The 'Book Review

How to Upgrade MacBook Pro RAM, Firmware Update Resolves 6 Gbps SATA Problem, and More

This Week's Mac Notebook News

Compiled by Charles Moore and edited by Dan Knight - 2012.10.05

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. Older Macs are covered in Vintage Mac News. All prices are in US dollars unless otherwise noted.

Purchases made through links to Amazon.com and Apple's iTunes/iBook/App/Mac App Store support Low End Mac.

News & Opinion

Reviews

Tech Trends

Products & Services

Bargain 'Books

News & Opinion

How (and Why) to Upgrade Memory in Your MacBook Pro

mac.tutsplus.com's Toby Seers has posted an illustrated tutorial that walks you through the complete process of installing new RAM in your MacBook Pro - from deciding which RAM to purchase to how to tell if the installation worked.

Upgrading your computer's RAM, especially if you have only the usually marginal base RAM capacity the machine shipped with, is generally regarded as offering the biggest performance boost for dollar spent of any sort of computer hotrodding tweak.

Adding more RAM will make it possible to run more applications simultaneously without slowdowns and stretch intervals between restarts to clear the memory heap, as well as boosting Finder responsiveness, especially when switching between/among applications.

Adding more RAM in a current or recent MacBook Pro is a reasonably straightforward procedure, but Seers' tutorial is well worth a read before proceeding to help you avoid any pitfalls or surprises.

Editor's note: I wouldn't want to try to get along with less than 4 GB of RAM, which is what I currently have in my MacBook, and I could still use more. cm

Publisher's note: My Mac mini (essentially a MacBook configured for a desktop case) came with 1 GB of memory, which made it painfully slow when running almost anything beyond a single browser. A faster hard drive helped a bit, but going to maximum memory, 3 GB in my case, unleashed its full potential.

We highly recommend you check system profiles on Low End Mac as well as visiting Other World Computing's memory page to learn how much RAM your Mac can support. In some cases, it can support double what Apple originally specified as its maximum. dk

Latest Firmware Update for 13" 2012 MacBook Pro Fixes 6 Gb/s SSD Performance Issues

The OWC Blog says:

"When the 2012 MacBook Pros were released they found that SATA 3.0 SSDs - such as the OWC Mercury EXTREME Pro 6G and the Mercury Electra 6G - exhibited poor performance and reliability in the 13-inch model when installed in the optical bay via an OWC Data Doubler, while the same SSDs in the 15-inch model worked just fine.

"The report notes similarity to what happened in 2011, in which case the 13-inch MBP models were the only ones able to handle their Mercury 6G SSDs in the optical bay at first. Eventually, though, an Apple firmware update resolved the problems in the 15-inch and 17-inch models in the main drive bay.

"As it turns out, the same thing happened to the 2012 models, but Apple's EFI Update 2.9 for MacBook Pro appears to have fixed the problem, so if you have a 13-inch 2012 MacBook Pro and want to install an OWC 6G SSD in your optical bay via a Data Doubler, head over to Software Update and run the EFI Updater."

MacBook Air to Hold 39% of Slim Notebook Market in 2012, Drop to 28% in 2013

DigiTimes' Aaron Lee and Adam Hwang report that Apple's hot-selling MacBook Air is projected to corner a global market share of 39% for slim notebooks in 2012, but that Taiwan-based notebook makers are predicting the Air's market share will slip to (a still more than respectable) 28% in 2013 due to increasing sales of Ultrabooks, which are projected by Taiwan's Topology Research Institute to account for 14.6% of total notebook globally in 2013, up from 8% in 2012.

That, of course, doesn't necessarily mean that MacBook Air sales volume will drop in 2013, but more likely a sales recovery in the recently moribund PC laptop category that has thus far resulted in Ultrabook sales much lower than Intel's projections. A rising tide should lift all laptop-makers' boats, including Apple's.

The article also notes that Taiwan-based Quanta Computer and Foxconn Electronics (Hon Hai Precision Industry) are Apple's subcontractors for assembly of MacBook Air and MacBook Pro laptops, currently representing 80% and 20%, respectively of the total MacBook shipment volume, but that another Taiwan-based ODM - Pegatron - is negotiating to produce the MacBook Air and has undertaken trial production in 2012, with insider sources speculating that Pegatron may obtain orders for 18% of MacBook production, mostly MacBook Airs, in 2013.

Apple Warns Retina Display MacBook Pro Users Against Palm Rest Covers

A new Apple Knowledge Base article says that leaving palm rest covers or other material on the palm rest surface of the Retina Display MacBook Pro could result in damage to the display when you close it.

The memo notes that in order to enable thin design, the clearance between the display and the palm rest area is engineered to tight tolerances. Palm rest covers add thickness that may interfere with the designed resting position of the display, and best practice is to keep the palm rest clear of any material.

Interestingly, this recalls an issue with the radically slimmed-down Lombard and Pismo editions of the PowerBook G3 on the cusp of Y2K, which were plagued with marks on the screen from too-close proximity of the keyboard to the display when the 'Books were closed.

Reviews

The Register Reviews 13" MacBook Air

The Register's Andrew Orlowski notes that prior to the MacBook Air's debut in 2008, sub-3 lb. notebooks you could comfortably pick up with one hand (primarily netbooks) had been seriously compromised performance-wise. The original Air was a paradigm-changer, although that wasn't immediately obvious, and Orlowski deems the 13" Air, first unveiled just shy of two years ago, the first Mac to be both seriously portable at under 3 lb. and have a decent display featuring 1440 x 900 resolution - characteristics that makes it "a strong candidate to be the nicest laptop" he's ever used.

The third iteration of the MBA 13-incher got a healthy speed boost with the same Intel Ivy Bridge CPUs found in the latest Ultrabooks - plus USB 3.0 at last, but otherwise virtually identical to the model it superseded.

Orlowski notes that with the OS X 10.8.2 Mountain Lion update, gentle use with the screen at one-half or one-third brightness yields in excess of seven hours battery life.

On the downside, he notes the unavailability of a matte display option and no Gigabit Ethernet port, and that Apple's kludgy workaround - a USB-to-Ethernet dongle - is 10/100, not Gigabit. To get Gigabit Ethernet, you'll need to cough up for the Thunderbolt adapter.

Then there's Apple's inflated memory upgrade prices at about three times the going rate, and the limited storage capacities of the available SSD storage drives.

Tech Trends

Ultrabook Sales Forecast Slashed as Pricing and Marketing Disappoint

PR: Amid high pricing and a lack of effective marketing to draw consumers' attention away from other hot-selling mobile gadgets, global Ultrabook shipments are falling short of expectations in 2012, prompting market research firm IHS to cut its near-term forecast for the next-generation notebooks.

An estimated 10.3 million Ultrabooks will ship worldwide in 2012, according to an IHS iSuppli Compute Platforms Topical Report from information and analytics provider IHS. That's down from the previous forecast issued earlier this year of 22 million units. In the newly adjusted forecast for 2012, more than half of the shipments for the year are expected to come in the fourth quarter.

Along with the revised figures for 2012, shipments have also been modified for the next year, projected to rise to 44 million in 2013, down from the older outlook of 61 million.

The figure below presents the IHS forecast for Ultrabook shipments in 2012 and 2013.

Global Ultrabook Unit Shipment Forecast"There once was a time when everyone knew the 'Dude you're getting a Dell' slogan. Nowadays no one can remember a tag line for a new PC product, including for any single ultrabook," says Craig Stice, senior principal analyst for compute platforms at IHS. "So far, the PC industry has failed to create the kind of buzz and excitement among consumers that is required to propel ultrabooks into the mainstream. This is especially a problem amid all the hype surrounding media tablets and smartphones. When combined with other factors, including prohibitively high pricing, this means that ultrabook sales will not meet expectations in 2012."

Even so, challenges stemming from the nebulous marketing and unappealing price surrounding the ultrabook can be overcome, IHS predicts, paving the way for shipments to rise by more than 300% in 2013. Growth is also expected to continue for the foreseeable future, with shipments expanding to 95 million units by 2016. This will drive long-term growth for devices used in ultrabooks, including motion sensors.

Ultra-Priced Ultrabooks?

Beyond the marketing shortcomings, Ultrabooks need to get more systems down to the $600 price range in order to hit the volume level needed to enter the mainstream, down from prices at the $1,000 level now. If Ultrabooks using the new Windows 8 operating system come close to the $600-$700 range next year, while adding in an attractive new consumer feature such as touchscreen, a good chance exists for strong sales in 2013. If not - and Ultrabooks stay at the $1,000 level - their sales will continue to struggle in 2013 as they must compete against lower-priced options, such as tablets and smartphones.

"With the economy languishing, ultrabook sellers may have trouble finding buyers at the current pricing,especially with fierce competition from new mobile computing gadgets such as the iPhone 5, Kindle Fire HD and forthcoming Microsoft Surface," Stice says.

Another factor causing IHS to reduce the forecast is Intel's increasingly stringent set of definitions for Ultrabooks. Based on these designations, many notebooks once called Ultrabooks now are being classified as ultrathins.

Wait Till Next Year

While Intel Corp. hasn't given up on Ultrabooks in 2012, the microprocessor giant at its Intel Developer Forum (IDF) this month turned its attention to next year, when it believes that everything will come together with the mid-2013 introduction of the company's new microprocessor - dubbed Haswell. Intel described 2013 as a once-in-a-decade opportunity for companies to reinvent the PC, with its new Haswell microprocessor catalyzing the Ultrabook revolution.

Haswell, Intel's fourth-generation core microprocessor family, will offer better performance with lower power consumption. Because of these attributes, Haswell will serve as the main core microprocessor for Ultrabooks. The microprocessor will provide Intel Identity Protection Technology to improve security, and will also support multiple displays and high-definition 4K monitors with DisplayPort 1.2.

New Features Are Coming, but Will They Spark Interest?

Beyond the ultrathin and ultralight form factor, Intel at IDF focused on new consumer-friendly features to enhance the attraction of Ultrabooks.

The focus at several briefings centered on touchscreen technology in Ultrabooks, in conjunction with the Windows 8 launch in October. Intel at IDF claimed there are 40 Ultrabook designs in progress with touchscreens.

The company also provided a survey showing that when consumers are given a choice, touch was chosen as a desired feature 80% of the time.

Intel highlighted convertible form factors for Ultrabooks, calling them the best of both worlds. These notebooks with detachable screens work as a traditional clamshell mobile PCs, but they can also be converted into tablets by pulling the screen off the keyboard.

Other prominent new features being incorporated into the next-generation Ultrabooks are voice recognition; security features; multiple sensors including GPS, accelerometers and gyroscopes; and hand-gesture recognition, an attractive option for the gaming market.

iSuppli provides comprehensive Home & Consumer Electronics portal at IHS iSuppli offers the latest broadband industry trends, with in-depth broadband research analysis.

Lots of $699 Ultrabooks Expected in 2013

DigiTimes' Aaron Lee and Adam Hwang report that PC vendors are expected to offer an array of entry-level Ultrabook or ultra-like sub-$699 laptop models for sale as shipment volume generators, alongside high-end Ultrabook models selling for $1,000-plus in a bid to maintain profitability in 2013, according to sources at Taiwan-based supply chain makers.

Lee and Hwang note that the high-end ultrabooks will feature aluminum unibody or carbon-fiber chassis, SSDs, lithium polymer batteries, and Windows 8 touchscreens, while the lower-end models will use fiberglass-reinforced plastic or metal-plastic hybrid chassis, slim hard drives or hybrid drives, conventional batteries, and non-touch screens in order to minimize production costs to keep retail prices at or below $699.

Products & Services

Matrox Graphics: Transform Your Laptop or Desktop into a Triple-Monitor Platform

PR: Matrox Graphics Inc. have announced the Matrox TripleHead2Go Digital SE external multi-monitor adapter, which expands your system's single-video output into an immersive triple-monitor setup so that you see and do more.

Matrox TripleHead2Go Digital SE

This new Graphics eXpansion Module (GXM) connects to a compatible system's DisplayPort or Mini DisplayPort video output or Thunderbolt port and lets you add three external DVI monitors, each with maximum resolutions of either 1920 x 1080 @ 50 Hz (PC) or 1360 x 768 @ 60 Hz (Mac).

New High-bandwidth Digital Content Protection (HDCP) compliance meanwhile enables the playback of copy-protected content, such as Blu-ray discs, across all three monitors.

Matrox TripleHead2Go Digital SECompatible with a wide range of GPUs running under Mac or Windows, TripleHead2Go Digital SE yields a cost-effective multi-monitor platform for office, trading, digital signage, CAD, ProAV, houses of worship, content-creation, and simulation-training applications.

"We're pleased to expand our TripleHead2Go product line," says Caroline Injoyan, Business Development Manager, Matrox Graphics Inc. "TripleHead2Go Digital SE features improved usability for our customers, offering a simple and easy way to add three displays to a notebook or desktop PC. TripleHead2Go Digital SE is a versatile product that delivers an excellent multi-monitor setup from basic office applications to high-end 3D simulation and training environments its unique design leverages the GPU performance of the system to deliver uncompressed graphics and video across all three displays a true multi-display solution."

Matrox TripleHead2Go Digital SEAdditionally, accompanying Matrox PowerDesk desktop management software (available for Windows and Macs) lets you optimize your multi-monitor experience through the customization of where and how applications open up among a vast array of other settings. Bezel Management, one of PowerDesk's many features available under Microsoft Windows, compensates for the gap in an image resulting from the bezels of adjacent monitors. TripleHead2Go Digital SE consequently delivers captivating digital signage, immersive simulation, and expansive gaming across multiple monitors.

Multi-GXM support, another feature designed to maximize your workspace, enables two TripleHead2Go Digital SE's to be connected to one system under Windows. Users can then operate up to six external monitors at once and create visually stunning video wall setups or multiscreen presentations, further illustrating the TripleHead2Go Digital SEs value and versatility as a key building block of your next ProAV installation.

Features

  • Lets you connect up to three monitors to the single DisplayPort or Mini DisplayPort video output, or Thunderbolt port, of your system
  • Creates a stretched desktop with a maximum resolution of 5760 x 1080 (3x 1920 x 1080) across three displays or 3840 x 1200 (2 x 1920 x 1200) across two
  • Uses your system's existing GPU to deliver a solid platform for office, 3D design, multimedia and digital signage applications
  • Open an application on each display or span one across multiple screens
  • HDCP compliance for protected content playback
  • Works with displays and projectors
  • Experience Surround Gaming by expanding supported 3D games across three monitors to achieve a much wider in-game field of view
  • Matrox Bezel Management compensates for monitor bezel gaps to bring realism to gaming and digital signage (Available under Windows only)
  • Quick and easy to install - there's no need to open the computer case or insert components
  • Spans taskbar across monitors for easy access to all your open applications
  • Runs in clone mode and shows the same content on all displays
  • Includes Matrox PowerDesk software to easily manage your desktop configuration
  • External device that won't void your system warranty
  • Expand your Windows desktop further by connecting a second TripleHead2Go Digital SE to your graphics hardware to support up to six monitors at a time
  • PC and Mac compatible

The new Matrox TripleHead2Go Digital SE will be available as of November 2012 at the MSRP of $279 for purchase from authorized Matrox resellers worldwide or, in North America and Europe, directly from Matrox.

Publisher's note: Matrox makes several different TripleHead2Go models as well as a range of DualHead2Go adapters. In addition to MacBooks, they also support iMacs, Mac minis, and Mac Pros. dk

HDMI Version of Matrox DS1 Thunderbolt Docking Station for MacBook Pro and Air

PR: Today's MacBooks are powerful enough to satisfy the computing needs of most corporate users, but their cumbersome connectivity is inconvenient, and their small screens and keyboards make them uncomfortable to use in the office all day.

Matrox DS1 Thunderbolt Docking StationThe new Matrox DS1 docking station addresses that.

Matrox have introduced the Matrox DS1 series of Thunderbolt docking stations that brings the productivity benefits of a desktop computer to MacBook Pro and MacBook Air users. From a single Thunderbolt connection, users can add multiple peripherals including either a large DVI or an HDMI display, a full-size keyboard, and a mouse. Matrox DS1 adds gigabit Ethernet access to laptops that don't have a built-in gigabit Ethernet port, transferring data 18 times faster than WiFi and offloading data traffic from the corporate WiFi network.

Matrox DS1 gives you the most from your Thunderbolt port by letting you add a large display, a full size keyboard, a mouse, a wired network, and many other peripherals using a single cable. In an instant, you enjoy all the productivity benefits of a desktop computer, saving time every day by being enabled to come and go without disconnecting and reconnecting all your devices. One Thunderbolt connection does it all, taming the cable tangle cluttering your desktop and saving wear-and-tear on your laptop. Enjoy the productivity benefits and superior comfort of an affordable full-size display. Choose Matrox DS1/DVI for use with DVI displays or Matrox DS1/HDMI for use with HDMI displays with embedded audio.

Matrox DS1 Thunderbolt Docking StationOne SuperSpeed USB 3.0 port is located on the front of the unit, plus two two additional USB 2.0 ports let you connect anything else you need - a full-size keyboard and mouse, printer, scanner, storage, smart phone, optical drive, camera, flash drive, and other peripherals. A microphone input, and a speaker/headphone output are also provided. With its solid aluminum construction and space-saving design, Matrox DS1 harmonized nicely with Apple's aluminum design motif, and is ideal for office, dorm, or home use.

"In response to the feedback we received after our original announcement of Matrox DS1 in June, we will now be offering two versions, one for use with DVI monitors and another for HDMI displays," says Charles Amyot, product manager at Matrox. "MacBook Pro and MacBook Air users can now come and go without disconnecting and reconnecting all their peripherals, tame the cables cluttering their desks, and save wear-and-tear on their laptops. One Thunderbolt connection to Matrox DS1 does it all."

Matrox DS1 is the last device in your Thunderbolt chain. Conveniently positioning your Thunderbolt storage with pass-through between your laptop and your DS1 lets you easily remove just your laptop, or your laptop plus storage, with a single disconnection.

Priced at $249 (219, 169) not including local taxes and delivery, Matrox DS1/DVI and Matrox DS1/HDMI will be available through a worldwide network of authorized dealers in December 2012.

Pelican ProGear Sport Backpack Line

PR: Pelican Products, Inc., specialist in the design and manufacture of advanced lighting systems and high-performance protective case solutions, has announced the introduction of Pelican ProGear Sport Backpacks as the newest additions to its newly-established consumer products line, Pelican ProGear.

"All Pelican ProGear products are built especially for the digital protection and extreme performance needs of everyone from the average consumer to the adventure-seekers, and the new Sport Backpacks are no exception," says Lyndon Faulkner, President and CEO of Pelican Products, Inc. "Each bag is created with the same Pelican-tough DNA as found in our products used by the military. We are incorporating this professional protection into our consumer goods."

Following the success of its initial backpack line - the Pelican ProGear Urban Backpacks - under the new consumer brand, the new Pelican ProGear Sport Backpacks also encompass either a Pelican hard case or rigid compartment to fit and protect personal electronics and belongings.

The integrated crushproof Pelican case in the Elite models features the same military-grade attributes as Pelicans classic case products (including a watertight O-ring seal with automatic pressure equalization valve), and is designed to safeguard laptops, MacBook computers, netbooks, e-readers, tablets, keyboards and other accessories. Also included with Elite models is a set of four adhesive, memory foam buffers, which secure the laptop or tablet for safe travel.

The new Pelican ProGear Sport Backpacks are offered to consumers in a range of colors (black, orange and green) and lightweight styles. The collection appeals to an active demographic with light ripstop nylon and a slimmer case design that favors Ultrabooks.

Pelican ProGear Sport Backpack models include:

S100 Elite Laptop BackpackS100 Elite Laptop Backpack

Protects all 15-inch laptops and 17-inch Apple products with a built-in, watertight, crushproof Pelican case. The S100 Elite Laptop Backpack also features bottom-expanding sling storage in addition to its top-loading TSA-ready main storage compartment. Other features include a rigid front plate and ergonomic ventilated back panel for tablet device protection - MSRP: $269.95.

S100 Elite Laptop BackpackS140 Elite Tablet Backpack

An integrated watertight and crushproof Pelican case safeguards tablets, notebooks and small netbooks, while also fitting most tablet keyboards. It also features a rigid front plate, ergonomic ventilated back panel and SureGrip soft rubber handle. Additional features include top-loading TSA-ready main storage compartment as well as a padded lumbar storage cavity - MSRP: $239.95.

S105 Laptop BackpackS105 Laptop Backpack

Shielding 15-inch and 17-inch laptops and Apple products, the impact-protective frame provides 360-degree protection allowing the S105 to be lightweight, yet still provide superior performance. Additional features include a rigid front plate, integrated laptop sleeve and ergonomic design with deep-ventilated channel back panel MSRP: $139.95.

S145 Laptop BackpackS145 Tablet Backpack

Includes an impact-protected tablet sleeve with rigid front plate offering an additional storage option to the 21-liter main storage unit. The S145 also features an ergonomic, fast-access/top-load design with deep-ventilated channel back panel MSRP: $109.95.

The S100 Elite Laptop Backpack, S140 Elite Tablet Backpack, S105 Laptop Backpack and S145 Tablet Backpack are available PelicanProGear.com.

Pelican ProGear Backpack specifications

Additional available product lines include the Pelican ProGear Urban Backpacks, Pelican ProGear Digital Protection (Micro Case Series and Hardback Series), Pelican ProGear 9420 LED Work Light / 9420 XL, Pelican ProGear Sport Wallet, Pelican ProGear Lighting, and the Pelican ProGear Elite Coolers.

The Pelican ProGear brand includes new, rugged, protective consumer products designed to allow users to transport and protect all that they value, regardless of environmental conditions.

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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