The 'Book Review

Windows Out Among Tech Elite, MacBook Pro Helps Mac Sales Grow 47% in March, Faster SSDs, and More

This Week's MacBook, PowerBook, and iBook News

Compiled by Charles Moore and edited by Dan Knight - 2011.04.22

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

Products & Services

Software

Bargain 'Books

News & Opinion

Windows Out Among Silicon Valley's Tech Elite?

Beta News' Robert Scoble notes that while Microsoft is showing off bits of the next version of Windows (Windows 8), he wonders if anyone in the tech enthusiast space cares about Windows anymore. He has observed an almost complete shift away from Windows-based computers at nearly every tech industry event lately, with photo confirmation in a shot taken at a VMware Cloud Foundry announcement where only two PC users were evident in a room full of marketers, developers, executives, press folks, and hard-core geeks. The entire rest of the assembled multitude were either on Macs or iPads, a phenomenon Scoble says he's observed at other recent gatherings of tech cognoscenti in both the US and Europe.

Apple Using Faster SSDs in MacBook Air

AnandTech's Kristian Vättö reports that Apple may have quietly upgraded the 11.6" MacBook Air from the Toshiba Blade X-gale SSDs originally used to a different - and 20-25% faster - SSD designated SM128C (as opposed to Toshiba units' TS128C), speculating that these are produced by from Samsung. Apple has used Samsung SSDs before.

Publisher's note: Apple may be sourcing SSDs from multiple vendors, so some may be shipping with the older, slower SSD and some with the faster SM128C SSD.

New MacBook Pros Pushed US Mac Sales Up 47% in March

Fortune's Philip Elmer-DeWitt notes that Mac sales zigged while PCs zagged once again, citing a note to clients by Piper Jaffray's Gene Munster summarizing data from the NPD Group for the last quarter finding that in March, domestic Mac sales were up 47% year over year, driven by the new MacBook Pros that started shipping Feb. 24.

Time to Upgrade - or Not?

In this instance addressed by Andy Ihnatko writing for Macworld, focusing on three different hardware items that he's considered upgrading over the past month or two, and explaining how he walked himself through each decision.

The devices in question are a Compact digital camera, an iPad, and a MacBook Pro. In the end, Ihnatko decided to stick with what he had in two of the three and upgrade one of them, all with sound, sober reasoning.

OWC Offers $10 Fix for 17" Early 2011 MacBook Pro SATA Problems

OWC blogger Larry says:

"In preparation for our official OWC Mercury EXTREME Pro 6G SSD introduction next week, our team has been focused of all aspects of performance of it and including (of course) that offered by the Apple MacBook Pro 2011 laptops, Apple's first computers with a SATA 3.0 (6.0 Gb/s) drive port. For over a month, we've been following reports from some MacBook Pro 2011 model users almost exclusively those with 17 models, where issues with other brand 6 Gb/s SSDs have been encountered. The main issue reported was that the drive simply wasn't being seen/working.

"After investigation, OWC has concluded that this is not a drive related problem, but rather appears to be an internal issue in the MacBook Pros in question, only observed with the 2011 17 MacBook Pros, with 15 and 13 models so far found to be free of the performance drops or sporadic drive recognition, and with confirmed end-user reports with other brand 6.0 Gb/s SSDs also appearing confined to the 2011 17 model, and some users reporting that swapping the SATA cable resolved the issue, while others found replacing the cable offered no improvement. They've determined that the cause of the problem seems to be interference possibly related to the battery indicator cable on the 17 models, and that fortunately the fix is extremely simple, addressable with a new OWC Shielding Kit available for $9.99."

OS X 10.6.7 Slashes MacBook Air's 3D Graphics Performance

Macworld's James Galbraith notes that the latest OS X 10.6.7 update improved reliability of Back to My Mac, fixed problems with transferring files to certain SMB servers, and resolved issues with the Mac App Store, among other things. However, Macworld Lab encountered a problem introduced by the 10.6.7 update on the Late 2010 MacBook Airs (although released in October 2010, Macworld persists in calling this a mid-2010 model) and have decided to share their findings, the takeaway being that that if you're using a 2010 MacBook Air, installing the 10.6.7 update may result in an unwanted decrease in the system's graphics performance. In Call of Duty, Macworld's reference, frame rates fell by over 75%.

Reviews

Effect of SSD on 13" 2.3 GHz Core i5 MacBook Pro

Macworld's James Galbraith reports on the performance of the BTO 13" 2.3 GHz Core i5 dual-core MacBook Pro equipped with a solid-state drive (SSD) upgrade in place of the standard 5400 rpm hard drive, which adds $250 to the price while lowering the standard machine's storage capacity from 320 GB to 128 GB.

Overall, this model achieves a 20% higher Speedmark figure with the SSD, but what does the extra money buy in terms of enhanced performance in different areas?

13" MacBook Air vs. 15" MacBook Pro

Two Guys and a Podcast's Karl Johnson has posted a comparison of the 15" MacBook Pro and the 13" MacBook Air, noting that the 15-incher has a 16% larger screen and is 24% heavier than the 13" Air. While the extra weight makes it more of a burden to carry around by its palm rests while open, the 15-incher is twice as fast in Geekbench scores, although Johnson observes that most users won't notice the difference in real-world use unless they're performing CPU intensive tasks. He concludes that the 13" Air, which is is 36% lighter than the 13" MacBook Pro, is the perfect size for most users with just the right amount of screen real-estate at 1400 x 900 resolution

Products & Services

FlipCase Awarded Patent for Notebook Carrying Case That Makes Mobile Computing More Convenient

PR: It's an exciting time for Kevin & Stacey Mitchell of FlipCase International, LLC. A US Patent was issued for their company's product, FlipCase. The saying "necessity is the mother of invention" rings so true for this idea that was conceived in May of 2008. Noticing that laptop computers were not so mobile, Kevin had a thought - the cigarette ladies - eluding to the system that the women who sell cigars and cigarettes used to suspend a tray in front of them.

FlipCaseWhen it comes to mobile computers, without the proper case, users are not truly mobile. Currently, laptop users on the go must remove their computer from the case in order to update that spreadsheet or respond to emails. Commuters either balance the computer on their hand while pecking the keys with the other hand or find a place to sit and put the computer on their laps. Now that problem has been solved with FlipCase. FlipCase transports computers safely and securely and allows access while walking and standing without having to remove the computer from the case. This breakthrough technology will provide freedom of use for a broad spectrum of consumers. Commuters, medical personnel, students, reporters/journalists, field techs, audio & video techs, military & first responders, etc. will be able to input information without missing a step.

The patented technology that FlipCase offers is not currently seen on the market today. FlipCase will be offered in college bookstores, airport kiosks, and through e-tail on the company website. Future plans for FlipCase include sales through large retailers and home-shopping networks across the globe and FlipCase will be made in sizes to accommodate netbooks, laptops, and tablets. FlipCase will also be offered in different colors and styles for a truly personalized look.

OWC Mercury Extreme Pro 6G SSD Tested as Fastest Shipping SSD on the Market

PR: Other World Computing (OWC) has announced that its new OWC Mercury Extreme Pro 6G SSD, the next generation of OWC's SandForce Driven SATA Revision 3.0 6 Gb/s Solid State Drives. By utilizing the highest quality components and design available, the OWC Mercury Extreme Pro 6G SSD delivers new heights of drive performance with sustained data rates of up to over 550 MB/s - up to 267% faster performance than other leading brands 6G SSDs.

Three Capacities Offered Starting at $319.99

OWC Mercury Extreme Pro 6G Solid State DriveThe OWC Mercury Extreme Pro 6G, designed and built in the USA, is currently available in a 120 GB capacity with limited availability for same day order shipping. Volume availability and fulfillment of all 120 GB, 240 GB, and 480 GB model orders is expected within the next 30 days. Consumers can order with confidence - if the MSRP is lowered before an order ships, OWC will automatically adjust the invoice to the new lower price. Conversely, because the supply of performance flash components is currently impacted due to both growing demand as well as the tragedy in Japan, the drives MSRP may be raised, based on cost changes, although existing backorders will be price protected at the level placed. Over the longer term, OWC expects a more normal downward trend in Flash component cost.

Variants Available

  • 120 GB OWC Mercury Extreme Pro 6G with 7% Over Provisioning, Synchronous Tier 1/Grade A NAND, and Full 16 Channel Utilization $319.99 initial MSRP. Limited availability for immediate same day order shipping
  • 240 GB OWC Mercury Extreme Pro 6G with 7% Over Provisioning, Synchronous Tier 1/Grade A NAND, and Full 16 Channel Utilization $579.99 initial MSRP. Volume fulfillment by/before 5/20/11
  • 480 GB OWC Mercury Extreme Pro 6G with 7% Over Provisioning, Synchronous Tier 1/Grade A NAND, and Full 16 Channel Utilization $1799.99 initial MSRP. Volume fulfillment by/before 5/31/11

Leading Benchmarking Sites Confirm Industry Leading Performance

To deliver maximum consumer confidence that the new Pro 6G SSD offers the pinnacle of SSD performance, OWC sent its 120 GB capacity model to several leading Mac and PC performance benchmarking sites. The SSD Review awarded the OWC Pro 6G Editors Choice without a second thought; Bare Feats called it the fastest drive it had tested to date; MacPerformanceGuide said the Pro 6G offers never before seen drives speeds; and TweakTown awarded it a Must Have Editors Choice because it offers performance higher than you can dream about.

Maximizes Any Computers 3G and 6G Data Bus

Whether a consumer has a Mac or PC with the SATA 2.0 (3 Gb/s) data bus or machine with the latest SATA 3.0 (6 Gb/s) interface, the OWC Mercury Extreme Pro 6G SSD is able to deliver near bus saturating speed when installed in either interface. OWC benchmark testing confirms the Pro 6G SSD delivers up to 284 MB/s sustained reads and 266 MB/s writes in the SATA 2.0 300 MB/s max speed bus. Taking advantage of the SATA 3.0 interfaces maximum bandwidth of 600 MB/s, the Pro 6G SSD provides up to 559 MB/s sustained reads and 515 MB/s writes.

Highest Quality Components & Design Combine for up to 267% Faster Performance

To achieve the higher bandwidth potential of the SATA 6 Gb/s bus standard, OWC Mercury Extreme Pro 6G SSDs utilize synchronous NAND instead of commonly utilized asynchronous NAND. Synchronous NAND enables reads and writes to be "synced" with the SSD processor's clock signal for maximum data throughput. Additionally, the OWC Mercury Extreme Pro 6G SSDs is the first SandForce processor based SSD to utilize a full 16 data channel design instead of lower cost four and eight channel implementations. By combining these best in class processes, the OWC Mercury Extreme Pro 6G SSD is able to deliver up to 267% faster performance than other leading brands 6G SSDs.

Doesn't Slow Down with Use Like Ordinary SSDs

Ordinary SSDs offer fast read/write performance during first initial uses, but can then experience significant write speed degradation over repeated, long term usage. Independent simulation tests by leading drive performance experts confirm the OWC Mercury Extreme Pro 6G SSDs 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 Extreme Pro 6G 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 OWC Mercury Extreme Pro 6G provides RAID like data protection and reliability.

"We're absolutely thrilled with the expert proclaimed industry fastest performance of these newest Mercury Extreme Pro drives," says Larry O'Connor, Founder and CEO, Other World Computing. Those results are a testament to our philosophy of building products with the highest quality components and design architecture to obtain the highest level data transfer speed and reliability.

Expands Most Comprehensive SSD Line for Macs and PCs

The new Mercury Extreme Pro 6G SSD joins OWC's existing line of performance leading, record breaking SATA 2.0 interface Mercury Extreme Pro SSDs available in capacities from 40 GB to 480 GB starting from $99.97 that recorded industry firsts as well:

  • OWC Mercury Aura Pro line with the first and only high performance SandForce processor based SSDs for 2008-2010 Apple MacBook Air models; and netbook/subnotebook computers that use an internal 1.8" sized SATA drive.
  • OWC Mercury Legacy line with the first and only SandForce processor based IDE/ATA SSDs available for pre-Intel PowerPC based Mac and PC notebook/laptop and desktop/tower computers.

Software

ThermoInDock Free Dock Located CPU Temperature Readout

ThermoInDockPR: Freeware ThermoInDock displays graphs of temperatures obtained from your Mac's internal thermal sensors in the Dock.

ThermoInDockThermoInDock adopts the module system to provide a great variety of appearances of graph of the CPU load in the Dock. To choose and configure a module, just choose ThermoInDock > Preference... menu. On the preference panel, choose the module you would like to use. If the selected module is configurable, click Configure... button to configure

System requirements:

  • PPC or Intel
  • Mac OS X 10.4 or later

Desktop Mac Deals

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.

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