The 'Book Review

Firmware Update Makes 6 Gbps SATA Reliable in All 2011 MacBooks, Thunderbolt Update for Lion, and More

This Week's PowerBook and iBook News

Compiled by Charles Moore and edited by Dan Knight - 2011.09.26

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

Apple Updates

Products & Services

Bargain 'Books

News & Opinion

Firmware Update Enables 6 Gbps SATA in All 2011 MacBooks

Referencing an Other World Computing blog, ZDNet's Jason D. O'Grady reports that nearly seven months after the latest MacBook Pro refresh arrived, users can finally reliably harness the blistering 6 Gbps speeds hidden under their aluminum hoods. Oh, and 2011 MacBook Airs have it too.

O'Grady suggests that Apple didn't mention the SATA 6 Gbps fix in the MacBook Pro EFI firmware update released last week (see below) because its policy is not to promote the fact that 2011 MacBook Pros and Airs support SATA 6 Gbps because the interface isn't officially supported, in his estimation because Apple can't source sufficient quantities of SATA 6 Gbps SSD modules and thus doesn't want to promote its SATA 6 Gbps support until it's certain it can ship every unit with a 6 Gbps SSD.

11" i7 MacBook Air Outperforms 13" 2.4 GHz Core 2 Duo MacBook Pro

Macs Only's Bill Fox says a little over a year ago he switched from using an original 13" 1.6 GHz Early 2008 MacBook Air with a 128 GB SSD upgrade to a 13" 2.4 GHz Mid 2010 MacBook Pro, also upgraded with a 240 GB OWC Extreme Pro SSD when it appeared to him that Apple had given up on the MacBook Air.

2008 and 2011 MacBook Air vs. 2.4 GHz MacBook Pro
2008 and 2011 MacBook Air vs. 2.4 GHz MacBook Pro

However, he notes that while the 13" MacBook Pro is a fabulous notebook and a terrific value, more is not better - for him, and he found himself using his older MacBook Air more frequently than the newer, more powerful, and more versatile MacBook Pro.

With the latest MacBook Airs (Mid 2011) arriving - once again with backlit keyboards - and sporting the option for an Intel Core i7 processor along with two USB ports, a Thunderbolt port, 4 GB of RAM, and SSDs, Fox decided to switch from the 13" MacBook Pro to the new Air, and decided to this time go with the 11" (actually 11.6") model after many long visits to his local Apple Store to convince himself that his eyesight is still adequate for it.

Fox's new 11" MacBook Air with an optional 1.8 GHz Core i7 CPU and standard 128 GB SSD and 4 GB of RAM arrived a couple of weeks ago, and the burning question was, "How fast is it?"

Fox ran several of his standard speed tests on the original and new MacBook Air models, as well as the 13" 2.4 GHz MacBook Pro (Mid 2010) for comparison, and reports that he's pretty happy with how his new Mid 2011 11" MacBook Air performed.

Apple Updates

EFI Firmware Update 2.2 for Thunderbolt MacBook Pros

The MacBook Pro EFI Firmware Update 2.2 enables Lion Internet Recovery which starts Lion Recovery directly from Apple servers over a broadband Internet connection if the built-in recovery is unavailable. It also includes fixes that resolve issues with Apple Thunderbolt Display compatibility and Thunderbolt Target Disk Mode performance on MacBook Pro (early 2011) models.

For more information about Lion Recovery, visit http://www.apple.com/macosx/recovery/

The MacBook Pro EFI Update will update the EFI firmware on your notebook computer. Your computer's power cord must be connected and plugged into a working power source. When your MacBook Pro restarts, a gray screen will appear with a status bar to indicate the progress of the update. It will take several minutes for the update to complete. Do not disturb or shut off the power on your MacBook Pro during this update.

Boot ROM or SMC Version Information: After this update has successfully completed, your Boot ROM Version will be: MBP81.0047.B1E

File Size: 4.17 MB

System Requirements: OS X Lion 10.7 and later

Publisher's note: This replaces EFI Firmware Update 2.1 released a week earlier.

Thunderbolt Software Update for Thunderbolt MacBooks with OS X 10.7.1

The latest Thunderbolt Software Update provides support for the Apple Thunderbolt Display and bug fixes for Thunderbolt device compatibility.

File Size: 60.30 MB

System Requirements: OS X Lion 10.7.1 or later

Products & Services

Compact Kensington AbsolutePower Laptop, Phone, Tablet Charger

AbsolutePower Laptop, Phone, Tablet ChargerPR: Kensington Computer Products Group has announced the AbsolutePower™ Laptop, Phone, Tablet Charger, the first compact charger of its kind with simultaneous triple charging ability. The industrial strength charger offers 100W of power and is compatible with top selling Windows-based laptops, smartphones like the iPhone, BlackBerry Torch, Sony Experia, and more, as well as iPad and iPad 2, BlackBerry PlayBook and Samsung Galaxy tablets. Mobile professionals can leave multiple chargers behind and no longer need to worry about making room for additional bulky batteries with AbsolutePower. It intelligently charges up to three devices at the same time and its light weight and small size make it easy to carry. Sitting on a desk, AbsolutePower only takes up 12% more space than an iPhone that it charges.

AbsolutePower Laptop, Phone, Tablet ChargerDesigned for convenience and nearly all mobile power needs, the product features a compact form factor with a scratch resistant exterior and aids in thermal cooling. AbsolutePower is claimed to be not only a superior power supply; but environmentally friendly as well. As the premium offering in the award-winning Kensington Smart Power family of laptop adapters, it is physically packaged in recycled materials and built to help reduce a users carbon footprint by providing energy efficiently. In addition, AbsolutePower is competitively priced, similar in cost to less capable mobile power adapters on the market today.

Mobile professionals are relying on multiple computing devices for work and play more than ever. Global forecasts from Gartner indicate that year over year tablet growth for 2010 through 2011 is as much as 309%. An estimated 387 million laptop and 64 million tablet sales are expected in the year 2011 alone. AbsolutePower meets the rapidly increasing demand for superior accessories that are as easy to use and effective in performance as the laptops, smartphones, and tablets it works to empower.

"AbsolutePower is a truly unique product that offers mobile professionals a huge convenience. Its powerful enough to charge three of the most often used mobile platforms today, all at the same time," says Peter Zan, Senior Global Product Manager at Kensington. "And because its compact and light enough to easily fit in a briefcase or purse, its the ideal companion to today's laptops, smartphones and tablets, so they always operate at peak performance. AbsolutePower's affordability and green design just add to its ingenuity."

The Kensington AbsolutePower Laptop, Phone, Tablet Charger provides 100 watts of power to charge your laptop and two USB devices simultaneously - triple charging guaranteed. A perfect secondary or replacement charger is the smallest, lightest, most powerful charger in its class compared with similar in-class power adapters. It is compatible with top-selling laptops and the two built-in USB ports offer 2.1 Amp capability for charging tablets and smartphones.

Additional Features and Benefits

  • Smart power technology senses and delivers the amount of power needed to charge your laptop - no more, no less.
  • Smart tips are compatible with laptops from HP, Compaq, Dell, Acer, Toshiba, Lenovo, Samsung, Sony, Gateway and ASUS
  • Two built-in USB power ports offer the capability for charging iPad 1 or 2, BlackBerry PlayBook, and Samsung Galaxy tablets and iPhone, HTC Nexus One or HD2, Samsung Wave, Nokia N8, Sony Experia, Motorola Milestone 2, LG Quantum or eXpo, and Blackberry Torch phones
  • Scratch resistant finish looks great under heavy use
  • Detachable cord saves space and makes it convenient for travel

Notes: Adapter can power a 100-watt laptop or a 90-watt laptop and 10-watt mobile device. Guaranteed charging or your money back within 90 days of purchase. Visit warranty.kensington.com for more details. Includes micro USB to USB adapter

The Kensington AbsolutePower Laptop, Phone, Tablet Charger sells for $119.99.

The Kensington AbsolutePower Laptop, Phone, Tablet Charger will be available in October at Amazon.com, Kensington.com, and other retailers.

OWC Mercury Aura Pro Express 6G: First 6 Gb/s SSDs for 2011 MacBook Air

PR: Other World Computing (OWC) has announced the industry's first 6G SSD upgrade for the 2011 Apple MacBook Air models.

OWC Mercury Aura Pro Express 6G SSDThe new OWC Mercury Aura Pro Express 6G SSDs combine award-winning SandForce technologies and Tier 1/Grade A Toggle Synchronous NAND to deliver data rates that are more than 3x faster and capacities that are up to 4x greater than factory available SSD options. Currently available in two sizes - 120 GB and 240 GB - the new 6 Gb/s SATA 3.0 Revision models continue OWC's position as the only alternative to factory SSD options for the 2010-2011 MacBook Air. 3G speed models from OWC are also available in capacities of up to 480 GB.

The OWC Mercury Aura Pro Express 6G offers 2011 MacBook Air owners a cost-effective SSD upgrade path that delivers higher performance, functionality, and reliability over the factory installed SSD. Because the Mercury Aura Pro Express 6G SSD is SATA Revision 3.0 (6 Gb/s) compatible, it can take advantage of the 2011 MacBook Air's built-in 6 Gb/s SATA data bus to deliver peak, sustained data rates over 500 MB/s, versus the factory installed SSDs, which are limited by SATA Revision 2.0 (3 Gb/s) capability.

No Slowdown with Repeated Use

While ordinary SSDs initially offer fast read/write performance; they experience significant write speed degradation over repeated usage. Independent simulation tests conducted by leading drive performance experts like MacPerformanceGuide confirm OWC Mercury SSD's ultra-efficient Block Management & Wear Leveling technologies are able to eliminate virtually any reduction in data transfer speeds over heavy, long-term usage 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 6G provides an increase of up to 100x in data protection, compared to ordinary SSDs and 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 6G provides RAID-like data protection and reliability without loss of transfer speed due to parity.

"As the first and only SSD alternative to factory installed options in Apple's 2010 and 2011 MacBook Air models, the Mercury Aura Pro Express 6G sets the bar high. We're extremely excited to offer this model which completely eclipses any factory installed SSD and gives MacBook Air users the leading performance our Mercury EXTREME Pro 6G SSDs have been delivering to MacBook Pro, iMac, Mac Pro, and PC owners," says Larry O'Connor, Founder and CEO, Other World Computing. "Our new Mercury Aura Pro Express 6G models enable 2011 MacBook Air owners to unleash substantially higher performance capabilities that are otherwise unrealized and limited by the factory drive."

OWC's new Mercury Aura Pro Express 6G leverages the proven success of its previously released 3G model. 2010-2011 MacBook Air owners seeking maximum storage/backup capacity can replace their factory installed SSD with up to 8x greater capacity offered by the OWC Mercury Aura Pro Express 3G SSD. Available in capacities up to 480 GB, the 3G model SSD also delivers up to 68% faster performance in real world use.

Compatible with 11.6" and 13.3" 2011 MacBook Air models, the OWC Mercury Aura Pro Express 6G is available now from Other World Computing as well as through select retailers. Both models include 7% over provisioning, Toggle Synchronous NAND and a three-year warranty. The 120 GB version has an MSRP of $349.99 and the 240 GB version has an MSRP of $599.99.

The new Mercury Aura Pro Express 6G model joins OWC's existing line of '3G' (3 Gb/s) and '6G' (6 Gb/s) Mercury SSDs available for nearly every Mac and PC produced over the past decade in capacities from 40 GB to 480 GB starting from $87.99.

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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