The 'Book Review

Fast Drives Mean Fast Macs, 256 MB SSD, 16:9 Ratio Notebook Screens the New Norm, and More

This Week's MacBook, PowerBook, and iBook News

Compiled by Charles Moore and edited by Dan Knight - 2008.05.30

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Tech news is on the front burner this week: Samsung has a 256 GB Solid State Drive, the fastest and highest capacity to date. Initially available in a 2.5" form factor, a 1.8" version (the right size for the MacBook Air and iPod classic) should be available by the end of the year.

Intel's new Montevina mobility platform has been delayed. It'd designed with SSD in mind.

And on the display side of things, it looks like notebooks with 16:9 screen ratios will be the norm by the end of the year. No details yet on exact resolution, but this could drive Apple to redesign the MacBook, MacBook Air, and both sizes of MacBook Pro for the new aspect ratio. (Current screens are 16:10.)

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


Apple Updates


Bargain 'Books

News & Opinion

Fast Hard Drives Drive Mac Speed's Alan Zeichick says:

"I had the opportunity last week to work with a new MacBook Pro, one that's about year newer than mine. Performance on the new model was much faster. Why? Because of the hard drive's speed. That's one place where you should choose carefully.

"I've been writing on this topic since last September, but have become more convince than ever that drive speed is a killer feature. Think about the areas where modern desktops get their performanceboosts from. The ones that get talked about the most like processor speed, aren't the most important in the real world."

MacBook Pro Speed Secret: The Hard Drive

Mac Observer's John Martellaro says:

"One can spend a lot of extra money for a 2.5 GHz MacBook Pro instead of a 2.4 GHz model and not gain much performance. However, the choice of hard disk can make a world of difference, according to Alan Zelchick in his blog....

"'The older MacBook Pro (2.2 GHz processor, 4 MB cache, 3 GB memory) had a 200 GB hard drive that spun at 4500 RPM,' the author noted. 'The new one (2.4 GHz processor, 3 MB cache, 2 GB memory) also had a 200 GB drive, but it rotated at 7200 RPM. It blew the old notebook away on every aspect of working with it.'

"His advice was to skimp a little on processor speed and pour all that extra money into the fastest hard disk Apple offers...."

Intel Centrino 2 Delay, Apple Impacted?

9to5Mac's Andy Space reports:

"Apple's MacBook upgrade plans may have hit an obstacle, with news that Intel will delay the release of its new Centrino 2 platform for laptops by nearly two months.

"Intel's delaying the release in order to address problems related to the chipset and the antenna used with the wireless chipset. Centrino 2 is the latest version of Intel's laptop platform and was originally scheduled to ship in June. The impact of the delay means computer makers - potentially including Apple, should it make good on long-standing rumours claiming it has chosen Centrino 2 for its next scheduled MacBook release - will now have to delay the launch of any new machines."

Traveling with a MacBook Air

PC World's James A. Martin reports:

"If you're single and looking for love, here's a tip: Buy an Apple MacBook Air and start hanging out at Internet cafés.

"Apple's 3-pound, ultra-thin portable is bound to draw people to your table. Even in some San Francisco Internet cafés I've visited, where Mac laptop devotees outnumber Windows users, the Air I was testing rarely failed to attract longing glances, followed by questions from other café denizens....

"But I'm not here to provide dating tips, of course. I'm here to tell you what it's like to use and travel with an Air.

"Recently, I used the Air in San Francisco, where I live, and took the laptop on a cross-country trip to Atlanta and back. I used it in-flight, in airport departure lounges and business centers, and in Internet cafés. My goal: to determine if this much-hyped laptop is a worthy computer for business travelers. The answer? I love the Air and I think many other mobile professionals will too, though it's not for everyone."

Can a 256 GB SSD Save the MacBook Air?

The Apple Core's Jason D. O'Grady says:

"When it comes to the MacBook Air I'm a lover and a hater.

"I waited forever for a real Apple subnotebook, then after getting one I find myself traveling less and craving more horsepower than the diminutive MacBook Air can deliver. But I digress.

"One decision I don't regret is passing on the ultra-expensive 64 GB Solid State Drive (SSD) option when I ordered my MBA....

"I've always maintained that if SSDs had double the capacity for half the price (~$500) I'd consider it. Well, Samsung's going to do me one better. According to AI they've just announced a 256 GB SSD that's larger, cheaper and faster....

"While Apple hasn't announced anything, they currently use a Samsung 64 GB SSD (the MCCOE64GEMPP) in the MacBook Air. So draw your own conclusions....

"If the next MacBook Air has at least a 2 GHz processor, 4 GB RAM and a 256 GB SSD option (that costs less than a car), count me in!"

Lose the Optical Drives in Laptops

PC Magazine's Lance Ulanoff says:

"No one needs an optical drive in a laptop. I know, you think you do. We all think we do, but it's an illusion....

"We don't need optical drives in laptops. The sooner we accept that, the sooner manufacturers will get the message and stop trying to satisfy our irrational longings. I think that Dell , Fujitsu, Lenovo, and other companies already know this, but they simply don't know how to deliver this message to consumers - at least in a way that will convince them. Think of the possibilities if we let go of the optical drive. PC makers can use that space for more graphics power, bigger batteries, and memory card readers, or they can simply build more portables like the MacBook Air.

"Our letting go could lead to the true golden age of laptop technology."

How to Right Click on a Mac Notebook

Macsupport says:

"If you have just moved over to the Macintosh platform you have probably realized there is no apparent right-click button located on Apple notebook computers. Rest assured there is a right-click feature, it justs takes a few simple steps and then you can start right-clicking easily."

MacBook Air Keyboard Illumination Not Working Properly

MacFixIt reports:

"Some users have reported an issue in which the MacBook Air's ambient light sensor process that automatically illuminates the keyboard seems to not be functioning, or functioning in reverse. For instance, when the computer is put in light conditions the keyboard brightens, and in the dark the keyboard will darken and/or turn off. Sometimes the light sensor will not work at all, or will only work for either the keyboard or display brightness, but not both together."

MacBook Pro Ethernet Ports Stops Working; Requires Reboot

Also from MacFixIt:

"Several MacBook Pro owners have experienced an issue in which system ethernet ports suddenly drop connectivity. This behavior is accompanied by a an error in the system logs....

"Once this problem occurs the only way to resolve it has been to restart the computer.... Most likely a true fix will have to wait for a driver update from Apple."

Laptops for College Grads

PC Magazine's Brittany Petersen says:

"If you're headed toward a specific career - or even a slightly vague career (we know how it goes) - you may need a laptop with particular capabilities. A tough laptop would be more useful for a chemistry major dealing with toxic substances in a lab than for a graphic arts major, who might prefer a tablet. And the large hard drive and multiple video outputs that would be great for a film graduate probably wouldn't help a journalism graduate, who needs a lot of battery life and an Internet connection.

"We looked at the whole gamut of laptops, from ultraportables to desktop replacements, to find those most suited to a range of careers. We took into account processor speed, screen size, portability, and all sorts of features and capabilities and came up with suggestions for 12 major-specific laptops that every recent grad (and current student) should know about. Whether you majored in economics or leisure studies, we've got the laptop for you."

German Users Claim MacBook Air Can Cut Through Bread, Flesh

slicing bread with a MacBook AirEngadget's Joshua Topolsky reports:

"Now, we know that the MacBook Air is one thin laptop, but some Apple forum members in Germany are claiming that the edge of the laptop is not only sharp - but downright dangerous. According to 'Apple Talk' reader Bajuware, his . . . Air's bottom edge made nasty work of the human flesh like someone had insulted its mother. Another MBA owner claims his computer is sharp enough to slice bread, though we assume it's not used for buttering...."

Tech Trends

Samsung Develops 256 GB 2.5" SSD: World's Fastest, Largest Capacity SATA II SSD

PR: Samsung Electronics has announced today that it has developed the world's fastest, 2.5", 256 Gigabyte (GB) multilevel cell (MLC) based solid state drive (SSD) using a SATA II interface, at the fifth annual Samsung Mobile Solution Forum held here today. Samsung's new 256 GB SSD is also the thinnest drive with the largest capacity to be offered with a SATA II interface.

With a sequential read speed of 200 megabytes per second (MB/s) and sequential write speed of 160 MB/s, Samsung's MLC-based 2.5" 256 GB SSD is about 2.4 times faster than a typical HDD. Furthermore, the new 256 GB SSD is only 9.5 millimeters (mm) thick, and measures 100.3 x 69.85 mm.

Once introduced, the Samsung's 256 GB SSD will mark the largest capacity SSD from the global market leader in SSD sales, effectively eliminating density as a barrier to SSD adoption in the consumer space.

"With development of the 256 GB SSD, the notebook PC is on the brink of a second stage of evolution. This change is comparable to the evolution from the Sony Walkman to NAND memory-based MP3 players, representing an initial step in the shift to thinner, smaller SSD-based notebooks with significantly improved performance and more than ample storage," said Jim Elliott, vice president, memory marketing, Samsung Semiconductor, Inc.

Through major advancements in proprietary controller technology, Samsung's new MLC 256 GB SSD, besides being comparable in speed to an SLC-based SSD, also boasts reliability equal to that of SLC SSDs, with a mean time between failures (MTBF) of one million hours, while costing considerably less. Power consumption is also exceptionally low at 0.9 watts in active mode.

In addition, the drive offers a sophisticated data encryption process that prevents data stored on the SSD from being accessed in an unauthorized manner, even after the SSD is removed from the PC.

SSD market forecastOverall, the number of computing units in which SSDs are being offered is expected to increase dramatically once Samsung's previously announced 128 GB SSD and the new 256 GB SSD are launched. At present, Samsung is actively involved in high-capacity SSD design-in activities for all of the top PC and server manufacturers from the US, Asia, and Europe.

Samsung is expected to begin mass producing the 2.5", 256 GB SSD by year end, with customer samples available in September. A 1.8" version of the 256 GB SSD is expected to be available in the fourth quarter of 2008.

According to a Q1 2008 report by the semiconductor market research firm iSuppli, the SSD market will grow at an annualized average of 124 percent during the four-year period from 2008 until 2012. iSuppli now projects SSD sales to increase by an additional 35 percent in 2009 over what it projected last year, 51 percent more in 2010, and 89 percent more in 2011, and continue to show dramatic increases in subsequent years.

Intel to Use Centrino 2 'Montevina' to Promote Solid-state Drives

Register Hardware's Tony Smith reports:

"Intel will offer to bundle its promised solid-state drives with its upcoming Centrino 2 platform, it has been claimed. The plan is being portrayed as a bid to push SSDs into the mainstream.

"Today, SSDs generally command a significant premium over the price of equivalent notebooks fitted with a hard drive. Quite how far Intel will use the bundle approach to drive down the cost of implementing SSDs remains to be seen.

"Centrino 2 - codenamed 'Montevina' - is due to debut late June, according to industry moles. Back in March, Intel executive Troy Winslow said the chip giant would ship 80 GB and 160 GB 2.5in- and 1.8in-format SSDs in Q2, so the timing of both product types could easily coincide.... That makes the 1.8in model a logical update for Apple's MacBook Air...."

Intel Delays Centrino 2 [Montevina] to July 14

TGDaily's Wolfgang Gruener reports:

"Sources close to Intel have confirmed to TG Daily earlier reports that Intel's Montevina notebook platform, referred to as Centrino 2, will see a substantial delay. Montevina will not make it to Computex next week and will miss its originally planned debut date later in June. Intel has decided to delay Centrino 2, providing AMD with an opportunity to pitch its Puma platform and Turion Ultra processor.

"Our sources confirmed that information provided by American Technology Research analyst Doug Freedman is accurate, claiming that the company had a 'mis-step in the completion of FCC certification' for the next-generation Centrino processor with support for the 802.11n WiFi standard....

"Freedman also noted that Intel faces problems with its integrated graphics chipset, which is causing failures in OEM notebooks....

"Our sources at Intel told us that Centrino 2 is now scheduled for a July 14 launch with 'some chipsets'. A 'couple of weeks later' the company will be shipping the full line of chipsets...."

Centrino 2 [Montevina] Starts Looking Like a Mirage

The Register's Joe Fay reports:

"Intel will leave its OEMs facing a summer drought of new mobile chips after admitting its Centrino update, Montevina, would not appear till August at the earliest.

"The update to the vendor's mobile laptop chip range, also know as Centrino 2, was originally due this month, but was pushed back to late June a week or two ago. This would still have brought it in the H2 time frame it had originally been scheduled for.

"However, it has emerged that a brace of problems means that the complete Centrino 2 package will now not appear till August. The vendor is having problems both with the chipset for the platform, and with the wireless platform's antennae. The platform is supposed to support both WiFi and WiMax."

16:9 Ratio Notebook Panels to Become Mainstream by Year End

DigiTimes' Yen Ting Chen and Joseph Tsai report:

"With panel makers pushing 16:9 ratio panels in 2008, Acer has decided to open up all its notebook product lines to be based on the ratio, while other notebook vendors are readying to push at least 14- and 15.6-inch lines in the third quarter this year. Notebook makers predict the proportion of 16:9 models will increase 10% per quarter during in the second half of 2008.

"In addition to 14- and 15.6-inch panels, 17.3-inch, mainly supplied by AUO and LG, and 18.4-inch, supplied by Samsung Electronics, Chi Mei Optoelectronics (CMO) and Chunghwa Picture Tubes (CPT) are also sizes Acer plans to introduce. Meanwhile, most other notebook vendors are still evaluating which of the two larger sizes they will bid on."

Ultra-Wide Notebooks at Dell, Apple, More?

Electronista says:

"Notebooks with a 16:9 movie aspect ratio will be introduced by several major PC makers this year and should become increasingly common by the end of the year in smaller systems, says a report detailing their reported expansion. Although Acer is currently the only PC maker selling notebooks in the ultra-wide format with its large Gemstone Blue 16- and 18.4-inch notebooks . . . several other PC makers are all said to be introducing extra-wide notebooks....

"Apple is rumored to be launching a major redesign of the MacBook Pro for its next revision of the high-end portable and has often been regarded as a pioneer of widescreen notebooks, having popularized the format with the original PowerBook G4 in 2001...."

Next Generation LCDs: 15.6" and 16 x 9

Mac Observer's John Martellaro reports:

"LCD panel makers are pushing for a slight adjustment to the 15-inch class LCD used in notebook computers. Instead of 15.4 inches and 16 x 10, the new panels scheduled for late Q2 or early Q3 will be 15.6 inches and 16 x 9, according to DigiTimes on Wednesday.

"The primary advantage is the geometry and costs of the LCD displays which are cut from larger fabricated panels. The 16 x 9 aspect ratio is also the same aspect ratio as HDTV. The disadvantage for customers will be slightly fewer pixels."


17" MacBook Pro 'One Incredibly Impressive Laptop'

Computerworld's Ryan Faas says the 17" MacBook Pro is "a desktop replacement 'in virtually every sense of the word":

"There's something I have to say at the outset of this review: From the time Apple Inc. announced the first 17-in. PowerBook G4 models five years ago, I've always been a little prejudiced against them. I'd never have tried to talk someone out of buying one, but I always shared my opinion that a laptop with a 17-in. display barely qualifies as a laptop at all. It seemed to me that the 17-in. PowerBook and its successor, the Intel-based MacBook Pro, was simply too big, too bulky and too heavy - though I confess I'd never carried one around.

"With that out of the way, let me say this: I have spent a week getting to know Apple's newest 17-in. MacBook Pro - the 2.6-GHz model with LED backlighting, to be specific - and I'm still not sure it's the perfect machine for me. Much like the ultraslim MacBook Air isn't for everyone, neither is the biggest of the MacBook Pros. But it is one incredibly impressive laptop, and it doesn't seem as bulky as I'd always thought."

Modbook Tablet Shows Promise, Limited Appeal

Computerworld's Ken Mingis says:

"Axiotron's Modbook is a really cool portable computer that I would likely never buy.

"I say that having spent two weeks with the Modbook, which is basically an Apple MacBook that's been converted into a tablet PC for designers or those who need a slate-style tablet in the field. Real estate agents, insurance adjusters, college students, health care professionals and even mariners could conceivably cart one of these Modbooks out and about with them. (It also has optional GPS capabilities.) But I'm not sure Mac users accustomed to Apple's hardware will be ready for the compromises inherent in the Modbook."

Apple Updates

MacBook Pro Sleep Issues with NitroAV 2-port FireWire 800 Card

A new Apple Knowledge Base article says:

"If a NitroAV 2-port FireWire 800 card is installed, MacBook Pro computers may have issues waking from sleep mode.

"Products Affected

"MacBook Pro, NitroAV 2-port FireWire 800 card


"If this occurs, waking the computer from sleep mode requires shutting down and restarting.

"In order to avoid this issue, remove the NitroAV 2-port FireWire 800 card before allowing the computer to sleep."


Western Digital My Passport Studio Portable Hard Drives

My Passport Studio Portable Hard DrivePR: Mac-ready storage to go - 320 GB, FireWire 400, USB 2.0. This sleek little portable drive, with dual interfaces, is formatted for Macintosh, features a clever capacity gauge and comes with a soft drawstring bag

Equipped with both FireWire 400 and USB 2.0 interfaces, and formatted for Macintosh, this portable hard drive is perfect for Mac users on the go. Use it to pack up your office files and take them home, carry thousands of songs or pictures and back up your Macintosh laptop using Apple Time Machine.

Key Features

My Passport Studio Portable Hard DriveIdeal For

System Requirements

Compatibility may vary depending on user's hardware configuration and operating system. FireWire interface requires use of the USB port on the drive for power.

The My Passport drives ship in capacities of 320 GB, 250 GB, and 160 GB at prices of $219.99, $159.99, and $129.99 respectively

'#1 Dad' Notebook Mouse Available from MoGo

PR: Newton Peripherals, the developer of the MoGo family of Bluetooth-enabled computer mice, announced today a special Father's Day edition of its popular MoGo Mouse - the business-card size mouse that stores and charges in the PC card or ExpressCard/54 slot of notebook PCs (unfortunately, Apple went with ExpressCard 34 in the MacBook Pro, and the other MacBooks have no expansion slots). MoGo Mouse is now offering a custom skin for the MoGo Mouse that proudly displays "#1 Dad."

#1 Dad mouseThe MoGo "#1 Dad" Mouse is available online at the MoGo Store. To ensure delivery by June 15, gift givers should place orders by June 9 at the MoGo Store. "MoGo is the perfect mouse for any Dad who needs maximum productivity from his laptop without the extra bulk," said Matt Westover, President and Chief Executive Officer of Newton Peripherals. "MoGo is built tough for laptop use but without the clumsy 'clamshell' casing and it fully integrates into the notebook so there's nothing for Dad to fumble with," he added.

The MoGo Mouse has the same functionality as conventional laser mice - scroll, right click, left click - plus it can also double as a wireless media remote or presenter with laser pointer. Embedded with Bluetooth technology, MoGo Mouse offers 30 feet of wireless freedom with no batteries or line-of site required. MoGo's Award-winning design features a kickstand that flips out to comfortably position the mouse in your hand.

Dads will love MoGo's space saving design and the fact that MoGo models can double as either a Media Remote or a Presenter. MoGo Media Mouse X54 allows users to wirelessly play, pause, switch tracks and adjust volume on iTunes, Real Player and You Tube. MoGo Presenter Mouse X54 Pro, a cordless presenter, enables full control of presentations with 1-touch switching between mouse and presenter modes with laser pointer, slide changer and start/escape button functionality.

Original Clamshell Mac Laptop Briefcase Reborn

MacCase Classic CasePR: MacCase, the pioneers of the first Apple laptop case, has reissued the original 1999 clamshell case design with the launch of the 2008 Classic Case.

Bringing back a piece of history, the relaunch of the Classic Case was in direct response to requests by MacBook and iBook owners looking for a unique and resilient case solution. The Classic Case is a near match to the original, sporting the rounded shape of the clamshell iBook, a choice of all five lively colors and a 1999 price tag of under $50.

MacCase Classic Case"We created the market for Apple laptop cases in 1999 with the launch of the first briefcase for the clamshell iBook. Despite the unorthodox design, the case was extremely popular. It actually became the de facto solution for the iBook," explains Michael Santoro, President and Chief Creative Officer of MacCase.

"Demand for the case was high but Apple kept developing new products, and so did we. We had no plans to continue the case after it sold out, but requests continued and then escalated with the launch of the 13" MacBook. The unique design really taps into the 'anti-status quo' element within the Apple community. We are happy to continue being a part of that."

MacCase Classic CaseDesigner Michael Santoro retained the overall rounded shape of the original 1999 iBook case which still stands in stark contrast to the boxy, black briefcase alternatives available in today's market. The Classic Case also includes the MacCase signature window that allows the Apple logo of the laptop to be seen through the case, becoming a part of its design. The two-tone front face and abundance of storage space emulates that of the original design. Several improvements were also made including the addition of molded rubber corner protectors, an air mesh interior floor that allows the processor to cool after use and interior straps to secure the 13" MacBook for transport. The case comes in five colors (Tangerine, Blueberry, Keylime, Indigo and Graphite) and is available online.

MacCase created the Apple-specific case market in 1999 with the introduction of a nylon briefcase for the original clamshell iBook. The line has since grown to seven models including sleeves, binders, messenger bags, backpacks, slings and briefcases. In 2007, the Premium Leather Collection was introduced and in 2008, the original iBook clamshell briefcase was reissued to meet the needs of a unique Apple generation. MacCase products are available at, MacMall, Small Dog Electronics, Mac Connection, and For further information, please visit our website or contact Customer Service at 866-526-2247.

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

New this week: Refurbished MacBook Airs!, $50 price drop on 2.4 GHz MacBook Pro 15". Each model comes with an Apple one-year warranty, and ground shipping is free.


Wegener Media - 15" MacBook Pro - 17" MacBook Pro

Baucom Computers

Power Max

PowerBook Guy

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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