There is much interest in Apple’s new Fusion Drive for Macs, where an SSD and conventional Hard Drive are paired into one drive. Files are automatically moved between the SSD and HD depending on usage, so the most frequently accessed files reside on the faster SSD and the HD provides greater capacity for infrequently used files. The feature sounds like a step forward for users with more files than a reasonably priced SSD can store, but there are still many answers and reliability tests needed before it’s something to recommend for use on a hackintosh.
After recently buying a 128Gb OCZ Vertex Plus SSD from Aria, for the bargain price of £40, I have been looking at ways to use this with my 2Gb hard drive. I recently added a Seagate 2Gb 7200.14 drive, using my previous 2Gb drive as a backup. The new Seagate gave a big boost to read/write performance, going from around 50Mb/s read/write on the old HD to 140Mb/s read/write on the Seagate 7200.14. This testing was done using the free Blackmagic Disk Speed Test app for the Mac appstore, so while in no way comprehensive does show a big speed increase for sequential access.
The OCZ Vertex Plus SSD is an older generation device that gives around 160Mb/s write and 200Mb/s read speeds. This is way below the 500MB/s+ speeds that newer SSD’s can offer, but this was intended as a cheap test before committing to a more expensive SSD. The next decision is how to use the two drives, with three main options available: Read more…
Several news sites are reporting the limited availability of the WiFi+3G iPad at Apple store, but in New York there’s a shortage of all models. I visited the 5th Ave store Thursday evening to be initially told at the entrance there were no iPads available at any of the New York Apple stores. Further enquiries inside revealed deliveries had been received every couple of days so I reserved a 32Gb WiFi only model. The “come get it” email arrived Friday morning, so after a visit to the Top of the Rock (awesome view) I headed to the store and got the iPad activated for immediate use.
Requests for iPads at the store are constant, and within five minutes of getting mine out of the box to set it up I had an offer of “whatever you paid plus a hundred dollars”. That was without even seeing what model it was. Setting up a US iTunes account is necessary since there is no UK iPad support until launch. A $25 iTunes gift card took care of the app store billing requirement.
Onto first impressions. It’s surprisingly heavy but more solid than cumbersome. Performance is very smooth, and there have been no lags or pauses so far. I bought the Acer Aspire One hackbook on this trip and it cannot play my holiday movies exported from iMovie at quarter HD (960×540). The iPad has no trouble and they look fantastic, no stuttering with vivid but realistic colour.
The camera connection kit is sold out as well so I haven’t been able to directly import photos. iPhoto is sluggish on the hackbook so I am only importing a select few photos for syncing to the iPad. Those viewed so far look just as good as movies.
Off to the New York public library today as Mrs Basshead loves The Day After Tomorrow film, so more thoughts to follow.
This weekend I have been upgrading Mrs Basshead’s Netbook to Windows 7. There was recently a problem with Windows XP taking a random but often lengthy amount of time to show the desktop after logging in. Various fixes had been attempted but XP could not be fixed. I have the Windows XP restore disc’s so thought there would be nothing lost trying Windows 7 Home Premium first.
The install went well, with Windows 7 picking up most of the hardware and installing the necessary drivers. The only thing that caused me problems is bluetooth support for a Jabra earpiece, which Windows appeared to recognise and install but not connect. I tried a couple of Vista drivers with no success, then found a post in a HP support forum. Hewlett Packard have a package that adds Bluetooth support to a range of HP Netbooks and Laptops running what looks like any version of Windows 7. It also works great with the Samsung Netbook, and Skype now automatically uses the Jabra earpiece when it is powered on in range. If you’re having problems connecting bluetooth equipment to a Windows 7 machine these HP drivers may help, just remember to make a backup or System Restore point before installing them.
As was widely predicted this morning, Apple has updated its iMac, Mac Mini and Macbook ranges. Also new is the Magic Mouse, described as ‘the world’s first Multi-Touch mouse’. The new products feature:
- 21.5 or 27 inch LED backlit glossy display
- 3.06/3.33GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor or 2.66GHz quad-core Intel Core i5 processor or 2.8GHz quad-core Intel Core i7 processor
- 4GB of 1066MHz DDR3 SDRAM with four SO-DIMM slots supporting up to 16GB
- 256MB NVIDIA GeForce 9400M or 256MB ATI Radeon HD 4670 (21.5 inch model)
- 256MB ATI Radeon HD 4670 or 512MB ATI Radeon HD 4850 (27 inch model)
- 802.11n Wi-Fi wireless networking, Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR and 10/100/Gigabit Ethernet
- Slot-loading 8x SuperDrive
- 1 or 2TB 7200-rpm Serial ATA hard drive
- From £949
- 2.26GHz, 2.53GHz, or 2.66GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor with 1066MHz frontside bus
- 2GB or 4GB of 1066MHz DDR3 SDRAM
- NVIDIA GeForce 9400M graphics processor with 256MB of shared DDR3 SDRAM
- 160GB, 320GB, or 500GB Serial ATA hard disk drive
- From £499
- Also available with two 500GB SATA hard drives and Snow Leopard Server for £799
- 13.3-inch LED-backlit glossy widescreen display with support for millions of colours
- 2.26GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor with 1066MHz frontside bus
- 2GB of 1066MHz DDR3 SDRAM with support up to 4GB
- NVIDIA GeForce 9400M with 256MB of DDR3 SDRAM shared with main memory
- 250, 320 or 500GB 5400-rpm Serial ATA hard disk drive
- 8x slot-loading SuperDrive
- New Unibody enclosure
- Up to 7 hour battery life
A new design with no buttons. Instead, the whole top of the mouse is a multi-touch surface that responds like the trackpad in the Macbook/Pro’s. Not cheap at £55 but certainly cutting edge.
Overall it’s a very strong line-up for the Christmas Market. I’m a bit surprised the Macbook is still just a single model at £799 but Apple have never been interested in the budget market. The iMacs now go from fast to ridiculously powerful, and while the 1920×1080 HD resolution screen appears to be becoming a standard, the 27 inch version offers an enormous 2560 by 1440 pixels. The Mac Mini is still expensive now has the server model leaked earlier this year. Could this become the perfect small office server?
Apple updated it’s non-laptop hardware this week, and the one thing that really struck me was the UK Mac Mini pricing. In January 2005 I bought a 1.42Ghz Mac Mini G4 from the Apple UK store for £441. At the time this was a good spec with 512Mb of ram and an 80Gb hard drive. The top Mac Mini model in March 2009 is now £649. Hardly an entry level computer any more.
The spec is greatly improved, but nowhere near current average desktop specs. The lower Mac Mini model has the same processor and less Ram/Hard drive space for £500. A catalog from Dell turned up in the post this week, and for £400 I could buy a mini tower with a Core2Duo E7400, 2Gb Ram, 250Gb Hard Drive, DVDrw and a 19″ widescreen monitor. Thats a lot of computer for the price. While I understand the exchange rate is not favourable in the UK at the moment, how does Apple expect to sell at these prices? Apart from the size and software I can’t see what the Mac Mini can offer at the moment. And why does it still look the same as three years ago?
In Part 3 I briefly touched on screen settings, and ended up using the analog output of the HTPC at 1920×1080, 59.9Hz. Picture quality was good, and to my surprise the pixels output by the video card were perfectly mapped to the ones on the TV. I used the free monitor setup displays at http://tft.vanity.dk/ for testing, and applied setting for colour and sharpness that had been previously been set using a Home Theatre setup DVD.
The setting that made the biggest improvement here was sharpness. On my TV, a Samsung 46A656, the default setting was 50 on all inputs. I had assumed this meant no sharpening but a quick run through the test cards on the setup DVD showed this to be anything but neutral. A black pattern of lines on a grey background showed very bad white edges around the lines, indicating too much sharpening. Dropping the sharpening to 10 gave a much better image, and the colour setting was dropped to 42 from 50 using other tests. Read more…