The 'Book Review

MacBook Sales Explode, MacBook Air Reviews, Several New Hard Drives, and More

This Week's MacBook, PowerBook, and iBook News

Compiled by Charles Moore and edited by Dan Knight - 2008.05.09

Lots of hard drive news this week: Bare Feats compares performance of high capacity 5400 rpm notebook drives against lower capacity 7200 rpm one, Hitachi delivers 320 MB of storage with a 7200 rpm mechanism, Samsung's 500 MB SpinPoint drive is finally shipping, and Western Digital and Verbatim have small external drives perfect for backup in the field - or taking along files you don't have room for on the MacBook Air's small internal drive.

All prices are in US dollars unless otherwise noted.

General Apple and Mac desktops is covered in The Mac News Review. iPod, iPhone, and Apple TV news is covered in The iNews Review.

News & Opinion


Tech Trends


Bargain 'Books

News & Opinion

MacBook Sales Explode, Driving Quanta Higher

9to5Mac's Andy Space reports:

"Apple's laptop sales are booming, up 61 per cent in the second quarter, and the good news is impacting the company's notebook OEM, Quanta, which announced an 18 per cent increase in profit this morning, on strength of Mac sales.

"Apple last week confirmed 2.29 million Mac sales in its second quarter. Mac sales overall climbed 51 per cent, year-on-year, a rate of growth an astonishing 3.5 times that of the overall PC market. Desktop sales climbed 37 per cent, also faster than PC market averages,

"The company's portable sales were driven by continued strong demand for MacBook, MacBook Pros and the MacBook Air. This steady demand meant Quanta Computer saw profits climb 18 per cent to book NT$4 billion for the quarter. The OEM observed strong demand for notebooks, predicting demand would climb 25 per cent in the current quarter....

"Apple accounts for 25 per cent of Quanta revenue."

Canada's Bell Aliant First to Launch MacBook/Internet Package in North America

PR: Aliant, Atlantic Canada's leading information and communications technology provider (and Charles W. Moore's ISP), has signed an agreement with Apple Inc. to add the MacBook to the Aliant Computer Purchase Program line-up. Aliant is the first North American service provider to launch an Internet package with an Apple notebook.

MacBook with Aliant High Speed package"Today, we are proud and excited to be the first service provider to sell an Apple notebook with Internet service," said Heather Tulk, senior vice president of marketing for Aliant. "We've been helping Atlantic Canadians get online with the latest computers for over three years now. It's because of our customers' feedback that we're now offering this popular MacBook exclusively to Aliant Internet subscribers."

With an expansive broadband network that covers nearly 90% of Atlantic Canada and online expertise that has been recognized worldwide, Aliant offers customers in Atlantic Canada a number of industry-leading products and services. The Aliant Computer Purchase Program, introduced in 2005 and a first for the telecommunications industry, was designed to connect more Atlantic Canadians with online technology by combining Internet services and computers together for one monthly price on the same bill. The Aliant Computer Purchase Program gives customers a convenient and cost-effective way to purchase a laptop or desktop and also connect with Internet access.

The MacBook, the base model with a 2.1 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo Processor, 1 GB Memory and 120 GB hard drive is available now for Aliant Internet customers for as low as $47/month over 36 months.

Aliant's package includes a MacBook computer and your choice of Internet service, or add the computer to an existing Internet Value Package, with monthly payments on your Aliant bill.

Pricing Options (in Canadian dollars) include:

  • $79.95/mth for 36 mths with new High-Speed
  • $84.95/mth for 36 mths with new High-Speed Ultra
  • $94.95/mth for 36 mths with new High-Speed Max
  • $69.95/mth for 36 mths with new Unlimited Dialup
  • $47.00/mth for 36 mths added to an existing (or new) Internet Value Package

To place an order, call 1-866-425-4268.

Editor's note: I applaud Aliant for being the first Internet Service provider to offer Macs as well as Windows machines with a computer purchase package plan, but note that the $47 monthly fee calculates out to Can$1,692, while the same model MacBook purchased direct from Apple sells for Can$1,149, so essentially you will be paying finance charges of $543 over the 36 months. cm


1.8 GHz SSD MacBook Air: Quick, but Limited Storage Space

Macworld UK's Mark Hattersley and Jason Snell say that the optional solid state drive makes little difference to the Air's desirability:

"Macworld's initial review of the MacBook Air was based on its stock £1,199 configuration, which features a 1.6 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor and 80 GB of storage provided by a 1.8in traditional hard drive. Since then, we've obtained two 1.8 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo MacBook Airs: one with the same 1.8in 80 GB hard drive, and one with 64 GB of flash memory as its primary internal storage device (what Apple calls a solid-state drive, or SSD.)...

"Both upgrades did improve things. The processor upgrade improved calculation-based tasks such as 3D rendering and video encoding and the SSD upgrade enhanced disk-intensive tasks such as duplicating a file or launching Photoshop....

"We spent two weeks using a 1.8 GHz MacBook Air equipped with the 64 GB SSD as the primary system. It turns out that trimming down a system in order to fit on the 64 GB SSD was - for us - almost impossible."

Apple's Hot Air Exquisite but Marred

Personal Computer World's Clive Akass says:

"A stroke of luck last week made me the owner of one of the latest MacBook Air notebooks. We are broad minded here at PCW and have always covered Mac news; some of our friends even use Macs. Time was when I used a Mac (for Quark Xpress) side by side with a PC and was well acquainted with the pros and cons of both designs, but it has been some time since I used one in earnest.

"I'll report more about my impressions in the printed PCW but broadly they are in line with what I wrote when the Air as first announced. This is an exquisite design, aesthetically and (up to a point) ergonomically, marred by two or three screaming snags caused by form being given priority over function.

"Apple boasts that it is ahead of the curve in dropping the wired Ethernet port and relying on wireless, but that cuts both ways. It may be that the port will be unnecessary once wireless infrastructure has matured; but this is not yet the case and the boast sounds more like an excuse for a poor design decision...."

MacBook Air 'Suffers from Cruel Limitations'

Best Laptops Reviews' Christophe Catesson reports:

"One year after announcing the iPhone, Apple presents its latest laptop: the MacBook Air, which they claim is the thinnest laptop in the world. Is the MacBook Air really the dream laptop for all travelers or does it conceal irreparable gaps?"

"This beautiful machine suffers from cruel limitations that other computers, sometimes lighter or less costly, do not have. In spite of the beautiful lines and user friendliness of the MacBook Air, it does not deliver the ultra portable promise as expected. The previous MacBook performs better, is more functional, and cheaper!"

The MacBook Pro: Two Years On

Gene Steinberg, The Mac Night Owl, says:

"Two years ago, I bought my first Intel-based Mac, a 17-inch MacBook Pro, to replace a similarly-outfitted PowerBook G4. Yes, I have an affinity for larger screens. In fact, I'd spring for a 20-inch model if I could afford it and it wasn't too heavy - and that may be why Apple isn't producing any."

200 GB to 500 GB Notebook Drives Tested on FireWire 800

Bare Feats' rob-ART Morgan reports:

"Some exciting options for notebook drives are appearing this spring. In this first installment, we tested samples in FireWire 800 bus powered enclosures.

  • LaCie Little Big Disk Quadra RAID 0 enclosure with dual 7200 rpm 200 GB notebook drives
  • Hitachi Travelstar 5K500 5400 rpm 500 GB notebook drive
  • WD Scorpio WD3200BEVT 5400 rpm 320 GB notebook drive
  • Hitachi Travelstar 7K200 7200 rpm 200 GB notebook drive

"The single Travelstar and Scorpio drives were tested inside the WiebeTech Quad Interface ToughTech XE mini enclosure."

"The new large capacity 5K notebook drives are just as fast as the 'limited' capacity 7K notebook drives. There's something to be said for 'density.'"

Tech Trends

Laptops May Get More Battery Life from Silver-Zinc

Macworld UK's Agam Shah reports:

"Laptop users may soon get longer battery life from their machines, with ZPower set to plug in its new silver-zinc batteries, which it claims last significantly longer than traditional lithium-ion batteries.

"The batteries will be available in consumer and business laptops from major PC makers starting in August....

"Silver-zinc batteries pack more energy than lithium-ion batteries, giving laptops 40 per cent more run time...."

"It also remains to be seen if silver-zinc batteries can compete on price, since lithium-ion is relatively cheap...."

Nanowires for Displays

Technology Review's Prachi Patel-Predd reports:

"Copper nanowires could be used in ultra-thin field-emission displays that are brighter and sharper than flat-panel displays...

"Researchers at the University of Illinois in Urbana Champaign have developed a simple process to grow upright copper nanowires on different surfaces. The nanowire arrays could find use in field-emission displays, a new type of display technology that promises to provide brighter, more vivid pictures than existing flat-panel displays. In such an application, the nanowires would be used to fire electrons at phosphor particles on a screen, lighting them up."


Western Digital's 'Essential' Hard Drive for MacBook Air Owners

Macsimum News's Dennis Sellers reports:

My Passport Essential Portable USB Drive"If you have a MacBook Air and are going on a trip (or - wonder of wonders - using the laptop as your only Mac), an essential item (pun intended) is a My Passport Essential Portable USB Drive from Western Digital. The 5400 RPM drives are light (less than five ounces), reasonably priced and easy to stow and to use.

"Since the 'world's thinnest laptop' comes with, at best, a miserly 80 GB hard drive, you'll probably only keep your essential files on the Air's hard drive or solid state drive. If you want to carry along non-essential items (videos, music, lots of photos, etc.) you'll need extra storage. That's where the My Passport Essential Drive is handy. It requires no power adapter, as it's powered directly through the USB cable."

Performance Without Sacrifice: 320 GB 7200 RPM Hitachi Travelstar Hard Drive

PR: Continuing its long-standing tradition of delivering superior performance with no sacrifices required, Hitachi Global Storage Technologies (Hitachi GST) today began shipment of its fourth-generation 7200 RPM mobile hard drive, the Travelstar 7K320. The new drive delivers 60% higher capacity than its predecessor, while improving application performance by 12% and power consumption by 22%. The drive's quiet acoustics improve the experience of watching movies or listening to music on a notebook PC. The 2.5" drive is offered with optional Bulk Data Encryption for users wanting increased data security. Hitachi also plans to ship enhanced-availability (EA) models, designed to provide high-capacity storage for low-duty-cycle, 24x7 applications.

The performance attributes of the Travelstar 7K320 allow consumers to opt for a full-featured notebook or compact desktop model, while still achieving all the capacity and performance typically associated with a more traditional desktop PC. The new drives bring forth a number of essential features that are in strong demand from manufacturers of notebooks, compact desktops, gaming systems, blade servers and video surveillance systems. Some of these attributes include best-in-class operating shock protection of 400 Gs, 5400 RPM-equivalent power consumption and quiet acoustics.

"As operating systems have grown more complex, users have struggled with an overall decrease in system performance," said Larry Swezey, director, Consumer and Commercial HDD, Hitachi Global Storage Technologies. "Solid state drives (SSD) have yet to deliver an overall increase in speed, and certainly not at an affordable price. The 7200 RPM speed of the Travelstar 7K320 provides an improved overall experience, at the capacities users want and at a far lower cost than SSD."

Gartner is predicting worldwide mobile PC shipments will surpass global desk-based PC shipments in the second half of 20091. This evolution has been driven by the ever improving performance-for-price of mobile PCs, relative to desktop PCs. Hitachi believes the greater availability of 7200 RPM hard drives will help accelerate this trend, as more users realize the benefits of combining desktop-class performance with the convenience and portability of a notebook.

Advanced Features

The Travelstar 7K320 includes many features that translate into very tangible benefits for users, including:

  • 320 GB capacity for storing approximately 80 hours of high definition video, 320 hours of standard video, 100 movies, 80,000 4-minute MP3s or 160 games2
  • The 7200 RPM provides any operating system with a noticeable advantage in boot times and application performance. A SATA 3 Gb/s interface and fast media transfer rates provide faster file copying and document retrieval, better graphics and improved game performance
  • Best-in-class operating shock protection of 400 Gs to minimize the effects of rough handling and vibration
  • Power utilization on par with Hitachi's 5400 RPM mobile drives, so that users can enjoy more "unplugged" notebook computing time
  • The drive's quiet acoustics provide a richer audio listening experience for music, movies and games

Protect Your Data

The Travelstar 7K320 features optional Bulk Data Encryption (BDE), a capability that Hitachi has offered in its mobile hard drives since the start of 2007. Previously, data on a hard drive could be protected either through software-based encryption or a system-level password. Hard drive level encryption provides improved performance and a higher level of security than any of the previously available methods.

When employing bulk data encryption, data is scrambled using a key as it is being written to the disk and then descrambled with the key as it is retrieved. Thus, data encryption at the hard-drive level represents a more sophisticated approach of securing users' data and is generally considered to be virtually impenetrable. Another benefit is that it speeds and simplifies the drive redeployment process. By deleting the encryption key, the data on the drive is rendered unreadable, thereby eliminating the need for time-consuming data-overwrite.

BDE models ship exclusively with a SATA 1.5 Gb/s interface.

Technical Specifications:

Travelstar 7K320 320/250/160/120/80 GB

  • 9.5mm in height
  • 7200 RPM
  • 252 billion bits per square inch maximum areal density
  • 2/2/1/1/1 glass disks
  • 4/4/2/2/1 TMR recording head(s)
  • 1000G/1ms nonoperating shock
  • 400G/2ms operating shock
  • 4.2ms average latency
  • 12ms average read time
  • 1.0W active idle
  • 0.8W low-power idle
  • Serial ATA 3 Gb/s, 1.5 Gb/s encrypted
  • 115/110 grams in weight
  • 2.5Bels typical idle acoustics
  • 2.8Bels typical operational acoustics

The Travelstar 7K320 is now shipping to customers worldwide. The enhanced-availability version of the drive is expected to ship in the third quarter of 2008.

Verbatim First to Offer 19mm Thin 500 GB External Hard Drive

PR: Verbatim Americas, LLC announced the world's first half-Terabyte 2.5" Portable Hard Disk Drive (HDD) featuring an industry standard 9.5mm Z-height drive. The PDA-sized drive joins Verbatim's highly rated SmartDisk line of portable HDDs, which currently offer capacities ranging from 120 GB to 320 GB. Scheduled to begin shipping in Q2 2008, the sleek new HDD will enable Windows and Mac users to add up to 500 GB of removable capacity to their laptop or desktop systems for less than US$300.

The demand for higher-capacity portable storage devices at both the consumer and corporate levels is being driven by the growing number of users who are creating and downloading volumes of digital content.

IDC research shows that the digital universe - information that is either created, captured, or replicated in digital form - will increase from 281 Exabytes in 2007 to nearly 1,800 Exabytes in 2011, or 10 times that produced in 2006. Between 2008 and 2011, the compound annual growth rate is expected to be almost 60%. In addition to the higher capacity requirements, today's more mobile consumers and businesses are becoming more reliant on moving their digital content from one system to another. As a result, IDC sees greater opportunities for smaller devices such 2.5" HDDs.

Verbatim's 500 GB 2.5" SmartDisk HDD meets the capacity, portability and convenience these users need with a simple, easy solution for storing, enjoying, sharing and protecting their music, photos, video and personal files wherever they go. Business people can use the drive to share files between coworker and partner office systems or to transfer files between office and home systems.

"Being able to add half a Terabyte of storage to a PC or Mac with such a small, easy to carry device is a new milestone in the portable storage industry," said Charles Klinker, Verbatim Director of Marketing for SmartDisk products. "Imagine the convenience of being able to store, transport and backup all of your digital content without having to span disks or carry multiple storage solutions."

Weighing less than 6 ounces and measuring only 3.38" x 5.38" x 0.63", Verbatim's new 500 GB 2.5" SmartDisk HDD is easy to carry when traveling with a laptop and requires minimal desk space when connected to a desktop system. Inside its rugged, ultramodern case there are three 166 GB platters that utilize advanced Perpendicular Magnetic Recording (PMR) technology to deliver breakthrough storage capacity in a small form factor. To optimize performance, the drive features a 5400 rpm spindle speed and includes 8 MB of cache memory.

Like Verbatim's complete family of 2.5" SmartDisk HDDs, the 500 GB drive will be available with a choice of a USB interface or a Combo FireWire®/USB interface. With the Combo FireWire/USB interface, the device also becomes interoperable and enables users to transfer files between a Mac and a PC. The bus-powered drives deliver transfer speeds of up to 480 MB per second (MB/sec.) when connected with USB 2.0 and up to 400 MB/sec. for FireWire connections without requiring an AC power adapter.

When plugged in to the USB or FireWire port of a computer, the drive can be accessed and used like a computer hard drive. Users can drag files to the portable HD's icon to copy them, navigate to their HD in Open or Save dialog boxes and can delete files stored on the HD.

Verbatim 2.5" SmartDisk Portable HDDs support the "Time Machine" backup feature in Mac OS X Leopard. Included in the USB-only models is CMS' award-winning BounceBack Express backup software, an easy-to-use backup utility that incorporates scheduling, backup sets, automatic launch options and a quick restore feature.

Verbatim 500 GB 2.5" Portable HDDs will be available in Q2 2008 through retailers and leading etailers with suggested retail pricing beginning at less than US$300 for the USB version.

Samsung SpinPoint 500 GB Laptop Drive Finally on Sale . . . in France

Engadget's Nilay Patel, reports:

"We've been wondering where Samsung's 9.5mm 500 GB SpinPoint M6 laptop drive has been hiding, and it turns out that it's just been vacationing in France."

Bargain 'Books

Bargain 'Books are used unless otherwise indicated. New and refurbished units have a one-year Apple warranty and are eligible for AppleCare.

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.

PowerBook, iBook, and MacBook profiles linked in our Portable Mac Index.

Apple Store

A decent selection of 17" MacBook Pros and recent MacBooks this week, but just one MacBook Pro 15" model in stock. Each model comes with an Apple one-year warranty, and ground shipping is free. Changes this week are the addition of a 2.6 GHz 17" MacBook Pro with high-res display and a 2.2 GHz Black MacBook.

  • refurb 2.1 GHz Penryn MacBook, white, 1 GB/120/Combo, $949
  • refurb 2.2 GHz Core 2 MacBook, white, 1 GB/120/SD, $999
  • refurb 2.4 GHz Santa Rosa MacBook, white, 2 GB/160/SD, $1,099
  • refurb 2.4 GHz Santa Rosa MacBook, black, 2 GB/250/SD, $1,299
  • refurb 15" 2.2 GHz Core 2 MacBook Pro, 2 GB/120/SD, $1,449
  • refurb 17" 2.4 GHz Santa Rosa MacBook Pro, 2 GB/160/SD, $2,099
  • refurb 17" 2.4 GHz hi-res Core 2 MacBook Pro, 2 GB/160/SD, $2,299
  • refurb 17" 2.6 GHz Core 2 MacBook Pro, 2 GB/160/SD, $2,299
  • refurb 17" 2.6 GHz hi-res Core 2 MacBook Pro, 2 GB/160/SD, $2,499


  • 12" iBook G3/700, 256/20/Combo, $419.99
  • 12" iBook G3/800, 256/20/Combo, $429.99
  • 15" PowerBook G4/667 (VGA), 256/30/Combo, $599.99
  • 15" PowerBook G4/667 (DVI), 256/30/Combo, $629.99
  • 15" PowerBook G4/1.67 GHz, 512/80/SD, APX, $899

Wegener Media - 15" MacBook Pro - 15" PowerBook

  • 1.83 GHz 15" MacBook Pro, 512/80/SD, $1099.99
  • 2 GHz 15" MacBook Pro, 512/80/SD, $1154.99
  • 2.16 GHz 15" MacBook Pro, 1 GB/100/SC, $1399.99
  • 2.16 GHz 17" MacBook, 1 GB/120/SD, $1299.99
  • 2.16 GHz 17" MacBook 2.16 GHz, 1 GB/160/SD, $1379.99
  • 2.16 GHz 17" MacBook 2.16 GHz, 1 GB/200/SD, $1399.99

Baucom Computers

  • 12" iBook G4/800, 640/30/Combo, $379
  • 12" iBook G4/800, 640/30/Combo, APX, $410

Power Max

  • open box 2.1 GHz Core 2 MacBook, white, 1 GB/120/Combo, $1,049
  • open box 2.16 GHz Core 2 MacBook, white, 1/120/SD, warranty started, $1,099
  • open box 2.2 GHz Core 2 MacBook, black, 2 GB/160/SD, $1,299
  • open box 2.4 GHz Core 2 MacBook, black, 2 GB/250/SD, $1,449
  • open box 1.6 GHz MacBook Air, 2 GB/80, $1,749
  • open box 15" 2.2 GHz Core 2 MacBook Pro, 2/120/SD, $1,599
  • open box 17" 2.33 GHz Core 2 MacBook Pro, 2 GB/160/SD, $2,288
  • refurb 17" 2.4 GHz Core 2 MacBook Pro, 2 GB/160/SD, warranty started, $2,088
  • open box 17" 2.4 GHz Core 2 MacBook Pro, 2 GB/160/SD, warranty started, $2,349
  • 17" 2.4 GHz Core 2 MacBook Pro, 2 GB/160/SD, $2,449
  • open box 17" 2.5 GHz Core 2 MacBook Pro, 2 GB/160/SD, $2,688
  • 17" 2.6 GHz Core 2 MacBook Pro, 2 GB/160/SD, $2,699

PowerBook Guy

  • clamshell iBook G3/300, Blueberry, 64/3/CD, $149.95
  • clamshell iBook G3/300, Tangerine, 64/3/CD, $169.95
  • clamshell iBook G3/366 SE, Graphite, 128/10/CD, $199.95
  • 12" iBook G3/500, 128/10/CD, $199.95
  • 12" iBook G3/500, 256/10/Combo, $279.95
  • 12" iBook G4/1 GHz, 768/40/Combo, $529.95
  • Pismo PowerBook G3/400, 192/6/Zip, $269.95

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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