The 'Book Review

Sandy Bridge Flaw to Delay New 'Books, Mini Notebooks Cutting into Netbook Market, and More

This Week's MacBook, PowerBook, and iBook News

Compiled by Charles Moore and edited by Dan Knight - 2011.02.04

General Apple and Mac desktops is covered in The Mac News Review. iPad, iPod, iPhone, and Apple TV news is covered in The iOS News Review. All prices are in US dollars unless otherwise noted.

News & Opinion

Products & Services

Bargain 'Books

News & Opinion

Sandy Bridge Mobile Platform Reviewed, Integrated Intel Graphics the Weakest Link

The Register's Leo Waldock profiles the performance of Intel's second generation of Core "i" processors in their portable computer iteration. You may have heard that on Monday Intel announced that it had discovered a design flaw in the Cougar Point controller chipset for Sandy Bridge processors, but that is not a problem of the actual Sandy Bridge CPU chip itself, although it has implications for SATA devices used with this new generation of silicon. In the process of reviewing his whitebook sample, issues affecting storage did come to light as, you'll discover.

Waldock says he's "mightily impressed" with Sandy Bridge's dynamic overclocking Turbo Boost 2.0 feature, the chip's power management features, and its minuscule power draw.

The configuration tested combined a 2.3 GHz Core i7-2820QM processor (which can Turbo Boost all four cores to 3.1 GHz, two to 3.3 GHz, and one to 3.4 GHz), an Intel HM67 chipset, 4 GB of DDR3-1600 RAM in two modules that operate in dual channel mode, 64-bit Windows 7 Ultimate Edition, and a second generation 160 GB Intel X25-M SSD, which boosts performance of every benchmark.

Waldock observes that the weakest link in this setup is the the anemic Intel HD Graphics 3000 IGPU that is integral to the Core i7 processor.

Intel Chipset Fault Caused by a Single Transistor

Hardmac's Lionel reports that the fault Intel has detected in its Cougar Point chipsets for its new Sandy Bridge processor family involves just one transistor of the tens of millions that this chip contains. The transistor is part of the PLL, an internal clock essential to the operation of four SATA ports, and there would be a between 5% and 15% chance of performance degradation or failure in the first three years of use.

The defect is only present in chipsets used with quad-core CPUs.

No New MacBook Pros Until Summer Due to Intel Chip Flaw?

ZDNet's Jason D. O'Grady says the design flaw discovered in Intel's Cougar Point controller chipset could delay the next MacBook Pro refresh until summer at the earliest, noting that this could be disappointing and frustrating news for folks who've been waiting for a new MacBook refresh before making their next system upgrade.

Intel announced Monday that it had discovered a design issue in the recently released support chip, officially the Intel 6 Series, and has implemented a silicon fix. Because of this flaw, the SATA ports within the chipsets may degrade over time, potentially impacting the performance or functionality of SATA-linked devices such as hard disk drives and DVD drives.

Some computers have already shipped with the flawed chipset.

Intel Flaw May Delay Sandy Bridge Macs

Hardmac's Lionel notes that Intel has revealed that it's discovered a design defect in its Cougar Point controllers to be used in machines equipped with the new Sandy Bridge family of processors, causing potential degradation of performance in four of the six SATA 3 ports these controllers support. This means waiting until the end of February (at the earliest) for a new revision of the chips and Intel recalling all the motherboards that have been sold so far.

Lionel notes that potentially affected Mac systems would include the 27" iMacs, the next Mac Pro revision, and the anticipated spring MacBook Pro revision, which may need to be deferred several weeks.

Will Sandy Bridge Flaw Delay New MacBooks?

Cnet Crave's Scott Stein says that Intel's news of a defect in first generation Sandy Bridge controller chipsets could delay release of a new MacBook Pro revision until later rather than sooner.

While nothing has been or will be announced by Apple until an official unveiling of revised MacBook Pros happens, it's widely anticipated that the next generation of Pro notebooks, including the 13" model, will be powered by Sandy Bridge silicon.

Stein notes that new Sandy Bridge laptops have been expected somewhere around the end of February [which your editor thinks was an optimistically early projection even before the controller chip problem news] but that should likely be revised to somewhere toward late May/early June, which wouldn't be outside Apple's historical time envelope for spring notebook revisions.

Current MacBook Pro Models Becoming Scarce in the Channels

TUAW's TJ Luoma advises that if you're thinking about buying a MacBook Pro, you might want to wait a bit for a possible new revision update, noting that MacRumors has reported that that Amazon.com is currently showing long wait times before some of the MacBook Pro models ship and has heard from other resellers that supplies are running low.

Intel's revelation about a fault in its Sandy Bridge chipset will likely postpone the release of refreshed MacBook Pros until later in the spring than many of us had anticipated.

Mini Notebooks Cut into Netbook Market

Engadget's Joanna Stern observes that there's a new crop of more powerful, affordable, and highly mobile laptops she calls "notbooks", "affordable ultraportables", or "evolved netbooks", that will, along with tablets, ultimately cut the netbook market down to size as well as take a noticeable chunk of the mainstream laptop market - a class of portable computers that can provide a nice balance between primary and mobile computing without breaking the bank.

Her definition of a notbook: Affordable, as portable as a netbook, a bit larger than a netbook (typically 11.6" to 12"), and more powerful than an Atom-based netbook. The 11.6" MacBook Air is a perfect example of the category, albeit more expensive than its PC counterparts.

Stern notes that there are a lot of users out there who want a three-pound, inch-thick machine with useful power without having to go over to a $1K-plus Core i3 ULV ultraportable - something mobile but good enough for primary use.

She observes that while netbook vendors Acer, ASUS, Toshiba, and HP are standing by their respective Atom-powered 10-inchers for the time being - others like Sony have made it clear that netbooks are getting the boot, with that company's 11.6" AMD Zacate VAIO YB set to hit later the channels at around $550 and the VAIO W netbook to be discontinued.

Stern's not suggesting that netbooks or cheap mainstream laptops will totally perish, but more likely will will evolve into derivative form factors like the Samsung Sliding PC 7 Series and Inspiron Mini Duo - or even return to their roots as simply Internet connectivity machines. The reality is that the netbook is now under fire from two sides - ARM-tablets on the low end and affordable "notbooks" that provide just the right amount of performance, graphics, and battery life for a very mobile full computing experience on the high end, neither netbooks nor cheap, chunky 15.6" laptops just don't seem as appealing as they did two years ago.

Intel 310 Series 80 GB SSD Reviewed

The SSD Review's Les Tokar says Intel's new 310 Series 80 GB SSD offers the punch of the X-25M in a unit 1/8th its physical size and infers that Intel is hoping this form factor downsizing will open up a whole new dimension to notebook configurations, with the 310 Series' lower prices helping to boost SSDs into the sales mainstream so that anyone can have both the power of the SSD and the storage of a hard drive in their laptop.

Products & Services

BookArc for Air Stand for MacBook Air

BookArc Stand for MacBook AirPR: Twelve South has introduced the first BookArc stand designed exclusively for the new MacBook Air (Late 2010). This latest addition to the BookArc family has been reengineered to firmly grip the ultra-thin MacBook Air only.

The Arc's stylish and sturdy heavy gauge steel stand with a built-in cable management system, making it ideal for neatniks, minimalists, and anyone else who desires a super tidy workspace. Park your MacBook Air in BookArc, connect it to your Apple Cinema Display, and your skinny MacBook is now a killer desktop.

Oh So Nice Cable Management.

Since the new MacBook Air has ports on both sides, a built-in cable manager has been incorporated into BookArc. It routes your power, external monitor, headphones, and any other cords behind the back of your Mac for a clean, neat workspace. Along with keeping your cables orderly, the handy cable management system also holds your cables in place, making it easy to get your MacBook Air in and out of BookArc. Say good-bye to cables falling from the desk to the floor every time you unplug them from your MacBook Air.

One Size Fits Both.

BookArc Stand for MacBook AirWhether you have an 11" or 13" MacBook Air (Late 2010 models), BookArc has you covered. Both sizes of this new sliver of genius from Apple have the same profile, so either will fit snugly and securely in BookArc for MacBook Air. A soft, cushiony insert firmly grips your Mac for a secure fit. Silicone foot pads on the bottom of BookArc keep your work surface free of marks or scratches.

Want to Speed Up You MacBook Air? Try a BookArc - Really

BookArc for MacBook Air is more than a cleverly designed stand for your Mac. If you work with an external monitor, BookArc can actually improve the performance of MacBook Air. How? When you work with two monitors, your Mac's video memory is split between the two, but when you work with your MacBook closed, your Mac only has to power the external display. You will notice an increase in speed, especially when working in Photoshop, Aperture, iPhoto, and other graphics-intensive apps. So can a notebook stand really speed up your MacBook? If it's a BookArc, the answer is yes.

BookArc for MacBook Air will sell for $39.99. Preorders are being accepted, with free shipping offered for a limited time.

Mercury Aura Pro Express SSD Earns 'Best of Show' and 'Best Mac Hardware' Honors at Macworld 2011

PR: Other World Computing (OWC) announces that it received two major awards at Macworld Expo 2011, the annual Macintosh exposition and conference that concluded this past weekend in San Francisco. Out of a field of more than 230 exhibitors and thousands of exhibited products, the OWC Mercury Aura Pro Express SSD was named one of 10 Macworld Expo 2011 "Best of Show" products by Macworld Magazine as well as earning "Best Mac Hardware" honors by MacLife Magazine.

Bests Thousands of Products to Win Macworld 'Best of Show'

Macworld Senior Editor Roman Loyola called the OWC Mercury Aura Pro Express SSD a "very attractive option" for the new MacBook Air and praised OWC's free online installation guides as OWC Best of Show 2011"very helpful" at the presentation ceremony held Jan. 28 on the Macworld Live stage. OWC Marketing & PR Manager Grant Dahlke demonstrated the OWC Mercury Aura Pro SSD to the live ceremony audience with a side-by-side real world comparison of booting the OS and loading multiple applications. "This is the future of storage," said Dahlke.

Named 'Best Mac Hardware' by MacLife Magazine

The Mercury Aura Pro Express was also awarded the 2011 Macworld Expo "Best Mac Hardware" award by MacLife, a top-rated Apple products print and online news site. MacLife Reviews Editor Ray Aguilera described the Mercury Aura Pro Express as "an SSD upgrade kit for your MacBook Air with 180 GB to 360 GB of ultra fast SSD love."

In addition to the Mercury Aura Pro Express, the OWC Aura Pro line includes the OWC Mercury Aura Pro MBA for MacBook Air 2008/2009 models and the OWC Mercury Aura Pro 1.8", the first and fastest SandForce processor based SSD available for netbooks, subnotebook, and other computers that utilize an internal 1.8" sized SATA drive.

"It is gratifying to receive recognition for the Mercury Aura Pro Express SSD from the two biggest Mac oriented media titles," said Larry O'Connor, Founder and CEO, Other World Computing. "We strive everyday at OWC to develop cutting edge products our customers can install themselves to get the highest level of performance and reliability from their technology investment."

More Speed, Capacity, and Options Than Factory SSD

The introduction of the OWC Mercury Aura Pro line of SSDs at the 2011 Consumer Electronics Show established OWC as the most comprehensive US manufacturer of industry leading SandForce processor based SSDs available today. With peak data rates of 275 MB/s and capacities up to 360 GB, the Mercury Aura Pro Express offers up to 22% higher speed and up to 3x higher capacity than factory installed SSDs.

OWC SSDs Offered for Most Macs over Last Decade

In addition to the Mercury Aura Pro SSD line, OWC Mercury Pro SSDs are available for nearly every Mac made over the last decade:

  • OWC Mercury Legacy Pro, the first and fastest SandForce processor based IDE/ATA SSD available for pre-Intel PowerPC based Mac notebooks, PCs, and other notebook/laptop computers.
  • OWC Mercury Extreme Pro Legacy Edition, the first and fastest SandForce processor based IDE/ATA SSD available for pre-Intel PowerPC based Macs, PCs, and other desktop/tower computers.
  • OWC Mercury Extreme Pro SSD: Ultra high performance 2.5" SATA SSD for demanding portable and desktop tower use.
  • OWC Mercury Extreme Pro RE SSD: "RE" RAID-Ready Enhanced performance with 28% over-provisioning for data centers, network operation centers, and dedicated RAID installations.

Doesn't Slow Down with Use Like Ordinary SSDs

Ordinary SSDs offer fast read/write performance during first initial uses, but then experience significant write speed degradation over repeated usage. Independent simulation tests by leading drive performance experts confirm OWC Mercury Pro brand SSD's ultra-efficient Block Management & Wear Leveling technologies are able to eliminate virtually any reduction in data transfer speeds over heavy long term usage of the drive and without dependency on less than effective OS TRIM management.

Up to 100x Greater Data Protection

Utilizing SandForce DuraClass technology, the OWC Mercury Pro SSD line is able to provide up to 100x higher data protection than provided by ordinary SSDs as well as leading enterprise class hard disk drives. By combining the highest level of Error Correction Code (ECC) and SandForce RAISE (Redundant Array of Independent Silicon Elements) technology along with 7% over provisioning, the Mercury Pro SSD provides RAID-like data protection and reliability without loss of transfer speed due to parity.

Speck Brings New Covers, Sleeves for the New MacBook Air 11" and 13"

PixelSleeve AirPR: The new MacBook Air is the lightest, slimmest MacBook yet so keeping it protected is essential. Protection specialist Speck has introduced a suite of exciting products designed to help MacBook Air owners safeguard their investment from the bumps and dings of everyday life.

From snug neoprene sleeves to ultra-thin lightweight hard-shell covers, Speck's new cases for MacBook Air 11" and 13" all feature its trademark fashion-meets-function designs.

PixelSleeve Air - Flexible Padded Protection That's Off the Grid


PixelSleeve Air familyOffered in two sizes, the PixelSleeve Air for either the MacBook Air 11" or 13" is slim, stylish, formfitting and plenty protective.

PixelSleeve Air

Featuring Speck's trademark, eye-catching, pixel-pattern design, it's made with a stretchy neoprene exterior and a soft micro-fleece inner lining to keep your notebook safe.

With its unique low-profile design, the PixelSleeve Air is also airport security checkpoint-friendly. Available in February in Aubergine, Peacock and Black for $34.95 MSRP.

SeeThru and SeeThru Satin - Ultra-Thin and Lightweight Hard Shell Cases for MacBook Air

SeeThru cover for MacBook AirThe new thinner and lighter SeeThru and SeeThru Satin for the new MacBook Air are two-piece form-fit hard shell cases that personalize and protect your MacBook Air from everyday scrapes and scratches. The new designs feature built-in rubberized stabilizer feet with patent-pending anti-tilt extensions that keep the MacBook Air in place when opening and closing the screen. Precise engineering allows the screen to fully open, offers complete access to all ports/battery check function and is easy to attach and remove. The sleek SeeThru and SeeThru Satin MacBook Air cases offer protection without adding bulk while still creating a durable layer of scratch and scuff resistance when sliding in and out of sleeves, bags and backpacks. SeeThru Satin provides the same hard shell protection as the translucent SeeThru, but also features a frosted soft-touch outer finish for added grip and comfort.

The SeeThru Case for MacBook Air 11" or 13" is on sale now in Clear for $49.95 MSRP with the additional colors of Cobalt and Raspberry available in March.

SeeThru Satin Case for MacBook Air 11" or 13" is on sale now in Black for $49.95 MSRP with the additional colors of Clementine and Aubergine available in March.

Bargain 'Books

For deals on current and discontinued 'Books, see our 13" MacBook and MacBook Pro, MacBook Air, 13" MacBook Pro, 15" MacBook Pro, 17" MacBook Pro, 12" PowerBook G4, 15" PowerBook G4, 17" PowerBook G4, titanium PowerBook G4, iBook G4, PowerBook G3, and iBook G3 deals.

We also track iPad, iPhone, iPod touch, iPod classic, iPod nano, and iPod shuffle deals.

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