The 'Book Review

MacBook Pro Update Adds Thunderbolt I/O, MacBook Air to Influence Future Laptop Design, and More

This Week's MacBook, PowerBook, and iBook News

Compiled by Charles Moore and edited by Dan Knight - 2011.02.25

General Apple and Mac desktops is covered in The Mac News Review. iPad, iPod, iPhone, and Apple TV news is covered in The iOS News Review. All prices are in US dollars unless otherwise noted.

News & Opinion

Products & Services


Bargain 'Books

News & Opinion

Apple Refreshes MacBook Pro with Core 'i' Processors, Intel HD Graphics, and Thunderbolt I/O Technology

PR: On Thursday, Apple updated its MacBook Pro family with next generation dual-core and quad-core Intel Core "i" "Sandy Bridge" processors and Intel HD integrated graphics, high-speed Thunderbolt I/O technology (a.k.a. "Light Peak") and a new FaceTime HD camera

13, 15, and 17 inch MacBook Pro modelsApple celebrated Steve Jobs' 56th birthday Thursday by updating its MacBook Pro family. Apple claims the entire MacBook Pro line is up to twice as fast as the previous generation.

"The new MacBook Pro brings next generation dual and quad Core processors, high performance graphics, Thunderbolt technology and FaceTime HD to the great design loved by our pro customers," commented Apple senior vice president of Worldwide Product Marketing Philip Schiller, "Thunderbolt is a revolutionary new I/O technology that delivers an amazing 10 gigabits per second and can support every important I/O standard which is ideal for the new MacBook Pro."

Faster Silicon

Ports on Early 2011 MacBook Pro modelsStarting at $1,199, the new 13" MacBook Pro now features Intel Core i5 and Core i7 dual-core processors up to 2.7 GHz and Intel HD Graphics 3000. The powerful 15" and 17" MacBook Pro models feature quad-core Core i7 processors up to 2.3 GHz and, along with the Intel HD Graphics 3000 IGPUs, discrete AMD Radeon HD graphics processors with up to 1 GB of video memory for high performance gaming, pro video editing, and graphics intensive applications.

MacBook Pro is the first computer on the market to include the groundbreaking Thunderbolt I/O technology. Developed by Intel with collaboration from Apple, Thunderbolt enables expandability never before possible on a notebook computer. Featuring two bi-directional channels with transfer speeds up to an 10 Gbps each far eclipsing USB 3 and FireWire 800, Thunderbolt delivers PCI Express directly to external high performance peripherals (such as RAID arrays) and can support FireWire and USB consumer devices and Gigabit Ethernet networks via adapters. Thunderbolt also supports DisplayPort for high resolution displays and works with existing adapters for HDMI, DVI, and VGA displays. Freely available for implementation on systems, cables, and devices, Thunderbolt technology is expected to be widely adopted as a new standard for high performance I/O.

2011 MacBook ProThe MacBook Pro now includes a built-in FaceTime HD camera with triple the resolution of the previous generation models' camera, for crisp, widescreen video calls. With Apple's FaceTime video calling software, the new camera allows high definition video calls between all new MacBook Pro models and supports standard resolution calls with other Intel-based Macs, iPhone 4, and the current generation iPod touch. FaceTime is included with all new MacBook Pro models and is available for other Intel-based Macs from the Mac App Store for 99¢. The MacBook Pro lineup continues to feature the aluminum unibody enclosure used since late 2008 (early 2009 for the 17-incher), glass Multi-Touch trackpad, LED-backlit widescreen display, illuminated full-size keyboard, and up to 7-hour battery.

13" MacBook Pro

The 13" MacBook Pro is available in two configurations: one with a 2.3 GHz Dual-Core Intel Core i5 and 320 GB hard drive starting at $1,199; and one with a 2.7 GHz Dual-Core Intel Core i5 and 500 GB hard drive starting at $1,499.

13" 2.3 GHz

  • 2.3 GHz dual-core Intel Core i5
  • 4 GB 1333 MHz RAM
  • 320 GB 5400 rpm hard drive
  • Intel HD Graphics 3000
  • Built-in battery (7 hours)
  • $1,199

13" 2.7 GHz

  • 2.7 GHz dual-core Intel Core i7
  • 4 GB 1333 MHz RAM
  • 500 GB 5400 rpm hard drive
  • Intel HD Graphics 3000
  • Built-in battery (7 hours)
  • $1,499

15" MacBook Pro

The new 15" MacBook Pro is available in two models: one with a 2.0 GHz Quad-Core Intel Core i7, AMD Radeon HD 6490M GPU, and 500 GB hard drive starting at $1,799 and one with a 2.2 GHz Quad-Core Intel Core i7, AMD Radeon HD 6750M GPU and a 750 GB hard drive starting at $2,199.

15" 2.0 GHz

  • 2.0 GHz quad-core Intel Core i7
  • 4 GB 1333 MHz RAM
  • 500 GB 5400 rpm hard drive
  • Intel HD Graphics 3000
  • AMD Radeon HD 6490M with 256 MB GDDR5
  • Built-in battery (7 hours)
  • $1,799

15" 2.2 GHz

  • 2.2 GHz quad-core Intel Core i7
  • 4 GB 1333 MHz RAM
  • 750 GB 5400 rpm hard drive
  • Intel HD Graphics 3000
  • AMD Radeon HD 6750M with 1 GB GDDR5
  • Built-in battery (7 hours)
  • $2,199

17" MacBook Pro

The new 17" MacBook Pro features a 2.2 GHz Quad-Core Intel Core i7, AMD Radeon HD 6750M GPU, and 750 GB hard drive and is priced at $2,499.

17" 2.2 GHz

  • 2.2 GHz quad-core Intel Core i7
  • 4 GB 1333 MHz RAM
  • 750 GB 5400 rpm hard drive
  • Intel HD Graphics 3000
  • AMD Radeon HD 6750M with 1 GB GDDR5
  • Built-in battery (7 hours)
  • $2,499
  • financing available

Build-to-order options include faster quad-core processors up to 2.3 GHz, additional hard drive capacity up to 750 GB, solid state storage up to 512 GB, more memory up to 8 GB DDR3, antiglare and high-resolution display options and AppleCare Protection Plan.

  • Quad-core processor up to 2.3 GHz, with Turbo Boost speeds up to 3.4 GHz5
  • Memory up to 8 GB
  • Hard drive up to 750 GB
  • 128 GB, 256 GB, or 512 GB solid-state drive

Additional technical specifications and configure-to-order options and accessories are available online.

Apple claims that the new MacBook Pros are the industry's greenest notebook lineup, with every Mac notebook achieving EPEAT Gold status and meeting Energy Star 5.0 requirements, setting the standard for environmentally friendly notebook design. Each unibody enclosure is made of highly recyclable aluminum and comes standard with energy efficient LED-backlit displays that are mercury-free and made with arsenic-free glass. Mac notebooks contain no brominated flame retardants, are PVC-free and are constructed with recyclable materials.

New Features In Summary:

  • State-of-the-Art Intel Processors: The 15" and 17" MacBook Pro now feature quad-core Intel Core i7 processors and the 13" models make a massive jump from Core 2 Duo to dual-core Intel Core i5 and i7 processors.
  • Thunderbolt: The Next Generation of I/O: New Thunderbolt technology lets you connect high-performance peripherals and high-resolution displays to one port with data transfer rates up to 10 Gbps.
  • Game-Changing Graphics: AMD Radeon graphics on the 15" and 17" MacBook Pro are up to 3x faster than those in previous models to handle everything from games to CAD to HD video projects anywhere.
  • FaceTime Goes HD: Make fullscreen HD video calls that are astonishingly crisp. And thanks to the new widescreen format, you can get your friends in the picture, too.
  • Bundled Software: Every Mac comes with Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard as well as iPhoto, iMovie, GarageBand, iWeb, and iDVD so you can do more with your photos, movies, and music.

The new 13" MacBook Pro, 15" MacBook Pro, and 17" MacBook Pro are available now through the Apple Store, Apple's retail stores, and Apple Authorized Resellers.

Apple Applies for All-in-one MagSafe Power and Data Connector Patent

AppleInsider's Neil Hughes reports:

"Apple could add an optical signal path to future MagSafe connectors on Macs, allowing the magnetic port to send and receive data, as well as power the device." Apple proposes a fiber optic data cable, which is likely the next step for Thunderbolt.

Apple Looking at Dense Lithium Cells to Increase Battery Life

AppleInsider's Neil Hughes reports:

"Apple is investigating techniques to increase the energy capacity of rechargeable lithium battery cells without increasing the size of the battery, allowing longer battery life in future devices."

Even if Your Next Laptop Isn't a MacBook Air, It Will Probably Look Like One

The Digital Daily's John Paczkowski says that while it may not run Mac OS X or sport the Apple brand, chances are your next laptop will look a lot like the MacBook Air. Paczkowski is citing Nvidia CEO Jen-Hsun Huang, who thinks the future of laptop design looks a lot like the one Apple revealed last October, telling Cnet that laptop buyers will be challenged to find a laptop that doesn't look like the MacBook Air, which Huang personally thinks is "a good mental image" of what a clamshell laptop should - thin because you won't need any heat pipes, fan, or extra batteries to lug around.

Mr. Huang may be right. I suspect that he is. However, it's notable that last week wasn't kind to Windows PC MacBook Air lookalikes, with Dell discontinuing its slow-selling (even with deep discounts) Air-emulating Adamo, and HP likewise disposing of its forthrightly named Envy 13" laptops.

MacBook Air Design + Nvidia Processors = Future of Computing?

Motley Fool's Christian Zibreg reports that Nvidia CEO Jen-Hsun Huang, echoing a similar assertion Apple's Steve Jobs made last October, told Cnet that future laptops will emulate Apple's phenomenally successful MacBook Air design, suggesting that his company's silicon would be well-suited to powering such ultra-thin notebook designs.

Wishful thinking? Maybe, but Zibreg observes that Microsoft has indicated that Windows 8 will support both x86 and ARM's tablet/smartphone-oriented CPU architecture, enabling Windows to run on non-Intel consumer processors for the first time since Windows NT was discontinued* - an announcement that also opens the door to Nvidia's new Tegra CPUs as well, since the latter are based on ARM's processor designs, with Nvidia's custom graphics architecture integrated, outclassing competitors in terms of efficiency, performance, and power consumption.

* Windows NT was available for x86, Alpha, MIPS, PowerPC, ARM, and Itanium CPUs.

I Want a 15" MacBook Air

TechBlog's Terry White likes the size and weight of the MacBook Air but says because of the Air's performance limitations he could never use one as his primary notebook, so he's hoping that Apple will incorporate design cues cribbed from the MacBook Air in the MacBook Pro.

First on White's wish-list is dumping the optical drive, and he would also like an antiglare display of at least 13" - but he would really like the 15.4" size. He wants Core i7 performance, two USB Ports, 4 GB RAM expandable to 8 GB or more, a FireWire 800 port (or even better - USB 3.0), a Gigabit Ethernet Port, a SD Card slot, audio in/out, an iSight camera, 512 GB SSD, 802.11n WiFi, Bluetooth, and a built-in 3G data option would be nice. Also, 4-5 hours of real battery life, a fast Nvidia graphics card, and DisplayPort video out - all in a package weighing under 4 pounds.

Well, if you're gonna dream, why not dream big? However, your editor would rate the likelihood of such a machine materializing as about nil. For one thing, with that 512 GB SSD, it would probably have to cost upwards of $3,000.

Field Testing the MacBook Air for Photographers

Macworld's Derrick Story reports that theoretically the MacBook Air appears to be the answer to many a roving photographers' dreams - small enough to travel in a camera bag, yet fast enough to run major photography software. But how does it hold up in the field?

To find out, Storey traveled for six weeks by plane, cab, bus, and on foot with a 13" 2.13 GHz MacBook Air in his camera backpack.

An iPad fan, he also compares the iPad to the MacBook Air as a photographer's portable work tool.

Products & Services

MacBook 480 GB SSD Upgrade

PR: MyService announces a new 512 GB (480 GB usable) Solid State Drive upgrade for the MacBook and MacBook Pro. These new drives by OWC are the largest laptop SSD drives available. MyService has these drives and the complete line of OWC Mercury Pro SSD drives ranging from 120 GB to 480 GB in stock.

Made from flash memory chips similar to those in digital cameras, iPods and the iPhone, Solid State Drives (also known as SSDs) have a number of advantages. With no moving parts, they are extremely reliable. Compared to mechanical hard drives they are quieter, lighter, use less power and generate less heat, all positives for any laptop.

All significant, but the real advantage is performance. Solid State Drives can read data at speeds many times faster than traditional hard drives because there are no spinning parts. Any data, stored anywhere on the drive, can be accessed at any time. Programs start up faster, videos and images load faster, and overall, the Mac will feel remarkably faster.

MyService makes the upgrade process fast and easy. No phone trees, no appointments, just awesome service. MyService takes care of all the shipping and delivers a custom laptop shipping container straight to your door. Once your Mac arrives at MyService, an Apple Certified technician will install the new drive and transfer the data over from your old drive. If your old hard drive is failing, a new operating system is installed. All drives feature a 3 year warranty.

Since MyService is an Apple Authorized Service Provider, the 480 GB SSD upgrade will not void your Apple warranty. After the service is completed, your laptop is cleaned, tested and sent back to you, along with your old drive. All services are completed within 24 hours of arrival. For more information visit or call 877-622-3473.


CoolBook MacBook Temperature Control Utility Adds Support for Core 'i'

PR: CoolBook is a tool for the MacBook and MacBook Pro computers that lets you monitor the frequency, voltage and temperature of the Core Duo / Core 2 Duo CPU.

Registered users can also change the frequency and voltage of the processor. Download CoolBook to find out more.

New in Version 2.21: Added support for the i5/i7 MacBook Pro (undervolting is not possible).

How effective is CoolBook?

In two different tests using the maximum frequency of a MacBook (1833 MHz), meaning no performance loss. In both tests different voltages between 0.9875 V and 1.2625 V were tested.

In the first test, several processor demanding tasks were repeated. The fan was locked at the max setting (6200 RPM) using the app smcFanControl.

CoolBook was then used to set the maximum frequency, and to change the voltage. When the temperature had stabilized, it was recorded. This procedure was repeated for every voltage in the diagram.

The maximum temperature using 0.9875 V was 58 C, compared to 73C using the original settings. But even the modest voltage decrease to 1.1000 V showed a substantial temperature decrease, with temperatures close to 60C.

As the MacBook gets warmer, the fan will automatically increase the rotation speed. This diagram shows the differences in RPM at the end of the Cinebench benchmark. The original driver ran more than 2000 RPM over the lowest CoolBook setting. Not showing in the diagram is the differences in temperature. At 0.9875 V the temperature reached a maximum of 63C, while the original driver reaches 72C.

System requirements:

  • Intel
  • Mac OS X 10.4 or later
  • MacBook Pro or MacBook, some support for iMac and Mac Mini

The price for the license is $10 (+25% VAT in the EU) for one unique computer.

You can download and install CoolBook before you buy the license to confirm that it works with your Mac model.

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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