Tag Archives: macbook

Mini review: Elgato Thunderbolt Dock

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There are Mac accessories that are exciting or fun, and others that are boring but useful. The Elgato Thunderbolt Dock most definitely falls into the latter category.

As regular readers will know, I’m of the view that wires are evil. Anything that can be wireless should be wireless, and any wires that are unavoidable should be hidden from sight. This is particularly easy if you have an Apple Thunderbolt Display, of course, since all you need in the way of wires from a MacBook is power and Thunderbolt: everything else can be plugged into the back of the monitor.

But if you share my aversion to visible wires and don’t have a Thunderbolt display, or you are frequently connecting and disconnecting your MacBook from a bunch of devices on your desk, the Elgato Thunderbolt Dock may be the answer …

Overview

The concept is simple: you run a single Thunderbolt cable from your MacBook to the dock, and everything else plugs into the dock. Place the dock at the back of your desk, and you can then run the cables out of sight. Leave the office, and all you need do is unplug two cables: power and Thunderbolt. Everything else remains permanently connected to the dock.

You could even do what I’ve done with my desk, and drill a hole for the Thunderbolt and power cables, and run the cables beneath your desk to the dock (or Thunderbolt Display, in my case).

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Exterior

The first thing to say about the dock is that it looks the part. With an anodised aluminum surround wrapping around a matte black ABS plastic shell, it’s an excellent aesthetic match for a Mac, and could easily pass for something made by Apple.

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Elgato has clearly tried to balance minimalist looks with practicality. Instead of a featureless front, there are headphone and microphone sockets, and a single USB 3 port.

Ports

The rear of the dock has two Thunderbolt sockets, two more USB 3 ports, an HDMI port and a gigabyte Ethernet port. It’s a powered dock, so the socket for the supplied 12V power pack rounds things off.

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Although there are two Thunderbolt ports, only one is usable: the other is needed to connect the dock to your Mac.

In use

The dock couldn’t be simpler to use: hook up your devices once, leave them connected and then just disconnect the Thunderbolt cable from your Mac when you leave your desk.  If you have external drives connected, remember to eject these beforehand – other than that, it just works.

I’m not keen on the headphone socket being on the front. While that may be convenient for headphones, it’s no big deal to plug those into the Mac given that you’re probably going to take them with you anyway. The far more useful function would be to connect wired speakers, and there I’d want the port on the rear.

The front USB port, on the other hand, is convenient when you just want to temporarily connect something like a camera. I keep USB flyleads in the monitor slot beneath my desk – one each for Apple, mini-USB and micro-USB – for any devices that need to be connected occasionally, and the front port here could be used in the same way.

As a powered dock, all three USB ports provide enough power to charge an iPad.

The main limitation is the number of ports. Using the front port permanently defeats the object of minimising cable clutter, so that means you’re down to just two USB ports. If you have a simple desk setup, this may be enough, but otherwise you’re going to end up connecting a separate powered USB hub into one of the ports.

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Price & conclusions

So, yeah, price. Thunderbolt accessories are expensive. Elgato accessories are expensive. Combine the two, and you know this isn’t going to be a cheap device. It will cost you a cool $229.95, in fact. You do get a Thunderbolt cable with that, so you’re up-and-running right away, but it’s a lot of money for a cable-management device.

It’s essentially the same price as the near-identical $199.95 Belkin Thunderbolt Express Dock once you take into account that Belkin doesn’t include a Thunderbolt cable.

Is it worth it? Only you can decide. I’m OCD enough to have commissioned a custom-made desk whose primary function is to hide cables, so I place a high value on a clutter-free environment. While the few seconds it takes to unplug USB and speaker cables isn’t the strongest argument for spending over two hundred bucks, I do have to say it’s one of those trivial daily irritations I was pleased to leave behind. If I didn’t have my cable-free desk, I’d probably go for it.

The Elgato Thunderbolt Dock is available for $229.95 from retail Apple Stores, Elgato and Amazon.


Filed under: Reviews Tagged: Apple, Apple Thunderbolt Display, Elgato, Elgato Thunderbolt Dock, Ethernet, HDMI, MacBook, Thunderbolt, Thunderbolt dock, USB 3.0, USB dock

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Analyze And Troubleshoot Your Wi-Fi Network With NetSpot Pro [Deals]

Having dead Wi-Fi zones in your apartment or office is a huge inconvenience for all. NetSpot Pro is the answer to all these problems. NetSpot Pro lets you visualize, optimize and troubleshoot your wireless networks using any MacBook so you






Next-gen faster Haswells chips out as soon as next month, could find their way into upgraded MacBook and iMacs

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Intel’s next generation of its Haswell CPUs could be out as soon as next month, according to sources cited by TechPowerUp (via TonyMacx86).

According to sources in the IT retail, Intel could launch these new chips, led by the Core i7-4790K, on May 10th in most markets [...]

 Intel Core “Haswell” Refresh processors offer marginally better performance over current Core “Haswell” chips, at existing price points (i.e., they will displace existing chips from their current price-points).The 9-series chipset offers features such as M.2 SSD support, making you ready for a tidal wave of 1000 MB/s SSDs that will launch around Computex.

Apple now uses PCIe SSD interface  even in its base model MacBook Air so the mSATA improvement will only benefit PC users and Hackintoshers but the mildly improved performance might find its way into updated iMac or MacBooks due ’round WWDC.


Filed under: AAPL Company, Tech Industry Tagged: Apple, Central processing unit, Hard disk drive, Intel, Intel Core, MacBook, MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, Serial ATA, Solid-state drive, SSD

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Apple reportedly planning massive Q3 rollout for iWatch, iPad, iPhone, and Apple TV updates

 

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KGI Research analyst Ming-Chi Kuo has released a timeline indicating that Apple is planning a massive rollout for multiple new products in Q3 2014. According to the Kuo, the only thing we can expect to see in the first half of the year is a small iMac update. Starting at the end of the third quarter and continuing into the beginning of the fourth, however, Apple will update most of its product lineup: iPad Air and mini, the Apple TV, and the MacBook family.

Two new products reportedly planned for this timeframe are the iWatch, which Kuo says will be available in two different sizes, and the long-rumored 4.7-inch iPhone. The 5.5-inch iPhone that was reportedly delayed due to manufacturing issues with the display is said to be coming near the end of Q4, making it the last release for this year.

An interesting note on the iPhone 6 design also appears in the KGI report:

Power button location changed for first time. Our understanding is that iPhone 6’s power button might be moved from the top to the side. We think this change is meant to facilitate one-hand operation and might indicate new application that require more frequent use of the power button.

Moving the power button from the top of the phone to the side would certainly make sense if the new phone is going to be much taller than the iPhone 5.

The note also predicts that the iWatch will be available in several different styles (in two sizes, as mentioned above), with an emphasis on design and fashion:

Fashion is the name of the game; most expensive model likely priced at several thousand US dollars. Referring to the rules of the fashion market, we predict the iWatch casing and band will come in various materials. The most expensive model of the iWatch line will carry a price tag of several thousand US dollars. Assuming the iWatch proves to be a success, we expect Apple’s key competitors in 5-10 years will be the current fashion brands, not the existing tech companies.

Interestingly, Kuo suggests that the iPhone 6 will sport an NFC chip—an idea that was quite popular several years ago but in recent update cycles has fallen by the wayside in favor of Touch ID and other enhacements.

Apple to offer all-new design 4.7” and 5.5” iPhone 6. Although the 5.5” model will have higher resolution (1,920×1,080/401PPI) than the 4.7” (1,334×750/326PPI), due to same proportion in terms of length and width, it is good for APP compatibility. Specifications common to both models will include A8 processor, LPDDR3 1GB, LTPS panel, in-cell touch, Touch ID (fingerprint identification), 10-20% narrower bezel, 6.5-7.0mm thickness, NFC chip with security element and metal casing. [Italics emphasis added]

Other iPhone 6 predictions state that only the 64 GB version of the 5.5-inch model will include a sapphire Touch ID cover due to supply issues.

The larger iPhone will be positioned as a “phablet” device rather than a “smartphone” and will include a much larger battery. According to the KGI prediction, the larger iPhone’s battery capacity could be as much as 50-70% higher than the 4.7-inch model, though the battery life would be similar due to the extra power required for the larger display.

The camera in the iPhone 6 is also said to remain at 8 MP but will get a longer exposure time to improve quality:

iPhone 6 rear camera still 8MP and f2.2 aperture same as iPhone 5S, but OIS will increase exposure time. iPhone 6’s rear camera won’t have pixel and aperture upgrade, but the adoption of OIS will increase exposure time, which can improve image quality. We think this change will indeed produce better photos than just increasing pixel number.

The report notes that Apple is believed to be working on a 12.9-inch iPad to fill out the rest of the lineup. This device won’t be announced this year, but is said to be something Apple is considering. A new user interface is also rumored to accomdate easier input on the larger screen:

We believe Apple is working on a 12.9” iPad to generate new growth momentum. Apple will want to boost shipments and profits by offering a better entertainment and productivity experience with a 12.9” iPad. But we think this product is unlikely to come out this year. With the 12.9” iPad, we think Apple will come up with a new user interface that’s more innovative and intuitive, so that input will be as efficient as a device with keyboard.

KGI is usually pretty reliable on the product details in reports like this, though the timing is sometimes less accurate.


Filed under: AAPL Company Tagged: Air, Apple TV, iPad, iPhone, iWatch, MacBook, Mini, Pro

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30-second smartphone charge demonstrated using biological semiconductors

I’d find this video hard to believe were it not for its credentials. The WSJ reports that StoreDot, the start-up behind the technology, has its background in the Nanotechnology department of Tel Aviv University, and it’s been demonstrated at Microsoft’s Think Next conference.

Ultra-fast battery charging has been seen before, but using special (and not very portable) battery technology. This system charges batteries compact enough for smartphones. It’s demonstrated here with a Samsung Galaxy S3, but the company says that it plans to make versions for other phones, which will could certainly include the iPhone … 

StoreDot claims the commercial version of the charger will only cost around twice as much as today’s chargers. However, it seems the company still has some work to do to turn it into a commercial product: production isn’t expected to begin until late 2016.

The same technology could presumably be used to provide ultra-fast charging of iPads and MacBooks too. If a phone can be recharged in 30 seconds, perhaps a MacBook could be charged within five minutes or so?

If so, the most exciting thing about this is the possibility it creates for liberating MacBooks from power cables: forget about keeping them plugged in during use, just use them until the battery runs low then recharge them while you make a cup of coffee.


Filed under: iOS Devices Tagged: Battery charger, Battery technology, iPad, iPhone, iPhone battery, iPhone charging, MacBook, Microsoft, Nanotechnology, Technology, Tel Aviv University

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