The 'Book Review

New MacBook Pro Benchmarks and Reviews, All About Thunderbolt, MacBook Future Uncertain, and More

This Week's MacBook, PowerBook, and iBook News

Compiled by Charles Moore and edited by Dan Knight - 2011.03.04

Lots of news about the new MacBook Pro models, their breathtaking performance, and the new Thunderbolt port. For instance, we learned that Target Disk Mode will be supported over Thunderbolt and that it has enough bandwidth to support an external graphics processor - think "video card in a box". The technology has lots of potential!

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.

New MacBook Pro Models

Thunderbolt

News & Opinion

Reviews

Apple Updates

Products & Services

Bargain 'Books

New MacBook Pro Models

Performance of New MacBook Pros 'Amazing'

Geekbench results for 2010 and 2001 MacBook Pro modelsPrimate Labs says:

"Even though Apple's new MacBook Pros look like the old MacBook Pros, there's a lot that's new and exciting under the hood, like a completely new peripheral interface (Thunderbolt) and the new AMD GPUs. What I'm most excited about are the new Sandy Bridge processors (especially now that Apple finally has a quad-core laptop).

"What I was curious to know, though, was how fast are these new processors? How much of a performance benefit do the Sandy Bridge processors bring to the MacBook Pro lineup? I grabbed Geekbench 2 scores from the Geekbench Result Browser for the current- and previous-generation MacBook Pro models in order to answer that question....

"The performance of the new MacBook Pros is amazing. The slowest MacBook Pro performs on par with the fastest previous-generation MacBook Pro, and the fastest MacBook Pro is 80% faster than the fastest previous-generation MacBook Pro."

Quad-Core MacBook Pros Outperform Some 2009 and 2010 Mac Pro Towers

Electronista reports that preliminary benchmark tests of Apple's new MacBook Pros have shown them fast enough to outperform some Mac Pro workstations, with Geekbench scores for the new 2.2 GHz and 2.3 GHz quad-core i7 processors reaching over 10,000 and producing better integer and floating point scores than Apple's pro towers from a year or two ago.

"Some results, such as one test for a 2.2 GHz MacBook Pro, are outperforming the 3.2 GHz and 3.33 GHz quad-core Xeons from Mac Pros in 2010 and 2009 respectively."

MacBook Pro Shootout: Last Year vs. This Year

Bare Feats' rob-ART Morgan asks and answers the question, How good are the 2011 MacBook Pros compared to last year's MacBook Pros?

"We're just getting started with testing but we wanted to give you a taste by running three CPU intensive benchmarks that use all available cores (real and virtual)....

"When running MP aware apps, the new quad-core MacBook Pro smokes last year's and this year's dual-core - even when the dual-core is running at a higher clock rate.

"The fastest 2011 13" MacBook Pro runs faster than the fastest 2010 17" MacBook Pro. This should please consumers who like the 13" form factor but want strong CPU performance."

2011 MacBook Pro Line: Three Big Leaps Forward

AppStorm's David Appleyard says:

"As we'd expected for a few days, Thursday saw the release of a brand new MacBook Pro lineup. Though these machines look more or less identical [to the previous models] on the outside, they come complete with upgraded processors, new graphics capabilities, and the all-new Thunderbolt I/O standard.

"Today we'll be providing a quick overview of what to expect in the new lineup, along with a few thoughts on hardware features we're surprised to see left out!"

iFixit's 15" Early 2011 MacBook Pro Teardown

PR: The Thunderbolt port - or the "Thunderport," as we started calling it around iFixit - is the latest evolutionary change from the folks at 1 Infinite Loop. We were super-excited to try out the port itself, but had to first peek at it from the inside.

15 inch MacBook Pro teardownThe Thunderbolt port (we keep wanting to type "Thunderport" - it just feels so natural) has its own controller IC. The IC is quite prominent on the logic board, being the fourth-largest chip after the CPU, GPU, and logic board controller. We'll have to wait until a company like Chipworks places an SEM on the puppy to see what's REALLY inside, but we believe the chip's footprint is a testament to the potential of this port.

The MacBook Pro earned a very respectable 7 out of 10 repairability score. This revision allows you to disconnect the battery without removing it from the laptop. It's a nice design choice since you SHOULD remove all power before performing any repairs. The unibody design also allows for easy access to most of the other components, so it won't be terribly hard to replace things on the machine. The only tricky repair is LCD replacement, which could easily result in shattering the front glass panel.

heatsink in the 15" MacBook ProThundering highlights:

  • You can chain up to six Thunderbolt devices. That's not a problem today as we're not even aware of six products that support Thunderbolt yet. But if the connection becomes widespread, the six device limit might be a problem for some people. In comparison, FireWire supports 63 devices and USB supports up to 127 devices.
  • The lower case is secured by Phillips #00 screws, while the battery is secured by Tri-Wing screws - just like the predecessor. Thankfully there were no pesky Pentalobe screws inside or outside. Apple still considers the battery to be not user-replaceable, and we still disagree.
  • This machine boasts the same 77.5 watt-hour battery as the earlier model, but Apple has decreased their run-time estimate from 8-9 hours to 7 hours. Either Apple's being more realistic with their battery testing, or the new quad-core i7 is more power-hungry than its predecessor.
  • We're a tad concerned about Apple's quality control. We found a stripped screw holding the subwoofer enclosure in place, and an unlocked ZIF socket connecting the IR sensor. They're not huge issues, but they're not fitting for an $1800 machine.
  • RAM has been upgraded to PC3-10600. That's the same RAM used in the 2010 revision of the 21.5" and 27" iMacs, but faster than earlier MacBook Pros.
  • The wireless card received a makeover and now includes four antennas instead of three. Wireless connectivity is provided by a Broadcom BCM4331 "wireless solution."
  • The wireless card bracket is aluminum, rather than the plastic found in earlier MacBook Pro revisions. We believe this change was made for thermal reasons, as a pink thermal pad is visible and used to transfer heat from the Broadcom chip to the aluminum bracket.
  • The logic board features four primary chips:
    • Intel i7 Quad-Core Processor
    • AMD Radeon HD 6490M GPU
    • Intel BD82HM65 Platform Controller Hub
    • Intel L051NB32 EFL (which seems to be the Thunderbolt port controller)
  • We uncovered gobs of thermal paste on the CPU and GPU when we removed the main heat sink. The excess paste may cause overheating issues down the road, but only time will tell.
  • This machine is still designated Model A1286. Apple's been using that same model number since October 2008. That's why we still need to come up with creative names - such as MacBook Pro 15" Unibody Early 2011 - in order to differentiate between machines. Thanks Apple!

New MacBook Pros: More Than Expected, Less Than Hoped For

Charles Moore writing on AppleTell says:

"In the end, [the] MacBook Pro update announcement turned out to be pretty much what I had expected and predicted, although less than many had hoped. However, one new feature I hadn't anticipated for this refresh of the pro portables was the addition of Intel's new high-speed I/O interface technology (a.k.a. "Light Peak"). I knew Light Peak was coming, but didn't imagine that it would arrive before summer or fall at the earliest until the rumor mills broke the story this week.

"What we got

"Otherwise, the new MacBook Pros represent a substantial and solid speed bump with the move to Intel's second-generation Sandy Bridge Core 'i' dual and quad core silicon across the board, especially for the 13 inch model, which finally abandons the now two generations outdated Core 2 Duo CPU family. Apple claims the entire MacBook Pro line is up to twice as fast as the previous generation models were, which is doubtless true if you're talking just processor speed. The downside is that Apple has dropped Nvidia's superior integrated graphics processor unit chipsets on the 13" model and adopted Intel's HD Graphics 3000 IGPU that is integral to the Sandy Ridge Core 'i' processors. The dispute between Intel and Nvidia over licensing the latter's chipsets for use with Core 'i' Intel CPUs is ongoing, so Apple had the choice of staying with ever more outdated CPU technology in the smallest MacBook Pro, or dropping Nvidia's state-of-the-art GeForce 320M IGPU used in the last generation and hoping that the faster processing speed of the Core i5 and i7 chips that will now ship with the latest generation models will compensate for the slower Intel HD graphics....

"What we didn't

"What was widely predicted, but didn't materialize, was a revised form factor for the Pros' aluminum unibody enclosures, which some expected to be redesigned with styling cues taken from the superslim wedgie-profiled enclosures of the October 2010 MacBook Air models. Personally, I thought (and am on record saying that I always thought) a redesign of the less than 2-1/2 year old (fewer than two in the case of the 17 inch model) was no more than a 50/50 probability at most . . . For example, the original aluminum PowerBook form factor was carried over to the original MacBook Pros, and it remained in production with a few relatively minor facelift for seven years. The dual USB iBooks had a five-year production lifespan.

"I'm happy Apple decided to stay with conventional hard disk drive technology for the present . . . However, I had been hoping that the 13 inch MacBook Pro - which is the model that best suits my needs, tastes, and especially my budget - would get the higher-resolution 13 inch display that comes with the 13 inch MacBook Air . . . But for now, the new 13 inch MacBook has widened the performance gap substantially. I think I want one."

Why Apple Chose Intel Graphics for the 13" MacBook Pro

Apple Gazette's Tanner Godarzi says:

"Skipping Intel's Sandy Bridge CPUs and sticking with a slightly faster Core 2 processor combined with an Nvidia 320 or 330M GPU would have been a bad move by Apple. However, the design constraints of the 13-inch MacBook Pro meant Apple couldn't include a discrete GPU and was forced to use a chipset/GPU combination. The ultimate result is Intel's HD 3000 which can barely go toe-to-toe with Nvidia's lower end 310M and 320M GPU and has some questioning whether a Mac with integrated graphics can be really be a pro level machine."

Editor's note: First off, there is plenty of room inside the 13" MacBook Pro, but Apple would rather fill it with a SuperDrive than a dedicated GPU and more battery power. As for whether the Intel HD 3000 graphics makes it less than a pro level machine is silly. The 13" MacBook Pro has always had less graphics power than its larger siblings. It's certainly got a lot more horsepower than the 13" White MacBook, which is still wed to old Core 2 Duo technology. dk

Why Didn't the 13" MacBook Pro Get a Higher Resolution Screen?

Gizmodo's Casey Chan says:

"Why is the 13-inch MacBook Pro still stuck with a worse screen than the 13-inch MacBook Air? . . . [T]he 13-inch MacBook Pro has a native resolution of 1280 by 800 at a 16:10 aspect ratio. The beautifully high resolution screen of the 13-inch MacBook Air has a native resolution of 1440 x 900 which is, yup, also 16:10....

"So . . . what happened?"

Who Cares About Thunderbolt? I Want a Thinner MacBook Pro

A guest blog by Ole J. Jacobsen posted by ZDNet's Jason D. O'Grady says:

"I am sure that the speed boost and even Thunderbolt will come as good news to those who actually use their laptop for heavy lifting graphics work etc., but I was rather hoping Apple would go in a different direction this time, making the new offering much lighter and much more like the MacBook Air:

  • Eliminate the optical drive, the external one is just fine for the few times (most) people need it.
  • Eliminate the hard-drive, go for chips on a board SSD setup like the MacBook Air"

To which O'Grady adds:

"I agree with Ole. I don't like the MBPs boxy shape nor its razor sharp, wrist edge. I don't need Thunderbolt (yet) so I'm sitting out this round of MBP updates."

What do you think? Are you prepared to trade down functionality, I/O versatility, processor speed, and computing performance for sleeker looks and lower weight?

MacBook Pro Rumors That Failed to Materialize

Gizmodo's Kat Hannaford notes that some features rumored for the new MacBook Pros failed to materialize, such as purported 8 - 16 GB dedicated SSDs for the operating systems; they're still the same size, shape, and weight as the previous generation; and there's no also-rumored still larger trackpad. She finds all three a disappointment, but notes that the jump up to Sandy Bridge dual- and quad-core Intel processors is a welcome addition, even though it's resulted in a diminishment of battery life to just seven hours (down from the previous generation's 10 hours).

Editor's note: We've heard that Apple is being more realistic in its battery life ratings, and the new models have just as much battery power as the old ones. dk

First Test of the 13" MacBook Pro Core i7

Hardmac's Lionel says:

"Thanks to Christophe and another reader of the MacGeneration website for sending us the result of their fort test of a new high end 13" MacBook Pro.

"Here are the results of the first tests and first impressions.

"Compared to my previous one (2008 model), there is no change in the external design. However, the new Sandy Bridge processor offers much better performance.

"The less powerful MacBook Air that I owned during two weeks is still a very good computer with a screen displaying more pixels on the same diagonal, extremely light, but without a backlit keyboard.

"Verdict: I'll keep the new MacBook Pro."

PC Mag: 13" MacBook Pro Will Remain Apple's Best Selling Laptop

PC Mag's Cisco Cheng predicts that the 13" MacBook Pro (Thunderbolt) will continue to be Apple's best selling laptop, thanks to a component overhaul and new technologies like Thunderbolt and a major overhaul of parts, encompassing new Intel architecture (processor, graphics, wireless chipsets, etc.), and a webcam that shoots 720p HD while sticking with the gorgeous unibody frame. Despite these great strides in technology, Cheng is still yearning for more, noting that while the 13.3" display is vivid and easy on the eyes, it's still the old 1280 x 800 resolution, wondering why a 1440 x 900 resolution wasn't used instead, as with the 13" MacBook Air - or at least offer it as an option - and there's no antiglare option either, unlike the larger MacBook Pro models.

However, Cheng praises the glass touchpad as the most luxurious, largest, most advanced navigating tool in its class, and the inclusion of Thunderbolt without gaining an extra port or causing the loss of one (since it lives inside the Mini DisplayPort) while offering theoretical speeds of 10 Gbps - roughly 21 times the speed of USB 2.0 and FireWire 400 and a little more than twice that of USB 3.0, sort of like the ExpressCard slot that the 13-incher never got, only much, much faster.

The review also makes extensive comparisons to the 13" MacBook Pro's Windows PC competitors and notes that the Intel Core i5-2620M and integrated HD Graphics 3000 environment is almost as fast as the preceding model's Nvidia GeForce 320M IGPU chipset, although it does represent more of a lateral move - or even a downgrade - than an exciting upgrade.

How Does the 'Thunderbolt' MacBook Pro Compare to MacBook Air?

ausbt.com.au's Dan Warne says:

"Apple's new MacBook Pro notebooks are here, and as usual they introduce some solid improvements over the previous models. But what do they have to offer business travellers - and how does the popular 13 inch MacBook Pro compare to the ultra-thin MacBook Air?"

"Apple is selling the first notebooks in the world with Intel's new 'Thunderbolt' connector . . . Think of Thunderbolt as future-proofing your notebook . . . Although the new connector has little practical impact for now, as there are few Thunderbolt accessories available to plug into it, it does have some useful aspects that will become useful to business travellers over time.

"Many business travellers contemplating their next laptop purchase have been considering the ultra-thin and light MacBook Air range, especially since Apple dropped its prices so much . . . The 13" MacBook Air has a clear weight advantage over the 13" MacBook Pro, at a mere 1.06 kg, compared to 2.04 kg . . . The MacBook Air is also a lot thinner 1.7cm at its thickest part, whereas the Pro is 2.41cm... The MacBook Air makes it weight and size savings by getting rid of the spinning mechanical hard drive of the MacBook Pro in favour of flash memory. The upside of flash memory is that it is ultrafast compared to traditional hard drives . . . The downside is that because it is much more expensive, [and] provides smaller storage space."

2010 and 2011 MacBook Pro Models Compared Spec-by-Spec

APCMag's Conrad Bem says:

"To assess [the new] MacBook Pro upgrades from a technical perspective, here we compare the new 2011 MacBook Pros against their 2010 predecessors, blow-by-blow and spec-by-spec."

Editor's note: Bem fails to mention that the new 15" and 17" models have quad-core CPUs. Kind of an important spec when making comparisons.... dk

Mac OS X Lion (Finally) Supports TRIM SSD Technology

The French language MacGeneration site's Christophe Laporte says:

"Good news of the day: Mac OS X Lion manages TRIM . This feature should prevent the performance of SSDs from degrading over time, ad is also used to notify DSS when deleting a file. The SSD controller can then erase the flash memory cells formerly used to optimize subsequent entries which can then be performed without having to first erase existing Flash memory. However, It seems that TRIM is activated at present only with SSD's sources from Apple.

"In passing, we also note that the application "About this Mac" has been completely revised. Again, changes are clearly inspired by IOS."

Thunderbolt

What You Need to Know About Thunderbolt

Macworld's Dan Frakes and Dan Moren have posted a comprehensive Q&A feature on Intel's new Thunderbolt ultra high-speed data transfer technology introduced with Apple's new MacBook Pro models that were unveiled yesterday.

The two Dans endeavor to explain what Thunderbolt is and why Apple has chosen to make it a marquee feature its newest notebooks.

One of their observations is that third-party vendors will sell adapters, beginning sometime this spring, that will enable connection of USB, FireWire 400, and FireWire 800 devices to Thunderbolt ports for backwards compatibility with existing legacy devices users may own, such as FireWire drives, cameras, and other peripherals. Throughput using these adapters will be limited to the maximum capacity of the slower interface. That will also apply to throughput to peripherals connected in a daisy chain (up to six devices), although hubs may become available so that slower devices are segregated and prevented from limiting the speed of everything downstream.

...Apple's new MacBook Pro models can support Target Disk Mode over a computer-to-computer Thunderbolt connection....

Another happy revelation is that Apple's new MacBook Pro models can support Target Disk Mode over a computer-to-computer Thunderbolt connection, although the authors say Mac OS X's Migration Assistant software doesn't currently support Thunderbolt connections.

As for compatibility with iOS devices, Frakes and Moren observe that Thunderbolt relies on PCI Express, and iOS devices don't use a PCI Express architecture. However, they think it likely that Apple will eventually offer an optional Thunderbolt-to-dock-connector cable for charging and syncing iOS gadgets to Thunderbolt equipped Macs.

Thunderbolt in Detail

Hardmac's Lionel says Intel's new Thunderbolt I/O technology appears to have been tailored according to Apple's demands, combining two Apple-supported protocols - DisplayPort 1.1 and PCI-Express 4x - which allows Thunderbolt to do almost anything, and lists some important things users should know about Thunderbolt, such as that the connector can deliver 10W of electrical power, which is enough to power an external 3.5" hard drive, and it can support up to 7 peripherals with a full bandwidth of 10 Gbps over copper cable with full throughput guaranteed up to 3 meters (10 feet). Lionel also notes that anything that was possible with a PCI-Express 4x card can be supported using an appropriate adapter, including FireWire 800, USB 3.0, SATA III (even with a RAID controller), and graphics cards, with the only limits on the new technology being its 10 Gbits/s bandwidth and the developer's imagination.

Intel Thunderbolt Technology the Fastest PC Data Connection Ever

PR: Thunderbolt technology is a new high-speed PC connection technology that runs at 10 Gbps.

Thunderbolt technology supports both data and display on a single cable, enabling greater simplicity, flexibility, and new and exciting ways to use a PC.

Apple is the first customer to offer Thunderbolt technology, coming first on its new line of MacBook Pro laptops.

In tandem with Apple's refreshed MacBook Pros announcement on Thursday, Intel Corporation unveiled its new "Thunderbolt" high-speed data I/O connection technology for personal computers. Thunderbolt combines high-speed data transfer and high-definition (HD) display connectivity on a single cable. Running at 10 Gbps, Thunderbolt technology can transfer a full-length HD movie in less than 30 seconds. This Intel-developed technology is coming to market through a technical collaboration with Apple, and is available first on Apple's new line of MacBook Pro laptop computers.

Wait Less. Do More.

Intel says its vision for Thunderbolt technology (codenamed Light Peak during the development phase) is to move media faster, simplify connections between devices, and foster new and innovative ways to build and use personal computers. Combining high-speed data and HD video connections together onto a single cable is instrumental to achieving that vision. Thunderbolt technology delivers this via two communications methods, or protocols - PCI Express for data transfer and DisplayPort for displays. PCI Express has the flexibility to connect to almost any type of device, while DisplayPort can drive greater than 1080p resolution displays and up to eight channels of audio simultaneously. Thunderbolt is compatible with existing DisplayPort displays and adapters, and all Thunderbolt technology devices share a common connector, allowing users to simply daisy-chain their devices one after another, connected by electrical or optical cables.

Thunderbolt is designed to meet the demands of serious HD media creators. For example, videographers can connect high-bandwidth audio and video capture/mixing devices, and get both low latency and highly accurate time synchronization for real-time processing. At 10 Gbps, larger media files are transferred faster so there's less time spent waiting to watch and edit videos. Data can be backed up and restored more quickly as well, so there's less time wasted waiting around for archived content to transfer or copy. For laptop users it means needing only a single connector on the new ultra-thin models to extend their high-speed media and HD display capabilities at home or in the office. Thunderbolt is complementary to other I/O technologies that Intel continues to support.

"Working with HD media is one of the most demanding things people do with their PCs," says Intel's PC Client Group general manager Mooly Eden. "With Thunderbolt technology, Intel has delivered innovative technology to help professionals and consumers work faster and more easily with their growing collection of media content, from music to HD movies. We've taken the vision of simple, fast transfer of content between PCs and devices, and made it a reality.

"We're thrilled to collaborate with Intel to bring the groundbreaking Thunderbolt technology to Mac users," says Apple's senior vice president of Mac Hardware Engineering Bob Mansfield. "With ultrafast transfer speeds, support for high-resolution displays and compatibility with existing I/O technologies, Thunderbolt is a breakthrough for the entire industry and we think developers are going to have a blast with it."

Thunderbolt technology is powered by an Intel controller chip, and uses a small connector suitable for mobile devices that will be included with products supporting the technology. Several companies have already announced Thunderbolt technology-based products, or currently plan to support Thunderbolt technology in upcoming products, including Aja, Apogee, Avid, Blackmagic, LaCie, Promise, and Western Digital. Intel is working with the industry on a range of Thunderbolt technology-enabled products including computers, displays, storage devices, audio/video devices, cameras, docking stations and more.

Apple Has One Year Head Start with Thunderbolt

AppleInsider's Daniel Eran Dilger reports that Intel's new Thunderbolt technology is not backward compatible with USB 3.0, and Thunderbolt ports can't be added to existing PCs via an expansion card. Intel says the only way to have it is to incorporate the new Thunderbolt controller chip into the logic board, because the Thunderbolt chip needs direct access to both the system's video and PCI Express architecture.

Dilger also notes that Windows PC makers are expected to begin adding Thunderbolt to their machines next spring, giving Apple a year to trailblaze the technology among high-end users before it trickles down into the mainstream.

How PC Makers Took the Light Out of Light Peak

The Register's Cade Metz notes that Intel originally designed its Light Peak high-speed I/O data interface as an optical technology that would replace all other PC connections, handling everything from LAN to storage devices to monitors, but says that after the company unveiled it in 2009, PC manufacturers called for a cheaper, non-optical, electrical version.

Metz quotes Thunderbolt project chief engineer Aviel Yogec as saying that even before the OEMs weighed in, he was exploring an electrical version on copper, but the added pressure from manufacturers crystallized those efforts, resulting in Thunderbolt debuting as a 10 Gbps, bi-directional, dual-channel copper link that supports two separate protocols: DisplayPort and PCI.

However, Yogec affirmed to Metz that Intel will eventually offer an optical cable that will plug into the existing on-system hardware, transferring data across much larger distances than the current version's maximum 10 metres, and still hopes to one day introduce an all-optical setup, although the latter would be no faster than electrical version, but would remove the 10'/3 metre limitation.

Intel Throws Thunderbolt, Could Smack Down USB 3.0

The Register's Chris Mellor says:

"Now we know why Intel was dragging its feet with USB 3.0 support - it's got its own competing interconnect that's twice as fast in Thunderbolt (formerly known as Light Peak).

"Thunderbolt is a 10 Gbit/s, bi-directional, dual channel, copper link containing an Intel controller chip and supporting two protocols: DisplayPort and PCIe - basically a serial bus...."

Mellor predicts that FireWire is definitely going to be blasted away, we can eventually forget eSATA as well, and if Thunderbolt is cheap enough we can kiss USB 3.0 goodbye too.

Thunderbolt Drives Only One External Monitor on MacBook Pro

Tidbits' Glenn Fleishman reports that ever since Apple announced the new MacBook Pro models week with Intel's superfast Thunderbolt technology last, a debate has been running across Twitter, comment forums, and email as to whether the new MacBook Pro can drive two external monitors from the Thunderbolt port out of the box.

Although Thunderbolt is designed to support two displays, the answer is no, because the graphics processor is already supporting an internal display. Also, you cannot used closed-lid mode to disable the built-in display and thus support a second external display.

Thunderbolt: A New Way to Hack Macs?

The Register's Dan Goodin says that the new Thunderbolt 10 Gbps data interface likely contains the same security weakness that has accompanied another Mac innovation for years, the FireWire port, since, like FireWire, the Intel-designed Thunderbolt is based on a peer-to-peer design that assigns blind trust to any device that connects through the bi-directional, dual channel interface and gives attackers yet another chink to exploit when targeting machines that offer the technology.

"Intel processors offer the means to significantly rein in Thunderbolt by restricting a device's access to memory locations of the computer it's attached to. But as of now, there are no indications Mac OS X makes use of this."

Editor's note: This method requires a physical connection, meaning that the hacker would have to have physical access to your Mac. dk

LaCie to Offer Little Big Disk with Thunderbolt

ZDNet's David Morgenstern reports that LaCie was there at Intel's Developer Forum demo of its Light Peak technology last fall - and present again when Apple and Intel introduced Light Peak, branded Thunderbolt to the public, on Thursday

LaCie announced that it will ship a version of its Little Big Disk with Thunderbolt I/O support later this year, with the company's Chairman and General Manager Philippe Spruch declaring Thunderbolt technology to be a breakthrough in I/O technology that represents the future of mobile computing, offering workstation-class connectivity power and functionality - speeds that previously were only available from rack mounted storage arrays - in laptop computers.

Morgenstern says LaCie's Thunderbolt enabled Little Big Disk is projected for release in summer 2011.

News & Opinion

Future Looks Uncertain for the White MacBook

Charles Moore on AppleTell says:

"TechCrunch's MG Siegler figures that with the February 24 MacBook Pro refresh, following last fall's phenomenally successful redesign and expansion of the MacBook Air line, the MacBook is now a lame duck - not the smallest Apple laptop, not the most powerful Apple laptop, not even the cheapest Apple laptop anymore now that the 11-inch Air has tied it at $999. Given the 13-inch MacBook Pro's newly acquired Core 'i' power and Thunderbolt I/O, Siegler thinks it's hard to imagine a scenario in which someone would buy a regular MacBook anymore unless they're really into white plastic.

"I agree. Indeed, while I have recommended the white unibody MacBook to friends looking to switch to the Mac but who are obsessional about the up front cost compared with Windows PC laptops, and they've been delighted with their MacBooks, my strong recommendation even before yesterday's MacBook Pro revision has always been that if you can possibly scratch together the extra $200 for a 13" MacBook Pro, it always was the no-brainer choice, offering far in excess of $200 more value than the white MacBook, especially over time."

Eliminating the Laptop Charging Brick?

Technology Review's Kevin Bullis reports that a startup called Transphorm has announced a technology that could eliminate the bulky charging bricks that come with laptops and other devices, and potentially also also make data centers and electric cars more efficient.

Bullis says the company has been developing the technology in secret over the last four years, has raised $38 million so far from investors such as Google Ventures and Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, and will unveil its first products in two weeks.

Reviews

13" MacBook Air vs. 17" MacBook Pro vs. iPad

ATPM's Frank H. Wu says the 13-inch MacBook Air is about compromises, having ended up with one because his 17-inch MacBook Pro suffered a disk controller failure and he needed a stopgap machine while the Pro was out for repair, which he initially intended to hand off to his niece after the big Pro returned. It played out somewhat differently.

Apple Updates

MacBook Air (Late 2010) and MacBook Pro (Early 2011): System Requirements for Microsoft Windows 7

MacBook Air (Late 2010) and MacBook Pro (Early 2011) computers support 32- and 64-bit versions of Windows 7 Home Premium, Windows 7 Professional, or Windows 7 Ultimate.

Windows XP and Vista drivers are not supplied for these computers and are not supported.

Products Affected

MacBook Air (Late 2010), MacBook Pro (17-inch, Early 2011), MacBook Pro (15-inch, Early 2011), MacBook Pro (13-inch, Early 2011)

To use Boot Camp with with Windows 7, you need the following:

  • An optical drive (MacBook Air computers require an external optical disc drive to install Windows 7).
  • A blank CD or USB storage device to contain the Windows Drivers created by the Boot Camp Assistant.
  • For 32-bit versions of Windows, at least 16 GB of free space.
  • For 64-bit versions of Windows, at least 20 GB of free space.
  • Boot Camp Assistant, which is preinstalled in /Applications/Utilities/ .
  • An authentic, 32-bit or 64-bit Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium, Professional, or Ultimate disc.

Additional points:

  • Be sure to install all required firmware updates for your computer.
  • Windows 7 drivers are downloaded as part of the Boot Camp Assistant application.

Apple emphasizes that it does not provide technical support via phone for installing, using, or recovering Microsoft Windows. Support is available for using Boot Camp Setup Assistant, as well as installing or restoring Boot Camp software while booted into Windows. Support articles and discussions may also be available on Apple's support website.

Early 2010 MacBook Pro User Manuals Available for Download

PR: Apple has released updated user manuals for the new early 2011 MacBook Pro models in PDF format that can be downloaded for free.

A tip of the hat to Hardmac's Lionel, who notes that these new manuals confirm that do-it-yourself RAM and hard drive upgrades and swaps are still authorized by Apple on these machines and will not void the warranty (unless you break something) with the procedures required described therein.

Products & Services

OWC Announces Memory Upgrades for New MacBook Pro Models

PR: Other World Computing (OWC) has announced the immediate ordering availability of OWC 4 GB and 8 GB DDR3 1333 MHz Memory Upgrades for the new MacBook Pro 13", 15", and 17" models announced by Apple today. The OWC 8 GB Memory Upgrade Kit offers owners of the newest MacBook Pro models savings of up 55% versus the factory installed 8 GB option; as well as an option for 6 GB of total memory not available from the factory.

OWC Memory Upgrades for 2011 MacBook Pro 13", 15", and 17" models:

  • OWC 4 GB DDR3 1333 MHz Memory Module - $59.99 or as low as $46.99 after OWC offered factory memory trade-in rebate. Replaces an existing 2 GB module for 6 GB of total memory.
  • OWC 8 GB DDR3 1333 MHz Memory Kit (2 x 4 GB matched memory modules) - $114.99 or as low as $89.99 after OWC offered factory memory trade-in rebate. Replaces both existing 2 GB modules for 8 GB of total memory. Up to $110 less vs. factory 4 GB to 8 GB options.

OWC Memory upgrades are available for immediate ordering.

Full product and ordering information for OWC Memory, internal drive upgrades up to 1.0 TB, optical bay upgrades, and other accessories for all Mac laptops including the new 2011 models.

OWC Announces Internal Hard Drive/SSD Upgrades for New 2011 MacBook Pro Models

PR: Other World Computing (OWC) has announced immediate availability of higher capacity, higher speed hard drives and Solid State Drives (SSDs) Do it Yourself kits for the new MacBook Pro 13", 15", and 17" models announced by Apple last week. OWC's complete upgrade kits provide all the needed tools, including a bus-powered external enclosure, for the easy installation, data transfer, and ongoing use of the original drive for additional external storage and/or data backup.

OWC Internal Hard Drive/SSD Upgrade Kits for MacBook Pro 13", 15", and 17" models include:

  • OWC 1 TB Hard Drive Kit - features 33% more storage capacity than the largest 750 GB drive factory option. Priced at: $122.99.
  • OWC 750 GB 7200 RPM Hard Drive Kit 50% more storage capacity than the largest 500 GB 7200 RPM drive factory option. Priced at: $124.99 (compared to up to $150 for factory 750 GB 5400 RPM upgrade option).
  • OWC Mercury Extreme Pro Solid State Drive (SSD) Kits - priced from $114.99 (up to 54% less than the factory SSD options) with capacities of up to 480 GB.

OWC's broad line of Mac and PC notebook drive upgrades in capacities ranging from 500 GB to 1 TB as well as the industry's fastest OWC Mercury Extreme Pro SSD upgrades are available for immediate ordering at:

"We pride ourselves in offering new Mac owners more performance and expanded choices compared to factory available," says Larry O'Connor, Founder and CEO, Other World Computing. "With memory, hard drive, SSD, and optical bay upgrades available, OWC is a one-stop shop for new MacBook Pro owners to get the most from their machine."

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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