The 'Book Review

Laptop a Better Bet than Desktop, MacBook vs. Pro, Problems with 17" MacBook Pro Screen, and More

This Week's MacBook, PowerBook, and iBook News

Compiled by Charles Moore and edited by Dan Knight - 2008.06.26

Low End Mac is taking a long weekend, so we're posting this week's news roundups on Thursday morning. We'll be back on Monday.

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



Bargain 'Books

News & Opinion

Laptop Likely to Be Best Bet

The Baltimore Sun's Mike Himowitz says:

"If there's a recent grad in your house, or you're one of the many buyers who think they can get a better deal at midyear than during the holidays, chances are good that you're looking for a computer. And your chances of finding a good one for a reasonable price are good indeed. In fact, you'd have to work pretty hard to find a bad one.

"...that computer is likely to be a laptop machine today, rather than a desktop. And if you don't like an idea of a laptop because the screen and keyboard are too small, here's my advice - buy a laptop, hook up a keyboard, monitor and mouse, and use it as a desktop machine . . . a laptop provides almost as much processing bang for the buck as a desktop machine, and the flexibility of using it anywhere in your home, or taking it on vacation, is worth the extra cost."

MacBook or MacBook Pro?

SchwartzTech's Eric Schwarz says:

"With many people going back to school in a couple of months, Apple has numerous promotions for those who buy a new computer. Even those of us who have aged machines are finding it time to check out something new. However, I've had a few people (myself included) wonder if a loaded MacBook is a better value than a MacBook Pro."

Editor's note: For my recent musings on this same topic, see MacBook or MacBook Pro? on PB Central. cm

Making AppleCare Worthwhile: Battery Replacement

TidBITS' Jeff Carlson says:

"Every time I buy a new Mac laptop, I question whether I should purchase AppleCare to extend the warranty from one year to three years. My MacBook Pro cost $2,800 (with tax and shipping) in November 2006, so laying out another $300 for AppleCare - well, frankly, it hurt.... However, I've found that almost every laptop I've owned has needed some sort of after-warranty work done, so I've ordered AppleCare for every one."

Editor's note: My experience has been the diametrical opposite. I've bought four new Mac laptops in the past 11 years (plus several used ones), AppleCare with none of them, and it's never been missed. My reasoning is that any catastrophic problem will likely either show up in the first year under the regular warranty or be an affliction of old age after AppleCare coverage expires. I'm sure there are many examples of exceptions to that theory, but I'm pretty confident that it would apply in more cases than not. None of my Apple laptops has ever required warranty service of any sort except for the case plastics of my PowerBook 5300 being replaced under Apple's Extended Service Program for that model when the trackpad button broke at about the four year mark. I figure I've saved more than the price of a new MacBook (counting interest and growth of money not spent) by not buying AppleCare. However, your mileage may vary, and if AppleCare helps you sleep better, go for it. cm

Problems with 17" MacBook Pro Display Nick Galvin reports:

"Apple . . . has been on our minds at Troubleshooter this week . . . In fact, we've been concerning ourselves with an Apple product from a couple of years ago and a problem being experienced by one reader.

"The product in question is the G4 17-inch PowerBook - in our opinion, a fine machine.

"Jon Biddell's major gripe:

"'After around 2 1/2 years - and yes, out of warranty - my PowerBook started developing vertical coloured lines on the screen,' he says. 'This had happened during the warranty period and that was when the LCD was replaced. I figured that it was out of warranty so I was out of luck - until I discovered that the problem was a well-known one.'

"And indeed a little digging around online unearths a few hundred PowerBook owners claiming to have the same problem. Take a look at and for examples."

The Thin Laptop Wars

Forbes' Brian Caulfield reports:

"The paperback edition of War & Peace, a bottle of wine, the world's smallest cat - all of these things weigh a good deal more than the Portégé R500-S5007V introduced by Toshiba last week.

"The neatest trick: Unlike Apple's 3-pound MacBook Air, the 2.4-pound Toshiba includes the optical drive that the MacBook Air lacks while cramming in 128 gigabytes worth of storage, thanks to the world's largest capacity flash memory-based hard drive. All this, and it's just one hundredth of an inch thicker than the Apple.

"The catch: Toshiba's new machine won't be available until the third quarter of this year, and even then it will carry a price tag that makes Apple customers look downright thrifty: $2,999."

Multi-touch Screens Could Change the Way We Interact with Computers and Each Other

Scientific American's Stuart F. Brown says:

"When Apple's iPhone hit the streets last year, it introduced so-called multi-touch screens to the general public. Images on the screen can be moved around with a fingertip and made bigger or smaller by placing two fingertips on the image's edges and then either spreading those fingers apart or bringing them closer together. The tactile pleasure the interface provides beyond its utility quickly brought it accolades. The operations felt intuitive, even sensuous. But in laboratories around the world at the time of the iPhone's launch, multi-touch screens had vastly outgrown two-finger commands. Engineers have developed much larger screens that respond to 10 fingers at once, even to multiple hands from multiple people.

"It is easy to imagine how photographers, graphic designers or architects - professionals who must manipulate lots of visual material and who often work in teams - would welcome this multi-touch computing. Yet the technology is already being applied in more far-flung situations in which anyone without any training can reach out during a brainstorming session and move or mark up objects and plans."


LapWorks Gamers Desk

PR: LapWorks Inc., specialist in ergonomic and heat- reducing laptop desks and stands, has announced its initial entry into the PC Gaming market with the portable Gamers Desk. As PC gamers move to their couches to play First Person Shooter (FPS) and other high precision games on their HDTV or laptop screen, the Desk provides a comfortable, ergonomically sound, wide flat platform across the lap with ample space for a broad gamer keyboard and optical mouse or a laptop and external mouse. Measuring 26 3Ú4 x 11 inches across including a 6 x 9 inch mousing area on either end, the Gamers Desk is made of high-impact ABS plastic, comes in modernistic 'gunmetal' gray and retails for $39.95 directly from LapWorks.

LapWorks' Gamers Desk"LapWorks' Gamers Desk makes a timely entrance into a converging market where many traditional desktop PC gamers are moving with keyboard and mouse in front of the TV, once the sole domain of console games," said Jo Jo Marks, director of marketing for Ideazon, maker of the popular Zboard Gaming Keyboard. "The Gamers Desk helps bring PC gaming into the living room, where gamers can leave their desks behind and use a wide platform to handle a keyboard and mouse on their lap."

Avid PC gamer and Gamers Desk beta tester Alex Artigues talked with LapWorks about PC gaming trends. "PC gaming in the living room has to date been limited because not all video cards were powerful enough to drive an HDTV display, HDTVs were too expensive to gain much traction, and it is a pain to use a keyboard and mouse on the coffee table or couch."

Artigues added that advanced FPS enthusiasts may prefer the precision of a mouse over console game controllers which have few buttons and joysticks with a limited range of motion.

"We wanted PC gamers to be able to play in comfort and with control wherever they are," said Jose Calero, president of LapWorks. "Whether gaming on a couch or in an easy chair in front of a big-screen TV, or at their PC, the Gamers Desk supports all gamer keyboards with plenty of room for an optical mouse."

The Gamers Desk arrives in three parts which are easy to assemble. Two Futura MouzPads snap easily into place, one on each end of a Laptop Desk Futura. LapWorks also provides four locking plugs which can hold the MouzPads in place semi-permanently.

LapWorks designed the MouzPad so heavy-handed mouse users won't inadvertently snap it off, while also being easy to remove simply by lifting up its outer edge. If precision gamers find that they require a stronger hold, they can use the locking plugs.

Visually aesthetic with a bursting oval-shaped pattern and open ventilation slots which allow heat to escape, the assembled Gamers Desk is rigid, thin (1/4-inch), lightweight (1 pound 9 ounces), and foldable in the middle for easy transport and storage. Soft nonskid rubber pads on the middle portion of the Gamer Desk keep gamer keyboards or laptops from slipping. There are four utility holes for cables, pencils, pens, etc. It carries a 6-month warranty.

LapWorks expects later this year to launch the Gamers Desk in colors and patterns similar to the recently announced Painted Laptop Desk Futuras. Pricing is undetermined at this time.

LapWorks welcomes feedback from the gaming community to consider for future gaming platforms.

200 GB 7200 rpm SATA Seagate Momentus Hard Drive, $99.75

PR: Other World Computing offers the 200 GB 2.5" Seagate Momentus 7200.2 7200 rpm SATA notebook drive with 16 MB Cache & with G-Force Protection Anti-Shock - Brand New & Factory Sealed with 3 Year OWC Fulfilled Warranty for $99.75.

Key Advantages

  • G-Force Protection - Seagate freefall sensor technology protects data by returning drive to a nonoperating state in the event of a drop. G-Force Protection delivers the robustness required to operate in a mobile computing environment.
  • Highest available laptop performance - SATA 3 GB/s interface increases system performance.
  • Low power consumption maximizes battery life and lets users work longer.
  • Perpendicular recording technology enhances data reliability.
  • 3 Year Limited Replacement Warranty - Fulfilled by Other World Computing

Price: $99.75

TechRestore's 500 GB Overnight Storage Upgrades for MacBook, MacBook Pro

PR: TechRestore, Inc. has begun offering a new overnight hard drive replacement service featuring 500 GB drives for MacBook and MacBook Pro models.

TechRestore, Inc. has begun offering a new overnight hard drive replacement service featuring 500 GB drives for MacBook and MacBook Pro models.

The half terabyte (or 500 GB) drive upgrade is the largest capacity hard drive that has ever been available for any laptop, and marks an important milestone in the history of computing, by providing unprecedented storage capacity to facilitate today's mobile computing needs. The high-speed overnight service is completed within 24 hours and includes installation of the new drive into the users laptop and data transfer from the old hard drive onto the new drive. An exact clone of the users data is transferred to the new drive ready for immediate use when their Mac is returned to them via overnight courier. Clients also have the option of having their old hard drive installed into an external USB 2.0 enclosure for an additional $39, which works great with the revolutionary new Time Machine backup feature in Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard. Nationwide door-to-door pickup service is available for the upgrade, with couriers picking up client's laptops from virtually any location.

500 GB 5400 rpm Overnight Drive Upgrade for MacBooks & MacBooks Pro are available immediately for $399.


Temperature Monitor 4.51 Released

PR: Temperature Monitor is an application to read out all available temperature sensors in Macintosh computers. The program can display and visualize measured values in a large variety of fashions. The application supports the following operations on the measured readings:

  • display in a default window
  • output in a screen display in front or in the background of the screen
  • tabular display in an overview window
  • display in the menu-bar
  • display of a maximum of two readings in the Dock
  • graphical display of short-term and long-term history curves
  • speech output of readings
  • display of minimum and maximum values
  • export to text files

Moreover, the application can display additional technical information about your computer. Among other information this includes:

  • Processor type
  • Processor and bus frequencies
  • Manufacturing information

Of course the application can read out the data only if your computer is equipped with the necessary sensors, and if Mac OS X can access them without needing third-party device drivers. Beginning in summer 2002, Apple has begun to massively drive forward the use of monitoring probes in the PowerMac series, the Xserve series, and in portable computers. Some models are equipped with 38 and more sensors. But Temperature and Hardware Monitor can detect sensors on many older systems as well if they are available.

Apple has restricted the use of monitoring applications on Intel-based Macintosh systems. Thermal management of those computers is no longer done by the operating system, but controlled by an undocumented hardware device, the Apple System Management Controller. Only a few sensors are accessible by application programs.

We try to detect all sensors on as many Macintosh computer types as possible. However, a prediction which sensors are available in which models is not possible, because Apple very often releases "silent product updates", where the hardware equipments of some models are changed but the names are not (specifications are "subject to change without notice"). The particular graphics card and hard disk configuration used is also important because these parts can include independent sensors, too.

Please note that Apple does not support an official or standardized way of reading out sensor data in Mac OS X (the only exception is the Server Monitor application for the Xserve series). Moreover, there is no documentation or other technical note about the individual function of the sensors. For this reason, the development of Temperature Monitor and Hardware Monitor is very costly because the necessary data has to be determined by reverse engineering and tests run on a variety of computer models. Please support the development of the applications by purchasing a registration key for Hardware Monitor.

New in version 4.51:

  • Added a feature to detect a common damage of Leopard installations where users have intentionally destroyed the system's speech synthesizer to save storage space.
  • The mechanism to detect ambiguities in machine production dates has been optimized. Computers built in 2008 are now always displayed with their correct dates of production.

System requirements: Mac OS X 10.2.5 or later.

System support: PPC/Intel


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

Not much change this week. The 2.4 GHz 15" MacBook Pro is back at $1,649, and there are even more 17" MacBook Pros. Each model comes with an Apple one-year warranty, and ground shipping is free.

  • refurb 1.6 GHz MacBook Air, 2 GB/80, $1,549
  • refurb 1.8 GHz MacBook Air, 2 GB/64 SSD, $2,699
  • refurb 2.1 GHz Penryn MacBook, white, 1 GB/120/Combo, $949
  • refurb 2.1 GHz Santa Rosa MacBook, white, 1 GB/120/Combo, $949
  • refurb 2.2 GHz Santa Rosa MacBook, white, 1 GB/120/SD, $999
  • refurb 2.4 GHz Penryn MacBook, white, 2 GB/160/SD, $1,099
  • refurb 15" 2.4 GHz Santa Rosa MacBook Pro, 2 GB/160/SD, $1,649
  • refurb 15" 2.4 GHz Penryn MacBook Pro, 2 GB/200/SD, $1,699
  • refurb 15" 2.5 GHz Penryn MacBook Pro, 2 GB/250/SD, $2,149
  • refurb 15" 2.6 GHz Santa Rosa MacBook Pro, 2 GB/200/SD, $2,399
  • refurb 17" 2.4 GHz Santa Rosa MacBook Pro, 2 GB/160/SD, $2,099
  • refurb 17" 2.4 GHz hi-res Santa Rosa MacBook Pro, 2 GB/160/SD, $2,299
  • refurb 17" 2.5 GHz Penryn MacBook Pro, 2 GB/250/SD, $2,399
  • refurb 17" hi-res 2.5 GHz Penryn MacBook Pro, 2 GB/250/SD, $2,499
  • refurb 17" 2.6 GHz Santa Rosa MacBook Pro, 2 GB/160/SD, $2,2949
  • refurb 17" 2.6 GHz Penryn MacBook Pro, 2 GB/250/SD, $2,649
  • refurb 17" hi-res 2.6 GHz Penryn MacBook Pro, 2 GB/250/SD, $2,749


  • 15" PowerBook G4/667 (VGA), 256/30/Combo, $629.99
  • 1.6 GHz MacBook Air, 2 GB/80, $1,699.99

Wegener Media - Clamshell iBook - Pismo - 12" PowerBook - 15" Titanium PowerBook - 15" Aluminum PowerBook

  • Clamshell iBook G3/300 MHz, blueberry or tangerine, 96/6/CD, $199.99
  • 12" PowerBook G4/867 MHz, 256/40/Combo, $469.99
  • 12" PowerBook G4/1 GHz, 256/40/Combo, $509.99
  • Pismo PowerBook G3/400, 128/6/DVD, $299.99
  • Pismo PowerBook G3/400, 256/40/DVD, $399.99
  • Pismo PowerBook G3/400, 256/60/DVD, $419.99
  • Pismo PowerBook G3/500, 128/6/DVD, $349.99
  • Pismo PowerBook G3/500, 256/40/DVD, $439.99
  • Pismo PowerBook G3/500, 256/60/DVD, $449.99
  • 15" titanium PowerBook G4/867 MHz, 256/30/Combo, $549.99
  • 15" titanium PowerBook G4/1 GHz, 256/60/Combo, $699.99
  • 15" aluminum PowerBook G4/1 GHz, 256/60/Combo, $599.99
  • 15" aluminum PowerBook G4/1.25 GHz, 256/60/Combo, $629.99
  • 15" aluminum PowerBook G4/1.33 GHz, 256/60/Combo, $679.99
  • 15" aluminum PowerBook G4/1.5 GHz, 512/80/Combo, $699.99
  • 15" aluminum PowerBook G4/1.67 GHz, 1 GB/80/SD, $739.99
  • 15" hi-res PowerBook G4/1.67 GHz, 512/80/SD, $799.99

Baucom Computers

  • 12" iBook G4/800 MHz, 640/30/Combo, $329
  • 12" iBook G4/800 MHz, 640/30/Combo, $370
  • 12" iBook G4/1.07 GHz, 640/30/Combo, $395
  • 14" iBook G4/1.2 GHz, 512/60/Combo, $445
  • 14" iBook G4/1.33 GHz, 640/60/SD, APX, $559
  • 14" iBook G4/1.42 GHz, 640/60/SD, APX, $639
  • 15" PowerBook G4/1.5 GHz, 1 GB/80/Combo, APX, $729
  • 15" PowerBook G4/1.67 GHz, 1 GB/80/Combo, APX, $819
  • 15" 2.1 GHz Core Duo MacBook Pro, 512/80/SD, APX, $1,129

Power Max

  • open box 1.6 GHz MacBook Air, 2 GB/80, warranty started, $1,699
  • open box 1.6 GHz MacBook Air, 2 GB/80, $1,749
  • open box 2.1 GHz Core 2 MacBook, white, 1 GB/120/SD, $1,049
  • open box 2.2 GHz Core 2 MacBook, black, 2 GB/160/SD, $1,249
  • open box 2.4 GHz Core 2 MacBook, white, 2 GB/160/SD, $1,249
  • open box 2.4 GHz Core 2 MacBook, black, 2 GB/250/SD, $1,449
  • open box 15" 2.4 GHz Core 2 MacBook Pro, warranty started, 2/160/SD, $1,799
  • open box 15" 2.4 GHz Core 2 MacBook Pro, warranty started, 2/200/SD, $1,949
  • open box 15" 2.5 GHz MacBook Pro, 2 GB/250/SD, $2,399
  • refurb 17" 2.4 GHz Core 2 MacBook Pro, 2 GB/160/SD, $1,988
  • open box 17" 2.4 GHz Core 2 MacBook Pro, 2 GB/160/SD, $2,188
  • open box 17" 2.4 GHz Core 2 MacBook Pro, 2 GB/160/SD, warranty started, $2,289
  • open box 17" 2.5 GHz Core 2 MacBook Pro, 2 GB/160/SD, $2,688
  • open box 17" 2.6 GHz Core 2 MacBook Pro, 2 GB/160/SD, $2,649

PowerBook Guy

  • Blueberry clamshell iBook G3/300 MHz, 64/3/CD, $149.95
  • Tangerine clamshell iBook G3/300 MHz, 64/3/CD, $159.95
  • 12" iBook G3/500, 192/40/CD, $239.95
  • 12" iBook G3/500, 192/10/DVD, $249.95
  • 12" iBook G3/600, 128/20/CD, $229.95
  • 12" iBook G3/800, 256/10/DVD, $289.95
  • 12" iBook G4/1.33 GHz, 512/40/Combo, APX, AppleCare, $599.95
  • Pismo PowerBook G3/400, 192/6/Zip, $269.95
  • 15" 2.16 GHz Core 2 MacBook Pro, 1 GB/120/SD, $1,499.95


  • Lombard PowerBook G3/400, 128/6/DVD, $229.99
    Great units well taken care of. They where well taken care of by Apple techs. Very few of them left the office, and most are in awesome physical shape. AC power adaptor, 2 USB ports, SCSI, ethernet, PC Card slot, Mac OS 9 and X. Battery in unknown condition and not part of the DOA warranty. Tested working. Warranty against DOA.

Custom Macs

  • 12" iBook G3/600, 128/20/CD, OS X 10.2, working battery, $279.99
  • 12" iBook G4/1 GHz, 512/30/CD, APX, OS X 10.4, stop theft tags on the cover, $399.99

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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