The 'Book Review

iFixit Repair Guides for Retina MacBook Pro, Lenovo's 3 Pound ThinkPad X1 Carbon, and More

This Week's Mac Notebook News

Compiled by Charles Moore and edited by Dan Knight - 2012.08.10

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.

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News & Opinion

iFixit Posts Repair Guides for MacBook Pro with Retina Display

iFixit CEO Kyle Wiens notes that month ago, he and his team called the MacBook Pro with Retina Display "the least repairable laptop we've taken apart." However, Weins says, "we wouldn't be the 'repair manual for everything' if we tapped out on the difficult projects. So guess what? We just completed writing the repair manual for the 2012 MacBook Pro with Retina display."

Retina MacBook repairWiens observes that many components inside the ultrathin laptop can be removed without much fuss, provided one uses the correct tools. Apple's proprietary Pentalobe screws fasten the lower case in place and Torx screws secure everything else. Spudgers and plastic opening tools are absolutely necessary, he says, since many of the components are designed with such tight tolerances that using fingertips is simply not an option.

However, Weins warns that working on this laptop is no easy task, and some repairs are simply unfeasible. For example, he notes that there is no way to replace the trackpad without removing the battery, and while it's theoretically possible to remove the battery, chances are high that it will be punctured in the process, and puncturing Lithium-polymer batteries releases noxious fumes and can cause fires, so not cool. Additionally, he cautions that removing the LCD glass from its aluminum frame will almost certainly break the glass. So components residing under the LCD such as the FaceTime camera will have to be replaced with the entire assembly.

Retina MacBook repairAlso, finding replacements for the machine's proprietary components is currently difficult. Wiens says iFixit is working to source parts, but that may take some time, and while they've developed a technique for removing the battery, there remains a high risk of puncturing the cells so they're still working to improve on the battery removal procedure.

Wiens comments that in the context of iFixit's philosophical belief that everyone has the right to maintain and repair their products. the design direction Apple has taken with the Retina MacBook Pro is "disturbing," and he estimates that third party battery replacements will cost over $500 if technicians follow the safer Apple-suggested procedure and replace the entire upper case assembly along with the battery. For more on that and related matters, see the next news brief.

Retina MacBook repairHowever, he says that while Apple isn't making this easy, iFixit is committed to making repair as straightforward as physically possible.

The takeaway here is that if you're comfortable and extraordinarily handy at working on the innards of electronic gadgetry, you may be able to successfully execute some DIY repairs on the Retina MacBook Pro. Everyone else ought to seriously consider buying AppleCare coverage with a purchase of one of these machines.

Apple Memo to Service Techs Says Battery in Retina Display MacBook Is Not Replaceable

Tree Hugger's Jaymi Heimbuch notes that according to an internal service announcement sent from Apple to its technicians, a couple training courses are required for techs to be authorized to service the new Retina MacBook Pro laptops. The document also explains some handling must-dos for parts of the computer, a notable one being that the rMBP's battery must be replaced with the top case assembly, and confirming that the glued-in battery alone is not a replaceable part, and the service memo warning that "batteries should not be separated from the top case assembly for any reason."

Because having to buy the entire top case assembly in order to replace the battery won't be cost effective for anyone but Apple, effectively Apple becomes the sole source for rMBP battery replacement, for which it charges $179.

Apple's Thunderbolt-to-FireWire Adapter Only Works One Way

MacFixIt's Topher Kessler reports that while Apple's new Thunderbolt-to-FireWire adapter offers FireWire connectivity to the latest MacBook Air and MacBook Pro with Retina Display, models that have Thunderbolt but do not have built-in FireWire connectivity, it will not provide Thunderbolt over FireWire, since the Thunderbolt adapter is a unidirectional bridge from Thunderbolt to FireWire that requires a computer host with software drivers to interface with the controller it contains. Inverting it and attempting the connection in the opposite direction will not work.

Tech Trends

Lenovo Unveils Three-Pound, 14" Carbon Fiber ThinkPad X1 Carbon Ultrabook

ThinkPad X1 Carbon

PR: On Monday, Lenovo unveiled a new even lighter version of its already ultrathin 14-inch ThinkPad X1 Ultrabook, reducing the machine's weight from an already svelte 3.8 pounds down to just under 3.0 pounds thanks to more extensive use of carbon fiber in its chassis and rollcage instead of more typical aluminum-magnesium alloys.

Lenovo claims its ThinkPad X1 Carbon laptop is the lightest 14-inch Ultrabook in the industry, exceeding Intel's Ultrabook specifications by using a premium carbon fiber rollcage to create a durable laptop weighing ThinkPad X1 Carbonin at less than three pounds. Other ThinkPad X1 Carbon features include the latest Ivy Bridge Intel Core i processors, 3G connectivity for anywhere anytime access, Lenovo's RapidCharge technology for a near-full battery charge in 30 minutes, and Intel vPro technology for manageability, Lenovo's Enhanced Experience 3.0, a backlit keyboard, USB 3.0, gigabit Ethernet, and more.

"We crafted the ThinkPad X1 Carbon with premium carbon fiber material in order to make it incredibly thin and light, yet durable, commented Lu Yan, senior vice president, Think Product Group, Lenovo. "Our new ThinkPad laptop portfolio embodies much of the innovative thinking exemplified in the X1 Carbon, such as a backlit keyboard, super-bright high definition display, Dolby Home Theatre and rich communications features that balance business performance with personal use."

Lenovo says the ThinkPad X1 Carbon Ultrabook will be available starting later this summer.

Intel Developing New SSD Specs for Ultrabooks

DigiTimes' Josephine Lien and Joseph Tsai report that Intel is working on a unified specification for mSATA SSDs targeted at ultrabook applications, seeking cooperation with PC vendors and NAND flash companies, and that details will likely be finalized in September, according to sources at memory makers.

Lien and Tsai say the new SSD specification is expected to be fully adopted into ultrabooks in 2013, but whether or not it becomes a standard specification for traditional PC notebooks will depend on brand vendors' attitudes about follow-up issues such as leftover inventories of old, noncompliant components.

DigiTimes' sources reportedly say Intel wishes to unify mSATA SSD specifications into one single standard, with most PC brand vendors and NAND flash makers, such as Micron, SanDisk, and Samsung, participating in the discussion, and that one reason why Intel is aggressively pushing the NGFF SSD standard is that current mSATA SSD specifications impose limitations on the number of NAND flash chips that can be used (4-5 maximum), so in order to facilitate SSDs with more than 512 GB of storage capacity, adopting the NGFF standard, which allows NAND chips on both sides of the PCB, thus relieving that limitation, is necessary.

More Ultrathin Hybrid Drives on the Way for Super-slim Ultrabooks

The Register's Chris Mellor reports that in analyst briefings by WD CEO John Coyne and CFO Wolfgang Nickl revealed that WD is developing thin and ultrathin hybrid hard drives for the PC Ultrabooks market with a likely transition to energy-assisted recording in 2015 enabling 1 TB 2.5" platters.

Mellor notes that current Ultrabooks are 21mm and 18mm thick, but Intel wants to slim them down even more to achieve 15mm - and eventually 12mm thickness. That's easier to do with the SSD flash storage Apple uses in its MacBook Air and Retina MacBook Pro models, but all-flash is an expensive way to go, and with limited capacity compared to hard drive and hybrid solutions. Pure conventional hard drives offer cheaper capacity but are slow. However, hybrid disk drives, combining a hard drive with a flash cache, can service 90% of reads from flash memory and thereby offer the near instant-on performance advantage of flash and still provide expansive capacity at reasonable prices.

Only Seagate ships hybrid drives at the moment.

Mellor says Seagate and WD are both reportedly working on 5mm thick hybrid drives and the WD investment analyst briefing round confirms that WD is with a 7mm hybrid single platter 2.5" hard drive coming in late 2012/2013 that will be suitable for 15mm Ultrabooks, and a 5mm hybrid that could come in mid-2013 or the second half of the year and that would facilitate 12mm Ultrabooks.

Capacities? 500 GB now, with a 1 TB platter coming possibly in 2015.

Products & Services

SLAPPA Kampus Lightweight Duffle Laptop Backpacks Back-to-School Sale

Kampus Lightweight Duffle Laptop BackpacksPR: Hot on the heels of being awarded "Best Laptop Bag Brand" by About.com, SLAPPA introduces its new Kampus duffle style laptop backpacks. Kampus is a lightweight, rugged and protective backpack that offers tons of open storage space (great for books or clothes) and a super-cush padded dedicated laptop compartment. Think of a camping style backpack with a dedicated laptop section, and that's the Kampus - great for the college student, gamers and DJs.

Kampus Lightweight Duffle Laptop BackpacksAble to fit a laptop + lots of books, gym clothes, cords and mixers, the Kampus laptop bags are versatile, roomy and good looking! The "flip-top" cover and drawstring cinch string makes it easy to access the inner bag. The laptop section features .25" of super-cush padding and two hard plastic underbelly runners provide additional protection for your laptop. On the outside of the backpack are 5 large, seamless storage pockets ideal for tons of small gadgets and accessories including phones, GPS, Serato Box, phone chargers, pens, money, keys, passport, boarding passes and bottled water.

Features

  • Ripstop parachute ribbed poly material; light and strong
  • Dedicated .25" super-cush padded laptop compartment (16" and 18" (add $10) sizes available)
  • Cavernous 3.5 gallon duffle style main compartment
  • Two hard-plastic underbelly strips for additional protection
  • Super-cush padded shoulder straps with belly strap

All of SLAPPA products come with a 365-day warranty that provides the customer with repair or replacement of defective products. SLAPPA was voted the "Best Laptop Bag Brand" in the 2011 About.com Readers Choice Awards.

MSRP: $79.99

Regular Price: $71.99

Back To School Sale Price: $61.19 - Enter Promo Code BTS15

Sale Ends Aug. 31

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