The 'Book Review

MacBook Air Apple's Top 'Book, New Sandy Bridge CPUs Destined for Next MacBook Air, and More

This Week's PowerBook and iBook News

Compiled by Charles Moore and edited by Dan Knight - 2011.06.24

General Apple and Mac desktop news is covered in Mac News Review. iPad, iPod, iPhone, and Apple TV news is covered in iOS News Review. All prices are in US dollars unless otherwise noted.

News & Opinion


Products & Services

Bargain 'Books

News & Opinion

MacBook Air Will Account for Almost Half of Apple's 2011 Laptop Sales

9 to 5 Mac's Seth Weintraub cites a Cnet report on a note by Gleacher & Company analyst Doug Freedman, who reports that an estimated 48% of Apple's laptops sold in 2011 will be MacBook Airs, and that Intel unveiled and priced new Sandy Bridge processors for ultraportable laptops (chips can overclock or turbo to higher speeds) on Monday.

MacBook Air Could Be $3 Billion Business for Apple

Forbes' Brian Caulfield reports that online services like Apple's iCloud could help turn Apple's ultra-thin MacBook Air into a $3 billion-a-year business, even as sales of fatter notebooks and desktop computers stagnate, J.P. Morgan analyst Mark Moskowitz wrote in a note to investors Thursday.

Moskowitz predicts that the MacBook Air increasingly will be recognized as offering users tablet-like functionality, ultra-portability, thinness, and instant-on while offering an integrated keyboard and a full computing applications suite to complete professional work-related tasks.

Moskowitz noted that first quarter unit sales were five times those of the year-ago period, thanks to the introduction of new MacBook Air models in October, and that the new MacBooks represent a breakout product for Apple, estimating that over the next 12 to 18 months Apple will sell roughly 700,000 of the notebooks each quarter.

Intel's New Sandy Bridge CPUs Aimed at MacBook Air

AppleInsider's Daniel Eran Dilger reports that Intel has added three new high efficiency 17 watt 1.7 GHz and 1.8 GHz dual-core Sandy Bridge Core i5 and i7 CPUs to its product catalog, likely the chips Apple will use in its next refresh of the light and thin MacBook Air. The relatively low power consumption and thermal profile of these new chips will make them ideal for the slim design of the Mac Book Air compared with the standard Sandy Bridge chips used in Apple's Pro notebooks that have thermal profiles of 25 to 35 watts, making them too hot for use in the razor-thin Air models.

Intel Launches the Processors Apple Should Put in the Next MacBook Air

Hardmac's Lionel cites the new chips' clock speeds at 1.4 GHz to 1.7 GHz while citing the same part numbers, with the discrepancy likely attributable to whether the overclock capability provided by the Turbo mode of these processors is factored in.

Improving MacBook Pro Performance and Capacity with Dual Drives

MacFixIt's Topher Kessler says there's no doubt that when compared to mechanical hard drives, solid state drive (SSD) technology is by far superior in terms of speed, noting that data access and throughput can be more than four times faster than a contemporary mechanical drive. Using a SSD as your main boot drive widens a major bottleneck, resulting in exceptionally quick bootups, application launches, sleep and wake events, and shutdowns. Beyond speed, SSDs offer additional advantages, including cooler operation than most mechanical drives, power efficiency resulting in longer battery life for laptops, silent operation, and higher tolerance for abuse, since there's no need to protect moving parts.

But they're expensive compared with hard drives, especially if you need to maintain large volume storage capacity on your system.

One compromise option, Kessler suggests, is to create a hybrid SSD environment to give yourself the best of both worlds: a small and fast SSD to hold your system and applications, and a larger mechanical drive to hold your personal data. Apple offers this as a configuration option for new iMac and Mac Pro systems, but traditionally Apple's laptops haven't been capable of holding more than one internal hard drive, at least officially.

However, a workaround is to replace the internal optical drive with a bracket that can hold a second hard drive in its place, enabling you to take advantage of a small and cheaper SSD boot drive, while maintaining a second larger mechanical drive in the system for data storage.

It's a bit of a kludge, but Kessler discusses the associated issues that you should consider before forging ahead and goes on to relate how he decided to give this setup a try in his own MacBook Pro. He notes that not only did the mod speed things up significantly, but by the SSD taking the burden of system management off the mechanical drive made the use of that drive faster as well, concluding that despite its seeming complexity, this upgrade is definitely worth it, provided you have the time, patience, and trust in yourself to install the SSD and drive bracket, and then reconfigure your system to use both drives properly.

Editor's note: And that you can happily get along with no internal optical drive. cm

Crucial M4 SSD Firmware Update for 2011 MacBook Pro

Hardmac's Lionel says:

"Thanks to capetownMac for telling us about the new firmware 0002 for Crucial M4 SSDs:

"The update seems to have been made just to make the disks as compatible as possible with the 2011 MacBook Pro.

"The update is available at this address:"


Size Doesn't Matter: A Review of the 11.6" MacBook Air says:

"For the last several years, my basic computing setup has been the same: an iMac at home and a work-provided MacBook Pro.

11.6" MacBook Air"Back in December, I wrote that I was eyeing the MacBook Air as a personal machine, in place of my iPad. I really wanted to have my own laptop again. I was looking at the Air because its minimal form factor was attractive as an ultra-portable writing machine. As great as it is, the iPad is a terrible device for getting a lot of writing done.

"While I still have the iPad, a few weeks ago, I pulled the trigger on the $999 MacBook Air model."

He notes that in many ways, the 11.6-inch Air is technically more impressive than the iPad, and while he knows how AppleDesigns the insides of its machines, and as good as they are at it, this notebook still seems impossible.

Another observation:

"With a 1.4 GHz Core 2 Duo and just 2 GB of RAM, the MacBook Air doesn't look a speed demon on paper. In reality, though, this machine is crazy fast.... [and] despite the lack of ports, this thing is a real Mac.... its my favorite out of all the Macs I've owned."

Thunderbolt MacBook Pro: 13" Looks Like Genuine Value

PC Authority's David Bayon observes that while the new MacBook Pros have beautiful design and now feature Thunderbolt technology, only the 13" model looks like genuine value to him, contending that despite its acknowledged many strengths, the 17" model simply can't justify its price, and whether the 15" MacBook Pro is worth it's also hefty price comes down to your view of Apple, noting that there are better-specified laptops available for the money, but few that can match the MacBook Pro's near-perfect build and design.

However, Bayon opines (and your editor agrees) that of the three MacBook Pro sizes, the 13" model is the real head-turner - "an exquisite piece of engineering, its slim, sleek and portable chassis packs in plenty of power while also lasting an astonishing 10 hrs 12 mins of browsing time in Mac OS X" and "the display . . . is simply glorious" with a measured maximum brightness of 312 cd/m2, a contrast ratio of 650:1, and an average Delta E rating of only 3.6 - about as colour accurate as the testers have seen from any laptop display - and the 13-incher just "feels" like the best value of all the new MacBook Pros.

Products & Services

Kensington Wireless Mobile Trackball Built for Precision and Comfort on the Go

PR: Kensington Computer Products Group today announced a new wireless mobile trackball and an update to its free TrackballWorks driver software. Trackballs have traditionally been designed for stationary desktop computer users, but not anymore. With the majority of new PCs sold today being laptops, contemporary trackball users are demanding a comfortable and smart alternative to a mobile mouse. The Orbit Wireless Mobile Trackball is consequently claimed to have been built to fit the everyday working style of mobile professionals on the go.

Kensington Orbit Wireless Mobile TrackballThe Orbit Wireless Mobile Trackball's centered-ball design, recommended by ergonomists, is claimed to deliver more precision and comfort than conventional ball-under-the-thumb structured trackballs. Kensington's trackball is built to accommodate either right-or left-handed use and incorporates both a storable nano receiver for convenient travel, and 2.4 GHz technology for optimal wireless performance.

The new Orbit Wireless Mobile Trackball includes a number of additional user-friendly features, highlighted by a midsize ball that snaps in and out of place for easy cleaning, crisp and responsive buttons for precise work, and a unique Touch Scrolling solution to make navigating documents quick and smooth. The accompanying customizable TrackBallWorks software helps users streamline functions and create shortcuts that add efficiency to their workflow.

"Over the course of our twenty years producing innovative trackballs, we've developed a very loyal and dedicated user community, to whom we paid special attention as we created this product," says Kensington's Senior Director of Global Product Management Dan Torres. "Many professionals are not always working in a traditional office setting, so our customers need a trackball to be as mobile and agile as they are. We are delighted to offer a new wireless mobile trackball that has been defined and refined by its users, built from the ground up to get the job done wherever work calls."

Kensington Orbit Wireless Mobile Trackball (K72352US; SRP $59.99)

Kensington Orbit Wireless Mobile Trackball next to iPhoneThe Kensington Orbit Wireless Mobile Trackball offers a precise, compact and versatile input experience with a centered-ball design. With no wires to tie you down, the 2.4 GHz wireless with storable nano receiver works wherever you do - at home or office while its unique touch scrolling lets you glide through web pages and documents.

  • Wireless operation with USB dongle
  • Ambidextrous design for left-or right-handed users
  • Works with TrackballWorks™ software for customized experience
  • Plug and play with no drivers needed
  • Compatible with Windows 7, Windows XP, Windows Vista and Mac OS X

Kensington TrackBallWorks Software 1.1 (Free)

Kensington TrackBallWorks helps customize the user experience with Kensington's award winning trackballs for increased productivity and comfort. The software delivers more freedom than ever to assign functions or keyboard shortcuts to any trackball's buttons, so you can work with trackballs the ways you've always wanted. "Chording" functions allow assignment of additional key combinations of trackball buttons. TrackballWorks is built to work with the latest versions of Windows and Mac operating systems.

New Features in this version include:

  • Inertial Scrolling (Momentum Scrolling) - Touch and scroll through pages of content with an easy glide, so there are no more abrupt stops when you reviewing documents or browsing webpages.
  • Paste Templates - Programming a button and pasting text into a document is made easy. Users can create a popup menu with up to ten paste text options.
  • More Clicks Capability - More functionality means more productivity. Create advanced click capabilities for your trackball by using the flexible command builder.
  • Integration with Control Panel and Devices and Printers (Windows Only) - Finding the TrackballWorks icon on your computer is easy; it now appears within your Control Panel as the software is launched.

Kensington TrackBallWorks software is available for free download .

The Kensington Orbit Wireless Mobile Trackball is available for preorder at,, and other major retailers.

Bargain 'Books

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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