The 'Book Review

Double-Res Retina Display a Bad Idea, New Low Power Ivy Bridge CPUs for MacBook Air, and More

This Week's PowerBook and iBook News

Compiled by Charles Moore and edited by Dan Knight - 2012.06.08

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

Tech Trends

Products & Services

Software

Bargain 'Books

News & Opinion

Dvorak Calls Double Resolution MacBook Retina Display the Worst Idea Ever

It may just be greater curmudgeonliness setting in with age, but I find myself agreeing with John C. Dvorak more frequently these days than I had in the past. In his latest PC Mag column, Dvorak riffs on rumors of Retina displays for the new 15-inch MacBook Pro widely anticipated for unveiling at Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) next week, observing that many Mac fans will fret that the world as we know it may end it if the new MacBooks don't have a Retina display, citing a Time magazine r headline: "What If Apple's New MacBook Pros Don't Have Retina Displays?" - the implication being that such an eventuality would be a disaster and gigantic letdown.

Dvorak observes that the original reason for Apple's super-high resolution "Retina" iPhone screen was to jam more detail on a 3.5" handset display, but recently all we hear about is Retina this and Retina that, and he's emphatically not convinced, noting that ultra high resolution displays spell disaster for performance, with all those extra pixels needing to be driven and a maximum rescaling effort necessary at the software end, and potential bandwidth-clogging, while in side-by-side comparison at a three-foot viewing distance he maintains that it's doubtful a 15" Retina Display would look much different than a more conventional 1920 x 1080 resolution.

Next-Generation MacBook Pros Likely to Use SSDs

AppleInsider's Mikey Campbell cites a note to investors released on Wednesday by Barclays Equity Research analyst Ben Reitzes who maintains that the adoption rate of Apple devices using SSDs, along with a continuing move to cloud computing, will push consumer laptop demand toward flash-based storage, and that Apple's success in NAND adoption with the MacBook Air and iPad will incline use of the technology in the anticipated refresh of its MacBook Pro line, which will prove disruptive for both hard drive and rival PC laptop makers.

The article notes that while the cost of SSDs is "grossly" higher than for comparable hard drives, consumers have been proving willing to give up greater storage capacity and lower cost for design and performance benefits enables by solid state storage technology, as evidenced by the success of Apple's thin-and-light and SSD-only MacBook Air, and Reitzes thinks the increasing popularity of cloud computing will help ease consumers' transition from physical drives to flash memory by offloading storage to remote servers such as with Apple's iCloud, thus making lower-capacity NAND drives a practical proposition, and expects Apple to reveal a NAND-equipped MacBook Pro along with refreshed MacBook Airs in the near future.

New Low-Voltage Ivy Bridge CPUs Suitable for MacBook Air

AppleInsider Staff report that on Intel announced 14 new Ivy Bridge processors, four of which are the sort of ultra-low voltage chips that could find their way into Apple's updated MacBook Air lineup.

They note that the new Core i5 and i7 Ivy Bridge ultra-low voltage lineup has two cores and four threads running at 17 watts thermal power design, along with integrated Intel HD Graphics 4000 across the board. The i5 variants will be available in clock speeds of 1.8 GHz with bursts to as fast as 2.8 GHz with Intel Turbo Boost, and 1.7 GHz boostable to 2.6 GHz, both with 3 MB of L3 cache.

The utra-low voltage Core i7s will be available running at 2 GHz and as fast as 3.2 gigahertz with Turbo Boost, and 1.9 GHz boostable to 3 GHz, 4 MB of L3 cache apiece.

Also announced by Intel on Thursday were more dual-core traditional mobile chips that could find their way into other products in Apple's Mac lineup, including Core i5 and Core i7 mobile processors running at 35W TDP, and clocking from 3.1 GHz to 3.6 GHz with Intel Turbo Boost.

Resolving Problems with MagSafe Power Adapters

MacFixIt's Topher Kessler notes that Apple's laptop power adapters can suddenly stop working properly, possibly getting very hot when used, or sometimes refusing to charge the system or show any activity at all, and that while often the easiest solution for a faulty power adapter is to replace it with a new one, there are some less drastic and definitely cheaper steps you can take that could potentially address the fault.

Editor's note: Notwithstanding that I'm a 16-year Apple laptop veteran, there was potentially helpful information in this article that was new to me. cm

Tech Trends

Ultrabooks Begin Slow Death Spiral

ZDNet's Adrian Kingsley-Hughes says it feels like netbooks all over again, and it won't be long before the Intel-promoted Ultrabook thin-and-light laptop platform is driven into the ground in an attempt to cut as many costs as possible, what with Intel already seeking ways to lower the Ultrabook cost of entry, for example a design that allows Ultrabook shells to be built using plastic as opposed to the metal that has been used so far, which could cut anywhere between $25 and $75 from the price, according to a Reuters report.

Kingsley-Hughes notes that the Ultrabook concept is basically solid, albeit mostly inspired by Apple's MacBook Air, but vendors have struggled to match or beat the Air's price due the cost of a Windows license and of Intel processors, which are the most expensive Ultrabook component, costing some $200. He points out that with AMD's Trinity line of A-series processors out, Intel is now under pressure to cut costs, and rather than cut into its CPU profit margin is instead looking at other ways to trim costs so that OEMs can maximize revenues, leading to compromises in the worst possible place: the part people see and touch.

He observes that Apple has once again set a bar others are obliged to match up to, and it seems the MacBook Air has set the bar too high, with the Ultrabook entering an inevitable death spiral.

Third-Gen Ultrabooks Must Offer USB 3.0, Anti-Theft Tech

The Register's Tony Smith notes that "Ultrabook" is an Intel trademark, and if manufacturers want to use the name in association with their laptop offerings, they're obliged to follow Intel's rules, which have been extended with three new requirements a notebook must satisfy to qualify for Ultrabook status:

  1. A "fast file transfer" port, specifically either Intel's 10 Gbps Thunderbolt bus or 5 Gbps USB 3.0.
  2. Intel's Anti-Theft Tech or equivalent that will stop the laptop from running if it's been reported stolen.
  3. The machine must be "responsive while active", which Smith interprets as Intel telling Sony, Dell, Toshiba, etc. to cut out the bloatware.

Dual-Screen Laptops, Detachable Displays, and Windows 8 Star at Computex

The Register's Phil Muncaster reports that Taiwanese computing giants Acer and Asus faced off ahead of the start of Asia's biggest IT expo, Computex, with a slew of new Windows 8 products including dual-screen laptops, notebook-tablet hybrids, and even an all-in-one PC that can be used as a giant tablet.

Muncaster notes that as always at the Taipei-based gadget show, pricing and specs are hard to come by, but he says most of the models shown appeared to be fully working machines, with the possible exception of the prototype Asus Transformer AiO.

Convertible Notebooks Will Result in Buyer's Remorse

ZDNet's James Kendrick predicts that flashy new convertible notebooks with Windows 8 being shown by Intel, Microsoft, and PC makers are at Computex this week may attract buyers, but it won't be long before reality sets in.

He notes that these hybrid machines combine touch tablets - the market everyone desperately wants to break into - with some form of a keyboard to turn them into pseudo-laptops, the hope being that offering multiple configurations can appeal to everyone. But Kendrick posits that many hybrid purchasers will either come to realize that a good tablet is all they need most of the time, finding the keyboard something they don't reach for very often, or find over time that they end up using the hybrid as a laptop all of the time and rarely use the tablet as a tablet. Since convertibles will be more expensive than conventional tablets or notebooks, with more complexity and more potential for component failure during normal usage, the result will be widespread buyer's remorse.

Products & Services

Buffalo Portable Hard Drive with USB 3 and Thunderbolt

PR: Japanese peripherals maker Buffalo has announced what it claims is the world's first portable hard drive with Thunderbolt and USB 3 dual interface support.

Buffalo Inc.'s booth at the Computex trade show in Taipei for the first time exhibits the new "HD-PATU3 Series" Thunderbolt and USB 3 dual interface Portable Hard Disk compatible with both Apple and Windows PCs. The product's case design is of smooth aluminum, with indirect lighting, and bus-powered operation is possible via either the USB cable or Thunderbolt, so the drive does not require a separate power supply. Mac OS X Time Machine support is available.

This dual interface Portable Hard Disk comes with bundled cables for both Thunderbolt* and USB, so users will not be obliged to purchase cables separately, and since external AC adapter is not required, the drive can be used where there are no power outlets. The drive ships preformatted HFS + for plug & play on a Mac immediately after purchase. Use with Windows computers will require reformatting.

Jointly developed by Apple and Intel, Thunderbolt is a next generation high-speed interface offering transfer rates up to 10 Gbps - about 20 times (480 Mbps) and 12 times (800 Mbps) the speed of USB 2.0 and FireWire 800 interfaces respectively.

The product is currently available only in the Japanese domestic market; pricing and availability may vary in other regions.

* Publisher's note: Apple charges $49 for its Thunderbolt cable.

SurfacePad for MacBook Air

PR: SurfacePad for MacBook Air is custom tailored exclusively for the thinnest MacBook of all. The feather light layer of soft leather stretches across the wrist rest area of Air, adding virtually zero weight or bulk to the ultrathin notebook. Even the triangular SurfacePad packaging is micro-sized, using less paper and resulting in lower shipping costs.

SurfacePad for MacBook Air

Leather Layer of Protection

Like other versions of SurfacePad, this one is designed to shield your MacBook Air wrist rest surface from dirt and scratches from watches and bracelets. SurfacePad helps keep your Air in like-new condition just in case you decide to upgrade down the road.

Warm Leather Work Surface

SurfacePad for Air provides a soft, warm luxury leather cushion for your wrists, which is much more comfortable SurfacePad for MacBook Airthan the cold, aluminum typing surface of MacBook Air. A soft, cushiony work surface makes building that Keynote presentation or taming a lengthy Pages document a lot easier on the wrists.

SurfacePad has a light adhesive on the back that holds it in place. If you don't get SurfacePad perfectly positioned on the first try, simply peel it up and try again until you're happy with its placement. If one day you decide to remove SurfacePad from your MacBook Air, you'll find nothing but a bright, shiny like-new Mac finish underneath. SurfacePad leaves no trace. No sticky residue or glue will appear on your Mac.

Features

  • Protects against stains and scratches
  • Adds a luxury napa leather work surface
  • MacBook Air operates and closes as normal
  • Adhesive keeps SurfacePad in place, then leaves nothing behind when removed

Compatibility

  • 11" and 13" MacBook Air (Mid 2011)
  • 11" and 13" MacBook Air (Late 2010)

(Not compatible with 1st Gen MacBook Air)

SurfacePad for MacBook Air sells for $29.99 - Free US Shipping.

SurfacePad for MacBook Pro

PR: SurfacePad brings a sophisticated new level of luxury, style and personalization to your MacBook. SurfacePad for MacBook ProAn ultrathin sliver of super soft, luxury leather is custom tailored to seamlessly cover the keyboard deck and wrist rest area of your MacBook. Not only will your Mac have a brilliant new look, it will also be more comfortable than ever to work on.

Don't Just Think Different. Be Distinct

Give your MacBook a new look. TwelveSouth says their comfortable, black leather shield transforms your MacBook into a show-stopping unique work of art. All eyes will be on your SurfacePad equipped MacBook - because it will look like nothing else in the room.

A Leather Coat of Armor

SurfacePad is designed to shield your MacBook surface from dirt, oils from your skin and scratches from your watch. Say good-bye to those stains your wrists leave behind after only a few months of use. SurfacePad perfectly protects the showroom finish of your MacBook underneath, while adding a matching color to the black keys previously swimming in silver. Suddenly your MacBook and keyboard match.

Premium Notebook - Luxury Comfort

When you want to make a desk more comfortable you add a soft leather desk pad. That's exactly what SurfacePad adds to your MacBook. Your wrists will feel much better resting and working on a super soft padded leather surface. SurfacePad makes hours on the keyboard more pleasurable and comfortable for your hardworking hands. When work is over, SurfacePad will not get in the way of your MacBook closing and going into Sleep Mode, like it always has.

You'll never know it was there.

The SurfacePad attaches to your MacBook with a light adhesive that allows repositioning and even temporary removal if necessary. Not a drop of glue or sticky residue will be left behind. Simply peel up the luxury leather pad and you will find nothing but the like-new surface of your MacBook. This keeps your machine in top condition for Craigslist or eBay when it's time to upgrade.

Features

  • Protects against stains and scratches
  • Adds a luxury napa leather work surface
  • MacBook operates and closes as normal
  • Adhesive keeps SurfacePad in place, then leaves nothing behind when removed

SurfacePad for MacBook Pro sells for $39.99 - Free US Shipping. $39.99

Belkin Thunderbolt Express Dock to Ship in September

PR: Belkin says the Thunderbolt ultrahigh speed I/O interface is a quantum leap forward. Suddenly everything is faster, easier, better. Thunderbolt moves data on two bidirectional 10 Gbs channels. That's 20 times faster than USB 2.0, 12 times faster than FireWire 800. And it means an entire

HD movie transfers in 30 seconds. A whole year of continuous music? - 10 minutes.

With Thunderbolt Express Dock, all your drives, networking, input and output devices connect to the nine ports on the back. It in turn connects to your laptop through one Thunderbolt port. In short, nine cables become one cable.

So taking your laptop when you go, and bringing it home when you return means dealing with a single cable. Which connects you to a very brave new world indeed.

Belkin says they thought that a technology as brilliant and beautiful as Thunderbolt deserved a dock that not only performs at the highest level, but looks the part as well. Hence, the Thunderbolt Express Dock with an elegant, low profile.

Thunderbolt Express Dock will be released in September.

$249 Matrox Thunderbolt Docking Station Due in September

Matrox Thunderbolt Docking StationPR: Montreal, Canada, based Matrox has introduced Matrox DS1, a Thunderbolt docking station that confers connectivity and productivity benefits of a desktop computer to MacBook and Ultrabook users. From a single Thunderbolt connection, users can connect multiple peripherals, including a large DVI or HDMI display, full-size keyboard, mouse and other peripherals to create an office or home workstation connected via a single Thunderbolt cable.

Matrox Thunderbolt Docking Station

The Matrox DS1's port array includes a gigabit Ethernet port that provides connectivity to wired corporate networks and other LANs - enabling data transfers 18 times faster than WiFi. There's also one SuperSpeed USB 3.0 port, two USB 2.0 ports, a microphone input jack, and a speaker/headphone output jack. The dock's aluminum construction and sleek design harmonize nicely with Apple laptop design themes.

Matrox Thunderbolt Docking Station"Today's MacBooks and Ultrabooks are powerful enough for most corporate users but their limited connectivity makes them inconvenient, and their small screens and keyboards make them uncomfortable to use in the office all day," says Alberto Cieri, senior director of sales and marketing at Matrox. "The new Matrox DS1 docking station easily enables the creation of an ergonomic workspace and brings much-needed expandability for printers, scanners, storage, smartphones, optical drives, cameras, flash drives, and other peripherals."

"Thunderbolt delivers unparalleled performance, flexibility, and simplicity to personal computing," comments Jason Ziller, Intel's director of Thunderbolt Marketing. "Products like the Matrox DS1 docking station help highlight what Thunderbolt makes possible."

Matrox DS1 will be showcased at Computex Taipei 2012 in the Intel booth, M0410 located in the NanGang Exhibition Hall.

Priced at $249, not including local taxes and delivery, Matrox DS1 is projected be available through a worldwide network of authorized dealers beginning in September.

Mach Xtreme Technology Low-Profile SATA MX-KATANA SSD Series Upgrades for MacBook Air

PR: Mach Xtreme Technology's low-profile SATA3 MX-KATANA 6 Gb/s Series SSD modules are claimed to deliver an enhanced mobile computing experience with much faster application loading, ultra-fast data access, shorter bootups, and longer battery life of today's and future laptops and netbooks featuring new type low-profile SATA interface, and to maintain the highest level of read and write performance though the life of the SSD with a "highly intelligent" wear leveling design optimizing longevity.

MX-KATANA modules support DuraClass and DuraWrite technologies, the former claimed to provide best-in-class endurance, performance and low power consumption, while DuraWrite technology optimizes writes to the flash memory over conventional controllers increasing the overall endurance and reliability of the complete SSD module.

In addition, highly intelligent wear leveling design optimizes longevity of this SSD module series, making it an ideal upgrade option from the MacBook Air late 2010 and mid 2011 stock SSD

The MX-KATANA 6 Gb/s drive delivers read and write speeds clocking in at up to 510 MB/s read and 450 MB/s write along with a maximum of 60,000 IOPS, low power consumption and superior durability (2.0 million MTBF) compared to previous SATA 3 Gb/s generation drives.

Available in capacities of 240 GB and 480 GB, Mach Xtreme Technology MX-KATANA 6 Gb/s SSD modules come backed with 2 Year Warranty and outstanding after-sales service.

RunCore Introduces Rocket Air SSD Upgrade Modules for Mid 2011 MacBook Air, Ultrabooks

PR: RunCore has introduced its latest consumer-grade SSD for ultrabooks and MacBook Air, the Rocket Air SSD.

The RunCore Rocket Air SSD is ultrathin in size, and with its internal MLC flash and consumer-grade operating temperature, RunCore Rocket Air SSD Upgrade Modulesthe is particularly targeting the SSD replacement/upgrade market for thin laptops like Ultrabooks as well as MacBook Air.

RunCore's Rocket Air SSDs are almost a half-size of conventional 2.5 SSDs without case. It is also compatible with mid-2011 MacBook Air laptops and offers nearly 4x the capacity of the original factory SSDs. With the SATA III interface and Tier 1 Toggle Synchronous NAND, the RunCore Rocket Air SSD offers data transfer rates of over 500 MB/s to cater to the requirements of enthusiasts and users who seek for higher storage capacity and greater performance.

Main Features

  • Compatible with Late-2011 MacBook Air perfectly
  • SATA III interface and Tier 1 Toggle Synchronous NAND
  • Data Encryption: 128-bit AES-compliant
  • ECC: Up to 55 bits correctable per 512-byte sector (BCH)
  • Wear Leveling: Enhanced endurance by dynamic/static wear-leveling
  • Trim supported
  • Dimensions: 108.9(L) x 24(W) x 3.2(T) mm

Software

Battery Guru Free for OS X: Battery Life Monitoring and Optimization

PR: Mac OS X File Recovery has introduced Battery Guru 1.0 free for OS X, their Mac battery status utility application that sits in the Mac menu bar and displays advanced information about the current state of the device's battery. Battery Guru will monitor and present real-time information on exactly how many milliamps, a unit of electrical current, a battery is using at any given moment and display it in the menu bar, allowing users to monitor battery life and manage applications that may be draining the battery. Displaying the current battery capacity, the number of times a battery has been discharged and recharged, the date a battery was manufactured, exact battery temperature, and an accurate percentage of the current charge of a battery, Battery Guru give users precise information to better manage and optimize battery life.

In today's mobile society, people rely on the portability of their computers. Running out of battery power on your computer can be a frustrating experience. Battery Guru will monitor and present current information on exactly how many milliamps a battery is using at any given moment and display it in the menu bar. This allows users to keep an eye on power consumption and close unnecessary pages or applications that are draining the battery.

Feature Highlights

  • Precise information to better manage and optimize battery life
  • View current battery capacity and milliamps usage
  • Easily identify and manage battery-draining applications
  • Tools help optimize battery life
  • Access important battery information to optimize system usage
  • Information on number of recharges and manufacturing date

When using a computer, the amount of time a user has until the battery runs out varies drastically. The reason a battery sometimes drains quickly is usually due to one of two variables. Sometimes an app that is not even in use will remain in the background constantly using 100% of one processor core and draining the battery. Having a Flash application open in a tab is a common cause of this phenomenon. Secondly, a MacBook Pro comes with two graphics cards: one that uses little power, and one that is much more powerful and uses significantly more power. If a user is running OS Lion on a more recent MacBook Pro, the OS will automatically switch between the two. However, occasionally an app or a webpage will remain open, holding the power-hungry graphics card open, and unnecessarily draining the battery charge.

Battery Guru also provides a secondary but equally important function. By providing information that users do not usually have access to, this app gives users the tools to optimize their battery life and function. It will show the current battery capacity compared to the capacity it had when it was new. It also provides information on the number of times a battery has been discharged and recharged, the date a battery was manufactured, and the exact battery temperature. Battery Guru's information on current battery charge is a more exact percentage than provided by the operating system, giving users accurate and actionable battery information.

Each computer comes with a "Smart Battery," that actually already knows battery information and holds it internally. Battery Guru is the means of accessing this relevant information, allowing monitoring of the current battery state and awareness of the functioning of the computer system. Users may set Battery Guru to start automatically at login, providing a seamless interface with the computer system.

System Requirements:

  • Mac OS X 10.5 or later
  • 0.37 MB
  • Mac notebook computer

Battery Guru is free and available from the Mac App Store.

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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