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Category: Mac computers

Apple MacBook Pro line updated with new processors, faster graphics

Apple's MacBook Pro range

Apple Inc. very quietly updated its MacBook Pro line of laptop computers on Monday, keeping form factors and prices in place, but adding slightly speedier processors and graphics.

The entry-level MacBook Pro, which features a 13-inch display, is now sold with a 2.4-gigahertz dual-core Intel i5 processor in its base configuration, though a 2.8-gigahertz dual-core Intel i7 chip is an option as well. The starting price for the 13-inch MacBook Pro is $1,199.

The mid-level 15-inch MacBook Pro gets boosted to a base of a 2.2-gigahertz quad-core Intel i7 processor, a 500-gigabyte hard-drive, and the same Intel HD Graphics 3000 integrated graphics card as the 13-inch model,  plus a separate AMD Radeon HD 6750M graphics card with its own 512 megabytes of dedicated memory. The starting price for the 15-inch range is $1,799.

The top-of-the-line 17-inch MacBook Pro is updated with a 2.4-gigahertz Intel Core i7 processor as the base option with AMD's new Radeon HD 6770M graphics card alongside the integrated graphics from its smaller siblings. The 17-inch MacBook Pro starts at $2,499.

Of course, each Apple Mac computer ships with Mac OS X Lion, the latest version of Apple's operating system.

What does all this mean? Nothing major, really. But the faster processors can handle computing tasks quicker, and better graphics means more stable and quicker video playback and editing for creative professionals using Macs with software such as Adobe Photoshop and Apple's own Final Cut Pro video-editing software.

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-- Nathan Olivarez-Giles

twitter.com/nateog

Image: A screenshot of Apple's MacBook Pro line as listed on Apple.com. Credit: Apple Inc.

Apple expected to announce record quarter after market close

Apple store in Shanghai

Apple Inc. is getting set to announce its financial performance for its fiscal fourth quarter Tuesday afternoon, and it may be a record once again — largely on strong sales of its flagship product, the iPhones.

Analysts believe Apple will have sold close to 22 million iPhones during the recent quarter -- the last before the release of the newer iPhone 4S model.  Though the 4S won't be included in this quarter's performance, Apple said Monday that it sold 4 million of the devices in its first weekend, nearly doubling the sales number of the previous iPhone 4, its bestselling ever.

According to a consensus of analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters, Wall Street expects Apple to announce earnings per share of $7.39 on revenue of $29.7 billion. Apple's stock is up 12% in the last three months, partly on the strong initial reaction to the iPhone.  In midday trading Tuesday, shares of the stock were down $1.82, or 0.43%, to $418.17.

The quarterly earnings release will be the first since the death two weeks ago of Apple's co-founder and longtime captain Steve Jobs. Tim Cook, the new chief executive officer, will likely preside over the earnings call with analysts, which will take place at 2 p.m. PDT.  Readers can listen to that call online at this link.

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Photo: A woman walks by an Apple store in Shanghai.  Credit: Carlos Barria / Reuters

Apple's OS X Lion now available on a $69 USB drive

Apple Mac OS X Lion USB thumb drive

Apple released OS X Lion on a USB thumb drive on Tuesday, selling for $69, just under a month after the new Mac operating system debuted as a $29.99 download.

So why might someone want to pay $69 for software available for less than half that price online from Apple's Mac App Store?

Not everyone has a speedy broadband Internet connection, or any Internet connection for that matter, and OS X Lion is a 3.49-gigabyte digital download that would take a decent amount of time on a slow connection.

Even still, some others simply prefer to have their software in a physical media format.

For those folks, the OS X USB drive is available from Apple's online store and Apple's retail stores as well.

Apple will also let Mac owners download and install the $29.99 download of OS X Lion in Apple retail stores, too, since they've got broadband connections handy.

Already downloaded Lion, but worried something just might possibly go wrong someday? Apple has made available a free OS X Lion Recovery Disk Assistant, which will allow users to create their own bootable repair drive.

But even the Recovery Disk Assistant requires an Internet connection. No Internet? The USB drive, or an Apple store "walk-in and download" are the only way to get Lion sans the Web.

No cardboard box, no printed-on-paper manual -- the USB drive sits mounted into one sheet of card stock paper. Apple minimalism.

On the drive is OS X Lion (of course) and its more than 250 new features, which is an improvement over the previous (and already fantastic) version of OS X, called Snow Leopard.

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-- Nathan Olivarez-Giles

Twitter.com/nateog

Image: Apple's Mac OS X Lion USB thumb drive. Credit: Apple

Apple rumored to be testing new, ultra-thin MacBook Pro

Screen Shot 2011-07-27 at 9.26.37 AM

Apple rumors on the Web seem to be never-ending and the latest speculation kicks around the idea that a MacBook Pro laptop that's as thin as a MacBook Air is being tested in Cupertino, Calif.

MacRumors.com got this string started Tuesday with a report that it "has learned" from unnamed sources that Apple was working on an ultra-thin laptop with a 15-inch screen. Currently, the MacBook Air laptops come with 11-inch or 13-inch displays.

"We aren't certain if it will be called a MacBook Air or MacBook Pro, but we do know that it is already in late testing stages at Apple," MacRumors said in its report. "Many now expect that Apple's design choices in the Air will eventually make their way to the MacBook Pro product, with the use of integrated SSD and lack of optical drive being the most notable changes allowing for such a thin design. While we don't know for a fact, we expect that any future 'ultra thin' laptop from Apple will also dispense with a built-in optical drive."

The rumor-centric blog says that Apple probably would introduce such a lightweight laptop late this year, at the earliest. TUAW, another Apple-focused blog, followed MacRumors with a report of its own that a thin and light MacBook Pro-sized laptop was on the way in both 15-inch and 17-inch screen sizes.

Apple officials weren't available for comment Wednesday morning, but the company does has a longstanding policy of not commenting on rumors.

One aspect that isn't in question is Apple's push to do what it can to wean the world off of optical drives, CDs and DVDs by removing optical drives from its computers.

Last week it released a new optical-drive-free Mac mini desktop computer and by killing off the entry-level MacBook laptop, thus moving the MacBook Air into the entry-level spot.

The move is a bit of a self-serving one, as abandoning disc formats for digital ones benefits firms such as Apple that sell digital music, movies, apps and other Web-delivered content.

But while it is clear that digital formats and optical-drive-free computers are the future for Apple (it sold 1 million downloads of Mac OS X Lion in just 24 hours) and very likely the rest of the computer industry, eventually, removing an optical drive from a "pro"-level Apple computer this year seems a bit premature.

The move to remove such drives that took place last week in Apple's lower-level consumer computers has essentially divided its machines into two classes.

If you want an Apple computer and don't care about an optical drive, there are lower-cost options like the iPad, the Mac mini and the MacBook Air.

If optical drives are important to you -- as they are to many creative professionals who use and in many cases covet Apple's computers -- then the higher-priced MacBook Pro, iMac and Mac Pro computers are available. Or you could just buy an external optical drive for the driveless-computers (this, of course isn't an option with the iPad).

All that being said, Apple does make decisions that many others might think are ahead of their time (or even just plain crazy), such as removing optical drives, ditching floppy discs before others and even simply releasing Final Cut Pro X without many features pro editors simply must have (and then promising to add them back ... some day).

What do you, dear readers, think?

Would Apple be wise to replace the current MacBook Pro with thinner, lighter models, free of optical drives? Or should Apple simply leave the DVD-drives in the MacBook Pro laptops and add a counterpart MacBook Air in 15-inch and 17-inch screen sizes?

Sound off in the comments.

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A look at Mac OS X Lion: Launchpad, Mission Control and more new features

-- Nathan Olivarez-Giles

twitter.com/nateog

Image: Apple MacBook Air. Credit: Apple Inc.

A look at Mac OS X Lion: Launchpad, Mission Control and more new features [Video]

Apple MacBook Pros running Mac OS X Lion

Apple released Mac OS X Lion this week and, so far it seems to be a hit with more than 1-million downloads sold of its new operating system in less than 24-hours.

But, as with most iterations of OS X, Lion has a lot of new features (more than 250 of them actually) and some will jump out at Mac users with more than a few iOS-like additions, while others will be trickier to find.

In the video below, we offer up a quick rundown of a few key features that should make for an easier user experience in Lion -- namely Launchpad (an iPad-like view for finding and sorting apps), Mission Control (OS X's old Expose and Spaces features combined to sort programs running across multiple desktop windows), full-screen apps, the ability to easily resize windows for just about any app, gesture controls and AirDrop (which allows users to wirelessly transfer files between Macs released in fall 2008 and later).

As we find more new features in Lion that might be useful to Apple users, we'll add more posts and videos on those tasks. But this should provide a basic overview of what Lion looks like.

That being said, for Mac users who are not sure if they should take the leap to Lion or not, there are a few things to consider. 

First, make sure your Mac can run Lion -- any Mac with an Intel processor and at least 2-gigabytes of RAM should run Lion just fine, though 4-gigabytes of RAM will make for a speedier experience. Also, Lion ditches support for apps written for old Macs using IBM's PowerPC processors (older than about the fall 2007) known as Rosetta. There are resources to find out if your apps are compatible with Lion if you're unsure such as the website Roaring Apps.

And, of course, backing up important data or even cloning your hard drive on an external hard drive is a good call. This way, if anything does go wrong when downloading and installing Lion from the Mac App Store, you'll be covered with your important files, apps or even a bootable drive.

All that being said, downloading Lion was possibly the easiest operating system install I've experienced so far, and many others I've spoken with said it was painless for them as well.

Once Lion is installed, it may run slow at first as Spotlight -- OS X's document finding tool -- reindexes everything on your hard drive. After that's done, check for software updates (iTunes and iLife have some updates for Lion) that need to be downloaded and you should be on your way.

Feel free to sound off in the comments below to let us know what you think of Lion for those giving the new OS X a shot.

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-- Nathan Olivarez-Giles

Twitter.com/nateog

Image: Apple MacBook Pros, newer and older, running Mac OS X Lion. Credit: Armand Emamdjomeh / Los Angeles Times

Apple's Lion sells 1 million copies in first day

Apple

More than 1 million people have downloaded the latest version of Apple's operating software, Mac OS X Lion, to their computers on the first day, the company said Thursday.

At that rate, users are buying Lion faster than any other operating software release in the company's history.

The announcement comes on the heels of a jaw-dropping second-quarter results this week.

Lion, priced at $30 and available as a digital download from the Mac App Store, is the eighth major update of OS X for Mac computers of which Apple sold 3.95 million in the second quarter.

Lion will also be available on a USB thumb drive for $69 in August. Or shoppers who don't want to wait around for the software to download over slower Internet connections can hit their local Apple store where the folks will do it for them.

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Image: An Apple MacBook Air laptop showing off Mac OS X Lion's new Launchpad feature. Credit: Apple

Apple's new Mac mini ditches the optical-drive

Macmini

Mac OS X and the MacBook Air weren't the only Apple products to receive updates on Wednesday -- Apple's Mac mini gained a few new features and lost an optical drive too.

Like the MacBook Air laptop, Apple has worked Intel's Core i5 and i7 processors into the Mac mini, as well as beefier graphics chips, which the Cupertino company says adds up to performance that is twice as fast as the outgoing models.

The little desktop, a prime example of the tech giant's minimal design ethos (it's just an aluminum block after all), also gains a new high-speed Thunderbolt port to sit alongside the carry-over of four USB ports and one HDMI port (yes, it can be hooked up to a TV).

The new Mac mini ships with Mac OS X Lion, Apple's desktop and laptop operating system, and falls in price about $100 to start at $599, though with more memory and other options the price can hit a high of $1,849.

Like the previous generation Mac mini, which had a "super drive" CD/DVD player and burner built-in, the refreshed Mac mini has a one-piece aluminum body and is just 1.4-inches tall with a 7.7-inch square shape.

"Mac mini is designed without an optical disc drive. Because these days, you don't need one," Apple says on its website. "It's easier than ever to download music and movies from the iTunes Store. And you can download apps from the Mac App Store with a click."

However, for those not quite ready for Apple's disc-free future (there may be a couple of you out there), there are some workarounds if a DVD is needed to install software, or a CD needs to be ripped to iTunes. Mac OS X Lion enables the Mac mini to access the optical drives on other PCs and Macs wirelessly for such tasks and it also can work with an external USB optical drive.  

And, as always, the Mac mini comes without a keyboard or mouse.

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-- Nathan Olivarez-Giles

Twitter.com/nateog

Image: The new Apple Mac mini desktop computer. Credit: Apple

Apple updates the MacBook Air, axes the white MacBook

MacBook Air

Apple updated its thin-and-light MacBook Air laptops on Wednesday, alongside the much anticipated release of Mac OS X Lion, while also unceremoniously discontinuing its white entry-level MacBook line.

The new MacBook Air notebook computers, which lack optical drives (another example of Apple pushing users toward a disc-free future), gain speedier Intel processors -- ranging from the 1.6GHz dual-core Core i5 chip in the lower-end 11-inch-screen model, to the dual-core 1.8GHz Core i7. The i5 and i7 processors are known for being pretty powerful, with variations of this chip line running in Apple's MacBook Pros and iMac computers.

A backlit keyboard and a Thunderbolt port have also been added to the Airs in this refresh. Thunderbolt ports are capable of transferring data at a rate of 10 gigabits per second, much faster than USB 2.0, which transfers data at about 480 megabits per second. But, as of now, there aren't a lot of external hard drives or cameras and other items that utilize the ports due to the cost of implementing the technology -- a Thunderbolt cable itself sells for $49.

Despite the changes, the price range for the MacBook Air is staying the same; from $999 to $1,699.

MC207_AV1 And it just might be that $999 price point of the 11-inch base MacBook Air that is responsible for Apple killing off the much beloved white polycarbonate MacBook laptop. Though we don't know for sure if that's the reasoning -- as of Tuesday morning, Apple officials weren't available for comment on why the white MacBook is getting the axe.

Without any notice, the white MacBook (which also started at $999 and had a 13-inch screen) was yanked from Apple's lineup and online store. Some old refurbished models of the MacBook are still available from Apple online, but new models are done.

The move to discontinue the polycarbonate MacBook will leave Apple, for the first time since 2001's introduction of the iBook G3, without a solid-white laptop for sale. A stroll across just about any U.S. college campus in the last decade was a testament to the massive popularity of Apple's entry-level laptops, which makes this move a bit surprising.

But if Apple no longer sees a need for disc drives in its entry level notebooks, which the MacBook Air now seems to be, the MacBook must have made a lot less sense to Steve Jobs and other Cupertino execs. Now, every Apple laptop (and desktop for that matter) is clad in silver aluminum.

Those looking at a laptop and also wanting a disc drive can either pair a MacBook Air with a portable disc drive for an extra $79, buy a pricier MacBook Pro laptop, or look to one of the many Apple competitors.

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Images: At top, Apple's MacBook Air laptop and, at bottom, the discontinued MacBook laptop. Credit: Apple

Apple releases Mac OS X Lion, $29.99 in Mac App Store

Screen shot 2011-07-20 at 8.09.32 AM

Apple has released Mac OS X Lion its Mac App Store early Wednesday morning and, as promised, the new operating system is selling for $29.99.

There's no going into an Apple store and buying a copy of this new OS for Intel-based Apple laptops and desktops on a DVD. Mac OS X Lion -- which touts more than 250 new features -- is only available as a 3.49-gigabyte digital download.  Apple store employees will, however, help with downloading Lion for those who stroll in.

For those who don't have high-speed Internet connections at home, work or school and can't get to an Apple store to download Lion, Apple has said that later this August, Lion will be sold on a USB thumb drive from Apple in-store and online for $69.

Among the new features Lion is adding over its predecessor, OS X Snow Leopard, are new multi-touch trackpad features, including scrolling speed that varies depending on how fast you flick your fingers, pinching your fingers to zoom in on a Web page or image (as you'd do on an touch-screen smartphone or tablet) and new security features such as stepped-up hard drive encryption.

Lion is also ushering in a few new app-related features, too, such as automatic file saving when a user closes a program, full-screen views, and iPad-like Launchpad feature to organize and view apps as an array of icons across a screen.

The new version of OS X is a bit of a test for digital distribution methods at Apple, which is also prepping for the fall release of the Cupertino, Calif., company's iCloud services.

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-- Nathan Olivarez-Giles

twitter.com/nateog

Image: An Apple MacBook Air laptop showing off Mac OS X Lion's new Launchpad feature. Credit: Apple

Apple says it'll update Final Cut Pro X to allay critics

Apple Apple is promising updates to Final Cut Pro X, an attempt to blunt criticism from professional editors upset over features left out from the new app.

Final Cut Pro X -- the latest version of Apple’s popular video editing software -- “has impressed many pro editors, and it has also generated a lot of discussion in the pro video community,” the company wrote in a FAQ published online Wednesday.

Apple promises several updates that will bring back features found in older versions of Final Cut Pro, including the ability to edit video from multiple cameras at the same time.

“We will provide great multicam support in the next major release,” Apple said, but didn’t specify a time frame.

Final Cut Pro X, which was built from the ground up as a new application, has drawn criticism from professional video editors who say the new software is a toned-down version that doesn’t suit their needs. Professionals have compared the new app to iMovie, an editing software with fewer options that is used mainly by amateurs, even going so far as to call it iMovie Pro.

“This is no longer a professional application,” commenter Hectorsierra wrote in a review posted on Apple’s website. “This is a Final Cut Express meets iMovie!! I'm so disappointed that I want to cry!! :("

Apple released Final Cut Pro X last week on its Mac App Store, offering the software as a digital download for $299.99 -- for the first time, an on-disc hard copy of Final Cut is not available to purchase.

As the Technology blog reported last week, users who previously wanted Final Cut Pro had to shell out about $1,000 for the video editing application and a bundle of other programs called Final Cut Studio.

In its FAQ, Apple said users will also soon be able to export in XML, a key tool for professionals because the format allows the sharing of data between divergent applications.

Although Apple’s FAQ promises some updates, they don't include one highly sought-after feature: the ability to import complete project files from previous versions of Final Cut.

Because Final Cut Pro X contains “new and redesigned audio effects, video effects, and color grading tools,” users won’t be able to import projects from earlier versions “without changing or losing data.” However, Apple says, it is possible to import media files from previous versions into a new project file in Final Cut Pro X.

Apple did note that those who buy Final Cut Pro X will still have another option: using older versions of Final Cut.

“If you’re already working with Final Cut Pro 7, you can continue to do so after installing Final Cut Pro X, and Final Cut Pro 7 will work with Mac OS X Lion,” Apple said.

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Photo: An Apple logo seen through raindrops on a window outside the flagship Apple Store in New York. Credit: Mike Segar / Reuters

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