Rumor: Updated MacBook Pro units could arrive on March 1st

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Date: Monday, February 14th, 2011, 05:45
Category: MacBook Pro, Rumor

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You’re eagerly waiting for the next MacBook Pro refresh.

And it could happen on March 1st.

A report from Danish blogger Kenneth Lund has claimed that Lund has had heard from retailers in the country that a limited supply of the new MacBook Pros will be available from March 1st.

Last week, it was reported that supplies of MacBook Pros were running low in Japan, following on from January’s news that U.S. stores were also facing dwindling stocks.

It was anticipated that problems with Intel’s new Sandy Bridge processors could delay the MacBook Pro product line refresh, though if the reports about a March 1st launch are correct then it seems that any delays were minor.

Other rumors include the possibility that the new MacBook Pro notebooks could contain solid-state drives as opposed to conventional hard drives. This has yet to be confirmed and only time will tell.

New evidence mounts to support MacBook Pro refresh in early March

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Date: Tuesday, February 8th, 2011, 06:28
Category: MacBook Pro, News

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Additional evidence has appeared pointing towards a refresh of Apple’s MacBook Pro notebook line in early March, according to reports.

Per Macworld UK, the Japanese Macotakara web site is reporting that stocks of MacBook Pros in Japan are running low, suggesting that Apple is making room for stocks of the new models.

On top of this, 9To5Mac has stated that tomorrow, February 9th, could be the date for an announcement on the MacBook Pro line, this also being a date that other sites have pencilled in for an iPad 2 announcement.

Further evidence of a refresh for the MacBook Pro line has appeared with the discovery of dummy entries in Best Buy’s internal inventory system. Though the entries don’t absolutely confirm a new MacBook Pro, they do show an entry for Apple in the mobile computing category priced at US$1,199 and due in stock on March 3rd.

Reports have also come in citing dwindling stocks of MacBook Pro notebooks in Apple Stores and third-party retailer locations, Amazon.com listing long waiting times for anyone ordering a MacBook Pro on its website.

Amazon.co.uk currently has only a few 15- and 17-inch MacBook Pros left in stock. On the UK Apple Store website all MacBook Pro models are listed as being in stock.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available and if you’ve heard anything from your end, please let us know in the comments.

Intel confirms SATA controller chip flaw, may delay MacBook Pro refresh

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Date: Tuesday, February 1st, 2011, 05:30
Category: MacBook Pro, News

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If Apple’s notebook refresh is taking a bit longer than you’d like, it might just be Intel’s fault.

Earlier Monday, Intel acknowledged that a supporting chipset for the next-generation Core processors contained a flaw in the Serial-ATA (SATA) controller. The bug can cause poor hard drive performance or even make the drive invisible to the system.

Per Computerworld, Intel said it has stopped shipments of the flawed chipsets and retooled the chipset. It will begin shipping the fixed version late next month, and said that it “expects full volume recovery in April.”

The design gaffe could effect Apple’s next MacBook Pro refresh if the notebook line is to get new processors based on the Sandy Bridge architecture, as many speculated last month.

According to Kevin Krewell, a senior analyst with the Linley Group (the publishers of Microprocessor Report) the mobile version of the supporting chipset may have been flawed.

In an e-mail reply to Macworld UK’s questions, Krewell pointed out a pair of Intel documents that note the mobile versions of the chipset use the same 6Gbps and 3Gbps ports as those used in the desktop versions.

According to Anandtech.com, the flaw affects only the 3Gbps ports — the chipsets’ SATA controller also offers faster-speed 6Gbps ports — making the likelihood of an impact on notebook makers even higher.

While the signs point to a problem for Apple, analysts split today on whether a MacBook Pro refresh would be delayed.

“It could mean a delay of two to three weeks,” said Martin Reynolds, a vice president with Gartner, assuming Apple intended to launch new MacBook Pros in March or even April.

Dan Olds, a senior analyst with Portland, Ore.-based Gabriel Consulting Group, disagreed.

“I don’t think Intel has shipped any [Sandy Bridge] chipsets for mobile yet,” Olds said. “I haven’t heard any chatter from the major players [about upcoming notebooks that use the chipsets], like Dell, for example.”

The unknown, of course, is when Apple was planning to launch revamped MacBook Pro models that rely on the Sandy Bridge architecture, and thus, the flawed chipsets.

Most close Apple watchers have been expecting an imminent refresh. Although Apple doesn’t hew to a set schedule for upgrades, the last time it boosted the MacBook Pro was in April 2010, nearly 300 days ago.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Western Digital Scorpio Black notebook drive now available in 750GB capacity, 7200 rpm speed

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Date: Friday, January 7th, 2011, 08:19
Category: hard drive, News

If you’re using your Mac notebook for video, gaming or graphics work, you’re going to want a spiffy hard drive.

Per Macworld, Western Digital has announced that the latest hard drive in its Black series is ready and shipping. The WD Scorpio Black is a 2.5″ SATA hard drive, now available in 160, 250, 320, 500 and 720GB capacities, features a 7200 rpm spin speed and 16MB cache, Western Digital claims the Scorpio Black is one of the fastest drives on the market.

WD’s drive uses Advanced Format technology (which is optimized for Mac and the latest Windows operating systems) to make for a more efficient media format, which in turn allows for greater drive capacities and increased memory storage density. Other notable features include the Scorpio Black’s free fall detection (which aids in preventing shock damage and data loss) and multiple platform compatibility (ensuring that the WD drive will work in hundreds of systems on multiple platforms).

The new Scorpio Black drive retails for US$149 for the 750GB drive.

How to make your notebook bag smack of “Tron”-based awesomeness

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Date: Monday, December 27th, 2010, 07:00
Category: Hack, News

Right, this is the nerdiest thing we’ve posted in a while, but it IS “Tron”-related and smacks of the awesome…

The cool cats at lifehacker have thrown together a full guide as to how to take your standard notebook bag and transform it into a cool, “Tron”-esque thing with more than just a little sewing and soldering required.

The cool glowing effect is made possible due to the use of electro-luminescent (EL) wire and a tucked-away small battery pack. If you’re not familiar with EL wire, it’s a relatively cheap, flexible product that glows when a current passes through it. Thankfully, the end result looks pretty neat, meaning you won’t look like this guy.

The videos below show working examples from Ladyada and Alan Yates, who have made a Tron-inspired laptop-bag and backpack respectively.

Give the guide a gander, see what you can do with it and if you get a cool result, please let us know so we can make you famous.

Composition notebook cover now available for 11″ MacBook Air notebook

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Date: Wednesday, December 22nd, 2010, 11:49
Category: Accessory, MacBook Air

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As nifty looking as the 11″ MacBook Air is, you may feel a need to jazz it up with a modification reminiscent of your school days. Per The Daily What, Beyondthetech is currently selling a skin that will transform the outer lid of your MacBook Air into a traditional mottled black and white composition notebook.

Installation instructions are available on the Beyondthetech web site and the MacBook Air skin is a free download while the custom ZAGGSkin will set you back US$60 plus shipping and taxes.

Seagate announces one terabyte 2.5″ notebook hard drive

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Date: Tuesday, December 14th, 2010, 06:15
Category: Hardware, News

Hard drive manufacturer Seagate on Monday announced the industry’s first 2.5″ enterprise-class drive with one terabyte of capacity, or about 60% more could be stored previously.

Per Macworld, the next generation Constellation hard drive allows a standard 2U (3.5-in high) storage array to store up to 24TB, and a full server rack to store up to 500TB.

Seagate’s new drive spins at 7200 rpm, contains four 250GB platters, and has 6Gbit/sec throughput. Like the first generation of the Constellation, the second generation comes with serial SCSI (SAS) connectivity. The updated offering also offers serial ATA (SATA).

“We’re comparing this model to a 10,000-rpm drive in the enterprise, which today has a maximum capacity of 600GB,” said Barbara Craig, Seagate’s senior product marketing manager. “Its performance is about three times that of notebook drive and it’s twice as reliable.”

The SAS model of the Constellation.2 is dual ported for resiliency and sports sequential and random read speeds of up to 115MB/sec; the SATA model has 115MB/sec sequential read speeds but boasts 180MB/sec for random reads. Not only did Seagate double the maximum capacity of the Constellation, but it also increased the entry-level drive capacity from 160GB to 250GB.

The Constellation lags behind Seagate’s 1TB, 3.5″ enterprise-class drive in sequential performance, but blows by it in random reads. The random performance is better on 2.5″ drives because of their smaller disks and denser data.

Sequential Performance (MB/S) is better on 3.5″ drives because of the larger disk capacity and the higher areal density of the drive, Seagate said.

Regardless of the performance in comparison to its 3.5″ drive, Seagate pointed out that its new 2.5″ drive offers far greater space and power savings over its larger cousin. For example, the Constellation.2 offers 72 percent power savings while idle over the 3.5-in drive, or 3.85 watts versus 8 watts while idle, the company added.

Like its predecessor, the Constellation.2 is a self-encrypting drive. The latest model offers an encryption algorithm from AES 128-bit to AES 256-bit.

Sometime next quarter, Seagate is set to announce a Constellation.2 drive that has passed the Federal Information Processing Standards (FIPS) and is sealed with a tamper-resistant label.

The estimated mean time between failures (MTBF) was also increased with this drive from 1.2 million hours with the previous generation to 1.4 million hours, according to Craig. The Constellation.2 has twice the lifespan of Seagate’s 2.5-in laptop drive, the Momentus.

Final pricing and availability have yet to be announced for the Constellation.

Apple posts over $20 billion in sales, $4.31 billion profit for fourth quarter

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Date: Tuesday, October 19th, 2010, 06:56
Category: Finance, News

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Apple on Monday reported a “great fiscal quarter,” citing a quarterly profit of US$4.31 billion, compared to US$2.53 billion for the same period last year. Over the quarter, Apple recored US$20.34 billion in revenue, an increase of nearly 67 percent from the year-ago quarter’s sales figure of US$12.21 billion.

Apple’s earnings of US$4.64 per diluted share handily beat estimates by Wall Street analysts who were expecting the company to report earnings of US$4.06 a share on $18.86 billion in revenue for September quarter.

“We still have a few surprises left for the remainder of the calendar year,” said CEO Steve Jobs in a statement accompanying the earnings. Apple has scheduled a press event for this Wednesday where the company is expected to focus on the Mac.

Per Macworld, Apple executive Peter Oppenheimer credited record iPhone sales, enthusiasm for the iPad, and a new quarterly sales record for Mac sales as the drivers behind Apple’s strong quarterly performance. In particular, Apple sold 4.19 million iPads during the first full quarter of sales for the tablet; all told, the company sold 7.5 million iPads during its 2010 fiscal year.

For the fiscal fourth quarter, Apple recorded US$2.8 billion in sales of iPads and related accessories, with the iPad accounting for US$2.7 billion of that figure. That translates to an average selling price of around US$645 for the tablet, Oppenheimer said.

iPad sales may disappoint some analysts, who were expecting Apple to sell close to 5 million tablets. One of the issues may be with inventory—Apple says it has three-to-four weeks worth of channel inventory, which is below its target range of four-to-six weeks. The company plans to expand its iPad distribution efforts, adding retailers like Verizon, Walmart, Target, and AT&T into the mix as well as launching in additional countries.

As for the iPhone, Apple managed to sell 14.1 million units during the quarter. This marks a 91% increase over the 7.4 million phones sold during the year-ago quarter and a new quarterly record for smartphone sales for the company.

For the 2010 fiscal year, Apple sold 40 million phones, a 93 percent jump over 2009. During September, the company says it passed the 125 million mark for cumulative iOS sales of its iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch offerings.

Apple also saw a record quarter for its Mac business. The company sold 3.89 million computers, up 27% from its year-ago sales. Fourth-quarter Mac sales topped the previous high-water mark of 3.47 million mark set during the June quarter. Year-over-year sales growth was more than double the growth rate projected for the overall PC market by research firm IDC, according to Oppenheimer.

Notebooks continue to drive Mac sales, with portable products, accounting for 71% of the Macs sold during the September quarter. However, sales of desktops rose nearly 28% to a little more than 1 million units, on the strength of the company’s iMac and Mac Pro updates over the summer.

Despite the largely positive news, the iPod segment continues to shrink, with Apple selling 9.05 million music players during the quarter (an 11% drop from last year’s figures). Apple updated its iPod line in September, though the company usually sees the fruits of those efforts during the holiday quarter.

While iPod sales growth stalled throughout 2010, Apple opted to focus on the positive Monday. It noted that the iPod’s share of the MP3 player market in the U.S. continues to top 70% according to research firm NPD’s figures. And Apple says its music player gained market share internationally from the year-ago quarter. The company also reported that its iTune Store brought in more than US$1 billion in revenue for the September quarter.

Apple CEO Steve Jobs took a minute during the conference call to comment on the company’s “hobby” product, the Apple TV, announcing that it had moved more than 250,000 units since the device went on sale. That’s the first time the company has ever revealed sales information for the device, which has gone through a number of iterations since its original introduction in 2007. Jobs confirmed that Apple had moved to an all-streaming model for content for the device, which will allow streaming of media from iOS devices in November when Apple ships iOS 4.2.

Apple’s retail segment had what Oppenheimer called a “record-breaking quarter,” with revenue rising 75% to US$3.57 billion. Apple sold 874,000 Macs through its retail arm, an increase of 30% from the year-ago quarter. The company sales that half of the Macs sold through its brick-and-mortar outlets continue to be to customers who are new to the platform.

Apple ended the fourth quarter with 317 stores, 84 of which were outside the U.S. The company opened 24 new stores during the quarter, with 16 of those opening outside of U.S. borders. In fact, with new store openings in Spain, Apple now has retail outlets in 11 countries.

The company also stated that it plans to open 40 to 50 stores during the coming fiscal year, with half of those slated for outside the U.S. The company also plans to start renovating several of its U.S. stores during 2011.

Monday’s earnings report closes the book on Apple’s 2010 fiscal year, which saw the company record US$65.2 billion in sales, a 52% increase from the US$42.9 billion in revenue recorded in 2009. Apple turned a US$14 billion profit in 2010, an increase of 72% from the previous year.

“The September quarter was the culmination of a monumental year for Apple,” Oppenheimer said.

Review: 120GB Mercury Extreme Pro 2.5″ Notebook Drive

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Date: Sunday, October 10th, 2010, 12:35
Category: hard drive, Hardware, Review

Maybe it’s part of getting older.

When the idea of solid state hard drives first emerged a few years ago, there was some hesitancy on my part.

Not quite the smashing of all available nearby looms, but some hesitancy.

This was a new thing, a hard drive made entirely of flash memory with no moving parts whatsoever and thus mysterious. And after years of fighting with both ATA-IDE drives (including occasionally realigning the pins with a pen when they bent) and SATA-based hard drives, you become hesitant to change.

Beyond my own hesitancy came the idea of sheer capacity. Yes, various hard drive companies had been offering solid state options for a while, but when they first hit, their capacities were a fraction of what you’d find on a conventional hard drive with moving parts. Yes, a MacBook Air with a quiet solid state hard drive seemed cool when it first came out, but when your capacity topped out at 40 to 80 gigabytes, this put pause on being an early adopter.

Still, 120 gigabytes didn’t seem like something to sneeze at and with my 2008 white plastic MacBook’s conventional SATA hard drive slowing down during iMovie work, there seemed to be no time like the present to try an alternative.

The result: I’m going to be reluctant to have to ship Other World Computing’s 120GB Extreme Mercury Pro SSD drive back in a couple of days.

Having done the classic hard-drive-swaperoo of taking the new drive, putting it in an external carrier, cloning the old hard drive’s data to the new drive and then swapping the new drive in, the drive booted cleanly and without issue. In the following months, the drive has run a bit quieter than its conventional SATA alternative and felt just as brisk as a conventional notebook hard drive.

Even if the drive itself doesn’t blaze along at a professional grade speeds (there’s always been something cool about a high end 10,000 RPM desktop hard drive tearing through Photoshop and Final Cut processes without slowing down in the least), the Mercury felt like something you could install and forget about. Yes, this was a new thing, my very first flash hard drive. Still, once installed, it fell into the background, ran completely reliably no matter what was thrown at it and never seemed to slow.

Granted, this isn’t the most exciting news in the world, but it does offer a promise for the encompassing technology itself. Even if conventional SATA notebook drives still offer a larger capacity and these are the early years of flash-based notebook hard drives, there’s something reliable here. As strange as the idea of a hard drive without moving parts may be (upon removal from the box, the drive itself weighed next to nothing, almost if if you’d received a fake cardboard hard drive in the mail), the end product works reliably enough to install into grandma’s Apple notebook if need be (provided it supports SATA hard drives), makes sure all her old files have been cloned over for her to use and you’re off to the races.

No, this isn’t groundbreaking, but it is cool, fun to install and reliable in the end. The drive installs, it works briskly and you can put it in the back of your mind and get on with the rest of your day, remembering to feed your pets instead of wondering why your hard drive appears to be groaning loudly or, worse, scraping one of its data platters during day to day operation.

And at the end of the day, none of these are terrible things.

Give it a gander.

The 120GB Mercury Extreme Pro retails from US$289.99 and is available now.

Rumor: Current MacBook Air supplies being depleted, next-gen model said to be forthcoming

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Date: Thursday, October 7th, 2010, 04:19
Category: MacBook Air, Rumor

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With current supplies of Apple’s MacBook Air notebook drying up through the company’s indirect sales channels, rumors are spreading that a next generation model is on the horizon.

Per AppleInsider, all but one of the Apple Authorized Resellers that the web site tracks tracks as part of its Mac Price Guide have run out of low-end 1.83GHz MacBook Air, including Amazon.com, MacConnection, MacMall and J&R. In addition, at least two of those resellers are also reflecting no stock of the high-end 2.13GHz configuration.

This marks the first time the web site has witnessed this abnormal trend in regards to the Air since it began tracking availability of Apple’s Mac line on a daily basis over two years ago. For weeks now, the websites of certain resellers have indicated that inventory of the low-end MacBook Air was on the verge of depletion, urging shoppers to “order soon,” as only a handful of units remained in stock.

Sources familiar with the buy side of operations for big box retailers like Best Buy and Amazon.com say that Apple has indicted to them that it will not replenish supply of the notebooks until October 12th through October 16th at the earliest. Such expansive delays on low volume products like the MacBook Air are common only when Mac maker is preparing to overhaul the product line, these people say.

Mid-October hardware updates have become something of an annual tradition for Apple, who last year unveiled a redesigned line of iMacs and unibody MacBook on October 20th, 2009. Though last year’s products were introduced without a formal event, in 2008 the company held a special gathering for the media on October 14th to introduce new MacBooks. Back in 2005, the company similarly held two events in mid-October to introduce a new iPod, iMac, and a lineup of PowerBook notebooks.

All these signs seem to support persistent rumors out of the Far East that Apple is gearing up to overhaul the MacBook Air line with a newly designed 11.6″ display this fall, creating a more aggressively priced notebook for students and the business traveler. It’s reported that Apple plans to ship around a half-million units before the end of the 2010 calendar year. The current MacBook Air sports a 13.3″ display.

Rumors of a MacBook Air with an 11.6″ display first surfaced in July. The rumored hardware was anticipated to be even slimmer and lighter, and will be powered by an Intel Core i-series ultra-low voltage processor.

There’s also been a mixture of chatter regarding a much cheaper, thinner 11.6-inch Apple notebook that would weigh as little as 2.7 pounds due to the possibility of new carbon fiber unibody construction, though this and defined technical specifications have yet to be confirmed on any level.

The introduction of a new MacBook Air would likely come alongside an update to Apple’s iLife suite, a product that has also become long in the tooth. The last update, iLife ’09, was launched in January of 2009.

Recent rumors have suggested that a presumed iLife ’11 refresh will be written entirely in 64-bit code, will include a rewritten iWeb, and will drop the iDVD application. It has also been suggested that the software will be available for iOS-based devices such as the iPhone and iPad.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available and please let us know what you think in the comments.