The 'Book Review

Dell's MacBook Air Killer Dies, New MacBook Pros Imminent?, SSD Torture Test, and More

This Week's MacBook, PowerBook, and iBook News

Compiled by Charles Moore and edited by Dan Knight - 2011.02.11

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

Dell's 'MacBook Air Killer' Dies

The Loop's Jim Dalrymple reports that Dell's slow-selling Adamo notebook, designed to compete with Apple's original (2008) MacBook Air is being discontinued. Not even a price slash to $799 from the original $2,000 worked to boost sales to a sustainable level.

One deduces that the spectacular popularity of the second generation MacBook Air, launched last October to rave reviews, proved the final nail in Adamo's coffin.

New MacBook Pros Imminent?

Hardmac's Lionel reports that according sources, MacBook Pro (MBP) stocks are running very low. Notwithstanding the Intel Sandy Bridge controller chipset fiasco - since Apple only uses two SATA controllers (one for the optical drive, one for the hard drive or SSD), and the chipset flaw only affects support for four or more SATA arrays - Apple should be unaffected for a MacBook Pro refresh.

Lionel says it remains unclear whether Apple will offer SSDs as standard equipment, noting that according to the last scuttlebutt, the next 13" MacBook Pro might only be powered by Intel's Sandy Bridge chip's integrated graphics chipset, which is slower than the current Nvidia GeForce 320M IGPU used with the Core 2 Duo CPUs in current 13" MBP, speculating that in order to compensate for the integrated graphics chipset performance downgrade, Apple might decide to go with Core i5 as the minimum spec for all MacBook Pro models.

He also suggests that the SSD-based MacBook Air might get its first refresh, switching from Core 2 Duo to low-voltage Core i3 + HD 3000 silicon, or perhaps even an AMD CPU, but expects USB 3.0 to remain off the feature roster.

Apple Quoting 4 to 6 Weeks on MacBook Pro Replacements

AppleInsider's Neil Hughes reports that getting in front of an anticipated refresh of Apple's MacBook Pro lineup, Apple has informed told some customers needing replacement machines that they may need to wait four to six weeks for new hardware due to limited supply.

Next Gen MacBook Pros Could Arrive on March 11

9 to 5 Mac's Mark Gurman says he's been informed that Best Buy stores have recently placed in Dummy SKUs for an updated MacBook Pro line, and according to Best Buy's inventory system, the new MacBook Pro line will feature an $1,199 model, matching the base price for the current 13" MacBook Pro, and the Best Buy inventory system showing a March 11, 2011 release date for the upcoming MacBook Pro refresh.

Should You Wait for Sandy Bridge MacBook Pros?

AppleGazette notes that pent-up demand for a MacBook Pro refresh is building, especially following Intel's revelation last week of a controller chipset flaw affecting its new Sandy Bridge CPU family that's expected to be used in the next Pro models, so attempts to answer the conundrum of whether those in the hunt for a new Apple notebook should wait, or just buy a current model.

The imponderable is how much different the next revision machines will be from the present offerings. Will it be in the same form factor with Sandy Bridge silicon and perhaps some other tweaks, or a complete redesign taking its cues from the 2010 MacBook Air?

Editor's note: My two cents? If you're not absolutely desperate to get a laptop or upgrade your present system, wait. The Intel issue should be rectified by the end of April, and I'll be surprised if the new MacBook Pros are delayed beyond June. And if you can't wait, don't feel too bad. The present-generation Pros are superb machines that can serve your well for years to come. cm

Publisher's note: I strongly suspect that the next generation MacBook Pros will use the same SSDs found in the 2010 MacBook Air, which is responsible for a huge performance leap for anything disk-related. An SSD boot drive plus room for a hard drive, perhaps without an internal optical drive, would make sense. dk

A True Test of SSD Durability

Hardmac's Lionel says that rather than believing what of SSD manufacturers claim regarding the lifespan of their products, the folks at Tom's Hardware.fr (link not provided) decided to test an old 128 GB SSD by loading and then erasing its contents over and over nonstop since the end of December. They report that with 250 TB of data written, the SSD presents no symptoms of wear yet that would be characterized by a reduction in its declared capacity.

Does the iPad Really Spell 'the End of the Laptop?'

MacNews' Dennis Sellers notes that in a recent interview with "PaidContent", Rupert Murdoch, chairman and CEO of News Corp., suggested that the iPad spells end of the laptop - observing, "Here we have the man who invented the personal computer, then the laptop. He's now destroying them. That is an amazing life."

Sellers begs to differ with the formidable Mr. Murdoch on the latter point (as does your editor), contending that iPads, laptops, and desktops will all continue to coexist long into the future.

WD, Hitachi, and Toshiba Trounce Seagate in Mobile Drive Shipments

The Register's Chris Mellor notes that hard drive specialist Seagate has lost considerable market share to rival Toshiba on mobile hard drive shipments, according to research metrics from Aaron Rakers of Stifel Nicolaus. Data shows that in Q4 2010, Seagate shipped 11.8 million 2.5" mobile drives - down 14% year-over-year and down 12% on Q3 2010, continuing a pattern of decline. Seagate was roundly trounced by Hitachi GST, which shipped 16.3 million 2.5" drives in the Q4 2010 quarter - a 13.2% improvement on its 2009 Q4 performance - and Western Digital, which shipped 17.4 million mobile 2.5" drives in the same period.

Toshiba's Q4 mobile hard drive shipments numbered 11.8 million, down 15% from 2009's fourth quarter, but up a whopping 25% over Q3 2010 shipments.

Better news for Seagate is that it still led in overall hard drive shipments for the quarter, moving 52.2 million drives, up 5% year-over-year, with WD second, Hitachi GST third, and Toshiba fourth, even though it makes no 3.5" drives.

Products & Services

RunCore Combo USB 3.0/SSD ExpressCard/34

RunCore Pro IV USB 3.0 ExpressCard SSDMany PC news sites are reporting that SSD maker RunCore is primed to release its Pro IV USB 3.0 ExpressCard SSD, a laptop-oriented combination USB 3.0 adapter card and 32 or 64 GB SSD.

The data storage can reportedly be accessed at transfer rates of 110 MB/s read and 80 MB/s write, and the card also adds two USB 3.0 ports, although throughput bandwidth is diminished when both "personalities" of this card are in use simultaneously.

RunCore Pro IV USB 3.0 ExpressCard SSDThe device itself can reportedly be used as a standalone external SSD by connecting the bundled USB 3.0 male-male cable to a port on your non-ExpressCard/34 equipped system on any personal computer with USB 3.0 or USB 2.0 ports, although the latter case would bottleneck throughput somewhat (USB 3.0 has ten times as much bandwidth).

I've been able to find no information on either pricing or availability. Amazon.com carries other RunCore products and will probably have this one when it's available. No word on Mac compatibility.

A tip of the hat to French-English language Apple news site Hardmac (via Tom's Hardware.fr) for bringing this one to our attention.

Innovative Swiftpoint Laptop Mouse Piling Up Award Accolades

PR: New Zealand-based Swiftpoint's innovative Swiftpoint mouse continues to receive critical acclaim. It received a Best of What's New 2010 award from Popular Science magazine last fall as one of "the 100 greatest creations of the year," an Editors Choice award from Computer Shopper magazine. and last month a "Computer Peripherals Innovations" award at the Consumer Electronics Show 2011 (CES) in Las Vegas.

Swiftpoint Laptop MouseThe Swiftpoint mouse is a different kind of mouse. It provides all of the functions of a traditional mouse, however, it operates on the area of the laptop next to the touchpad, called the palmrest. This means laptop users can use their laptop in any environment they choose and still maintain the performance and accuracy a mouse gives. With the Swiftpoint mouse laptop users will never have to rely on a touchpad again.

The idea for the product came to Swiftpoint CEO Grant Odgers in 2002 when his frustrations with the touchpad on his laptop grew. He wanted to be truly mobile with his laptop but could not do this with a traditional mouse. He discovered that he was not alone in this thinking, but in discussions with other laptop users, he realized there was no other mouse alternative that would allow him to use his laptop away from a table or desk without having to rely on a touchpad. Eight years on and after multiple product iterations, user group input, and product testing, Odgers believes the Swiftpoint mouse will greatly improve people's laptop experiences whether for commuting, gaming, or simply browsing on the couch. "The Swiftpoint mouse can be used in so many environments and with a variety of applications from precision design applications, gaming to general laptop use on planes, trains, buses, or around the home," says Odgers. "We truly believe it will change the way people use their laptops."

Swiftpoint Laptop MouseOdgers also believes the Swiftpoint mouse has the potential to address ergonomic issues often associated with using small mice. The Swiftpoint mouse has been designed to employ a pen-like grip, making it feel natural and comfortable to use. Research has demonstrated that the Swiftpoint mouse design is 30-40% more accurate than a touchpad. The combination of portability, efficiency, and comfort is what Odgers and his team believe make this mouse truly unique.

The Swiftpoint mouse gives you all the functions of a traditional mouse but operates next to your laptop's touchpad. It works anywhere your laptop works, so you never have to rely on a touchpad again.

The Swiftpoint mouse is small, wireless, and goes wherever you go. You can use the Swiftpoint mouse on the palmrest or on a desk surface just like a traditional mouse.

An unobtrusive USB dock provides wireless operation and also charges the mouse. It docks the mouse, magnetically securing it directly to your laptop, so when you move, you only carry one thing.

If the battery goes flat, a 30-second rapid charge gives you another hour of use. Fully charged, the battery lasts for as long as 3 weeks.

The developers claim that research (linked from their site) shows that the Swiftpoint mouse design is 30-40% more efficient than a touchpad - so accurate it can be used for precision applications such as graphic design and gaming. Advanced scrolling, paging, and zooming functions help you navigate through documents quickly.

When it's time to type, you can park the mouse between your hands. The Swiftpoint Mouse is small enough to stay out of the way - and close at hand when you need it again. You can work at whatever angle you choose, because when you park the mouse it will not slide off your laptop.

The Swiftpoint mouse is ideal for use in small spaces Left- and right-click buttons and a scroll wheel make the Swiftpoint mouse as easy-to-use as a traditional mouse. Simply tilt the mouse and slide the scroll wheel along the mousing surface to quickly scroll through documents. You can also use SlideScroll to page through a document or zoom in for a closer look.

The SmartTouch sensor ensures the mouse's pointer stops moving when your finger is not detected on the finger grip. This optimizes power consumption and ensures the mouse pointer only moves when you want it to move.

Wherever you use the mouse, you can easily change the pointer's up direction to suit where you're working.

No cables required, the USB dock acts as a wireless receiver for up to 30 feet (10 meters) and charges a docked mouse. The dock secures the mouse to your laptop, so when you move, you only carry one thing. The mouse LED lets you know when it needs charging and when it's ready to go again.

The mouse offers plug-and-play simplicity - No software to install, and it gets you started quickly, on any platform.

A parking accessory comes with every Swiftpoint mouse. This thin adhesive film has a parking area that secures the mouse in place whilst typing. The parked mouse stays out of the way and is close at hand when you need it. You can cut the thin film to suit the size of your laptop. It is easy to apply and remove and won't leave a sticky residue on your laptop. The magnet used to park the mouse will not cause any damage to your laptop.

Supported operating systems:

  • Mac OS X 10.4 or higher
  • Windows 7
  • Windows Vista
  • Windows XP
  • Windows 2000

30-Day Risk Free Trial

The Swiftpoint mouse is sold online through the company's website and through Amazon, with plans to expand into further retail outlets.

Street price about $70 (Canada $80)

Plextor Announces Its First Laptop Solid State Drives

PR: Plextor has unveiled introduced its first generation solid-state drive, using nonvolatile and flash memory as the storage medium. Compared with conventional hard disk drives (HDDs), Solid State Drives (SSDs) deliver faster speed in system bootup, application launch, and file transfer, lower power consumption, longer battery life, and greater reliability, with lower component fate failure and higher durability with up to five times more resistant to shock and vibration when compared with HDD's.

Plextor SATA SSDEquipped with Plextor's proprietary wear leveling algorithm, the company's SSD's can prevent degradation of drive performance and prolong product life. Based on PC Mark SYSMark benchmark tests, Plextor SSD's were the only brand SSDs that maintained the same level of performance regardless whether the drives were "clean" or "dirty."

Leveraging Plextor's years of expertise in optical storage products, the company expands its product category to the solid state drive. The PX-128M1S 128 GB SSD is designed to bring top performance and portability to your daily workflow. With Plextor's Wear Leveling Technology and TRIM support, the PX-128M1S is able to maintain the performance and reliability over an extended period of usage. PC Mark, SYSMark, & HD Benchmark industry utility tests gave high scores to Plextor SSDs, which have proven to prevent data degradation over time when compared with other SSDs.

Plextor SATA SSDWith TRIM support, an operating system command set (not yet supported by OS X) that instructs the SSD to recognize deleted blocks as available blocks, PX-128M1S can maintain write performance "like new" over time. It also supports SMART technology which analyzes data error ensuring the accuracy of data every time you use the drives. The PX-128M1S also includes the most powerful Acronis True Image software which provides users a full set of advanced features for backup and recovery needs.

The PX-128M1S is offered in a 2.5" laptop drive form factor that delivers a digital storage capacity of 128 GB. A 64 GB PX-64M1S SSD is also offered. Both have a SATA II interface for better performance and versatility. The PX-128M1S also offers low power consumption, high shock and vibration resistance among other benefits.

Featuring the Latest Technology:

  • Wear leveling technology maintains SSD reliability over period of usage
  • S.M.A.R.T (Self Monitoring, Analysis and Reporting Technology) for error analyzing and reporting
  • Designed with a commercial grade controller IC for professional use
  • 128 MB onboard cache
  • Ultra low power consumption
  • Completed SATA compatibility test in Drive Master

Performance & Reliability

  • Sustain up to 50,000 power on-off cycles
  • MTBF 1.5M hours
  • Top scores received in PCMark & SYSMark & HD Tune Benchmark tests
  • High shock and vibration resistance

Waterfield Designs Unveils 11.6" MacBook Air Wallet

WaterField Designs Air WalletPR: Waterfield Designs, a San Francisco manufacturer of custom laptop sleeves, bags and cases for digital gear, introduces the MacBook Air 11.6" Wallet - a lightweight, sophisticated MacBook Air travel case for the slim laptop, a mouse, the charger, the SuperDrive, cables and other accessories. Fully packed, the case maintains its light and compact feel and can fit into an Airline seatback pocket.

"Most MacBook Air owners take their Air on the road - that's why the slim size and light weight are so critical," explains owner Gary Waterfield. "The MacBook Air Wallet allows frequent flyers and road warriors to take their MacBook Air 11.6", a mouse, adapters, cables, SuperDrive, Power, etc. - all safely stowed in a light, narrow case that's easy to pack. Slide it upright under the airline seat and there's still plenty of room left over to stretch your legs."

WaterField Designs Air WalletMore than a case, yet smaller than a bag, the MacBook Air Wallet celebrates the ultra-portability of the MacBook Air. Users tuck it the case under the arm, in another bag or - with the optional shoulder strap - carry it as a stand-alone bag. Scratch-free pockets, foam padding, and impact-resistant plastic inserts protect the MacBook Air, and soft, scratch-free internal pockets plus a stretchy outside back pocket hold other individual items. Available in a choice of six panel colors, each MacBook Air Wallet is flanked by eco-friendly, distressed leather trim. YKK self-locking zippers seal the deal for this rugged case.

The versatile MacBook Air Wallet is the third and newest of Waterfield Designs' MacBook cases, joining the SleeveCase and the Suede Jacket Sleeve; the Muzetto, a bespoke, leather, MacBook Air messenger-style bag adds a classic option for carrying the latter two. Waterfield also offers the iPad Wallet to tote the iPad and Apple Wireless Keyboard.

  • WaterField Designs Air Wallet Colors: Black, Copper, Pine, Green, Flame and Pearl - each with brown distressed leather trim.
  • Dimensions: 13 x 9 x 2 inches

Available for the 11.6" MacBook Air.

MacBook Air Wallet sells for $89

Optional add-ons - D-rings: $5, Simple Shoulder Strap: $9. Suspension Shoulder Strap: $19. Dimensions: 13 x 9 x 2 inches.

Shipping begins end-of-February 2011.

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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