Review: Transcend’s JetDrives add whopping 240-960GB SSD to MacBook Air at a great price

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See that little $190 daughter card up there^? It houses 240GB of Transcend SSD and it could replace the 64GB or 128GB SSD that came in your MacBook Air in as little as 5 minutes. Even better, Transcend just released larger versions in 480GB and 960GB sizes to blow your SATA III MacBook Air or Pro into new worlds of space. Keep in mind these are SATA-based SSDs and Apple’s latest round of MacBook Pro/Airs came with speedier PCIe SSDs so you can’t use these on Apple’s late 2013/2014 models (see bottom of the article for compatibility list).

I got my hands on a demo unit and took it for a test drive…

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iFixit teardown praises new Mac Pro for repairability, upgradability

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Following a quick look from Other World Computing last week, iFixit has published its teardown of the new Mac Pro.

Unlike any other Apple product iFixit has reviewed this year, the firm gives high praise to the repairability of the Mac Pro. The system uses no proprietary screws and RAM is accessible without the need for any tools.  Add in the socketed, upgradable CPU originally found in the earlier teardown, the Mac Pro is the most repairable computer in Apple’s lineup by far.

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Mini review: Elgato Thunderbolt Drive+ (512GB external SSD)

I should say at the outset that this is not cheap. Very not cheap. What you’re looking at is $890′s worth of external drive in the 512GB version I have here, or $500 for the 256GB model.

This is not a drive aimed at a consumer wanting a bit of external storage for their movies, but rather a high-performance drive aimed at audiovisual professionals who need an external drive that delivers the kind of speeds in a mobile environment that they are used to from their office setup …  Read more

Latest MacBook Pro 15 gets blazing SSD performance thanks to 4-channel PCIe (updated)

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Update: It appears this may be a function of the 1TB drives fitted to both 13- and 15-inch models. The reason for this isn’t yet clear: it may be the drives used offer greater bandwidth.

Benchmark tests by French site Mac4Ever show that the latest MacBook Pro 15 is delivering SSD read and write speeds in excess of 1GB per second. The site repeatedly achieved these speeds when Apple claims only “up to 775MB per second.”

The MBP 15 is able to achieve these speeds because it has a 4-channel PCIe connection to the SSD, in contrast to the 2-channel link on the MBP 13 and MacBook Air models, though from some reader reports this may be the case only on models fitted with 1TB drives …

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iFixit investigates the innards of the new iMacs, spare SSD slot now standard in all models

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iFixit has taken a look at the newly-released generation iMacs, tearing down both the 21.5 inch and 27.5 inch variants. Although most of the internal structure is the same, which is to be expected given that the new iMacs have retained the same casing, there are some small differences.

iFixit points out that the 21.5 inch iMac now includes a Fusion Drive SSD bay as standard, improving future upgradeability prospects of the machine. With last year’s model, this expandability was only available if customers had specifically ordered the iMac with a Fusion Drive originally. As the new drives are now connected via PCIe, third-party drive makers should be able to make appropriate adapters to enable the addition of a second hard drive. Both the 21.5 inch and 27 inch models offer this unused PCIe Fusion Drive SSD port. A picture of the empty port is attached below.

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New Model (Early 2013) Retina MacBook Pros use some upgraded internal parts

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It appears the recent spec update to the MacBook Pros wasn’t as minor as we had originally thought. According to a leaked Apple repair guide for the 15-inch Retina MacBook Pro, many internals including the SSD, I/O Board, Logic Board and even the bottom case have been updated to new parts. While it isn’t clear yet how the updated parts were changed (besides the obvious CPU speed), it reminded us of a Foxconn leak we got in October 2012:

1. The rmbp in production line D2 is identified as defected products as in terms of thermal heating and screen ghosting. P/S: Apple is not going to re-launch the 15” rmbp. Just that Apple will improve on the production technique in D2 line. Apple will launch the 13” rmbp. Ghosting and thermal issues will be fixed but internals and design will be similar to 15” rmbp.

Interestingly, the report also said that Retina MacBook Pro production would move, at least partially, to Mexico.

We also have the 2013 repair manual for the 13-inch MacBook Pro below that only shows 2013 updates to logic board (likely just for CPU updates) and how to tell which model of Retina MacBook Pro you have for both 13- and 15-inch varieties. Read more

Fox: New iMacs launching before Christmas

Clayton Morris at Fox says that new iMacs will launch soon, perhaps as early as next week during the iPhone event or even after the rumored October event, but he seems to think they will be available for the holidays.

I’ve been hoping for an iMac update and it looks like my wish is about to come true! Multiple sources tell me that a new lineup of desktop machines from Apple is imminent.

It appears that Morris changed his story from “releasing next week” but there is no mention of that on the Fox News website.  Only this tweet:

There has been no shortage of new iMac rumors, and supplies have been dwindling in a number of retail channels. We are in agreement with some of Morris’s predictions like USB 3, updated CPU/GPU and SSD options, but we are not yet on board with the outward design overhaul and loss of optical drive.

A few things we can count on in the new iMacs are new Ivy Bridge processors, improved graphics chips, USB 3.0, and expanded SSD capacities. Also look for a new slimmer design with Apple finally removing the optical drive from the side.

It is possible that the iMac announcement could happen at the rumored October iPad mini announcement, but I’m not holding my breath for that. Apple has been known to update the desktops without much fanfare.

Analysts have expected a new iMac for some time now, with KGI Research’s latest estimates below: Read more

iFixit posts repair guide for Retina MacBook Pro, estimates battery replacement at $500

You might remember a couple months ago when our friends at iFixit tore down the new Retina MacBook Pro. Unfortunately, the device received its lowest repairability score with the company calling it “the least repairable laptop”. While the new MacBooks provide possibly Apple’s least accessible and upgradeable design out of the box, iFixit updated its website today with its official 2012 MacBook Pro Retina repair guide to make it as easy as possible. Fifteen separate installation guides for the AirPort Board, battery, fans, logic board, speakers, SSD, trackpad, etc., are included in the repair guide with one maintenance guide for reapplying thermal paste to the CPU and GPU.

Many components within the laptop can be removed without much fuss, provided folks use the correct tools. Pentalobe screws hold the lower case in place and Torx screws secure everything else. Spudgers and plastic opening tools are absolutely necessary, as many of the components are designed with such tight tolerances that using fingertips is simply not an option.

Fair warning: working on the laptop is no easy task. Some repairs are simply infeasible. For example, there is no way to replace the trackpad without removing the battery. And while it’s possible to remove the battery, chances are high that it will be punctured in the process. Puncturing Lithium-polymer batteries releases noxious fumes and can cause fires. Additionally, removing the LCD glass from the aluminum frame will almost certainly break the glass. So components residing under the LCD — such as the FaceTime camera — will have to be replaced with the entire assembly… Finding replacements for the machine’s proprietary components is currently difficult. We’re working to source parts, but it may take some time.

iFixit also estimated that third-party battery replacements —if done correctly— could cost over $500:

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New MacBook Pro’s Retina display reviewed and benchmarked

After posting initial benchmark data yesterday for the new Retina MacBook Pro’s SSD and USB 3.0, AnandTech published a longer analysis today about the notebook’s display. The report first took a closer look at the new resolution preferences for Retina MBP users and described the advantages of the different scaling options displayed in the gallery above:

Retina Display MBP owners now get a slider under OS X’s Display Preferences that allow you to specify desktop resolutions other than 1440 x 900. At 1440 x 900 you don’t get any increase in usable desktop resolution compared to a standard 15-inch MacBook Pro, but everything is ridiculously crisp… Even at the non-integer scaled 1680 x 1050 setting, the Retina Display looks a lot better than last year’s high-res panel. It looks like Apple actually renders the screen at twice the selected resolution before scaling it to fit the 2880 x 1800 panel (in other words, at 1920 x 1200 Apple is rendering everything at 3840 x 2400 (!) before scaling… Everything just looks better.

As illustrated in the images above showing benchmark data, the review found greatly improved viewing angles, black levels, and contrast when compared to the previous generation high-res MacBook Pro model. AnandTech then looked at Apple’s claims that the new MacBook Pro display reduces glare by 75 percent from previous generations:

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New MacBook Pros will get Samsung’s fast 830 series SSD too

In January, following a meeting with Samsung Storage solutions at CES 2012, we told you that Apple’s next-gen MacBook Air would likely make the switch to the speedier 830 series SSDs from Samsung alongside an update to Ivy Bridge. This was of course before we revealed some major changes coming to Apple’s new MacBook and iMac lineups. In addition to Retina displays for almost the entire new lineup, the new ultra-thin 15-inch MacBook Pro will be getting a complete redesign, losing the optical drive, and bringing it closer to to the thin design of current Airs. Like the new MacBook Airs, we have been told that at least some of Apple’s prototype MacBook Pros have used Samsung’s 830 series SSDs…
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OWC Mercury Accelsior PCI-SSD benchmarked

For those of us still with pre-Thunderbolt Mac Pros or Xserves (or Hackintoshes), there are not a lot of inexpensive choices for getting super fast data access onto our machines. Sure, you can buy a SATA 3 hard drive like my favorite Samsung 830 series, but the built in SATA 2 on these old machines is a bottleneck that will “only” yield 250 MB/second read speeds.

Along comes OWC last month with its first-ever Mercury Accelsior Mac-bootable PCI SSD card that is actually a PCI-to-striped RAID SATA array. The two SATA3 cards you see above actually look like (but aren’t – don’t try it) the same super high-speed Sandforce 3 drives that OWC sells as MacBook Air updates.

By the way, the cards are a snap to install and configure. If you have ever added a PCI video card, this is the same thing. Even better, there are no drivers to install, and the drive automatically shows up as a mounted disk that can (and should!) be booted from.

How did they compare to the single MacBook Air SSDs?

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90GB OCZ 90GB Agility 3 SATA3 SSD for $100

From 9to5Toys.com:

Today only, Amazon offers the OCZ 90GB Agility 3 2.5″ Serial ATA 6Gb/s Internal SSD, model no. AGT3-25SAT3-90G, for $99.99 with free shipping. That’s the lowest total price we could find by $30. This Sandforce-controlled drive advertises 500MB/s+ read write times when connected to a SATA3 controller.

While OCZ’s drives are certainly fast, we’ve had a better experience with Samsung’s 830 series SATA3 SSDs which should soon be entering production on Apple’s MacBook Air/Pros.  The 128GB is listed at $199 while the 64GB variety is $109.

Update: previously mentioned rebate had expired last week.

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