The 'Book Review

'Really Expensive' Laptops, Longer Battery Life through Heavy Use, the SSD Dilemma, and More

This Week's MacBook, PowerBook, and iBook News

Compiled by Charles Moore and edited by Dan Knight - 2010.09.24

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

Whatever Happened to Really Expensive Laptops?

Cnet's Dan Ackerman notes that not long ago, laptops selling for $999 or less were considered budget machines, and the $1,000 to $2,000 range was the standard buy-in for constructive computing. But laptop prices across the board have swooned with mainstream users today often spending less than $700 for a fully functional midsize laptop - or just a few dollars more to add high-end extras like Blu-ray or discrete graphics.

Of course, that would be in the PC space.

While Ackerman notes that "one of the hardest things to find right now is a really expensive laptop", with only about 4 of the last 25 laptops Cnet has reviewed breaking the $1,000 barrier. Going much further up the price point chain, the pickings get very slim indeed, although in that context he found it amusing to check out a Sony Vaio Z 13" laptop that costs $3,339 with a 512 GB SSD and a base price of $1,919 with a regular hard drive, and noting that adding SSD options to MacBooks is another way to clean out your bank account real fast.

True, but even Mac laptops are cheap these days by historical standards, with even the most expensive model, the 17" MacBook Pro, starting at a modest $2,299, which is just $100 more than the low-end PowerBook G3 Series "MainStreet" sold for back in 1998 with a 233 MHz CPU bereft of an L2 cache and with a 12" passive-matrix 800 x 600 display. Top of the line early PowerBook G3s sold for about $5,700, and the high-end PowerBook 5300ce with a 117 MHz PowerPC 603e processor and 32 MB of RAM went out the door in 1995 for $6,500.

Prolong Your 'Book's Battery's Life by 'Abusing' It

...the worst thing for your laptop battery is to leave it plugged in all the time....

The Mac Observer's Dave Hamilton says that based on a readers and listeners survey asking respondents about their laptop battery-usage habits and relating those to the lifespan of the batteries themselves, the determination was that the worst thing for your laptop battery is to leave it plugged in all the time, while the best thing for your battery is to "abuse" it, by which he means to use it as erratically as possible. "Drain it, charge it, drain it halfway, charge it to 80%, drain it to 30%, charge it all the way up, etc.", noting that some users who do that are seeing more than 3 years service from their batteries with more than 100% of original capacity.

Interesting, if counterintuitive. I've had pretty decent service from laptop batteries over the years just leaving the machine mostly plugged in and running on battery power occasionally, but I don't gainsay Hamilton's survey findings.

On the Horns of the SSD Dilemma

Apple Gazette's Kevin Whipps says he's got a bad case of "Ineedanewcomputeritis", although just few months back he upgraded his MacBook Pro's internal hard drive to a 500 GB, 7200 RPM unit. He was pretty happy for a while, but the drive is nearly full with about 100 GB of free space left, slowing the computer down, and the MBP also seems to run pretty hot, with it not uncommon to see the temp spike into the 160s, with cooling fans whirring away at high speed for long periods of time.

Whipps says his buddy decided to buy an OWC SSD drive for his MBP, and not only does it boot insanely fast, but running temperatures dropped as well. This sounds very attractive, but the cost of entry to the SSD club is pretty steep - $599 for a 240 GB unit - and he's worried about reliability and appeals to readers to send him their real-world experiential impressions of SSD and a hard drive alternatives over the medium to long term.

That should make for an interesting report.

Traditional PCs Have a Bigger Problem than the iPad

BNET's Erik Sherman analyzes the controversy over whether the iPad is hurting netbook (not much doubt there) and notebook (not as clear a picture, but probably) sales.

Sherman thinks the real battle is over how consumers want to use computers and contends that unless hardware vendors in general start to understand that what is changing is habit, not external form factors, they will continue to fall behind and lose business.

In the present context, he thinks it's easy to assume we're seeing a case of Apple winning over Microsoft, which would be unsettling to hardware vendors using Windows, but that the bigger questions are not whether one vendor will win out over another or how "walled garden computing" competes with open platforms, but the more fundamental conundrum of whether computers can remain largely general purpose machines.

3D Laptops Struggling to Gain Traction

Being as 3D, whether in movies, TV, or computers is an irritating gimmick (IMHO), IDG News Agam Shah's reports that 3D laptop shipments from Acer, Asus, Lenovo, and Toshiba have been sluggish troubles me not a bit.

Shah notes that it's due to high prices and lack of consumer interest, citing a research firm DisplaySearch market report this week, which is projecting 179,000 3D laptops to ship this year, translating to only 0.08% of the total laptop market.

Good. I hope growth continues slowly enough that it will just wither on the vine. I mean really . . . who wants to be bothered with the stupid glasses? Many report that viewing 3D gives them headaches and that the 3D rendition is a distraction from the story plot and dialogue or the content.

Apparently, even in the most promising sector for 3D acceptance, gaming, Shah reports demand is very limited, noting that with slow growth in shipments projected over the next few years, the future of 3D laptops remains uncertain.

Good.

iPad 'Slightly Cannibalizing' Apple's Low-end MacBook

AppleInsider's Neil Hughes reports that strong sales of the iPad are expected to have a slight negative impact on Mac sales, particularly on the low-end notebook models from Apple, supply chain sources have indicated, according to Kaufman Bros. analyst Shaw Wu, but Apple is otherwise poised for a strong quarter in Mac sales, with potential for a record volume of 3.8 million units in the September quarter, although he does expect iPad sales to blow past the Mac.

Apple Sues HyperMac Accessory Maker Over MagSafe and iPod Cables

AppleInsider's Neil Hughes reports that Apple has filed a lawsuit against Sanho Corporation, maker of the HyperMac line of accessories, alleging violation of patents it owns related to the MagSafe™ charger and cables that use the iPod 30-pin connection.

As a veteran Apple laptop user, I'm completely disgusted with Apple's dog-in-the-manger stance on licensing its MagSafe technology, which means that competition and a great deal of innovation and flexibility are being thwarted with regard to replacement and alternative power supplies for MacBooks.

Over the years, I've found third-party power supplies for my PowerBooks and iBooks to be in general more reliable, more rugged, and usually cheaper than Apple's products.

Suing HyperMac, which doesn't even make knockoff MagSafe connectors but rather recycles Apple connectors for its products, is way over the top.

Products & Services

Seagate Introduces Industry's First 1.5 TB Portable External Drive

PR: Addressing seemingly unlimited and insatiable worldwide demand for digital storage, Seagate has just launched the worlds first 1.5 terabyte (TB) 2.5" portable external drive. Available immediately, the new 1.5 TB FreeAgent GoFlex portable drive delivers an all-in-one, technically advanced solution to help store, share, and enjoy libraries of digital content in one's preferred medium, whether on a Mac or PC, or a television, at home,å or on the go. With 1.5 TB of capacity, users can now store and carry up to 60 HD movies, 750 video games, thousands of photos, or countless hours of digital music.

Seagate 1.5 TB FreeAgent GoFlex portable drive"Today's announcement is a triple-crown of consumer technology, packaging, record-breaking capacity, blazingly fast USB 3.0 connectivity, and the bonus of movie entertainment, making the 1.5 TB GoFlex ultraportable drive an unprecedented and innovative solution," says Darcy Clarkson, vice president of Global Retail Sales and Marketing for Seagate. "Bringing this solution to market on the heels of our 3 TB GoFlex Desk drive and the Momentus XT solid state hybrid drive is proof of Seagate's continuing technology leadership and tradition of setting storage industry milestones."

Shipping now in the United States and rolling out globally later this year, all 1.5 TB GoFlex ultraportable drives will ship with a USB 3.0 interface cable, accelerating the transfer speed of a drive up to 10x when connected to a USB 3.0 port, when compared to a USB 2.0 port. For example, a drive using a USB 3.0 connection can transfer a 25 GB file in under five minutes versus the 14 minutes it would take using a traditional USB 2.0 drive. Hopefully, Apple will eventually support USB 3.0 on the Mac. In the meantime, all GoFlex ultra portable drives will now also ship with the new SuperSpeed USB 3.0 cable, which will still continue to work with existing USB 2.0 ports (at USB 2.0 speeds).

Seagate 1.5 TB FreeAgent GoFlex portable drive"Consumers continue to push the growth of digital music, photos, and video content, and increasingly want access to this content from a variety of CE devices, including a PC," says John Rydning, IDC's research director for hard disk drives. "Higher capacity disk drives in combination with higher bandwidth interfaces like USB 3.0 will help to make a greater number of large multimedia files more accessible from multiple devices in the home."

A key addition to the GoFlex family, the new 1.5 TB GoFlex ultraportable drive delivers state-of-the=art flexibility in how people collect, protect, share and enjoy their digital libraries, all in a convenient compact package. In addition to coming bundled with USB 3.0 connectivity, the drive can be used with an array of add-on cables and accessories such as the GoFlex Net media sharing device and the GoFlex TV HD media player, that provide the flexibility to enjoy your content on a TV, a network, using a mobile device, or via the Internet.

Seagate FreeAgent GoFlex Ultra-portable DriveAll 1.5 TB GoFlex ultraportable drives are compatible with both the Windows operating system and Mac OS X computers. Each drive includes an NTFS driver for Mac, which allows the hard drive to store and access files from both Windows and Mac OS X computers without reformatting. The NTFS driver is simply installed once on the Mac OS X computer, allowing it to read and write files on a Windows formatted drive. Reformatting to HFS+ is required to use backup software for Mac or Time Machine software.

The 1.5 TB GoFlex ultraportable drive with USB 3.0 adapter is currently available in black and can be purchased on Seagate.com and through select retailers for $249.99.

Additional capacities of the GoFlex ultraportable drive and GoFlex Pro ultraportable drive are scheduled to be bundled with USB 3.0 cable adapters beginning in the US in October starting at $89.99.

Editor's note: Although no Mac yet ships with USB 3.0, CalDigit has announced the first PCI Express USB 3.0 card compatible with the Mac Pro. See this week's Mac News Review for details. dk

OWC Elite-AL Mini Prices Get Mini-er

OWC Mercury Elite-AL ProPR: What's not to like about a bus-powered, quad-interface portable storage solution based on the award-winning OWC Mercury Elite-AL Pro? If it's that you want a deal on it too - then you're in luck.

But we'll get to that momentarily. First, let's take a quick look at the Elite-AL mini and see what makes it so special.

The OWC Mercury Elite-AL Pro mini is a smaller, portable, bus-powered version of our best selling and award winning Mercury Elite-AL Pro line of desktop solutions. Designed for performance, flexibility, reliability, and portability, the Elite-AL mini features FireWire 800/400, USB 2.0 and eSATA interfaces, measures in at only 5.5" x 3.8" x 1.1" and provides up to 1.0 TB of high-performance portable capacity!

Other key features include:

  • Performance Oxford-based bridge solution
  • Two 1394B 9 pin, One USB 2.0, and One eSATA interface ports
  • Large data buffer up to 32 MB
  • Fully bootable, ideal for applications, A/V, backup (Time Machine, etc.), photos, music, etc.
  • Single cable bus-powerable via FireWire or USB 2.0
  • Bus-Power via FireWire (or AC Adapter) for high-performance eSATA interface use.
  • Attractive & compact shock resistant Aluminum design
  • FireWire 800, USB 2.0, and eSATA flex cables ALL included
  • Fully Mac & PC compatible
  • Intech Hard Disk Speed Tools suite and Carbon Copy Cloner included

Full retail versions of Prosoft DataBackup 3 for OS X (a $59.95 retail value) and NovaStor NovaBackup for Windows (a $49.95 retail value).

Industry leading three year solution warranty

So, yeah, these are some pretty great little drives. Now about that price thing & We're dropping prices on almost the entire line of these drives. Now you have no reason to put off picking one of these solutions up.

5400 RPM models

  • 250 GB 5400 rpm, 8 MB buffer, NOW $99.97
  • 320 GB 5400 rpm, 8 MB buffer, $109.99
  • 500 GB 5400 rpm, 8 MB buffer, NOW $124.99
  • 640 GB 5400 rpm, 8 MB buffer, NOW $147.99
  • 750 GB 5400 rpm, 8 MB buffer, NOW $179.99 (a $10 drop)
  • 1.0 TB 5400 rpm, 8 MB buffer, NOW $199.99 (a $30 drop!)

7200 RPM models

  • 320 GB 7200 rpm, 16 MB buffer, NOW $123.99
  • 500 GB 7200 rpm, 16 MB buffer, NOW $139.99

SSD Models Ultra High Performance, Ultra-Low Power, No Moving Parts and sustained Data Rates of over 265 MB/s.

  • 60 GB OTG Extreme SSD NOW $239.99 (a $20 drop!)
  • 120 GB OTG Extreme SSD NOW $387.99 (a $12 drop!)
  • 240 GB OTG Extreme SSD $729.99

Also Available

  • OWC Mercury Elite-AL Pro mini Enclosure Kits - now from $74.99
  • Prosoft Drive Genius 3 Bundle Offer

Purchasing Prosoft Drive Genius 3 along with an OWC Mercury Elite-AL mini Storage Solution (or any OWC or NewerTech external storage solution) can save you $60 off the retail price of that award winning disk utility.

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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