The 'Book Review

White MacBook Goes End-of-Life, Logitech Touch Mouse Supports Gestures, Firmware Updates, and More

This Week's PowerBook and iBook News

Compiled by Charles Moore and edited by Dan Knight - 2012.02.10

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

Apple Updates

Tech Trends

Products & Services

Bargain 'Books

News & Opinion

Apple Finally Pulls the Plug on the White MacBook

white MacBookOn Wednesday, Mac Rumors' Eric Slivka broke the news that Apple has notified resellers in its educational institution distribution channel that the white polycarbonate MacBook, last updated in May 2010 and removed from the consumer market in July 2011, is now classified "End of Life".

Direct sales of the white MacBook to general consumers were terminated with the release of the Intel Core i powered refresh of the MacBook Air, at which time the 11.6" Air took sole possession of the $999 price point it had shared with the MacBook. However, the MacBook continued to be available to educational institutions priced at $899.

MacBook Air Better Than Any Ultrabook for OS X and Windows

Forrester's Ted Schadler says he's been testing the MacBook Air for five months now both for work and for home use, in the former running his employer's corporate image Windows XP with attendant applications and security software in a Parallels virtual machine, and sticking to the the Mac side at home. He reports that - aside from a few hiccups with the security software in the corporate image that were addressed by the Parallels support team, the in-house IT client, and network security team - it's been a great experience.

And while he says there are some things that are still challenging about using the the MacBook Air in a Windows-centric business world, "the machine itself is a wonder." He says he can drop it on the floor, and it keeps on ticking, while the battery lasts a flight across country. It fires up and finds a network in seconds, is satisfyingly fast, and is thin and light enough to slide unnoticed into his bag. It boots in seconds, finds WiFi in moments, and discovers new video connections without problems. It may cost a bit more than an Ultrabook, but Schadler contends that it's worth the price.

He notes that there are definitely some caveats for the corporate Windows user, but these are far from deal breakers for a lone employee, and he's very happy overall with the Mac as a business machine.

Rumor Roundup

15" MacBook Air Looks Like a Go

HP SpectreCnet's Dan Ackerman reports that in a recent Cnet reader poll of "most-anticipated 2012 laptops" at January's CES, the as-yet-only-a-rumor 15" MacBook Air was the overwhelming popular choice, attracting a whopping 40% of the total vote, more than doubling its nearest rival, the glass HP Spectre (right), which attracted a distant 17%.

Clearly there is strong demand for a 15" MacBook Air, and Apple will certainly be aware of this. Is a 15" version of the Air inevitable?

Publisher's note: With the MacBook Air and Mac mini, Apple has shown that it can sell Macs without built-in optical drives very successfully. It's a no-brainer that at some point Apple will produce a slimmer 15" MacBook, whether it's called an Air or a Pro. Why not this year? dk

Apple Updates

EFI Firmware Update 2.3 for Late 2010 MacBook Air

MacBook Air EFI Firmware Update 2.3 enables Lion Recovery from an Internet connection on MacBook Air (Late 2010) models and addresses an issue where the system could restart if the power button is pressed immediately after waking from deep sleep.

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

System Requirements: OS X Lion 10.7.3 and later

EFI Firmware Update 2.6 for Early 2010 MacBook Pro

MacBook Pro EFI Firmware Update 2.6 enables Lion Recovery from an Internet connection on MacBook Pro (Early 2010) models.

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

System Requirements: OS X Lion 10.7.3 or later

Tech Trends

Notebook Shipments Expected to Rise Significantly in 2nd Half of Year

DigiTimes' Aaron Lee and Joseph Tsai say that notebook shipments, benefiting from recovery from recent hard drive shortages and the launch of Windows 8 in the third quarter, are expected to rise significantly in the second half of 2012, with shipments proportionally in the first and second halves projected to reach about 45% and 55% respectively, with the spread possibly as great as 40% vs. 60%.

Lee and Tsai note that hard drive shortages and weak US and Europe economies are the two major negative factors causing weak performance in the first half, especially the first quarter, according to DigiTimes senior analyst Joanne Chien, who says that Taiwan ODMs' notebook shipments in the first quarter will drop 9.4% on quarter and 3.2% year-over-year.

A growth driver for the notebook industry in the second half is expected to be Intel's next-generation 22nm Ivy Bridge CPU platform, which will feature Intel's 3D Tri-Gate technology with power consumption anticipated to be up to 50% lower than with existing 32nm Sandy Bridge processors. Apple is also expected to switch to Ivy Bridge silicon with a complete overhaul of its MacBook Pro and MacBook Air families in 2012.

Lee and Tsai say market watchers are pessimistic about Intel achieving its goal of having Ultrabooks account for 40% of total notebook shipments in 2012, but expect the devices will still attract consumer interest, with mass shipping expected to start in the second quarter. Another boost is anticipated with the release of Windows 8 in the third quarter, and the reporters observe that if shipments of Android 4.0 and Windows 8 tablet PCs are counted, notebook shipments in 2012 might still be able to achieve double-digit growth.

Top 8 Laptops Under $500

Is the iPad 2 overpriced, with its entry-level model selling for $500? That's partly a value-judgment, but the availability of a gaggle of full-featured Windows notebooks below the $500 price point does give the budget-conscious prospective iPad buyer pause.

Laptop magazine's David Eitelbach notes that the price of Windows laptops continues to decline, with the average system costing just $456 as of December 2011, and he's not talking netbooks or underpowered, poorly made "junk" that the late Steve Jobs famously maintained any sub-$500 laptop would have to be when you opt for a bargain-priced PC notebook.

For example, you typically get a second-generation Core i3 processor, 4 GB of RAM (double what Apple gives you at twice the price with its entry-level 11.6" MacBook Air), and a 500 GB hard drive (the base Air has a tiny 64 GB SSD) in the sub-$500 price range

Eitelbach profiles his picks for the 8 best laptops currently available for less than $500, which include:

  1. 15.6" 2.1 GHz Core i3 HP g6t, $494
  2. 14" 1366 x 768, 2.3 GHz Intel Core i3 Lenovo ThinkPad E420, 4 GB RAM, 320 GB HDD, $439
  3. 14" 2.2 GHz Intel Core i3 Dell Inspiron 14R, 4 GB of RAM, 500 GB hard drive, $499
  4. 15" 2.4 GHz Intel Core i3 Gateway NV55C54u, 4 GB of RAM, as low as $400
  5. 11" 1.65 GHz AMD Vision E2 HP Pavilion dm1, 4 GB RAM, 320 GB hard drive, as low as $448
  6. 15.6" 2.2 GHz Intel Core i3 Toshiba Satellite P755, 6 GB RAM, 640 GB hard drive, on sale for $499
  7. 14" 2.2 GHz Intel Core i3 Asus X44L, 4 GB RAM, 500 GB hard drive, $379
  8. 14" 1.65 GHz AMD Dual-Core E-450 Lenovo B575, 4 GB RAM, 320 GB hard drive, includes an excellent Accutype keyboard and a fingerprint reader, $329

Plenty of grist for price-jaded Apple devotees to ruminate on, especially with Windows 8 coming and Linux Mint available right now.

Publisher's note: There are several options for buying secondhand 13.3" 1280 x 800 MacBooks with prices starting at $399 for the 1.83 GHz Core Duo model that can't run OS X 10.7 Lion but is fine for OS X 10.5 Leopard and 10.6 Snow Leopard, and you can get a 2.1-2.16 GHz Core 2 MacBook, which can run Lion, for under $500. That is less power than a Core i3 CPU, but you're also getting a Mac. dk

Products & Services

Logitech Touch Mouse M600 Lets You Swipe, Scroll, and Surf Like Second Nature

PR: Logitech has unveiled the Logitech Touch Mouse M600, a mouse featuring a touch surface that lets you navigate intuitively with your fingers.

Logitech Touch Mouse M600"People are growing accustomed to using fingertip gestures to navigate on their smartphones and tablets," observes Todd Walker, brand manager for Logitech. "In fact, for many people these gestures have become second nature. The Logitech Touch Mouse M600 reflects this evolution in how we interact with the digital world and extends to the computer what have become natural, intuitive motions."

With the Logitech Touch Mouse M600 you can scroll, swipe, and surf wherever your fingertips rest on the mouse. With its modern design, smooth edges, and designed-for-comfort curves, Logitech touts the touch mouse as feeling comfortable in your hand and looking good wherever you use your laptop.

Logitech's proprietary Flow Scroll software gives you scrolling that is fluid, claimed to be much like scrolling on your favorite touchscreen smartphone. Slide your finger along the touch surface to experience immediate, continuous and free-flowing Web page scrolling.

The mouse's shape is designed so that it feels good doing the tasks you do most - pointing, clicking and scrolling. Able to accommodate right- and left-handers alike, with click areas that can easily be reassigned with Logitech SetPoint software, the Logitech Touch Mouse M600 also includes the tiny Logitech Unifying receiver, which can connect up to six compatible mice and keyboards through one USB port. Add a keyboard, switch between mice, mix and match to fit your lifestyle, without having to change receivers or sacrifice another USB port.

With smooth feet, advanced optical tracking, and ease of use, this sleek mouse is everything you've come to expect from Logitech products.

The Logitech Touch Mouse M600 was named an International CES Innovations 2012 Design and Engineering Awards Honoree in the Computer Peripherals product category.

The Logitech Touch Mouse M600 is expected to be available in the US and Europe beginning this month, at a suggested retail price of $69.99.

Byte-Dock MacBook Pro Dock Comes in Range of Colors with Free Cable

Byte-Dock for 13 inch MacBook ProPR: The Byte-Dock docking station for Apple's MacBook Pro is now available in a new range of colors.

The team behind the Byte-dock is hoping to continue the success of the device, which has gone down a storm since its launch last September.

The Byte-dock offers users a seamless solution for leaving computer peripherals connected while on the move with their MacBook Pro.

Byte-Dock for 15 inch MacBook ProThe developers say demand has far outstripped expectations for the Byte-dock, as they have been snapped up by MacBook Pro users worldwide in just five months.

Now Byte-dock's creators, Southampton, UK-based Techne Industries, have made the gadget available in pink, green, yellow, blue and wood laminate, as well as the standard black with more options to follow.

Techne Industries is also expanding the availability of the device by making it available via reselling and distribution channels.

Byte-Dock for 17 inch MacBook ProAnd as an added bonus for buyers, they are also offering a free mini-display to HDMI cable worth £19.99 with every Byte-dock sold. It will allow it to be connected via the mini-display port to any HDMI-enabled device.

Mark Petley, who runs Techne Industries with partner Paul Hackett, says: "We have been thrilled with how people have embraced the Byte-dock since we launched it in September last year. We have also been careful to listen to feedback and take on board the comments of users and this is one of the reasons we have launched the range of colors. We are also keen to expand the wholesale options and to increase the overall availability of the Byte-dock."

Byte-dockPaul adds that "Hopefully the free mini-display to HDMI cable worth £19.99 will convince MacBook Pro owners that ordering a Byte-dock really is a no-brainer.

The Byte-dock provides extended functionality and ease of use and has been designed so it integrates with most office or home environments. It can turn the MacBook Pro into a desktop system using the mini-display to HDMI connection and cable, and display work on an external monitor. Users can also use an external full-size keyboard connected via Bluetooth or USB.

You can watch a video of how the Byte-dock works.

The Byte-dock costs £99.99.

Comtek's Power-Free, Fanless Laptop Cooling Stand

Cool StandPR: Regular laptop cooling stands often consume more battery power and fail to protect the laptop from the excessive heat generated by the laptop components. Kalispell, Montana-based Comtek USA has introduced a new laptop stand, the "Cool Stand" (http://www.coolstandusa.com/), that does not require power or a fan for cooling.

This laptop peripheral has been designed to improve airflow around the laptop to keep it cool, increasing the usability and longevity of internal components. Unlike many cooling stands, there are no 4 legged tables to support the computer and there is no necessity to plug in a wire. Cool Stand is a simple yet strong detachable laptop stand to support the laptop/notebook no matter where the user takes it. It comes with a built-in cord threader that keeps pesky cords out of the way; possibly preventing accidental tripping that can be life-ending for a laptop (although not so much recent Mac notebooks with Apple's jealously patented MagSafe connector).

Cool StandCool Stand can be easily attached with the laptop in seconds, and once attached; there is no fear of the machine falling off the stand. It is compact - 11" long and weighing just 7 oz. - and stores easily in most computer bags. The cooling stand also lifts the back of the laptop to the angle of keyboard rake many users prefer, and raises the viewing height of the display to a more comfortable and healthy elevation.

The Comtek laptop cooling stand is available in a spectrum of team, company and school colors with 256 potential color combinations. It can be used by anyone, being made with non-harmful chemical-free materials.

The Cool Stand sells for $19.95 including shipping

Cool Stand colorsBuyers can experiment with the cool stand color through the interactive custom color selection format available on the company website

Intel Claims Improved Speed and Reliability for New 520 Series Solid-State Drive

PR: Intel Corporation has announced what it says is its fastest, most robust client/consumer solid-state drive (SSD) to date, the Intel Solid-State Drive 520 Series (Intel SSD 520), a 6 gigabit-per-second (gbps) SATA III SSD produced using Intel compute-quality 25-nanometer (nm) NAND memory process technology. Aimed at delivering world-class performance for even the most demanding PC enthusiasts, gamers, professionals or small-medium businesses (SMBs), the Intel SSD 520 has fast throughput performance, new security features and unmatched reliability to meet even the most intensive user requirements.

Intel SSD 520Any consumer application requiring high throughput and bandwidth, low latencies and accelerated speed will benefit from the Intel SSD 520, Intel says. Software developers, architects, accountants, engineers, musicians, media creators and artists are just some of the professionals that will find that the Intel SSD 520s full package of features can make a dramatic impact on their productivity. With faster performance for graphic renderings, compiling, data transfers and system bootups, users can speed through multitasking or once-cumbersome application wait times with an Intel SSD 520 Series.

"We tapped Intel engineering to create a client SSD that delivers performance on all fronts with obsessively high reliability," says Rob Crooke, Intel vice president and general manager of the Intel Non-Volatile Memory Solutions Group. "The Intel SSD 520 once again raises the industry bar on SSD performance, quality and reliability to dramatically improve user experience."

Unlike a traditional hard disk drive (HDD) with spinning disks and moveable parts, an SSD is based on silicon, NAND flash memory specifically, to create a lower power, more reliable and drastically faster storage solution that can keep up with today's most demanding applications, Internet streaming and intense multitasking. Based on its own industry-leading 25nm Intel compute-quality NAND flash memory and a 6 Gbps SATA III interface, the Intel SSD 520 uses an LSI SandForce Flash Storage Processor with an Intel co-defined and validated firmware release, to create an SSD that sets new industry performance benchmarks. The Intel SSD 520 delivers up to 80,000 maximum 4K random write Input-Output Operations Per Second (IOPS) and up to 50,000 4K random read IOPS to speed through every day operations. High sequential read performance of up to 550 megabytes-per-second (MB/s) and up to 520 MB/s sequential writes also markedly accelerate and improve user productivity. This is backed by thousands of hours of Intel testing and validation, including more than 5,000 individual tests, as well as a 5-year limited warranty.

"We worked closely with Intel to leverage their deep understanding of the NAND flash, ultimately providing a unique and optimized solution for client computing applications with the LSI SandForce Flash Storage Processor," says Michael Raam, vice president and general manager of LSIs Flash Components Division, formed by LSIs acquisition of SandForce. "Working through Intel's extensive validation process ensures the Intel 520 SSD will raise the bar in delivering top-tier performance and superior quality and reliability over the life of the drive."

The Intel SSD 520 will mark the high end of its client SSD offerings and include these new features: a wide range of user capacities from 60 GB to 480 GB, Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) 256 bit encryption capabilities and stronger password protection for added security in the event of theft or power loss. According to PCMark Vantage benchmarking, users of the Intel SSD 520 may see significant productivity gains through an up to 78 percent boost in overall PC responsiveness, and gamers will see an up to 88 percent jump in performance to enhance their gaming experience. Intel claims that IT professionals will not only provide this additional performance and productivity to their customers/employees, but find that the Intel SSD 520 also delivers on reliability, improved security, smoother operations and lower total operational costs.

"Our game development workflow involves a combination of large batch process and aggressive interactive pre-visualization, all highly parallelized to the point that the storage performance becomes a major bottleneck," says John Carmack, founder and technical director of id Software, a gaming software developer and creators of Doom and Quake. "For many of our workloads, Intel SSDs have doubled throughput, and in some cases involving mapping tens of gigabytes of image data, we have seen an honest order of magnitude performance improvement, which is a rare and wonderful thing."

With a broad range of capacity choices, the Intel SSD 520 Series is priced as follows, based on 1,000-unit quantities: 60 GB for $149, 120 GB at $229, 180 GB at $369, 240 GB at $509 and 480 GB at $999. It comes with a 5-year limited warranty.

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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