSOME. I don’t pretend everyone should have chosen my setup, but according to my needs, here’s what I bought : I have a 2010 Mac Pro connected to a 27″ Apple Cinema Display, which I use as my main computer at home, and, as you now know, a 2010 13″ Macbook Air, which I use when I travel.

    I decided to switch to the brand new, upcoming 11″ Macbook Air when it’s released, because I realized I travel more than I thought, mainly on planes and trains, and well … In those cases, the smaller (and lighter) the better, my main use there is simply writing e-mails, surfing the net, doing Powerpoint presentations, watching a couple of movies to kill the time.

    I also have an iPad 2, but it was a gift, I don’t really need it but that’s just a “nice to have” when I’m in the living room watching some uninteresting thing on TV, I can still do some stuff with my iPad 2. I tried to replace my Macbook Air with the iPad 2 : I simply cannot “work” with my iPad 2. Even with an external keyboard.

    Now back to the “main computer”. I chose a Mac Pro because I wanted it to be “upgradable”, I’m still a geek, so I wanted to put “special” things in like a BlueRay Drive, and several SSD drives to speed my system up. I can probably keep this Mac Pro for another 2-3 years by upgrading the graphics card. Now having said that, if I’d have NOTHING right now, I would go for a 27″ iMac RIGHT AWAY. Because not they’ve got everything I want “all-in-one” :

    – this beautiful and high resolution 27″ monitor (it’s gorgeous, really, in my opinion) ; I used to have two Samsung 26″ monitors in 1920 x 1200, now I just have ONE Apple Cinema Display, in 2560 x 1440, and I’m more efficient now with only one monitor ;

    – SSD drive option (although very expensive in my opinion, in my Mac Pro I put a regular SSD drive which works like a charm) ;

    – speedy processors (3.4 Ghz Core i7 with SSD drive … man, that’s more than enough for what I do, meaning a bit of graphic stuff and games, see here :


    My ideal configuration would be somehow expensive, around USD 3’000.-, but that’s still USD 1’100.- less than what I currently have (Mac Pro with 160GB Intel SSD drive, 6 GB of RAM, BlueRay Drive, and 27″ Apple Cinema Display). The only downside to the iMac vs the Mac Pro would then be the Blue Ray drive, but I suppose you can find cheap ones in external nowadays, so no big deal.

    I’ve been told that the latest iMacs had quite an annoying replacement from Apple : the disk interface appear to be now proprietary, meaning you cannot just tear your iMac apart and put in whatever drive you want, as you did before … I’m not sure about this info, but I think I read it somewhere recently …

    So … I would say : if you need it and can afford it, go for a 27″ iMac at home and buy your 13″ Macbook Air for traveling. But that’s a lot of money to put down. If I were to choose between those two, I would most probably buy the Macbook Air and a cheap external monitor (Samsung or whatever), that way I could still use my Macbook Air as a “home” computer. You just don’t want to be playing games on a 2560 x 1440 external monitor with the Macbook Air … ;-) It will be quite slow (to use a euphemism). But if you just use it for writing e-mails, surfing the net, Powerpoint, Excel, watch movies etc., then you’ll be fine with the Macbook Air and an external monitor.

    All of this is just my humble opinion, and reflects my needs according to my experience. I don’t know if it’ll help you.

    Cheers !


  6. Because happiness is just an illusion when obtained from a product, the focus here needs to be productivity. Over the lifetime of the new model will you get more done, when compared to the old one. If you return it now you have zero productivity for 2 weeks. Then then you have higher productivity going into the future. The reason for buying the book in the bookstore now is because you can read it straight away and boost your knowledge straight away. That translates to smarter working immediately which I think should save you more money than the slightly lower price you pay in going to Amazon. Also I find I forget to order from Amazon later so the impulse gets lost. I’m all for buying while the impulse is hot rather than wasting time in deliberations.

  7. JS,

    Did you use your Chinese credit card to buy the Macbook Air?

    I’m not sure about Chinese cc’s but many cc’s charge a surcharge on top of the exchange rate. When you buy and return an item (even on the same day) you may have lost some money due to both charges.

  8. 27″ 3.4GH is the latest. I am waiting for it to be “upgraded” with Lion. They have been upgrading the lines every year… but who knows these days. Everything has been pushed for shorter new release cycles which is pretty crazy, computers ant phones are not longer tools.

  9. @shockr, you pointed an important question. I don’t know yet. I will figure it later. I assume it should same money out, same money in, but not sure.

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