Apple MacBook Pro

January 27, 2009

After almost 3 years of daily use, at almost 12 hours a day, my 15″ MacBook Pro began to give me trouble. I was in the market for a new one, and while the new upcoming 17″ unibody was tempting, all of my sleeves and cases fit the 15″. I use the RadTech sleeve, and place the MacBook into a Matias Laptop Armor case when I travel, so I decided to stick with the trusted 15″ model.

I have several local Apple stores in my are, but due to credit, I went to my local Micro Center instead, who has a great Mac department. I’ve been admiring the newly designed Unibody MacBook Pros since their debut a few months back. I went with the 2.53 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo. It comes stock with 4 GB of ram, and a 320 GB HD, so I felt the extra bump in price was worth it. Included with every Mac I buy, I pick up the Apple care to extend the service up to 3 years.

I’ll spare you all the technical details of this machine, as you could google that, or just go to the Apple page, and get all the info you need. This review is more of an observation. And let me tell you, It’s going to read like a HUGE fanboy.

 

MacBook Pro

MacBook Pro

 

This has got to be, without a doubt, the most impressive and beautiful machine I’ve ever purchased. I simply love the unibody design, and the rounded corners. The black border around the screen is very classy looking, and I live the black keys on the keyboard. It’s head and shoulders above the previous model.

There are 2 disappointing features for me though. The screen, as I’m sure you already know, only comes in glossy. While the screen is bright, and crisp, sometimes the glare is overpowering. Being a graphic designer, it can become distracting while working. I have looked on line, and found companies who make an antiglare film for the screen, much like the anti fingerprint screen cover on the iPhone. I’m not sure if I’ll do that yet, but I may consider it if I can’t get used to the reflection.

The second is the lack of a Firewire 400 port. It does have an 800, but this doesn’t help me out of the box. All my external hard drives are Firewire, so this is incredibly disappointing. I have purchased a small thumb drive drive 800 to 400 converter from Sonnets, so that should eliminate my problem. I’ll review that what it arrives.

The speed on this machine is quite noticeable when I compare it to my older MacBook Pro. Using graphic programs a lit, a nice feature is to chose what processor I was to use. Better graphics, or better battery life. Since I keep the machine plugged in 90% of the time, I opt for the faster processor.

This feels very solid, and weighs less then I expected. It’s slightly wider then the previous model, but only by a couple of millimeters. 

The multi touch trackpad features are fantastic, especially when using Photoshop. I love the smother glass trackpad as well, and the loss of the click button is genius. 

I can go on and on on how great this is, but I’ll stop now. If you’re in the market for a new Mac, you can’t go wrong with the new MacBook Pro. It’s solid, beautiful, powerful, and in my opinion, the best Mac I’ve ever owned.

4.75 out of 5. No Firewire 400 and no matt screen option keeps this from a perfect 5.

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Logitech QuickCam Vision Pro

January 23, 2009

So, after one day of that horrid Macally IceCam2, it was returned to Micro Center. I love their return policy, with no questions asked. I went across town to my local Apple store in the Oak Brook mall in Illinois. They had a TINY selection of web cams. As a matter of fact, all they had in stock was the Logitech. I looked at the price, and I almost pooped a little. $129.95. Yikes. For that price, this thing better work miracles…

Right out of the box, there’s not much to do. No software, no discs, just the camera, and a small fold out instruction booklet. I plug it in, launch iChat, and boom, it works.

 

Logitech QuickCam Vision Pro

Logitech QuickCam Vision Pro

 

Instantly, with no lights on in the room, and strong sunlight coming from behind me through the window, I would have expected to be a black silhouette. Not at all. This camera amazed me with it’s brightness and clarity of not only myself, but the background, my dog, my wife, the wall… All with the sun as a back light.

The 2 megapixel camera is fitted with Zeiss glass, so the quality of video is superb. As good as the iSight in my MacBook Pro is, I actually think this may be as good, if not a nudge better. Another fantastic feature is the auto focus. Unlike that piece of shit I had hooked up yesterday, you don’t have to manually turn a crappy gray dial to attempt to focus. It does a great job with the auto focus.

The microphone is very sensitive as well, and of very good quality. I actually had to turn down the input setting in preferences, as this mic was picking up hard drive noise on the mac mini I have it hooked up to.

The design is great. The unique stand can fold, to attach to any size monitor, from a thin laptop screen, to a old CRT, or it was fold to sit on your desktop as a stand alone. The camera itself can be tilted up and down freely on the stand itself, making it easy to adjust.

Using iChat, you get no adjustment features at all, but this camera is so good, you don’t really need any. It also works well with Photobooth, and Skype. It does NOT however work with iMovie. It needs a firewire camera for that, but it DOES work with quicktime, so if you have Quicktime pro, you can record video, and then import them into iMovie, so it’s not the end of the world.

It claims to be able to shoot 720p HD, but it’s not TRUE HD. It’s just falls short.

If you need a killer webcam, with awesome quality, and something so easy to hook up and use, even my 6 year old can figure out, this webcam rocks. The price is a bit steep, but when comparing it to the Macally IceCam2, there is no comparison. This wins in EVERY way. You get what you pay for, and for the higher price, you’re getting hands down, one of the finest mac webcams on the market.

HIGHLY recommended


Macally IceCam2 webcam

January 22, 2009

I mentioned in other reviews that I travel a bit, and am away from my family, and when traveling to Europe, phone calls can become quite expensive. Especially when you sign up for the European rate plan through AT&T and when you get home, they claim they had no record of you adding the service, and hitting you with a $900 phone bill.

I travel with either my MacBook Pro, or my MacBook, and with the built in iSight camera, it only made sense that I pick up a webcam so I can talk with my daughter… The wife too!

I went to my local Micro Center, and saw the Macally IceCam2 for the low cost of $29.99. RIght there, I should have known better. Nope. I’m a glutton for punishment, and enjoy pissing good money away, so against my better judgement, and the employee who assured me the quality was good, I brought this home.

 

Hi! I suck!

Hi! I suck!

 

I’m using this camera on a Mac mini. It’s the last model Apple released before the Intel models came out.

At first glance, the camera is quite stylish. I like the look of it. The clamp to hold it onto my flat screen monitor works well, but I can see this being an issue with thicker screens then I have. It’s made to plug and play right into the mac, using no drivers. It works with iChat, and it claims Skype, and other popular video chat services. This is all good news. I wanted it for both Skype, and iChat… Perfect, right?

Yeah, right…

The mini is a room, with decent light. I fired up the camera, and the screen was solid black. No image. I thought it was broken. I turned on a lamp, and saw something. I turned on another light, and saw my silhouette. Now, the room is lit well now, and there’s no reason for this to be so dark. I actually had to go into other rooms of the house, collecting lamps. I needed 4 lamps, all within 18 inches of my face to make out a halfway decent picture.

It also has a built in microphone, also a piece of crap. The sound is tinny, and you sound muffled and in a hole. This might not be so bad if you could use a different microphone, but alas, you cannot. The mac sees this camera and mic as one device, and it’s all or nothing.

Wow. This is pretty bad. There are NO adjustment setting in iChat to bump up the brightness. It does have a manual focus adjustment on the front, but it’s sort of like trying to polish a turd.

To say the least, I’m very disappointed in this camera. I want to actually SEE my family, and have to squint to try to make out who I’m talking to. This is going back to Micro Center immediately. I don’t even want to give this away. It’s THAT bad.


Air Photo Wifi Printing iPhone app

January 22, 2009

I recently came across a app on the iPhone that I thought was so genius, and worked so well, I had to talk about it. 

 

Air Photo Wifi Printing

Air Photo Wifi Printing

 

The company Sudobility released Air Photo Wifi Printing for $1.99 in the app store and if you use the iPhones camera to take photos, I highly recommend this. You need to download and install one small piece of software (that is free) that allows your iPhone to communicate with your computer, and act as a print server.

I’m still amazed at how easy this worked. I installed the software, installed the app, launched the app, and it instantly connected via Wifi to my Macbook Pro. No set up, no hassle. It just WORKS. I’m using a Canon MP620 Wifi printer.

First, you launch the iPhone app, and either shoot a photo, or choose an existing photo from your library. I chose this guy…

 

Bobby Lupo

Bobby Lupo

 

The image you are printing appears on the screen in the print dialog window, which is a very nice feature. The software uses Auto-rotation, so there’s no need to tell it landscape or portrait. You can decide to crop the photo, or use white space.

 

Bobby Lupo in the print server

Bobby Lupo in the print server

 

The software is compatible with Mac (Leopard, PowerPC of Intel) and that other popular computer brand “Those we do not speak of”.

Again, I can’t say enough good things about this app. Get it. It’s worth $4.99 so for only $1.99, it’s a steal. And if you don’t, Bobby Lupo will break your legs.


Belkin Mini Surge Protector with USB Charger

January 9, 2009

I tend to travel a bit being a musician, and the one thing that drives me insane is the lack of AC outlets in Hotel rooms. These days, when you travel with multiple people, everyone has a few items they need to charge. Laptops, iPods, cell phones, digital cameras, shavers… You get the point. Also, when looking for a free AC outlet in an airport, and you see some squirrelly emo looking college student has monopolized them all, you can now whip out your Belkin, and share the outlet… Or tell him that “30 Seconds to Mars” or “Dashboard Confessional” is two terminals over waiting for their plane.

There’s never enough AC outlets to accommodate everyone. I found a perfect solution. Belkin, who makes amazing products, came out with a portable charger that turns one AC outlet into 3 PLUS two USB charging ports. Sweet Christ, thank you Belkin.

 

Belkin Mini

Belkin Mini

 

They call it Mini… Well, it’s smaller then a normal power strip, but I wouldn’t say Mini. Pathetic complaint though. One of the more genius features, is the ability to rotate the AC plug 360 degrees, so it can accommodate an outlet regardless of it’s direction.

They have included a small plastic plug protector, that doubles as a little stand, so when you attach the protector to the opposite side of the AC plug, it allows the protector to sit flush against the wall.

 

Belkin

Belkin

 

The USB outlet is not a USB hub, and it does not transmit data. They are used solely for charging USB devices. An issue I’ve found on the USB chargers is that the power output is only 5V / 500mA at each port. This means, some devices make take longer then usual to charge with this. Just look at the specs of your device, so you will know if your USB device will charge.

The device is rated for 125V only, so a simple plug adapter will not work with this device in Europe, or traveling abroad. This is a bit of a disappointment. Also, a bit more room between the AC plugs would be nice, but for me needs, it’s perfect.

Overall, this product gets a strong 4 out of 5. Allow 120/240 and a 5 star product it will be!