HiTek Review

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Tag Archives: Macbook Pro

Pleasant deception

Apple event
Well. Like I thought, the last Apple keynote was indeed a very interesting one. Unfortunately for me, it didn’t bring me the new MacBook Pro’s that I expected which means that I’ll have to wait a bit more to get my hand on those magnificent new laptops. On the other side, you might remember that I said a while ago that I was planing on buying a Netbook to fill the gap between my MacBook Pro and my iPhone. I am not anymore and I’m pretty sure you know why.

iPad, the hidden capabilities.
When Apple presented the iPad, they said that it has to excel at some key points to be useful and gain market share. They so much focused on them that the keynote even got a little long at some points. What really interested me in the iPad is what they didn’t told us. For instance, how many of you heard of the Optimus Maximus keyboard? Well probably not much. Here’s little link to present the product. The company that make it also have a concept called the Optimus Tactus. By now, you should have spotted the price of the Maximus which is 2 000 USD. Now guess how much the Tactus would cost! Exactly! Too much for anyone to buy! NOT! In fact, anyone can buy it! You just need to get an iPad and install a simple application.

This is how it works, this iPad isn’t about replacing a Netbook. It’s about a whole new bunch of possibilities. I’m planing to get the 64 GB wifi model. I don’t need 3G because I have my iPhone for that, same for the GPS. I’ll buy the two docks. One for my desktop to hold it close to my monitors, and the second one will always be in my backpack. With this setup, I have an awesome student notebook and a nice third monitor for my desktop. As a little plus, I also get an environment friendly and very capable device on the go.

The iPad is all about finding your way to use it. You might buy a 16 GB WiFi model and stuck it to your fridge. That way you always have your recipes, phonebook, morning journal, weather, etc. close to you. Try to tell me that you never dreamt of that. I’ll never believe you.

Where everyone see an oversized iPod Touch or a device that can’t compete with a laptop, I see a lots of possibilities, fun and futuristic setups. On that word, I’ll return to my hometree.

Kìyevame ulte Eywa ngahu

Kaltxì ma smuk!

Yeah… It’s good… ‘ish… NOT!

I saw it 3 times and I plan on seeing it two times more just this week. I’m a total bad-ass fan. So much fan that I even started to learn the Na’vi language, as you could see in the title of this post. I don’t often speak about stuff other than technology here so you might think that I’m a complete geek which is in front of the computer 90% of the time, sleep 40% of the day, eat in front of is computer to boost its computer-time/usage, listen to anime, read manga and play D&D twice a week! Well you are completely right!

BUT! I also happen to be a big fan of music, movie production and constructed language, such as Na’vi. That’s why I wanted to talk about a wonderful site called learnnavi (http://www.learnnavi.org) which have a growing community of Avatar fan but more importantly Na’vi speakers! I happen to be very active on this site, if you want to talk to me in Na’vi I’m on their forum, IRC and TeamSpeak channel whenever I’m in front/side/back/near a computer.

That’s it! Want to learn Na’vi? That’s the place.

A new Apple in 7 days
The next important thing is Apple’s latest announcement. You might remember that I was going to get a new MacBook Pro when they’ll release the Core i7 ones. That might very well be the day! So stay tuned on that. I’m gonna post a little resume of the keynote and might very well post a review of my next little gadget.

See you soon! Kìyevame ulte Eywa ngahu!

I saw a snow flake

And it’s bad new
I have three very big project going on at school and the only thing I want to do next is kill myself. The bad new is not that I’ll die, it’s that I will not be able to write on my blog! I already switched to a 1-time-per-2-week schedule but it’s still not enough. So, don’t be surprised if you don’t hear about me for a while.

On the bright side
Do you remember, about 4 months ago I did some benchmarks of the samsung in my MacBook Pro? If you don’t, take a look here as it is like seeing the god of awesomeness. Anyway, here’s the big new: In that post, I said that I’d try to move the SSD in my Mac Pro to see how it stand aside the RAID. Well… It’s not going to happen today BUT… The SSD is now securely plugged in the Mac Pro with a handmade adapter built from the original Apple 320 GB HDD.

So as everything couldn’t get better, I’ll give you some early eyes-taken results that will make you lick your floor: safari open in half the time it was doing on the laptop and iTunes even faster. But wait! There’s more! My iTunes library is stored on my server which leverage the old RAID array and is connected using a gigabit link and it is STILL faster than the RAID alone!

Anyway, I’ll give some results when I’ll have some time to do the benchmarks. Now, I’ve go to go coding…

Little found that you might LOVE!

iPhone/iPod goes well with MacBook’s
Today, I just discovered something very interesting about the MacBook Pro I used in the recent benchmarks I did. Every one that use an iPod or specially an iPhone knows how well it goes with a Mac. It would seem that the match is even more interesting since the release of the iPHone 3G S, the iPod classic 7G, the iPod nano 4G and the iPod shuffle 3G. What do they all have in common is the new ear-phone set which come with remote and microphone that work with all those devices. And I mean ALL of them, including the late 2008 MacBook Pro!

There is absolutely no trace of that feature in any document apple provide for the MacBook Pro nor any iPhone or iPod but it work; And not just the play/pause button, all of it. You’ve got volume control, play/pause next/previous track working AND the mic! Just plug it in your MacBook, play a track in iTunes and you’ll see. For the microphone part, open “System Preferences”, go to the Sounds panel and then in the Input tab, watch for the “External Microphone” source and rub the microphone with your fingers. You’ll see the VU meter responding instantly, confirming my saying.

Now, if you have a MacBook with an iPhone 3G S or recent iPod, you can have a private conversation, on the go, with iChat using those favorite ear-phone of yours.

Have a good week!

MacBook Pro 15" with SSD – Benchmarks

Updated 30 June 2009 13:20

Benchmarking of the MacBook Pro 15″
Last time we talked about virtual performances. Now, it’s time to talk about the real stuff. Let’s do some real world benchmarks! I’ll start with a basic boot time comparison between the Mac Pro, the MacBook Pro 13″ with standard HDD and the MacBook Pro 15″ with SSD. I’ll then test multiple applications startup at the same time and the lunch time of some major applications like Photoshop. The specs of both every computers are supposed to be on my blog.

MacBook Pro 15″
Apple SSD
MacBook 13″ Alu
5400 RPM HDD
Mac Pro 2008
4x Seagate 7200.11 HDDs
Boot time
Fastest 30.624 sec. 48.121 sec. 73.806 sec.
Slowest 30.989 sec. 52.506 sec. 82.113 sec.
Average of 3 30.825 sec. 50.07 sec. 77.467 sec.
Application startup
Safari 4.0.1 0.678 sec. 2.231 sec. 2.124 sec.
iPhoto 8.0.3 1.864 sec. 7.238 sec. 9.877 sec.
iTunes 8.2 1.315 sec. 7.192 sec. 5.322 sec.
iMovie 8.0.3 3.391 sec. 11.538 sec. 6.394 sec.
Photoshop 10.0.1 3.732 sec. 12.372 sec. 6.64 sec.
Pages 4.0.2 1.023 sec. 9.715 sec. 3.25 sec.
All of the above
6.238 sec. 64.245 sec. 24.116 sec.

Wow! I’d like to add that the boot time is the physical boot time. It combine EFI and OS X boot time. The system was considered booted when the desktop, dock and menu bar was visible and accepting interactions. The time for the EFI to startup is about 12 seconds. It should remain the same for whatever MacBook Pro you have. On the other side, OS X 10.5.7 did boot in 18 seconds which is blazing fast! The Mac Pro EFI needed about 40 seconds to power up since the RAID card start evey disk one after the other to reduce power stress on the power supply. Even with this 28 seconds gap, the MacBook Pro surpassed the Mac Pro by 18.642 seconds.

An other interesting fact is that it take half the time to start every applications at the same time compared to starting them individually. This fact point that the mass storage device (Apple SSD in this case) is not the bottle-neck of this computer. The fact that it is exactly half the time shows us that the CPU is the one slowing everything. When I started multiple applications at once, I took advantage of it’s multi-core architecture thus executing 2x more information at the same time.

The SSD option is definitely worth it. If you want a fast, silent and tough computer, it’s the first thing to get. I can’t imagine what one of those SSDs can do in the Mac Pro. It would surely be a screamer! Let’s say that it’s defenitly in my plan to do so. I will probably post a follow up when it will happen. In the mean time, let’s wait for the videos of those benchmarks and the review of my new iPhone 3G S. See you next week.

Update 30 June 2009 11:52
Those benchmarks might appear incomplete to you so, if you are interested in a specific value that is not present in the list, just ask using whatever means of communication you’d prefer. I’m also open to suggestions about hardware comparison.

MacBook Pro 15" with SSD

Comming back
I finaly get the time to write this review. For those how might want to know, all my exams went very well and I have only one session left to do. Anyway, enough small talk and let’s get started! I’m sure can’t can’t stand the wait.

CPU for Pro needs
If it’s games, converting a bunch of video files or running VMware, you’ll find the T9550 very responsive. It should not be a very big bottle neck in that system. I often run many softwares at the same time (including Windows in a VM) and it generally don’t go over 80%.

I would not recommend the 2.4 in anycase. There is good chances that you’ll find the 2.4 MacBook Pro barelly enough for what you need. After all, we are in the Pro line here. Those are designed to do hard work. If you want a MacBook, the 2.4 model is probably the one that will give you the most for your money.

I’d say that the 2.93 gHz might be a bit overkill for this kind of computer. Even if you’re working with videos, You will proably lack of memory way before you’ll need a bigger processor.

Forgetting the lack of memory
The basic configuration come with 2 GB of blazing fast DDR3 memory which is nice but barelly enough to see how OS X can work at peek efficiency. If you get the small model, at least, take the 4 GB of memory option; Specialy if you plan on running VMs on your computer. On the other side, if you are very… hardcore at multi-tasking, you’ll want 8 GB of ram.

Many people will stop at the Apple website and take the 17″ just for that. WRONG! Never, absolutely never trust Apple specs! The 2.4 gHz is limitted to 4 GB of memory but the 2.66 does support 8 GB. You will find the memory kit on third parties websites and it generally cost 640 CAD. See? Always double check; Never trust Apple specs.

SSD for Super Storage Device
The MacBook Pro come with a 250 GB or 320 GB depending of your configuration choise. But as every Mac, there is a way to suck up evey bit of power you can get from the machine and replace it by an SSD. If the majority of people is still not convinced by SSD’s life time or prices, I am. It’s this kind of thing you don’t know how you manage to live whitout it before have one in your hands.

Apple use Samsung SSD’s which are in the world fastest and more robust ones. You have the choice between two options: the 128 GB and the 256 GB. For the first one, even if it look small, you will find it more than enough as long as you don’t intend to use boot camp. If you do, you should take the 256 GB one.

There is an other reason why you should try to priorise the 256 GB SSD. Here’s a rumor many people have heard: SSD do not slow down even if they are full. That’s not true. Well, at least, not completely true. Yes, read speed will never go down even if there is 1 byte of free space lest on the drive. Write speed, on the contrary will be affected. To prevent SSD’s from fast degradation, every sector is written on a random place in the drive. The more used sector there is, the more time it will take to find a free spot. SSD’s seek time are less than a tenth of a mili-second when empty but this process can make it go as slow as an HDD when full.

The best balance of used/free space would be about 1:1. That means that if you care about your write speed, you’ll need to keep about 55 GB free on the 128 GB SSD and 110 GB free on the 256 GB model. If you need more, you should check on what is really important and but the rest of you data on an external hard drive.

Two graphic cards?
Yes, many people think the second graphic processor is optional but it’s not the case. NVidia developped a technology called hybrid SLI which was designed to boost battery life on laptop that use powerfull GPU. It work by switching from one GPU to an other when needed. In the MacBook Pro’s case, it can give you 2 hours more of battery when doing casual work. Unfortunatly, because of software limitations in OS X, you need to do the change manually and to logoff after that. But rest assured, the 9400M is strong enough to handle most of your HD video playback and small games. Since I bought it, I didn’t needed to switch to the 9600M more than two times (one to be sure that it work, a second one to do the benchmakrs).

Our config
Do you like specs? Everybody like specs! Let’s have specs!

CPU Intel T9550
Frequency 2.66 gHz
FSB 1066 mHz
Cache 6 MB
Memory 4 GB
Storage 128 GB Solid State Drive
Graphics (1) NVidia 9400M with 256 MB of shared system memory
Graphics (2) NVidia 9600M with 512 MB of dedicated GDDR3 memory

Here come a little surprise. As I didn’t have any old MacBook Pro close to me, I had to find a replacement. I knew that this MacBook Pro was a killer but… I have to say… I didn’t even see that one coming. Here we are, MacBook Pro vs Mac Pro. Yes, you didn’t hallucinated, I did say that I will compare this little laptop to a monster and I have to say, they fit pretty well with the other.

Here are the links of the official benchmarks:
Mac Pro (early 2008)
MacBook Pro 15″ (early 2009) using the 9400M GPU
MacBook Aluminum 13″ (early 2009)

Here’s a resume of the results with a little explanation from myself. I will take the result from the 9400M since they are more accurate.

Component MacBook Pro Mac Pro Details
CPU 179.47 188.34 This one is a bit tricky. It doesn’t test the real computational power of the processor. It test how it handle it in a single threaded environment. It gives a pretty good way to show how architecture difference can influence the result.
Thread 317.13 831.36 This test look at how much power it can get from a multi-threaded environment. Here, you can see the big difference between the two computers. I never saw a benchmark that give valid result on the first shot. Here, the results should be much higher on the Mac Pro side since the xBench is limited to 4 thread.
Memory 186.12 202.00 The result is a direct comparison of DDR3 dual channel vs DDR2 quad channel. You can see that the DDR3 at 1066 gHz is a very good gain over the old MacBook Pro’s that used about the same memory as the Mac Pro but with only two channels. In fact, you can see that the new MacBook Pro’s memory is close to twice as fast.
Graphic suite
– Quartz 219.06 278.33 This test is about the same as a Direct2D test. It represent how the graphic card will render basic images, text and shape on the screen. The results are just as expected. The 8800 GT and the 9800 GT have the same overall performance so there’s nothing strange at seeing a 9400M GT under a 8000 GT.
– Open GL 174.20 181.60 This is an other strange result. How come a little 9400M GT is running as fast as a 8800 GT. I really have no clue. There is no reason for this result to be so close on both sides.
Storage suite Ah! The interesting part.
– Sequential 73.80 275.81 As I say earlier, SSD’s benchmarks are very tricky to read. Here, we see that the Sequential read/write of the disk is way slower than the one from the Mac Pro. Here’s the little surprise. The Mac Pro use a Caldigit RAID card with 4 Seagate 7200.11 500 GB HDD in a RAID 5 setup. It can read an write about 270 MB/s but remember there is FOUR HDD here not just one. The details of this test show that in average, the MacBook Pro SSD is about the same speed as one Seagate 7200.11 HDD.
– Random 108.05 40.95 That’s where we can really the SSD shine. See? Not even 4 of the faster HDD’s in the world (actually in the top 10) can come close to one single SSD. The read and write speed are up to 16x faster than only one of the HDD.

There is no way a simple laptop cpu could compare to the dual Xeon on the Mac Pro so what went wrong? In fact it seams xBench has a little trouble with newer computer. This little guy could not even peek both machine CPU’s for a tenth of a second. I don’t know how it test CPU speed but it’s probably not a good way and there might be some serious issues in the other tests too. So How do you have to interpret those results. Just say that everywhere you could do more if you do it more time simultaneously, the result will double on the Mac Pro’s side but should stay quite the same on the MacBook Pro.

Now let’s talk a bit more about the storage test suites. The Apple SSD is as fast as one of the best HDD in sequential access and is up to 16x faster than the same HDD in random access. An other important detail, the default 320 GB HDD in the MacBook Pro has about half the speed than the other HDD’s used in this test. That means that by adding a little $300 to your budget, you’ll get a 32x speed boost in your every day use. You should then choose this option over 8 GB of ram or a faster processor since it has a better value.

If you plan on getting a MacBook Pro, take the SSD. This is final. It’s not even a choice, it’s a necessity. Next week, I’ll add some other benchmarks in this review. They are real life example so they take more time to plan and process than any other benchmarks. Those tests will include a boot time comparison with the Mac Pro and it’s monstrous RAID array and a laptop that use a HDD from the same series as the standard MacBook Pro.

Update 30 June 2009 11:47
I finally posted some benchmark results. If you are interested in a specific value that is not present in the list, just ask using whatever means of communication you’d prefer. I’m also open to suggestions about hardware comparison.

See you next week

Good news!

I now have three months of free time! That means I will release, as promised, my first hardware review next week! I’ll do a checkup with benchmarks on my newest MacBook Pro. I’ve searched the web and no one tested the 15″ MBP with a SSD so it will be a first.

See you next week

New arrival, First hardware review

I did it…
Last week, while doing my college homework’s, Windows 7 crashed on me… for the 100th time since my last post (and I’m not exaggerating). I do have patience but I didn’t take that it took my work with him. So, I’ve bought an other computer. That old laptop was very nice but it had a little problem with sleep making it … not that school friendly.

As a result, I decided to go with the best line of laptop for students. Well, at least, that’s what students say. Yes, it’s an Apple computer and it will go well side by side with my Mac Pro. That’s an other review coming… when I’ll have less school work to do. I might also review my last laptop and one from the Sony Vaio line.

Stay tuned for more details

Flawed Microsoft ads

And this made it’s way on TV…
I’m a mac user and I love Apple product but I’m not a fanboy. When I buy a computer, I look everywhere at everything and keep objective. It just happened that the latest ad from Microsoft suggest a HP HDX cost under 1 500$ when compared to an Apple computer. I made my way on to the HP and Apple web site and tried to customize the HDX so that it cost under 1 500$ and that it still offer every feature that a MacBook will. I couldn’t done it. The less I came up was close to 2 700$! It look like this ad is just a magnificent error. Here’s why…

A little comparison
Of course, they compare the HP HDX to a macbook and both computer doesn’t even have the same specs. The Macbook Pro is way more powerful at equivalent price and it don’t take 30 minutes just to customize your notebook.

Here is a list of some major differences between the basic HDX that was suggested during the ad and a Basic MacBook Pro :

Difference HP Apple
Processor I honnestly don’t know where the 2.4 gHz came from. They probably took the T6600 which is not even on the Intel processor finder (Wow! Inexistent, old CPU) Intel core 2 duo
2.66gHz, 3mb cache
45nm architechture
Video card Use system memory Use it’s own memory
Memory Need DDR2 with the 9600gt Use DDR3 as system memory
Software Need to buy everything (add close to 500$)
Need Vista ultimate to compete OS X features (add 150$)
iLife built-in, need iWork (add 80$)
Keyboard Standard backlit
Mouse Basic Touch-pad Multi-touch track-pad
Waranty Very basic support (must add a 150$ waranty to compete Apple Care) Basic waranty include advanced support
Setup What? They charge an extra to install your software? (add up 200$)
(Note : end-up reformating the laptop to remove HP crap from it)
Ready to go
Case Multi-part platic/metal
16″ display, 8lb
Aluminium unibody
15.5″ display, 5.5lb

At the end, you have to pay 2 662$ to have a 2 500$ MacBook Pro (lite of course since even with the gt130m 1gb they can’t compete with a 9600gt with built-in memory and much of the components are slower).

Bottom line? That’s exactly what you get with a HDX….

By the way, I’m not an Apple fanboy. It just happend that I took the time to compare both system and there is just no way a 1 500$ or less laptop can compare with a 2000$ laptop. With the info I have, I’d say that even the 9400m would be faster than the 9600 which is in the HDX. In the end, I could get an equal-performance laptop for 1800 where the HDX still cost more than 2600. The only plus of having an HDX is the blue-ray which not that use full. For instance, I never used the DVD drive on my laptop in one year excepted to install Windows on it. When every thing is on HDDs, there is just no need for it. HD movies? There’s iTunes store for that.