The 'Book Review

Leaving Windows for 'the Laptop I Had Always Wanted', Next Gen MacBook Air Due Soon, and More

This Week's PowerBook and iBook News

Compiled by Charles Moore and edited by Dan Knight - 2011.06.17

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

Tech Trends

Products & Services

Bargain 'Books

News & Opinion

Leaving Windows for 'the Laptop I Had Always Wanted'

Forbes' Jason Raznick says he's never owned a Mac, not so much because of a dislike for Apple, but rather a preference for the Windows format. However, he says that over the years, Apple has slowly worked its way into his world, beginning with an iPod.

But until two weeks ago, he'd not been tempted to buy a Mac.

The change arrived due to apparently intractable problems with a Sony VAIO laptop that he says he babied from the moment it came into his possession, but to no avail. Then it dawned on him that, aside from one ancient desktop (also a Vaio), he's never had a Windows machine or known anyone with a Windows machine that worked at full capacity for more than three years.

Consequently, he began to use a 13" MacBook Pro, and by the end of my first week with the Apple laptop, he says he was tempted to go and buy one right after work, impressed by the fact that the MacBook Pro ran more smoothly, entered and exited standby more quickly, and could remain in standby overnight without causing any glitches the next day, and was, he realized, the kind of laptop he had always wanted.

Apple to Build 380K Next Gen MacBook Airs This Month

AppleInsider's Kasper Jade and Neil Hughes report that according to Concord Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, who's been on something of a roll with recent, accurate iPad 2 and iPhone predictions, has now turned to the Mac, issuing a new research report claiming that Apple is planning to manufacture 380,000 units of a Sandy Bridge-based next generation of Apple's revitalized 11.6" and 13.3" MacBook Air notebooks this month.

Kuo estimates that roughly 55% of the new MacBook Airs will be 11.6" units, which have been slightly more popular sellers than the 13.3" model, presumably attributable to their more attractive entry-level price point of $999 along with their trim size. Kuo anticipates that Apple will wind down Core 2 Duo MacBook Air production this month with a final run of 80,000 units, bringing total MacBook Air production for June 2011 to 460,000.

Jade and Hughes observe that in the Worldwide Developers Conference keynote last week, Apple's senior vice president of worldwide product marketing Phil Schiller pointed out that that the Mac has outgrown the PC market in every quarter over the past five years and singled-out the revitalized MacBook Air as a major reason why Apple has found such success while the rest of the market continues to struggle, summarizing, "It's beautiful, it's thin, it's light, it's fast. The whole PC industry wants to copy it."

Schiller also noted that Apple has been leading in notebooks for some time and was the first major PC maker to achieve a majority of computer business with portable machines,* and that today, almost three-quarters of Mac systems shipped are notebooks. An Apple supply chain insider told AppleInsider that the two MacBook Air models sell at roughly half the volume of MacBook Pros, with more than a million units of the revised MacBook Air sold in its first quarter of availability.

The article predicts that the new revision MacBook Airs will sport Intel's' latest ultra-low-voltage Core i5 and Core i7 chips, supporting a theoretical maximum of 8 GB of internal system memory.

* Publisher's note: By the third fiscal quarter of 2004, over half of Mac unit sales were notebooks, and the proportion has only increased since then. dk

Apple Gears Up for a Revised MacBook Air

Cnet's Brooke Crothers notes that, as Cnet reported in February, a new MacBook Air revision will get Intel's Sandy Bridge silicon and finally drop the older Core 2 Duo chips that have powered the Air since it debuted in January 2008.

Crothers observes that a remaining question is whether the new Airs will get the high-performance Thunderbolt I/O port that comes with all 2011 MacBook Pros and iMacs, and he expects it a lock that the Air will return to an Intel integrated graphics chipset.

Acer Slashes Tablet Sales Forecast, Banks on Notebooks

The Register's Paul Kunert reports that Acer has cut its 2011 Tablet PC shipment forecasts by 60% but is predicting a gradual recovery in its traditional notebook markets, with Acer Chairman and CEO JT Wang telling shareholders at a meeting in Taiwan that he expects tablet sales of 2.5 to 3.0 million units for the full year, down from previous estimates of 5-7 million, and also that tablets will be removed from Acer's consumer division and sold alongside smartphones.

Datamancer's Steampunk Laptop

Datamancer says it may look like a Victorian music box, but inside an intricately hand-crafted wooden case lives a Hewlett-Packard ZT1000 laptop that runs both Windows XP and Ubuntu Linux.

Datamancer's Steampunk Laptop Datamancer's Steampunk Laptop
Closed lid view and keyboard of Datamancer's Steampunk Laptop.

The steampunk laptop features elaborate display clockworks under glass, engraved brass accents, claw feet, an antiqued copper keyboard and mouse, leather wrist pads, a customized wireless network card, and turns on with an antique clock-winding key by way of a custom-built ratcheting switch made from old clock parts.

Tech Trends

Asus Eee Pad Transformer Combines Laptop and Tablet Virtues

The Asus Transformer is a dual-core ARM-based tablet that transforms into a laptop computer. Perhaps someday the iPad or MacBook Air will undergo a similar transformation.

Asus Eee Pad TransformerPR: With a super slim profile of only 12.98v mm thick in a frame that weighs just 680g, the ASUS Eee Pad Transformer is claimed to be comfortable to hold in any position with a unique textured pattern that offers a better tactile sensation, so it won't feel as if it will slip out of your hands.

Asus Eee Pad TransformerPowered by Nvidia's Tegra 2 dual-core processor, the Transformer offers lively Web performance, providing a snappier response time and better speed when multitasking. Sporting a HDMI 1.3a port, the Transformer can also connect to a HDTV and 5.1 surround sound system, delivering an enhanced multimedia experience.

An IPS Panel made from durable and scratch-resistant glass is viewable at angles up to 178°, and produces a crisper and more accurate color range by up to 50% when compared with certain other tablets in the market.

A 5 MP rear- and 1.2 MP front-facing camera can shoot and record HD video, which can be played back at 1080p. Output to HD video on HDTVs is also available via a mini HDMI output port, making it a true mobile entertainment device.

Asus Eee Pad TransformerBuilt-in SRS Sound technology provides a dynamic 3D stereo audio experience, with maximum bass response and a wide sound field from the discrete speakers housed within the Transformer.

The Transformer can transform to notebook mode with its keyboard docking station and up to 16 hours of battery life.

The optional docking station provides access to a full QWERTY keyboard along with unique Android Function keys, turning the tablet Transformer into a full-fledged notebook with a touchpad, 3.5mm audio jack, and two USB ports, as well as a built-in SD Card reader for easy file sharing and storage expandability makes the Transformer a versatile media hub.

Asus Eee Pad TransformerThe docking station also extends the Transformer's rated 9.5 hours of battery life up to 16 hours.

Preloaded on the Transformer is Polaris Office 3.0, a professional mobile office Solution which enables users to edit various types of office documents including documents (.doc), spreadsheets (.xls) and presentation (.ppt) files, making the Transformer very attractive for professional use. In addition, the ultra-convenient ASUS WebStorage with one year of unlimited storage space provides worry-free cloud computing.

Android 3.0 Honeycomb OS with ASUS Waveshare UI

Asus Eee Pad TransformerGoogle's Android Honeycomb is an operating system specially designed and optimized for tablets, and enables users a full web experience for on-the-go web browsing, communicating and casual computing. Supporting Adobe Flash 10.2 and the ever growing Android Market, entertainment is a finger swipe away.

The ASUS Launcher also allows users to easily launch software, manage content and access online services and connect devices with a few simple taps.

Listen to your music or online radio and bring them wherever you go.

MyLibrary consolidates downloaded books, magazines and newspapers in to one easy step.

While ASUS' Waveshare Interface hosts a variety of unique applications such as MyNet, MyLibrary, MyCloud and more. MyNet easily streams digital media wirelessly within home network devices so HD videos or music can be played on devices such as an HDTV or desktop PCs for an even better experience from the Transformer.

The MyCloud application is a total cloud solution, providing access to digital content such as music, videos and files from the cloud anywhere, anytime. Users can even use MyCloud to remotely access and control any PC or Mac system and access applications or files to extend the versatility of the Eee Pad Transformer experience.

Features Summary:

  • Nvidia Tegra 2 1.0 GHz dual-core CPU for excellent multitasking & 1080p video playback
  • Android 3.0 Honeycomb OS. with Adobe Flash 10.2 support
  • Full QWERTY keyboard, touchpad input with Polaris Office for mobile productivity
  • Up to 16 hours long battery life for all day computing with docking station
  • Brilliant IPS panel with ultra-wide 178 viewing angle made from scratch resistant and super tough glass
  • One year of Unlimited ASUS WebStorage, two USB ports, SD and Micro SD card readers for easy sharing & storage expandability
  • 3D stereo with max bass response with SRS premium sound

Eee Pad PC suite includes MyDesktop PC server, ASUS Webstorage (Windows version) and ASUS Sync: all the essential kit to connect and sync your data with MyCloud and your EeePad.

Specs:

  • Display - 10.1" LED Backlight WXGA (1280 x 800) Screen
  • 10 finger multitouch support
  • Scratch resistant glass
  • CPU - Nvidia Tegra 2
  • Memory 1 GB
  • Storage 16 GB/32 GB
  • Unlimited ASUS Webstorage
  • Wireless Data Network - WLAN 802.11 b/g/n@2.4 GHz
  • Bluetooth V2.1+EDR
  • Camera - 1.2 M Pixel Front Camera; 5 M Pixel Rear Camera
  • Audio - SRS Premium Sound
  • Stereo Speakers
  • High Quality Mic
  • Interface
    • 1 x 2-in-1 Audio Jack (Headphone/Mic-in)
    • 1 x mini HDMI 1.3a
    • 1 x Card Reader (Micro SD)
  • Sensor - G-Sensor
  • Light Sensor
  • Gyroscope
  • E-Compass
  • GPS
  • Multitask Support
  • Flash Support
  • Software :
    • ASUS Launcher
    • MyLibrary
    • MyNet
    • MyCloud
    • File manager
    • PC Sync
  • Battery: 9.5 hours; 24.4 Wh Li-Polymer Battery; 16 hours with dock (battery life estimated under certain conditions)
  • Dimensions 271 x 171 x 12.98 mm
  • Weight 680 g
  • Mobile Docking Keyboard
  • Touch Pad
  • 2 x USB 2.0
  • 2 x Docking port (Host + Client)
  • 1 x Card Reader (MMC/SD/SDHC)
  • 1 x 24.4 Wh Battery

'Fully Rugged' Panasonic Toughbook 19 Receives Performance, Display, and Storage Upgrades

Here's one small, profitable market that Apple has avoided thus far. Although the aluminum unibody MacBook Pro and Air are pretty solid, they can't take the kind of abuse a Panasonic Toughbook is designed for.

Panasonic Toughbook 19PR: Panasonic Solutions Company has announced a series of upgrades to its Toughbook 19 fully-rugged convertible tablet. The updated device features a standard voltage processor, increased RAM and hard drive capacity as well as speed, a brighter sunlight-viewable screen and more. With these enhancements, the reliable Toughbook 19 continues to be an ideal device for utilities, first responders, maintenance and field service workers.

With the new Intel processor and enhanced functionality, our users will benefit from improved performance and outdoor screen visibility without sacrificing battery life.

Powered by the second generation Intel Core i5-2520M (2.5 GHz) standard voltage processor with Intel HD 3000 graphics, the Toughbook 19s startup time is more than 20% faster and overall CPU and graphics performance have also been improved compared to the previous model. This is also the first time a standard voltage CPU and Intel HD 3000 graphics have been included in the Toughbook 19. The device still does not require a fan, ensuring reliability in a challenging environment remains a priority. The new device also comes standard with 4 GB RAM, expandable to 8 GB, and runs a 32 bit or 64 bit Windows 7 professional operating system. A 320 GB 7200 rpm hard drive is standard, with an optional 128 or 256 GB solid state drive available.

Panasonic Toughbook 19The rugged Toughbook 19 convertible tablet has been on the market for five years, providing reliable connectivity to users in some of the most demanding environments including emergency services and utilities, said Kyp Walls, director of product management, Panasonic Solutions Company. With the new Intel processor and enhanced functionality, our users will benefit from improved performance and outdoor screen visibility without sacrificing battery life.

Improved Functionality

The 10.1" XGA touchscreen on the Toughbook 19 now features a TransflectivePlus display, which, in addition to an adjustable LED backlight, harnesses the rays of the sun by using an internal reflecting layer to illuminate the screen and can generate up to 6000 nit of transflective brightness equivalent under 200K lx environment. This exclusive technology comes standard with antireflective and antiglare screen treatments plus a circular polarizing filter for an unparalleled outdoor viewing experience. The LED backlight can deliver as little as 1 nit, useful in dimly lit areas or for concealed nighttime use, which is critical to the safety of military and public sector users.

Panasonic Toughbook 19The Toughbook 19 also includes a new dashboard designed to conveniently customize each Toughbook to the users preferred settings, providing a user-friendly quick launch interface for common functionalities such as brightness, volume, and tablet button backlighting. The dashboard also allows easy management of the device using helpful tools, such as the popular Panasonic Power Plan extension utility and PC information viewer utility.

To ease customer usability in the field, the Toughbook 19s display rotation mechanism has been redesigned so mobile workers can convert from traditional laptop to tablet mode with just one hand.

Embedded Wireless Connectivity

The Toughbook 19 offers a variety of embedded wireless technologies, including WiFi 802.11a/b/g/n, Bluetooth 2.1, optional GPS receiver and optional Gobi2000 3G mobile broadband technology from Qualcomm. The device is certified on the AT&T, Sprint and Verizon Wireless 3G networks, allowing workers to stay connected virtually all of the time. With certifications coming later this year, the Toughbook 19 will also offer embedded support for 4G networks.

Platform Compatibility

The upgraded Toughbook 19 maintains the same platform footprint as previous generation devices. This ensures existing customers can continue to use peripheral equipment, including vehicle docking stations, which significantly lowers the total cost of ownership.

Panasonic Toughbook 19: Key Upgraded Features

  • Intel Core i5-2520M (2.5 GHz) standard voltage processor with Intel HD 3000 graphics, Intel Turbo Boost up to 3.2 GHz
  • Genuine Windows 7 Professional (32-bit or 64-bit)
  • Screen Brightness: Up to 6000 cd/m2 (nit) in direct sunlight (under 200K lx environment)
  • TransflectivePlus
  • RAM: 4-8 GB DDR3 (1333 MHz)
  • Storage: 320 GB 7200 rpm shock-mounted HDD, optional 128 GB or 256 GB SSD
  • Embedded Connectivity
    • Optional embedded 4G LTE (available later this year)
    • WiFi
    • Intel Centrino Advanced-N 6205 802.11a/b/g/n
  • Interfaces: SDXC

For a full list of Toughbook 19 specifications, go to the Toughbook website.

The upgraded Panasonic Toughbook 19 will be available worldwide starting September 2011. In the United States, the Toughbook 19 is expected to be available starting at an estimated street price of $3,349 from authorized Panasonic resellers.

The Toughbook 19 includes a full three-year limited warranty, parts and labor, providing coverage wherever the unit may be deployed.

The Panasonic Toughbook brand can be followed on various social media channels, including Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Flickr, and Toughbloggers.com.

Link: Panasonic Toughbook 19

Products & Services

OWC Expands 6 Gb/s Solid State Drive Line with New Built in USA Mercury Electra 6G SSD

Mercury Electra 6G SSDPR: Other World Computing (OWC) has announced the OWC Mercury Electra 6G SSD, a new consumer/prosumer targeted SandForce Driven SATA Revision 3.0 6 Gb/s Solid State Drive. Designed and built in the USA utilizing the highest quality components available, including Tier 1/Grade A NAND, the OWC Mercury Electra delivers 556 MB/s read and 523 MB/s write sustained data rates for over 7x faster performance than a standard factory hard drive found in Mac and PC computers.

Three Consumer/Prosumer Models Offered Starting at $229.99

Offering the SATA Revision 3.0 performance of a 6G SSD, but aggressively priced like a SATA Revision 2.0 3G SSD, the OWC Mercury Electra 6G is ideal for high speed personal computing, home office environments, gaming, and production workstations, can be incorporated into a RAID 1 or SPAN configuration, and is available for immediate ordering in three capacity sizes:

  • 120 GB OWC Mercury Electra 6G with Tier 1/Grade A NAND $229.99 MSRP
  • 240 GB OWC Mercury Electra 6G with Tier 1/Grade A NAND $479.99 MSRP
  • 480 GB OWC Mercury Electra 6G with Tier 1/Grade A NAND $929.99 MSRP

Maximizes Any Computer's 3G and 6G Data Bus

Whether a consumer has a Mac or PC with the SATA Revision 2.0 (3 Gb/s) data bus or computer with the latest SATA Revision 3.0 (6 Gb/s) interface, the OWC Mercury Electra 6G SSD is able to deliver near bus saturating speed when installed in either interface. OWC benchmark testing confirms the Mercury Electra 6G SSD delivers up to 284 MB/s sustained reads and 268 MB/s writes in the 3G's 300 MB/s max speed bus. Taking advantage of 6 Gb/s interfaces maximum bandwidth of 600 MB/s, the Mercury Electra 6G SSD provides up to 556 MB/s sustained reads and 523 MB/s writes.

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 OWC Mercury SSDs ultra-efficient block management, wear leveling technologies, and real-time data redundancies enable incredibly high performance and Extreme reliability, both of which are maintained over long-term intensive use.

Up To 100x Greater Data Protection

Speed doesn't matter if it can compromise data integrity. Thanks to SandForce DuraClass technology, the OWC Mercury Electra 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 reserve/overhead flash allocation, the OWC Mercury Electra 6G provides RAID like data protection and reliability in a single drive application.

Risk-Free 30-Day Satisfaction Guarantee

To ensure the highest level of customer satisfaction and confidence, OWC is extending its renowned 30-Day Money Back Guarantee on its SSD line to include the new Mercury Electra 6G SSD. If a consumer is not completely satisfied with an OWC Mercury Electra 6G SSD for any reason, they simply need to contact OWC's award-winning Customer Service department which offers 24/7 Live Chat support - to request a full, hassle-free refund.

"Were very excited to continue the evolution of our solid state drive line with this new Electra model," says Larry O'Connor, Founder and CEO, Other World Computing. "We're being very aggressive in pricing this model to appeal to consumers and prosumers who have yet to make the SSD switch. With over 500 MB/s of highly reliable performance, the OWC Mercury Electra 6G helps Mac and PC owners make their machines quickly and easily faster in a flash."

"The new SandForce Driven 6 Gb/s Mercury Electra line, using our latest SF-2000 SSD Processors, is well suited for further expanding the deployment of SSDs into both the Mac and PC environments," says Kent Smith, Sr. Director of Product Marketing for SandForce. "SandForce is already in volume production with these latest award-winning SSD Processors and fully prepared to support this new OWC product line expansion."

Expands Most Comprehensive SSD Line For Macs And PCs

The new Mercury Electra 6G SSD joins OWC's existing line of performance leading, world speed record breaking Mercury Pro SSDs for nearly every Mac and PC produced over the past decade available in capacities from 40 GB to 480 GB starting from $99.97:

  • OWC Mercury Aura Pro: First and only high performance SandForce processor based SSD for 2008-2010 Apple MacBook Air models for up to 4X the maximum factory available SSD capacity; as well as a SandForce processor based model specifically for use with netbook/subnotebook computers that use an internal 1.8" sized SATA drive.
  • OWC Mercury Legacy Pro: First and only SandForce processor based IDE/ATA SSDs available for pre-Intel PowerPC based Mac and PC notebook/laptop and desktop/tower computers.
  • OWC Mercury Extreme Pro 3G SSD: High performance 2.5" SATA Revision 2.0 SSD with up to 285 MB/s sustained reads and 275 MB/s writes for demanding portable and desktop tower use.
  • OWC Mercury Extreme Pro 3G 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 Extreme Pro 6G SSD: Ultra high performance 2.5" SATA Revision 3.0 SSD with over 500 MB/s sustained data rates and up to 479 MB/s incompressible data rates for nearly SATA 3.0 bus saturating speed for prosumers and A/V, photography, and graphic production professionals.

Link: OWC Mercury Electra 6G SSD

OWC Lowers Prices on SandForce-Based Mercury Pro SSDs for pre-2010 MacBook Air, Notebooks, and Netbooks

OWCPR: Other World Computing (OWC) has announced it has lowered it prices by up to $50 on three of its OWC Mercury Pro SSDs: The Mercury Aura Pro MBA for 2008/2009 MacBook Air, the Mercury Legacy Pro for all notebooks that use a 2.5" IDE/ATA drive, and the Mercury Aura Pro 1.8" for netbooks, subnotebooks, and special applications that utilize a 1.8" SATA drive.

Mercury Aura Pro MBA

For 2008/2009 MacBook Air

  • Up to 41x faster than factory hard drive models & over 3x faster than factory SSD models
  • Up to 4x more capacity than original factory SSD option
  • Up to 100x higher reliability than hard drives

Pricing for SandForce-Based OWC Mercury SSDs:

  • Now available 40 GB - $149.99
  • 60 GB was $199.99, now $179.99
  • 120 GB was $299.99, now $279.99
  • 240 GB was $579.99, now $529.99

Mercury Legacy Pro

For Mac and PC notebooks that use a 2.5" IDE/ATA drive

  • Up to 41x faster than factory hard drives
  • Up to 100x higher reliability than hard drives
  • Now available 40 GB - $149.99

Pricing for SandForce-Based OWC Mercury Legacy Pro SSDs:

  • 60 GB was $199.99, now $179.99
  • 120 GB was $299.99, now $279.99
  • 240 GB was $579.99, now $529.99

Mercury Aura Pro 1.8"

  • For special applications, netbooks & subnotebooks that utilize a 1.8" drive
  • Up to 275 MB/s data rates
  • Up to 16x more capacity than original factory hard drive option
  • Up to 100x higher reliability than hard drives

Pricing for SandForce-Based OWC Mercury Aura Pro SSDs:

  • Now available 40 GB - $119.99
  • 60 GB was $179.99, now $149.99
  • 120 GB was $279.99, now $259.99
  • 240 GB was $549.99, now $499.99

The Most Comprehensive SSD Line for Macs and PCs

OWC offers additional Mercury brand SandForce processor based SSDs name SSDs for nearly every Mac and PC in capacities from 40 GB to 480 GB starting from $99.97:

  • OWC Mercury Aura Pro Express The first and only high performance SandForce processor based SSD for 2010 Apple MacBook Air models.
  • OWC Mercury Extreme Pro 3G SSD High performance 2.5" SATA Revision 2.0 SSD for demanding portable and desktop tower use.
  • OWC Mercury Extreme Pro 3G 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: https://eshop.macsales.com/NewsRoom/Framework.cfm?page=PR/ssdre_032411.html
  • OWC Mercury Extreme Pro 6G SSD Ultra high performance 2.5" SATA Revision 3.0 SSD for prosumers and A/V, photography, and graphic production professionals.

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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