The Canon Pixma MP495 color inkjet multifunction printer handles printing, copying, and scanning, and currently it costs just $10 more than its cousin, the Canon Pixma MP280. The Pixma MP495 adds wireless connectivity for easier sharing, and ditches the matte-black scanner lid for a shiny one. Otherwise, it has the same strengths and weaknesses as the MP280: extremely nice text and photos, but pricey black ink and minimal paper-handling options. For these reasons, it's best suited for light home or dorm use.
Aside from the integrated Wi-Fi connectivity (to complement the unit's USB capability), the Pixma MP495's features are spare. There's no automatic document feeder for the scanner. PC users get manual duplexing help, but Mac users are on their own. Paper input consists of a single rear, 100-sheet, vertical paper feed. Basic tasks are easy to perform via the top control panel, but the single-digit LED can be difficult to interpret. It shows the number of copies up to 9 clearly, then jumps to 20 by showing the letter F. Translating the obscure symbols and flash combinations that represent error codes and setup or maintenance functions requires a trip to the MFP's thorough and well-written HTML-based onscreen documentation.
These days, the consumer-oriented iMacs stand on their own against (and in some cases, surpass) the Mac Pro in day-to-day performance. Does that mean that the Mac Pro has lost its relevance in today’s work environment? Hardly.
The Mac Pro continues to be all about expandability and customization. There are literally billions of configuration combinations available, from four to 12 processing cores, from one to four hard drives or SSDs, up to 32GB of RAM, an Apple RAID card, multiple graphics cards, and more. Anyone who’s struggled to install anything more than RAM in the rest of Apple’s Mac lineup can appreciate how easily these components can be accessed, swapped and installed on the Mac Pro.
Another advantage the Mac Pro has is its use of multiple processors with multiple cores. Though programs that take full advantage of up to 24 virtual processing cores are scarce, for the people using Mathematica, Cinema 4D and other high-end software, the performance advantage is undeniable.
The new Mac Pros announced in July have finally arrived at Macworld Lab. And while we ran into some hiccups during our tests, we’re able to share our first results.
The new Mac Pros use the identical case design as the systems they replace, with the biggest differences being in the available CPU and GPU options. Apple offers two standard configurations, a $2499 system with a single quad-core 2.8GHz Intel Xeon Nehalem processor, 3GB of RAM, 1TB hard drive, and ATI Radeon HD 5770 graphics with 1GB GDDR5 video RAM; and a $3499 system with identical graphics and storage specs, but with 6GB of RAM and two quad-core 2.4GHz Intel Xeon Westmere processors (eight cores total). A third system, a 12-core model with two 2.66GHz six-core Xeon Westmere processors and the same storage, RAM, and graphics specifications as the eight-core model is considered a pre-configured build-to-order model, meaning you won’t find it on the shelves of the brick and mortar Apple Stores.
Promise’s SmartStor DS4600 is a direct-attached storage (DAS) enclosure that can house up to four hard drives. It’s suitable for a direct connection to servers or workstations, it supports RAID arrays, and its design allows you to hot-swap the hard drives. Its management interface and build quality leave something to be desired, however.
The DS4600 can be connected to a Mac or server through the single eSATA, USB 2.0 or FireWire 400 ports or one of the two FireWire 800 ports. It has the same physical design as the Promise SmartStor NS4600 () network-attached storage (NAS) device. Four drive bays sit behind a lockable front panel. Instead of caddies, the SmartStor DS4600 uses plastic rails that surround the drive in order to prevent vibration during operation. We didn’t notice any vibrations, but the rails’ lack of rigidity makes installing drives painful.
Promise includes its SmartNAVI software to manage the SmartStor DS4600 DAS device, and it’s available in Mac and PC versions. Using SmartNAVI, you can configure RAID volumes, monitor hard drive health and upgrade firmware. Media Centre and Photo Album functions are also available, but these are of questionable usefulness without the ability to serve media over a network.
Ladies and gentlemen, the fastest Mac we’ve ever seen is currently sitting in the Macworld Lab. It’s the 27-inch 2.93GHz quad core Core i7 iMac, equipped with a solid-state drive (SSD). This built-to-order (BTO) model posted the highest Speedmark 6 score of any iMac we’ve tested—for now.
The 27-inch 2.93GHz quad core Core i7 iMac with SSD isn’t one of the four standard configurations Apple offers, and Macworld doesn't mouse-rate BTO models. To get the Core i7 CPU and SSD, you have to customize a 27-inch 2.8GHz quad core Core i5 iMac () when ordering through the online Apple Store. Upgrading to the 2.93GHz Core i7 adds $200 to the $1999 base price. Substituting a 256GB SSD for the hard drive adds another $600. So the total price of the iMac we tested (with 4GB of RAM) is $2799.
We used our Speedmark 6 test suite to gauge the performance of the 2.93GHz quad core Core i7 iMac and to see how well it performs compared other current iMacs. Overall, the 2.93GHz quad core Core i7 iMac with an SSD is impressive, posting a Speedmark 6 score of 254, currently the highest Speedmark 6 score posted by any Mac. (We just received two of the three new Mac Pro models, and we'll test them and provide results soon. We think that the new Mac Pros will beat the Core i7 iMac, but the story will be how much of a performance difference there is.)
With most external hard drives, you can never really have too many ports. Sure, it’s great that Western Digital’s USB-only My Passport for Mac () is fast and relatively inexpensive, but most people need a device with a little more flexibility, like Iomega’s 500GB eGo Mac Edition () and its FireWire 400 & 800 support.
However, Seagate’s FreeAgent GoFlex Ultra-Portable hard drives might just change the status quo, as these devices don’t support any specific form of data transfer. That’s to say, not right out of the box. If all you need is standard USB 2.0 connectivity, the 500GB GoFlex comes pre-packaged with it, along with some spiffy backup software to sweeten the deal. However, the drive can also support connectivity for FireWire 800, eSATA, and even USB 3.0, although the latter of that list is still pretty meaningless for Mac users.
Seagate accomplishes this by way of the GoFlex’s rear dock, a detachable adapter that comes included with the connection cable of your choice. In a way, this is actually pretty smart, since the interface of the drive is essentially a blank slate; aside from the USB 2.0 adapter, you’re only adding on what you want to pay for. If you have a Mac Pro with an available add-on eSATA card, all you need to buy on top of the GoFlex is the eSATA upgrade cable ($20). If you have a MacBook Pro or any of the newer Macs, you can just buy the FireWire 800 adapter ($40) and be done with it. Feasibly, you could also have a drive that’s ahead of the curve when (and if) Apple ever starts supporting USB 3.0 ($30).
Any hard drive can try to break speed barriers when backing up and copying data, but the Aegis Padlock Pro has an ace up its sleeve. Apricorn’s latest portable hard drive isn’t the fastest storage device you can buy, but it might be one of the most secure options you can find. Aside from having unique data protection features, it’s also one of few portable hard drives that’s both eSATA-compatible and relies on internal bus power.
But what immediately separates the Padlock Pro from the pack, however, is its data-securing features. Even if some hardcore data thief manages to physically remove the hard drive from the Padlock Pro’s shell, Apricorn still has your files protected with 256-bit AES encryption, the same kind approved by the U.S. government.
Aside from the built-in encryption, the drive’s main security feature is a button panel that lets you protect your data with a password. When you plug in the Padlock Pro for the first time, you can immediately set up your own administrative PIN number, which can be any simple code of at least six digits. In addition to your main PIN, the Padlock Pro can also support up to 10 unique user passwords, which is great if you want to share the drive among friends or co-workers. Moreover, you can edit your user password without admin privileges on the fly, so you thankfully won’t have to worry about everyone remembering two sets of PIN numbers.