The 'Book Review

Has iPad Killed Netbooks?, Can iPad Replace MacBook Air?, 480 GB SSD Upgrade for MacBook Air, and More

This Week's PowerBook and iBook News

Compiled by Charles Moore and edited by Dan Knight - 2011.05.13

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

Apple Updates

Tech Trends

Products & Services

Bargain 'Books

News & Opinion

Has the iPad Killed the Netbook?

Cnet's Dan Ackerman observes that it's hard to believe that before 2007, a laptop was considered low-cost if it sold for less than $1,000. Then came the netbook revolution, spearheaded initially by Asus with its original Eee PC, and from that point on, every PC maker was forced (some more reluctantly than others) to embrace this new subgenre, and suddenly netbooks were everywhere.

Then they weren't, and Ackerman notes that the netbook fad's nemesis has clearly been Apple's iPad, which became the new go-to entry-level computing device for people who either didn't need or want a full PC, or just wanted a reasonably priced travel device for email and Web surfing, leading to a gold rush of sorts, with the same companies that pushed countless me-too netbooks onto store shelves now doing the same with touchscreen slates, and suggesting that perhaps we'll look back on this phenomenon a year or two from now as the Tablet Bubble.

However, he maintains that the netbook's demise can't be entirely attributed to the iPad, et al., and that a major reason netbooks fell by the wayside is that they failed to evolve, instead settling into a comfortable (or so their makers thought) specification niche.

Can the iPad 2 Replace a MacBook Air?

"Maybe," says Macs Only's Bill Fox, adding that "the short answer is not always, for me anyway. But for many people the answer may be yes."

Fox explains that he purchased his iPad 2 with the hope that he could travel with it instead of my MacBook Air, making traveling with a computer even easier, and using it almost exclusively while traveling to Spain, Australia, and Belgium, but not with unalloyed success and satisfaction.

2011 iMac and MacBook Pro Support Thunderbolt Booting

The Mac Observer's Jeff Gamet notes that shortly after Apple introduced the FireWire port, it added the ability to boot from external FireWire drives, and support for booting from external drives was eventually added to USB as well. Gamet reports that owners of Apple's recently updated MacBook Pro and iMac will also be able to boot from external drives via Thunderbolt once drives supporting the new interface hit store shelves.

Gartner Predicts SSDs Will Fall Below $1 per GB in 2012

Hardmac's Lionel relays some good news for those of us who are waiting for a decrease in the daunting price of SSDs, citing a recent Gartner study that projects the price per GB of SSDs to decrease significantly in 2012, finally slipping under the psychologically significant $1 per GB threshold. That compares with roughly $2 per GB on most current SSD models.

MacBook Air to Switch to ARM Processor?

AppleBitch's Dave says:

"Following on from reports last week that Apple was considering implementing ARM processors into their laptop line up as a replacement to the current Intel chips, a new analyst report is suggesting that the company is seriously working on the move and that it may happen in some models of the MacBook as early as 2012."

Apple to Stick with Intel

Cnet's Brooke Crothers reports that a technical website posted an article asserting that Apple will not replace Intel processors with an alternative design anytime in the next two to three years, acknowledging Apple's history of transitions to new chip architectures and the ostensible motivations for moving to ARM, but Real World Technologies' David Kanter argues that it won't happen for a long time (beyond three years) - if at all - for a bunch of good reasons cited.

Reality Check: Apple Has Not Dumped Intel for ARM

Forbes' Brian Caulfield observes that the rumor that surfaced last Thursday that Apple will drop Intel's processors for its own ARM-based design in its laptops becoming the weekend buzz du jour among tech chatterati and which even moved markets Friday is based on a blog whose author labeled it humor published on a site proclaiming itself "Semi-accurate."

Caulfield thinks this notion is far-fetched for an array of technical hurdles he cites, and you editor agrees.

Apple Updates

MacBook Pro EFI Update 2.1

MacBook Pro EFI Update 2.1 includes fixes that resolve an issue with Turbo Mode in Boot Camp, and improve performance and stability for graphics and Thunderbolt.

The MacBook Pro EFI Update will update the EFI firmware on your notebook.

Boot ROM or SMC Version Information: After updating users Boot ROM will be MBP81.0047.B0E

System Requirements: Mac OS X 10.6.7

Publisher's note: Although Apple doesn't say so, it appears that this update is only for the Early 2011 MacBook Pro models. dk

MacBook Pro Software Update 1.4

MacBook Pro Software Update 1.4 includes fixes that improve graphics stability, address issues with external display support and 3D performance, and improve Thunderbolt device support.

Boot ROM or SMC Version Information: After update OS build version = 10J4138

System Requirements: Mac OS X 10.6.7

Publisher's note: Again, Apple doesn't say so, but it appears that this update is only for Early 2011 MacBook Pro models. dk

Tech Trends

Top 7 Ultrathin Windows Laptops: Alternatives to Apple's MacBook Air

PCWorld's Melanie Pinola notes that many people consider the Apple MacBook Air to be the gold standard in ultrathin laptops, but suggests that Windows users don't have to jump to the Mac platform to get the same slim and sleek design.

Ms. Pinola profiles seven lightweight laptops, none of which are are more than about an inch thick, in some cases costing several hundred dollars less than the Apple's iconic Air - and in many instances outdoing it in terms of specifications such as processor power, standard RAM, I/O support, and such. The inimitable Apple coolness and elegance cachet is another matter.

  • Samsung Series 9
  • Toshiba Portegé R830
  • MSI X-Slim X370
  • Lenovo ThinkPad X1
  • LG P430
  • LG P530
  • Dell Adamo-Like Mystery Ultrathin

Lenovo ThinkPad Beats the Clock for Sub-10 Second Boot Up Time

PR: Lenovo has announced that it has engineered its newly introduced ThinkPad T420s Windows 7 laptop to boot up in 10 seconds or less. As part of Lenovo's Enhanced Experience (EE) 2.0 for Windows 7 program, the RapidBoot Extreme model has proprietary BIOS and hardware optimizations along with the Intel X25-M Solid State Drive for super startup capability. Lenovo's IdeaPad Y570 laptop, coming in June, also features sub-10 second boot up.

Lenovo notes that there's a high level of complexity involved in shaving off each second of startup time, and that they've pushed the limits because every second counts when it comes to keeping users productive, starting from first boot.

"Driving down boot time to sub-10 seconds on the ThinkPad T420s laptop results from applying precise, focused engineering to hardware and software interoperability," says Dilip Bhatia, vice president, Think Product Group, Lenovo. "There's a high level of complexity involved in shaving off each second. We push the limits because every second counts when it comes to keeping users productive, starting from first boot."

Most of Lenovo's 2011 Think and Idea-branded PCs, such as the ThinkPad T420s laptop, are optimized under Lenovo's EE 2.0 program launched earlier this year. EE 2.0 provides enhanced startup/shutdown performance and other optimization features for Lenovo consumer and business PCs.

With EE 2.0, customers can:

  • Start their Lenovo PC on average 20 seconds and shutdown 28% faster than a typical Windows 7 PC
  • Start their PC as fast as 10 seconds and open applications two times faster on select Lenovo EE 2.0 PCs that include optional RapidDrive solid state drive technology
  • Resume Windows in less than one second, 36% faster than the average competitor Windows 7 PC1
  • Utilize robust security tools and rich Web conferencing features on Think-branded PCs

"Lenovo's Enhanced Experience 2.0 for Windows 7 program is ideal for business users and consumers who value performance optimization, as well as faster startup," says Nick Parker, vice president, Worldwide Marketing, OEM Division, Microsoft Corporation. "Now business users can extend the Windows 7 experience further with new ThinkPad laptop models that combine the benefits of faster boot up with features optimized for business."

Features Beyond Fast Boot

Think-branded PCs with EE 2.0 offer robust security features and rich Web conferencing. Security tools include a fingerprint reader that can be used to power-on the PC, optional self-encrypting hard drives, BIOS port lock settings and Hardware Password Manager for deploying security features across a fleet of PCs. Features such as high-definition webcams with advanced white-balancing settings, digital array microphones with a speakerphone mode, and keystroke noise suppression technology that automatically detects when a user types during video chats and suppresses the noise of keystrokes, deliver a rich Web conferencing experience. One of several ThinkPad laptops featuring Dolby Home Theater the ThinkPad T420s laptop gives users a full-impact surround sound experience.

The RapidBoot Extreme model of the ThinkPad T420s laptop will be offered starting in mid-May on lenovo.com. Pricing starts at approximately $1,679.

Products & Services

NuPower High Capacity Replacement Battery for 2008/2009 15" MacBook Pros

PR: Probably your editor's unfavorite feature of the unibody MacBook Pros and MacBooks (as well as MacBook Airs) is their non-swappable battery. I don't say non-replacable, because iFixit teardown reports have revealed that a DIY battery replacement would not be beyond the bounds of practical possibility for the handy with tools, but it was something of a moot point with no replacement batteries available from any source but Apple.

NuPower High Capacity Replacement BatteryHowever, that's now been addressed, at least for the 2008/09 unibody 15" MacBook Pro models with Newer Technology, Inc. (NewerTech) announcing its NuPower 52 Watt-Hour High Capacity Replacement Battery for Late 2008 and Early 2009 15" Apple MacBook Pro Unibody notebook computers, that offers up to 4% greater capacity over the factory original battery for longer runtimes. With a $99 MSRP, the NuPower 52 Watt-Hour battery offers a 23% lower cost than the replacement battery available from Apple.

The NewerTech NuPower 52 Watt-Hour High Capacity Replacement Battery is available immediately at $99 MSRP from NewerTech's exclusive distributor, Other World Computing (OWC), as well as through the retail channel.

NewerTech NuPower high capacity replacement batteries are available for nearly every Mac notebook computer model produced from 1998 to 2008, including G3 PowerBooks with up to 87% more capacity, G4 PowerBooks with up to 50% more capacity, and iBooks with up to 67% more capacity. A One Year NewerTech Warranty is included with all NuPower replacement batteries.

Engineered to perfectly complement the intended laptop models, NuPower replacement batteries are a Perfect Fit Solution that offers full compatibility with applicable OEM sleep and power reduction modes.

Longer Run Times and Lifetime Usage

NewerTech NuPower High Capacity Li-Ion batteries use top tier cells and are designed, engineered, and manufactured to deliver the highest run times available. Users can listen to more music, watch more videos, and/or get more work done between recharges. In addition to providing longer run times, NuPower batteries are also built to last longer so they can deliver more use cycles before a replacement is needed.

"With more power than the factory original battery and a savings of $30 compared to Apple's battery, our NuPower battery for the 2008/2009 15" MacBook Pro Unibody is a win-win upgrade," says Grant Dahlke, Brand Manager, NewerTech.

Matrox DualHead2Go DP and TripleHead2Go DP Multi-Monitor Adapters Now Compatible with Thunderbolt-Enabled MacBook Pro

PR: Matrox Graphics Inc. have announced that the Matrox DualHead2Go DP Edition and TripleHead2Go DP Edition are now compatible with the latest MacBook Pro notebooks featuring the new Thunderbolt port.

Developed by Intel and brought to market with technical collaboration from Apple, the high speed I/O port sets a new standard for high performance peripherals. DualHead2Go DP and TripleHead2Go DP are already the preferred multi-display solutions of many Mac users. With a simple Matrox firmware update, these solutions can also be used to achieve unprecedented dual- and triple-monitor performance, including OpenGL support, on the new Thunderbolt-enabled MacBook Pro. The new software release will also add the 2 x 1400 x 1050 multi-projector resolution to the already comprehensive supported resolution list.

"DualHead2Go DP and TripleHead2Go DP deliver workstation-class, multi-display performance for the most demanding media creators and CAD designers," says Caroline Injoyan, Business Development Manager, Matrox Graphics, Inc. "We're happy to provide continuous support to our Mac users by enabling Thunderbolt compatibility on our Graphics eXpansion Modules."

The Matrox DualHead2Go and TripleHead2Go Graphics eXpansion Modules (GXMs) work in conjunction with your system's existing GPU to provide high-quality, uncompressed graphics and video across maximum resolutions of dual 1920x1200 and triple 1360x768 under Mac. With the additional desktop display area, MacBook Pro users can run different applications on each monitor or view one application across multiple displays, eliminating the tedious and time-consuming tasks of resizing, rearranging, and reorganizing multiple windows. Notebook users can further enhance their productive workflow by using their laptop's LCD as a third or fourth monitor to achieve an unprecedented level of computing efficiency. GXMs are also compatible with Microsoft Windows operating systems.

The new software is available on the Matrox driver download web pages, while the Matrox DualHead2Go DP Edition and TripleHead2Go DP Edition are available for purchase from authorized Matrox resellers worldwide or, in North America and Europe, directly from Matrox.

Mercury Aura Pro Express 480 GB, Industry's Largest Capacity High Performance SSD for 2010 MacBook Air

Mercury Aura Pro Express for 2010 MacBook AirPR: Other World Computing (OWC), has announced its OWC Mercury Aura Pro Express Solid State Drive is now shipping in an industry largest 480 GB capacity for all 2010 Apple MacBook Air models. First announced at the 2011 Consumer Electronics Show this past January, the OWC Mercury Aura Pro Express line now offers up to 4X greater capacity and up to 68% faster real-world performance than factory available options. This new 480 GB model introduction continues OWC's position as the only aftermarket SSD manufacturer for the 2010 MacBook Air and the most comprehensive US manufacturer of industry leading SandForce processor based SSDs available today with OWC Mercury Pro brand SSD models available for nearly every Mac and PC produced over the past decade.

Four Models Starting at $479.99 MSRP

The OWC Mercury Aura Pro Express is available immediately for same day order fulfillment in four capacities compatible with all 11.1" and 13.3" 2010 MacBook Air models:

  • 180 GB Mercury Aura Pro Express with 7% over provisioning & 3 year warranty, $479.99
  • 240 GB Mercury Aura Pro Express with 7% over provisioning & 3 year warranty, $579.99
  • 360 GB Mercury Aura Pro Express with 7% over provisioning & 3 year warranty, $1,179.99
  • 480 GB Mercury Aura Pro Express with 7% over provisioning & 3 year warranty, $1,579.99

For more information on the OWC Mercury Aura Pro Express line, including reseller inquires, visit:

More Speed, Capacity, and Options Than Factory SSD

The OWC Mercury Aura Pro Express offers owners of and those interested in the 2010 MacBook Air models a SSD upgrade path that delivers higher performance, functionality, and reliability. With peak data rates of 275 MB/s, the Mercury Aura Pro Express was benchmark test proven by The Storage Review to offer up to 68% higher speed than factory installed SSDs. The OWC Mercury Aura Pro Express is available in four sizes -180 GB, 240 GB, 360 GB, 480 GB for more upgrade choices and nearly 4x higher data storage/backup capacity than factory SSD options when compared to 11.1" model factory options up to only 128 GB and 13" model factory options up to 256 GB.

Doesn't Slow Down with Use Like Ordinary SSDs

Ordinary SSDs offer fast read/write performance during first initial uses, but then experience significant write speed degradation over repeated usage. Independent simulation tests conducted by leading drive performance experts like MacPerformanceGuide confirm OWC Mercury Aura Pro Express 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 Aura Pro Express 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 Mercury Aura Pro Express provides RAID like data protection and reliability without loss of transfer speed due to parity.

Earns Industry Expert Praise & Accolades

Out of a field of more than 230 exhibitors and thousands of exhibited products at this past Januarys Macworld 2011 conference, the OWC Mercury Aura Pro Express SSD was named one of 10 Macworld Expo 2011 Best of Show products by Macworld magazine as well as earning Best Mac Hardware honors by MacLife magazine.

"We're quite pleased to introduce this highest capacity model to the first and only available aftermarket SSD line for the 2010 MacBook Air," says Larry O'Connor, Founder and CEO, Other World Computing. With up to 4X greater capacity and up to 68% faster real-world performance over factory options, the Mercury Aura Pro can truly transform a MacBook Air.

Expands Most Comprehensive SSD Line for Macs And PCs

The new 480 GB Mercury Aura Pro Express model joins OWC's existing line of performance leading, record breaking SATA 2.0 and SATA 3.0 interface Mercury Extreme Pro SSDs available for nearly every Mac and PC in capacities from 40 GB to 480 GB starting from $99.97:

  • OWC Mercury Extreme Pro 6G SSD - Benchmark tested by Bare Feats as the industry's fastest SSD available, the Pro 6G SSD provides up to 559 MB/s sustained reads and 515 MB/s writes for nearly SATA 3.0 bus saturating speed.
  • OWC Mercury Extreme Pro SSD - Ultra high performance 2.5" SATA 2.0 SSD for demanding portable and desktop tower use.
  • OWC Mercury Extreme Pro RE SSD - RAID-Ready Enhanced performance with 28% over-provisioning for data centers, network operation centers, and dedicated RAID installations. Used to set overclocking world record - http://bit.ly/lFJAMr
  • OWC Mercury Legacy Pro - First and fastest SandForce processor based IDE/ATA SSD available for pre-Intel PowerPC based Mac notebooks, PCs, and other notebook/laptop computers.
  • OWC Mercury Extreme Pro Legacy Edition - First and fastest SandForce processor based IDE/ATA SSD available for pre-Intel PowerPC based Macs, PCs, and other desktop/tower computers.

Aluminum Laptop Cases Molding the Way of the Future

PR: Aluminum case manufacturer Mezzi reports that it's been noticing noticing a dramatic increase in the number of reviews for its lines of aluminum laptop cases, and that from the virtual mouths of bloggers and video reviewers, the online world is buzzing with positivity for the dependability and portability of the Mezzi aluminum laptop case.

Aluminum Laptop Cases by Mezzi"In this modern day and age so many people are carrying laptops, either for business or pleasure or both, explains Mezzi President," David Mezzi, "and the online community has seemed to latch onto the quality and reliability they find in our aluminum cases. Bloggers, reviewers and freelance writers who rely on their laptops for their business need something to protect their equipment. In fact, their laptop is their number one tool, so those who have experienced the quality of our cases are feeling inspired to spread the word to others.

Unlike the soft, minimal protection of a stylish leather laptop bag or, perhaps worse, the zero-protection of throwing a laptop into a backpack, the lightweight, molded durability of Mezzi's aluminum laptop carrying cases have impressed a growing number of online reviewers."

"I am loving my new Mezzi laptop case," says one reviewer at TheDirtytShirt.com. "Not only is it the most sturdy case I have ever used but it also seems very roomy even with my laptop in it. I took it to a meeting I had recently and the first thing, even before I shook the mans hand, he commented on my case and asked where to get one. I love when that happens because not only do I get to tell my readers about the wonderful products I have tried out but I can also tell complete strangers about them and point them in the right direction to get one for themselves."

Roomy, spacious and secure these are only a few of the descriptors reviewers have used to characterize the value they found in Mezzi's aluminum laptop briefcases. Standard in every aluminum laptop case is customizable padding, so different sizes of laptops can be given a snug fit. And in order to accommodate a wide range of personal tastes and styles, Mezzi's laptop cases range in color and covering, from simple jet black to gold or a high-grade wood finish.

Mezzi aluminum cases have also appeared in high-profile movies, television shows and music videos. Very recently, a Mezzi aluminum case was used in Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. Also Mezzi was featured in Jay-Zs Show Me What You Got music video and on the television game show, Deal or No Deal. At the box office, Mezzi cases have appeared in the hands of Jason Statham in 13 and Tom Cruise in Mission: Impossible III.

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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