The 'Book Review

7 Sizzling SSDs, 2011 MacBook Pros and 6G SSDs Reviewed, Sonnet Thunderbolt Peripherals, and More

This Week's MacBook, PowerBook, and iBook News

Compiled by Charles Moore and edited by Dan Knight - 2011.04.15

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

Apple Updates

Products & Services

Bargain 'Books

News & Opinion

7 Sizzler SSDs for Laptops

The Register's Shaun Dormon says that while there's no escaping the fact that SSDs (solid-state drives) are still expensive, they are steadily getting cheaper and the capacities are increasing. For the average PC user to be convinced that it is a must-have upgrade, the performance benefits would really need to be experienced. To that end, this roundup looks at mostly 128 GB drives with a focus on SATA 2 performance measured with Crystal DiskMark. If budget is of no concern to you, a couple of the latest SATA 3 models are included for good measure.

For Mac performance data, see Bare Feats' reviews below: Vertex 3 SSD vs. Other SSDs and OWC Mercury Extreme Pro 6G SSD vs. Others.

1991 PowerBook Legacy Evident in Today's MacBooks

Writing on AppleTell, Charles Moore says:

PowerBook 100 with floppy drive
Apple PowerBook 100 with floppy drive.

"While Apple is sometimes credited with having built the first really modern laptops with the introduction of their PowerBook line of portables, those came on the scene relatively late in 1991, although they arguably did incorporate and do much to standardize pretty much the appearance and layout of laptop computers to this day.

"Sometimes you just get it right from the outset, and today's MacBook computers can trace a direct line of heritage and their general form factor back to those 1991 PowerBook 100, 140, and 170 machines. An apt automotive analogy would be Ford's Mustang, which was so brilliantly conceived and styled at its introduction in May 1964 that the current 2011 Mustang could not be mistaken for anything else but the original paradigm-setting pony car by those of us who remember the original from 47 years ago.

"There are more parallels...."

iPad 'Hammering' Laptop Sales

Macworld UK's Melanie Pinola reports that sales figures show the global laptop market collapsing, and analysts blame the iPad, which is shown to indeed be cannibalizing the traditional PC market - laptops in particular - with BusinessWeek reporting that global laptop sales have collapsed, causing a crisis for Taiwanese PC-makers Asustek and Acer, as well as HP and Dell, whose consumer PC sales are down 12% and 8% respectively, and with eMarketer, cited by BusinessWeek, estimating 178% growth for tablets this year, and with Apple maintaining a 74% share of that market.

Anticipating a Faster MacBook Air

Cnet's Brooke Crothers says that for those anticipating a MacBook Air speed bump to Intel "Sandy Bridge" processor power, an inkling of such a machine's potential performance can be found in the ultra-thin Samsung Series 9 NP900X3A laptop and the 13" MacBook Pro.

The Samsung uses Intel's latest ultra-power-efficient 1.4 GHz Intel Core i5 silicon, which is expected to power the next 11.6" Air revision, and Intel's HD 3000 graphics, which the next Air will also presumably use. The new Intel integrated graphics are pretty consensually reviewed as better than expected, but still falling short of the performance provided by the Nvidia GeForce 320M graphics used in the current MacBook Air.

If Apple Replaces Aluminum with Carbon Fiber, Can It Be Recycled?

Recycle Mac notes that Apple filed a patent for a carbon fiber case in 2009, and there have been lots of rumors of Apple devices using the material, but so far no product announcements. However, that may change with Apple's hiring composites engineer Kevin Kenney.

Carbon fiber is a strong, lightweight composite material that could be used to replace the aluminum Apple currently uses for its laptop and iDevice cases.

However, the article questions whether carbon fiber can be recycled. Probably never as efficiently as infinitely recyclable aluminum, but there is cause for some hope that carbon fiber recycling can be usefully recycled, although the recycled material will not match the strength of the original composite.

Reviews

2.3 GHz 15" Core i7 MacBook Pro Benchmarked

Macworld's James Galbraith reports that Macworld Lab bought a couple of build-to-order (BTO) MacBook Pros, and the first benchmark results for a 15" system with the faster 2.3 GHz Intel Core i7 quad-core processor are in. Overall, the 2.3 GHz system is just 3% faster than the 2.2 GHz model.

17" Early 2011 MacBook Pro a 'Folding Powerhouse'

DigitalTrends' Nick Mokey says that Apple's latest version of the 17" MacBook Pro retains the unibody metal design of the previous version, but the hardware inside has changed with the addition of faster processors, more powerful graphics, and Intel's brand new Thunderbolt interface. All put more zip within the outstanding unibody design. Mokey states, "there's little the folding powerhouse won't do, and for sheer aesthetic value and build quality, the MacBook Pro remains at the top of the pack this year."

Vertex 3 SSD vs. Other SSDs

Bare Feats' rob-ART Morgan says:

"Apple offers various Configure-To-Order (CTO) drive options for the 2011 MacBook Pro. We tested some of the HDD and SSD options from the Apple factory as well as third parties. We used QuickBench from the Speed Tools Test Suite to sample the small random reads/writes (average of 4K to 1024K blocks - 5 cycles each) and large sequential read/writes (20M to 100M blocks - 5 cycles each).

"The 2011 is the first MacBook Pro to have a 6 Gb/s internal SATA interface .  . . The Apple SSD is slower than any other SSD we have tested with the exception of the Toshiba (on which Apple's SSD is based). Of course, relative to an HDD, it's very fast...[and] of greater concern is the lack of multiple built-in durability and performance enhancing features like the SandForce based SSDs. Apple will support TRIM in OS X "Lion" but that only deals with block management."

OWC Mercury Extreme Pro 6G SSD vs. Others

Bare Feats' rob-ART Morgan says:

"We received a sample late today of the OWC Mercury Extreme Pro 6G SSD. We used QuickBench from the Speed Tools Test Suite to sample the small random reads/writes (average of 4K to 1024K blocks - 5 cycles each) and large sequential read/writes (20M to 100M blocks - 5 cycles each). We compared it to four other solid state drives (SSDs) along with one of the fastest hard disk drives (HDDs).

"The OWC 6G SSD is the fastest SSD we have tested to date. Based on the SandForce SF-2200 chipset with built-in wear leveling and error correction code along with over-provisioning, it's an excellent performance upgrade to any of the 2011 MacBook Pros (all of which have the 6 Gb/s interface.) Also if you have a Mac Pro with a four lane or faster 6 Gb/s host adapter, you should get similar results. (We will test that scenario soon.)"

Photoshop Shootout: Early 2011 MacBook Pros vs. 2010 Macs

Bare Feats' rob-ART Morgan says:

"Does it matter what Mac you use to run Adobe Photoshop CS5? Lloyd Chambers created an action file called diglloydSpeed1 that puts Photoshop through typical actions of a photographer. Using that test and his test file, we created a shootout between two 2011 MacBook Pros and a collection of 2010 Macs."

Morgan notes that he was shocked to find that the 2011 MacBook Pro is just a step behind the 6-core 2010 Mac Pro.

Apple Updates

Early 2011 MacBook Pro: Gray Apple Logo Screen at Startup

A new Apple Support Knowledge Base article says:

"Learn what to do if your MacBook Pro (Early 2011) starts up to a gray screen with an Apple logo and without a progress indicator.

"Products Affected: MacBook Pro (17-inch, Early 2011), MacBook Pro (15-inch, Early 2011), MacBook Pro (13-inch, Early 2011)

"Resolution

"This may happen if the computer starts up from the hard drive or from an external drive using the wrong version or build of the operating system.

"Reinstall the correct operating system build by using Mac OS X Install DVDs included with the computer. You can also use a later build, but never install a version of the operating system released before the computer.

"Learn about restoring the correct operating system version using a restore DVD or Time Machine backup.

"Additional Information

"To confirm that the computer is attempting to start up from the wrong operating system version, start up the computer in verbose mode:

  • Shut down the computer if it is on.
  • Press the power button to start the computer.
  • Immediately press and hold the Command (Apple) key and the "V" key (Command-V) for verbose mode.

"Verbose mode is on if you see white text appear on the screen as in the image below.

"If the computer has the wrong build of the OS installed, the startup process will stop. The following line of text will appear on the display: 'Loading System\Library\Caches\com.apple.kext.caches\startup\Extensions.mkext.'

  • Exit verbose mode by pressing the power button until the computer shuts down."

Boot Camp 3.2 Update for Early 2011 MacBook Pro

The Boot Camp 3.2 Update for MacBook Pro (Early 2011) addresses issues with shutdown, Japanese and Korean keyboards on early 2011 MacBook Pro.

For more information, please visit this website http://www.apple.com/support/bootcamp/

System Requirements: Windows 7

Products & Services

Sonnet Announces Range of Thunderbolt Peripherals

Sonnet Thunderbolt PeripheralsPR: Sonnet Technologies has rolled out a range of external drives, RAID devices, and adapters supporting the Thunderbolt ultra high speed data transfer interface in the latest revision MacBook Pros.

Dual SSD Fusion F2TBR

Dual SSD Fusion F2TBRThe Fusion F2TBR 2-drive portable SSD storage system with Thunderbolt technology harnesses the power of ultrafast 2.5" solid state drives to deliver high read and write performance. With its SSDs configured as a RAID 0 set, the Fusion F2TBR is claimed to achieve data transfers up to 640 MB/s read and 430 MB/s write making it ideal for high def video capture and editing. Two Thunderbolt ports support daisy-chaining of up to six devices to a single port on the host computer. With its drives mounted side-by-side in a tough aluminum shell slightly larger than two stacked CD cases, this is an excellent high-performance storage solution for any editor packing light for on-location work.

Features:

  • Ultrafast: Data transfers up to 640 MB/s read, 430 MB/s write from two SSDs.
  • Two Thunderbolt Ports: Daisy chain up to six devices to a single port on the host computer.
  • Compact: Fusion F2TBR is about the size of two CD cases; it takes up so little space, you can carry it just about anywhere.

Four Drive Fusion E400TBR5 Small Footprint RAID

Four Drive Fusion E400TBR5 RAIDThe compact Fusion E400TBR5 4-drive RAID 5 desktop storage system featuring Thunderbolt technology includes an internal RAID controller that supports RAID 5 for great performance and file protection in case of a single drive failure, RAID 0 for maximum performance, and JBOD for maximum flexibility.

Drive configuration is managed through a simple-to-use application. Available in 4, 6, 8, or 12 TB configurations, Fusion E400TBR5 takes advantage of the huge bandwidth available through the fast Thunderbolt interface connection to deliver efficient I/O performance. With its drives formatted as a RAID 5 set, the Fusion E400TBR5 achieves data transfers of up to 400 MB/s read and 340 MB/s write, nearly twice as fast as similar 4-drive storage systems using an eSATA interface. Two Thunderbolt ports support daisy-chaining of up to six devices to a single port on the host computer.

Features:

  • Brains - Built-in hardware RAID controller supports multiple drive configuration choices.
  • File Protection - RAID 5 drive configuration enables great performance while safeguarding data in case of a single drive failure.
  • Speed and Performance - With drives configured as a RAID 5 set, data transfers up to 400 MB/s read, 340 MB/s write, nearly twice as fast as similar 4-drive systems with an eSATA interface.
  • Two Thunderbolt Ports - Daisy chain up to six devices to a single port on the host computer.

8 Drive Fusion D800TBR5 RAID

8 Drive Fusion D800TBR5 RAIDThe Fusion D800TBR5 8-drive RAID 5 desktop storage system featuring Thunderbolt technology includes a high-performance internal RAID controller that supports RAID 5 for top performance and file protection in case of a single drive failure, RAID 0 for maximum performance, RAID 1 for redundancy, and JBOD for maximum flexibility.

Drive configuration is managed through a simple-to-use application. Fusion D800TBR5 delivers high performance, achieving data transfers up to 800 MB/s read and 730 MB/s write. Enhanced with a large cache and latency management technology, this system is claimed to be fast enough to handle a single stream of uncompressed 10-bit 1080 4:4:4 HD, or multiple streams of ProRes 422, uncompressed 8-bit 1080 HD, DV, HDV, and DVCPRO video. Two Thunderbolt ports support daisy-chaining of up to six devices to a single port on the host computer. Available in 8, 12, 16, or 24 TB configurations, Fusion D800TBR5 is backed by Sonnet's 5-year pro storage warranty.

Features:

  • Brains: Built-in high performance hardware RAID controller supports multiple drive configuration choices.
  • File Protection: RAID 5 drive configuration enables great performance while safeguarding data in case of a single drive failure.
  • High Performance: With drives configured as a RAID 5 set, data transfers up to 800 MB/s read, 730 MB/s write.
  • Built for Video Editing: Fusion D800TBR5 is enhanced with a large cache and latency management technology to support uncompressed HD video editing workflows.
  • Two Thunderbolt Ports: Daisy-chain up to six devices to a single port on the host computer.
  • Pro Storage Warranty: Fusion D800TBR5 is backed by Sonnets 5-year pro storage warranty.

Echo Express PCIe 2.0 Expansion Chassis

Echo Express PCIe 2.0 Expansion ChassisSonnet's Echo Express PCIe 2.0 Expansion Chassis with Thunderbolt Ports enable you to connect high-performance PCI Express 2.0 adapter cards to any computer with a Thunderbolt port.

Imagine using full-size professional video capture cards, 8 Gb Fibre Channel cards, 10-Gigabit Ethernet cards, and RAID controller cards with your new MacBook Pro the Echo Express expansion chassis makes it possible.

Available in two sizes, the standard Echo Express PCIe 2.0 Expansion Chassis with Thunderbolt Ports supports one half-length, double-width, x16 (x4 mode), PCIe 2.0 card, while the XL model supports full-length cards; both models have fans to cool the cards. The standard model includes a built-in 75W power supply, while the XL model includes an integrated 150W power supply with a 75W PCIe power connector. Two Thunderbolt ports support daisy-chaining of up to six devices to a single port on the host computer.

Features:

  • Room to Expand - Connect a half-length (full-length in XL model), double-width PCIe 2.0 adapter card to a computer with a Thunderbolt port.
  • High Bandwidth - x16 (x4 mode) 2 GB/s PCIe 2.0 slot perfect for special-purpose PCIe cards for video capture, Fibre Channel, 10-Gigabit Ethernet, digital audio, RAID control, multiple screen video, etc.
  • Power for Powerful Cards - Integrated 75W power supply (150W including one 75W PCIe power connector in XL model).
  • Two Thunderbolt Ports - Daisy-chain up to six devices to a single port on the host computer.

Allegro FW800 Thunderbolt AdapterAllegro FW800 Thunderbolt Adapter

Connect a FireWire 800 device, even a bus-powered drive, to any computer with a Thunderbolt port.

Presto Gigabit Ethernet Thunderbolt AdapterPresto Gigabit Ethernet Thunderbolt Adapter

Add a Gigabit Ethernet connection to any computer with a Thunderbolt port.

Prerelease OWC Mercury Extreme Pro 6G SSD Performance Tests

PR: Other World Computing (OWC) has announced it's soon to be shipping OWC Mercury Extreme Pro 6G SSD, the next generation of OWC SandForce Driven SATA Revision 3.0 6 Gb/s Solid State Drives, has been prerelease provided to four leading performance benchmarking websites: The SSD Review, MacPerformanceGuide, Bare Feats, and Tweaktown. With sustained data rates over 500 MB/s, the new OWC Mercury Extreme Pro 6G SSD allows users to unleash the true capabilities of their SATA 6G enabled Macs and PCs, while still delivering the award-winning performance and reliability the original Extreme Pro offers in SATA 1.5 Gb/s and SATA 3.0 Gb/s bus interface equipped machines.

Three Capacities Offered Starting at $319.99

The OWC Mercury Extreme Pro 6G SSD will be offered in the following capacity configurations with availability dates to be announced on the product's official release date of April 15th:

These three new models join OWC's existing line of SATA 1.5/3.0 interface Mercury Extreme Pro SSDs that are available in capacities from 40 GB to 480 GB, offer options for "legacy" IDE/ATA desktop and notebook owners, and offer the only MacBook Air SSD option on the market priced starting from $99.97.

Preliminary Testing Reveals Gains Up to 77%

To determine the true capabilities of the SandForce SF-2281 processor in a 6 Gb/s interface computer, the OWC Mercury Extreme Pro 6G was Quickbench tested by OWC engineers in a 2011 MacBook Pro 15" i7 2.3 GHz model. With 506 MB/s read and 464 MB/s write transfer rates, the new Pro 6G SSD offers up to 77% faster performance in 6 Gb/s interface equipped Macs and PCs versus 3.0 Gb/s interface equipped machines. In the critical 4K random read and write tests, up to 60,000 iPods - an improvement of 20% - is attainable. These cutting edge speeds dramatically improve the performance of demanding uses such as High Definition video streaming, large Photoshop file rendering, as well as other disk intensive processes that bog down standard SSDs and hard disk drives.

Four Leading Sites to Certify Prerelease Performance

Built upon the award-winning lineage of the Mercury Extreme Pro line, the new Pro 6G line will be thoroughly prerelease tested by the following four leading Mac and PC performance benchmarking sites:

"We're very pleased to have four of the best performance testing websites ready to put our latest and greatest SSD through its paces," says Larry O'Connor, Founder and CEO, Other World Computing. "We're quite confident that these experts will find the Extreme Pro 6G to be the new speed, reliability, and quality standard of SSD by which all others will be measured."

MyService Offers Seagate Momentus 750 GB 7200 RPM Drive

Seagate Momentus 750 GB Drive PR: MyService has the new 750 GB 7200 RPM 2.5 hard drives for the MacBook and MacBook Pro in stock. These are the highest-capacity 7200 RPM laptop drives currently available, and sell for $299 which includes the new drive, installation with data transfer and free shipping.

Seagate Momentus 750 GB Drive Specs

  • Capacity 750 GB
  • Spin Speed (RPM) 7200
  • Cache 16 MB
  • Interface SATA 3 Gb/s
  • Physical Size 2.5"

750 GB Seagate 7200 rpm - $299

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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