The 'Book Review

MacBook Air to Dominate Ultrabooks, MacBook Pro with Retina Display Rumored, 1 TB SSDs, and More

This Week's PowerBook and iBook News

Compiled by Charles Moore and edited by Dan Knight - 2011.12.16

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

Rumor Roundup

Reviews

Tech Trends

Products & Services

Software

Bargain 'Books

News & Opinion

Analyst: MacBook Air Will Continue to Dominate Ultrabook Market

Cnet's Lance Whitney reports that according to a new report from market analysis firm JP Morgan's Mark Moskowitz, Apple's MacBook Air will continue generating huge sales and retain its dominant market share despite the growing challenge from Intel's PC ultrabooks - at least for now.

Whitney notes that most ultrabooks have been priced above $1,000 with only a few around $900, and Moskowitz doesn't think that's low enough to make a dent in MacBook Air sales, commenting in an investor's note released Monday that "Ultrabooks are not a competitive threat, yet," adding that "In general, we think that ultrabooks are highly discretionary devices, and pricing on competitive offerings must fall below $800 before posing a viable threat to Apple's MacBook Air," which he thinks will continue to attract Apple enthusiasts and other users.

"In contrast," he's quoted observing that "we think that the first round of ultrabook offerings lacks the right blend of features and attractive price points to grab market share from Apple."

MacBook Air a Potential $7B Business

Who would've thought back when Apple rolled out the poky, compromised, and port-challenged original MacBook Air at the Macworld Conference & Expo on January 15, 2008, that four years later the Air would become the anchor, sales leader, and halo product of Apple Mac lineup?

Barrons' Tech Trader Daily cites JP Morgan's Mark Moskowitz writing that Apple's much improved second generation MacBook Air may turn out have much higher sales than had initially been anticipated, observing that while in previous reports the MacBook Air had been projected as a potential $2-3 billion-plus revenue opportunity, based on the continued momentum of the product and conversations with industry participants, JP Morgan's expectations have become even more positive, and that over the next 12 months, the firm believes that the average quarterly run rate could reach 1.6M units and result in a $7.36 billion annualized revenue profile.

Death of a MacBook Pro, and the MacBook Air that Replaced It

iSource's Alex Jordan says that his MacBook Pro bit the dust on the evening of December 8th, after a little over two years of heavy use. He notes that up until then, it had been a good machine, the fastest he'd ever owned.

Warning clouds had gathered a few weeks earlier when the laptop failed to recognize one of the two after-market 2 GB memory modules Jordan had installed, but then a kernel panic on wake-up (although he'd noticed having more kernel panics under OS X 10.7 Lion than any other Mac OS version he'd run in the past). He tried a hard reset but was greeted by the dreaded blinking folder icon with a question mark in the center of it.

Initially suspecting a hard drive failure, Jordan bought a new drive, but the MacBook couldn't find the new drive either. He belatedly checked both drives in an external drive enclosure, and they both worked, so he was left to deduce that the logic board was dead.

Time for a new computer, with Jordan prudently determining that a logic board replacement on a two-year-old laptop would be a false economy.

Instead, he decided to get a new 13.3" MacBook Air, the high-end $1,599 model with a 256 GB SSD, which he says is by far the fastest traditional computer he's ever owned and that the speed alone was worth the price.

Jordan notes that the biggest aggravation in making the transition was migrating his data from his backup to his new Air, a process bottlenecked by USB data transmission speeds.

On the other hand, Jordan is understandably very disappointed that a $1,000+ computer only lasted a little more than two years, having been physically was very careful with it and allowing that there's no excuse for internals to fail in that period of time.

However, Jordan says he highly recommends the MacBook Air, describing it as lightning fast and a joy to use. Very sporting, under the circumstances.

Rumor Roundup

MacBook Pro with Retina Display in 2012?

DigiTimes' Yenting Chen and Steve Shen report that Apple is likely to launch a new MacBook Pro lineup with a display resolution of 2880 x 1800 in the second quarter of 2012, which, if it comes to pass, would set up a new round of competition for screen resolution specifications in the notebook industry, according to DigiTimes' anonymous sources in the upstream OEM supply chain.

Chen and Shen note that while current MacBook Pro models have displays with resolutions ranging from 1680 x 1050 on the 17-incher to a modest 1280 x 800 for the 13" Pro, ultrahigh resolution for the next generation MacBook Pro will further differentiate Apple's products from other laptop brands.

They say that Acer and Asustek Computer also plan to launch high-end Ultrabook models with a display resolution of 1920 x 1080 in the first half of 2012, a substantial upgrade from the 1366 x 768 displays typically found in Ultrabooks.

Reviews

2nd Gen Seagate Momentus XT Hybrid Drive vs. Regular Hard Drives and SSD

Bare Feats' rob-ART Morgan says Seagate is shipping the 2nd generation Momentus XT Solid State Hybrid Hard Drive. and Bare Feats wanted to know if it was faster than the 1st generation drive. They also wanted to know how it compares to a "normal" hard drive as well as a pure solid state drive (SSD), so they tested all four permutations using both Thunderbolt and 6 Gbps eSATA interfaces, finding that although slightly faster than a "plain" hard drive, the Seagate Momentus XT can't hold a candle to a pure SSD.

Tech Trends

PC Sales Forecast Slashed Due to Hard Drive Crisis, Sputtering Economy, and Tablet Fever

The Register's Paul Kunert reports that market research firm IHS has slashed PC sales forecasts for 2012 because of weakening demand, tablet popularity, and the ongoing disk drive crisis due to catastrophic flooding in Thailand, with projections slashed by 3.8 million unit for Q1 2012, with the slowdown expected to continue throughout the year diminished from the previous forecast of 399 million unit sales to 376 million, with the notebook category most heavily most impacted by the HDD issue.

All Notebooks Expected to Adopt HD Webcams in the Second Half of 2012

DigiTimes' Erica Yen and Joseph Tsai report that notebook players are expected to adopt high definition (HD) quality webcams into notebook models across the board in the second half of 2012 as Microsoft launches Windows 8, which is expected to start a new wave of competition among upstream optical camera module players, according to insider sources.

Yen and Tsai say that due to Microsoft's plans to have Windows 8 mainly support HD quality images, if the plan does not change, the sources expect many of the notebook brand vendors will start launching notebook models that adopt HD quality webcams in the second and third quarter of 2012.

They also project that the standard specification of rear-side cameras in smartphones and tablet PCs is quickly rising from 5 MP (megapixels) to 8 MP (such as the iPhone 4S) as demand for frontside cameras to deliver high quality results has risen, resulting in upstream players including Largan Precision, Newmax, and Ability Opto-Electronics Technology all aggressively working to upgrade their VGA quality hardware to HD quality while simultaneously addressing demand to make even smaller products.

Publisher's note: We've come a long way from the first commercial webcam, the Connectix QuickCam introduced in 1994, a low resolution external devices with 320 x 240 resolution and either 16 shades of gray at 60 fps or 256 shades at 15 fps. Apple's original external iSight webcam upped the ante with a VGA resolution 640 x 480 resolution and autofocus, and built-in iSight cameras eventually reached 1280 x 1024 resolution. Since switching to FaceTime HD cameras earlier this year, Apple specifies its webcam a bit more vaguely as "high definition", which usually means 1280 x 720 (720p) resolution. dk

How Low Can Ultrabooks Go? Toshiba Briefly Drops to $699

Cnet's Brooke Crothers reports that Toshiba is setting the pace for Ultrabook pricing so far, noting that after debuting at $799 last month, the Toshiba Portegé Z835 is now selling for $699 at Best Buy (after a $200 instant rebate) - a price point that could be expected to give the $999 entry-level MacBook Air some grief if it held. However, Crothers points out that the $799 price only lasted for about a week when Toshiba introduced the Z835 in November, and for the most part, the machine has been priced at $899, with Acer's Aspire S3 and Hewlett-Packard's Folio 13 also priced at just under $900 at Best Buy.

However, for $100 less than a base Core i5 11" MacBook Air, you get a Core i3, 4 GB of memory (vs. the $999 Air's 2 GB), a larger 13.3" LED-backlit 1366 x 768 display, a 128 GB solid state drive, three USB ports including one USB 3.0 port, and a backlit keyboard. Toshiba's Z835 weighs 2.5 pounds, measures 0.6" thick, and has a magnesium alloy enclosure.

Editor's note: It's not a Mac, of course, but with Windows 8 coming and the changes in OS X 10.7 Lion proving underwhelming to some of us, a $900 13" Ultrabook begins to look more attractive. cm

Products & Services

New 2.5" Octane SSDs Combine 3-6 Gbps SATA Speed with Up to 1 GB of Storage

PR: High-performance SSDs leverage the Indilinx Everest platform to deliver superior performance and endurance for a wide range of workloads

Octane SSDOCZ Technology Group, Inc. have launched the Indilinx Everest-based Octane SATA 3.0 (6 Gbps) and SATA 2.0 (3 Gbps) SSD series, striking the ideal balance between capacity, physical size, and speed. In addition to being the world's first SSD to achieve up to a 1 TB capacity in a compact 2.5" format, OCZ's Octane SSD series combines high-speed data transfer rates with record-breaking access times to provide a superior user experience and improved application performance.

"OCZ has reached an important milestone in the development of its own controller technology," says James E. Bagley, Senior Analyst with Storage Strategies NOW. "The high sustained performance, even with compressed files, the rapid boot feature and high access speeds using SATA 3.0 protocol puts their controller technology in the major league."

"Until now SSDs have been tailored for specific applications, forcing users into a product which maximizes performance for a narrow band of applications, but is significantly lacking in others," explains Ryan Petersen, CEO of OCZ Technology. "The Octane Series solves this problem by providing the highest level of performance across varied workloads including mixed file sizes and mixed compressible and uncompressible data, all while nearly doubling NAND flash endurance."

The Octane series leverages the cutting-edge Indilinx Everest platform to deliver up to 560 MBps of bandwidth and 45,000 IOPS and is optimized for the complete spectrum of file types and sizes. In particular, the Octane's proprietary page mapping algorithms allow for steady mixed-workload performance, mirroring real world conditions across a wide range of applications. The Octane series also includes a number of advanced features unique to Indilinx, including innovative latency reduction technology, enabling both read and write access times as low as 0.06ms and 0.09ms respectively, the lowest of any commercially available SSD. This enhances application responsiveness and enables features such as "fast boot" in consumer applications.

Octane SSDs also come equipped with Indilinx's proprietary NDurance technology, increasing the lifespan of the NAND flash memory, ensuring the most consistent and reliable performance as well as minimizing performance degradation even after the drive's storage capacity is highly utilized. In addition, Octane series drives support AES and automatic encryption to secure critical data.

Features

  • Dual Core CPU
  • Up to 512 MB DRAM cache
  • 128 GB, 256 GB, 512 GB, and 1 TB models
  • High sequential speeds:
    • Octane (SATA 3.0) Read: 560 MBps; Write: 400 MBps
    • Octane-S2 (SATA 2.0) Read: 275 MBps; Write: 265 MBps
  • High transactional performance - Optimized for 4K to 16K compressed files
    • Octane (SATA 3.0) 45,000 random read 4K IOPS
    • Octane-S2 (SATA 2.0) 30,000 random read 4K IOPS
  • Industry-low latency: Read: 0.06ms; Write: 0.09ms
  • Strong performance at low queue depths (QD 1 - 3)
  • Up to 8 channels with up to 16-way Interleaving
  • Advanced BCH ECC engine enabling more than 70 bits correction capability per 1 KB of data
  • Proprietary NDurance™ Technology: increases NAND life up to 2X of the rated P/E cycles
  • Efficient NAND Flash management: Dynamic and static wear-leveling, and background garbage collection
  • Boot time reduction optimizations
  • NCQ support up to 32 queue depth
  • End-to-end data protection
  • TRIM support
  • Industry standard SMART reporting

The OCZ Octane SSD Series is available in models ranging from 128 GB to 1 TB capacities throughout OCZ's global channel.

Software

Jettison: Close Your MacBook and Go

PR: St. Clair Software has announced the release of Jettison 1.2 for Mac OS X. This update adds the option to choose which types of drives it ejects, and automatically remounts any drives that are still connected when you wake your Mac back up.

Jettison

Jettison 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 will now try to remount ejected disks when your Mac wakes up.
  • You can choose which types of disks to eject (Hard disk / DVD / Disk Image / iDisk / Network server).

System Requirements:

  • Mac OS X 10.6 or 10.7 (Lion)
  • 0.8 MB

Jettison 1.2 is a free update if you purchased an earlier version. It is available for $1.99 in the Mac App Store if you don't have it yet. Please see the St. Clair Software website 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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