The 'Book Review

MacBook Airs Top Ultrabooks, Boost MacBook Performance, MacBook Pro Update in June?, and More

This Week's PowerBook and iBook News

Compiled by Charles Moore and edited by Dan Knight - 2012.05.21

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

Troubleshooting

Tech Trends

Products & Services

Software

Bargain 'Books

News & Opinion

MacBook Airs Go Head-to-Head with 8 Ultrabooks and Finish on Top

The Register's Cliff Joseph notes that Intel's tight definition of the Ultrabook spec ensures certain attributes you can more or less take for granted, such as a minimum of 5 hour battery life, maximum thickness of 18mm for 13" screen models, and, of course, Intel Core processors. However, he observes that there's still a fair amount of wiggle room for manufacturers to experiment with - for example, HP's glass-clad Spectre pushing the size and weight limits on one hand, with Dell opting for carbon-fibre to streamline its XPS 13 on the other. However, Joseph observes that the company inspired the Ultrabook class with its MacBook Air models offers worthy alternatives in the ultraportable laptop category.

Among ten machines profiled in the feature article, the 13" Apple MacBook Air is awarded a 85% rating, and the 11" MacBook Air a whopping 90% rating, with Apple's 11-incher finishing top dog among the 10 laptops, and the 13" MacBook Air matching the best of the PC Ultrabook competition

The Ultrabook contenders and their respective ratings are:

  1. Acer Aspire S3-951: 75%
  2. Apple MacBook Air 11": 90%
  3. Apple MacBook Air 13": 85%
  4. Asus ZenBook UX31E: 85%
  5. Asus ZenBook UX21E: 85%
  6. Dell XPS 13: 80%
  7. HP Envy 14 Spectre: 80%
  8. Lenovo IdeaPad U300s: 75%
  9. Samsung Series 5 NP530U3B 13": 80%
  10. Toshiba Portegé Z830-10N: 75%

How to Boost Your MacBook Pro's Performance

ZDNet's Adrian Kingsley-Hughes has posted some tips on how to make your MacBook Pro even faster. He notes that because the MacBook Pro is a portable system, you can't crack it open and replace the CPU or graphics, so upgrade options are limited, but there is still potential to give this already fast machine a significant performance bump, including maxing out the RAM ("the single best performance upgrade that you can carry out"), replacing the hard drive with a much faster SSD, and a special upgrade for the Late 2011 13" MacBook Pro (Apple's most popular MacBook model) that Kingsley-Hughes says is unique in that both the hard drive and optical drive SATA ports both support high-speed SATA III, meaning you can replace both the hard drive and the optical drive with SSDs and configure them into an ultra-fast RAID configuration.

Retina Resolution Screens Already Available but Costly

Cnet's Josh Lowensohn and Brooke Crothers report that super high-resolution 13.3" and 15.4" so-called "Retina Display" panels are already available in the OEM supply channel, but cost substantially more than the standard resolution screens used in current Apple notebooks.

It's being widely rumored of late that Retina Display resolution will be a marquee feature of the MacBook Pro redesign anticipated for launch sometime in the next six weeks. However, Lowensohn and Crothers observe that the high-res screens are projected by NPD DisplaySearch Senior Analyst Richard Shim to cost nearly $100 more than the panels Apple currently uses in MacBooks - 15.4" OEM units about $160 as opposed to $68 for current model panels and $134 for 13.3" model, compared to $69 for the current 13.3" displays Apple uses in its MacBook Pros.

New MacBook Pro CPU Benchmarked?

The Geekbench benchmarking site has posted a reference, to a 'MacBook9,1' with a quad-core Intel Core i7-3820QM Ivy Bridge processor operating at 2.7 GHz and running Mac OS X 10.8 (Build 12A211). It has 8 GB of 1600 MHz DDR 3 - possibly referring to the new 15" MacBook Pro.

Liquidmetal MacBook Pros Not Likely This Year

The Inquisitr proposes that the anticipated MacBook Pro 2012 redesign may include Liquidmetal construction that would replace the aluminum unibody design Apple uses for all of its current MacBook models.

SlashGear's Chris Burns recently reported that he'd received a tip from an anonymous source claiming to have seen Liquidmetal technology being used in an Apple device much larger than an iPhone, and says that while a vague tip, anonymous to boot, wouldn't normally be something he'd cover, "the possibility that this could be the next big MacBook Pro feature is just too perfect not to consider."

However, earlier this month AppleInsider reported that that Dr. Atakan Peker, who discovered and developed the formulation that later became the Liquidmetal amorphous (moldable) metal alloy is guessing it would take hundreds of millions of dollars and over three years for Apple to ready the technology necessary to mass-produce large products, such as laptop enclosures, from the material, saying in an interview with Business Insider that Apple is most likely years away from using the alloy in large-scale projects, noting that there is "no suitable manufacturing infrastructure yet to take full advantage of this alloy technology."

Rumor Roundup

Next 15" MacBook Pro: Retina Display, Ultrathin Design, Super-fast USB 3

9 to 5 Mac's Mark Gurman reports that Apple is putting the finishing touches on an entirely new 15" MacBook Pro - the culmination of years of research and development in ultrathin mobile computing and super-high-resolution displays. Gurman says that according to trusted sources in Apple's supply chain, who have handled prototype components and casings for the new notebook, the computer is currently undergoing test production rounds in preparation for release this summer featuring an ultrathin design, a Retina Display, and super-fast USB 3.

Barclays Capital Analyst Predicts New MacBooks and iMacs in June

SlashGear's Michael Crider cites Barclays Capital analyst Ben Reitzes predicting (backed by the authority of several billion dollars worth of guided investments) that Apple will update its MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, and iMac lines as soon as next month, with Intel Intel Ivy Bridge CPUs for all MacBook laptops and the iMac, and new versions of both OS X and iOS before fall.

Reitzes also thinks a smaller model iPad would make sense for the fall, especially in the education market, where the high price of entry for Apple's current 9.7" tablets is too steep for many potential customers. Crider quotes Reitzes commenting: "We do not feel that a smaller, lower priced tablet will dilute the quality of the iPad brand and iOS ecosystem either, despite prior comments by the company."

Piper Jaffray Analyst Expects MacBook Refresh in June Quarter

From AppleInsider Staff is a report that Piper Jaffray's veteran Apple-watcher analyst Gene Munster expects Apple refresh to its MacBook Pro, iMac, and possibly MacBook Air lines during the June quarter but contends that the biggest-news Apple product rollout to come in the next six months will be a new iPhone he expects to launch in October.

The article cites Munster observing that it's been more than a year since the MacBook and iMac lines saw a "meaningful refresh", and he anticipates sales rebounding from a dip they've been in lately following release of new MacBooks and iMacs that he predicts to come "sometime before June" - rather than at the Worldwide Developer's Conference in the middle of that month, as certain other commentators have been speculating, and with the MacBook Pro in particular being overdue for its first major redesign in going on four years, to be powered by Intel's new Ivy Bridge processors in a new slimmer form factor.

An iMac refresh is expected to be more modest in scope.

Genesys Logic Lands USB 3.0 Card Reader Controller Chips for MacBook Air

DigiTimes' Josephine Lien and Steve Shen say that IC design house Genesys Logic has reportedly received USB 3.0 card reader controller chip orders new MacBook Air notebooks projected for release in the second half of 2012, according to industry sources.

Lien and Shen note that Genesys Logic's line of USB 3.0 solutions includes bridge controller chips, hub controllers, and card reader controller ICs, with current major clients including Kingston Technology and Seagate Technology, and that the company is planning to to further expand its product lineup to include USB 3.0 flash drive controller chips in 2012, expecting shipments of USB 3.0 controller chips increase significantly in 2012, thanks partly to Intel's Ivy Bridge processors.

Troubleshooting

Does Your Mac Have Loud or Constantly Running Fans?

AmSys' Sam Gardener says that if your Mac or MacBook computer's fans have been running at high speeds even though you're not running many applications and your machine is properly ventilated, you can run a quick troubleshooting step.

Gardener includes illustrated instructions on resetting the System Management Controller (SMC) on various Mac systems.

Tech Trends

Hybrid Drive Ultrabooks to Undercut Pure SSD Models in Price and Capacity

The Register's Chris Mellor cites storage industry research firm TrendFocus saying Ultrabooks will increasingly use hybrid disk drives for their near-SSD speed, hard drive capacity, and ability to undercut pure SSD Ultrabook prices, with storage drive industry heavyweight Seagate predicting that hybrid drives will eventually enter every part of its product portfolio.

According to Stifel Nicolaus analyst Aaron Rakers, says Mellor, TrendFocus researchers project Ultrabooks using thin (7mm thick) 2.5" hybrid drives - hard drives with a flash cache - to get near-SSD speed while still having much greater capacity than an SSD along with a lower price, with Seagate's next hybrid hard drive possibly arriving later this quarter or in the third quarter, with competing products from WD/Hitachi GST and Toshiba coming by year-end.

Products & Services

WaterField Designs CitySlicker Case Provides 3-Layer Protection for MacBook Air without Adding Bulk

CitySlicker MacBook Air CasePR: WaterField Designs has introduced the CitySlicker, an urban MacBook Air case with an old-world spin that uses modern materials to provide the utmost protection. Designed to enhance the Air's lightness without adding bulk, the CitySlicker is compact, even with accessories. WaterField's design combines three layers of protection using impact-resistant plastic, high-grade neoprene, and a padded liner to keep the Air safe from unexpected dings.

"The MacBook Air is unbelievably thin, and we wanted to enhance that look rather than detract from it," explains Gary Waterfield, company founder. "The challenge was to design something sleek with hard-case protection, while keeping it compact, and to create a look that works on CitySlicker MacBook Air Caseweekdays as well as weekends. We added a rugged, distressed leather flap to complete the 'old-world meets modern' look we were after."

The CitySlicker MacBook Air Case combines sturdy ballistic nylon with a distressed, leather flap that snaps into place, giving the ultra-modern case its old-world twist. The flap covers an accessory nook with four stretchy pockets to keep items snugly in place. A back, semi-opaque pocket with a self-locking zipper stows thin items or accessories. Opt to tuck it under an arm, or to add a handle, a strap, or both. Available exclusively at sfbags.com in four colors: black, chocolate, grizzly and camel.

Availability & Pricing

CitySlicker MacBook Air CaseThe CitySlicker for the MacBook Air

  • 11" MacBook Air - Price: $129. With handle: $139.
  • 13" MacBook Air - Price: $139. With handle: $149.
  • With D-rings: +$5.
  • With D-rings and Simple Strap: +$12.
  • With D-rings and Suspension Shoulder Strap: +$22.

Colors: Black, chocolate, grizzly and camel.

Available now for preorder at sfbags.com. Shipping begins May 28, 2012.

Software

Free Battery Guard Predicts Battery Life

PR: Battery Guard tells you how long your battery will last - a fully featured, enhanced replacement for the battery tray icon that comes with your Mac.

Battery Guard shows the time left on your battery next to its icon. If you'd rather show the percent charge, you can see that too.

Clicking on the icon opens a panel to quickly see useful information about your MacBook's battery:

  • charge level
  • capacity
  • original capacity
  • time remaining

New in Version 1.1.0

More Useful

Battery Guard is now a complete replacement for the built-in battery icon. You can now choose between three choices for the status icon:

  • just the icon
  • the time remaining to empty (or to charge)
  • the percentage charged

Start At Login: You can now choose to have this app start when your computer starts!

System requirements: OS X 10.6 or later

Battery Guard 1.1.0 is freeware.

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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