The 'Book Review

11.6" MacBook Air Rumors, iPad Biting into Netbook Market, Wide Variety of 2.5" Enclosures, and More

This Week's MacBook, PowerBook, and iBook News

Compiled by Charles Moore and edited by Dan Knight - 2010.07.23

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

Products & Services

Bargain 'Books

News & Opinion

Blogosphere Abuzz with 11.6" MacBook Air Rumors

DigiTimes

DigiTimes' Yen-Shyang Hwang and Joseph Tsai report (subscription required) that Apple is ready to launch a new generation MacBook Air featuring an 11.6" display and Intel Core i3 series ultra-low voltage processor (CULV) in the second half of 2010. It will be manufactured by Quanta Computer, according to Mingchi Kuo, senior analyst at DigiTimes Research.

Kuo, citing discussions with upstream component makers, noted that the 11.6" MacBook Air will feature an even slimmer and lighter design than the previous-generation models, and the technologies used for the design and concept are expected to be broadly used in the company's other product lines to boost their competitiveness, with volumes of the new 11.6" MacBook expected to reach 400,000 units in 2010.

Kuo also predicts that a new iPod touch will feature a 3-megapixel camera, capable of both photo and video recording, and be powered by the same Apple A4 processor, used in the iPhone 4.

The Register

The Register's Tony Smith comments that an 11.6" MacBook Air would tap into the trend toward smaller, more compact notebooks that aim to combine netbook portability with laptop performance, and suggests that Cupertino may have concluded that marketing three 13-inchers is at least one too many, although he observes that a downsizing of the Air will risk the appearance of essentially embracing the netbook concept, which Steve Jobs ("[Apple wouldn't] know how to make a $500 computer that's not a piece of junk, and our DNA will not let us ship that") and other senior Apple execs have recently dissed and scorned, and which is being successfully challenged by the iPad.

FastCompany

FastCompany's Kit Eaton thinks this is a plausible rumor and finds news of a redesigned MacBook Air "fascinating," noting that the Air hasn't changed externally since it was unveiled in January 2008 with its signature super-thin chassis, unibody aluminum frame, and 13.3" screen. It's received faster processors, better graphics support, and more storage capacity along the road, but it has gone untouched since the last refresh in June 2009.

CrunchGear

CrunchGear's Matt Burns thinks a new GPU is also in order, and that the redesigned Air will likely also get a higher capacity SSD, observing that thin notebooks are everywhere now and Apple will want to do all it can to one-up the competition.

ElectricPig

ElectricPig says that boiling down the MacBook Air to a more compact size will help differentiate it from Apple's other compact laptops, but it would also presumably mean seriously rearranging the keyboard and even purging more ports (although the Air already has precious few to purge!), and suggests that with the iPad offering similar portability and a 9.7" screen, a slimmed down 11.6i" MacBook Air could become an even more niche product.

PC World

PC World's Jeff Bertolucci thinks an 11.6" MacBook Air sounds an awful lot like a netbook, but that might be no bad thing, observing that the MacBook Air has always been too pricey for mainstream buyers - even after Apple lowered the base-level price from $1,800 to $1,500, rendering it "a showy business notebook best suited for status-seeking corporate execs."

Bertolucci allows that the DigiTimes rumor kindles hope for the MacBook Air, although he thinks it will almost certainly be priced in excess of $1,000, and whatever its specs, he expects it to remain a high-end business laptop designed for an upscale, niche market.

He also observes that with a downsize, keyboard, display, and processor would be key areas of concern, and that a high-resolution screen (perhaps similar to the iPhone 4's retina display) would be essential; while the i3 low-voltage CPU would hopefully resolve the heat issues that have plagued some current MacBook Air users.

Patently Apple

Patently Apple hones in on what it calls "a loaded statement" Mr. Kuo that they deduce may portend the MacBook Air gaining a "new design and concept" may mean, inferring indication of something more profound than adding new features like USB. 3.0, Light Peak, faster RAM or a new IGPU, or a form factor restyling exercise, and speculating that it could be more along the line of a hybrid portable with a basic clamshell form factor but with a detachable touchscreen display for iPad-like functionality.

Petite MacBook Air to Rival iPad?

PC World's Tony Bradley counsels business professionals on the go to weigh the pros and cons of the iPad against a smaller, lighter MacBook Air rumored to be in the works, which Bradley suggests could be the best mobile computing alternative yet, with apologies to the iPad.

Bradley notes that the current MacBook Air's sales performance has been tepid, since although it is an awesome piece of engineering, the $1,500 starting price makes the Air more of a status symbol than a mobile computing tool, especially since for $500 less users can get a standard MacBook with twice the memory, twice the hard drive capacity, double the battery life, and a faster processor. It has also been observed that you can get both a white 2.4 GHz MacBook and a base WiFi iPad for the same price as one entry-level MacBook Air.

Consequently, while Bradley thinks the new MacBook Air sounds compelling enough, how that translates to sales will ultimately depend on pricing. However, if it materializes with an 11.6" display, a form factor even smaller than the current MacBook Air, you could have a laptop rivaling the iPad in size and weight with a lot more power and versatility, noting that even the current Air, last refreshed way back in June 2009, has a dual-core processor that runs twice as fast as the iPad's A4, four times the RAM, and double the internal hard drive storage of the top of the line 64 GB iPad, plus a real physical keyboard with backlit keys, a built in webcam, and it can run Adobe Flash content on the Web, not to mention its capacity to run standard Mac OS X productivity and other software applications, and true multitasking.

The iPad does retain some advantages, including significantly longer battery life, its multitouch display, and touchscreen interface. It is priced at roughly one-half to one-third the cost of the current MacBook Air.

However, Bradley notes that if, as rumored, the new MacBook Air is powered by an Intel Core i3 ultra low voltage processor, it should may have longer battery life than the current Air, closing the gap somewhat on the iPad, and suggests that if Apple can sell it in the sub-$1,000 range (big "if"), it will be difficult to champion the iPad as a better mobile computing tool.

iPad Bites into Netbook Sales

The Register's Tony Smith reports that market research firm Gartner last week presented further evidence that early adopter enthusiasm for netbooks has peaked, with netbook shipment growth slowing significantly in Q2 2010, dropping to the low 20% range, which is down from more than 70% in Q1 2010 and Q4 2009, according to Gartner principal analyst Mikako Kitagawa, who said it indicates that the netbook market has begun to mature.

Kitagawa is also quoted observing that the initial popularity of Apple's iPad has at least temporarily cannibalized netbook sales - as well as consumer notebook sales to some degree - but is equivocal as to whether this can continue, given the higher price of the iPad (and presumably forthcoming PC and Android tablets) compared with netbooks.

It's also notable that Gartner was able to detect no indication that the iPad is eroding US Mac systems sales, but says is taking sales away from rival manufacturers, and Apple is on track to sell as many as 6 million iPads in the quarter.

Fanboy Selling His iPads; Prefers MacBook and iPhone

Academic and blogger Vivek Wadhwa says you can definitely call him an Apple fanboy, noting that he's bought practically every device that Steve Jobs has made since 1985 and currently owns an Apple TV, several iPods, a MacBook Pro, a MacBook Air, an iMac, two iPhones, and two iPads, but he's decided to post the iPads for sale to Craigslist.

Why? Because Wadhwa says they've become like the paperweights on his desk. He just doesn't use them, surprising himself, since he had personally predicted iPad would be a game-changer. He says he had expected that he would no longer need to carry around his laptop, which would be supplanted by a device that provided almost the same features as a laptop, but also the elegance and simplicity of an iPhone. He found that in reality the iPad quickly lost its magic.

Could the Droid X Replace Your Laptop?

PC World's Jeff Bertolucci notes that Motorola's powerful new Droid X device points to a future where the laptop-replacing smartphone is a reality for businesses, and is already sold out online and at various retail shops across the nation.

Droid X features a 4.3" display, 8 MP camera, HDMI output, and the ability to capture high-def (720p) video, and Bertolucci says its strong multimedia focus is resonating with consumers, but suggests that it could be a suitable laptop-replacement for business as well - at least for field workers, albeit with a few caveats.

Products & Services

Lowest Cost Ever 8 GB RAM Upgrade from OWC

PR: In case you missed the big news back in late May, NewerTech re-entered the RAM market in a big way with a huge savings splash on DDR3 4 GB modules with kits up to 16 GB.

Today, they made an even bigger splash with a cannonball move; the NewerTech NuRAM 8 GB (4 GB x 2) PC8500 DDR3 SO-DIMM Kit is now just $227.99.

To make the deal even better, customers can trade in their existing memory for up to $50 cash-back trade-in rebate reducing the final cost to as low as $177.99. Compared to the cost of Apple factory upgrading from 4 GB to 8 GB, that's a savings of over 55%.

These memory kits are compatible with select 2009 & Later Apple iMac, Mac mini, MacBook, and MacBook Pro models as well as PCs which support 8 GB (or more) memory and use PC8500 DDR3 SO-DIMM 1066 MHz 204 pin modules. See the online description for a full compatibility guide.

NewerTech NuRAM is fully Mac and PC tested/certified and comes backed by a Lifetime Replacement Warranty. Delivery is available for free on this memory set as well as any order with item(s) totally $199 or more. Freight starts from under $2 for orders under $199.

So what are you waiting for? Dive into the deep end of the performance pool and upgrade the memory in your Mac today! And with the savings over factory, you can enjoy some other summer memory deals & like a Kitchen Sink.

OWC Slim eSATA ExpressCard Adapter Adds High Speed Flush-Fitting eSATA Port to MacBook Pros

OWC Slim eSATA ExpressCard AdapterPR: Other World Computing (OWC) has announced the OWC Slim eSATA ExpressCard Adapter, a $39.99 MSRP solution for adding a high speed 3.0 Gb/s eSATA port to any Apple MacBook Pro model that offers a built-in ExpressCard slot. Featuring a flush fitting design, the OWC Slim eSATA ExpressCard Adapter fits completely inside the MacBook Pro ExpressCard slot and is AHCI compliant requiring no drivers for Apple Mac OS 10.5.x and later or other modern operating systems.

Performance Upgrade Made Plug & Play Simple

Adding performance upgrades to a computer often requires a time-consuming internal installation. The OWC Slim eSATA ExpressCard Adapter is Plug and Play easy to use & no drivers are required and the hot swappable card can be inserted at any time and sits flush with the edge of the ExpressCard slot, making it both safe and convenient to leave installed during transport. The card is compatible with MacBook Pro's running OS X 10.5.x and later, Windows, Linux, Ubuntu or other operating systems via Boot Camp or Parallels, as well as any PC notebook computer with an available ExpressCard slot.

Adds Fastest Data Interface to MacBook Pro Cost Effectively

Available immediately and at a special introductory price of $32.99, the OWC Slim eSATA ExpressCard Adapter is the highly cost-effective solution for MacBook Pro owners to connect to and take advantage of high-speed hard drive and even faster Solid State Drive (SSD) based external solutions equipped with an eSATA interface. Sustained read speeds of up to 170 MB/s and write speeds of up to 120 MB/s make the OWC's adapter one of the very fastest eSATA ExpressCard options available.

OWC Slim eSATA ExpressCard Adapter in MacBook Pro
OWC Slim eSATA ExpressCard Adapter

"MacBook Pro owners are performance-minded and now with the OWC Slim eSATA ExpressCard, they can easily add the fastest data transfer interface to their machine," comments Larry O'Connor, Founder and CEO, Other World Computing. "With its slim, lightweight, Plug and Play design, the OWC Slim eSATA ExpressCard can be left in the ExpressCard slot so a user can always be ready to take advantage of the enhanced compatibility and high speed performance eSATA offers."

High Performance eSATA Drives & Docks Available

In addition to its new Slim eSATA ExpressCard Adapter, OWC carries a full line of eSATA equipped external storage solutions up to 8 TB. The Mercury Elite-AL Pro mini bus powered portable storage solution is a natural compliment for MacBook Pro users with models up to 1.0 TB (1000 GB) from $107.99. The Voyager hard drive dock priced from $27.99 provides the speed of eSATA with the unmatched convenience of swapping and accessing bare drives at will.

Samsung Launches Its First 1 TB Spinpoint 2.5" Mobile Hard Drive

PR: Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd. has announced that it's now shipping its new Spinpoint MT2 1 Terabyte (TB) 2.5" internal mobile hard disk drive. Ideally suited for use in portable storage solutions, such as the newly released Samsung S2 Portable 1 TB USB Drives. Other applications include digital TVs, home media systems, and set-top boxes, where quiet and cool operations are important.

Samsung's 1 TB Spinpoint driveEmploying industry-leading 333 GB per-platter technology, the new Spinpoint MT2 drive offers up to an enormous 1 TB for personal digital collections such as photos, music, video and work files. Running at 5400 rpm speed, the MT2 has a 12.5mm form factor and utilizes Samsung's proprietary SilentSeek and NoiseGuard technologies to minimize noise levels during drive operation.

"The new Spinpoint MT2 drive offers the largest capacity in what has previously been offered as an option for portable digital devices," said I.C. Park, Samsung's vice president, storage marketing. "As the total storage solution provider, Samsung is committed to offering products that feature exceptional performance and value across a wide range of computing and consumer electronics markets."

The performance and reliability features of the Spinpoint MT2 have been enhanced with an optimized design and improved suspension for multidisc. The new MT2 drive delivers about 20% increased read/write performance and 4% lower power consumption compared with competitive drives, and it features shock resistance levels of 400G (2ms) in operation mode and 800G (1ms) when the power is off. Equipped with Samsung's exclusive dynamic balancing technology, the drive's overall stability and reliability is optimized as a high-performing solution.

The halogen-free drive complies with the European Union's Directive on the Restriction of the use of certain Hazardous Substances in electrical and electronic equipment (RoHS).

The Spinpoint MT2 features 5400 rpm speed rotation, SATA 3.0 Gbps interface and Native Command Queuing functions for advanced performance, an 8 MB buffer memory and is available in 750 GB and 1 TB capacity. The drive utilizes Samsung's proprietary SilentSeek and NoiseGuard technologies to minimize noise levels during drive operation.

MacBook Compatibility?

The Spinpoint NT2's 12.5mm form factor has generated some controversy as to whether it will fit in MacBook Pro computers, whose standard drive thickness is 9.5mm. However, reportedly 12.5mm drives will at least fit in 13" and 15" unibody MacBooks with removable batteries. On the other hand, an iFixit Forum editor says the 12.5mm will not fit in MacBooks unless you remove all of the mounting hardware and jam the hard drive in (not recommended), and that the only Apple laptops that take 12.5mm drives are the older 17" MacBook Pro Aluminums (not Unibody), followed by a forum poster who says: "I have just installed a 1 TB Toshiba 12.5mm drive in my new MacBook Pro 13". It fits perfectly, the MBP is clearly designed to accommodate a 12.5mm drive."

There seem to be competing schools of thought. Also see this forum on MacRumors.

Other World Computing says that the competing 1.0 TB WD Scorpio Blue 5200 RPM SATA 12.5mm will fit all Apple MacBook/MacBook Pro Unibody Models (13/15/17"), MacBook Pro pre-unibody 17", and PC Laptops that support 12.5mm SATA Drives.

9 to 5 Mac reports that Apple Authorized third-party MyService has verified that that at least some 12.5mm form factor drives will fit in Unibody MacBook Pros: "These drives are slightly higher than standard 2.5" drives but fit perfectly in all Unibody MacBook Pros, the 13" MacBook Unibody and the 17" (Silver Keyboard) MacBook Pro.

Some cause for optimism, but caveat emptor.

Keyboard Cases from Waterfield Designs for Mobile Users

PR: Waterfield Designs has announced four different keyboard case options to meet the needs of road warriors who prefer having an external keyboard even while mobile - a point of particular interest to iPadders unenchanted with the tablet's virtual keyboard.

Waterfield Designs' new keyboard cases
Waterfield Designs' new keyboard cases.

The Waterfield Designs Keyboard Cases are designed for the ultrathin Apple Wireless Keyboard and include: the Keyboard Travel Case, Keyboard Sleeve, Keyboard Slip and the Keyboard Socket. You can opt for taking your collection of input peripherals along with the Travel Case, select stylish protection with the Sleeve; make it light and tight with the Slip; get down to basics with the Socket.

Keyboard Travel Case

Master and Commander. Take your mobile office on the road wherever you go. Venturing out with your Keyboard Travel Case protects your wireless keyboard, mouse, power supply and other laptop accessories securely in its sectionalized, padded pockets. Light and compact, the case can be stored easily in another bag. To infinity and beyond.

Available in one size: 13" x 6 " x 1.8" - 7 oz.

Keyboard Travel Case: $49

Keyboard Sleeve

keyboardsleeve.jpg

Luxurious Ride. Laptop? Check. iPad? Check. Comfortable keyboard? Hmmmm. Take your wireless or wired extended keyboard along wherever you go and your wrists will thank you. The Keyboard Sleeves (Short and Long) have generous padding, snaps shut at the top and fits the ultrathin Apple Wireless Keyboard and the Apple Keyboard with Numeric Keypad perfectly. You'll be ready to hit the ground running.

Available in two sizes:

  • Keyboard Sleeve (Short): $39 - 12" x 5.75" - 6 oz.
  • Keyboard Sleeve (Long): $42 - 17.5" x 5.2" - 7 oz.

Keyboard Slip

Prerequisite Protection. Take your ultrathin Apple wireless keyboard to work, the coffee shop, or wherever you go. The Keyboard Slip Case offers gentle protection in a slim ballistic nylon case with a lightly padded liner. A piping trimmed edge let's you chose to add a splash of bold color, or to stay under the radar with subdued tones. Pack it up and off you go.

Available in six trim colors.

Keyboard Slip: $29 - 12" x 5.5" - 3 oz.

Keyboard Sockit

Primary Protection. Protect your wireless keyboard in transit on a student's budget. The Keyboard Sockit is a padded pouch for your keyboard made from soft, scratch-free material that will protect your keyboard from the other detritus of your bag. Sewn to perfection. Priced to please.

Keyboard Sockit: $15 - 12" x 5.75" - 1 oz.

Large Selection of 2.5" Drive Enclosures at NewEgg

PR: Online reseller NewEgg offers an array of external enclosures for 2.5" drives at very friendly prices. All support USB 2.0, one supports USB 3.0, one supports eSATA, and two support FireWire. Most use SATA drives, but some use IDE (parallel ATA) drives. Some examples:

USB and FireWire

USB and eSATA

  • CoolMax HD-250YL-eSATA 2.5" Yellow USB & eSATA External Enclosure
    • Internal Interface: SATA I/II
    • USB and eSATA interface and compatibility.
    • Aluminum alloy case provides maximum heat dissipation and thermal efficiency.
    • Plug and Play.
    • Smart LED status indicatory lights
    • Case and mounting mechanism provides protection for your hard drive
    • Supports USB bus-power
    • $15.99 + $2.99 shipping

USB 3.0, SATA Drive Support

  • Keydex UG-S1001BK 2.5" Black USB 3.0 External Enclosure
    • The next generation of SuperSpeed USB 3.0
    • 2.5" HDD Enclosure, with unique screw-less, tool-free structure.
    • Easy to install or replace the hard disk in 25 seconds.
    • ABS / Silicon case.
    • Dimensions: 13.7" x 8" x 1.94"
    • SATA internal interface.
    • Hard Drive Stabilizer - Innovative anti-vibration, shock-absorbing, soft silicon stabilizer embracing the hard drive, reducing accidental data loss.
    • Stackable Case Design.
    • $21.99 + $2.99 shipping

USB Only, SATA Drive Support

  • Sabrent EC-UST25 Aluminum 2.5" USB 2.0 to SATA External Enclosure
    • Internal SATA Interface
    • USB 2.0 and backward-compatible with USB 1.1
    • Ultra Light Aluminum Case
    • Easy access on PC or Notebook
    • Equipped with LED indicator for Power and Action status
    • USB Bus-power support.
    • Supports Wakeup ability
    • Supports up to 480 Mbps high-speed data transfers.
    • Supports 9.5mm drives only.
    • Hot-swappable
    • Plug and Play.
    • Supports UDMA/100
    • $9.99 + $2.99 shipping
  • Transcend TS0GSJ25S-S 2.5" Silver USB 2.0 External Enclosure
    • SATA Internal Interface.
    • Hi-Speed USB 2.0 compliant and USB 1.1 backwards compatible.
    • Easy Plug and Play installation
    • Ultra-Portability
    • Powered via the USB port.
    • No external power or battery needed.
    • LED indicates Power on and data transfer activity
    • OS Support: Windows 2000 Windows XP Windows Vista Mac OS 9.0 and up.
    • $14.99 + $2.99 shipping
  • StarTech SAT2510U2S 2.5" Silver USB 2.0 SATA Hard Drive Enclosure for SAT2510U2REM
    • This spare 2.5" removable SATA drive enclosure is designed for use with StarTech.com's 3.5" Bay Removable 2.5" SATA Drive Enclosure (SAT2510U2REM), providing additional external storage via USB 2.0, and in turn allowing multiple users to share and access files from a single desktop system.
    • Aluminum and ABS plastic.
    • SATA I/II Internal Interface
    • $29.74 + $2.99 shipping
  • Vantek NexStar TX NST-210S2-BK 2.5" USB 2.0 External Enclosure
    • Aluminum.
    • Dimensions: 5.12" x 2.87" x 0.55.
    • SATA I/II internal interface.
    • $11.99 with free shipping
  • Enermax Jazz EB207S-B 2.5" USB 2.0 External Enclosure
    • Aluminum & Steel Mesh.
    • SATA internal interface.
    • Data Transfer Rate: 480 Mb/sec max
    • Power & Access LED: Blue & Purple LED.
    • Supports Windows 98SE/ME /2000 /XP/Vista, Mac OS 8.6 or higher.
    • $21.99 + $2.99 shipping
  • CoolMax HD-250BZ-U2 2.5" Copper USB 2.0 External Enclosure
    • SATA I/II internal interface.
    • USB interface and compatibility
    • Aluminum alloy case provides maximum heat dissipation and thermal efficiency.
    • Plug and Play.
    • Smart LED status indicatory lights.
    • Supports USB bus-power.
    • $11.99 + $2.99 shipping
  • Thermaltake Silver River II ST0018Z 2.5" Black USB 2.0 External Enclosure
    • Aluminum.
    • Dimensions: 3.11" x 0.67" x 5.35".
    • SATA I/II internal interface.
    • HDD Capacity: Standard 2.5" SATA & SSD Hard Drive Disks
    • OS Compatible with Windows 7 / Vista / XP / 2003 / 2000, Mac 10.3 and later.
    • $18.49 + $2.99 shipping

USB Only, IDE Drive Support

  • Nippon Labs 2.5" IDE to USB 2.0 Black USB External Enclosure Model EN-25USB-BK
    • IDE Internal Interface
    • PC or Apple Mac - Windows 98SE or later or Mac OS 8.6 or later compatible.
    • Supports high-speed (480 Mbps), full-speed (12 Mbps), and low-speed (1.5 Mbps) data transfer modes.
    • For all standard 2.5" IDE interface hard disk (44-pin).
    • Truly Plug & Play automatic system configuration.
    • $9.98 with free shipping
  • Macally PHR-250M4 2.5" Silver USB 2.0 External Enclosure
    • Dimensions: 3.1" x 5.4" x 0.8".
    • IDE internal interface.
    • Supports the following media formats:
      1. Video: MPEG-1, MPEG-2 (AVI, MPG), MPEG-4 (AVI / DivX v3.11 / 4.x / 5.x / XviD)
      2. Audio: wav, wma, MP3, MPEG-4 audio
      3. Photo: JPEG Supports both NTSC and PAL
    • Signal output: AV output, S-video, and Coaxial SPDIF.
    • Designed for 2.5" IDE HDD (up to 9.5mm)
    • $43.99 + $3.99 shipping

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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