The 'Book Review

MagSafe Improved, Early 2010 MacBook Pro Stalls, Reviews of New MacBook Pro Models, and More

This Week's MacBook, PowerBook, and iBook News

Compiled by Charles Moore and edited by Dan Knight - 2010.05.03

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

Reviews

Apple Updates

Products & Services

Bargain 'Books

News & Opinion

Apple Improves Design of MagSafe Power Adapter

TUAW's Michael Grothaus reports:

"Apple has quietly updated the design of 85-watt MagSafe power adapter used with the 15-inch and 17-inch MacBook Pros...."

Unexpected Delays for Custom-built MacBook Pros

AppleInsider's Neil Hughes reports:

"Users who have purchased Apple's new 15-inch MacBook Pro models with build-to-order options have been notified that their shipments are delayed."

Lenovo Has Best Notebook Keyboards and Touchpads; Apple Takes Second Place

Laptop magazine's K. T. Bradford reports the results of a reader poll on which notebook brand has the best keyboards and touchpads. Laptop readers chose the same brand the magazine did for the top spot: Lenovo (34.2%).

Apple (26.5%) was a close second amongst readers, which coincided with Laptop's scoring, while HP (17.4%) and Toshiba (8.4%) came in third and fourth place, which didn't sync. with Laptop's own rankings that gave Toshiba and Samsung 12 and 11 points out of 15 respectively.

MacBook Pro (April 2010): Frequent Stalls/Hangs Caused by Hard Drive Issue

appletoolbox.com reports:

"Several users of newly released MacBook Pro (April 2010) models reported frequent stalls/hangs, accompanied by the spinning beach ball progress indicator, under varying conditions. The problem appears to be hard drive-related, and occurs most frequently with the standard 320 GB 5400 RPM drive, but is also occurring with the 5400 500 GB and 7200 500 GB drives.

"When this problem occurs, the hard drive becomes unresponsive for up to 30 seconds."

Virtual Memory on the MacBook Pro

Mac Performance Guide notes that when your Mac gets low on real memory (RAM), virtual memory kicks in, swapping content from real memory to and from the (much slower) hard drive - a process that involves both writing (paging out) and reading (paging in).

The article observes that while few megabytes or tens of megabytes of page outs are acceptable, more than a few hundred megabytes means you're losing performance in a major way, and the strongly recommended remedy is to add more memory if possible. Failing that, you at least need a fast system drive.

Unfortunately, we're still limited to 8 GB of RAM on the 2010 MacBook Pro, as opposed to, say, the Mac Pro, which supports up to 64 GB, or the iMac, which will recognize 16 GB,. This makes having a fast-response drive like a high-RPM hard drive or a SSD even more important on these laptops.

Reviews

13" MacBook Pro (Spring 2010): 'Not a Lot of Reason to Upgrade'

Macworld's Jonathan Seff reports:

"The latest crop of MacBook Pro laptops from Apple has several new features, such as a new generation of Intel processors, improved dual graphics, and increased battery life. Most of the changes, however, are relegated to the 15- and 17-inch models. The 13" models remain the least expensive of the Pro line, but also remain the most similar to the previous generation."

New 13" MacBook Pro: 'Modest but Notable Improvements'

Cnet's Scott Stein reports:

"We have our hands on the new 13" MacBook Pro here at Cnet, and have been putting it through its benchmark paces. In the meantime, we've been eager to see what differentiates this 2010 update from the 2009 version. While we had a wish list of features we wanted to see included and were disappointed that a handful were omitted, there are some key improvements that we're glad to see [notably the new Nvidia GeForce 320M IPU and improved battery life]....

"Looks-wise . . . a few small touches can be eagle-eyed by frequent Mac users....

"Ports remain the same, but all new MacBook Pros contain a small but important upgrade to their Mini DisplayPort-out jacks - they now output HDMI audio and video....

"The large glass multitouch clickable trackpad now has 'inertial scrolling' that makes the trackpad work even more like an iPhone or iPad for flick-scrolling documents with two-finger gestures...."

15" 2010 MacBook Pro 'the Best So Far'

T3's Ian Osborne reports:

"The MacBook Pro returns with a very significant upgrade

"Apple's 15-inch MacBook Pro is the ideal notebook for Mac users who need a good balance of portability and power....

"The MacBook Pro's graphical capabilities certainly impress. In our tests, the notoriously resource-hungry Doom 3 ran at almost 100 frames per second, despite our ramping up the screen resolution and turning graphical detail to maximum....

"The new 15-inch MacBook Pro is the ideal machine for the serious notebook user and the best so far...."

New 15" i5 MacBook Pro 'a Sweet Deal'

Computerworld's Ken Mingis reports:

"It took Apple Inc. all of 10 days to remind the tech world - still in the thrall of the iPad launch on April 3 - that it hasn't taken its eye off the laptop business.

"While new iPad owners were wondering whether the Apple tablet would sound the death knell for laptops (and netbooks), Apple was putting the finishing touches on the next generation of its professional laptop line....

"In other words, the laptop is alive and well at Apple - and I say that as the owner of a new iPad, which I do think will change the way a lot of people use computers and access data and the Web."

Core i5/i7 MacBook Pros 'Could Well Be the Best Apple Notebook Computers Yet'

PB Central's Steve Hildreth & Charles W. Moore report:

"After 10 months and in the wake of all the iPad hype and hoopla, Apple introduced new MacBook Pros in April 2010. The third-generation refreshment proved to be just about what everyone expected, save for the fact that the 13 inch model retains a Core 2 Duo processor rather than one of Intel's latest 32 nanometer technology Core i3 or i5 CPUs. More discussion about that below.

"Apple wisely chose not to mess with the delightful and extremely solid aluminum unibody design, minimal change of which suits us fine, since the aluminum unibody is our favorite Apple portable since the PowerBook G3 Pismo of 10 years ago.

"It also appears that speculation as to why Apple was so slow out of the blocks in getting Core-i machines into the channels being due to the ongoing third-party dispute between Intel and Nvidia over licensing the latter to create integrated graphics processing silicon for the new Intel CPU family. Some sort of accommodation has now obviously been agreed to, since the 15 inch and 17 inch MBPs are equipped with an Intel integrated graphics chipset plus the new Nvidia GeForce 330M 48 core graphics processor unit (as opposed to the 32 core GeForce 9600M GT GPU used in 17" and high-end 15" 2nd gen. MBPs) that Apple claims can provide performance up to twice as fast as the integrated GeForce 320M graphics in the new 13" MacBook Pros, but the two larger models Core-i models use more pedestrian Intel HD integrated graphics rather than the GeForce 320M. The Intel IGU sips power, but is actually less powerful performance-wise than the Nvidia GeForce 9400m integrated graphics used in previous MacBook Pro generation, so there's real necessity for the discrete graphics processor in graphically-intense situations that the 9400M or new 320M could handle nicely...

"Other than the long wait, in general we're pleased with the way Apple has executed this upgrade, notwithstanding that the continued unavailability of Core "i" power in the 13" MacBook Pro is a bit of a disappointment as is the absence of USB 3. Steve Jobs is quoted as stating that "We chose killer graphics (for the 13" MacBook Pro) plus 10 hour battery life over a very small CPU speed increase. Users will see far more performance boost from the speedy graphics." Because of the aforementioned licensing dispute between Nvidia and Intel, Apple would have had to include a discrete graphics chip with a 13" MacBook Pro i3, and there is simply no room on that model's logic board for a graphics chip, as well as the added cost for such a configuration.

"Time will tell, but these 3rd-generation unibodies could well be the best Apple notebook computers yet, and we rate this a very successful refreshment."

MacBook Pro Core i7 SATA Performance Is Top Notch

Lloyd Chambers says:

"Just added to my review of the new Apple MacBook Pro Core i7 is a new page showing that the new model eliminates the impaired SATA performance of the 2009 model, along with results for single drives, and RAID mirror and RAID striping.

"This kind of performance was formerly the province of the Mac Pro, but with an MPG Pro Laptop, you can now get Mac Pro drive performance with solid state drives. Wow!"

15" 2010 MacBook Pro: Battery Life Tests, Hi-Res Display Evaluated

AnandTech's Anand Lal Shimpi & Brian Klug report:

"Apple has somehow found a way to make something as small as just another processor refresh exciting."

"The previous generation unibody MacBook Pro posted some incredible battery life numbers. And two weeks ago Apple paired it with Intel's Core i5 and i7 mobile CPUs, delivering the sort of desktop-like performance we've been waiting for.

"...in response to many of your requests, we've got more battery life results and a full evaluation of the 15-inch MacBook Pro's display quality. Apple is often the go-to manufacturer for creative professionals, we put our colorimeter on the MacBook Pro to find out if they're making the right choice....

"You're going to think something is wrong with me, but I actually prefer the glossy display of the MacBook Pro to the optional matte display. I rarely use my machine outdoors and the glossy display just looks nicer to me. The picture just looks punchier and more contrasty . . . The matte option really only makes sense if you plan on using it a lot outdoors in overwhelmingly sunny conditions."

Early 2010 MacBook Pros Provide a Nice Jump in Performance

AppleInsider's Daniel Eran Dilger reports that Apple's revised 13", 15", and 17" MacBook Pros with their Nvidia GeForce 320M/330M dedicated graphics performance and CPU options that include Intel's new Arrandale Core i5 and i7 gain a stronger edge in both processing and graphics performance over the entry level white MacBook and compact MacBook Air.

However, on the Core "i" models Apple is stuck with using Intel's built-in HD plus dedicated graphics in tandem with an Nvidia GeForce discrete graphics processor, and to "make lemonade of this Intel lemon of a situation, Apple has developed automatic switching technology that allows the higher end MacBook Pros to coast along using the integrated Intel HD Graphics GPU, and then switch to using the dedicated new Nvidia GT 330M with its own graphics RAM whenever advanced graphics are needed."

Spring 2010 15" MacBook Pro: 2.4 GHz Model the Best Deal

Macworld's James Galbraith reports that while Apple's new 15-inch MacBook Pro lineup may look identical to its predecessor, under the hood, changes to both the CPU and GPU combine to make an impressive leap in performance over the June 2009 systems these new models replace, and concluding that "the new 15-inch MacBook Pros leave little to complain about."

MacBook Pros (April 2010): Poor Battery Life

AppleToolbox reports that some users of the April 2010 MacBook Pros are reporting poor-to-mediocre battery life from the notebooks, finding real world battery life to be half or less of that claimed by Apple, presumably caused by constant engagement of the discrete Nvidia GeForce GT 330M graphics card, even during usage of seemingly less-intense graphics applications. The discrete graphics processor kicks in automatically even under light loads that could be handled by the Core "i" chips' integrated Intel HD graphics when certain applications are running.

Workarounds are suggested.

15" Core i7 MacBook Pro 'Has All the Right Things'

MacGroup.org's Terry White reports that the MacBook Pro he uses for work recently got upgraded to a MacBook Pro 15" Core i7 with 8 GB RAM, 15.4" Antiglare LED Display, 2.66 GHz Intel Core i7 processor, and 500 GB 7200 RPM drive

White notes that one of first things that caught him by surprise was that Apple changed the default resolution of the 15.4" display to 1680 x 1050 from the former 1440 x 900, and appreciates having more screen real estate visible without scrolling, but noting that if you have a hard time reading/seeing small things on screen this may not be an entirely welcome innovation.

Another pleasant surprise is the new machine's quietness compared with his former MacBook Pro that seemed to always be running the fan, and this one's fan much much quieter than the last one.

Long Term Impression of Apple's MacBook Air

ComputerGlory says that the MacBook Air is possibly the sexiest laptop in the world, even now, years after its launch, noting that nothing looks quite like it, with the beautiful unibody (actually the first unibody laptop from Apple) aluminum construction and sculpted shape.

The article acknowledges that much has been criticized about the MacBook Air, but while the reviewer has his own criticisms, he doesn't agree with most of the MacBook Air negativity, noting that the Air is targeted at a certain type of individual well-heeled enough to not require one device to do it all, although he agrees that the Air is most certainly not worth the retail prices that Apple charges. He bought his refurbished from Apple for about half the price of a new one, but with the same warranty as new, and in essentially brand new condition with only 3 cycles on the battery.

Praised are the screen (same size as the standard MacBook, but of much better quality); the full-size, backlit keyboard; the very large and very functional trackpad; the weight and ease of carrying it; and the including of a dual-core CPU, 2 GB of RAM, Bluetooth, and WiFi 802.11n

On the downside are the serious shortcoming of non-upgradeable RAM - 2 GB just doesn't cut it these days, and without a built-in optical drive, you're dragooned into buying Apple's $100 peripheral SuperDrive. Then there's the mediocre speaker and the standard PATA 80 GB hard drive that spins at a leisurely 4200 rpm.

Apple Updates

Control Brightness on New 13" MacBook Pro While Connected to an External Display

A new Apple Knowledge Base article says:

"Learn where to find the brightness controls for the external and internal displays when your computer is connected to an external display and using Windows with Boot Camp.

"Open Boot Camp or Boot Camp Control Panel to control the brightness on an LED Cinema Display (24", Late 2008) while you're running Windows 7, Windows Vista, or Windows XP. Open Boot Camp with the Boot Camp System Tray item or choose Start > Control Panel > Boot Camp Control Panel in Windows XP or Start > Control Panel > System and Security > Boot Camp in Windows 7 and Windows Vista. Select the Brightness tab to see the slider control, as in the image below.

"Use F1 to lower the brightness and F2 to increase the brightness of the internal display while a Cinema Display is a attached.

"To control the brightness of the internal display with a slider control while a Cinema Display is a attached, choose Start > Control Panel > System and Security > Power Saver with Windows 7 or Vista,. The brightness control should be on the left."

Products & Services

NewerTech Mini DisplayPort with Digital Audio to HDMI

PR: 'All In one' adapter combines Digital Surround Sound & HD video signals - $59.95 MSRP adapter combines full 1080p HD mini DisplayPort video output with 5.1 channel digital audio output from Mac computers into a single HDMI connection for use with TVs and other HD displays.

NewerTech Mini DisplayPort with Digital Audio to HDMINewer Technology, Inc. (NewerTech) announced its new $59.95 MSRP NewerTech Mini DisplayPort with Digital Audio to HDMI Adapter integrates the video and digital audio output of Macs without Mini DisplayPort audio support into a single HD 1080p video and full digital audio 5.1 output to HDMI solution.

Overcomes Non Audio Support of Mini DisplayPort on 2008 & 2009 Macs

Featuring a dedicated TOSLINK audio cable that provides the audio signal from a Mac's headphone jack (or mini jack), the NewerTech Mini DisplayPort with Digital Audio to HDMI Adapter overcomes the non audio support of 2008-2009 Mini DisplayPort equipped Macs. By providing support for full 5.1 channel digital audio (such as Dolby Digital) along with high definition video up to 1080p, the NewerTech Mini DisplayPort with Digital Audio to HDMI Adapter is ideal for using a Mac as part of home theater setup. Since it's bus powered (no AC adapter needed) it's Plug and Play easy to use and move among different systems.

"With the introduction of this latest Mini DisplayPort to HDMI adapter cable, NewerTech now truly offers Mac users a complete display connection solution line," said Grant Dahlke, Brand Manager, NewerTech. "By expanding our line of highest quality adapters, we provide Mac notebook and desktop users from 2006 to the present the ability to expand their display options."

The NewerTech Mini DisplayPort with Digital Audio to HDMI Adapter is available immediately for $59.95 MSRP from NewerTech's exclusive distributor, Other World Computing (OWC®), as well as through the retail channel.

Single Cable HDMI Adapter Solution for New Macs

Owners of the new 2010 MacBook Pro computers as well as in Late 2009 iMac models which feature the latest DisplayPort 1.2 specification which supports audio output can add the $24.99 MSRP Mini DisplayPort to HDMI Adapter and output both high definition video up to 1080p and surround sound digital audio to HDMI interface equipped High Definition televisions with a one cable adapter solution. Like all NewerTech video adapters, the Mini DisplayPort to HDMI Adapter uses superior shielding and thicker gauge cabling for the highest quality, interference free display output.

Complete Line Of Adapters for Any Display Need

NewerTech offers Mac users six additional display adapters for connecting their Mac to a projector; extending their display onto a second monitor; or viewing movies, network broadcasts, and playing games on a larger screen display:

  • Mini DisplayPort To DVI Adapter $24.99
  • Mini DisplayPort To VGA Adapter $29.99
  • Mini DVI To HDMI Adapter $17.99
  • Mini DVI To DVI Adapter $14.99
  • Mini DVI To VGA Adapter $14.99
  • USB Video Display Adapter $95.99

CinemaView 24" LCD for Mini DisplayPort Now Shipping

PR: CinemaView, Inc. has announced that its new 24" LCD display for Mini DisplayPort Macs is now shipping. The new CinemaView 24 works with any Mini DisplayPort equipped Mac and provide a full HD 1920x1080 work space that connects natively, without adapters. Priced at $399.99, it's a full $500.00 less than Apple's $899.00 24" display.

CinemaView 24" LCD for Mini DisplayPortSince Apple transitioned its entire Mac product line to the new Mini DisplayPort jack for connecting external displays no manufacturer has offered plug-compatible display products. Also, no display maker has adopted Apple's current industrial design theme of Aluminum, black, and glass in products aesthetically matched to current Macs.

The new CinemaView display is 24"es diagonal at 1920x1080 pixels, manufactured to a high quality standard, and includes a 4-port powered USB 2.0 hub and an all-in-one cable that provides Mini DisplayPort, USB 2.0, and DC power. Its UniFrame Aluminum construction precisely matches the design of current Apple computers. The company says its entire approach taken in designing the product has been aimed to precisely please the most ardent Mac fans.

At last there's an affordable native Mini DisplayPort LCD display for the over 18 million Macs shipped with Mini DisplayPort connectors.

The CinemaView 24 can be ordered today for $399.99, including ground shipping to USA and Canada destinations.

CinemaView markets its products globally through a select group of regional master distributors. These companies are among the finest computer and consumer electronics sales and support organizations in the world, and each is the sole, exclusive agent for the CinemaView brand in their territory. d

CinemaView, Inc. is a USA based company specializing in multimedia electronics products, headquartered in Tennessee, with operations in the USA, UK, Taiwan, and China.

Dual Display Extender for Mini DisplayPort Macs Now Shipping

PR: CinemaView, Inc. announces that its new Duo dual display extender for Mini DisplayPort Macs is now shipping. The Duo works with either two 24" Apple LED Cinema Displays, creating a total 3840x1200 pixel display space, or with two CinemaView 24 LCD displays, creating a total 3840x1080 pixel display space.

Until this product there has been no native Mini DisplayPort product that enables the use of dual displays with Apple computers manufactured since November, 2008. Until now some arrangement of plug adapters has been required to make these Macs work with dual displays. The CinemaView Duo has one male Mini DisplayPort plug that connects to a Mac, and provides two female Mini DisplayPort ports into which two identical Mini DisplayPort equipped monitors can be connected. The Duo analyzes the individual screen resolution of each connected display, adds the two together, and sends a composite - extended - resolution signal to the Mac - up to 3840x1200 pixels.

Finally, there is a native Mini DisplayPort dual display solution for the over 18 million Macs shipped with Mini DisplayPort connectors. The CinemaView Duo can be ordered today for =24149, including ground shipping to USA and Canada destinations.

CinemaView markets its products globally through a select group of regional master distributors. These companies are among the finest computer and consumer electronics sales and support organizations in the world, and each is the sole, exclusive agent for the CinemaView brand in their territory.

SurfacePad Colors Custom Covers for MacBook

SurfacePadPR: Remember the amazing original iMacs in five different colors and the original brightly-colored clamshell iBooks? Notice the rainbow of colors iPods come in? Now you can bring a burst of color to your plain white MacBook or 13" MacBook Pro with SurfacePad Colors Custom Covers offered By TwelveSouth for both models.

Available in Cyan Blue, Orange Crush, Perfect Pink and Infinite Grey, these super thin layers of soft leather let you both personalize and protect your MacBook. Each is tailored to seamlessly cover the keyboard deck and wrist rest area, making it more comfortable to use while providing a hit of color to make your MacBook fit your taste and style.

The Perfect Shade Of Protection

SurfacePadMade from high quality leather, SurfacePad Colors covers protect and preserve the surface around your keyboard and wrist wrest area from dirt, oils from your skin and scratches from jewelry. This protection comes without extra bulk, letting you keep your Mac in mint condition and kiss those annoying stains your wrists leave behind good-bye.

A MacBook To Match Your Personality

SurfacePad Colors make it super easy for you and your MacBook stand out of the crowd in the classroom, coffee shop or conference room. With its burst of Perfect Pink, Orange Crush, Cyan Blue or Infinite Grey (for the hard-core Apple fan), SurfacePad is tailored to seamlessly cover the keyboard deck so you get to enjoy the new splash of color while you work. You may even be able to choose a SurfacePad Color to match your existing colored shell or protective sleeve cover.

You'll Never Know It Was There

SurfacePadSurfacePad Colors attach to your MacBook with a light adhesive that allows repositioning and even temporary removal if necessary. Not a drop of glue or sticky residue will be left behind. Simply peel up the colored leather pad and you will find nothing but the like-new surface of your MacBook. This keeps your machine in top condition for Craigslist or eBay when it's time to upgrade.

Give Your Wrists A Cozy Perch

When you want to make a desk more comfortable you add a soft leather desk pad, and that's exactly what SurfacePad Colors adds to your MacBook. Your wrists will feel better resting and working on a super soft padded leather surface. SurfacePad makes hours on the keyboard more enjoyable and comfortable, and when worktime is over, SurfacePad won't get in the way of your MacBook closing and going into Sleep Mode as usual.

Key Features:

  • Protects against stains and scratches
  • Lets you personalize your MacBook
  • MacBook operates and closes as normal
  • Adhesive keeps SurfacePad in place, then leaves nothing behind when removed

Available Colors:

  • Cyan Blue - (matches current iPod nano blue)
  • Perfect Pink - (matches pink Incase neoprene sleeves)
  • Infinite Grey (matches grey of MacBook base)
  • Orange Crush (Clemson/UT/Syracuse orange)

Compatibility:

  • 13" White MacBook (unibody)
  • 13" MacBook Pro (unibody)
  • 13" MacBook (2008 unibody)

$29.99 - Free Shipping for a limited time

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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