The 'Book Review

Apple Tops Laptop Mag's Support Showdown Again, iPad vs. Tablet PC, XtremeKey Rugged USB Drive, and More

This Week's MacBook, PowerBook, and iBook News

Compiled by Charles Moore and edited by Dan Knight - 2010.07.16

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

Products & Services

Bargain 'Books

News & Opinion

Apple Aces Laptop Mag's Tech Support Showdown Again

Laptop magazine says your notebook is only as good as the help you receive when something goes wrong. That's a pretty broad and open-ended statement, but it's true that most consumer product after-sales tech support is painful - getting stuck in voicemail purgatory, being passed from one representative to another and having to repeat your tale of woe over and over again, and it's usually a time-burner.

Again this year, Laptop vetted out a dozen big-name notebook makers to determining a trend to getting pitched a lot of pricey support packages instead.

The best news for Apple fans is that, as is frequently the case in service and user-satisfaction surveys like this, Apple was the class of the field, scoring a full-mark "A" in every evaluation category - the only vendor to do so - and reprising its showing in the 2008 and 2009 editions of the survey.

"At this point Apple's dominance in the tech support arena is getting a little boring, but that's good news for MacBook and MacBook Pro owners," Laptop's editors observe. "Whether you're looking to make the switch or upgrade to a new machine, no other company comes close to Apple's combination of web-based help, friendly phone service, and in-store support options."

They do note that Apple only offers a skimpy 90 days of free phone support, but prise the company's support site facility that allows users to easily check coverage and warranty status based on the product's serial number, and the availability of Apple Care ($349 for a MacBook Pro), which extends full tech support and warranty coverage to three years, and the eager and friendly phone support agents they encountered.

MacBooks Dominate Best Buy's 'Elite Laptop' Category

Cnet's Brooke Crothers notes that Apple's MacBooks, more than any other portable computer brand, dominate the Best Buy priciest laptops rankings ($1,699 and up), underscoring Apple's cachet as purveyor of elite computers.

Tablet PC vs. iPad on the Road

Blogger Stephen Shantz says:

"A few weeks ago, I traveled to Singapore with my good friend Maurilio Amorim to attend a conference looking at TWR's global ministry in Asia. I traveled with my trusty Dell XT2, 64 bit Windows 7 tablet Notebook. Maurilio was sporting his new Apple 3G iPad....

"This second leg of the trip however is a 15 hour flight. My XT2 battery is going dead after 2.5 hours of activity and I have to shut down and read a magazine. Okay, I could carry a second battery, but I like to travel without checking luggage, so everything I am bringing for 7 days in Asia is with me in the cabin. I could also purchase a smaller laptop with longer battery life, but I like having a tablet for reasons I have blogged about earlier. Maurilio however lands in Hong Kong and posts the blog he's been working on during the flight. His battery power indicator shows 85% remaining. He won't even need to charge the iPad for the 3.5 hour flight down to Singapore . . . Which tool would you prefer to travel with?"

Apple's Primary MacBook Subcontractor Breaks Shipment Record in June

IDG News Service's Dan Nystedt reports that longtime (since 2008) Apple subcontractor Quanta Computer of Taiwan, which is the world's largest contract laptop computer maker, set record highs for shipments and revenue in the month of June.

Quanta also builds Sony, Dell, and Hewlett-Packard laptops, and shipped 4.8 million assorted machines in June, breaking its previous record for a single month set in April, when Quanta shipped 4.5 million notebooks.

Laptops Will Survive in a Tablet World

Creative Mac's Michael Blumreich argues that while tablet computers have been getting most of the proverbial ink lately, thanks mainly to the iPad, the reality is that laptops remain the workhorses of the portable computing world, and he predicts them to most likely weather the tablet storm.

Apple Sues 3 Companies for 'Knockoff' MagSafe Adapters

The Register's Cade Metz reports:

"Apple has sued three more outfits for allegedly infringing a Jobsian patent by selling knock-off power adapters for MacBooks and MacBook Pros."

Reviews

Mid 2010 MacBook: White Mischief?

The Register's Alistair Dabbs says, "This non-pro notebook is cute but coy and comes with almost everything a consumer will need."

Dabbs notes that while Apple says the MacBook's non-swappable built-in battery will last ten hours on a full charge in normal use, in Reg Hardware's real-world testing it managed barely more than half that - typically lasting five-and-a-half hours on a full charge, consuming an average of 23W, rising to 30W while charging the battery.

However, Dabbs couldn't resist the MacBook's charm, observing that "You can sniff at the benchmark results, frown at the 250 GB hard drive and rub your chin at the 2 GB RAM, but none of this tells you what it's really like to play with an Apple MacBook. It is a terrific notebook computer that is great to use for pleasure and everyday work, and looks lovely being slid in and out of a student's shoulder bag . . . It's expensive, but I don't care: if you want cheap, go buy a tombstone. What I do care about, however, is the limited range of I/O ports. Please, sir, I want some more."

Editor's note: We concur - see We Need More than 2 USB Ports in MacBooks. Of course, the MacBook Air is even more challenged with just one USB port. dk

Products & Services

Toshiba's Canvio for Mac Portable Hard Drives

PR: Toshiba's Canvio for Mac is now available In 1 TB, 750 GB, and 500 GB capacities.

Toshiba Canvio for Mac Portable Hard DrivesWith consumers constantly amassing more digital valuables - from photos, videos, and favorite music to important personal documents - Toshiba offers Mac users the compact, easy-to-use Canvio for Mac portable hard drive lineup, providing Mac owners 500 gigabytes (GB), 750 GB, or one terabyte (TB) of storage space, with preloaded Mac-customized backup software.

According to a February 2010 survey conducted by Impulse Research, 70% of Americans have lost some type of data on their computers. Unfortunately, the majority of consumers surveyed (89%) are aware of the importance of regularly backing up their computers to avoid losses but less than half (43%) regularly do so, leaving many computer users vulnerable to data loss that could include digital photos and movies, important financial records, or professional documents.

Recognizing that many users do not back up their data because they believe it's a complicated process, the Canvio for Mac line makes data backup simple for everyone, from novice users to the most tech-savvy consumers. The included NTI Shadow 5 for Mac software allows for fully customized backup and synchronization, including the backup of specific folders, certain file types, or even a complete system backup and recovery of everything that is saved on the Mac. Selected folders on the Canvio for Mac and the Mac computer can be merged and synchronized, while the frequency of backups can be adjusted to different periods (from weekly to continuously) for greater convenience. Complete password-protection with up to 256-bit data encryption prevents unauthorized access to data and a special Drive Space Alert monitor sends an onscreen update when storage space is running low.

Toshiba Canvio for Mac Portable Hard DriveFor advanced users, there's the ability to customize your backup routine. Options include the ability to select only the most common file types, change how often your backup takes place and change the threshold settings on the Drive Space Alert.

The Canvio for Mac's plug-and-play usability and full customization are matched by its small size and elegant, simple styling. Available in either Radiant Silver with silver accents or Infinite White with glossy white-gray accents on the top cover, both feature an anti-slip design and anti-slip side, making the Canvio for Mac an excellent companion to the full line of Mac computers. On the inside, an Internal Shock Sensor and Ramp Loading Technology keep data safe during day-to-day movement from a desk, pocket, bag, or beyond. Despite being smaller than a postcard and boasting a featherweight (six ounce) frame, the Canvio for Mac in 1 TB form can hold up to 285,000 digital photos, 263,000 digital music files, or 820 digital movies.

"Toshiba develops personal storage devices that combine the latest, high quality designs with topnotch performance and an intuitive, easy to use interface," says Manuel Camarena, product manager for consumer storage at Toshiba Storage Device Division. "Our Canvio for Mac products give Mac users a safe, convenient, and truly portable solution for backing up their digital entertainment, documents, and other content instantly."

Features:

  • Compact and anti-slip design for easy portability
  • USB-powered for easy plug-and-play operation
  • Internal shock sensor and ramp loading technology help protect your drive and data
  • Continuous backup of your home folder
  • Keeps a copy of everything saved on your computer
  • Merges and synchronizes selected folders
  • Secures your backup with a password (Data Encryption, up to 256-bit)
  • Alerts you when running low on backup capacity
  • Protects your drive (Internal Shock Sensor & Ramp Loading Technology)
  • Three-year limited warranty provides you peace of mind

The Canvio product line is available now at toshibadirect.com or through major retailers and online outlets.

Suggested retail prices by capacities are:

  • $119.99 for the 500 GB Canvio for Mac
  • $139.99 for the 750 GB Canvio for Mac
  • $189.99 for the 1 TB Canvio for Mac

Instant Savings from Toshiba Store:

  • List Price (1 TB): $189.99
    Current Instant Savings: -$50.00
    Total Price: $139.99
  • List Price: (750 GB ) $139.99
    Current Instant Savings: -$20.00
    Total Price: $119.99
  • List Price (500 GB): $119.99
    Current Instant Savings: -$20.00
    Total Price: $99.99

LaCie XtremKey Adventurous USB Flash Drive

LaCie XtremKey USB Flash DrivePR: LaCie has announced the LaCie XtremKey offering industrial-strength protection for your data. With capacities up to 64 GB and an impenetrable shell, the XtremKey is pitched as a truly rugged USB key that stands up to the elements.

LaCie, originator of the flat, award-winning key-shaped USB flash drives, shields the XtremKey's premium flash memory modules inside a 2mm metal pipe casing. Sealed with wear-resistant screw threads and a rubber O-ring, it is watertight up to 100 meters. The LaCie XtremKey is also resistant to 5-meter drops, fierce heat and bitter cold - it is claimed to hold up in any environment, no matter where you take it (+200°C / -50°).

LaCie XtremKey USB Flash DriveXtremKey is constructed with zamac, a metal alloy so strong it can withstand the pressure of a 10-ton truck. Zamak, also known as Zamac, is a family of alloys with a base metal of zinc and alloying elements of aluminium, magnesium, and copper. Zamak alloys are part of the zinc aluminium alloy family; they are distinguished from the other ZA alloys because of their constant 4% aluminium composition. The New Jersey Zinc Company developed zamak alloys in 1929, and it is sometimes referred to as pot metal or white metal. Less than three inches tall, this flash memory drive puts strength, security, and storage right on your key ring.

"The XtremKey offers extreme durability and capacity in a convenient, well-protected and fun form factor," says Alexis Kobassian, Product Manager, LaCie. "Despite the robust, industrial-strength protection we've added, it's still a LaCie key that brings ease-of-use and reliability to customers looking to keep their data secure while on the go."

Equipped with the Hi-Speed USB 2.0 interface, XtremKey offers instant compatibility, outstanding transfer speeds and cross-platform convenience to all PC and Mac users. With writing speeds up to 30 Mb/s and reading up to 40 Mb/s, you don't have to sacrifice performance for protection.

Designed by Constance Guisset exclusively for LaCie, XtremKey works to keep your data protected. The key, when placed on a desktop, even shows some playful personality with a perfectly balanced wobble effect.

The LaCie XtremKey comes in capacities from 8 GB to 64 GB and will be available in August through the LaCie Online Store, LaCie Corner, and LaCie Reseller+ starting at $49.99.

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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