Review: Adonit Writer2

Posted by:
Date: Wednesday, July 6th, 2011, 10:28
Category: Accessory, Hardware, iPad, Review

By Pierce Case

For over a year now, iPad users have wanted an alternative to their virtual keyboard.

Now there is because Adonit just announced the release of the new Writer 2 for the iPad 2. The Adonit, an idea brought to reality by two guys who were from Apple and Microsoft, was presented to the venture capital gurus at Kickstarter.com, who provided the funds to make this idea a reality.

Now all those people who have wanted such a option (and do a lot of writing for blogs) can breathe a sigh of relief — the Writer2 for the iPad 2 is now available.

The only difference between Adonit’s Writer and the Writer 2 is in its size. Still, I’ve been testing for the last three days and there are some great things about it. The keyboard is amazing to type on and the device is easy enough to set up (users must configure their iPad 2 to use the wireless Bluetooth). Simply throw in three triple AAA batteries (you need to insert them in the top right hand side by unscrewing the special bolt, tighten it up with a penny or nickel, press the top left hand round button and you’re ready to go.

During the testing period I got to really admire the time these guys put into designing this. There is a custom lever to raise the keyboard up and down so your typing needs can be met. I brought the Writer2 out to a restaurant to test it out and people were just blown away with it. You basically now have the ability to really get some serious work done with the Writer 2.

A slew of keyboard shortcuts allow you to get what you want out of your apps. A square button on the top left of the keyboard allows you to use the virtual keyboard if you want. I was also impressed with the comfort and design of this Writer 2 which also wins brownie points for being made out of environmentally responsible material.

The Writer 2 retails for US$99.00 and from my firsthand experiences, has turned out to be an amazing product that many iPad2 users out there will enjoy.

Its time has come.

In fact, this review was done on the Adonit Writer2. Now that is what I
call amazing.

Pros:
- Keyboard can be adjusted to the way you type. This translates to a
better experience for each person.

- Smart pad cover built into it protects the front screen.

- Goes to sleep automatically if you close it completely.

- Keyboard shortcuts allow you to get in and out of your apps.

- Well made enough to feel comfortable carrying it around, despite its light weight.

Cons:
- Runs on AAA batteries but lasted for three days of testing given off-and-on use.

- Ran into problems with locking the battery port, but eventually got the hang of
it.

- If you don’t completely cover the case the screen will stay on.

iFixIt performs teardown of Apple’s Thunderbolt cable, discovers receiver/transceiver system inside

Posted by:
Date: Thursday, June 30th, 2011, 04:25
Category: Hardware, News

When in doubt about a new piece of hardware, take it apart and study it.

Once again, the guys at iFixIt performed a full teardown of a new Apple item, this time dissecting Apple’s just-released $49 Thunderbolt cable to reveal an “active cable” with transceiver chips on each end.

iFixit took apart the new cable on Wednesday and discovered two Gennum GN2033 Thunderbolt Cable Transceiver chips, other much smaller chips and “tons of little resistors” tucked into the metal connector.

The teardown experts were prompted by a tip from ArsTechnica, who had been told by a support technician for storage maker Promise that Apple’s Thunderbolt cable is a “smart cable” with internal firmware.

Apple released the Thunderbolt cable on Tuesday, alongside the first compatible peripherals–external RAID systems from Promise, which range in price from US$999 to US$1,999. Early tests of the Promise systems have revealed blazing fast write speeds of up to 700MB/s, as much as 21 times faster than FireWire and USB 2.0.

The Gennum web site describes the cable’s transceiver chips as a requirement for the cables due to “the unprecedented speed of the new Thunderbolt technology places unique demands on the physical transmission media. The GN2033 provides the sophisticated signal boosting and detection functions required to transfer high-speed data without errors across inexpensive Thunderbolt copper cables.”

Sources within the telecom industry told ArsTechnica that active cables are usually used at data rates in excess of 5Gbps. Chips at either end are calibrated to the attenuation and dispersion properties of the wire in order to “greatly [improve] the signal-to-noise ratio.”

Intel has also reportedly chosen to use active cabling for “future optical-based iterations of Thunderbolt,” the report’s source added. Though passive optical cabling is more common, active optical cables could allow fiber optics to be coupled with electrical cabling for power transmission. Additionally, “current electrical ports can be forward compatible with future optical cables” if active cabling is used, said the source.

On the more consumer end, LaCie has promised a Thunderbolt solid-state drive is coming this summer. A recent demo of the drive reached read speeds of 827.2MB/s.

Intel and Apple worked together to develop the specification, with Intel providing its “Light Peak” technology and Apple offering its Mini DisplayPort standard. Thunderbolt drives two separate 10Gbps links, one for displays and one for PCI-Express devices, and could reach speeds of up to 100Gbps when the cables transition from copper to optical.



Similar to Apple’s experience with its in-house developed FireWire standard, the company has a fine line to walk in making Thunderbolt a unique value-add for Macs while still driving widespread adoption of the standard to ensure a large enough market for a range of third-party peripherals. Currently, the Mac maker is the only supplier of Thunderbolt cables.

Earlier this week, Sony announced a new VAIO Z laptop that implements a proprietary version of Thunderbolt. The electronics giant pulled a similar maneuver with its custom version of FireWire, called i.Link.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Initial tests show promising Thunderbolt speeds, ability to boot off new port

Posted by:
Date: Thursday, June 30th, 2011, 04:26
Category: Hardware, News

A newly published series of test results from the cool cats at AnandTech shows Apple’s newly adopted Thunderbolt technology blows FireWire 800 out of the water with data transfer speeds to an external RAID system at 700MB/s.

After the release of Apple’s Thunderbolt cable on Tuesday, early impressions have begun to surface on the Web. The AnandTech staff got their hands on both the US$49 cable and the US$1,999 Promise Pegasus R6 system and have subsequently stated that they are able to write to the 12TB RAID array at nearly 700MB/s while on a notebook. The speed obliterated that of the commonplace USB 2.0, as well as FireWire 800.

In his testing, Anand Shimpi also revealed via Twitter that external drives can be booted from via Thunderbolt. This makes it possible to have a full install of OS X, which includes all your files and apps, stored on a Thunderbolt external drive. This in turn would allow you to take your computer everywhere you go, and run it on another Thunderbolt-equipped Mac.

Per Macworld’s test of the new cable with the same RAID system, their detailed results show Thunderbolt is between 4 and 21 times faster than FireWire & USB 2.0. When compared to both on a 2.2GHz Core i5 Macbook Pro, Thunderbolt could write a 2GB file at 210.5 MBps.

On the other hand, USB 2.0 could only stretch to 29.7 MBps, a result that is 7.09 times slower. FireWire 400 could write the file at 30.2MBps, 6.97 times slower & FireWire 800 wrote the file at 47MBps, or 4.47 times slower.

Also Tuesday, Apple issued a series of 10 questions and answers related to Thunderbolt. Most of the information presented was already announced, like the fact that the cable offers two independent channels of 10GBit/s.

One new bit of information from the series of answers is a possible drawback for high-end Macbook Pro users: A PCI Express Card in the Express Card slot cannot be operated if the system is connected to a Thunderbolt device. Apple recommends disconnecting the device if you are going to use the Express Slot.

The full list of info is included below:

1. What is the maximum bandwidth supported by Thunderbolt to Thunderbolt cable (2 m)?

Thunderbolt utilizes two separate 10Gbps links—one for displays and one for PCI-E device trafffic—for throughput of up to 10 Gbps between Thunderbolt capable devices and your Mac. Some devices not made by Apple may support different bandwidth rates; consult any documentation that came with your Thunderbolt-enabled device for information specific to your device. Choose the Disk Activity tab in Activity Monitor to read current disk activity statistics, which may be helpful to determine disk activity with storage devices using Thunderbolt. Some storage devices may have a maximum transfer rate lower than the bandwidth potential of Thunderbolt.

2. What is the proper way to insert a Thunderbolt cable into my Thunderbolt-capable device or Mac?

The Thunderbolt symbol should be on the top of the connector. You can plug either end of the cable into a device or Mac; the connectors on each end are the same. Do not force the Thunderbolt cable into your Thunderbolt-capable device or Mac computer’s Thunderbolt port.

3. How do I confirm a Thunderbolt-enabled device is connected to a Mac?

Open System Profiler and examine the Thunderbolt tab for a list of any connected Thunderbolt devices.

4. Can I use a Thunderbolt cable to connect a Promise, La Cie, or other third-party storage device that uses Thunderbolt?

Yes. You can use a Thunderbolt cable to connect any Thunderbolt-enabled device or Mac.

5. Is there a maximum supported length for using Thunderbolt cables with Apple products?

Thunderbolt cables should not exceed two meters for maximum performance. Apple Thunderbolt to Thunderbolt cable (2 m) is two meters in length. Some Thunderbolt devices include an extra port you can use to connect other Thunderbolt devices downstream with additional Thunderbolt cables.

6. Why is there a black screen when I use a Thunderbolt cable to connect to an Intel-based iMac that supports Target Display Mode?

Although a Thunderbolt cable will fit into Mini DisplayPort connections, only Mini DisplayPort cables can be used to in Target Display Mode with an iMac (Late 2009) or iMac (Mid 2010) connected to a Thunderbolt-enabled Mac; iMac models produced before 2011 do not support Thunderbolt cables or devices. If you have an iMac (Late 2009), make sure you have the 27-inch SMC iMac Firmware Update 1.0 installed to avoid issues waking from sleep in Target Display Mode.

7. What do I do if my Mac doesn’t have a Thunderbolt option in System Profiler and no connected devices seem to be recognized?

For Mac computers with Thunderbolt, run Software Update to install any available updates to use Thunderbolt devices with your Mac.

8. I’ve installed all available updates, but no Thunderbolt devices are recognized when I connect them with Thunderbolt to Thunderbolt cable (2 m).

Try using a different a Thunderbolt cable, using a Mini DisplayPort cable, or—in the case of a storage device—try using another supported connection method, such as USB or FireWire.

9. Can I use Target Disk Mode with a Thunderbolt to Thunderbolt cable (2 m) and a third-party storage device that uses Thunderbolt?

Yes. The Thunderbolt logo should appear with the FireWire logo when you start up a Thunderbolt-enabled Mac and have a Thunderbolt storage device connected. If you have both a Thunderbolt and a FireWire storage device connected and enter Target Disk Mode, the Thunderbolt-enabled device will be the default. If you disconnect either a Thunderbolt or FireWire storage device after successfully entering Target Disk Mode, the corresponding icon should disappear from the display.

10. Can I use Thunderbolt to Thunderbolt cable (2 m) with supported versions of Microsoft Windows on a Thunderbolt-capable Mac with Boot Camp?

Yes. Learn more about using Thunderbolt with your Mac running Windows with Boot Camp.

If you’ve played with the new Thunderbolt port or have any comments, please let us know.

Rumor: Apple developing iOS-based HDTV for late 2011 release

Posted by:
Date: Wednesday, June 22nd, 2011, 07:35
Category: Apple TV, Hardware, Rumor

applelogo_silver

Sometimes you have to turn a hobby into a full-time job.

Per DailyTech, Apple is rumored to be working on an iOS-powered connected TV, possibly for release as early as this fall.

A former Apple executive, speaking anonymously, said the company plans to “blow Netflix and all those other guys away” by bundling Apple TV + iTunes inside a physical display, DailyTech reports. Apple is reportedly teaming up with a major supplier to provide the rebranded television sets, the source noted.

When questioned why an OEM would cut into its sales by providing Apple with units, the source said, “If you have to be competing with somebody, you want to be competing with yourself.”

The tipster indicated a planned fall launch, while noting that the product could get pushed to next year because of Apple’s “high standards.” A fall launch could coincide with the launch of the next-generation iPhone, as well as iOS 5 and iCloud.

“You’ll go into an Apple retail store and be able to walk out with a TV. It’s perfect,” the source said. According to the unverified report, the iOS-driven televisions would support third-party apps.

Rumors of an Apple Smart TV have existed for years, with Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster repeatedly forecasting the product. Munster has suggested that an Internet-connected TV from Apple may have a starting price in the range of US$2,000.

In March, Morgan Stanley analyst Katy Huberty said Asian suppliers had told her Apple had built a Smart TV prototype. According to Huberty, an Apple-branded TV could add as much as US$4 billion per 1 percent share of the TV market Apple is able to capture over the next two years.

Then, in April, Brian White with Ticonderoga Securities said “data points” from a China electronics trade show suggested Apple could launch an HDTV set possibly by the end of the year. “Our research suggests this Smart TV would go well beyond the miniature US$99 second-generation Apple TV that the company released last fall and provide a full-blown TV product for consumers,” White said.

Though Apple CEO Steve Jobs said last year that the Apple TV set top box product is “a hobby” for the company, sales of the US$99 second-generation model have improved over the first-generation. After the company sold 250,000 units in the first six weeks of availability, Jobs said Apple was “thrilled” with the figures.

Apple went on to sell 1 million Apple TVs within three months of the device’s launch. However, analysts have estimated that a million units per quarter would amount to a “fairly immaterial” $400 million in annual revenue.

Analyst Ming-Chi Kuo of Concord Securities said in April that Apple TV sales had reached 2 million, reportedly selling 820,000 units in the March quarter.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Rumor: Supply chain sources indicate updates to various Macs in coming months

Posted by:
Date: Thursday, May 5th, 2011, 03:03
Category: Hardware, Rumor

applelogo_silver

When in doubt, check the supply chain.

Per AppleInsider, analyst Shaw Wu has conferred with sources along Apple’s supply chain and has noted that Apple plans to refresh the rest of its Mac lineup, which would include the MacBook, Mac Pro, Mac Mini and MacBook Air, “in upcoming months.”

Not included on Wu’s list are the MacBook Pro, which underwent a refresh in February, and the iMac, which saw a new version on Tuesday. Both products saw a transition to Intel’s new Sandy Bridge processors and the addition of the new high-speed Thunderbolt input/output port.

Wu believes the MacBook refresh is especially important because the entry-level notebook represents roughly one-third of Apple’s portable business, which itself has grown to 73% of all Mac sales. The last update for the MacBook came in May 2010.

As for the other Macs, the Mac Mini was most recently refreshed in June 2010, while the Mac Pro saw an update last July and the MacBook Air received a substantial upgrade last October. Wu sees the upcoming Mac refreshes as offsetting “a very minor cannibalistic impact” that the iPad 2 could have on Apple’s Mac business.

In February, a report claimed that Apple will replace the MacBook Air’s aging Core 2 Duo chip with the current Sandy Bridge processors in June.

In his note, Wu told investors that Tuesday’s iMac refresh stands as “a worthy upgrade” and should help “reinvigorate” Mac’s desktop business, which has declined to 27% of Macs shipped. Sales of Mac desktops actually dropped by 12% year over year last quarter, compared to 53% year over year growth for portable Macs.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Patent granted for scratch-proof nitride coating on Apple devices

Posted by:
Date: Tuesday, March 1st, 2011, 08:02
Category: Hardware, iPhone, iPod, News

applelogo_silver

The good news: Your Apple device might get a bit tougher.

Per AppleInsider, Apple has been granted ownership of an invention related to scratch-proof coatings on stainless steel devices, using a nitride layer to potentially make iPhones, iPads and Macs more durable.

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office this week granted ownership of the invention “Nitriding Stainless Steel for Consumer Electronic Products” to Apple. Known as U.S. Patent No. 7896981, it describes a cost-effective system that uses a nitride coating to prevent scratches and blemishes on the metal surface of a mobile device.

Adding a layer of nitride atop a stainless steel exterior would protect a device from damage. But the choice of material would maintain the look and feel of stainless steel, as nitride allows the color of the metal to show through.

Nitride is not to be confused with titanium nitride, a ceramic material that is also used as a coating on metal. Unlike nitride, which is clear, titanium nitride has a metallic gold color that conceals the look of the metal beneath it.

Apple’s invention notes that stainless steel, while scratch-prone, is an ideal material to craft electronic devices. Stainless steel is preferable because it is not magnetic, and it is less likely to inhibit wireless technology like a cell phone signal, Wi-Fi or Bluetooth.

The addition of nitride could give Apple the best of both worlds: the advantages of stainless steel would remain, while a nitride coating would address the chief concern of durability.

The invention also includes specifics on how the nitride coating would be applied to a device. It describes using a salt bath nitride process to coat stainless steel with an initial layer at least 15 to 30 microns thick and with a Vickers Hardness value of at least 1,000. Another method would use a nitrogen salt bath with an average temperature of no more than 580 degrees Celsius.

After the stainless steel sits in a superheated salt bath for between 45 and 90 minutes, the material would be removed and the nitride layer would be polished to remove no more than 10 percent, resulting in a smooth exterior.

Apple first filed for the invention in April of 2010. The invention is credited to Douglas Weber.

Intel exec cites Light Peak as ready for implementation

Posted by:
Date: Monday, January 10th, 2011, 11:00
Category: Hardware, News

intellogo.jpg

It was on the horizon and now it’s here.

Per Macworld, an Intel executive on Friday said that its Light Peak interconnect technology, designed to link computers to devices like displays and external storage, is ready for implementation.

Light Peak, announced in 2009, was originally designed to use fiber optics to transmit data among systems and devices, but the initial builds will be based on copper, said David Perlmutter, executive vice president and general manager of Intel’s Architecture Group, in an interview with IDG News Service at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

“The copper came out very good, surprisingly better than what we thought,” Perlmutter said. “Optical is always a new technology which is more expensive,” he added.

Perlmutter declined to comment on when Light Peak-enabled devices would reach store shelves, saying shipment depended on device makers. Intel has in the past said that devices with Light Peak technology would start shipping in late 2010 or early this year.

For the majority of user needs today, copper is good, Perlmutter said. But data transmission is much faster over fiber optics, which will increasingly be used by vendors in Light Peak implementations.

Intel has said Light Peak technology would use light to speed up data transmission between mobile devices and products including storage, networking and audio devices. It would transfer data at bandwidths starting at 10 gigabits per second over distances of up to 100 meters. But with copper wires, the speed and range of data transmission may not be as great.

Computers today are linked to external devices using connectors like USB, but Perlmutter refused to be drawn into a debate on whether Light Peak would ultimately replace those technologies.

“USB 3.0 already has a traction in the market. I don’t know if that will change,” Perlmutter said.

There could be co-existence, with USB, display and networking protocols running on top of Light Peak.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Micron announces 500GB notebook SSD hard drives

Posted by:
Date: Wednesday, January 5th, 2011, 06:28
Category: hard drive, Hardware, News

Micron Technology on Tuesday announced its highest capacity laptop solid-state drives (SSDs) based on its smallest circuitry technology; the largest SSD doubles the amount of data that can be stored compared to its predecessor.

Micron’s new RealSSD C400 flash drive line offers capacities ranging from 64GB to 512GB and will be available in 1.8″ and 2.5″ form factors, both supporting a 6Gbit per sec serial ATA (SATA) interface. The SSDs are based on Micron’s latest 25 nanometer (nm) NAND flash lithography technology.



Per Macworld, the C400′s predecessor, Micron’s RealSSD C300 drive, was its first to leverage the SATA 3.0 specification, which offers 6Gbit/sec. throughput, and the Open NAND Flash Interface (ONFI) 2.1 specification, which provides sequential read speeds of up to 355MB/sec. and sequential write speeds of up to 215MB/sec. The C300 also came in 1.8″ and 2.5″ models, with either 128GB or 256GB of capacity.

Crucial, a division of Micron, will begin selling the new SSD portfolio under the name Crucial m4 SSD. The Crucial m4 SSD product line is expected to be available online and through select global channel partners in the first quarter of 2011. Micron is not offering pricing information on the new SSDs.

The new drives achieve read speeds of up to 415MBps, which is 17% faster than Micron’s C300 SSDs. With write performance varying by capacity, the new 512GB drive delivers up to 260MBps write speeds, which is 20% faster than the C300 SSDs .

Micron is currently working with notebook manufacturers to qualify its new RealSSD drives, with samples of the RealSSD C400 drives available now. Micron expects mass production to begin in February.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Hitachi announces Z5K500 500GB notebook hard drive

Posted by:
Date: Tuesday, December 21st, 2010, 05:56
Category: hard drive, Hardware, News

Electronics giant Hitachi has announced the industry’s highest density, single-platter hard disk drive that has an areal density of 636Gbit/inch, almost 100Gbit per square inch more than its closest competitor.

Per Macworld, Hitachi’s 2.5″ in 5400-rpm Travelstar Z5K500 laptop drive is only 7mm in height. The drive is the industry’s highest capacity, single-platter hard disk drive. The Travelstar Z5K500, which comes in 500GB, 320GB and 250GB capacities, is the second second generation of Hitachi products to use the company’s Advanced Format drive, which increases the physical sector size on drives from 512 bytes to 4096 (4K) bytes, thereby improving drive capacity and error correction capabilities.

Western Digital was first to the table with a 1TB laptop drive last year. That Scorpio Blue drive, however, contained three 333GB capacity platters and measured 12.5mm in height. Seagate and Toshiba then followed with their own three-platter, 12.5mm 1TB laptop drives, along with two-platter 750GB 9.5mm-high drives.

Hitachi said its new drive surpasses per-gigabyte cost advantages that other 2.5″ and 1.8″ drives had offered. Of course, it also exceeds the price per gigabyte when compared to solid-state drives, as well.

Hitachi’s new Travelstar Z5K500 drives have 8MB cache and a Serial ATA (SATA) 3Gbit/sec interface.

The drives are aimed at system manufacturers who can use the thinner drives to differentiate product lines by utilizing space savings to produce thinner devices, add battery capacity, increase shock robustness, or improve internal airflow.

The Travelstar Z-series of drives also offer an optional bulk data encryption feature, which allows the drives to be set to encrypt all data stored on them. The drives are expected to ship to distributors this month.

Hitachi said pricing for the new drive models has not been finalized.

Apple releases LED Cinema Display Firmware Update 1.0 for 27″ monitor

Posted by:
Date: Thursday, December 16th, 2010, 06:00
Category: Hardware, News, Software

Late Wednesday, Apple released its LED Cinema Display Firmware Update 1.0 to try and fix a bug that’s been plaguing some users.

Per Macworld, the issue in question involves audio from the display’s speakers dying intermittently. In order to fix the sound issues, users have resorted to unplugging and replugging the monitor’s USB cable or even rebooting their Mac.

The update, a 957KB download, can be snagged from Apple’s support download site or via Software Update and then run it from your /Applications/Utilities folder and requires a Mac running Mac OS X 10.6.4 or later to install and run.

If you’re tried the firmware update and noticed any changes, please let us know.