Many years ago, I owned a Lind battery pack for my Apple laptop. Though bulky and heavy, it provided a couple hours of additional use at a time when the best laptops could run for only two hours or so on their own.
Today's Apple laptops provide outstanding battery life in comparison—anywhere from four to eight hours on a single charge. But if you need even longer run times, the fact that the batteries in the current MacBook, MacBook Pro, and MacBook Air models aren't swappable may have you looking back to those days of external power packs.
The problem—as I lamented nearly three years ago and which still hasn't changed—is that Apple refuses to license the MagSafe power connector, that little magnetic tip that lets your MacBook’s power cable safely detach, instead of damaging the laptop, when you trip over the cable. Without a MagSafe connector, external battery packs can’t work with recent Apple laptops.
All the CES hardware chatter led me to wonder if a tablet/slate would work as a suitable notebook replacement. For many consumers, particularly those who use a standard laptop—or maybe a netbook—primarily for e-mail and Web browsing, the answer may be yes.
Logitech on Tuesday announced the Speaker Lapdesk N700, a laptop desk for notebook computers that aims to keep your laptop and your lap cool while providing improved audio performance compared to your computer's built-in speakers.
The N700 is large enough for laptops with 16-inch screens and connects to your laptop via a single USB cable. The USB connection grabs both power and audio from your computer, playing that audio through the N700's 2-inch stereo speakers. The wide (20.7 inches wide by 11.3 inches deep) design of the N700 positions the left and right speakers outside the edges of your laptop for better sound quality. The N700 also includes a fan that circulates air to cool the bottom of the laptop.
The Stirling messenger bag from Knomo is the perfect compromise between having a small lightweight solution for carrying your laptop and little else, and needing the space and bulk to carry all your daily essentials.
Like the Tardis it’s compact yet roomy on the inside with space for all those extras such as cables, leads and travel paraphernalia. As well as a padded space for your laptop, the Stirling offers enough pockets and compartments to ensure order as you make your way from A to B and back again.
The bag is a stylish mix of genuine leather cow hide and nylon twill back finished with some solid stitching. We particularly liked the silky fabric lining with scotch guard coating, which on the sample we viewed was an earthy green. A quilted computer pouch should protect your MacBook from daily use although hardcore road warriors may need to seek out hard case protection.
The MacBook Air has never been known for its performance. Though it’s incredibly thin and weighs just three pounds, making it great for portability, the Air is Apple’s least-powerful computer—by a significant margin.
While some of this performance gap is due to the Air’s low-power (and relatively low-clock-speed) processor, perhaps the computer’s biggest limitation—at least if we’re talking about the entry-level model—is its hard drive. Specifically, the $1499 MacBook Air’s 1.8-inch, 4200rpm drive, the same type of drive found in the iPod classic, just isn’t made for speed.
You could opt for to the $1799 Air, which bumps the processor speed from 1.86GHz to 2.13GHz and swaps out the slow, 120GB SATA drive for a faster, 128GB SSD (solid-state drive), but RunCore offers an alternative: replacing the drive in the $1499 MacBook Air with RunCore’s own Pro IV SSD. This solid-state drive is advertised as providing a “5x to 40x” increase in system performance over most SSDs by improving small-file read and write speeds. (The Pro IV SSD also works with the $1799 MacBook Air, although you won’t see as dramatic improvements in performance, given that this model already has an SSD.) And since SSDs generally require less power than traditional hard drives—less, even, than the low-power 1.8-inch models used in the $1499 MacBook Air—you should also see better battery life and cooler internal temperatures, although I didn’t test these aspects of the upgrade.
Twelve South on Monday announced the BassJump, a portable, USB-powered "subwoofer" designed to enhance your MacBook's audio output by adding midrange and bass frequencies that the MacBook's built-in speakers can't adequately produce.
At 5 inches square by 2.2 inches tall, and weighing just 1.4 pounds, the BassJump is small enough to carry in your laptop bag. The speaker's extruded-aluminum enclosure hosts a 3-inch driver that can produce lower frequencies than a MacBook's built-in speakers. The BassJump connects to a USB port on your MacBook for power and audio, and you control the speaker's output via a new BassJump Sound System pane in System Preferences. The software lets you choose the relative volume of the BassJump (compared to your MacBook's own speakers), the crossover frequency (from 100Hz to 300Hz), and one of five different EQ settings.
Ever wish your laptop could stand up? The NX Stand from Macessity lets you prop up your closed laptop in a cushioned slot, freeing up more real estate on your actual desktop.
The steel enclosure matches the look of the MacBook Pro line and includes a four-port, powered USB hub as well as space for an external hard drive. (Macessity lists four hard drive models as compatible with the NX Stand, but others may fit, depending on their size.) Obviously, the closed laptop set-up requires an external display, too, unless you have some sort of superpower you'd like to tell us about.