The 'Book Review

MacBook Pro 'Computer of the Year' Again, OWC's 120 GB SSD Reviewed, Dual-Core Acer Netbooks, and More

This Week's MacBook, PowerBook, and iBook News

Compiled by Charles Moore and edited by Dan Knight - 2010.10.15

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

Tech Trends

Products & Services

Bargain 'Books

News & Opinion

MacBook Pro Again Named 'Computer of the Year' at T3 Gadget Awards

T3's Luke Johnson reports that despite what has been a less than perfect 12-months for the company, Apple emerged as the years biggest winner taking top honours in five of the 19 awards categories at the T3 Gadget Awards 2010.

Highlights

  • The MacBook Pro once again took the award for Computer of the Year
  • Apple iPad decided by unanimous decision to be not only the 2010 T3 Gadget Awards Gadget of the Year, but also the most innovative product to be released in the past 12-months.
  • Apple's iPhone 4, shrugged off its antenna issues to become the Commuter Gadget of the Year
  • Apple completed its hefty awards haul receiving the top prize as the 2010 Retailer of the Year.

Why Doesn't Apple Offer Notebook Docking Stations?

The Apple Blog's Jon Buys says he's one of the lucky few who can carry their MacBook Pro to and from work each day and use the same machine for everything computer-related, but even so he's not always happy with his current setup, noting that his employer-issued Dell laptop enjoys a major advantage over his MacBook: a docking station, while it takes five to seven separate steps to hook up his Mac laptop to an external keyboard, monitor, and mouse depending on if one is using a Bluetooth keyboard or not. He wonders why there isn't an Apple-branded docking station.

PowerBook Duo in Duo Dock
PowerBook Duo in a DuoDock

Good question, especially since Apple pioneered the dockable laptop concept with the PowerBook Duo back in the early '90s, then for some reason dropped notebook dockability like the proverbial hot potato around the time of Steve Jobs' return in '97. The PowerBook Duo idea was logically elegant - the 4.1 pound, 10.9" x 8.5" x 1.4" Duo laptop module, a subcompact PowerBook by the standards of then or now, could function as a normal notebook computer, albeit with fewer I/O ports than contemporary full-size PowerBooks had. However, when you returned to the office or your home, you could slide the Duo inside a Duo Dock, transforming it into a desktop computer.

The original Duo Dock included a floppy drive, two NuBus expansion slots, an optional Floating Point coprocessor, level 2 cache, a slot for video RAM expansion to support more colors at higher resolutions, and space for a second hard drive. The Duo Dock was replaced by the Duo Dock II, which added AAUI ethernet networking and support for the later color-screen PowerBook Duos, with Duo slot modifications to accommodate the newer, thicker color models. The Dock II was in turn superseded by the Duo Dock Plus, in most aspects identical to the Duo Dock II, but with no FPU or level 2 cache, neither of which was compatible with the 68LC040-processor Duo 280 and PowerPC-processor Duo 2300c.

There were also Mini Dock port expanders offered by Apple and several third-party suppliers that connected to the PowerBook Duo to connect with various standard data interfaces and peripheral devices including SCSI, ADB, serial, floppy, external speakers, and external displays. Some third party Mini Dock variants added ethernet capability, NTSC and PAL video ports, but none had PDS or NuBus expansion slots. Micro Docks were also offered by Apple and third parties, equipping the PowerBook Duo with up to three extra ports, including floppy, SCSI, video, and ethernet, each typically including one ADB input device port as well.

The Duo was a slick idea, but absurdly expensive even in context with what laptop computers cost then and somewhat handicapped by the PowerBook Duo's relatively anemic 68030, 68LC040, and PowerPC 603e processors, so despite the elegance, versatility, and plain logic of the concept, the Duo didn't sell particularly well, although it did manage to survive for five years - even into the PowerPC Apple era by morphing into the PPC 603e powered PowerBook Duo 2300.

As Jon Buys notes, the closest thing to a laptop dock Apple offers today is its nosebleed-inducingly expensive Cinema Displays, which came serve as sort-of docking stations with their power, monitor, and USB ports, but (like the Duos were) they're just too expensive for many of us ordinary folks. BookEndz has made a series of docks for Apple's notebooks over the years, with prices ranging from $129 to $320 for current docks.

Apple needs affordable desktop docks for its MacBook family of laptops (the iPad too, while I'm at it).

Reviews

PowerPage Reviews OWC's 120 GB Mercury Extreme Pro 2.5" Notebook SSD

PowerPage's Chris Barylick says he has been hesitant to jump on the SSD (Solid State Drive) bandwagon, with concerns about their reliability being an unknown, comfort with the familiarity of dealing with conventional hard drives, and misgivings about sheer data capacity. He notes that the MacBook Air's optional SSD seemed cool when it first came out, but capacity topping out at 40 to 80 GN, gave him pause

However, Barylick says that after several days testing Other World Computing's $290 120 GB Extreme Mercury Pro SSD drive in his 2008 white plastic MacBook, he'll be reluctant to send the press sample back and revert to his old SATA hard drive.

Editor's note: Barylick's MacBook originally shipped with a 120 GB 5400 RPM hard drive, so he's essentially matching that capacity with a big boost in speed. That said, he could have bought three 7200 RPM 500 GB drives with 16 MB caches for less money. dk

Apple Updates

MacBook and MacBook Pro SMC Firmware Updates Fix Charging Problem with New MagSafe Adapters

New MagSafe power adapterA newly-released Apple firmware update addresses an issue with certain MacBook and MacBook Pro models from 2007 and 2008 that prevents them from charging with new power adapters. In certain situations when you connect a new 60W or 85W MagSafe power adapter to the MagSafe port of an older MacBook or MacBook Pro computer, the adapter may not charge the computer and the LED indicator light on the MagSafe connector of the adapter may not illuminate.

To address these issues, Apple has released the MacBook SMC Firmware Update 1.4 or the MacBook Pro SMC Firmware Update 1.4.

Products Affected

[Editor's note: Not every example of these models is affected. I downloaded the update for my Late 2008 Unibody MacBook, and the installer determined that my computer did not reqire the update. cm]

During installation,your computer must be started up to a version of Mac OS X v10.5.8 or Mac OS X v10.6.4. The computer's power adapter must be connected to the computer and plugged in to a working power source, or the battery must be at least 25% charged. If the computer's battery is not charged or if the power adapter is not powering the computer, reset the SMC to allow these power adapters to operate temporarily while you apply the update.

When your computer restarts, a gray screen will appear with a status bar to indicate the progress of the update. Your computer's fans may run at full speed during the update but should return to normal speed once the update completes. Don't disturb or shut off the power on your computer during this update.

If you do not wish to update the operating system on your computer, you can install one of these operating system versions on an external drive and start up from that device. When the update has been applied, you can restart to a previous version of Mac OS X if you would like.

For more information see Portables: L-shaped MagSafe Power Adapter Does Not Charge Computer and LED Indicator Light Does Not Illuminate.

File Size: 880/882 KB

System Requirements

  • Mac OS X 10.5.8
  • Mac OS X 10.6.4 or later

Tech Trends

Acer's Aspire One Dual-Core Netbooks Will Run Windows 7 and Android

InformationWeek's Esther Shein reports that Acer has decided to extend the reach of its dual-boot feature for netbooks to run both Android and Windows 7 in all of its upcoming dual-core notebooks, following the company's launch last week of its first netbook with a dual-core Intel Atom processor, the Aspire One AOD255, for a suggested retail price of $330.

Aspire One AOD255PR: According to Acer's Aspire One AOD255 press release, the new Aspire One AOD255 is a mobile powerhouse delivering Intel Atom dual-core processing power in an ultra-thin design, featuring AMD Athlon II Neo graphics processors, excellent connectivity, high-definition graphics, and a 10.1" CrystalBrite LED-backlit display.

The Acer Aspire One AOD255 includes Intel's new Atom N550 processor, which also brings advanced DDR3 memory support to the netbook space.

Aspire One AOD255"We have enhanced our best-selling Aspire One netbook line with the improved performance and better power efficiency to improve the mobile computing experience for consumers," says Pete Dailey, Acer's senior product marketing manager for netbooks. "With the new Aspire One AOD255, users are able to multitask, explore the Internet, connect with friends, and enjoy entertainment applications, without worrying about battery life or being tethered to an electrical outlet."

The Aspire One AOD255 netbook can also provide a claimed to eight hours of battery life and fast 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi connectivity in a 1" thick package weighing just over 2-1/2 pounds.

Supporting power savings and longer battery life, Acer says the Aspire One's CrystalBrite LED-backlit display saves 22.2% power compared with other netbook displays. Its keyboard is 93% of a standard size keyboard, which should make it comfortable for most users.

Also included are ethernet LAN connectivity, a built-in 1.3 Megapixel HD webcam, and a built-in digital microphone.

Aspire One AOD255The AOD255 comes with 1GB of DDR3 memory, a 250GB hard drive, and is available in red, black, brown and aquamarine livery.

The Acer Aspire One AOD255 with dual-core Atom N550 processors has a MSRP of $329.99, and single-core Atom N450 processors prices begin at MSRP $269.99.

Products & Services

New Kensington ClickSafe Laptop Lock Offers One-Click Ease of Use

Kensington Computer Products Group announces the Kensington ClickSafe Keyed Laptop Lock, a simpler, safer, and smarter new physical computer security standard for mobile professionals.

Today's workforce is more mobile than ever before, with laptops a common companion both inside the office and out. Whether a CEO or company intern, working for small and large companies alike, people carry their work and personal data with them wherever they go. And yet, the simple, first layer of protection that a laptop lock offers is still often overlooked by laptop users.

Now Kensington, creator of the famous Kensington Security Slot built into 99% of laptops, MicroSaver, and ComboSaver computer locks, has created the newest standard in laptop security. The Kensington ClickSafe lock makes it as easy to lock down a laptop as buckling and unbuckling a seat belt - there's no excuse to leave a laptop unsecure ever again.

Laptop computers have extended office work into households, coffee shops, and airports, enabling people to workflex between their business and personal lives at any time of day or night. As users rely on complex and expensive layers of security software to protect their data assets, a physical computer lock, particularly one that is so easy to use, makes a smart first line of defense.

The estimated cost of replacing content along with a stolen laptop itself is an astronomical $49,246 (according to the Ponemon Institute*, which conducted a 2009 study on lost laptops and the value of the sensitive business data within them). But users know the cost of time, lost productivity, and inconvenience is even more painful.

Now, ClickSafe protects computers in just one simple step. The lock simply attaches to a laptop with one easy motion. Kensington's smart made simple philosophy has eliminated the need to first insert a key and then follow multiple steps to engage a lock. There's no learning curve or hassle to use it, so productivity is never compromised. ClickSafe's firm, anti-theft engagement mechanism pairs with cable made from superior carbon strengthened materials to deliver the best security available in a cable-style lock.

"ClickSafe makes locking down a laptop as easy as buckling a seat-belt, so users never have to worry about getting their laptop stolen," says Rob Humphrey, Director, Security Products, Global Business at Kensington. "We have taken smart made simple to a whole new level by simplifying a five-step process into one easy step, without compromising the supreme strength and protection Kensington locks have always offered. It's so quick to use, there's no reason for business users to leave their laptop unprotected ever again."

Kensington ClickSafe Keyed Laptop LockKensington ClickSafe Keyed Laptop Lock - SRP $49.99

Protect the computer in a click with the Kensington ClickSafe™ Keyed Laptop Lock. Just one step ensures ultimate physical security simply attach ClickSafe with a single motion. ClickSafe combines a cable made from superior materials with a tamper-proof disc-style lock to deliver the strongest security available in a cable lock.

A master key version is also available: ClickSafe Master Access Keyed Laptop Lock, also $49.99.

Kensington ClickSafe™ Keyed Twin Laptop LockKensington ClickSafe™ Keyed Twin Laptop Lock - SRP $69.99

Designed for effortless protection of computers, peripherals, and your businesss most important data. Kensington's ClickSafe Keyed Twin Laptop Lock features dual one-click lock heads offering three rotational degrees of freedom to attach to hardware in a single step. There's no need for employees to insert a key or follow multiple steps.

A master key version is also available: ClickSafe™ Master Access Keyed Twin Laptop Lock - $69.99).

Features

  • Simpler - Security in one step, the simplified design protects your computer with just one click. So easy to use, you will have no excuse to leave your computer and data unprotected and your business is protected.
  • Safer - Tamper-proof disk-style lock combined with super-strong high-carbon steel cable provides the strongest physical security on the market. Made with stainless steel and metal-injection molding, ClickSafe is reinforced by 7 x 7 carbon cables. It is the next generation in computer safety, from the people who brought you the first.
  • Smarter - No need to compromise security, portability or convenience. ClickSafe is designed to fit seamlessly into busy daily routines to deliver unparalleled protection.

The Kensington ClickSafe Keyed Laptop Lock is available for purchase at Amazon.com, Kensington.com, and at other retailers.

* Source: Cost of a Lost Laptop: A Study Conducted by the Ponemon Institute Created on: Apr 22, 2009, by Josh Hilliker.

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.

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