The 'Book Review

Upgrade MacBook with SSD and Hard Drive, 15" MacBook Air Ultrabook Slayer Coming?, and More

This Week's PowerBook and iBook News

Compiled by Charles Moore and edited by Dan Knight - 2011.12.02

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

Rumor Roundup


Tech Trends

Bargain 'Books

News & Opinion

Upgrade Your MacBook with SSD and Hard Drive

AppStorm's Adam Williams notes that SSDs (Solid State Drives) are a popular upgrade for performance hotrodding even an older Mac laptops, but unfortunately they are also still prohibitively expensive for users who want to keep large quantities of data on an internal drive.

Williams has posted guide to help walk you through installing an SSD in the hard drive bay and the putting a hard drive in the SuperDrive bay. (He recommends this setup because some users have note problems waking from sleep when booted from a drive in the SuperDrive bay.)

Some 2010 MacBook Pro Systems Still Freezing After Video Update

MacFixIt's Topher Kessler notes that when Apple released OS X Lion, some Mid 2010 MacBook Pro users noticed that their systems began hanging or crashing after performing seemingly random tasks that involved graphics manipulation or when waking from sleep. When this happened, the systems would show a black screen and be unresponsive until the user forced it to reboot.

After acknowledging that there is indeed an issue with these machines in a knowledge-base article, Apple released a couple of software fixes for both OS X 10.7 Lion and 10.6 Snow Leopard, which installed updated video drivers and OpenCL framework components. Kessler reports that for many affected MBP users, these updates successfully addressed the problem - but unfortunately for others the updates did not completely resolve this issue.

Rumor Roundup

Apple to Launch 15" MacBook Air Ultrabook Slayer in Early 2012

DigiTimes' Aaron Lee and Joseph Tsai report that according to sources from the upstream supply chain, Apple is fixing to launch a new MacBook Air series of notebooks with screen sizes of 11.6", 13.3", and an unprecedented 15" Air in the first quarter of 2012 to better directly compete against Intel Ultrabooks from various PC brand vendors.

Lee and Tsai's sources say that related upstream players have already started pilot production of the MacBook Air models and will add a 15" model into the product line to expand Apple's reach in the ultra-thin notebook market.

Commenting on Apple's move, unnamed sources in the retail channels told DigiTimes that Apple will begin dropping the price of its existing MacBook Airs before launching its series, and the promotion could further boost Apple's share in the global notebook market.

The reporters note that for the year-end holidays, several channel retailers in the US and Europe have dropped their MacBook Air prices to attract consumers, but suggest that ultrabooks with Windows and document processing software will remain a more attractive choice for the enterprise market.

15" MacBook Air 'Makes Sense'

Computerworld's Gregg Keizer reports that analysts are saying that a larger MacBook Air makes sense given fresh competition in the ultrathin notebook category from Intel Ultrabooks being rolled out by several PC vendors, with HP set to launch its first ultrabook, the HP Folio, on Dec. 7 - a 13.3" machine with prices starting at $900, or $99 under Apple's cheapest 11.6" MacBook Air.

Keizer speculates that the MacBook Air will presumably include Intel's newest Ivy Bridge family CPUs, which are projected to double battery life compared to the current Core chips that power the Air line, combine the CPU with the graphics processor, and provide a performance boost as well.

The report also observes that Apple is well-placed to shift sales to notebooks with solid-state drives (SSD) in the face of a severe hard disk drive shortage caused by floods inundating key hard drive component suppliers in Thailand, thanks to Cupertino's contractual locks on flash memory supplies of the flash memory used in SSDs.

Analyst expert opinion cited affirms that a 15" MacBook Air is a virtual certainty, but that Apple is not expected to dump its upmarket MacBook Pro line, which comes in 13", 15", and 17" screen configurations and incorporates optical drives and more extensive connectivity compared with the MacBook Airs.


13" Core i5 MacBook Pro 'the Best Bloody Entry-Level Notebook Computer in the World'

The Register's Alistair Dabbs says that with the current model we have a gently upgraded version of the 13" MacBook Pro that received its last major update in February - the entry-level model equipped with an Intel Core i5-2430M processor that's just 0.1 GHz faster at 2.4 GHz and the machine fitted with a 500 GB hard drive to replace the previous 320 GB unit.

Dabbs observes that design-wise everything is plain and coolly understated, from the overall flatness of the closed computer to the consistent black-and-aluminium styling of the screen and keyboard.

On the other hand, he was was disappointed by the meagre two USB ports, neither of which support USB 3.0, but happy for the chance to try out the MacBook Pro's Thunderbolt port with Apple's 27" Thunderbolt Display, which he says was was impressive, to say the least. " was impressive how well an entry-level 13in MacBook Pro could drive its own 1280 x 800-pixel display plus another at 2560 x 1440 pixels from its diminutive Intel HD Graphics 3000 chipset, without a hint of slowdown."

Tech Trends

Intel Plans Docking Solution with Thunderbolt for Next Year's Ultrabooks

VR-Zone's LG Nilsson reports that according to information the site has received, Intel has big plans for Ultrabooks, with the first major step forward from the fairly unimpressive machines we've seen so far is the addition of support for docking stations.

proposed Thunderbolt docking connectorNilsson says, "this being Intel doing things the Intel way the company will rely on its Thunderbolt technology as well as an additional dock connector, at least if the company can sell its plans to the notebook manufacturers." He is skeptical about Intel's dock plans as well, saying that from what he's seen, the rather large dock connector plus a mini DisplayPort connector side-by-side doesn't seem especially user-friendly, and that Intel's evident plan to run several different interfaces down the same cable, "looks like a serious design problem waiting to happen."

Publisher's note: These seem to be exactly the kind of issues cabling Thunderbolt was designed to avoid. dk

Toshiba Ultrabooks with Ports Galore Coming Next Week

V3's Daniel Robinson reports that Toshiba is preparing to ship its first ultrabook models - the Satellite Z830 for consumers and the Portégé Z830 for business users - both featuring claimed full-day battery life despite the slimline silhouette of their magnesium alloy cases, and are powered by Intel's newest Core i3 and Core i5 processors SSD in lieu of a hard disk drive, and have 13.3" 1366 x 768 displays (the same resolution as the current 11.6" MacBook Air).

Robinson cites Toshiba senior product manager Tony Alderson claiming that Toshiba's past experience of building thin and light laptops means it can deliver a better experience than its Ultrabook rivals, with the two new models featuring better connectivity and a better battery life than any model of the same thickness. The report notes that both the Satellite Z830 and Portégé Z830 weigh less than 1.2kg and are just 8.3mm thick at the front of the system, broadening to 15.9mm at the rear, but Toshiba's engineers have managed to pack in a full-size Ethernet port, a USB 3.0 port, two USB 2.0 ports, HDMI and VGA outputs, an SD Card reader slot, and audio jacks.

Next Wave of Ultrabook Launches Expected in January

DigiTimes' Aaron Lee and Joseph Tsai report that PC notebook brand vendors that have not yet released ultrabooks plan to do so soon, such as Hewlett-Packard (HP), Samsung, and Dell, as well as players like Acer, Asustek Computer, Lenovo, and Toshiba that have already launched their ultrabooks. Lee and Tsai say everyone is eying CES 2012 (Jan. 10-13, 2012) as the perfect stage to showcase their devices with the total number of ultrabook models that will appear at the show anticipated to reach as many as 30 to 50, according to sources from upstream supply chain who also note that due to the IT market lacking new machines or topics that can draw consumer's attention in the second half of 2011, ultrabooks are currently the hoped-for vehicle for boosting consumer demand.

The reporters also observe that since the traditional hard drive supply is facing shortages due to the floods in Thailand, some vendors are hoping ultrabooks, which mostly are adopting solid state drives (SSD) for storage, will help attract consumers and reduce the negative impact on balance sheets from the hard drive shortage, which has nearly tripled drive prices, since ultrabooks have good gross margins.

DigiTimes' market watchers expect Ultrabooks to account for 20-30% of total notebook shipments in 2012, with Acer president Jim Wong expecting the segment to account for 25-30% and Intel boosterishly predicting 40%.

Samsung to Exit the Netbook Market

The Register's Tony Smith reports that netbooks are history as far as Samsung is concerned, with the company planning to phase them out next year in favour of 11.6" laptops and Ultrabooks, according to a report in French-language site

An email claimed to have been sent by Samsung to its retail partners is cited reading: "Following the introduction of our new strategy in 2012, we [will] stop the product range in 10.1in (netbook) in Q1 2012 for the benefit of ultraportable products (11.6 and 12 inches) and Ultrabooks to be launched in 2012."

Smith observes that if this is accurate, Samsung's decision will deal a further blow to Intel's attempt to establish its netbook-oriented Atom processor as chip-of-choice for low-cost, high-portability PCs.

Publisher's note: Samsung's website only lists two netbook models, both 10" machines, so it's not like Samsung has been a major player in the shrinking netbook market.... dk

Netbooks May Disappear

Hardmac's Lionel notes that in 2008, Asus launched the Eee PC, a small, cheap, 7" laptop, and for a few months, this computer and its very many variations had an enormous success as a second or third machine.

However, he observes that netbooks, as they came to be known, have been hit hard since the arrival of the tablets, which can serve a similar role, but with a top-of-the-range product design while the netbooks often seem like a child's toy.

Consequently, Lionel is not surprised to learn that Samsung has announced that it will discontinue marketing its netbook product range in the next months, noting that for now, tablets will continue to dominate the market for portable computers with screen sizes up to 10". Beyond that, the winners will be ultrathin notebooks between 11" and 13" - and above that more traditional laptops, or even non-traditional ones with Apple reportedly poised to release a 15" MacBook Air "ultraportable".

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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