The 'Book Review

Unibody MacBook Makes Old MacBook Pro Look Old, MacBook Cracks, OptiBay for Unibodies, and More

This Week's MacBook, PowerBook, and iBook News

Compiled by Charles Moore and edited by Dan Knight - 2009.02.27

All prices are in US dollars unless otherwise noted.

General Apple and Mac desktops is covered in The Mac News Review. iPod, iPhone, and Apple TV news is covered in The iNews Review.

News & Opinion

Tech Trends

Products

Bargain 'Books

News & Opinion

New MacBook Makes Old MacBook Pro Look Old and Tired

Wired's Charlie Sorrel reports:

"I bought a new MacBook. I couldn't help it. Three days spent in and out of the press room at the MWC in Barcelona meant three days of seeing the tiny 13" package over and over (these unibody MacBooks seem to be popular). Worse, I was seeing the svelte new carcass alongside my old-model MacBook Pro.

"It's a truism of AppleDesign that every product looks amazing until the next revision is unveiled. Then, what looked great yesterday suddenly looks old and tired. So I did it. I bought a new laptop to replace one barely eight months old.

"What follows is a comparison of the two in use, consisting of the first impressions that will quickly fade from memory....

"That 'brick' nickname for the unibody process? It fits. This thing feels like a single, solid slab of Mac . . . The old MBP feels almost flimsy in comparison....

"...the new glass multitouch pad is amazing, and takes all of a couple minutes to get used to....

"The benchmarks from around the web show that for processor-based tasks, the new aluminum MacBook is the equal of the old MBP....

"The screen though, is truly awful...."

MacBook Cases Just Keep on Cracking

Cult of Mac's Giles Turnbull reports:

"I'm only on my second MacBook upper case, and it's currently held together with a piece of duct tape.

"But that's nothing. Over at MacInTouch, reader Derek C is on his eighth, and Apple are sending him a whole new MacBook...."

MacBook Cases Still Cracking Up

Macworld's Cyrus Farivar reports:

"I really don't know what's going on with Apple's manufacturing process, and perhaps this has changed with the new unibody MacBook design, but my last two MacBooks (purchased in March 2007 and February 2008) both suffered from the problem of crack on near the right hand palm rest corner, just as Dan described back in August 2007.

"My current machine (the Feb '08 one) is just barely under warranty and I'm going to get its case replaced as soon as I return to the US in May...."

Netbooks Hardly Mean Doomsday for Apple

Seeking Alpha's Alex Salkever reports:

"The netbooks are coming and Apple should be scared. That was part of the message from Calyon Securities, which downgraded Apple shares on Feb. 24 to Underperform. The Calyon note claimed that Apple's premium PC pricing model would struggle in a tightwad spending environment and that the netbook market, in particularly, would be a tough nut to crack without cannibalizing current lower-end MacBooks...

"The particular concerns about Apple and its vulnerabilities are, to my mind, misplaced. Apple should see some diminution of sales revenues and product volumes, which is understandable in an economic slowdown of epic proportions. However, Apple has maintained the most price discipline of any company in the Consumer Electronics space . . . What has forged this discipline is the long-term commitment of pricing high and delivering a product people will pay more for.

"Regarding Apple cannibalizing its MacBook line with netbooks, I see the arrival of netbooks as a net add...."

Apple Netbook Won't Just Be a Notebook for 'Cheapskates'

InformationWeek's Mitch Wagner says:

"ZD Net's Adrian Kinglsey-Hughes writes a blog I would have agreed with 100% a few weeks ago, ridiculing the idea of Apple shipping a netbook. A netbook is a machine for the budget market, he argues. Apple makes devices for people willing to spend more to get the best, and isn't going to compromise quality to cut costs. "If I was going to go down that line I'd also want a cheap yacht, a cheap Rolex, and a cheap Ferrari," he argues.

"Like I said, I would have agreed with that blog enthusiastically a few weeks ago. But since then, I talked to Ezra Gottheil, an analyst at Technology Business Research, and he explained why an Apple netbook is inevitable...."

Apple Computer Sales Slowing, No Discounting on MacBooks Yet

The Channel Checkers reports:

"Over the past week, The Channel Checkers surveyed 15 Apple stores to track sales of iPod and Macs along with business trends at Apple stores in the US. We asked if the stores were discounting iPods in February and 73% said they were not while 27% said they were discounting some models specifically iPod Nano's. The top selling computer was said to be the Mac Book Pro according to 73% of respondents...."

How to Add RAM to Unibody MacBooks

Wired's Charlie Sorrel says:

"What's the first thing you do after buying a new computer? Apart from a good few fingers of scotch to dull the pain of your dwindling bank account? For me, the first online purchase with a new Mac is RAM, and after picking up a shiny new unabomber MacBook I made the traditional trip to Crucial.com, memory suppliers to the smart and beautiful.

"And I mean traditional. One of the 'features' of the Mac is that the memory comes in matched pairs. This means that it takes up both slots, and therefore bumping up from 2 GB to 4 GB means buying a pair of 2 GB sticks and throwing out the old ones. I have a box somewhere around here full of useless RAM. Can't use it, can't sell it. Maybe I'll make a nerd-necklace for the Lady....

"...oddly, adding more RAM is actually harder on the new MacBook than on the old white plastic one. Not much harder, but certainly a lot scarier. Read on to find out why...."

MacBook Pro Freezing When Taking Screenshots

MacFixIt says:

"MacFixIt recently posted a few tips on how to take full advantage of the built-in screen shot functions. For several MacBook Pro users, specifically owners of the newer 'unibody' models, the screenshot functions cause problems wherein the computer will freeze up for a few minutes."

17" MacBook's Big Battery: 12,820 mAh

Register Hardware's Tony Smith says:

"Apple's 17in MacBook Pro comes installed with a humungous 12,820mAh battery, a disassembly of the newly shipping system reveals.

"Mind you, since the thing weighs a hefty 6.6lbs/3kg, how often users will be relying on battery power remains to be seen. We suspect this boy is going to spend most of its life on desktops, plugged into the mains....

"The battery weighs 1.25lbs/570g - 20 per cent of the laptop's weight. Apple claims it delivers up to eight hours' runtime...."

Tech Trends

3G Netbooks: The Cell Phones of the Future?

Computerworld's Brian Nadel says:

"Sometimes it seems that netbooks are everywhere. I've spotted them at airports, coffee shops and on commuter trains. No wonder that ABI Research forecasts sales of 35 million netbooks this year, more than double the 15 million systems sold in 2008.

"What's been missing until recently, however, is the cherry on the netbook cake: the ability to get online with a built-in 3G modem. By tapping into a cell network, netbook users could get online just about anywhere the day takes them.

"That's changing quickly as netbook makers scramble to include 3G data cards in these small wonders of the notebook world....

"The beauty of incorporating a 3G modem into a netbook is the ease and convenience that it can provide. Rather than searching around for a WiFi hot spot, you have access to over 900 Kbit/sec. just about anywhere in the US...."

Nokia Considering Entering Laptop Industry

Reuters reports:

"The world's top mobile phone maker Nokia is eyeing entering the laptop business, its Chief Executive Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo said in an interview to Finnish national broadcaster YLE on Wednesday.

"'We are looking very actively also at this opportunity,' Kallasvuo said, when asked whether Nokia plans to make laptops...."

Products

MCE OptiBay Second Internal Hard Drive for Unibody MacBook, MacBook Pro

PR: The new MCE OptiBay Hard Drive was created for users who want as much hard drive space as possible inside their MacBook Pro, MacBook, or PowerBook G4 . . . period. The MCE OptiBay Hard Drive replaces your machine's internal SuperDrive with a high performance hard drive up to 500 GB . . . or get just the OptiBay Hard Drive enclosure and use your own 2.5" SATA hard drive. Now you can have unheard of capacities in laptop disk storage space for everything you need to store . . . digital video, music, photos, etc. Two bootable hard drives inside your system provide a freedom and flexibility never before experienced in a Mac laptop . . . have one disk a scratch disk and the other your system/applications disk, RAID configurations, one disk Mac and the other PC, extra photo storage for digital photographers, extra music storage for digital DJ's, and more. Plus, you have the option of including an external SuperDrive or optical drive enclosure for your removed SuperDrive or Combo drive so you'll still have CD/DVD read/write functionality anytime you want for loading system software or applications, as well as burning, playing, or ripping CDs and DVDs!

MCE OptiBay Hard DriveSince the mid-1990s, MCE has designed and engineered hard drive and SuperDrive upgrades exclusively for PowerBooks. Those PowerBooks used to have what was called an "Expansion Bay" slot giving users a tremendous amount of flexibility in how they use their machines. We created "Expansion Bay Hard Drives" for those machines, (still available today), that allow users to easily replace their expansion bay optical drives with a removable hard drive. Apple's introduction of the PowerBook G4 in 2001 and their quest for the thinnest notebook in the world eliminated the possibility for an expansion bay slot and users have been limited to a permanent, built-in optical drive ever since. Not any more.

MCE have found many users out there doing high end HD and DV editing with Final Cut Pro for whom an abundance of hard drive space is an absolute necessity... more necessary than having a built-in optical drive. For those pro users and for users who simply want more hard drive space inside their MacBook Pro or PowerBook G4 for their music, video, and photo libraries MCE created the OptiBay Hard Drive. Take your SuperDrive out and put an OptiBay Hard Drive in and give yourself up to an extra 500 GB of high performance hard drive space to use however you'd like. Combine it with up to a 500 GB internal hard drive and find out what a dream it is to have up to 1 TB of hard drive space inside your laptop.

The MCE OptiBay Hard Drive is a high performance laptop hard drive inside a specially designed, lightweight case that's been engineered to the exact same dimensions as your laptop's SuperDrive or Combo drive. We made the case so lightweight, in fact, that replacing your optical drive with an MCE OptiBay Hard Drive will actually shave up to a quarter pound off the weight of your MacBook Pro, MacBook or PowerBook G4. Besides just appearing different, laptop optical drives and hard drives have very different data connectors as well, so an adapter was developed allowing the hard drive to communicate with your MacBook Pro, MacBook, or PowerBook G4 through the optical drive connector on the motherboard. Since they already speak the same language, ATA, not one bit of speed or performance is lost in adapting the drive's connector.

You even use Apple's own Disk Utility program to easily setup and partition the OptiBay Hard Drive however you'd like: As a standard hard drive volume showing up as its own icon on your desktop, in conjunction with your internal hard drive as part of a RAID 0 (Striped) or RAID 1 (Mirrored) array, or concatenated (combined) with your internal hard drive so they appear as one large hard drive are just a few of the many possibilities.

The MCE OptiBay Hard Drive falls within the heat and power dissipation specification for the optical drive it is replacing and also has built-in power management routines which allow it to use even less power. Depending on the spindle speed of the drive, battery life between charges with an OptiBay Hard Drive installed is affected by only 10 to 15%. The Mac OS will even spin the OptiBay Hard Drive down when not in use if instructed to do so in the Energy Saver preference panel within System Preferences.

SuperDrive - External

In order to maintain the CD/DVD read/write functionality of the original internal optical drive replaced by the OptiBay Hard Drive with the MacBook Pro 17-inch and PowerBook G4, you can choose to include a Portable USB 2.0 Optical Drive Enclosure Kit into which you may install the SuperDrive or Combo drive removed from the MacBook Pro. This slim external USB 2.0 enclosure transforms your optical drive into a bootable, bus-powered SuperDrive or Combo drive just as compatible with iTunes, iDVD and Finder Burning as before. Now just plug in your external SuperDrive or Combo drive to your USB 2.0 port only when needed in order to play, burn, or rip CDs or DVDs or to load new system software or applications. You can also choose the MCE External 20x DVD±R/RW + Dual/Double Layer FireWire and USB 2.0 SuperDrive to instead have the functionality of a higher-speed CD/DVD reader/writer at your disposal in a more stationary desktop form factor. You can also choose not include any optical drive option in the event you already have an external optical drive of your own.

The MacBook and MacBook Pro 15-inch make use of a nonstandard 9.5mm internal SuperDrive. Since there are no external enclosures available for this type of SuperDrive, MCE gives you the option of a complete portable 8x DVD±R/RW + Dual/Double Layer bus-powered USB 2.0 SuperDrive, or the desktop DVD±R/RW + Dual/Double Layer FireWire/USB 2.0 SuperDrive.

You may install the MCE OptiBay yourself* or, if you prefer, you may have it professionally installed into your MacBook Pro or PowerBook G4 by MCE Technologies or one of our worldwide Authorized Upgrade Centers.

*NOTE for 12-inch PowerBook G4 Owners: MCE highly recommends that your drive be professionally installed. The installation of the MCE OptiBay Hard drive into the 12-inch PowerBook G4 involves the removal of some 40 plus screws and parts and is not for the faint of heart. Only an experienced technician should attempt this upgrade into the 12-inch PowerBook G4.

Features:

  • Capacities of 250 GB, 320 GB, and 500 GB High Performance Spindle Speeds of 5400 RPM and 7200 RPM Bootable
  • S.M.A.R.T. Status Compliant
  • Sets up easily using Apple's Disk Utility program Can be set up as a single volume, partitioned, or made part of RAID array External Enclosure for SuperDrive or Combo drive compatible with iDVD, DVD Studio Pro, iTunes, iPhoto, and Finder Burning

The MCE OptiBay Hard Drive Do-It-Yourself Upgrade is compatible with the first-generation and Unibody 17-inch and 15-inch MacBook Pro, the first-generation and Unibody 13.3" MacBook and also the 17-inch, 15-inch, and 12-inch Apple PowerBook G4. System Requirements: First-generation or Unibody MacBook Pro (15-inch or 17-inch) or MacBook (13.3") running Mac OS 10.4.x or later. PowerBook G4 (12-inch Aluminum, 15-inch Aluminum or Titanium, or 17-inch Aluminum) running Mac OS 9, Mac OS 10.2, Mac OS 10.3, Mac OS 10.4 (or later) Full Disc Burning compatibility with external CD/DVD burner requires Mac OS 10.4 or later. PowerBook G4 15-inch Titanium DVD-ROM only drive not compatible with Portable External Enclosure.

Prices start at US$190.

Speck Ships Four New 'SeeThru' Hard Shell Colors for Unibody MacBooks

PR: Speck has announced the release of its newest colors for its ever expanding line of SeeThru hard shell cases for MacBook: the new shockingly bright "hazard orange," along with purple, aqua and green. The new colors, available today for the 13" and 15" aluminum unibody MacBook and MacBook Pro, join the already available pink, red and clear offerings from Speck.

"We're very excited about 'hazard orange,' our first limited edition SeeThru color available exclusively online," said Irene Baran, CEO of Speck. "You'll never see another hard shell case like it. With 'hazard orange', school crossing guards can now use their MacBooks instead of stop signs. Construction zones will be marked with MacBooks at the beginning and end. And most importantly, Space Shuttles will have a landing marker if the landing lights go out."

Specifically designed for the new line of MacBooks, the translucent SeeThru hard shell case snugly fits the unibody aluminum notebooks for the ultimate in protection and style. The lightweight case, which conveniently and easily snaps onto your MacBook, is perfect for toting your notebook wherever you may need to go without ever worrying about bumps and scrapes. All SeeThru hard shell MacBook and MacBook Pro case colors are available today for $49.95 MSRP.

Limited edition "hazard orange" colored SeeThru for 13" MacBook and 15" MacBook Pro is available only online via Apple.com and SpeckProducts.com.

Bargain 'Books

Bargain 'Books are used unless otherwise indicated. New and refurbished units have a one-year Apple warranty and are eligible for AppleCare.

PowerBook, iBook, and MacBook profiles linked in our Portable Mac Index.

Apple Store Special Deals

Full slate of refurb Unibodies this week, save for the 17-incher.

  • refurb 1.6 GHz MacBook Air, 2 GB/80, $999
  • refurb 1.8 GHz MacBook Air, 2 GB/64 SSD, $1,299
  • 2.1 GHz MacBook White, 1 GB/120/SD, $849
  • 2.0 GHz Unibody MacBook, 2 GB/160/SD, $1,099
  • 2.4 GHz Unibody MacBook, 2 GB/250/SD, $1,399
  • 2.4 GHz Unibody MacBook, 2 GB/128 SSD/SD, $1,899
  • 15" 2.4 GHz Core 2 MacBook Pro, 2 GB/250 GB/SD, $1,699
  • 15" 2.5 GHz Core 2 MacBook Pro, 2 GB/250/SD, $1,499
  • 2.6 GHz Core 2 MacBook Pro, 2 GB/200-7200 rpm/SD, $1,799
  • refurb 17" 2.4 GHz Penryn MacBook Pro, 2 GB/160/SD, $1,849
  • refurb 17" 2.5 GHz Santa Rosa MacBook Pro, 2 GB/250/SD, $1,899

  • 2.0 GHz Core Duo MacBook, black, 80/SD, $749.99
  • 15" 2.0 GHz Core Duo MacBook Pro, 512/80/SD, $899.99
  • 15" 2.16 GHz Core Duo MacBook Pro, 1 GB/100/SD, $949

MacMall

  • 1.6 GHz MacBook Air, 2 GB/80, $1,149.99
  • 2.0 GHz Core 2 MacBook, 2GB/160/SD, $1,218.99
  • 2.4 GHz Core 2 MacBook, 2GB/250/SD, $1,509.99
  • 15" 2.4 GHz Core 2 MacBook Pro, 2 GB/160/SD, $1,449.99
  • 15" 2.4 GHz Core 2 MacBook Pro, 2 GB/200/SD, $1,499.99
  • 15" 2.4 GHz Core 2 MacBook Pro, 2 GB/250/SD, $1,799.99
  • 15" 2.53 GHz Unibody MacBook Pro, 4 GB/320//SD, $2,299

Wegener Media - G3 iBooks - 15" Titanium PowerBook - 15" Aluminum PowerBook - MacBook - 15" MacBook Pro

  • 12" iBook G3/500, 128/10/CD, $169.99
  • 12" iBook G3/600, 128/15/CD, $249.99
  • 12" iBook G3/700, 128/20/Combo, $329.99
  • 12" iBook G3/800, 256/30/Combo, $399.99
  • 12" iBook G3/900, 256/40/Combo, $489.99
  • 1.83 GHz Core Duo MacBook, white, 512/60/Combo, 60 day warranty, $594.99
  • 2.0 GHz Core Duo MacBook, white, 512/60/Combo, 60 day warranty, $659.99
  • 2.0 GHz Core Duo MacBook, black, 512/80/SD, 60 day warranty, $719.99
  • 2.0 GHz Core 2 MacBook, white, 1 GB/80/SD, 60 day warranty, $769.99
  • 2.0 GHz Core 2 MacBook, black, 1 GB/120/SD, 60 day warranty, $799.99
  • 15" Titanium PowerBook G4/1 GHz, 256/60/Combo, $699.99
  • 15" Titanium PowerBook G4/867 MHz, 256/30/Combo, $549.99
  • 15" Aluminum PowerBook G4/1.25 GHz, 256/60/Combo, $599.99
  • 15" Aluminum PowerBook G4/1.33 GHz, 256/60/Combo, $639.99
  • 15" Aluminum PowerBook G4/1.5 GHz, 1 GB/80/Combo, $679.99
  • 15" Aluminum PowerBook G4/1.67 GHz, 1 GB/80/SD, APX, $729.99
  • 15" hi-res Aluminum PowerBook G4/1.67 GHz, 512/80/SD, APX, $799.99
  • 15" 1.83 GHz MacBook Pro, 512/80/SD, 90 day warranty, $899.99
  • 15" 2.0 GHz MacBook Pro, 512/80/SD 90 day warranty, $979.99
  • 15" 2.0 GHz MacBook Pro, 512/100/SD 90 day warranty, $1,099.99
  • 15" 2.16 GHz MacBook Pro, 1 GB/100/SD, 90 day warranty, $1,179.99

ExperCom

  • 12" PowerBook G4/1 GHz, 1.25 GB/40/Combo, $499
  • 12" PowerBook G4/1.5 GHz, 512/80/SD, $549
  • 1.83 GHz MacBook, white, 2 GB/60/Combo, $649
  • 2.0 GHz MacBook, white, 2 GB/60/SD, $699
  • 2 GHz MacBook, black, 2 GB/120/SD, $799
  • 2 GHz MacBook, black, 2 GB/500/SD, $949
  • 2.0 GHz 15" MacBook Pro, 2 GB/80/SD, $799
  • 15" 2.8 GHz Core 2 MacBook Pro, 4 GB/320/SD, AppleCare, $2,999

Baucom Computers

  • 1.83 GHz MacBook, 1 GB/80/Combo, APX, $600
  • 15" hi-res PowerBook G4/1.67 GHz, 1 GB/80/SD, $715
  • 15" hi-res PowerBook G4/1.67 GHz, 1.5 GB/100/SD, $805
  • 2.0 GHz MacBook Pro, 1 GB/100/SD, APX, $969

PowerBook Guy

  • 14" iBook G4/1.33 GHz, 768/80/Combo, $579.95

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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