The 'Book Review

New MacBook Air This Month?, White MacBook Going Away?, Some SSDs Can Hose Your Data, and More

This Week's PowerBook and iBook News

Compiled by Charles Moore and edited by Dan Knight - 2011.07.01

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

Apple Updates

Tech Trends

Products & Services

Bargain 'Books

News & Opinion

MacBook Airs with Thunderbolt and Sandy Bridge to Debut with Lion in July?

9 to 5 Mac's Mark Gurman deduces that diminishing MacBook Air supplies at global retailers - most recently at major Apple reseller BestBuy.com - means an update of Apple's smallest laptops is imminent, and that the scuttlebutt he's hearing is that Apple is gearing up to launch a new revision of the ultra-thin notebooks in mid-July.

Late 2001 11.6" and 13.3" MacBook Air
Late 2001 11.6" and 13.3" MacBook Air. 2011 version to look the same?

Gurman also reports that according to insider intelligence from a person who has seen the new MacBook Air, exterior changes (if any) were so subtle as to be unnoticeable except for a Thunderbolt logo displacing the current model's Mini Display port logo, so significant changes will all be internal, notably a switch from 2008 vintage Core 2 Duo Intel processors to Sandy Bridge Core "i" silicon (likely Core i7 and Core i5 at clock speeds of 1.7 to 1.8 GHz with turbo boost of 2.7 to 2.9 GHz), and a thermal footprint of 17 watts across the board, plus the addition of the Thunderbolt ultra high speed data interface.

Presumably, release of these new machine is being held up until mid-July so they can ship with OS X 10.7 Lion preinstalled, and rumors are suggesting Thursday, July 14 as a likely date, handily preceding Apple's next financial results conference call slated for Tuesday, July 19. Gurman notes that Apple typically releases new products during the days leading up to financial results announcements.

On the other hand, if Apple were to stick to its traditional product launch day of Tuesday, the new Air would be July 12th or possibly the 19th.

White MacBook Supply Severely Constrained

AppleInsider's Neil Hughes notes that availability of Apple's $999 white MacBook is getting sparse, with major Apple authorized resellers completely sold out. He suggests this is not necessarily a sign that the MacBook will be discontinued, but possibly signaling a forthcoming update to the entry-level notebook, which hasn't been refreshed since May of 2010, when it got Nvidia GeForce 320M graphics and an Intel 2.4 GHz Core 2 Duo processor.

Hughes muses that with the 11.6" MacBook Air selling strongly in the $999 price slot, Apple could opt to lower the price of the white MacBook, noting that is a strategy that's paid off handsomely for Apple in its iPhone business with continuation of the iPhone 3G and 3Gs after replacement models were introduced.

Editor's note: I'm more of a mind that the white MacBook is set for termination, with the 11.6" MacBook Air taking over Apple's entry-level laptop slot exclusively. cm

Publisher's note: I'm more inclined to believe that the white MacBook will remain in the line for those who want or need a built-in optical drive, perhaps disappearing in a year or two when most software comes via download and the need for a SuperDrive becomes vastly reduced. dk

Is Apple Preparing to Kill Off the White MacBook?

Cult of Mac's Ed Sutherland raises the question whether the white MacBook will end along with OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard, noting what some Apple-watchers are deeming unusually constrained availability of the $999 MacBook in the US, Europe, and online, and with the popularity of the $999 MacBook Air as the favorite entry-level notebook Mac, it's being conjectured that Apple may be fixing to simply discontinue the plastic MacBook line.

Editor's note: There has arguably been redundancy in the currently crowded lower-price segment of Apple's notebook lineup since the redesigned MacBook Airs were released last October, and frankly I've been surprised that the white MacBook has survived this long. If I were shopping in that price range (which I may well be in the near future), the 11.6" MacBook Air would be my unhesitating choice, and if, as widely rumored, Apple drops its price to $899 with the forthcoming refresh, it will be well-nigh irresistible. Maybe there could be a future for the white MacBook if its price dropped to $799 and it stuck with Core 2 Duo power, but I'm skeptical as to that being the way Apple would want to go.

There seems little logic in Apple selling three different 13" laptops, and with the 13" MacBook Pro being a strong seller (IMHO the most attractive Pro package as well as the best value), and the 13" MacBook Air obviously sticking around, the machine on the bubble is the 13" white MacBook, with the imminent OS X 10.7 Lion release being the cue for Apple to burst the bubble. cm

What if Apple Released a $799 MacBook Air?

BetaNews' Joe Wilcox suggests that with a MacBook Air refresh rumored to be imminent and Apple evidently poised to make the thin-and-light laptop its flagship portable, why not grab some market share while they're at it by lowering the Air's price to a point where mere mortals could afford to buy one?

Wilcox cites NPD's vice president of industry analysis Stephen Baker who has strongly advocated Apple releasing a $799 Mac, and Endpoint Technologies president Roger Kay, who declares, "A $799 Air would be killer."

What Makes the Thunderbolt Cable Lightning Fast?

Thunderbolt Cable teardowniFixit, checking out intelligence from Ars Technica's Chris Foresman that Apple's $50 Thunderbolt cable (see below) may be an active cable with chips containing firmware in it, thereby justifying the stiff price tag, figured there was only one way to find out for sure, so they "hopped on over to the local Apple Store and donated $50 to the build-Apple-a-new-campus fund."

Back in the lab, iFixit dug into the cable's suspicious-looking plastic sleeves on each end using a hot X-acto™ knife to dispense with the hard plastic, then a significant amount of desoldering and cutting in order remove the metal shielding surrounding the connector to reveal the hardware underneath, wherein they found two Gennum GN2033 chips in the connector, one on each side flanked by some smaller chips, and determining that Apple's $50 cable contains a total of 12 large chips and "tons" of smaller electronic components.

SSDs with Deduplication Can Hose Your Data

ZDNet's Robin Harris says that a post last month in ACM's Queue raised a scary issue: Block-level deduplication - used in some popular SSDs - can wipe out your file system. Harris notes:

"Many file systems - NTFS, most Unix/Linux FSs, ZFS are some - write critical metadata to multiple blocks in case one copy gets corrupted. But what if, unbeknownst to you, your SSD de-duplicates that block, leaving your file system with only 1 copy?

"Yup, corruption of 1 block could wipe out your entire file system. And since all the copies point to the same corrupted block, there's no way to recover."

Apple Updates

Thunderbolt Firmware Update for 2011 iMac and MacBook Pro Models

Thunderbolt Firmware Update provides Thunderbolt performance and stability fixes.

File Size: 486 KB

System Requirements: Mac OS X 10.6.8

Publisher's note: Thunderbolt cables and devices became available for the first time this past week. Until now, there was no way to use Thunderbolt and discover any glitches. dk

About Apple's Thunderbolt Cable

Apple's Thunderbolt to Thunderbolt cable is a two meter (app. 6.6') long bus-powered cable that has a Thunderbolt connections on both ends and can be used for connecting Thunderbolt devices and peripherals to a Mac which has at least one Thunderbolt port.

A new Apple Knowledge Base article says answers the FAQs:

  1. What is the maximum bandwidth supported by Thunderbolt to Thunderbolt cable (2 m)?
  2. What is the proper way to insert the Thunderbolt cable into my Thunderbolt-capable device or Mac?
  3. How do I confirm a Thunderbolt-enabled device is connected to a Mac?
  4. Can I use a Thunderbolt cable to connect a Promise, La Cie, or other third-party storage device that uses Thunderbolt?
  5. Is there a maximum supported length for using Thunderbolt cables with Apple products?
  6. Why is there a black screen when I use a Thunderbolt cable to connect to an Intel-based iMac that supports Target Display Mode?
  7. What do I do if my Mac doesn't have a Thunderbolt option in System Profiler and no connected devices seem to be recognized?
  8. I've installed all available updates, but no Thunderbolt devices are recognized when I connect them with a Thunderbolt cable.
  9. Can I use Target Disk Mode with a Thunderbolt cable and a third-party storage device that uses Thunderbolt?
  10. Can I use a Thunderbolt cable with supported versions of Microsoft Windows on a Thunderbolt-capable Mac with Boot Camp?

Tech Trends

13.3" Sony Vaio Z1 Laptop: Lighter, Thinner, More Powerful, and Pricier than MacBook Air

PR: Sony has unveiled in Europe and the UK a high-end, more powerful, and even lighter competitor for Apple's hot-selling MacBook Air, the Vaio Z1.

Sony Vaio Z1This thin and light 13.3" laptop is aimed particularly at enterprise execs and other power-users who want a subcompact, ultralight laptop without sacrificing high-end performance, features, and connectivity.

The top-of-the-line Vaio Z1 is powered by a Core i7 processor running at 2.7 GHz (with Turbo Boost to 3.4 GHz), comes with 8 GB of 1333 MHz DDR3 RAM, has 256 GB of SSD capacity in a RAID-0 configuration, and a 13.1" screen with 1600 x 900 resolution. A Core i5 model with 4 GB of RAM and a 128 GB SSD is also available, as is an optional piggyback, thin, flat, lithium polymer "sheet battery" that can be charged separately from the PC and added without removing the internal battery battery that doubles battery life from a quoted seven hours to 14. There are two memory card slots, one for Sony's proprietary HG Duo format, while the other supports SDXC. There is also optional 3G, a backlit keyboard (not available on the MacBook Air), an Apple-style 'buttonless' touchpad, and a 1.3 MP webcam.

Sony Vaio Z1 with dockAn optional media dock connects to the laptop via an optical cable through a proprietary Intel Light Peak interface with a USB 3.0 style port that can also be used to attach regular USB devices when the Vaio Z is not docked (Light Peak is known as Thunderbolt in its DisplayPort variant used by Apple) optical system, and can support a discrete AMD Radeon HD 6650M graphics card with 1 GB of VRAM and a DVD or Blu-ray drive as well as having HDMI and VGA outputs able to support up to four monitors in total, including the laptop's own display, plus Ethernet and USB 2.0 and 3.0 ports.

Sony Vaio Z1All in a machine that weighs 1.15 or 1.175 kg (considerably lighter than the 1.32 Kg 11.6" MacBook Air) and is just 16.65mm thick, with a chassis made of carbon fibre.

Carbon fibre provides a better strength-to-weight ratio than aluminum or magnesium without compromising ruggedness, but it's nosebleed-inducingly expensive.

The Vaio Z, which can currently be pre-ordered in the UK, sells there for roughly the equivalent of $1,835 (the dock adds another $512 or so). The Vaio Z is currently available only in black, but blue, gold, and graphite options are reportedly to come. No word yet on North American availability or prices.

Vaio Z Features in Summary

  • Thin, ultralight 13.1" notebook PC with innovative new Power Media Dock
  • 33.2cm (13.1") VAIO Z Series: less than 1.2 kg and 16.65mm slim with carbon fibre construction and smart battery concept
  • Business-class power with latest standard voltage Intel Core i7 processors and fast SSD storage
  • High-resolution (1600x900) antireflective VAIO Display Premium
  • Optional sheet battery gives up to 14 hr stamina with quick charge
  • Power Media Dock 2 with quad video monitor support, AMD Radeon HD graphics, optical drive and extra ports including HDMI out
  • Quick Boot gets you working in seconds

Publisher's note: The Vaio Z is notable for being the first non-Apple computer to ship with Thunderbolt - and the first not to use the standard Thunderbolt connector. Bucking standards is something of a Sony tradition - its Beta videocassette lost out to VHS, its i.Link unpowered version of FireWire with a nonstandard connector appears to be obsolete, and its Memory Stick is finally giving way to SD memory cards. Let's hope its version of Thunderbolt doesn't confuse the market. dk

Products & Services

500 GB USB 3.0/USB 2.0 LaCie Porsche Design Mobile P'9220 Hard Drive

LaCie Porsche Design Mobile P9220 Hard DrivePR: The LaCie Porsche Design P'9220 mobile hard drive is more than just a place to store your files - it's a collaboration between one of the most renowned design firms in the world and LaCie. With the P'9220, Porsche Design and La Cie have combined speed, design, and technology to result in a different breed of mobile drive.

Porsche Design Form, LaCie Function

LaCie first partnered with Porsche Design in 2003 to produce one of the most iconic and enduringly popular external hard drives on the market. Since then the two companies have worked closely to create products that blend flawless functionality and pure design. The luxury brand and the leading technology company complement each other, with technical influence from LaCie, together with an exclusive and timeless shape presented by Porsche Design.

LaCie Porsche Design Mobile P9220 Hard DriveWith the P'9220's USB 3.0 interface, you'll be able to transfer files faster than ever before-a 700 MB video file in just under 7 seconds. You can back up your photos, exchange audio and video files with your friends, or make sure that

Your important files are kept safe. And with capacities up to 1 TB, you've got the storage capacity to hold all of your files.

Safe, Strong, and Aluminum

Porsche Design is known worldwide for their sophisticated, timeless creations, and the P'9220 is no exception. With 3mm of strong aluminum casing surrounding the drive inside, you can be sure that your data is solidly protected. LaCie and Porsche Design worked together to combine form and function-resulting in a mobile drive that looks great (and works great)-no matter where you take it.

User-friendly Software Suite Included

  • Automatic Backup: Easy setup and automatic worry-free backup for both PC and Mac computers.
  • Password Protection: With LaCie Private-Public software built-in, it's easy to make sure that your files are secure and protected, no matter where you go.
  • Secure Online Storage: 10 GB of Wuala Online Storage included for one year to securely store and share your data online.
  • 40% Energy Savings: Automatic Eco mode lowers the power consumption by up to 40% when not in use, increasing the battery life of your notebook or laptop.

Price

  • Starting at $104.99 with USB 3.0
  • Starting at $99.99 with USB 2.0 only

Publisher's note: At this point, no Macs have built-in USB 3.0 support and the use of third-party USB 3.0 cards requires special drivers. However, USB 3.0 is backward compatible with USB 2.0, so buying the USB 3.0 version for just $5 more is a forward-looking choice. dk

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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