The 'Book Review

MacBook Air Gets Thunderbolt and Core i5/i7 CPUs, World's First Thunderbolt Display, and More

This Week's PowerBook and iBook News

Compiled by Charles Moore and edited by Dan Knight - 2011.07.26

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

Troubleshooting

Products & Services

Software

Bargain 'Books

News & Opinion

Apple Updates MacBook Air with Core i5/i7 Processors, Thunderbolt, and Backlit Keyboard

PR: Apple on Wednesday updated the MacBook Air with Sandy Bridge Core i processors, ultra high-speed Thunderbolt I/O technology, a backlit keyboard, and Mac OS X Lion. Apple claims up to twice the performance of the previous generation,1 featuring flash data storage for instant-on responsiveness, and the MacBook Air's famous compact design continues without any major changes. The base MacBook Air starts at $999 and is available now.

11.6-inch and 13.3-inch 2011 MacBook Air
11.6" and 13.3" 2011 MacBook Air

As before, the MacBook Air is available in 11" and 13" models with an aluminum unibody enclosure measures 0.11" at its thinnest point and 0.68" at its thickest. Standard flash storage allows the slim notebook to turn on virtually instantly and deliver fast data access, improved reliability and better energy efficiency. The 11" model weighs 2.38 pounds and provides up to a claimed 5 hours of battery life, while the 13" weighs 2.96 pounds and provides up to 7 hours of battery life.2

With the latest Intel Core i5 and Core i7 dual-core processors, the new MacBook Air is claimed to be up to twice as fast as the previous generation. with plenty of power for editing photos and movies, making FaceTime calls, playing games, and working with documents and presentations. A downgrade is that these Sandy Bridge MacBook Airs have Intel HD Graphics 3000 IGPU, which are less powerful than the Nvidia GeForce 320M IGPUs used in the previous generation Core 2 Duo MacBook Airs, but the extra processor speed of the Core i CPUs should compensate and more. As before, the MacBook Airs support up to 4 GB of 1333 MHz memory, but any upgrades must be specified as build-to-order options at the time of purchase, and cannot be retrofitted.

Indeed, it's a disappointment that the base, $999 11.6" MacBook Air still comes equipped with just 2 GB of RAM and a and a puny 64 GB SSD, since 4 GB and 128 GB respectively had been speculated in prerelease rumors, especially since Apple quietly terminated the $999 white polycarbonate MacBook, leaving the $999 Air as the sole offering in that price slot.

Thunderbolt I/O technology provides expansion possibilities never before available to MacBook Air users. Through a single cable, users can connect to high performance peripherals and the new Apple Thunderbolt Display, the ultimate docking station for your Mac notebook. Thunderbolt can easily be adapted to support legacy connections such as FireWire and Gigabit Ethernet.

MacBook Air's backlit keyboardThe revised MacBook Air now comes with a full size backlit keyboard and a glass Multi-Touch trackpad. The backlit keyboard uses a sensor to automatically detect a change in ambient lighting and adjusts the keyboard brightness for any environment. The Multi-Touch trackpad supports Lion's new Multi-Touch gestures such as momentum scrolling, tapping or pinching your fingers to zoom in on a web page or image, and swiping left or right to turn a page or switch between full screen apps.

The MacBook Air also features LED backlit displays of 1366 x 768 resolution for the 11.6" model, and 1440 x 900 for the 13-incher. The New Airs can share files wirelessly with other Macs that support Lion's AirDrop, and include Bluetooth for wireless peripherals and two USB ports.

The new MacBook Air meets Energy Star 5.2 requirements and achieves EPEAT Gold status.3 Each unibody enclosure is made of highly recyclable aluminum and comes standard with energy efficient LED-backlit displays that are mercury-free and made with arsenic-free glass. Mac notebooks contain no brominated flame retardants, are PVC-free and are constructed of recyclable materials.

Every new MacBook Air comes with Mac OS X Lion, the eighth major release of Apple's OS X operating system, but be aware that if you have favorite or mission-critical applications or utilities that contain PowerPC code, the new Airs will not run OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard for retention of Rosetta PowerPC emulation.

Also bundled are iLife apps for creating and sharing photos, movies and music. Lion introduces more than 250 new features to the Mac, including Multi-Touch gestures; systemwide support for full screen apps; Mission Control, an innovative view of everything running on your Mac; the Mac App Store, the best place to find and explore great software, built right into the OS; Launchpad, a new home for all your apps; and a completely redesigned Mail app.

The 11" and 13" MacBook Air are available for order on the Apple Store. The 1.6 GHz 11" MacBook Air is available in two models, one with 2 GB of memory and 64 GB of flash storage for a suggested retail price of $999, and one with 4 GB of memory and 128 GB of flash storage for $1,199. The 1.7 GHz 13" MacBook Air comes in two configurations, one with 4 GB of memory and 128 GB of flash storage for a suggested retail price of $1,299, and one with 4 GB of memory and 256 GB of flash storage for $1,599. Configure-to-order options and accessories include a 1.8 GHz Core i7 processor, additional flash storage, MacBook Air SuperDrive and a USB Ethernet Adapter.

Additional technical specifications and configure-to-order options and accessories are available online.

  1. Testing conducted by Apple in July 2011 using preproduction MacBook Air configurations. For more information visit http://www.apple.com/macbookair/features.html
  2. The new Wireless Web protocol testing was conducted by Apple in July 2011 using preproduction MacBook Air configurations. Battery life and charge cycles vary by use and settings. For more information visit http://www.apple.com/macbookair/features.html
  3. EPEAT is an independent organization that helps customers compare the environmental performance of notebooks and desktops. For more information visit http://www.epeat.net

Apple Introduces World's First Thunderbolt Display

PR: Apple on Wednesday unveiled the new Apple Thunderbolt Display, the world's first display with Thunderbolt I/O technology and the ultimate docking station for your Mac notebook. With just a single cable, users can connect a Thunderbolt-enabled Mac to the 27" Apple Thunderbolt Display and access its FaceTime camera, high quality audio, and Gigabit Ethernet, FireWire 800, USB 2.0, and Thunderbolt ports. Designed specifically for Mac notebooks, the new display features an elegant, thin, aluminum and glass enclosure, and includes a MagSafe connector that charges your MacBook Pro or MacBook Air.

"The Apple Thunderbolt Display is the ultimate docking station for your Mac notebook," said Philip Schiller, Apple's senior vice president of Worldwide Product Marketing. "With just one cable, users can dock with their new display and connect to high performance peripherals, network connections and audio devices."

With a beautiful 16:9 edge-to-edge glass design, the Thunderbolt Display uses IPS technology to provide a brilliant image across an ultra wide 178° viewing angle. Any Thunderbolt-enabled Mac notebook can dock with the display to quickly and easily create a full-fledged desktop solution. The Thunderbolt Display includes a built-in FaceTime HD video camera for crisp video conferencing, a 2.1 speaker system for high quality audio, an integrated MagSafe charger to keep Mac notebooks charged, three USB 2.0 ports, one FireWire 800 port, one Gigabit Ethernet port, and a Thunderbolt port for daisy chaining up to five additional Thunderbolt devices.

The Thunderbolt Display is the world's first display to include Thunderbolt I/O technology. Featuring two bi-directional channels with transfer speeds up to an amazing 10 Gbps each, each Thunderbolt port delivers PCI Express directly to external peripherals such as high performance storage and RAID arrays, supports DisplayPort for high resolution displays and works with existing adapters for HDMI, DVI and VGA displays. Thunderbolt-based Macs with discrete graphics can drive two external displays giving professional users over 7 million additional pixels of display real estate and the ability to daisy chain additional Thunderbolt devices, as well as video and audio capture devices.

The Thunderbolt Display includes an ambient light sensor which automatically adjusts the display brightness based on external lighting conditions and uses only as much energy as necessary to provide an optimum viewing experience. Made with mercury-free LED technology, arsenic-free glass and highly recyclable materials, the new display meets Energy Star 5.0 requirements and achieves EPEAT Gold status.* The new display contains no brominated flame retardants and all cables and components are PVC-free.

The new Thunderbolt Display will be available within the next 60 days through the Apple Store, Apple's retail stores, and Apple Authorized Resellers for a suggested retail price of $999. The Apple Thunderbolt Display requires a Mac with a Thunderbolt I/O port.

*EPEAT is an independent organization that helps customers compare the environmental performance of notebooks and desktops. For more information visit http://www.epeat.net

New MacBook Air Shipments Expected to Stay Strong from June to August

DigiTimes' Aaron Lee and Joseph Tsai say shipments of Apple's just released third-generation MacBook Air from the supply chain already reached 400,000-500,000 units in June and volume is expected to remain strong throughout July and August, according to sources from Apple's upstream supply chain.

The sources estimate that MacBook series sales will reach 13-14 million units in 2011 and may even reach 15 million units, adding that Apple is the only vendor that has provided a full shipments forecast to the first quarter of 2012

How to Check Your 'Book's Battery Health

AppleHeadlines.com's Brian has posted a quick and simple how-to on checking the health of a Mac laptop's battery - useful when purchasing or selling a used Mac laptop to see if a new battery is possibly needed, along with a video.

Apple Developing New Keyboard Configuration for MacBook Pro?

AppleBitch reports that an image appearing to show a unibody MacBook Pro with a different key configuration from the current model has been unearthed by Macgasm from the Apple website, with the image, which was apparently pulled shortly after it was grabbed, showing a MacBook Pro apparently running an early build of Lion, with a keyboard that has a different set of arrow navigation keys on the right side as well as small modifications to the Shift key.

Publisher's note: The addition of dedicated Home and End keys, as seen in the images, would be a real plus. dk

Troubleshooting

Managing Overheating External Hard Drives in OS X

MacFixIt's Topher Kessler notes that many laptop users have external hard drives with smaller notebook-sized 2.5" disks that can be powered by the computer's USB or FireWire bus, and that although compact and convenient, sometimes these drives can end up getting exceptionally hot with use, to the point where it may hurt or even burn if you hold the drive for more than a few seconds, with the heat also contributing to premature drive failure.

He offers some tips to help keep heat buildup to manageable levels.

Products & Services

Waterfield Designs' New Smart Case for MacBook Air Style

MacBook Air Smart CasePR: Waterfield Designs, the preeminent San Francisco manufacturer of custom laptop sleeves and distinguished bags and cases for digital gear, introduces the all-new MacBook Air Smart Case. Lion MacBook Air sales are predicted to hit 1.5 million per quarter as reported by AppleInsider, and Waterfield Designs is poised meet resulting demand for its quality MacBook Air cases.

MacBook Air Smart CaseThe robustly protective and impeccably stylish new Smart Case is available in custom sizes for both the 11" and 13" MacBook Air models. The Smart Case, shipping now, joins four premier MacBook Air cases already available from Waterfield Designs.

"The Smart Case with its bold colors and distressed leather sides is a unique, eye-catching case," says owner Gary Waterfield. "A plastic, impact-resisting insert and padded sides offer matchless protection and the color choices match our popular Muzetto bag."

MacBook Air Smart CaseFeatures:

  • Two sizes: Custom fitted to 11.6" or 13" MacBook Air
  • Light and protective
  • Water-resistant, nylon exterior
  • Lightly padded interior
  • Ultrasuede scratch-free liner that helps remove fingerprints
  • Flanked by eco-friendly, distressed brown leather
  • High-impact, rigid plastic inserts for additional protection
  • Stretch back pocket to hold power adapter and cables
  • Six vibrant color choices
  • TSA-friendly

With this new addition, Waterfield now offers three MacBook Air sleeve options - the new Smart Case, the SleeveCase, and the Suede Jacket Sleeve - all of which can work in conjunction with Waterfield's popular Muzetto laptop bag. Waterfield Designs offers two MacBook Air bag options with room for the Air, a power adapter, cables and more: the MacBook Air Travel Express, and the MacBook Air Wallet.

MacBook Air Smart Case: 11": $79. 13": $89. Colors are available in Black, Copper, Flame, Green, Pearl, or Pine. Available now at Waterfield Designs/SFBags company store.

eggshell Hard Case for MacBook Air 11" and 13"

eggshell Hard Case for MacBook AirPR: Available in two sizes, eggshell will fit both the MacBook Air 11" and 13" models. The tough polycarbonate comes is two pieces which fit snugly and protect the top and bottom of MacBook Air from light bumps and scratches. The clarity of the case allows one to still enjoy the color of MacBook Air's brushed aluminum finish.

eggshell Hard Case for MacBook AirFour rubber feet on the bottom of eggshell keep MacBook Air from sliding during typing, and the case ensures that MacBook Air stays put when placed on smooth surfaces. eggshell does not obstruct any of the MacBook Air ports, so the MagSafe and USB ports are fully accessible.

eggshell Hard Case for MacBook AirThis case is suitable for:

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

Specifications:

  • 13" model
    • Top: 328(W) x 229(H) x 5(D)mm
    • Bottom: 328(W) x 229(H) x 10(D)mm
    • Weight: approximately 300g
  • 11" model
    • Top: 328(W) x 195(H) x 5(D)mm
    • Bottom: 303(W) x 195(H) x 10(D)mm
    • Weight: approximately 230g

Color: Carbon Black

13" version - $43.99

11" version - $42.95

Magma Announces Plans for Thunderbolt Expansion Solutions

PR: Magma, a developer of PCI Express expansion and connectivity products, has announced plans to support the all-new Thunderbolt technology, developed by Intel and brought to market in collaboration with Apple. Magma has a long history of providing expansion systems that extend PCI and PCI Express bus signals over cable from the computer to an external expansion chassis. Magma's Thunderbolt expansion offerings will provide a migration path to Thunderbolt, while protecting customers' investment in specialized PCI and PCI Express option cards made for video capture and edit, broadcast video, pro audio, communications, data acquisition and more. The introduction of Thunderbolt technology on Apple MacBook Pro and iMac computers provides an opportunity for Magma to embrace the next generation of "outside the box" high-speed connectivity and support the users who will be upgrading hardware while continuing to depend on PCI and PCI Express peripherals.

Thunderbolt technology is a new, high-speed, dual-protocol I/O technology designed for performance, simplicity, and flexibility. Thunderbolt technology features dual-channel 10 Gbps per port bidirectionally. Thunderbolt supports both PCI Express and DisplayPort protocols, bringing together high-speed data transfer and high-definition (HD) display onto a single copper or optical cable. A high performance media workstation can be built by simply connecting a Thunderbolt equipped computer to external Thunderbolt devices such as data storage, media capture, high-resolution displays and expansion chassis.

"Thunderbolt technology is the interconnect protocol that performance hungry video and audio production professionals have been demanding for quite some time," says Magma's CEO and President Randy Jones, "We are thrilled to be involved in supporting this cutting edge technology collaboration between Apple and Intel and to be bringing Thunderbolt expansion solutions to market before the end of the year".

"Thunderbolt technology combines high-speed data and display transfers, delivering great responsiveness with absolute ease of use," comments Jason Ziller, Intel director of Thunderbolt planning and marketing. "Magma's upcoming products will use Thunderbolt technology to extend system capabilities even further."

Magma is dedicated to providing expansion products for a variety of platforms. As new interconnect options become available, Magma will adopt technologies like Thunderbolt that remove bandwidth bottlenecks for users with sophisticated audio, video, mass storage and high performance computing applications.

Software

Adobe Photoshop Elements 9 Editor, Special Edition of Photoshop Elements, Debuts in Mac App Store

PR: Adobe Systems Incorporated has announced the immediate availability of Adobe Photoshop Elements 9 Editor in the Mac App Store, providing Mac users with powerful yet easy-to-use photo-editing tools for creating extraordinary photos.

Based on the industry-standard Adobe Photoshop software, Photoshop Elements 9 Editor helps users take their photos from ordinary to phenomenal in seconds. Photoshop helped pioneer creativity on the Mac, so its appropriate that this special edition of Photoshop Elements is Adobe's entry into the Mac App Store.

"The powerful capabilities in Photoshop Elements 9 Editor complement iPhoto perfectly, for users who want to take their photos to the next level with advanced compositing and stunning effects," says Winston Hendrickson, Adobe's vice president of Digital Imaging Products. "Photoshop helped pioneer creativity on the Mac, so its appropriate that this special edition of Photoshop Elements is Adobes entry into the Mac App Store."

Photoshop Elements 9 Editor includes popular editing features available in the full version of the No. 1 selling consumer photo-editing software. Adobe Photoshop Elements 9 Guided Edits offer easy-to-follow, step-by-step instructions for creating artistic effects such as Out of Bounds for making photos leap off the page, Pop Art for creating retro-style images, or Perfect Portraits for easy retouching. Users can instantly remove clutter from photos or repair imperfections with one stroke of the Spot Healing Brush, which uses powerful content-aware technology adapted from Photoshop CS5.

For the perfect group shot, Photoshop Elements 9 Editor combines the best facial expressions from a number of different shots into a single perfect photo. And, the new Adobe Photomerge Style Match analyzes stylistic characteristics of any photo, such as contrast or color tone, and automatically applies them to another photo.

One-step shortcuts provide quick fixes such as whitening teeth or creating vibrant blue skies, and automated layout options quickly showcase selected photos. Users can also create and print customized calendars, cards and photo books right at home.

Adobe Photoshop Elements 9 Editor can be downloaded immediately for $79 from the Mac App Store.

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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