End of the upgradeable portable Mac?

In what will certainly come as no surprise to anyone who follows Apple, the company is reportedly preparing to cease production of it’s last upgradeable portable computer – the Macbook Pro (non Retina) 13″.

According to DigiTimes, Apple will stop production of the last user upgradeable Mac sometime in the second half of 2014. (more…)


Category: Apple,Hardware

Macbook Air 11.6 Inch Review

Last year, I purchased an iPad and after about 2 months, ended up selling it. As much as I liked the iPad, I couldn’t find a place in my world for it. I have my iPhone for when I’m away from home. I have my Macbook Pro as my main workstation. When I am at home, the iPad was nice to have for surfing the web on the couch, or for reading my RSS feeds while I ate breakfast. But being a web developer, there was little I could use it for to get work done. The device is certainly capable of performing these tasks, but the software doesn’t exist yet to accomplish this. The software might never exist, as Apple is adamant about not allowing other language processing software (read: Ruby, PHP, Perl, etc) on the App Store. And if you aren’t on the App Store, you aren’t on the iPad.

macbook air 11 1 Macbook Air 11.6 Inch Review

Enter the Macbook Air.

The 11.6 inch Macbook Air satisifes many of the iPads portability features – small, lightweight. Of course, it’s a little heavier (2.3 lbs. vs. 1.3 for the iPad 2) and has about half the battery life. But it also is a fully capable development machine.

The 11.6 inch version of the Macbook Air features an 1366 x 768 display. This is a higher resolution display than the 13″ Macbook Pro. It is a very crisp display. However, due to it’s small size and high resolution, type is noticeably smaller on the Air than what you would normally be used to on a Macbook Pro or iMac. This is easily rectified in many apps like Safari by zooming in, or increasing the font size. Some apps don’t offer this feature, so it’s not a universal fix if you find the display difficult to read.

macbook air 11 2 Macbook Air 11.6 Inch Review

Keyboard

The keyboard is very close to full size. The top row function keys are slightly thinner than the normal Macbook Pro keyboard. The arrow keys are similarly thinner. Overall the keyboard has a good feel, and if you like the standard Macbook Pro keyboard, you will probably enjoy the Airs keyboard.

Processor

I opted for the 1.6ghz version of the Air. Of all the upgrade options, this was the choice I was most torn about. At $200 more than the 1.4ghz CPU, it’s not entirely clear to me whether I will see much benefit from the increased horsepower.

Speed

The amazing thing you first notice when using this computer is how fast it feels. Startup is in the 20 second range. Applications launch nearly instantaneously. Obviously, anything that taxes the CPU or GPU is going to run slower than what you are probably used to. The odd thing is, you don’t realize how important disk speed is to your computing experience until you use an SSD equipped computer. Unless you spend your day rendering video or running CPU intensive Photoshop filters, chances are the Macbook Air with it’s pokey CPU and it’s bare metal SSD will feel much faster than your current non SSD computer.

Audio

I can not find where Apple placed the speakers on this thing. I see no speaker grills, but it sounds like the audio is eminating from underneath the keyboard. Either way, audio is plenty loud, and sounds amazingly good for a computer this size with no speaker grills.

Screen

The 11.6 inch Air has a 1366×768 glossy display. It is very sharp. Obviously, packing this many pixels in to a display this size means that most objects are going to be smaller than what you would be used to if you have been using a 13 or 15 inch Macbook Pro. When I’m typing on the Air while sitting at a desk, the screen resolution is comfortable and easy to read. When I’m sitting back on the couch, and I have the Air on my lap with the screen a few inches further away, the resolution can feel a bit too tiny at times. This could be due to my horrible eyesight. Either way, it’s a easy fix. Either bring the screen closer, or zoom in the screen if using Safari.

Battery

Apple claims 5 hours of battery life in their web surfing tests. I have been able to get 5 hours in my testing, which involved just using Safari to load a web page every minute until the battery ran out. When it comes to battery life, the Air isn’t going to best the iPad. But for a machine that is nearly as light, and infinitely more capable than the iPad, battery life is very good. In normal usage of performing work – which involves having Coda, Safari, Terminal, MAMP and Firefox open – I get just about 4 hours at about 50 percent screen brightness.

Wrap Up

The 11.6 inch Macbook Air is an amazing machine. It’s small. It’s fast. It’s light. It’s infinitely capable for many tasks including word processing, programming, web surfing & email, and lighter games. About the only people I would not recommend the Air too are those that work with 3D graphics, video, or Photoshop as their main tasks. In those cases, the power versus portability trade off probably isn’t as easy to digest. But if mobility is your primary concern, the 11.6 inch Air is the most mobile Mac ever made.

Buy the Macbook Air – 1.4ghz, 64GB SSD, 2GB RAM from Amazon.com.


Category: Hardware,Reviews

Intel releases next gen SSDs

Intel has released their next generation SSDs, the 320 series. Available in capacities from 40GB to 600GB, these new SSDs are actually less expensive than their predecessors. Starting at $89 for the 40GB, these drives top out at $1069 for the 600GB, which amazingly enough, is quite the bargain in today’s SSD market.


Category: Hardware,SSD

Review: Henge Dock (15″ Model)

Christmas came a little early this year, as a long forgotten pre-order for the 15″ Unibody Henge Dock arrived at my door. Henge Docks has been a little late to the party with the 15″ model, but they are filling back orders and should have new stock on hand soon. So, is the $70 dock for your Mac notebook all it’s cracked up to be? Let’s see.

Construction

The Henge Dock is constructed out of white plastic. It’s not the classiest finish for a aluminum Macbook Pro, but it does the job. It’s obviously a much better match for the 13″ Macbook, but lets not split hairs. Apple’s keyboard and mouse peripherals make heavy use of white plastic, so the dock is not out of place in an Apple ecosystem.

My first concern with the Henge Dock was how well it would be able to support a 15″ Macbook Pro positioned vertically. I’m happy to say that the dock provides plenty of support. The base features a 2.5″ extension on each side that prevents the entire dock from wobbling or tipping over.

The Henge Dock provides cables that are specifically sized for the dock. These cables are threaded it to the dock, and tightened with a small allen wrench (included). On my particular model, the cables/ports covered are:

  • Ethernet
  • Mini DisplayPort
  • Firewire 800
  • USB 2.0 (2)
  • Audio In
  • Audio Out

Henge Docks provides 3 different clip adapters to handle whichever variation of the Magsafe adapter you are using. the USB cables have extenders on the ends, so you can plug your USB cables right in to the cable wired through the dock. Unfortuately, the Firewire cable is not an extender, so be prepared to have a Firewire Hub or your Firewire device in close proximity to the dock itself. One thing that is not included is a SD card adapter. The Henge Dock will block access to the SD card reader, so if you use this port frequently, you will either have to purchase a seperate SD card reader, or un dock your Macbook Pro to use your built in SD slot. For a device that paid close attention to the small details, this was a unfortunate ommission.

5264507676 7a36919f38 Review: Henge Dock (15 Model)

One other note about the cable setup: If you are using a DisplayPort adapter to connect to your monitor, your cable grouping will be tight. There’s just enough room (barely) to accomodate the adapter. If you are connecting to Apple’s Cinema Display with a built in DisplayPort connector, your cabling will have more then enough room.

Once you have assembled the Henge Dock, it’s a simple matter of closing your Macbook Pro, and inserting it in to the dock. By clicking a connected mouse or keyboard, your Macbook Pro will awaken and you’ll be ready to go.

A couple of things to consider when using the Henge Dock:

  • With the Macbook Pro closed, the internal speakers, while still audible, will not be very loud. Be prepared to have an external audio solution when docked.
  • When closed, you won’t have access to your SD card slot. If you use this alot, be prepared to purchase an external SD card reader, or you will need to undock your computer to use it.
  • If you use a Macbook Pro hard shell, like the Speck case, it will not fit inside the Henge Dock unless you remove the shell.

All those issues aside, if you are looking for a more organized solution when using your portable at a desk, the Henge Dock delivers.

Conclusion: A well built docking solution for $70 ($60 for Macbook users) provides a quick and easy way to connect all your cables to your Mac notebook, while keeping your desk organized and cable clutter hidden from view.

Rating: Highly recommended (especially if you are a neat freak).

Link: Henge Docks Website


Category: Hardware

Glif – iPhone 4 Tripod Mount & Stand

New Kickstarter project for a tripod mount/kickstand for the iPhone 4. $20 pledge will get you a Glif shipped to you when the goal of $10,000 is attained (of which, nearly half is already pledged).


Category: Hardware,Links

Macbook Pro Update

Apple has released the long expected updates to their Macbook Pro line. All models – 13 inch, 15 inch, and 17 inch received upgrades, although the 15 inch and 17 inch models were the only ones to receive the newer core i5 (15 inch models) and core i7 chips. The 13 inch model does receive a speed bump (to 2.4 and 2.66ghz).

Other improvements include newer graphics chips. In the 13 inch models, the graphic system is revved to the nVidia GeFore 320M chip. In the 15 and 17 inch models, the dual graphics system remains. The onboard graphics is Intels HD graphics chip, and the dedicated graphics system is nVidia GeForce GT 330M (with 256 or 512MB of RAM, depending upon the model you select).

Other improvements include 4GB of RAM standard on all models, and slight hard drive bumps across the line.

Battery life specs seem to be slightly higher across the board as well (10 hours for the 13 inch model, 8-9 for 15 and 17 inch models).

One new option for the 15 inch model is a Hi-Res display, which brings the resolution up from 1440×900 to 1680×1050 with an options for both glossy and anti-glare ($100 for the glossy, $150 for the anti-glare (matte)).

Price points remain the same as before.


Category: Hardware

iMac Core i5 Benchmarks Are In

And boy, is this thing fast.

Via Electronista


Category: Hardware

The Psystar Scenario

So, this company called Psystar apparently didn’t get the memo that Steve Jobs killed the Mac clones back in 1998. That, or they just aren’t really that smart. Either way, their site is back up and their $399 Open Computer (changed from Open Mac) is available for purchase. (more…)


Category: Hardware

New Macbook & Macbook Pro models arrive

Apple has unleashed a new generation of Macbook and Macbook Pro notebook computers. While looking nearly identical to the previous generation, the newer models feature faster processors, larger hard drives, and (on the Macbook Pro) multi-touch track pads.

The biggest improvements seem to be in the Macbook Pro line, with new Pernyn processors, double the previous generations video ram, and the addition of multi-touch track pads.

One thing that surprised me was that Apple kept the “black tax” on the Macbook model. I had figured Apple would have reduced the black tax, or dropped it altogether in an effort to spur sales. I guess sales aren’t hurting that much, since Apple seems content with holding the status quo on the black tax.

Additionally, the new models retain the previous form factor. It’s been five years since Apple updated the Macbook Pro form factor. Of course, many view the current form factor as a thing of beauty, and why mess with beauty when it is clearly still selling well, right?
(more…)


Category: Apple,Hardware,News

iSuck

Yeah, that about sums up how I feel about today’s announcements from Apple. Apple has always been a company that charges a premium for it’s products, but this is getting ridiculous.

First up, the new Intel Mac mini. Available in two flavors – a $599 Core Solo 1.5ghz chip with a 60GB HD, and a $799 Core Duo 1.66ghz with an 80GB HD. Yes, Apple jacked the price up by $100 on both the low and high end model. What do you get with the new Mac mini? Well as expected, you get Front Row and the Apple Remote. You get Airport, Bluetooth and USB. You can expand these models up to 2GB of RAM. However, while Front Row has been beefed up with subnet sharing of files, it did not gain the widely anticipated (and highly requested) DVR capabilities.

Oh, and the kicker here is that these new minis feature Intel Integrated Graphics Chipsets (GMA950). Yes, that new 512MB mini you just bought is already running shy about 80MB to handle it’s graphics processing. Isn’t that special?

Clearly, someone in marketing (and Steve himself, for that matter) didn’t learn the painful lesson of the Cube.

Also introduced today was the iPod Hi-Fi, a large rectangular speaker that has an iPod dock/connector on top. It also features built in handles on the side so moving it from room to room should be a breeze. The problem? The price, of course. At $349, the iPod Hi-Fi is $50 more than the Bose Sounddock, which I consider to be the best iPod home audio solution available. Time will tell if Apple will be able to sell these things at such a high price.

The final laugher of the day is the new leather iPod case from Apple. Basically a leather pouch with no window to view your iPod’s screen, no click wheel access, and no common sense. I say no common sense because at $99 this has to be the most brazen attempt to cash in on the iPod craze. Will people buy them at this price? I’m sure some will. But I’m hopeful that most people will have the sense to see what a ripoff this product is.

Today’s announcements have obviously left me puzzled. Has Apple become intoxicated with it’s own success? Time will tell if these products will sell, but I’m betting they won’t be strong points in the product lineup.


Category: Apple,Hardware,News

About the author

A user of Macs since they had silly names like Performa and Centris, Theodore Lee is a techie who prides himself on his vast knowledge of all things Apple. OS X Factor was started in 2001 (originally as macosxcentric), and continues to churn out tips, tutorials, reviews and commentary on the tech sector.