Although the slim, ultralight profile of the MacBook Air is impressive, owners must sacrifice a few features PC owners take for granted, like an optical drive and an Ethernet port.
Without an Ethernet port, the Air is a wireless-only machine, forcing users to find a Wi-Fi connection, even if there's a more stable wired network available.
Thankfully, there are plenty of cheaper USB to Ethernet adapter solutions out there.
Monoprice, the Internet's best-kept secret of cheap cables and the like, sells a USB to Ethernet dongle for $6.64, nearly $22 cheaper than Apple's comparable product.
Usage couldn't be simpler. No drivers are needed -- just plug the adapter into your Air's USB port, and plug the available Ethernet cable in to the adapter.
If you're a die-hard Amazon customer, try the I/O Crest SY-ADA24005 USB 2.0 Ethernet Adapter. It's currently priced at $7.90, but that includes free shipping for Amazon Prime subscribers.
One thing to note, though: the USB adapters listed here (including Apple's) are rated at USB 2.0 speeds, so they max out 100Mbps -- even, apparently, when attached to the faster USB 3.0 ports on the latest 2012 MacBooks. (If you need gigabit speeds and can't wait for a bargain USB 3.0 adapter, you should opt for the Thunderbolt one for now.)
But, heck -- for around $7, the Monoprice or I/O Crest dongles are worth adding to your toolkit for those times when the only connection available is via a good ol' wired network.
This story has been updated since its original publication to clarify issues of USB speed, add an alternative product from Amazon, and to add a mention of Apple's Thunderbolt adapter.