The 'Book Review

Ultimate 11" MacBook Air Reviewed, Lots to Like in Late 2011 MacBook Pros, and More

This Week's PowerBook and iBook News

Compiled by Charles Moore and edited by Dan Knight - 2011.11.07

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

Tech Trends

Products & Services

Software

Bargain 'Books

News & Opinion

Late 2011 MacBook Pro Compatibility with 6 Gb/s SATA Drives

OWC blogger Larry says:

"As we mentioned last Monday, Apple has released new speed bumped MacBook Pro 13", 15", and 17" model laptops. These units all show 6 Gb/s link capability for both the main drive bay and the optical bay. Right out of the gate all of these models are proving 100% reliable for use of a SATA Revision 3.0 hard drive or OWC 6G SSD installed into the main drive bay.

"Just like the Early 2011 models, while we continue to see reliability with 6 Gb/s in the optical bay of the 13" model - the optical bays of the 15" and 17" models remain too unstable for 6 Gb/s drive use. Although still unstable in the 15" and 17", the optical bay SATA signal has improved considerably and we are looking into possibilities that might make 6 Gb/s in this bay reliable.

"This is the same drive setup/configuration we saw in the the Early 2011 MacBook Pros. While it had been a long road with various frustrations in terms of using a 6 Gb/s SSD in even the main bay of the previous 15" and 17" models Apple's EFI 2.2 update resolved most of those issues. Future updates may resolve some fringe issues for those models, but, unfortunately, testing across a significant number of both Early and Late 2011 MacBook Pro models indicate that 6 Gb/s is only stable in the main bay of 15" and 17" models, while optical bay 6 Gb/s is reliable for 13" models only at this time.

"To keep it simple:

15" MacBook Air Prototype Spotted?

danbo of the Japanese Apple-watcher blogsite Macotakara follows up on a previous MacRumors report that a 15" MacBook Air-like prototype notebook had been spotted, according to unnamed Asian intelligence sources.

danbo speculates that Apple apparently is developing such a product, an ultrathin laptop with a 15" display and no internal optical drive, but thinks it may more likely be a prototype for one of a new line of optical driveless MacBook Pros than a forthcoming extension of the MacBook Air family.

That would be my best guess as well.

Indeed, the MacRumors report by Arnold Kim that was referenced by danbo expressed equivocation over whether the rumored 15" ultrathin Mac notebook would be called a MacBook Air or MacBook Pro, but positively affirmed it is be already in late testing stages by Apple.

AppleInsider Staff suggests that whatever name the new portable Mac ultimately takes, rumors have suggested that the current physical form factor of the MacBook Pro lineup will undergo a drastic redesign in 2012, with Apple's future MacBooks expected to feature Intel's next-generation 22nm Ivy Bridge processors, which are projected to arrive at some point in the first half of 2012, and that Intel confirmed last week that it has begun Ivy Bridge volume production, with systems powered by the new CPUs to be available in the spring of 2012.

Reviews

Ultimate 11" MacBook Air Reviewed

Computing's Dave Bailey declares the full-load 11" MacBook Air (1.8 GHz Core i7 CPU, 256 GB SSD) to be a very good laptop, upgraded with the latest Intel processors and also Apple's 10 Gb/s Thunderbolt connectivity, although he notes that the lack of USB 3.0 is a point against the MacBook Air - and the price could cause a sharp increase in blood pressure.

Bailey observes that one of the most visible and biggest improvements to this iteration of the MacBook Air is the keyboard, which now has backlighting to help users work in dim light, as well as a much more positive key action than the 13" 2010 model used, even though the keyboard travel looks the same.

He says Apple's decision not to put USB 3.0 on its systems is mystifying, since data transfer rates using USB 3.0 can be an order of magnitude better than USB 2.0 devices, but that Intel's second-generation 1.8 GHz Core i7-2677M processor offers an approximate threefold performance boost over the earlier 1.86 GHz Core 2 Duo used in the 2010 vintage MacBook Airs.

Publisher's note: In theory, SuperSpeed USB 3.0 has a bit more than 10x the bandwidth of High-Speed USB 2.0, in extensive testing of USB 3.0 and 2.0 flash drives, AnandTech found the difference between the fastest 2.0 and 3.0 drives was typically in the 6-8x range, with some showing far less improvement than that. In brief, expect to see a real difference in throughput (if and when Macs get USB 3.0 support), but don't expect to see that "order of magnitude" difference in the real world. dk

Macworld: Plenty to Like About Late 2011 MacBook Pros

Macworld's James Galbraith notes that last month's MacBook Pro update announcement was so low-key that you might have missed it, highlighted by faster new Intel Sandy Bridge processors and upgraded ATI graphics processors on the 15" and 17" models delivered at the same price points as the machines they replace. However, Galbraith observes that while the improvements are modest, there's plenty to like about these upgrades, especially if you own an older laptop and are looking to upgrade your system, although he says they shouldn't invoke buyers remorse for anyone who purchased a member of the Early 2011 MacBook Pro family, or perhaps even buyers of a 2010 MacBook Pro.

Tech Trends

Acer, Asustek Ultrabook Sales Fall Short

DigiTimes' Monica Chen and Steve Shen report that Ultrabook shipments by Acer and Asustek Computer are expected to reach 100,000 units each by the end of 2011, falling well short of their targets of 200,000 to 300,000 units, due mainly to their relatively high prices, according to DigiTimes' sources in the channels.

For example Chen and Shen note that Acer's 13.3" Aspire S3 sells for the exchange equivalent of US$1,101 in the Taiwan market, or about US$100 higher than the price there of comparable MacBook Air models, and for a hardware spec that isn't especially exciting, both factors dampening consumers' willingness to try the new laptops.

However, the reporters suggest that Ultrabooks may account for 10% of the notebook market come March/April 2012. when branded notebook vendors begin to release revised models with Intel's next-generation Core I "Ivy Bridge" silicon inside, with the category's sales share likely to increase to 20-30% when Windows 8 arrives in Q4 2012.

However, Apple is expected to use Ivy Bridge processors in its MacBook lines too, and OS X 10.8, reported this week to be in early development, could be ready for Q4 2012 release as well.

The Problem with Ultrabooks: Apple's MacBook Air

Cnet's Scott Stein notes that for the past several months we've been bombarded with news about Ultrabooks, a new category of laptop given a new name by Intel - machines that are meant to be improvements on the laptop as we've come to know it, with smartphone-like startup speed and wafer-thin, future-sexy designs.

So far, so good, says Stein, who perceives the first few Ultrabook examples we've seen as excellent products, noting that the Acer Aspire S3, the Lenovo IdeaPad U300s, and the Asus Zenbook UX31 have all lived up to expectations - and provide valid alternatives to the MacBook Air.

But there's still a big problem, as Stein sees it: While all of laptops are first and foremost, MacBook Air-alikes, somehow, Apple's MacBook Air is a nothing-alike, standing alone and having earned that distinction, because it was the first of the class. Indeed, it created the class.

Products & Services

PlugBug: Charge Your MacBook and iPad or iPhone Simultaneously

PR: PlugBug from TwelveSouth is a 10W USB wall charger that piggybacks onto your MacBook Power Adapter, creating a unique, all-in-one, dual charger for MacBook + iPad or iPhone. That means you can charge your MacBook + iPad or iPhone at the same time using one wall outlet.

Simple and elegantly designed, this go-anywhere power pack means one less power brick to carry and one less wall outlet to find. PlugBug simplifies your life.

PlugBug is made exclusively for all MacBook Power Adapters, including current and recently previous models. Snap PlugBug onto your MacBook Power Adapter and you can charge your MacBook + iPad or iPhone simultaneously, from one wall outlet.

The bright red PlugBug packs a powerful 10 watts, providing the fastest charge possible to iPad and iPhone. Knowing iPad requires twice the power of a typical USB charger, the 10 watt PlugBug could be regarded as a must-have Mac accessory. Between flights or before work, you can charge your MacBook + iPad or iPhone with PlugBug and one wall outlet.

PlugBug Lets You De-Clutter.

When you connect PlugBug to your MacBook Power Adapter, you instantly have an all-in-one MacBook + iPad and iPhone charger. You can finally purge the tangled mess of chargers in your computer bag, and as long as you have PlugBug in the bag, you'll never have to worry about forgetting a charger again. Powering up with PlugBug also beats using a $2,500 MacBook Pro as an iPhone charger.

Stand Alone Charger Too

Only need to charge your iPad or iPhone? No worries. PlugBug works as a stand-alone wall charger too. Slide PlugBug off your MacBook power supply and slip on the included cap to use PlugBug as an extra iPad charger. A solid 10 watts of power ensures your iPad gets a quick charge. The bright red finish makes it easy to spot PlugBug inside your backpack, computer bag or purse.

International Power Converter

Travelers visiting the US or Canada from faraway places can use PlugBug to convert an international MacBook Power Adapter into a North American compatible adapter. PlugBug in your bag means you'll have a backup USB charger too.

Having one device that charges two Mac products at once has several benefits. First, you have one less charger to carry around and secondly, you only need one power outlet to charge two devices at once. If you spend time working on the road, in conference rooms, coffee shops, etc., you know how hard it can be to find an outlet. Having a dual charger like PlugBug means one power supply is all you need to quickly charge both your MacBook and iPad or iPhone at the same time.

PlugBug fits all MacBook, MacBook Pro, and MacBook Air Power Adapters and charges all iPads and iPhones.

$34.99

OWC Mercury On-The-Go External, Bus-Powered USB 3.0/2.0 Enclosure for MacBook Air SSD

OWC Mercury On-The-GoPR: The OWC Mercury On-The-Go USB 3.0 2010-2011 MacBook Air Enclosure Kit packs a punch into a 3" W x 5.5" L x 1" H 11 ounce package.

After making your 2010-2011 MacBook Air better than new with an OWC Mercury Aura Pro Express SSD, you can "re-task" the replaced Apple factory flash storage by installing it into this OWC Mercury On-The-Go Enclosure Solution for immediate use as a high performance, bus powered external drive.

Everything's included for a simple two-step installation:

OWC Mercury On-The-GoPlug the factory SSD module into the special SATA adapter already installed in the OWC Enclosure Solution.

Attach the other end of the factory SSD module to the mounting stanchion secured to the OWC enclosure's drive bay.

Just two simple steps, less than two minutes, and no special tools are needed to transform your factory SSD into fast and reliable external storage capacity.

The OWC Mercury On-The-Go USB 3.0/2.0 enclosure solution provides an ultraportable, totally bus powered design to reuse your Apple factory SSD.

OWC Mercury On-The-GoKey features include:

  • Mac and PC compatible
  • Compact size: 3.5"(W) x 5.5"(D) x 1"(H)
  • Lightweight: 11 ounces empty case
  • Bus powered or may be powered with AC adapter
  • Fully utilize the MacBook Air SSD's 200 MB/s speed capability via USB 3.0 which offers speeds up to 500 MB/s
  • Super quiet fanless operation
  • Clear, shock resistant polycarbonate acrylic case design
  • Includes carrying case, all interface connection cables, and one year complete solution warranty
  • On-The-Go Pro Manual

$69.99

OWC Mercury Elite Pro mini Bus-Powered FireWire/USB 2/eSATA Enclosure for MacBook Air SSD

OWC Mercury Elite Pro miniPR: The Mercury Elite Pro mini Portable Storage Solution delivers up to 300 MB/s data transfer speeds for demanding data storage and backup needs, with high performance and Plug and Play data storage/ backup reliability and a fanless, bus powered design. All that performance resides in an impact resistant, heat dissipating 5.5 in (L) x 3.8 in (W) x 1.1 in (H) brushed aluminum enclosure with super quiet operation.

Install your own 2.5" SATA hard drive into a shock resistant portable aluminum enclosure. The Mercury Elite Pro mini is ready to go wherever you need an A/V, Digital Photography, Professional Music, Graphics, General Data, and Time Machine ready storage solution.

After making your 2010-2011 MacBook Air better than new with an OWC Mercury Aura Pro Express SSD, "re-task" the replaced Apple factory SSD with the OWC External Enclosure Kit Solution. This DIY solution comes ready for you to simply "plug in" your factory SSD for immediate use as a high performance, bus powered external drive.

OWC Mercury Elite Pro miniBus powered and portable, the Mercury Elite Pro mini delivers up to 300 MB/s data transfer speeds from your factory SSD for demanding data storage and backup needs. All that performance resides in an impact resistant, heat dissipating 5.5 in (L) x 3.8 in (W) x 1.1 in a brushed aluminum enclosure with super quiet fanless operation. It's ready to go wherever you need an A/V, digital photography, professional music, graphics, general data, and/or Time Machine ready storage solution.

Everything's included for an easy two-step installation.

Plug the factory SSD module into the special SATA adapter already installed in the OWC Enclosure Solution.

Attach the other end of the factory SSD module to the mounting stanchion secured to the OWC enclosure's drive bay.

Just two simple steps, less than two minutes, and no special tools are needed to transform your factory SSD into fast and reliable external storage capacity.

The OWC Mercury On-The-Go USB 3.0/2.0 enclosure solution provides an ultraportable, totally bus powered design to reuse your Apple factory SSD.

Key features include:

  • Mac and PC compatible
  • Compact size: 3.8(W) x 5.5(D) x 1.1(H)
  • Lightweight: 11.5 ounces empty case
  • Bus powered or may be powered with AC adapter
  • Fully utilize the MacBook Air SSD's 200 MB/s speed capability via eSATA which offers speeds up to 300 MB/s
  • Super quiet fanless operation
  • Ultra-protective Shock Isolation System
  • Includes carrying case, all interface connection cables, and one year complete solution warranty

Note: When using eSATA connection, the use of a powered FireWire port or optional AC Adapter (not included) is required. When using FireWire or USB connection, the Elite Pro mini autoswitches to bus power via FireWire or USB connection.

OWC Mercury Elite Pro miniIncludes

  • OWC Mercury Elite Pro mini "Quad Interface" Case Kit
  • 18 High Quality eSATA connecting cable (eSATA - eSATA)
  • High Quality FireWire 800 connecting cable (9-9 Pin cable)
  • High Quality USB 2.0/1.1 connecting cable
  • Mercury Elite Pro mini Manual
  • Special SATA Adapter
  • Plastic Riser
  • OWC 1 Year Warranty with 48-Hour Turnaround Time

$109.99

Software

Jettison: Close Your MacBook, Unplug, and Go

PR: St. Clair Software has released Jettison 1.1, an update to their purpose-built application for Mac OS X. This update adds the option to run Jettison without its menu in your menubar. It also works around a bug in Mac OS 10.7 Lion.

JettisonJettison is a small, purpose-built application that automatically ejects external disk drives from your Mac before you put it to sleep. Are you ready to close your MacBook and leave your desk? Jettison eliminates the hassle of manually ejecting Time Machine backup drives, network server volumes and flash drives before you put your MacBook to sleep - just close the lid and Jettison does it for you! Time Machine will be stopped and other data safely written to the drives before they're ejected.

What's New: Jettison 1.1 now lets you run without its menu in the menubar (you can still get to its menu when you want it by double-clicking on the Jettison application again). Version 1.1 also works around a bug in Mac OS 10.7 that resulted in Jettison's notification sounds playing after the Mac woke back up from sleep, rather than immediately before it went to sleep.

System Requirements:

  • Mac OS X 10.6 or 10.7
  • 0.8 MB

Jettison 1.1 is a free update if you purchased version 1.0. It is available for $1.99 in the Mac App Store if you don't have it yet. Please see the St. Clair Software web site or the Mac App Store for a full change log and additional feature information.

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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