Review: 29-inch 21:9 Philips Brilliance 298P4QJEB LCD monitor creates new MacBook/Desktop opportunities

I’ve been curious about the 21:9 display format since it started to creep into mainstream displays last year. Originally developed to display cinema grade movies natively, computer users are now snapping these up to give themselves a sort of wide ‘Bloomberg terminal’ without the break (and the swivel between displays).

I received the Philips 298P4 29-inch 21:9 display a few weeks ago and have set it up as my display at my desk.  It has an unusual 2560×1080 pixel display which is the same amount of pixels across as traditional 30 inch 16:10 displays or 27-inch 16:9 displays (like Apple’s 27-inch iMac or Thunderbolt Display). The 1080 pixels high however matches up with a typical 1080P display. I didn’t use it like a traditional desktop computer or with a laptop off to the side.

For me, I saw an opportunity to add a display on top of my Retina MacBook Pro whose keyboard/trackpad layout I find more usable than anything else out there including Apple’s Wireless Keyboard/Trackpad combo. The Philips’ stand (and this is the key part) allows the display to grow over the top of even the 15’inch Retina MacBook Pro so that I can continue to use the MBP keyboard and display even while looking up (for much improved posture) at the Philips display. It is also great for watching movies while working :D, unless productivity is a priority.

For this it was great, but how was the quality of the display?

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MacBook Air refresh looks set for WWDC, potentially with faster Wi-Fi

Screen Shot 2013-06-05 at 1.08.25 PM

Apple appears set to release new versions of its MacBook Air notebook computer at next week’s Worldwide Developers Conference, according to information provided by a source. Earlier this week, we reported that Apple is planning to release four new Mac models at WWDC, and we narrowed this down to either new MacBook Pro with Retina display models or MacBook Air models.

Today, we have received specific pricing for the aforementioned SKUs, and the price-points correspond to Apple’s current pricing for the 11-inch and 13-inch MacBook Air models. We have yet to receive pricing information that points to the imminent availability of new MacBook Pros (as some had hoped), but perhaps the next refresh to Apple’s Pro portables will arrive in the coming months. Supply constraints to the Retina MacBook Pro line seems to imply that…

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Review: LandingZone’s Secure MacBook Air dock – adds Kensington Lock, Ethernet, USB ports in seconds

I’ve been using the $99 LandingZone 2.0 LITE 13″ Secure Docking Station for the past couple weeks to dock my MacBook Air when I use it at my desk. Until now, when I got to my desk, I would manually plug in MagSafe power, USB hub and sometimes audio jacks – which isn’t a huge pain, but it did add time time and clutter to my workflow.

LandingZone, which started as a Kickstarter project but is now in full production, has a complete solution in a white plastic/steel dock that allows you to secure your MacBook Air, and within seconds, have Ethernet, a 4 port USB hub, power and MiniDisplay Port outs ready for use. Read more

NVIDIA introduces GeForce 700M Series GPU, prime fits for the next high end iMacs/MacBooks

NVIDIA-GeForce-graphics-GPU-700M

NVIDIA announced a new series of notebook GPU’s today branded as the 700M series. Introduced today are five new graphics cards in total, and NVIDIA said they would be available in a long list of laptops over the next few months. The five new graphics cards include two options aimed at the “mainstream segment”, the 720M and the 735M, while the remaining three, the 740M, 745M, and 750M, will be “for the performance segment” of the market.

700m-lineupThe graphics cards are being touted by NVIDIA to “maximize performance and experience,” but they also more power efficient than their predecessors. Because the 700M Series is notebook-only, expect these to be less powerful than a desktop version of the 700 Series that may be announced sometime in the future.

Helping our new 700M chips reach such lofty levels of performance is GPU Boost 2.0, a GPU innovation that extracts every ounce of available computing power from the graphics processor. Before GPU Boost, GPUs were held back by synthetic benchmarks that pushed chips and power usage to the limit, far beyond the levels typically seen when playing games. This ‘worst case scenario’ forced us to throttle GPUs, leaving spare performance on the table when playing games.GPU Boost resolves this problem by monitoring power usage and temperatures, enabling the GPU to use every last ounce of performance without exceeding safety or comfort limits.

While the press release from NVIDIA said the new GPUs will be available in nearly every notebook maker other than Apple, it is possible these GPUs will be seen in the next-gen MacBook Pro with Retina Display. The current 15-inch MacBook Pro with Retina Display sports a NVIDIA 650M GPU, as does the high-end 21-inch iMac model, so an upgrade to the 700M series only makes sense.

The full press release is available below.

New NVIDIA GeForce 700M GPUs Squeeze Every Drop Of Performance Out Of Notebooks, Automatically

Monday, April 1, 2013

NVIDIA today announced five new notebook GPUs which deliver a trifecta of technologies that seamlessly and automatically maximize a consumer’s notebook performance and experience.

With no effort or input from the notebook user, the technologies work in the background to save battery life, enhance performance and enrich the visual experience — providing the best notebook experience the GPU can deliver. They include:

New NVIDIA GPU Boost™ 2.0 technology, which intelligently adjusts GPU clock speed to maximize graphics performance.

NVIDIA® Optimus™ technology, which enables extra-long battery life by switching the GPU on and off so it runs only when needed.

GeForce® Experience™ software, which adjusts in-game settings for the best performance and visual quality specific to a user’s notebook and keeps GeForce drivers up to date.

“There is an elegant simplicity to NVIDIA’s GeForce 700M notebook technologies,” said Rene Haas, vice president and general manager of the notebook business unit at NVIDIA. “You use your notebook how you want, and GeForce makes your experience awesome.”

Incorporating all three of these technologies, the new lineup of NVIDIA GeForce 700M GPUs includes GeForce GT 750M, GeForce GT 745M, and GeForce GT 740M GPUs for the performance segment, as a well as GeForce GT 735M and GeForce GT 720M GPUs for the mainstream segment.

NVIDIA GeForce 700M GPUs are available today. Every leading notebook manufacturer will be introducing notebooks with GPU Boost 2.0 technology, including Acer, Asus, Dell, HP, Lenovo, MSI, Samsung, Sony and Toshiba.

More information about the GeForce 700M family of notebook GPUs is available at http://www.GeForce.com.

Review: TwelveSouth’s BookBook case for the 15-inch Retina MacBook Pro

We’ve reviewed and enjoyed a number of TwelveSouth products over the years. We were intrigued by the hollowed out book idea with the company’s original BookBook case for the MacBook Air and since it has brought out similar hand distressed leather BookBook cases for other Apple devices, like the iPhone and iPad mini. While maybe not the ideal option for Apple’s anti-skeuomorphic cheerleaders, I found the stark contrast to Apple’s sometimes cold industrial design a nice juxtaposition.

I tend to not use any skins, covers or cases when using my MacBook on a day to day basis. I slide my MacBook into a laptop pouch built-into my backpack or use a standard laptop case when on the go, and rarely do I actually leave the MacBook in the case when in use. A case was necessary for protection when traveling, but for me the average soft or hard plastic laptop case never quite does the pricey, Jony Ive designed Apple hardware inside justice. BookBook is different… Read more

Retina MacBook Pro hits new $1299 low at MacConnection shipped ($200 off)

From 9to5Toys.com:

Screen Shot 2013-03-28 at 8.16.15 AM

MacConnection quietly updated their price on the 13-inch Retina MAcBook Pro to $1299 with free shipping last night. That’s $200 off Apple’s price and the lowest we’ve ever seen for a Retina Display MacBook Pro. This is the base model with 2.5GHz Core i5, 8GB RAM and 128GB SSD.

A quick look at our Retina MacBook Pro Product page shows that this is easily the best deal out there: Read more

MacBook Pro with Retina display: Problems in every dimension

MacBook-Problems-In-Every-Dimension

When Apple unveiled its first Retina MacBook Pro with the 15.4-inch model in June, it came with an all-new, slimmed down design, all-flash architecture, and its flagship Retina display with over 5 million pixels. Apple has built its reputation on quality, craftsmanship, and customer/user experience, but that hasn’t been the case with its latest lineup of MacBooks. What many consumers don’t know is that buying a new Retina MacBook means taking your chances with possibly receiving a unit that is subject to display defects, battery, graphics, and fan-related issues among other major stability problems. These widespread issues have received limited coverage in the press and many consumers claim Apple is failing to sufficiently address the problems by not informing consumers and employees.

Leading the reports of problems is one that causes burn-in or ghosting on the device’s display. The result is a support thread with over 364,769 views and, most recently, a class-action lawsuit in California that alleged Apple is failing to inform consumers of the issue. Users experiencing the problem eventually realized the source of the issue was with LG, one of Apple’s display suppliers for the new Retina MacBooks. Unfortunately, models with Samsung displays aren’t totally free from a myriad of other significant issues.

Apple described the image-retention problems on this user’s display as normal after two visits. The display was eventually replaced with a Samsung but continues to experience other display related problems. 

Problems at the Apple Store

Finally, after 4 LG screened rMBPs I give up!

The problems are severe enough that it’s affecting the buying experience for consumers, driving customers to opt for other devices, and forced me personally to stop recommending the machine. Not only is Apple not addressing the issues publicly, Apple retail employees and 9to5Mac readers confirmed Apple is failing to properly inform retail and repair staff of the problems… Read more

Add a portable Blu-ray player to your Mac (including playback software) for less than a SuperDrive

tl;dr: Buy a $40 Portable USB Blu-ray/DVD-R drive and $30 Blu-ray player MacGo for $10 less than an Apple SuperDrive and you get to watch/rip Blu-ray movies as a bonus.

bluray_player_system

With Apple having eliminated optical media from just about every product it makes, including the redesigned iMacs, Mac Minis, and Retina MacBook Pros, many readers will be considering whether they need to procure a separate external DVD reader for emergencies. Some folks store archives, have software installers, backups, or have vast movie collection on DVD – and then there is Blu-ray…

Apple’s remedy is the DVD SuperDrive that costs $79 (well, $70/$50 used if you know where to shop). The SuperDrive is an Apple-quality product and can be used as a boot drive for many Macs that need to be upgraded or repaired via DVD.

But perhaps we can get a little more for our $80?

Steve Jobs viewed Blu-ray as a “bag of hurt” from the “mafia,” and Apple would frankly rather you stick to the iTunes ecosystem for video watching. But there are many nice Blu-ray titles out there, and iTunes’ compressed 1080p content still doesn’t come close the video and sound quality of Blu-ray. So, for those thinking of dropping $80 on a SuperDrive, we think we have a better option:

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The Apple Store begins offering Retina 15″ MacBook Pro refurbs starting at $1869

From 9to5Toys.com:

Screen Shot 2013-01-04 at 9.47.36 PM.

This evening, Apple began offering refurbished Retina MacBook Pros at the online Apple Store at significant 15% discounts, yielding savings of over $500 on high end models (below). 15-inch Retina MacBooks normally retail at $2200 but we’ve seen them as low as $2,000 (which is also the EDU discount price).

Apple refurbished products are packaged and look like new and come with the same one year of AppleCare. See all of the best prices on Apple Products on our Apple product pages.

Thanks Jason! Read more

Apple’s Black Friday deals go live in US/Canada as third-party retailers offer even better discounts on Macs, iPads, iPods and accessories

Apple’s Black Friday sales started going live online earlier today in a number of Apple Stores around the world, including: Australia, New Zealand, Germany, United Kingdom, and more. Now, Apple’s deals for the United States and Canada are live with the expected $100 in savings on MacBooks and smaller savings for iPads, iPods, and select accessories.

While Apple’s deals are in line with what we expected from previous years, most of these products can be found even cheaper through third-party retailers today. We have put together a list of all the Black Friday prices on the U.S. Apple Store below. Next to each item, you’ll also find the lowest price that we could find from third parties—most of which provided an even better deal than Apple:

-iPad with Retina display | From $458 (Save $41)
Best Price: BestBuy from $439
-iPad 2 | From $368 (Save $31)
Best Price: BestBuy from $339
Alternative Best Price option: eBay Daily Deals from $339 (16GB WiFi)
-iPod touch | From $268 (Save $31)
Best Price: Best Buy from $294+$50 gift card
-iPod touch 4th generation | From $178  (Save $21 )
Best Price: Best Buy from $194 +$50 gift card
-iPod nano | From $138 (Save $11)
Best Price: Best Buy from $144 + $20 gift card

-MacBook Pro with Retina Display | From $1,598 (Save $101)
Best Price: Amazon from $1,593
-MacBook Pro | From $1,098 (Save $101)
Best Price: Amazon from $1,024
-MacBook Air | From $898 (Save $101)
Best Price: Amazon from $893

Check our Apple Product pages for the lowest prices across the board as well as 9to5Toys.com for the latest updates. More Apple comparisons coming, below: Read more

Apple opens its first eBay store for a trial with select refurbished products

Seth Weintraub and Danny DeSilva contributed to this post.

Over the last few weeks, we’ve been posting links to a mysterious Apple refurbished store that appeared on eBay about a month ago and has been hiding in plain sight ever since. Labeled only “Refurbished Outlet” with hidden corporate information and nothing in the way of contact information or a traceable backend, the store gets impressive 99.7-percent positive reviews from buyers. But, there is no information on where devices are coming from.

We thought Apple might be testing the waters to sell refurbished products directly to customers through eBay, and it seems that’s exactly what is happening. We discovered that this is in fact an Apple-run Store within eBay. It is in trial, and it could open the door to much bigger things. No one would go on the record at eBay, however.

Aside from the image fonts above, which are an uncharacteristic wreck, there are many telltale signs of Apple’s direct involvement. Just like Apple’s own refurbished products, the “refurbished outlet” products all have the following:

  • Full one-year warranty
  • Returned to like-new condition
  • iPads/iPods include a new battery
  • Received complete burn-in testing
  • Original OS re-installed
  • Repackaged with manual and cable
  • Final quality inspection by Apple

The prices on the products are also identical to the Apple Store’s refurbished prices across the board (below) Read more

Apple announces ‘fourth-generation iPad’, starting at $499

Apple has refreshed its third-generation iPad line today, as expected, with a semi-minor upgrade that includes a new Lightning connector, but the company also included some upgraded internals in what it is calling the “fourth-generation iPad.”

“It is a power house,” said Apple Senior Vice President of Worldwide Marketing Philip Schiller while on stage at the event.

The fourth-generation iPad features faster performance with dual-core A6X and quad-core graphics. It also has a 5-megapixel iSight camera, expanded LTE chipset, front-facing camera with FaceTime and 720p video capture, ultrafast two-times Wi-Fi, and Lightening connector.

Additional specs:

  • Next-generation ISP
  • Double CPU performance from A5x
  • Double graphic performance
  • 10-hour battery life
  • LTE support
  • Colors: black and white

This is the first time Apple has unveiled two versions of the 9.7-inch iPad in one year. The fourth-generation iPad is priced at $499 for the 16 GB model and $629 for the 16 GB model with 4G LTE.

Go to 9to5Mac’s full coverage of the fourth-generation iPad for more information about carrier options and the discontinuation of the third-generation iPad. 

An image gallery is below.

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