The 'Book Review

Many Early 2011 MacBook Pro Problems Addressed in OS X 10.6.7, MacBook Pro GPUs Benchmarked, and More

This Week's MacBook, PowerBook, and iBook News

Compiled by Charles Moore and edited by Dan Knight - 2011.03.25

Apple released the Mac OS X 10.6.7 Update this week, along with a special version just for the Early 2011 MacBook Pro models. This should address most of the issues reported in last week's and this week's 'Book Review, except for the 6 Gbps SATA SSD problem, which requires a replacement cable.

General Apple and Mac desktop news 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

Reviews

Tech Trends

Bargain 'Books

News & Opinion

2011 MacBook Pro Issues with iTunes Home Sharing

MacFixIt's Joe Aimonetti notes that despite Home Sharing's more prominent role in Apple's iOS and iTunes, some users who purchased the latest revision MacBook Pros aren't thrilled with the feature, with an Apple Support Discussions thread ballooning to over 213 comments since the end of February from users trying to find a solution to the Home Sharing bug.

This issue is resolved with Mac OS X 10.6.7, which was released after Aimonetti's article was published.

No DDR3 1600 for the 2011 MacBook Pro

Hardmac's Lionel reports that according to Intel specifications, some Sandy Bridge mobile processors support DDR 1600, including the the quad-core CPUs in the 15" and 17" MacBook Pros - except for the 2.0 GHz variant (the ones in the 13" models are not compatible). After installing two DDR3 1600 MHz RAM modules from Kingston in a 15" 2.3 GHz MacBook Pro, the computer refused to address anything higher than 1333 MHz DDR3, leading him to deduce that Apple omitted the support of the faster memory in those computers.

6 Gbps SATA SSD Problem in the 2011 MacBook Pro

Hardmac's Lionel reports that a number of people are having problems with their 2011 MacBook Pro when used with a 6 Gbps SATA SSD installed (C300, Intel 510, the very few SSDs with the new interface) and has posted a summary of what Hardmac knows about this issue, including:

  • The problem can occur on any Early 2011 model: 13", 15", or 17".
  • The 13" MacBook Pro most consistently manifests the problem, "almost systematically."
  • The 17" MacBook Pro is second-most frequently affected
  • The 15" MacBook Pro is most often spared by the problem.

Early 2011 MacBook Pro SSD Problem: The Lead on the Defective Cable Was Right

Hardmac's Lionel updates his previous report about problems experienced with 6 Gbps SATA SSDs in the new MacBook Pro and says he's had an interesting lead on the cause of the problem - a defective SATA connector, citing a MacRumors forum contributor who reported he had the problem on his 2011 MacBook Pro and ended-up buying a replacement cable from iFixit - everything went back to normal once the cable was replaced, the computer supporting the SSD and working on it without any problem.

2011 MacBook Pros Overheating?

Hardmac's Lionel references a long thread on the Apple discussion forums about a problem occurring on the 15" and 17" models of the 2011 MacBook Pro - in brief, the laptop freezes, preventing any access through the keyboard or trackpad when an heavy workload is launched on the CPU and the AMD GPU - but it does not occur while using the integrated Intel HD Graphics 3000.

Lionel says that while it's too early to make any definitive conclusion, it seems that the freezing is caused by the graphics card, which shares a heat sink with the CPU, and manifests during the first 20 seconds that the laptop's cooling fans are running.

Publisher's note: It's possible that smcFanControl could help here, as it gives you more control over the cooling fan.

2011 MacBook Pro Display Flickering, Lock Ups Under Heavy Load

9 to 5 Mac's Christian Zibreg reports:

"More glitches for owners of Apple's latest MacBook Pros that sport Sandy Bridge processor and the new Thunderbolt connection. Latest reports have surfaced indicating problems with the machine causing flickering on external displays. Additionally, it seems the notebook is crashing under heavy load for some."

Freezing MacBook Pros: Excessive Thermal Grease?

The Register's Tony Smith notes complaints about the latest generation of 15" and 17" MacBook Pros locking up, with many pointing the finger at the machines' discrete AMD Radeon HD GPUs. He observes that Reg Hardware tested the 2.0 GHz, quad-core i7-based 15" MacBook Pro and experienced no such problems, and also that Mac repair specialist iFixit.com noted excessive application of thermal grease - used to thermally couple the CPU and GPU to their heatsink - in the 15" MacBook Pro, commenting, "time will tell if the gobs of thermal paste applied to the CPU and GPU will cause overheating issues down the road".

Smith also recalls that older MacBook Pros - particularly the first of the line back in 2006 - were criticised for containing excessive amount of thermal grease, and some of them also experienced freeze issues.

Expect Software Fixes for 2011 MacBook

MacFixIt's Topher Kessler reports:

"Apple's updated line of MacBook Pro systems has encountered a problem profiled on MacRumors and discussed in great length on this Apple Discussion Board thread, where the systems have been locking up when under heavy load. While the machines appear to be running, the input to them seems to be frozen so users cannot do anything, and end up forcing the systems to restart."

He says that Apple representatives are aware of the issue and are working on a fix, which should come in the form of a software update in the near future. In the meantime, if you are having problems with these new machines, Kessler suggests trying some potential workarounds.

This issue is addressed in Mac OS X 10.6.7.

Mac OS X 10.6.7 Causing iTunes Woes for 2010 13" MacBook Air

Macworld UK's Ben Camm-Jones says:

"The Mac OS X 10.6.7 update released earlier this week is causing some problems for some MacBook Air owners, it has been reported.

"According to 9 to 5 Mac the update has caused issues for owners of the new 13-inch MacBook Air when attempting to run iTunes 10.2.1."

For more on the OS X 10.6.7 update, see this week's Mac News Review.

MacBook Pro: Replacing RAM or Hard Drive Won't Void Warranty

Hardmac's Lionel says that several readers have contacted the site after Apple service providers told them that changing the hard drive or the RAM in their MacBook Pro would void the warranty, noting that this is absolutely false, and that Apple authorizes both changes without any void in the warranty, and for that matter provides instructions for doing both in the user's manual provided with the computer.

However, Lionel notes that Apple does recommend that you have an Apple-certified technician install replacement drives and memory, and that if you attempt to install a replacement drive or memory yourself and damage your equipment, the damage is not covered by the limited warranty.

Replacing an Old PowerBook's Hard Drive

Macworld's Christopher Breen, answering a reader query, has posted a concise instructional on replacing the hard drive in older Mac laptop models, specifically a 2005 vintage PowerBook, with some notes on data recovery using Prosoft's Data Rescue, and referring the reader to the experts at iFixit and their free, profusely illustrated Mac teardown guides for all the instructions needed to replace the hard drive in a PowerBook G4.

Reviews

Weak vs. Strong: Three 2011 MacBook Pro Graphics Processors Compared

Bare Feats' Rob-Art Morgan says, "Much of the email regarding the 2011 MacBook Pro goes, 'Is the top model's GPU really that much faster?' To answer, we ran two tests on three different 2011 models."

Morgan concludes that the 2011 2.2 GHz and 2.3 GHz MacBook Pro with Radeon 6750M graphics (1 GB GDDR5) is a "different animal" from the 2011 2.0 GHz MacBook Pro with the Radeon 6490M graphics (256M B GDDR5), and the 2011 2.7 GHz MacBook Pro with Intel HD 3000 integrated graphics wasn't any faster than the 2010 2.13 GHz MacBook Air with GeForce 320M integrated graphics in the two tests he ran, but based on older test results he deduces that it would perform at least as well as the MacBook Air with the same GPU.

Tech Trends

Sony MacBook Air Challenger to Use a Thunderbolt Docking Station?

Hardmac's Lionel reports that, according to sources, Sony will adopt the Thunderbolt interface and is rumored to be making more advanced use of it than Apple, which has done nothing with Thunderbolt - at least so far.

He speculates that Sony could launch a new ultra portable laptop this summer to challenge the MacBook Air, featuring roughly the same size and weight, but able to connect to a docking station containing an additional Radeon HD 6730 or HD 6770 GPU, since Thunderbolt is basically a PCI-Express interface with a cable, thereby much improving performance with external displays compared with the computer's onboard integrated graphics, noting that if Sony also adds eSATA and USB 3.0 connectors to the dock, it will have exactly what many have always wanted for the MacBook Air - a contemporary iteration of the 1990s Apple PowerBook Duo.

Lionel does expect Apple to launch some innovative Thunderbolt peripherals with the next MacBook Air upgrade, which will have to get Thunderbolt support to use them.

Publisher's note: The PowerBook Duo is completely lacking in ports without a dock - no networking, no wireless card, not even a floppy drive. Without a dock, the Duo is pretty worthless - unlike a smartphone. dk

Is Motorola's Atrix 4G the Future of Mobile Computing?

In my latest 'Book Mystique column on MacPrices.net, I ponder the new Motorola Atrix dockable cell phone:

"I've got to admit, Motorola's new Atrix 4G smartphone has me intrigued. Motorola is starting 2011 on something of a roll, with the critically well-received Xoom tablet in the channels and now the Atrix, which was finally released in Canada where I live last week.

Motorola Atrix 4G with Laptop Dock
Motorola Atrix 4G with Laptop Dock

"The Android 2.2.1 and dual-core (operating on both cores only when docked) Tegra CPU-powered Atrix's marquee feature is its ability to essentially become a users primary digital hub from which they can create, edit and interact with documents, media and content thanks to Motorola's webtop application and with the handset docked in the optional Laptop Dock accessory that that lets the little phone support a larger, 11-inch laptop style display and a real keyboard and trackpad, two USB ports, stereo speakers, and a rechargeable lithium-ion battery, but also able to take along and access their data from a pocketable device when they go mobile, since all data is powered by and stored on the phone. It's more netbook than laptop or desktop, and you're limited to Android software apps. or cloud Web apps., but you can at least you can have multiple Android apps running with multiple Web pages open simultaneously, something Apple's iOS doesn't support even on the iPad....

"Motorola is touting Atrix as the first smartphone device potentially capable of replacing a laptop . . . That claim holds some water, and longtime Mac veterans may find the general concept evocative of an Apple innovation from back in the '90s, namely the PowerBook Duo Apple's dockable first subnotebook PowerBook."

Asustek Launching sub-$250 Chrome or Android Netbook in June

DigiTimes' Monica Chen and Joseph Tsai report that Asustek Computer is set to launch a new netbook priced at US$200-250 in June, in cooperation with Intel, and hopes to achieve its goal of shipping six million netbooks in 2011, according to sources from upstream component makers.

The authors note that pushing back against the tablet PC revolution, a 10" single-core Atom netbook with a price below US$280 has already appeared in retail channels, while dual-core models' ASPs are only at around US$405, but with more tablet PCs are set to launch in the near future, market watchers are cautiously conservative about netbook's future.

However, Chen and Tsai report that Asustek's new US$200-$250 netbook will either adopt Google's Android 3.0 or Google's new Chrome OS in order to achieve that price level, with the new device expected to attract consumers who only need to perform office work and Internet browsing.

Samsung's MacBook Air Challenger Costs $300 More Than MacBook Air

Forbes' Brian Caulfield reports that Samsung's new Series 9 in a sweet little machine. It's 0.04 millimeters thinner, and 0.01 pound lighter than the 13" MacBook Air, but it costs $1,599 - $300 more than the MacBook Air.

Huh? Thought Apple systems were supposed to be the "premium priced" ones. In fairness, the MacBook Air uses two-generations-old Core 2 Duo silicon, while the Series 9 comes with Intel's latest Core i5 processor and 4 GB standard RAM to the MacBook Air's 2 GB.

However, Caulfield also notes that Apple is using its $50 billion-plus hoard of cash and short-term securities to lock up long-term contracts with companies making components such as flash memory and secure an OEM costing edge.

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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