The 'Book Review

120 GB Notebook Drives Coming, Apple's New CPU Options, Turning Away from FireWire?, and More

This Week's PowerBook and iBook News

Compiled by Charles Moore and edited by Dan Knight - 2005.03.04

General Apple and Mac desktops are now covered in The Mac News Review.

'Book News

iPod News

Tech News

Windows Watch

Bargain 'Books

'Book News

Fujitsu Sampling 120 GB Notebook Hard Drive

CNET's David Becker reports:

"Fujitsu plans to boost the storage limit for notebook computers with the industry's first 120 GB hard drive, the company announced Monday. The MHV2120AT will be available to laptop manufacturers this May, the company said."

And IDG News Service's Martyn Williams reports:

"Fujitsu has begun initial production of a hard-disk drive for notebook computers that offers 120 GB of storage capacity.

"The new drive offered 20 per cent more storage capacity and several other improvements over Fujitsu's nearest 2.5-inch rival, vice-president of marketing at Fujitsu Computer Products of America, Joel Hagberg, said.

"Samples of the drives were already with notebook vendors for testing and Fujitsu planned to begin shipping commercial versions of the drive during the second quarter, he said."

Forget the Cell Processor, What Other Chip Options Does Apple Have?

AppleMatters' Chris Seibold reports:

"When you buy a new Mac your choices are limited when it comes to the processor: G4 or G5. It is akin to walking down the salty snacks aisle at the supermarket and finding only Doritos and Pringles. There is nothing new about this situation, Apple computer seems to be terminally bereft of adequate chip supply on the top end and lacking chip options in general. Standard PC manufacturers aren't faced with this issue, there is a massive amount of chip diversity and a seemingly inexhaustible supply . . . I suppose the plethora of choices drive the R&D department at Dell a little crazy . . . Wait, scratch that. After all the Dell R&D is Apple computer. I meant to say that the careful balancing act probably drives the R&D department at Alienware to distraction.

"Right now it is difficult not to consider Apple a little behind in this area. As previously mentioned you've two basic choices: Hot and powerful (G4) or very hot and very powerful (G5). Some might take issue with the notion that the G4 is hot. Indeed compared to the G5 it is positively artic [sic] in temperature but compared with ultra low power chips (Pentium M1400) the G4 is fairly scalding. All that heat has to get there from somewhere, conservation laws of the universe being what they are and all, and that somewhere is the power supply. No big deal if you're using desktop machine but if you're using a notebook more heat generally means less battery life.

"Things might be very different in the future. You are undoubtedly aware of the Cell Chip developed jointly by IBM, Sony and Toshiba. It is a very exciting technology and possibly scalable all the way from cell phones to the render farms used by film pros. The scalability of the Cell chip means it can be all things to all people, at least in theory. The eventual adoption of the Cell chip is not without significant technological hurdles and it may never be appropriate for the kind of tasks required by the Macintosh so it is too early to call it a done deal. Cell chip dreams aside there are plenty of other choices heading Apple's way.

"Freescale (formerly a division of Motorola) recently introduced a G4 variant that features dual cores, minimal power consumption and a bus that runs at a comparatively speedy 667 MHz. Additionally the chip is pin for pin compatible with current G4 chips so, if Apple chooses, the transitional difficulties should be minimal."

Apple Using Cheaper Screens on New 12" PowerBook? reports:

"It has been reported by a handful of users only but the rumor is that Apple is using cheaper LCD screens on their new 12-inch PowerBook. After all, a bit more gross margins wouldn't hurt, right?

"These screens are usually found in the iBook, the entry-level laptop at Apple. This has to be confirmed, and even if it's true, it has not been bad enough to have caused outrage yet."

If anyone has more information on this issue, please let me know. CM

15" PowerBook G4 Review

The Register's Charles Arthur reports:

"Ten months is a long time to go without a hardware refresh in the PC industry. For Apple, whose top-end PowerBook notebooks pretty much defined the genre, it's an eternity. The introduction this month of new, speed-bumped PowerBooks thus felt enormously overdue - the delay had led many to expect the fabled PowerBook G5....

Aluminum PowerBook"Offering such a modest improvement - lagging well behind Moore's Law - Apple has focussed on improving other facets, so what used to be build-to-order is now standard . . . Surprisingly, the frontside bus hasn't been upgraded - it's still 167 MHz, meaning it now runs up to ten times slower than the CPU. The PowerBook FSB speed has been in the mid-100s since 2001....

"We tested a 1.67 GHz 15in PowerBook with 512 MB RAM and DVD-R SuperDrive.

"First, an admission. I ordered one of these, to replace my ageing 500 MHz 12in iBook, before the call came to review it. I just knew I needed a bigger screen and faster CPU. Off went my order, and then in came the review unit...."

Pros: Cool. Quiet. Fast.

Cons: Weak wireless reception. The damage-prone power lead.

TechRestore Announces Flat-Rate Screen Replacement Program for 'Books

PR: TechRestore, Inc. has announced that they have begun offering a flat-rate LCD screen repair service for PowerBook and iBook laptops

The new service provides a fast and hassle-free method for PowerBook and iBook owners that experience a screen failure due to mechanical issues or accidental damage. The LCD screen repair program has a 24-hour turnaround time and flat-rate pricing that includes all shipping, parts and installation.

"When we began developing our new LCD screen program, we realized that we could offer a complete repair service for the same price other companies were selling just a screen for." said Shannon Jean, Founder and President of TechRestore. "Our volume and experience allows us to pass on the savings to our customers."

The TechRestore flat-rate LCD repair service is a complete, door-to-door overnight service for customers in the continental U.S. Once a repair is scheduled, a RestoreBox is sent via overnight courier to the customers home, office or school where their system is picked up and brought back overnight to TechRestore. Within 24-hours of receipt, the LCD screen repair is completed and the system is sent back to the customer's location via overnight courier. Customers outside the U.S. can use our Self-Restore service to schedule a screen repair.

The flat-rate LCD repair service price starts at $399 for iBooks and $499 for G4 Titanium systems, which includes all overnight shipping charges, repair parts and installation. The screen repairs are performed in an antistatic and dust-free environment by a TechRestore Certified Technician

"Our quest is to eliminate the long delays, high prices and other headaches associated with electronics repair," said Jean, "our new flat-rate screen repair is another exclusive service that combines the speed, value and customer care that TechRestore is known for."

SolarRoll Solar Panel Power

PR: The waterproof SolarRoll has given sea kayakers the power to photograph their voyages from the far reaches of the planet. And next spring, it will assist Ed Viesturs in his final summit, Annapurna, as he polishes off the last peak of Endeavor 8000.

Ideal for powering satellite phones, members of expeditions worldwide pack the SolarRoll in place of expensive extra batteries that don't offer much relief in the form of weight. Some simply need the SolarRoll for charging a car battery or running a video camera. With this in mind, alternative sizes and outputs are available this year to accommodate the growing demand.

Flexible Solar Panels

  • Amorphous solar cells for effective low-light performance
  • Reverse flow protection
  • Tefzel fluoropolymer construction for extreme durability
  • Waterproof
  • UV transparent
  • Link multiple like-units together for even more output
  • Rolls and stores in convenient storage tube
  • Includes vehicle outlet cable & multi-linking cable
  • One-year warranty

SolarRoll 14

  • MSRP: $399
  • 12" x 57" open
  • 17 oz
  • Max output: 14 watts (15.4 Volts / 900 mA)
  • Perfect for running satellite phones and charging laptops

SolarRoll 9

  • MSRP: $279
  • 12" x 40" open
  • 10.6 oz
  • Max output: 9 watts (15.4 Volts / 600 mA)
  • Ideal for running cell phones and charging digital and video cameras

SolarRoll 4.5

  • MSRP: $169
  • 12" x 22" open
  • 6.4 oz
  • Max output: 4.5 watts (15.4 Volts / 300 mA)
  • Designed for charging small electronics like cell phones and PDA's

Ant Infested iBooks

The Register-Guard's Bob Welch says:

"I opened my laptop computer at home recently and there it was: an ant wiggling up through the 'W' and the 'E' keys....

"Before I could smite it, the ant zipped into the crevice between 'Enter' and 'Home' - and was gone.

"I'd just been taunted, I realized, by an actual computer bug. And yet, flipping up the keyboard on my Apple iBook, I was stunned to find he wasn't working alone.

"Like Indiana Jones first seeing the Temple of Doom, I found myself staring at a mini colony of ants, scurrying around in the recesses of my laptop."

Keyspan Adds USB 2.0, Cat5E Zip-Linq Retractable Cables

PR: Keyspan has announced it is expanding its family of Zip-Linq retractable cables. Shipping this month, the new USB 2.0 and Cat5E Zip-Linq retractable cables will retail for $14.99.

Zip-Linq retractable USB cableThe USB 2.0 retractable cables connect a computer to USB 2.0 or USB 1.1 devices. The cable is just four inches long when retracted, yet it extends to four feet. It supports data transfer rates of 480 Mbps. The USB 2.0 retractable cables are available in three versions for use with devices that have USB "B" connectors, mini USB 4-pin connectors, or mini USB 5-pin connectors.

The new Cat5E Ethernet retractable cable connects your computer to a 10/100 Ethernet network and extends to five feet. The cable features Evernew flat Cat5E cabling with twisted pair construction.

"Customers will appreciate the high-performance and small form factor of these new Zip-Linq cables," noted Mike Ridenhour, president of Keyspan. "Plus our Zip-Linq line offers an unmatched breadth of retractable cabling solutions."

Zip-Linq cables are available to resellers at Ingram Micro and D&H. Consumers can purchase the cables at CDW, PC Connection, and other leading computer products retailers.

The Zip-Linq line of cables is a result of Keyspan's partnership with Cables Unlimited, a Concord, California-based manufacturer and distributor of cables. Keyspan and Cables Unlimited are collaborating to market Zip-Linq cables in the United States.

Keyspan products provide "Connections for Your Computer." Keyspan cards, cables, hubs and adapters provide reliable connectivity solutions for the home, school and office.

Notebook DriveDock FireWire Bridge Solution

Notebook DriveDockPR: WiebeTech's Notebook DriveDock features:

  • Bus-powered FireWire bridge.
  • Supports 2.5" notebook drives up to 80 GB and beyond.
  • Plug and play without drivers under Windows 98SE, ME, 2K, XP, Mac OS 9.1, 9.2, OS X. Bootable on the Mac!
  • Utilizes the Oxford OXFW911 FireWire bridge!
  • Small size, attractive enclosure. Current shipping units are blue in color. FireWire cables are not included, sorry!
  • Also includes improved rigid bottom plate to provide base and protection for drive electronics.

WiebeTech is no longer bundling MacDrive 5 software with any of their products.

Price: $99.95

SideTrack: Adding a New (Scrolling) Dimension to Mac OS X

OSnews' Eugenia Loli-Queru says:

"Recently Apple added the ability to scroll with your trackpad on the new series of PowerBooks. However, most Mac OS X users were already able to do just that and much more by using the SideTrack utility which works on most iBook and PowerBook models.

"Sidetrack is basically a new driver for your Mac's trackpad. It installs some system-wide files and requires a reboot (an uninstaller is included). After you do that, you will be having a new item on your Preference panel, under the 'Other' section....

"Overall, this is one of my favorite utilities in the Mac OS X world. Using the scrolling feature with Firefox has brought a new meaning of using the Mac."

Bus-powered UltraGB+ FireWire 800 Drive Carries Huge Amounts of Data

PR: WiebeTech's bus-powered UltraGB+ FireWire drive carries huge amounts of data and needs no AC adapter.

  • Bus powered FireWire 800 (400 compatible) plus a USB2 port (not bus-powered).
  • FireWire 800-800 and 800-400 cables included.
  • High capacities available.
  • 7200 RPM 3.5" drives for high performance - as fast as any desktop drive.
  • FlexMount" shock absorbers.
  • Quiet, fanless operation.
  • Power on LED. Access LED. Power switch.
  • +12V DC in - When used, overrides bus power automatically.
  • Durable aluminum case.
  • World compatible AC adapter - accepts 100-240VAC.
  • Compatible with most FireWire host ports that supply bus power.


  • Bus Powered UltraGB+ 800 with 120 GB 7200 RPM drive, $359.95
  • Bus Powered UltraGB+ 800 with 160 GB 7200 RPM drive, $399.95
  • Bus Powered UltraGB+ 800 with 200 GB 7200 RPM drive, $439.95

surfACE Laptop Stand

surfACE Laptop StandPR: edgeBlur, Inc., a company in New York State's Hudson Valley not far from the big city, has announced surfACE 1.5, a laptop stand that enhances the mobility of your notebook, allowing you to use it a chair, on a sofa, on a bed, or in your lap comfortably. The ability to raise the back off the computer helps with the ergonomics as well as aids in the cooling of the computer, for longer battery life and a quieter work environment by allowing the fan to cut in less often.

With its side boards resting on the armrests of an easy chair and the laptop computer resting on the main board suspended above the lap a fabulous complete working environment is created with space for a mouse, iPod, a cup of coffee, phone or anything else you want easily accessible. Turned up-side-down it fills the same functions in a bed or sofa.

surfACE Laptop StandBy making it possible to sit, or lay in a relaxed position for hours on end - without heat or pressure transferred to the legs - the promise of the mobile computer is fulfilled. Now you can concentrate on getting work done instead of trying to find a comfortable position.

Conceived as a piece of fine furniture surfACE 1.5 is skillfully designed and crafted out of high quality materials, it looks great in any environment and works with any notebook computer including 17" screen models.

surfACE 1.5 is the first of a line of modular products that will all work together to maximize the comfort and convenience that a customizable and moveable computing environment can offer.

surfACE 1.5 in short:

  • Support for your laptop indoors as well as outdoors
  • For web-surfing, gaming, watching DVDs, and more
  • Intelligent design, high quality materials and fine craftsmanship
  • Sturdy, durable, secure, adjustable and expandable
  • Supplies convenient surfaces for a mouse, iPod or coffee cup
  • enhances comfort, cooling and ergonomics.
  • Use it on the desktop to raise screen display.

surfACE 1.5 currently available in two models:

  • Clear acrylic with aluminum hardware, $159
  • Translucent white acrylic with aluminum hardware, $164

iPod News

  • For current iPod prices from a variety of sources, see our Best iPod Deals.

Apple Takes a Step Away from FireWire

CNET's Ina Fried reports:

"FireWire is still Apple Computer's baby, but the proud parent is cutting the cord.

"With the latest crop of iPods, Apple is no longer including a FireWire cable in the box. The music players will still work with FireWire, if a cord is purchased separately, but only a USB 2.0 cable comes with the device. The move is part of a gradual shift on Apple's part to standardize the iPod on USB, which is far more common in the Windows world.

"Although Apple's embrace has been gradual over several years, it is still a big shift for a company that helped develop the standard behind FireWire, technically known as IEEE 1394, and has been one of its biggest proponents....

"....some Mac owners were rankled by the move, saying that as recently as a year or two ago many Macs didn't include a USB 2.0 port. As of Wednesday night, more than 1,300 people had signed an online petition calling on Apple to again include a FireWire cable with iPods....

"FireWire and USB 2.0 both have roughly similar transfer rates, but they have found different markets. Macs typically have both ports. On Windows machines, USB 2.0 is standard, while FireWire is often left out or made available as an option."

Dock to FireWire 400 FireWire Connection for iPod

PR: The Dock400 FireWire cable allows you to connect your iPod to a Mac's or PC's FireWire port for charging and file transfers.

Apple's newest offerings of the iPod photo and iPod mini have added features, but omitted a FireWire cable.

The Dock400 cable is 48" long, uses Apple-approved connectors, and is built with the quality that users have come to expect from Griffin. It can be used with Apple's iPod dock or plugged directly into the iPod.

Price: $17

Seagate, Hitachi Launch 1" 6 GB Hard Drives

The Register's Tony Smith reports:

"Seagate and Hitachi both announced 1in hard drives with a 6 GB storage capacity this week, though the US company appears to have been the first to ship such a product.

"Seagate's 6 GB ST-1 unit started shipping last December, the company said yesterday, and may well be the storage component found in Apple's latest iPod mini....

"Certainly when news of a higher-capacity iPod mini emerged late last year, it was suggested that the new machine would not contain a Hitachi drive as the first version had done, Apple allegedly having been annoyed with the problems the drive maker experienced ramping up production of its 4 GB 1in unit, the Microdrive 3K4"

Apple Switches Drives Used in iPod mini

extremeiPod reports: "Sources have confirmed that Apple's 6 GB iPod mini uses a new drive from Seagate, rather than the Hitachi mechanisms that the company has previously chosen to be the heart of its portable music player."

Hitachi Ramps 6 GB Microdrive to High Volume, Reduces Drive Prices

PR: Users of miniature MP3 players and other storage-demanding handheld consumer electronics can rejoice today as Hitachi Global Storage Technologies begins shipping its 6 gigabyte (GB) one-inch hard drive in high volume. As the leader in one-inch hard drives, Hitachi is raising the stakes by making available the new Microdrive 3K6 with a suggested retail price reduction of up to 60 percent.

With 6 GB, the new Microdrive lets consumers carry even more of what they love - 1,500-3,000 songs, 6,000 pictures (1 MB each), or 8 hours of MPEG-4 video. Hitachi is making all this possible, now, at a significant price reduction, retailing the 6 GB Microdrive for $299 USD or pennies per megabyte. Hitachi's new suggested retail pricing represents the best value of capacity, reliability and performance at a price point that's affordable to virtually all owners of consumer devices. The Microdrive 3K6 is available in removable Compact Flash Type II and embedded versions.

In its fourth generation, the newest Hitachi Microdrive product combines a mature architecture and unmatched reliability with industry-leading storage capacity. The Microdrive's high standard of quality and breakthrough capacity are what users of consumer electronics products have come to expect. Hitachi is also seeing growing interest from makers of personal digital assistants and mobile phones in using the Microdrive as the preferred technology for miniature, high-capacity storage.

Hitachi recently announced plans for a 20-percent smaller one-inch hard drive with 8-10 GB of capacity. The new drive - nicknamed "Mikey," the baby Microdrive - is expected later this year.

For the first time since its 1999 introduction, the new-generation Microdrive product is being offered at a suggested retail price of $299, representing a 40-percent reduction of Hitachi's standard debut price of $499 for the one-inch product. The 4 GB version of the Microdrive 3K6 will be offered at $199, representing a 60-percent decrease.

Tech News

Philips Unrolls 'Paper' Display

The Register's Jan Libbenga reports:

"Philips has announced that it will start developing rollable displays in earnest. Until now, the Dutch company only had a working prototype.

"Such displays are projected to be the primary solution to demand for larger displays in mobile devices: just pull the screen out of a smart phone or PDA and enjoy a movie. Or read an electronic newspaper that you can roll up and put in your pocket."

Hydrogen: The Next Fuel for Laptops?

Mercury News's Therese Poletti reports:

"A small New Jersey company is working on a hydrogen-fueled battery that it hopes will eventually provide eight hours of power for laptop computers.

"At Intel's Developer Forum in San Francisco on Tuesday, Millennium Cell demonstrated an IBM ThinkPad running on a prototype of the battery. Most notebook computers today can run for three or four hours on a fully charged battery. So far, Millennium Cell's runs for only three hours, but the goal is to increase that performance to eight hours."

Windows Watch

Sony Vaio VGN-FS115B 'Sonoma' Notebook Reviewed

The Register's Trusted Reviews says:

"The Vaio VGN-FS115B is one of the first machines we've seen based on Intel's new 'Sonoma' platform. Intel launched Sonoma as the next generation Centrino standard back in January, and it brings with it some key advantages over the outgoing technology, writes Riyad Emeran.

"Sony Vaio VGN-FS115BThe major advancement with Sonoma is PCI Express support, but you also get dual-channel DDR 2 memory, a 533 MHz frontside bus, Serial-ATA support and a raft of new processors. The VGN-FS115B incorporates the new Sonoma technology, but sticks with the integrated Intel graphics, rather than going with a dedicated PCI Express-connected chip from Nvidia or ATI....

"The Vaio VGN-FS115B marries the latest mobile technology with a design that looks slim and stylish, but is still large enough to be used as your sole computer. But it's the price that makes this machine truly impressive and it proves that you don't have to pay through the nose for a big brand laptop these days. If you can live with the decidedly average battery life, the FS115B is well worth a look."

Bargain 'Books

There are two different versions of WallStreet running at 233 MHz, the cacheless MainStreet version and the later Series II with a level 2 cache. It's not always possible to determine from the vendor's listing which is being offered, so we've included links within this paragraph to the two models. The same goes for the PowerBook G4/667 (VGA) and G4/667 (DVI), the titanium vs. aluminum 15" PowerBook G4 at 1 GHz, and 1.25 GHz to 1.5 GHz 15" PowerBooks.

Apple Store

Small Dog Electronics

Wegener Media

  • used 15" PowerBook G4/500, 128/20/DVD-ROM, with 60 day guarantee, $899.99
  • Buy with 16x Combo Drive installed, $1,099.99
  • Upgrade to 1 GB of RAM, $189.99
  • Add 512 MB of RAM, $99.99
  • Add an AirPort wireless card, $54.50, installed

Baucom Computers


Power Max

For more deals on current or recently discontinued models, see our Best PowerBook G4 Deals, Best iBook G4 Deals, Best PowerBook G3 Deals, and Best iBook G3 Deals.

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