Product Watch: September 2001

Today's Best Tech Deals

Picked by Macworld's Editors

Top Deals On Great Products

Picked by Techconnect's Editors

Early FireWire drives were anything but fast, and many a Final Cut Pro pioneer ran afoul of slow first-generation devices. Dropped frames became an all-too-common Mac digital-video epithet. The problem was so bad that until recently Apple's top brass advised against using FireWire drives for DV editing. Some of the blame goes to poorly written drivers. Updates such as Apple's FireWire 2.7 helped. Even so, the fastest FireWire drives peaked at 13 MBps--theoretically enough to avoid dropped frames but far shy of FireWire's top speeds. The biggest problem is that pure FireWire hard drives simply don't exist. Instead, you get an ATA hard drive hidden inside a FireWire enclosure. The ATA-FireWire bridge causes the bottleneck.

Enter the Oxford Semiconductor 911. This redesigned ATA-FireWire bridge improves transfer rates to a real-world 29 MBps to 34 MBps, and it lets you use multiple channels and RAID options, which can push data-transfer rates to 75 MBps and higher.

Granite Digital was the first company in North America to adopt the Oxford Chip, for its $159 FireVue enclosure-case kit (510/471-6442, www.granitedigital .com ). FirewireDirect's Slim-Line Ultra drives start at $299 for 20GB (512/302-0012, ). Its FireWire enclosure kits sell for $149. Other World Computing's Mercury Elite drives start at $250, also for 20GB (800/275-4576, ). sells its 30GB drive for $259 (714/634-1583, ).


A 4.1-megapixel camera from Olympus America (800/622-6372, ): The C-4040 Zoom has a 3x optical zoom and a 7.5x digital zoom ($1,099).

A 4.2-megapixel camera from Toshiba America (800/288-1354, ): The PDR-M81, which should be shipping by late summer, features resolutions ranging from 720 by 480 pixels to 2,400 by 1,600 pixels. It has a 35mm-equivalent lens with a 2.8x optical zoom and a 2.2x digital zoom. Toshiba priced the new model at $799.

Three printers from Brother International (800/276-7746, ): All three have print speeds of 15 pages per minute and resolutions of 1,200 by 600 dots per inch. The HL-1440 ($299) comes with 2MB of memory, which can be expanded to 34MB. The HL-1450 ($349) has 8MB of memory, which can be expanded to 36MB, as does the HL-1470N ($499), which has a first-page print speed of less than 16 seconds.

Two multifunction printers from Lexmark (888/539-6275, ): The X83 ($199) prints at 12 pages per minute in black-and-white and 6 pages per minute in color. The X73 ($179) prints at 9 pages per minute in black-and-white and 5 pages per minute in color. Both have a resolution of 2,400 by 1,200 dots per inch.

A monochrome laser printer from Xerox (877/362-6567, ): The Phaser 3400 ($649) has a print speed of 17 pages per minute and a first-page print speed of 12 seconds.

An external FireWire drive from Maxtor (800/ 262-9867, ): The Maxtor Personal Storage 3000DV ($380) is a 60GB drive that spins at 7,200 rpm. That's 56 percent faster than the FireWire models Maxtor released in fall 2000.


Bryce 5, from Corel (800/772-6735, ): This update to the 3-D—landscaping tool ($309; upgrade, $159) runs on Mac OS 8.6 and higher and has native support for OS X. Among other additions are network rendering capabilities, a Tree Lab feature for creating and editing trees, and metaballs support.

Carrara Studio, from Eovia (888/394-2307, ): The update to the 3-D—modeling, —rendering, and —animation software rebrands the one-time MetaCreations product. Carrara Studio adds a fully supported version of Amapi 3D, a set of 25 new plug-ins, and an interactive tutorial ($399; upgrade, $99—$199).

A graphics-editing application from MacGIMP ( ): GIMP, or Graphic Image Manipulation Program, is an open-source application for Mac OS X. It's used to edit animated GIFs and manipulate RGB-based file formats such as JPG and TIFF ($25).

Sorenson Squeeze, from Sorenson Media (888/767-3676, ): Squeeze ($249) is a VBR compression application for QuickTime 5. It runs on both Mac OS 9 and OS X and requires Sorenson Video 3.

Mimio 1.6, from Virtual Ink (877/696-4646, ): The support software for the Mimio electronic whiteboard now runs natively in Mac OS X. It also lets users export whiteboard content as video clips to iMovie. Version 1.6 is a free download to users of the $599 electronic whiteboard.

Outlook 2001, from Microsoft (800/426-9400, ): The update to the messagingand collaboration client for Microsoft Exchange Server ($700, not including client access license) enhances users' ability to share schedules and contact lists among Mac and Windows computers. Microsoft also released Word + Entourage 2001 SE ($149), a bundle combining its word processing application with its integrated e-mail and personal information manager program. Microsoft expects it to be shipping by the time you read this.

Suitcase 10, from Extensis (800/796-9798, ): This update to the font manager ($100; upgrade, $50) includes an Auto Activation feature, a free copy of FontBook, and support for Mul-tiple Master fonts. Extensis will release a Mac OS X— native update by the end of 2001; it will be free to Suitcase 10 users. Extensis also released Suitcase Server 10 ($1,000) for workgroup font management; it includes five copies of Suitcase 10.

Rewind 1.2, from Power On Software (800/344-9160, ): This update to the data-recovery utility adds controls that limit the size of Rewind archives and enhances stability ($100; upgrade, free).


The departure of Director of Maya Technologies Richard Kerris from Alias| Wavefront (800/447-2542, ): The company said it does not expect his leaving to affect the development of Maya for Mac OS X. A Macintosh version of the 3-D—animation software is expected to be ready in September.

Layoffs at Humongous Entertainment (800/499-8386, ): The children's software maker--which produces the Putt Putt, Freddi Fish, Spy Fox, and Pajama Sam adventure-game series--laid off 80 workers, amounting to more than 40 percent of its staff. The company will focus on its line of sports games.

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