The 'Book Review

WD Preps 2 TB Laptop Drive, 'Apple Shock' Reshapes Industry, Acer Ultrabook Built Too Cheap, and More

This Week's PowerBook and iBook News

Compiled by Charles Moore and edited by Dan Knight - 2011.10.14

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


Apple Updates

Tech Trends

Bargain 'Books

News & Opinion

Western Digital Preparing 2 TB 2.5" Drive

Fudzilla's Peter Scott reports that Western Digital is apparently gearing up to introduce the world's first 2.5" 2 TB drive.

The rumored new drive is set to debut in a Western Digital My Passport Studio chassis oriented toward Mac users, featuring an all-metal design and preformatted for the Mac by default. Scott notes that sadly it doesn't feature USB 3.0, but does have two FireWire 800 ports.

However, Scott observes that the real takeaway here is that 2 TB drives in 2.5" format are apparently just around the corner and could be implemented in other products soon.

Western Digital About to Launch 2 TB 2.5" Hard Drive, but Will It Fit Into MacBooks?

However, if you're Jonesing for a 2 GB internal drive for your MacBook Pro, note that riffing on the Fudzilla report, Hardmac's Lionel recalls that in July 2009 Western Digital was the first manufacturer to launch a 1 TB 2.5" hard drive featuring three platters of 333 GB each. It took nearly two years to put that same capacity on only two patters of 500 GB each in order to reduce the thickness of the disk from 12.5 mm down to 9.5 mm.

'Apple Shock' Reconstructing the IT Industry

DigiTimes Research's Joanne Chien says that Apple, with its success with the iPad and second-generation MacBook Air, started its assaults on the Wintel-related PC industry in 2010 and is gradually taking back its position in the PC market.

Notebook and tablet shipments by brand in 2011

Apple's impact, identified by Ms. Chien, senior analyst at DigiTimes Research, as "Apple Shock", and has expanded along with the global economic downturn, sending waves across the PC industry and causing a reconstruction in all areas from market scale, brand operation, and supply chain structure.

Chien's analysis identifies three major effects that Apple Shock has had on the PC market.

  • First, combined shipments of Apple's notebooks and tablet PCs have surpassed all the other brand vendors in the global mobile computing device market (notebooks plus tablet PCs) in 2011.
  • Second is Apple Shock's impact on the notebook market. The appearance of tablet PCs has quickly bitten off demand for devices that are pushed mainly for Internet surfing, while the process has also accelerated the notebook industry's transition into the early stage of the mature phase. With the additional impact from the economic downturn, global notebook shipments, for the first time, will suffer a year-over-year drop in 2011 of approximately 0.3%.
  • Third is the affect to the Wintel structure, PC brands and related supply chain. Seeing weak performance, players within these industries are working aggressively to transform in order to fight together against their common enemy, Apple, Chien noted.

Steve Jobs to Shape PC Laptop Future for Years to Come

Cnet's Brooke Crothers predicts that Steve Jobs' imprint on PC laptop design in 2012 and beyond will continue to loom large.

Crothers notes that Apple introduced the MacBook Air in January 2008, a groundbreaking design bearing most of the attributes of the PC "Ultrabook" laptops expected to flood the market in 2012.

He cites highlights of Jobs' MacBook Air presentation in January 2008:

  • "Instant-on the minute you open it up"
  • "Generous trackpad"
  • Multitouch gesture support
  • Solid-state drive
  • Under 0.8" thick
  • Aluminum chassis
  • About 3 pounds

Crothers observes that those characteristics are essentially the same specifications Intel and the PC industry are building into their much-ballyhooed Ultrabooks, which are expected to hit the market in volume in 2012.

Get the Most Out of Your MacBook's Battery

MacFixIt's Topher Kessler says that Apple's batteries should last well into five years of service, but over time you can expect a battery's capacity to diminish gradually. However, there things you can do to help maximize both the battery's longevity in addition to the available time on a given charge.


13" Early 2011 MacBook Pro 'Still Offers the Most Power and Expandability for Your Money'

512 Pixels blogger Stephen M. Hackett has posted a review of the Early 2011 13" MacBook Pro, noting that in 2009, when he was managing an Apple Authorized Service Provider, he picked up a 13" MacBook Pro as a work machine and closed his review of it with this comment:

"Over the years, I've used a Clamshell iBook G3, a PowerBook Pismo G3, a Titanium PowerBook, both a 12- and 15-inch aluminum PowerBook, two pre-unibody MacBook Pros and a black MacBook.

"I'm confident in saying this machine smokes them all and is finally a decent replacement for the 12-inch PowerBook. Simply put, Apple is shipping the best notebooks they've ever built, and you're not going to find a better machine out there for $1,199."

However, with the MacBook Air having transitioned from an overpriced, underpowered notebook to the crown jewel of Apple's notebook line, Hackett notes that the 13" MacBook Pro's future is in question. Nevertheless, he says he recently upgraded his work machine from a Core 2 Duo 15" MacBook Pro to the new i7 13" MacBook Pro.

His overview take is that this little MacBook Pro is insanely fast, feeling as quick as a MacBook Air, just with lots of ports and a SuperDrive, but all that power comes with a drawback - to wit: under load, this MacBook Pro runs loud and hot, but it still offers the most power and expandability for your money that you can get in any compact Apple notebook.

Apple Updates

MacBook Pro: About Automatic Graphics Switching and OpenGL Applications

A new Apple Knowledge Base article says:

You may notice your battery life seems decreased while certain applications are running, even when you have enabled the "Automatic graphics switching" option in the Energy Saver preferences.

Products Affected: MacBook Pro (17-inch, Early 2011), MacBook Pro (15-inch, Early 2011), MacBook Pro (17-inch, Mid 2010), MacBook Pro (15-inch, Mid 2010)


On Mac computers that support automatic graphics switching between two graphics processors, some software using OpenGL technology may engage the discrete, higher performance graphics automatically. For best battery performance, consider closing OpenGL-based applications when you finish using them.

Examples of OpenGL applications include Google Chrome version 13 and Firefox web browsers version 4.x-6.0, Graban application used for capturing screenshots, and some iLife and iWork applications, such as iPhoto, iMovie, and Keynote.

Utilities with the ability to force the use of either the integrated or discrete graphics may not always allow for better battery life and are not recommend by Apple.

Tech Trends

Acer S3 Ultrabook Cracks $1000 Barrier

IDG News Agam Shah reports that Acer has shipped its Aspire S3 Ultrabook starting at $899, becoming the first Ultrabook to crack the $1,000 price barrier in Intel's new category of thin and light laptops, and undercutting the cheapest 11.6" MacBook Air by $100.

The Acer Aspire S3 ultrabook has the customary 13.3" screen, is 0.51" (1.30 cm) thick, weighs 2.98 pounds (1.35 kg), has an Intel Core i5 processor, a 20 GB solid-state drive, and a 320 GB hard drive.

One reason Acer has been able to beat the base MacBook Air price is by having its primary storage in hard drive media, with the little 20 GB SSD acting more as an auxiliary cache, although variants with SSD for primary storage are projected for future release according to an Acer spokeswoman.

Acer Aspire S3 Ultrabook 'Cuts Too Many Corners'

Laptop Mag's Michael A. Prospero reports that The Acer's new Aspire S3 Ultrabook costs a lot less than the 13" MacBook Air but cuts too many corners to make it worthwhile.

The 13" Ultrabook channels the MacBook Air's aesthetic with a brushed aluminum lid, 3 pound weight, and half-inch thick chassis, and, at $899, it's $100 to $300 less expensive than the Air, but are the tradeoffs worth it?

Prospero observes that Acer had to make sacrifices to keep its price low - no unibody designs here with the computer's the underside and deck made of a silver-colored plastic masquerading as a unibody design even though it is not, and there's no SSD either.

He says that heat dissipation is efficient and the S3's island-style (most people call it chiclet style - ed) keyboard isn't the worst he's ever used, but it was a bit stiff with a tendency to misfire, as did the "mushy" trackpad. The S3's low-quality 13.3" 1366 x 768-pixel display was particularly underwhelming, and battery life was miserable.

Intel Wants to Put 'Retina' Displays in Ultrabooks

Hardmac's Lionel notes that Intel is trying to impose Ultrabooks as a new industry standard, and reports that the chipmaker is apparently thinking about specifying "Retina" displays for Ultrabooks, ergo: displays with such a high resolution that human eyes can't see the pixels a la the iPhone's display.

Lionel says Intel is hoping to have 13" displays with the same 2560 x 1440 pixel resolution as the current 27" iMac. However, there are several problems that will have to be solved before such displays can be marketed - not least being the challenges of mass producing screens displaying 3.5 million pixels at a reasonable price while keeping their power demand within reasonable parameters.

Editor's note: It seems that Intel can't quite make up its mind. It wants Ultrabooks to have at least five hours of battery life, use SSDs instead of hard drives, use Intel CULV processors, and sell for under $1,000. Of eight Ultrabooks listed in the Wikipedia article, a 13.3" 1366 x 768 display, 128 GB SSD, and 1.6-1.7 GHz Core i5 processor are typical features - and that's already $100 to $300 over Intel's target price. Adding the cost of a 2560 x 1440 display is going to make it even harder to hit the $1,000 price point. (Besides which, if such high resolution displays do become affordable, you can pretty much bet on Apple monopolizing the market, as it's already done with SSDs and aluminum unibody construction.) dk

Retina Quality 13.3" 2560 x 1600 Panels Speculated for Ivy Bridge Ultrabooks

VR-Zone's Nebojsa Novakovic reports that with 2560 x 1400 "retina" displays expected on Ivy Bridge Ultrabooks next year, even the rumored 2048 x 1536 iPad 3 may not maintain the portable hi-res lead for long.

Novakovic notes that during the past month's Intel Developer Forum (IDF), beautiful slim Ultrabooks on the show floor had typically a 13", 1366 x 768 "HD ready" display, which would pale by comparison with a 9.7" iPad 3 2048 x 1536 display that would feature not only three times the pixel count, but also much more useful 4:3 aspect ratio.

Enter "retina quality" Ultrabooks. Novakovic says that by early next year, when Ivy Bridge Ultrabook models arrive, we can expect to see 2560 x 1440 13.3" displays just some 3 mm thick.

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.

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