Back in late 2006, I reviewed Speck’s SeeThru Hardshell case for the MacBook Pro. Made of thin, rigid polycarbonate, the SeeThru was a form-fitting hardshell case that provided protection against scratches and minor bumps, as well as layer of bright color, without adding much bulk to your laptop.
Since then, Speck has produced SeeThru models for every Mac laptop (as well as a number of other devices). But with the release of the “unibody” MacBook and MacBook Pro lines, the company has released a new line of shells, the SeeThru Satin. The Satin offers the same protection and general design as the standard SeeThru, but with a less-transparent, matte finish that provides a very different appearance. I tested the black version for the 13-inch MacBook, but the Satin is also available in yellow, pink, red (“cranberry”), and purple.
I’ve been using a laptop backpack from Brenthaven for years now. Not a series of backpacks—a single blue backpack. There’s a photo of me standing on a lava flow on the Big Island with it in May of 2003, so it’s been at least five and a half years, and it’s probably been longer than that.
The thing’s been beaten up and has begun to show some serious signs of wear, so I decided to try a new backpack. My desire to keep as much weight off my back as possible has been well documented; it’s why I’ve generally tried to use the lightest laptop Apple makes. Currently that’s the MacBook Air, but before that were a series of small laptops, including the MacBook, the 12-inch PowerBook G4, and the 12-inch iBook. So I decided to try a new backpack that’s specifically designed to be small and light: Brenthaven’s $90 MetroLite BP.
While testing the TechRestore-modified MacBook Pro, I thought it’d be interesting to compare that machine’s matte screen with a stock (glossy-screen) MacBook Pro equipped with an anti-glare film. While there are many such films in development, I could find only one shipping right now: Power Support's $35 MacBook Pro Anti-Glare Film. (Power Support also makes the film in a 13-inch version, for the same $35 price, to fit the new unibody MacBooks.)
I’ve used a few of Power Support’s iPhone cases that include film screen protectors, and they generally work quite well: They're easy to apply, and I generally end up without obnoxious air bubbles. However, applying such a film to a 3.5-inch screen is a much simpler process than putting one on a 15-inch screen, so I was anxious to see how well the Power Support film worked on the MacBook Pro. If you’ve ever applied a screen film to an iPhone or iPod, the Power Support film for the MacBook Pro looks like a supersized version. The film itself comes adhered to a protective sheet of plastic, attached by the same static-cling force that will eventually hold it to the MacBook Pro’s screen.
With the introduction of the 17-inch unibody MacBook Pro at January's Macworld Expo, Apple has moved almost its entire portable product line over to glossy screens. I say “almost” because the 17-inch model is available with an optional ($50) “anti-glare” option—not an actual matte screen, it would seem, but some sort of a screen treatment to cut down on the glare.
My feelings on glossy displays are well known—I despise them. My family actually owns a glossy-screen iMac (it’s the kids’ computer), and when I need to use it, I try to do so via screen sharing from my Mac Pro just to avoid the reflections. I also owned a first-generation MacBook for six months, but I simply couldn’t adjust to life with the glossy screen, so I replaced it with a pre-unibody 15-inch MacBook Pro with a lovely matte screen.
As I wrote in an earlier blog post, Apple’s switch to glossy-only screens in its laptop line appeared to be the end of the line for new Mac laptops in my home. (I’m not interested in a 17-inch laptop, so the anti-glare version of the new machine is out.) But then I visited the TechRestore booth at Macworld Expo to check out its matte-screen replacement program for the 15-inch MacBook Pro. (TechRestore currently modifies only the new 15-inch model, but the company has confirmed that it will soon have a replacement program available for the MacBook, too. So if you’re a fan of Apple’s smallest full-featured—OK, except for FireWire—laptop, but not of glossy screens, you’ll soon have a solution available.)
Given that more and more people are using a laptop as their primary computer on the road and at home, laptop stands have become popular accessories. These products let you work more ergonomically at a desk by elevating your laptop screen to a proper height while you use an external keyboard and mouse. By keeping your laptop raised off your desk, they also help the computer stay cooler by increasing airflow underneath.
The Xstand Pro is a stylish stand made of real aluminum that closely matches the finish of Apple’s latest MacBook models. The oval base is wide (11.8 by 6.7 inches) and sturdy, with rubber feet to protect your desk and to keep the stand from moving. The X-shaped top platform is tilted approximately 30 degrees and has two metal lips, one on each of the front arms, to keep your notebook from sliding off the stand. Six rubber pads, one near the end of each arm and one on each lip, keep the stand’s solid-metal pieces from scratching your laptop and also help keep the laptop in place.
Apple’s MobileMe service can be a great deal. It enables you to back up your Mac, read and manage e-mail online, synchronize data between multiple Macs and iPhones (or iPod touches), and publish photos and Web sites.
But MobileMe isn’t right for everyone. Perhaps you prefer to use calendaring, contact-management, or mail apps other than those that come bundled with OS X. Maybe you like other platforms for publishing photos and Web sites. Or possibly you simply balk at the $99-per-year subscription fee.
Whatever the reason, you have many alternatives. None offer the one-stop-shop convenience of MobileMe. But if you’re willing to mix and match services, you can replicate MobileMe’s functionality but get greater flexibility and much lower cost.
Among the myriad uses for a laptop is giving presentations using PowerPoint or, for Mac users, Keynote. In fact, for many notebook owners, it’s a primary use. Those who move around while speaking know the value of being able to control your presentation from across the room or stage, and Apple's recent laptops include an infrared sensor that provides basic remote control of your slides using Apple's Remote. But the Remote, while compact and light, lacks features and works only if you’ve got a direct line of sight between the remote and your MacBook’s infrared sensor.
If giving presentations is one of your primary duties, Targus’s Bluetooth Presenter is a more-capable alternative to Apple’s Remote. At 5.1 inches long, 1.7 inches wide, and 1 inch thick, the Presenter is chunky, but that size makes it large enough to feel solid in your hand, but small enough that even those with small hands should be able to hold and use the Presenter comfortably. The sides and bottom of the Presenter are covered in matte plastic that offers a bit more grip than the glossy finish of Apple’s Remote, and at just under 4 ounces, the Presenter feels considerably heftier without adding much weight to your laptop bag.