The 'Book Review

Quad-Core CPU Makes Sense in MacBook Pro, OS X 10.6 Causing Overheating, Overseas Power, and More

This Week's MacBook, PowerBook, and iBook News

Compiled by Charles Moore and edited by Dan Knight - 2009.11.06

General Apple and Mac desktops is covered in The Mac News Review. iPod, iPhone, and Apple TV news is covered in The iNews Review. All prices are in US dollars unless otherwise noted.

News & Opinion


Tech Trends

Bargain 'Books

News & Opinion

Quad-Core Chip Makes Sense for MacBook Pro

Cnet's Brooke Crothers says:

"If the speculation about a new MacBook Pro is on the money, the step up to Intel's quad-core mobile technology would have a profound impact on this vaunted line of Apple laptops.

"So, why would Apple adopt a Core i processor in a laptop? The short answer is OS X Snow Leopard. The new operating system is designed to be better at wringing more performance out of multicore processors - and the Core i chips pack four cores.

"The long answer is the Core 'i' chips themselves. The Core i, a.k.a. 'Nehalem,' is a brand new Intel microarchitecture brimming with performance improvements over the current Core 2 design...."

Late 2009 MacBook a Direct Descendant of Unibody MacBook

Hardmac's Lionel (tr. by Crispin) says that by analyzing technical documentation of the new Polycarbonate MacBook they note a striking similarity in the the shape and placement of components of the new MacBook's motherboard compared to the former Unibody MacBook.

He notes that the shape, position of the CPU, and of the chipset are identical. There are some differences at the level of the connectors, the power supply, and the stabilization of the current, but nothing significant other than the obvious - that Apple eliminated certain components to reduce the cost of the motherboard.

He suggests that those who can get along without FireWire, this entry-level MacBook is an excellent machine with plenty of power for the majority of users in the market for low-cost portables.

Editor's note: I don't disagree on the point, but I still think dropping FireWire, at least before USB 3 is available, is a dumb and regressive move. cm

Snow Leopard Causing MacBook Pros and MacBooks to Overheat, Run Fans Hard

CNET MacFixIt's Joe Aimonetti reports that several users are reporting having experienced their systems running inordinately hot after upgrading to Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard, causing their machines' cooling fans to work exceptionally hard with accompanying cacophonous noise. The issue reportedly afflicts MacBook Pros in particular, although there are some similar reports from MacBook owners as well, with the correspondents saying their laptops run extremely hot, causing the fans to cycle at a high rate, batteries to drain more rapidly, even with only a few programs running, in some instances getting so hot that the screen begins showing colored artifacts all over and Internet support spotty and erratic.

As usual, MacFixIt provides some workaround suggestions to try. Hopefully version 10.6.2 will address this issue.

Editor's note: Another reason why I'm thanking myself for holding off on switching to Snow Leopard until more bug fixes are implemented. My MacBook runs reasonably cool under OS 10.5.8, and I'd like to keep things that way. Hopefully version 10.6.2 will address this issue. cm

OWC Video Shows How to Add More RAM to the Late 2009 MacBook

OWC Blogger Chris S. says that Apple has made upgrading the memory in the new MacBooks incredibly easy to do: Just remove the bottom cover, replace the memory, and then close it all up. In no time at all, you'll be able to upgrade the stock 2 GB of memory to 4 GB or even 8 GB (even though Apple officially endorses a maximum of 4 GB for this machine, presumably for marketing purposes - greater differentiation with the 13" MacBook Pro)

You can check out the video in OWC's Tech Center or on OWC's YouTube channel.

Power Connection Issues When Going International with Your Mac

Macworld's Christopher Breen notes that people who take their Macs abroad are often confused about wall current connectivity issues, noting that Macs and their power adapters are built to support 110V to 240V, so you can plug your Mac mini or MacBook into just about any outlet without fear of a meltdown - but the sticking point is the sort of plug connector you need to tap into local juice.

To that end, Apple sells the $39 Apple World Travel Adapter Kit. This kit contains six power adapters that slip on to a MagSafe power adapter and older USB iPhone and iPod power adapters.


Late 2009 MacBook 'a Great, Well Rounded Upgrade'

AppleInsider's Prince McLean says that Apple's new 13-inch MacBook brings the company's "white plastic" model in line with the rest of its notebook offerings, but remains distinguished from the 13-inch MacBook Pro by its slightly larger and heavier polycarbonate body, limited upgrade options for CPU and RAM, and a few significant missing features: no FireWire, no backlit keyboard, no SD card reader, no external battery level indicator, and no IR receiver for using an Apple Remote.

Late 2009 MacBook 'a MacBook That Thinks It's a Pro'

T3 says:

"Let's get one thing straight from the off. When will Apple make up its mind about FireWire? Originally supported across the entire Mac range, when it was dropped from the 13-inch aluminium unibody MacBook in late 2008, it seemed the writing was on the wall for Apple's proprietary* connectivity system. Mac users were up in arms. The next revision of Apple's laptop range saw the aluminium MacBook join the Pro range, and much to the relief of the Apple faithful, FireWire was restored. Yet now, with the release of this new entry-level white polycarbonate 13-inch MacBook, the FireWire port has disappeared again.

"Thankfully, most of the new MacBook's revisions are far more welcome than its dropping FireWire support."

* Editor's note: There's nothing proprietary about FireWire; its an IEEE standard that Apple initially developed. dk

Tech Trends

New 18.4" Acer Aspire Notebook Offers Intel Core i7 Quad-Core Power

PR: Available "in time for the holiday" is Acer's new Aspire AS8940G-6865 notebook PC, featuring the new Intel Core i7 Quad-Core 720QM processor and preloaded with Windows 7 Home Premium, a monster 18.4" widescreen HD display, 4 GB DDR3 Dual-Channel 1066 MHz Memory, Nvidia's GeForce GTS 250M graphics with 1 GB dedicated DDR3 VRAM Blu-ray, a Multi-in-1 Digital Media Card Reader, Intel Wireless WiFi Link 5100 802.11a//bg/Draft-N, 5 USB 2.0 Ports, 1 HDMI Port, 1 eSATA Port, an 8-cell Li-Ion Battery (4800 mAh) high-quality audio output, a large standard hard drive and ample memory, making it a mobile powerhouse.

The Intel Core i7 processor allows users to multitask between applications quicker and enjoy faster performance overall, featuring Intel's Turbo Boost Technology which accelerates processor clock speed up to 75 percent to match workload demands, and Intel's Hyper-Threading Technology that allows applications to work better in parallel, making multitasking quick and easy.

The 18.4" full HD widescreen CineCrystal LED backlit display offers 1920x1080 resolution for true HDTV with a 16:9 aspect ratio in a new edge-to-edge design that's ideal for widescreen movies, and certified Dolby Home Theater Audio Enhancement technology combined with Acer's CineSurround sound system with five built-in speakers and the Acer Tuba CineBass booster bring clear tones and deep bass beats.

Nvidia GeForce GTS 250M graphics maximize the gaming experience by providing plenty of computing muscle, with 1 GB of dedicated video memory allows buffering capacity for seamless graphics and visuals.

All this for an amazingly modest MSRP of $1,349.99

SanDisk's Modular SSD Adopted by Sony's Ultra-Thin VAIO X Laptop

PR: SanDisk Corporation says that the 64 GB1 SanDisk pSSDTM Gen 2 solid state drive has been selected by Sony as the SSD of choice for its new VAIO X ultra-thin laptop.

Because Solid State Drives (SSD) use no moving parts, they offer improved durability that helps prevent data loss resulting from drive failure. They also run quieter and cooler, and use less power than conventional hard disk drives. The SanDisk pSSD drive's small size complements ultra-thin laptops with small form factor requirements.

The SanDisk pSSD offers several features that contribute to the extreme thinness and long battery life of Sony's lightweight Windows 7 notebook. The pSSD's compact size (weighing only 7.1 grams and measuring 54mm x 32mm x 4.4mm) and LIF PATA interface are well-suited to Sony's particular form factor requirement. In addition, the drive's power consumption (average power of 0.15W2) is significantly lower than that of a traditional hard disk drive.

SanDisk's modular solid state drive, SanDisk pSSD, offers 9,000 vRPM3 of performance and has the added benefit of employing nCache technology, a large nonvolatile write cache technology that boosts burst random write performance up to three times over steady state performance and up to 20 times faster than pSSD Gen 1 to further enhance the user experience4. nCache technology improves user responsiveness and helps prevent incidence of drive "stalling".

"The release of Sony's VAIO X symbolizes a market shift towards pioneering flash-based laptop designs, eliminating the weight and size constraints of the legacy hard disk drive," comments Doreet Oren, director product marketing, solid state drives, SanDisk. "The SanDisk pSSD drive enables laptops to be thinner and lighter, while eliminating the mechanical slow downs and malfunctions most commonly attributed to the hard disk drive."

"The selection of SanDisk pSSD drives by tier-1 OEMs for the newest small, thin, and lightweight laptop designs is a vote of confidence for not only SanDisk solutions, but also for the potential of SSDs to move the computing market light years forward," said Jim McGregor, analyst at In-Stat, a Reed Business independent industry research firm. "PC OEMs understand the performance and power consumption benefits of SSDs and are working hard to bring these solutions quickly and affordably to the end user."

SanDisk pSSD Gen 2 drives support Windows XP, Linux, and Windows 7, the OS of choice for the Sony VAIO X laptop. SanDisk pSSD Gen 2 comes in a variety of PATA and SATA interfaces and is available to OEMs in capacities that range from 8 GB to 64 GB. More information about SanDisk pSSD products is available online.

  1. 1 gigabyte (GB) = 1 billion bytes
  2. While running MobileMark and average (typical) power
  3. vRPM (virtual Revolutions Per Minute) - a metric to compare SSD performance in client PCs with the HDD and with other SSDs. vRPM = 50 / ((0.5 / 4 kb random read IOPS) + 0.5 / 4 kb random write IOPS))
  4. Performance based on internal testing and projections may vary depending on host device.

Link: SanDisk pSSD
Link: Sony VAIO X

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