Tag Archives: macbook

Latest MacBook hub on Kickstarter is the neatest yet, with form-fitting design

branch-macbook-hub

Ever since Apple launched the single-port 12-inch MacBook, we’ve seen a flurry of companies offering to add the missing ports back in through various adapters, hubsdocks and more. Latest to the party is Branch, a Kickstarter project whose USP is its ‘form-fitted’ shape, which is naturally available in each of the three MacBook colors.

The emphasis here is on packing the essentials into an extremely portable unit, providing USB-C pass-through, two USB 3.0 ports and one Mini Display port capable of driving a 4K monitor. The company had originally pitched with HDMI (shown above), but said that it has switched to Mini DisplayPort following feedback from Kickstarter users … 

You also have the option of 64GB of embedded flash storage, to extend the storage capacity of your MacBook through a slightly longer model.

The company’s claim that the hub “looks like it belongs on your Macbook” is something of an exaggeration. It still looks to me like a kludge, and I do have to raise an eyebrow at the sense or otherwise of buying a single-port MacBook only to bolt onto it something like this, but I guess the argument is you’ll add it when you need it.

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At the time of writing, there are still Early Bird Specials for $59, and the company will throw in a Mini Display to HDMI adapter. Once those are gone, it will be available for $69, still saving $79 on the planned retail price. The Branch 64 model, with 64GB of embedded storage, costs $119 on Kickstarter, saving $20 on the retail price.

Shipping is scheduled for July and August for the standard and extended storage models respectively. You can back the project here.

If you’re still wondering whether the 12-inch MacBook is for you, check out our review.


Filed under: Mac Tagged: 12-inch MacBook, 12-inch MacBook adapter, 12-inch MacBook dock, 12-inch MacBook hub, HDMI, MacBook, Universal Serial Bus, USB 3.0, USB-C, USB-C adapter, USB-C Dock, USB-C hub

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Review: Maclocks’ The Blade secures MacBooks without security slots

Maclocks The Blade

The antitheft Kensington Security Slot has been gone from all MacBooks aside from the classic 13-inch model for years now as Apple’s notebook designs have gotten increasingly thinner. Without that slot making a return, third party solutions like Maclock’s The Blade are needed to secure an unattended MacBook and prevent theft. Today we’re taking a look at The Blade and how it can secure even Apple’s thinnest notebook, the 12-inch MacBook with Retina display.

Maclocks The Blade

Specifically, Maclocks’ The Blade is a security bracket with a lock slot that attaches to your Mac allowing you to connect a security cable lock. The Blade, which is the silver bracket seen above, retails for $49.95 while Maclock’s Combination Cable Lock, also above, is sold optionally for $24.95 unless you provide your own cable lock.

Maclocks The Blade Maclocks The Blade

The Blade attaches below your MacBook with a strong 3M adhesive. Maclocks recommends letting The Blade sit for at least 12 hours to allow it to form a the “ultimate bond” before testing. Once attached, the casing includes a thin metal bracket that rotates outward and presents a lock slot. (Note: I didn’t test the permanence of the adhesive to avoid potentially damaging my hardware with removal.)

Maclocks The Blade

Aside from adding the ability to secure your Mac with a cable lock, The Blade’s design raises the rear of the MacBook above the surface which can improve heat ventilation during use. This also adjusts the keyboard height and angle for potentially more comfortable typing. The metal arm within The Blade hides easily when not in use, but the raised height of your notebook is obviously prominent as it has about the same height as the whole of the 12-inch MacBook. The Blade is meant for practical purposes of course and adds security at the cost of a uniform and thin design. Maclocks’ Combination Cable Lock included with the $74.90 package works just as expected, easily attaching to The Blade with a 4-number custom combination securing the lock.

Maclocks The Blade Maclocks The Blade

Overall, The Blade is a very clever solution for MacBook owners in need of adding a convenient way to secure their notebook and prevent theft. The Blade requires being permanently applied to completely work as a security solution. It’s not ideal if you’re dedicated to keeping your MacBook’s profile as thin as possible, but that’s necessary to ensure security and The Blade looks good at doing what it does.

Until Apple decides to include the Kensington Security Slot in the design of notebooks again (not expected), Maclock’s The Blade is a handy piece of hardware to add to your MacBook for locking it down and preventing theft. While the design is meant to resemble the bottom of a MacBook, the hardware is also capable of working with a tablet like the iPad for adding security functionality as well. The Blade is worth considering if you often use your notebook in a high traffic area like an open coffee shop or public library and risk loss due to theft. It’s especially practical for display Macs in busy environments as it does alter the machine’s casing permanently. For my own needs, I mostly use my MacBook around the house and don’t take my eyes of it in public environments, but I would consider The Blade as an attractive solution if I needed to secure a public facing Mac without a security slot.

Manufacturer:
Maclocks
MSRP / Sale Prices:
$74.90 / $66.74 (Amazon)
Compatibility:
MacBook

Filed under: Mac, Reviews Tagged: anti-theft, Kensington Security Slot, MacBook, Maclocks, Security, security slot, The Blade

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Review: Akitio’s Thunder2 Dock fits a 7-port Thunderbolt 2 hub in your favorite MacBook bag

thunder2dock-2

Up until recently, Thunderbolt 2 docks could mostly be described as “seen one, seen them all.” I’ve continued to like the idea of docks that fuse Thunderbolt 2, USB 3.0, and other peripherals together in a single Thunderbolt-to-Mac connection, but the docks I’ve seen from Belkin, Elgato, and Kanex are so similar in looks and features that they’d be hard to tell apart in a lineup. CalDigit’s dock looked very different from the rest, but functioned almost exactly the same. No Thunderbolt 2 dock has been small enough to consider “portable,” and CalDigit’s design is downright bag-defiant in shape.

That’s why it’s great to see Akitio take a different path with the $279 Thunder2 Dock (available through Amazon for $230), a Thunderbolt 2 dock with a smaller form factor and focus. Roughly as thin as a MacBook Pro and made from a nearly-matching aluminum, Thunder2 Dock manages to include seven high-speed data ports even though it’s roughly the size of a portable hard drive. Since it requires wall power, it’s not completely portable, and just like its rivals, you give up certain features to gain others. But it’s definitely the first Thunderbolt dock I’d carry around if I needed multi-device support in the field…

Key Details:

  • The smallest Thunderbolt 2 dock yet, roughly matching an iPhone 6 Plus footprint and MacBook Pro thickness
  • Seven data ports including Thunderbolt 2, USB 3.0, eSATA and FireWire 800
  • No HDMI or 3.5mm audio
  • Includes 19″ Thunderbolt cable

 

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Akitio’s bundle of components is very similar to other Thunderbolt 2 docks I’ve covered. You get the silver Thunder2 Dock, a large black power supply, and a white Thunderbolt 2 cable — a 19″ part Akitio fairly calls a $29 value, since it’s not always included with Thunderbolt accessories. You also get a blue cable-managing tie, which like the power supply has surprisingly prominent Akitio branding. To that end, the company also includes 14 (yes, 14) additional Akitio stickers just in case you… well, I don’t know what you’d do with 14 Akitio logos, unless you have kids who love stickers.

thunder2dock-1

Thunder2 Dock’s biggest selling point is its small size. Measuring roughly 6.2″ by 3.8″ by 0.65″, it’s not much bigger than a typical portable hard drive enclosure, and very similar in footprint to an iPhone 6 Plus. Only one of its four edges lacks ports; another contains one power port, a FireWire 800 port, and two USB 3.0 ports; the next has two 6GB eSATA ports; and the last has two Thunderbolt 2 ports. Four black rubber feet on the bottom provide stabilization on a flat surface.

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It’s worth pointing out what Akitio’s ports do and don’t offer relative to rival Thunderbolt 2 docks. Twin Thunderbolt 2 ports are a given on these accessories — you always need one to connect to your Mac, and the other to connect a Thunderbolt/Thunderbolt 2 accessory such as a hard drive or monitor. Ditto on the twin USB 3.0 ports, which each support high-speed UASP and 10W/2.1-Amp output for iPad charging, if you install a free OS X driver. The FireWire 800 port is a rarer feature, and the two eSATA ports are only a little more common. Akitio notes that the eSATA and USB ports are each capped at around 370MB/second transfer rates, and that’s about as high as I saw Thunder2 Dock-connected devices go during testing with Blackmagic Disk Speed Test. An Akitio-enclosed USB 3.0 hard drive tapped out at 127MB/s with or without going through Thunder2 Dock, and an Elgato Thunderbolt+ Drive SSD similarly saw basically the same 300-370MB/second write/read speeds regardless of whether it was directly Mac-connected or running through the dock.

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What’s missing: Akitio’s rivals all include one Ethernet port, one HDMI port, and at least one if not two 3.5mm audio ports, none of which are included in Thunder2 Dock. In other words, you’d be partially right to think of this as a data hub with USB 3.0, FireWire 800, Thunderbolt 2, and eSATA support, enabling devices — particularly hard drives and iOS devices — to make a single-point connection with Thunderbolt or Thunderbolt 2 Macs. While Akitio’s packaging touts support “for all your 4K workflow connections,” if one of those workflow connections depends on HDMI, you’ll need to directly connect the HDMI cable to your Mac, not Thunder2 Dock. But it does support Thunderbolt 2-connected 4K monitors, and daisy-chaining of up to 6 Thunderbolt 2 devices.

thunder2dock-3

After testing each new Thunderbolt 2 dock, I step back and consider who the target market is likely to be for the model, and with the last four, the answers have been pretty similar: they’re all desktop-bound docks with the same “throw in the kitchen sink” set of features, differentiated primarily by a single port or a $50-$100 swing in price. Akitio’s Thunder2 Dock is a distinctive option both because of its thinner, bag-friendly form factor and its heavy focus on data transfers rather than A/V functionality. This isn’t necessarily the dock to pick if you want a one-cable connection to both an HDTV and your peripherals, but it’s a very streamlined and versatile way of connecting multiple USB, eSATA, FireWire 800 and Thunderbolt devices to a Mac all at once. At Amazon’s $230 street price, Thunder2 Dock is also on the lower end of the price spectrum for Thunderbolt 2 Docks, adding to its appeal. Give it particularly serious consideration if thinness and broad hard drive support are important to your Mac’s workflow.

Manufacturer:
Akitio
MSRP / Street Prices:
$279 / $230
Compatibility:
Thunderbolt/2 Macs

Filed under: Mac, Reviews Tagged: Akitio, eSata, Firewire 800, MacBook, Thunder2 Dock, Thunderbolt 2, Thunderbolt 2 Dock, USB 3.0

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Review: Apple’s new 15-inch MacBook Pro is a dream for media professionals and creators (Video)

macbook-pro-lead

It would be silly to say that Apple’s latest iteration of the 15-inch 2015 MacBook Pro with Retina Display is the best MacBook yet, because that’s mostly the truth with every new model. Unfortunately, you won’t find a shiny new processor setup this time around, as Apple stuck with the trusty old Haswell configuration, but there are some nice improvements here.

The good news is, there’s a bump in clock speed across the board if that matters to you and we have a new GPU setup thanks to AMD in the high-end model. Even with these modest upgrades, the MacBook Pro I purchased is a beast for content creation…

This year I decided to splurge and pick up the 2.8GHz configuration and 1TB of flash storage, but I felt like it was worth the extra cash considering what I do for a living. I plan on using this thing for the long haul as the last MacBook Pro I had was a late 2013. As expected we have a beautiful Retina display here, with a resolution of 2,880 x 1,800 that’s good for 220 ppi. For full specifications on Apple’s 2015 MacBook Pro lineup, check out the Apple Store online.

There’s also the new Force Touch trackpad which comes along with some cool features, but none of them are particularly useful to me. If you’d like to check out all of the Force Touch features available with the new MacBook Pro, check out our top features article/video here.

Instead of focusing this review on how great (or poor) this MacBook is for everyone, I’m going to tell you how it works for me. I make videos. Most of those videos happen to be in 4K resolution, so it should be no surprise that I’d need something powerful to get the job done when I’m on-the-go. Also, if you’re interested in the carbon fiber skin I’m rocking on this MacBook Pro (shown in the video below), you can find it here.

Check out our 2015 15-inch MacBook Pro review video below:

I actually edited the entire review video above and the original unboxing video on this MacBook. If you’d like to check out that unboxing video with benchmarks and comparisons to the other 15-inch configurations, you can find it here. Premiere Pro CC, After Effects, and Photoshop run like a boss on this thing. If you need something completely capable of any media-related task, I’d highly recommend it. I was able to export my 3:14 unboxing video of this MacBook with After Effects compositions in under 10 minutes.

My last MacBook Pro was clocked at 2.3GHz which is pretty fast, but I can definitely tell the difference in performance. As for benchmarks, Geekbench 3 produced a single core score of 3,894 and a multi core score of 14,807. Over in BlackMagic Disk Speed test we have read speeds as high as 1700 MB/s and write speeds over 1400MB/s.

I’m not a huge gamer, but I did test a couple of titles for those curious out there. In Counter Strike: Global Offensive, I saw a consistent 30-35fps with all settings on maximum and full resolution of the MacBook’s panel, but the game was a bit laggy, bringing down the resolution a bit made it completely playable. I also gave BioShock Infinite a run and it played buttery smooth at the max settings and full resolution available. I’m not a gaming expert, but from my testing this MacBook is more than capable of handing a few good titles.

This MacBook Pro has been a dream so far. It’s a very powerful laptop for my needs, but obviously it’s not for everyone. This specific configuration will set you back roughly $3,200 (or around $2,499 without the upgraded CPU and storage). If you’re in search of a 15-inch for everyday use, I’d recommend the base model 15-inch MacBook Pro which comes in at $1,999. Overall, it’s also nice to know that I’ll have a very reliable editing machine when on-the-go and a laptop that can handle pretty much anything I’d throw at it. I plan to keep this MacBook around for a while and it looks like it’ll be able to keep up with me.


Filed under: Reviews Tagged: 15-inch MacBook Pro, 15-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display, Apple, MacBook, MacBook Pro, OS X, review, video

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