Speck SeeThru Satin MacBook Soft Touch Hard Shell Case

February 27, 2009

I’m always checking out review videos on YouTube for all sorts of gadgets, and one of my favorite reviewers is Carlos (Itsmemorphious). He picked up a new MacBook awhile back, and then mygearstore sent him a black Speck SeeThru Satin Soft Touch Hard Shell Case. After watching his video, I was very interested in checking that out for myself.

I LOVE the look and feel of my MacBook Pro. I didn’t want to cover it with a hard shell case. I have never used anything like this in the past, all the back to my PowerBook. So, I was originally thinking of getting the Clear case. But, damn, that black looked SO nice on his video…

I broke down, and ordered from http://www.mygearstore.com, and 2 days later, in my hands was my case.

Speck SeeThru

Speck SeeThru

My first reaction to the case was the texture. It’s amazing. Very soft, and silky feeling exterior, much like the InCase Slider iPhone case. It’s smooth, but has enough texture so you can grip it well. Very nice!

After giving both my MacBook and the inside top and bottom of the case a GOOD wipe down with iClear, I snapped the case on, and it does SNAP on. A very satisfying snap lets you know this is locked in place.

The black looks very classy. I read some reviews on the MacRumors forums, where people thought it looked “Cheap”. I have to say, I am the 100% opposite of this. I think it’s mostly InCase fanboys that say this, because honestly, it not only looks JUST like the MacBook InCase shell, but this one has more protection on the CD side.

This case DOES add bulk. Not enough to be a nuscience, but in fairness, it’s adds about a full pound of weight to the laptop. Not too bad really for “ding” protection on the aluminum frame. Would I feel confident if I dropped this? No way. It’s not that kind of case though. It’s made to protect the surface, and that it does well.

Even though this is black, the pulse light on the front of the computer, the battery level lights, and the Apple log itself glows through the case. I wish the logo was brighter, but it does show through. It looks more purple now then white, but people can still see you’re using the best. I bought the Bentley of the laptop world, I wouldn’t want a Dodge Neon cover for it. It NEEDS to tell the world “You suck, because you’re not me.” DONE. It does that.

I was worried about added heat. There is no heat increase at all with this case. I’m actually surprised by this. I thought it would add at least a few degrees to the normal temps, but not at all.

It does add a bit of size on the outside. I was using the RadTech sleev on my MacBook Pro, and it is VERY form fitting. Like a skin for it. I was hoping it would stretch on the case. I can get it on about 3/4 of the way, when it gets VERY difficult to get it on more… I have the same problem with condoms… OK, I don’t.

The texture on this case may make it very difficult to put any form fitting sleeve on, but I found this DOES fit into the InCase Neoprene case, with the white fleece inside. I have a review of that case on this site.

All in all, I love this case. I HIGHLY recommend this if you’re looking for a bit of protection, that looks classy, feels great, and let’s the world know you rule.

Thanks to Carlos for the killer video review, and the mygearstore promo code to buy it.

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Moshi Clear Guard

February 16, 2009

I love the MacRumors forums. There are many people there who are quite knowledgeable when it comes to all things Apple. I’ve found many great things by threads with reviews with recommendations. It’s a great place to join a Mac community. Saying that, believe me, MacRumors also has it’s fair share of internet douche bags as well, like most forums.

So, after purchasing the Moshi Palm Guard because of a thread there, and people absolutely loving that product, I saw the thread on the Clear Guard. It’s a very thin keyboard cover made to protect the Mac against minor spills. I didn’t want it for spills, I want it to protect the key from the acid levels in the oil of my skin. After a short amount of time of typing, the black plastic keys can easily “wear” some, and cause areas of almost a high polished shine to them, that won’t clean off. I can’t have that, so reading this thread, it had 2 pages of RAVE reviews, and I had to try it.

 

Moshi Clear Guard

Moshi Clear Guard

 

Once it arrived, and I removed it from the ENORMOUS box in which it came, my first impressions were very positive. The material is so thin, you seriously hardly notice it on the machine. After inspecting this, the fit is great… Wait… What the hell? The function keys don’t fit correctly… The space provided on the clear guard is larger then the function keys on the unibody MacBook Pro. UGH. This is HIGHLY disappointing since every photo of the product on their website is on a MacBook Pro Unibody.

I tried the clear guard on a white MacBook. Perfect Fit. I tried it on a wireless keyboard… Perfect fit. So, Apple changed their function key size to be a touch smaller, and Moshi still sells this as compatible with the new MacBooks… What a shame.

OK, getting past the poor top row fit, it’s actually not horrible. It still functions correctly, and has a bit of hang over on the top. I can live with that. The material does cause a certain shinny cast to the keys, but I can live with that too. The material allows for your back light to shine through perfectly. No problems there.

Typing on the CLear Guard has instantly frustrated me for a few reasons. The material is very thin (and that’s a good thing). The plastic material, even though is so thin, is also quite rigid, so it really gives resistance when typing. 

According to the people on MacRumors, I am certainly in the minority here on this one. I’m honestly stunned people say they hardly notice a difference when typing. For me, it’s a HUGE difference. It completely changes the way the keys react. I’m a pretty light typer, were I barely touch the keys when I type. Now, I can’t do that. I really have to press down. I find my self missing a lot of key presses with this on. 

My problem is because of the way I type. I don’t always press the center of the key. Sometimes, my fingers are on the key, but on the edge when I press down. With the Clear Guard on, I can’t do that anymore. The edges are very stiff. The center has move give, and pressed down very easily. I realized this by pressing down in between 2 keys, as to press two at the same time with the same finger. It’s very hard to do that. So, because of this, you need to be completely accurate when typing, and hit the keys dead center.

I have heat concerns, and some people will tell you the openings around the keys is one way the MacBook’s breathe, and draw in cool air, so I did a couple of tests. Sitting idle, the heat levels are basically the same. It doesn’t seem to make any difference, but when doing something processor intensive like a big render in Photoshop, the temperature difference was raised about 10 degrees fahrenheit with the lear Guard on then with it off.

I ran the same test several times, and I got similar results each time, give or take 1 to 2 degrees. After running the test with the Clear Guard on, I immediately removed the guard and it was very warm, especially at the top end around the function keys.

Take it for what it’s worth… It’s not a lot of heat, but in some cases, it CAN add to the temperature. Because of this, if there’s ever an issue with your Mac, I would suggest removing the Clear Guard before taking it to Apple, and not mention you use it. If they know it adds ANY heat at all, It would be very easy for them to place blame on you, and claim it voids the warranty. 

Overall, it’s a decent product. The thin see through material is fantastic. The product needs to be retooled to fit the Unibody MacBook’s perfectly in the function key area. I wish it was less rigid, so my finger placement doesn’t need to be dead on. It has taken me several days, of forcing myself to type on this, but it is growing on me. I’ll give this a good month, and decide if I keep it on or not. So far, it’s 50-50.


Elgato Turbo.264 Video Encoder Dongle

February 3, 2009

I own a 160GB iPod Classic. This iPod doesn’t have ANY music on it what-so-ever. I use it as a video playing device, coupled with my Apple AV cables, and treat this in much the same way as a DVR. I brig it with me on the road for hotel use, to friends houses when I want them to see something in particular, and use it in my bedroom on a nightly basis watching old episodes of The Shied or OZ. It’s handy, and reliable. The biggest problem has always been the conversion of my DVD’s or AVI files I download from the web. I ALWAYS encode with H.264 for better quality, and a more universal standard. iPhone, iPod, PSP. It all works.

Encoding video is very processor extensive, and on my MacBook Pro would sometimes take an hour for a 2 hour movie to Encode, if not longer, and during that time, the processors were running at a very high capacity, making even surfing the web a Painful task. Sort of like watching paint dry.

I picked up the Elgato Turbo.264 for $99 at the Apple store after reading good things about the speed. It’s a USB dongle that acts as a co-processor when encoding H.264 video using their bundled software.

 

Elgato Turbo.264

Elgato Turbo.264

 

Now, I’m not going to get into a lengthy review on the technical side of the Elgato. you can go to their website and read all that mumbo jumbo yourself. My concern here is to tell you how it works for MY needs.

The same 2 hour movie that takes me 1 hour and 10 minutes using (the now dead) VisualHub, took a mere 32 minutes using the Turbo.264 and the Turbo software. The software is pretty basic, and doesn’t allow you to tweak much in terms of video quality. All the settings are pre sets for Apple TV, iPod High Video, iPod Standard, iPhone, Sony PSP, and the new YouTube video.

The only one I really use is the iPhone setting. This way, it’s great on my iPhone and iPod Touch, it plays on my iPod Classic, and when I output video to a SD TV, the quality is fine for me to watch. It’s as good as the TV feed.

Not only is it faster to encode on my MacBook Pro 2.53 GHz Intel Core Duo, which is already a screaming fast machine, but it frees up processor use so I can continue to surf the web for pornogra… Err, Umm… I mean, new mac products while I wait for the video to encode!

I’ve read a lot of good and bad about this product. Bad, being Elgato’s lack of updates to their software to fix problem issues, and better video control. Some setting are said to be very buggy, but for my needs, this thing really works well. I have also read that a couple of other video conversation software is compatible with the Turbo.264, so here’s hoping that HandBrake will adopt it soon. I’m still crushed VisualHub has gone away. VisualHub and the Elgato Turbo.264 working in harmony? Damn. I WISH.


Moshi Palmguard for 15″ Unibody MacBook Pro

February 3, 2009

My original Mac Powerbook fell victim to the infamous black pitting on the aluminum in the palm rest area. I bothered me to no end, so when I bought my first Intel MacBook Pro, I picked up a Marware palm rest. It was grey, thick and cushy, but I didn’t case as long as it protected the metal from my obviously acidic hands. Damn my acidic hands…

Picking up  new unibody MacBook Pro, there was no way in hell I was going to let pitting happen, but at the same time this machine is so beautiful, I didn’t want to attach a semi-ugly palm guard.

Enter the MacRumors forum.

Looking at the forums in my daily stop, I found a thread about the Moshi Palmguard. People were all talking very highly about it, so I decided to check it out online. They claim the color matches the aluminum perfectly, and it was thinner then the old Mareware. I bit the bullet, and purchased it.

It arrived in only a few short days. Shipping was very fast. My first impressions to the packaging was positive. It was a very sturdy cardboard sleeve, protecting the palm guard from bending or creasing. nice touch.

 

Moshi Palmguard

Moshi Palmguard

 

 

I instantly placed it on the laptop, leaving the adhesive strip on the guard just to see the color match. Holy shit, it’s ALMOST perfect. Time to apply…

The adhesive is very strong on the guard, and will stick with little effort, so when putting it on, and being that I’m a perfectionist freak when it comes to this sort of thing, I took a few minutes to figure out how I would do this so it was perfect. Bulls eye. Dead on.

It applied easily, because the material is a harder, more rigid material. Sort of like a credit card of half the thickness. It has a slight texture to it as well, almost the same as the aluminum itself. The cut on this is perfect. It covers edge to edge, and very accurate with the notch for lifting the screen lid, and for the trackpad itself.

The only mark on it, is a very small “moshi” logo in the lower right hand corner, and it’s in a slightly darker grey that the aluminum, so you really have to look for it to notice it. It blends in so well, it’s hard to tell you’re using one at a glance.

It also came with a trackpad guard. I chose not to use this. Some people say the track pad has less sensitivity with it on, but testing it, I kept the adhesive cover on the back of it, and just laid in on top of the track pad, and it worked perfectly for me. No performance issues. The reason I chose not to use it, is it has the same texture as the palm guard does, and I really love the smooth glass feeling of the track pad itself. I didn’t want to lose that, so I left it off. What is nice, when you do place the track pad guard in place, everything sits flush.

The Moshi Palmguard rocks. I not only HIghly recommend this, but I insist you check it out, or I’ll send Bobby Lupo to your house.


Incase Neoprene Sleeve

February 3, 2009

Just a quick review here. Since the new MacBook Pro is now the new tenant living in the Matias Laptop Armor, I needed something to put the old MacBook in.

Off to the local Apple store! Hooray for Oak Brook!

I picked up 2 items on this trip. One, the Elgato Turbo2.64 (In another review) and the Incase Neoprene sleeve for the old MacBook Pro.

I seriously didn’t want anything special, just a sleeve to protect it from any mishaps that may happen with a 6 year old and a wife who isn’t the most docile human being in the world.

So, I literally looked for the cheapest sleeve in the store, and it was the Incase. $35 I believe. I picked it up in Black, of course. I mean, I’m METAL. What color would you expect?

Incase Neoprene Sleeve

When opening the case for the first time, I was surprised. I didn’t expect the white lining inside. The material on the inside of the case is amazing. Very soft, and lush. I almost want a shirt like this for the winter.

The MacBook Pro slides into the case easily, and there is a bit of wiggle room in the case with the laptop in it. Side to side, it’s a pretty close fit, but top to bottom, there’s about 3/4″ of space. I myself would have liked this to be less space, but, this is sort of a universal case, to hold different different models, so I won’t complain.

For $35 to protect the case, this works, and works well. I would seriously recommend this, especially if you toss your laptop into a backpack.