The Tech News Blog

April 29, 2014

Apple Unveils Cheaper, Faster MacBook Air Lineup

MacBook Air

As expected, Apple today rolled out an upgraded - and cheaper - MacBook Air lineup.

Apple's slim laptop lineup now starts at $899 for an 11-inch, 128GB machine, a $100 discount. The 13-inch now starts at $999, down from $1,099.

The devices look the same on the outside, but they get a small bump in performance from a 1.4GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 processor and Turbo Boost up to 2.7 GHz. For $150 more, you can select a 1.7GHz Intel Core i7 with Turbo Boost up to 3.3 GHz.

The base model runs 4GB of memory and 128GB of flash storage. The 256GB models start at $1,199; upgrade to 512GB for $300 more. Upgrade to 8GB of memory on all machines for $100 more. The entire lineup also boasts Intel HD Graphics 5000 and runs the latest version of OS X, Mavericks.

December 21, 2013

Is Your MacBook Webcam Watching You?

iSight Webcam LED Hack

A word of warning to MacBook owners: Beware of what you do in front of your laptop camera, for you never know who could be watching.

Two Johns Hopkins University researchers uncovered a loophole in Apple's iSight system that allowed them to hack into some versions of MacBook laptops and iMac desktops and disable the webcam indicator LED.

It sounds harmless, but the discovery essentially turns your computer into a peephole for hackers — like the one who spied on 19-year-old Miss Teen USA, Cassidy Wolf.

In a paper titled "iSeeYou: Disabling the MacBook Webcam Indicator LED," Matthew Brocker and Stephen Checkoway described the process of reprogramming an iSight camera's microcontroller to disable the LED activation light, and eavesdrop on an unsuspecting user.

"Our results in this paper demonstrate that, at least in some cases, people have been correct to worry about malware covertly capturing images and video," Checkoway and Brocker wrote. "We show a vulnerability in the iSight webcam that affects a particular range of Apple computers … that can be exploited to turn on the camera and capture images and video without the indicator illuminating."

October 22, 2013

Apple Revamps MacBook Pro Lineup With Haswell, More

Apple MacBook Pro 15-inch (Retina Display)

Apple today boosted its MacBook Pro lineup with Intel's 4th-gen Haswell processors, as well as a few cosmetic updates.

The devices will start shipping today, pre-installed with Apple's new OS X Mavericks, which will be available to everyone else as a free upgrade.

The new 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display will be thinner and lighter than its predecessor at 3.46 pounds and 0.71 inches thin. It should provide 9 hours of battery life, Apple's Phil Schiller said during a Tuesday press event.

The device includes PCIe-based flash storage, which is 60 percent faster, as well as 802.11ac Wi-Fi, and Thunderbolt 2, which is 2x faster than Thunderbolt 1.

The 13-inch MacBook Pro will be priced at $1,299 with a 2.4-GHz dual-core i5, 4GB of DRAM, Iris graphics, and a 128GB SSD - a $200 discount.

October 18, 2013

Apple to Replace Faulty MacBook Air SSDs

Apple MacBook Air 13-inch (Mid 2012)

Apple revealed Thursday that older versions of its MacBook Air might have faulty flash storage drives, which it will replace for free.

The issue, which could result in failed drives, affects certain 64GB and 128GB flash storage drives used in MacBook Airs sold between June 2012 through June 2013.

To find out if your machine is affected, go to theMac App Store, click on Updates, and choose the MacBook Air Flash Storage Firmware Update 1.1. That update will test your drive and let you know if you need to have it replaced.

If you have a sad Mac, Apple recommended setting up a Genius Bar appointment at a local storelocating a nearby re-seller for assistance, or contacting Apple technical support.

Apple urged users to back up their data before bringing the MacBook Air in for service. Cupertino also warned against installing any OS update or new apps until the faulty drive is replaced.

"You will be able to reinstall the operating system version that shipped with your product by going to the Mac App Store," Apple said. "Any other applications or other data should be restored from the back up that you made before the replacement."

June 20, 2013

Best Buy Recalls Third-Party MacBook Batteries

Battery Recall

Just one week after Apple's successful launch of several new pieces of hardware and software at WWDC, fans of the company's product line have suffered a rare black eye. Best Buy has announced the recall of a widely available third-party battery for the MacBook laptop due to fire and burn hazards.

According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), roughly 5,100 ATG brand lithium-ion batteries are being recalled. They were available in black and white with the model numbers "MC-MBOOK13B" and "MC-BOOK13W." In an official message posted to its website, the CPSC wrote, "The firm has received 13 reports that the battery caught fire, including one report of a serious burn to a consumer's leg."

However, one aspect of the CPSC report appears to be incorrect. It says the batteries were used for the MacBook Pro, but that model has never been offered in black or white, just brushed aluminum. Examining the serial numbers mentioned indicates that the batteries were replacement parts for Apple's 13-inch MacBook laptop - which came in black or white and is no longer available via Apple.

June 12, 2013

New MacBook Airs Dinged for Repairability in iFixit Teardown

iFixit MacBook Air 2013 TeardownThe teardown specialists at iFixit wasted no time ripping apart Apple's new MacBook Air 13-inch to see what makes it tick. Unfortunately for Apple, a pattern of poor repairability scores for its laptops continued with the latest model as iFixit on Wednesday gave the new unit just a 4 out of 10 on its index.

The iFixit team actually found the 2013 MacBook Air pretty easy to disassemble, all things considered. But the teardown artists took points off for Apple's use of proprietary components like the new unit's solid state drive (SSD), the need for a special screwdriver to unscrew the proprietary pentalobe screws, and the fact that the RAM is soldered to the logic board&#151all things that iFixit felt made upgrading a new MacBook Air pretty difficult.

On the outside of the new MacBook Air 13-inch, iFixit found that little has changed from the 2012 edition of the laptop other than the addition of a pair of dual-microphone ports on the left side. On the right side, the new laptop has the same trio of ports&#151an SD card reader, a USB 3.0 slot, and a Thunderbolt port&#151as its predecessor.

Inside, the most notable upgrades were the new, smaller SSD; an improved 7.6 V, 7150 mAh battery; an updated, 802.11ac Wi-Fi-capable AirPort card; some minor rearrangements in the layout of the heat sink and cabling; and, of course, the big one&#151the addition of Intel's new fourth-generation Core processor, code named Haswell.

February 13, 2013

MacBook Pro With Retina Display Gets Price Drop, Processor Boost

Apple MacBook Pro 15-inch (Retina Display)

Apple this morning quietly dropped the price on its lineup of MacBook Pros with Retina display, and gave them a speed boost.

The 13-inch Retina MacBook Pro now starts at $1,499 rather than $1,699, while the 15-inch starts at $2,199.

The laptops also got a processor update. The $1,699 version of the 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display now boasts a 2.6-GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 and 256GB of flash, whereas its cheaper counterpart still runs a 2.5-GHz chip and has 128GB of flash.

The $2,199 15-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display now features a faster 2.4-GHz, quad-core processor instead of 2.3 GHz, as well as 8GB of memory. At $2,799, the most expensive MacBook Pro with Retina includes a 2.7-GHz chip (up from 2.6 GHz) and 16GB of memory.

Apple today also announced that the 13-inch MacBook Air with 256GB of flash has a new lower price of $1,399.

All of the updated Macs are now on sale, Apple said.

January 25, 2013

MacBook Airs Get $200 Discount at Best Buy

Apple MacBook Air 13-inch (Mid 2012)

If you've been thinking about purchasing an Apple MacBook Air laptop, then it might just be time to take the plunge.

On Friday and Saturday, Best Buy is offering all four MacBook Air models for $200 off with free shipping. That brings the entry-level 11.6-inch model with 64GB of flash storage down to $799 from $999. If you're looking for more storage, the 11.6-inch model is also available with 128GB of flash storage for $899, down from the usual $1,099.

Meanwhile, the base 13.3-inch model, which comes with 128GB of flash storage, is now priced at $999, down from $1,199. Rounding out the lineup, the 13.3-inch, 256GB-capacity model is on sale for $1,299 instead of $1,499.

If you're looking to take advantage of this offer, you better act fast. Best Buy said the deal runs through Saturday, but supplies may run out.

October 23, 2012

Apple Unveils 13-Inch MacBook Pro With Retina Display

Apple Special Event

Apple today unveiled a 13-inch version of the MacBook Pro with Retina display.

Apple also unveiled a new Mac mini and the next-generation of iMac, and a storage option known as Fusion Drive.

"In typical Apple fashion, we're going to take our best product" and make it better, said Apple's Phil Schiller.

The display on the 13-inch MacBook Pro comes in at 2,560-by-1,600 pixels, making it Apple's second best display. Apple promised rich color and deep blacks and 75 percent reduced reflection.

The new MacBook starts shipping today at $1,699 for the 2.5-GHz, dual-core i5 version with 8GB of RAM and 128GB of flash. Buyers can also select a dual-core i7 Ivy Bridge processor.

The updated Mac is only 0.75 inches thin, which Schiller said is 20 percent thinner than its predecessor. It weighs in at 3.5 pounds, making it the lightest MacBook Pro ever.

It comes pre-loaded with Mac OS X Mountain Lion and supports 802.11 Wi-Fi, as well as Bluetooth 4.0. Apple promised up to seven hours of battery life.

September 10, 2012

Report: 13-Inch MacBook Pro With Retina Display Coming Soon

Apple MacBook Pro 15-inch (Retina Display)

Apple suppliers have started shipping a 13-inch version of the MacBook Pro with Retina display, according to Digitimes.

The smaller version of the laptop with boosted display is expected to be released this month or next, the paper said, citing sources from the upstream supply chain.

Digitimes also said Apple was prepping revamped iMacs, but has delayed plans for an updated "high-end model" due to "poor yields." Cupertino will instead focus on mid-range and entry-level iMacs, the paper said, but few other details were available.

Apple unveiled a 15.4-inch version of its MacBook Pro with Retina display at the Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) in June. The screen comes in at 2,880-by-1,800 and 220ppi, which Apple's Phil Schiller said makes it the world's highest-resolution notebook.