The 'Book Review

MacBooks Dominate Consumer Reports Rankings, MacBook Air SSD Upgrade Reviewed, and More

This Week's PowerBook and iBook News

Compiled by Charles Moore and edited by Dan Knight - 2011.05.27

General Apple and Mac desktop news is covered in Mac News Review. iPad, iPod, iPhone, and Apple TV news is covered in iOS News Review. All prices are in US dollars unless otherwise noted.

News & Opinion

Reviews

Products & Services

Bargain 'Books

News & Opinion

Mac Laptops Dominate Consumer Reports Rankings

Macworld's Lex Friedman notes that Consumer Reports really likes Apple's laptops and has just ranked Apple MacBook Pro and MacBook Air models the best 17", 15", 13", and 11" laptops available - essentially a clean sweep across the board. Additionally, based on results of a reader survey, CR also ranks AppleCare as significantly better than any of Apple's competitors' tech support programs.

Apple Is Not Going to Dump Intel and Switch to ARM in MacBooks

TGDaily's Aharon Etengoff reports that Intel CEO Paul Otellini is insisting that Apple won't be ditching x86 processors for RISC-based chips ARM silicon in its MacBook line "any time soon."

"Apple's growth in Macs has quadrupled since they shifted to Intel. Their market share has quadrupled since they shifted [from PowerPC] to Intel," Etengoff cites Otellini saying earlier this week during a company conference, adding "And that value proposition has served them very well. [As such], I don't see their Mac line moving in any different direction any time soon."

Editor's note: Neither does your humble editor, notwithstanding a burst of rumor buzz recently suggesting that Apple might be fixing on switching its MacBook families from Intel processors to ARM-based chips of its own design like the A4 and A5 CPUs used in current iPhones and iPads. For the reason cited by Mr. Otellini, as well as several other good ones - technical, business, and diminished compatibility with the dominant Windows ecosystem - I think the notion of Apple dumping Intel for ARM in its laptops is absurdly fanciful, to put it mildly. However, I wouldn't rule out Apple's making an ARM-based laptop running iOS to compliment its lines of mobile handheld iDevices. cm

Late 2010 MacBook Air: No Infrared, No Problem

Three Guys and a Podcast's E. Werner Reschke says that when he hooked up his 2010 MacBook Air (a recent replacement for a series of 15" MacBook Pros) to play a Keynote presentation, he discovered to his horror that the newer MacBook Airs no longer have an infrared sensor, it having been replaced by second USB port.

With the presentation two hours off, what to do?

Happily, Werner discovered that there is a third-party 99¢ workaround on the App Store, and after a two minute download he had a mui-cool remote for his keynote presentation using WiFi with controls vastly superior to those of the old Apple Remote, so long as an iPhone was handy to run it - so much so that he advises even if you have an infrared sensor on your MacBook, older MacBook Air or MacBook Pro it's well worth checking out the iPhone Keynote Remote app.

Blogger Loves His MacBook Air

The Technology Geek Blog's Thomas Fitzgerald says he had long wanted a small and light laptop, with a vicarious partiality for Sony's subnotebooks, but was put off by the need to switch to Windows just to get the speed. He says he'd had originally thought his iPad would suffice, but it proved not really good enough for what he does with computers, i.e.: blogging and light image editing. Consequently, Fitzgerald says he was delighted when Steve Jobs unveiled the second-generation MacBook Air last October, and has been organizing the economics of getting one ever since - and has finally realized that objective.

New Low Power Sandy Bridge Mobile Processors Coming

CPU World's Gennady Shvets reports that Intel's Sandy Bridge processor family is about to expand with the addition of new ultra-low voltage (ULV) Core i5 and i7 processors featuring lower 17 Watt combined Thermal Design Power, and that would presumably be perfect for the rumored-to-be-coming MacBook Air refresh.

Rising Interest in iPads Stings PC Sales

PR: Market Watcher and Analysis form IHS iSuppli's principal analyst Matthew Wilkins notes that rising consumer interest in media tablets like Apple Inc.'s iPad is taking a toll on the global PC market, with shipments of desktops and notebooks in the first quarter of 2011 declining compared to the same period in 2010, according to new IHS iSuppli research. The report indicates that worldwide PC shipments amounted to 81.3 million units in the first quarter of 2011, down 0.3% from 81.6 million during the first quarter of 2010, with three out of the world's top five PC makers suffering year-over-year declines in shipments during the quarter and with No. 3-ranked PC maker Acer, which sells a high proportion of netbook-type PCs that face a direct competitive threat from media tablets, bearing the brunt of the downturn, with its first-quarter shipments plunging by 20.4% to 9.2 million units, down from 11.6 million during the same period in 2010.

"The increasing momentum of the media tablet market, led by the iPad, is creating a difficult environment for the PC industry," says Wilkins. "All the attention surrounding tablets contributed to weak consumer demand for PCs in the first quarter."

And although corporate PC demand was strong, it wasn't enough to offset the decline in consumer sales.

"IHS believes that the jury is still out on exactly how much tablets are cannibalizing PC sales, Wilkins comments. "However, the rising number of tablet models on the market, along with certain high-profile product launches during the first quarter, caused confusion among consumers as to exactly how to view the tablet platform relative to the PC platform. This contributed to the PC sales decline in the first quarter."

The first-quarter decline came as somewhat of a surprise, given that the fourth quarter represented the best period ever for global PC sales as PC shipments hit a new quarterly record, blowing past the previous high of 88.9 million units set in the fourth quarter of 2009. Corporate demand had been driving growth of the market.

Despite the first-quarter weakness, iSuppli suggests that PC sales growth should return later in the year, its current forecast predicting that the global PC market in 2011 will expand by 8% to 373 million units, up from 345 million in 2010. This compares to 14% growth in 2010.

Hewlett-Packard Co. continued its reign as the No. 1 PC vendor in the first quarter of 2011, with a market share of 18.9%. The company suffered a 2.1% decline in sales compared to the same time a year ago because of the difficult conditions in the consumer market.

Dell continued to hold on the No. 2 position over third-ranked Acer in the first quarter, with a market share of 12.9%. Rounding out the Top 5 were Lenovo and Toshiba, which coincidentally were the only Top 5 PC original equipment manufacturers (OEM) to achieve growth in their total PC shipments over those from the first quarter of 2010. Fourth-ranked Lenovo and fifth-ranked Toshiba achieved market share positions of 10.0% and 5.8%, respectively.

Reviews

MacBook Air SSD Upgrade Provides Big Storage, Mixed Speed Results

Macworld's James Galbraith notes that one of the tradeoffs Apple made in building its second-generation MacBook Airs to a lower price point was limiting the capacities of its standard and optional flash data storage to a range between 64 GB and 256 GB, even the latter which would not be considered adequate these days in a conventional hard drive equipped laptop.

To the rescue and at a price, OWC offers Mercury Aura Pro Express storage upgrades for the Late 2010 MacBook Air models in capacities ranging from 180 GB at $470 to a 480 GB model for suck-in-your-breath $1,580 - a mere $20 less than you'd pay for a top-of-the-line 13" MacBook Air with 256 GB of flash storage.

So are these upgrades worth the cost, especially since there are as yet no external enclosure options for that chunk of expensive flash memory that will be pulled to make space for them?

Something of a value-judgment, but Galbraith reports that while the extra storage space was appreciated, performance results in Macworld Labs testing were unexpectedly mixed.

Products & Services

BookBook Vintage Case for MacBook Air

PR: Designed exclusively for MacBook Air (Late 2010) models, BookBook is a totally unique case for the thinnest MacBook. Weighing as little as 13.5 ounces with an ultra-thin profile, this handmade, genuine leather case offers heavy duty protection. Two hardback covers, reinforced corners and a tough spine offer solid impact protection. The inside of the case is lined with a velvety soft, chocolate brown, padded interior for added protection.

Protection from Cover to Cover

To keep your Air safe, BookBook has two rigid, hardback covers for impact protection. A tough spine and reinforced corners add another layer of defense. Inside the slim case, your Mac rests between two super soft, chocolate brown, padded cushions, which look amazing against the silver finish on MacBook.

Details Make This Product a Bestseller

BookBook is made with genuine leather and is hand distressed so no two are exactly alike. Designer cornices on the top of the case add a visual cue to ensure you always open BookBook right-side up. Use BookBook as a traditional sleeve or use the two soft elastic bands to steady your Mac while you work with it resting inside the case. Dual zippers, with leather pulls, let you charge your Air while its safely stored inside BookBook.

Doubles as a Stealthy Mystery Novel

One of the coolest features of BookBook is the fact that it disguises your MacBook Air, making it look like a vintage book. Tucked safely inside BookBook, your Mac is kept out of sight, even while sitting in your dorm room, coffee shop or anywhere else you take your Mac. Along with protecting your Air from the rigor of the road, BookBook helps keep it away from wandering eyes.

BookBook sells for $79.99

Free Ground Shipping available in the Continental United States.

Key features:

  • Handmade, one-of-a-kind leather case protects MacBook Air with style
  • Vintage book design disguises MacBook Air for stealthy security
  • Unique case designed exclusively for 11 and 13" MacBook Air (late 2010)

There are two versions of BookBook for the late 2010 MacBook Air. One for the 11" and one for the 13" is designed to work with either the 11" or 13".

Acme Made Zipper-Free Laptop Sleeves for MacBook Air

PR: With its recent partnership with Apple stores including Apple.com, Acme Made is creating new Designed Protection for the MacBook, MacBook Pro, MacBook Air, iPad, and iPhone, alongside accessories for all manner of laptops, eReaders, digital cameras and smartphones.

Acme Made MacBook Air Skinny Sleeve

Acme Made has introduced a new sophisticated sleeve for the latest suite of lightweight, high-performance/high design laptops in Apple's MacBook family. Available in Apple stores and at Apple.com, the Skinny Sleeve offers customers exacting fit and protection for the MacBook Air. With a tailored, clean design and executed with top of the line materials, the new Skinny Sleeve is designed to please MacBook owners.

Acme Made MacBook Air Skinny SleeveThe Acme Made MacBook Air Skinny Sleeve, was created with bespoke-inspired craftsmanship to offer a stylish accessory with top-tier materials and a sleek, innovative closure system that will help ensure the longevity of the MacBook Air.

Design-minded peers, the Acme Made MacBook Air Skinny Sleeve embraces and accentuates the same qualities that are admired in the MacBook Air: the nothing-there profile, a build that blurs the line between practicality and luxury coupled with lightweight, best-in-class performance. Acme Made's forward-thinking design will surely protect MacBook customer's investment with dual-sided protective inserts, richly textured StretchShell cover and zipper-less (read: no scratch) closure.

"The Skinny Sleeve MBA, with its clean lines and commonsense closure, is an example of great design blended with a stylish aesthetic that Acme Made does best," says Kirk Thornby, Founder & SVP Marketing.

Top-of-the-line protection mindfully executed for the MacBook, the Skinny Sleeve embodies the precision, practicality and A-list aesthetic behind Acme Made's motto: Designed Protection.

CarbonLook Case for MacBook Air 11" and 13"

CarbonLook Case for MacBook AirPR: CarbonLook for MacBook Air is a set of protective snap-on covers fitting the top and bottom of MacBook Air 11" and 13" models. The outer carbon material reflects light to give different shades of lightness and darkness. Made from tough polycarbonate with a carbon pattern synthetic leather exterior, CarbonLook protects MacBook Air from light bumps and scratches.

CarbonLook for MacBook Air includes two pieces. The top piece snaps onto the MacBook Air's lid and has a beautiful carbon fiber pattern. The bottom piece is solid black and includes four rubber feet to prevent MacBook Air from slipping on flat surfaces.

With the case on, all ports on both sides of MacBook Air- including the MagSafe, USB ports, and headphone jack are unobstructed and fully accessible.

CarbonLook Case for MacBook AirThis case is suitable for:

  • MacBook Air (11", Late 2010)
  • MacBook Air (13", Late 2010)

Specifications:

  • 11" model
    • Size: 303(W) x 194(H) x 4.5(D)mm (top piece)
    • Size: 304(W) x 194(H) x 105(D)mm (bottom piece)
    • Weight: approximately 260g
  • 13" model
    • Size: 326(W) x 229(H) x 6(D)mm (top piece)
    • Size: 325(W) x 229(H) x 105(D)mm (bottom piece)
    • Weight: approximately 360g
  • Color: Carbon Black

$42.99

Links: 11.6" CarbonLook for MacBook Air, 13" CarbonLook for MacBook Air

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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