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Thirteen-inch lightweight laptop shootout

[Update: It's worth noting that, is it did with last year's Portege R705 model, retailer Best Buy is selling one of the Portege R835 models at a steep discount. The Portege R835-P50X, with an Intel Core i3 CPU, Wireless Display, and WiMax, is available for $749, while its original list price is $899.]

If you're looking for a thin, stylish 13-inch laptop, this is your lucky month. We've seen an influx of eye-catching, highly portable notebooks making their way through the CNET offices, including the Toshiba Portege R835 and the Samsung Series 9. Add in the current second-gen 13-inch MacBook Air, and you've got a trio of worthy choices at this screen size (we're still waiting to get Sony's new 13-inch Vaio S, which also looks promising).

While the MacBook Air has been the gold standard of ultrathin 13-inchers, the new Samsung Series 9 NP900X3A has done its best to emulate the style on a Windows laptop. It certainly surpasses the MacBook Air in one important category: price. The real question is, do you actually need a superslim laptop if there's a nearly equally lightweight, slightly less-thin option that's much more affordable?

The Toshiba Portege R705 was an Editors' Choice laptop in 2010, and its successor, the Portege R835-P56X, ups the ante in 2011; it earned Editors' Choice honors, too. Its $900-range price is more palatable, and it even has an optical drive in its thinner-than-a-MacBook-Pro chassis.

Related links • Toshiba Portege R835-P56X review • Samsung Series 9 NP900X3A review • Apple MacBook Air review

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Analyst: MacBook Air sales continue to be strong

The second-generation MacBook Air is proving to be a strong seller for Apple, and one that could bring the company $2.2 billion in annual revenue if the current pace keeps up. That's according to a note by J.P. Morgan analyst Mark Moskowitz sent to investors earlier today, and picked up by the Financial Post.

Citing data from Gartner, Moskowitz notes that Apple shipped 420,000 MacBook Air units in the fourth quarter of 2010, which is up 333 percent from the same quarter last year, and 326.8 percent from the previous quarter. Moskowitz said that if … Read more

Swapping batteries in Apple's laptops

While some of Apple's new laptops are built with internal batteries to increase power capabilities, other systems still have easily removable batteries. In similar systems, the batteries are interchangeable, and while it may be obvious that you can swap batteries among these systems, some people may also have concerns about doing this. Some of these might include whether or not the system would read battery status properly and if charge values would be similar across multiple machines.

Recently MacFixIt reader David wrote in with such concerns:

"Since I own two batteries for my Intel Core Duo MacBook Pro … Read more
Tweak your OS X interface

If you're not already a pro at using the command line, OnyX is a solid tool for conducting routine maintenance and tweaking the interface on your Mac. This free utility can help you with everything from checking SMART status on your disks to configuring the Dock, Finder, and Dashboard and Expose to your liking. The latest version adds several fixes to speed up the cleaning process.

Also this week, we have the latest version of Tinderbox, the idea-mapping tool that helps you connect disparate thoughts or information visually to keep you better organized. Our game this week is Battle for Wesnoth, … Read more

Apple to make power adapters with rechargeable battery packs?

According to AppleInsider, Apple may be looking into building its own external battery pack for iOS devices and Macs, a popular third-party accessory for many Apple product owners.

A patent filed by Apple and found by AppleInsider shows how Apple would build a rechargeable battery into its power adapters, allowing anything from MacBook Pros to iPods to get an extra boost of juice when batteries are running low and a wall outlet is not available. Despite many rechargeable battery packs being available on the market, Apple says they may not provide the best solution:

"'Such external batteries are generally … Read more
Supplemental OS X 10.6.7 patch available for MacBook Air

Yesterday Apple issued a supplemental update for OS X 10.6.7 that addresses a few hangs that owners of the 13-inch MacBook Air (late 2010 model) were experiencing after applying the initial OS X 10.6.7 release. The hangs happened when users would play and manage music in their iTunes libraries, and was caused by an error with how protected audio files were being handled.

The update is a small 461KB patch that addresses compatibility issues with the AppleUpstreamUserClient and AudioAUUC system components, which are extensions that help manage protected audio content. It should be available via Software … Read more

MacBook Air too pricey? Thin HP laptop hits $399

Hewlett-Packard is offering a good deal on a well-received ultraportable that is less than half the price of Apple's least expensive MacBook Air.

Why the mention of Apple's MacBook Air? Apple's 2.3-pound laptop is the standard by which all other ultraportables are judged. Like it or not, that's the way things are.

But let's get to the topic at hand. The HP Pavilion dm1z can be had for as little as $399 direct from HP after entering a coupon code. That's a pretty good deal for a laptop that is a cut above … Read more

If GarageBand '11 is unable to create new guitar tracks

According to a few commenters in the Apple Discussions support forums and a recent Apple knowledge base article, some may experience an issue using GarageBand '11 in which they are unable to create a new guitar track, even though they can create other real or software instrument tracks.

Apple says that the problem can occur if you chose to do a custom installation of a previous version of GarageBand and then moved the instruments and loops to a new location.

ASD forum user "Martyputz" writes:

I can create real instrument and software tracks, but NOT a new guitar … Read more

Mac OS X 10.7 Lion close to Golden Master release

According to tech news site TechCrunch, Apple may be ready to deploy the first Golden Master (GM1) of Mac OS X 10.7 Lion. The release will be a major update since last month's developer preview, which many thought, according to the report, wasn't as smooth as it could have been.

"Apple has been working through many OS X Lion bugs and performance issues as they move towards the stated Summer release date. Given that GM candidates are already nearing, they definitely appear to be on schedule."

This is good news for those of us patiently … Read more

Adobe hammers DNG nail in PowerPC coffin

An Adobe Systems tool that lets older software handle raw images from newer digital cameras is about to leave behind Apple's PowerPC-based Mac era.

The upcoming version 6.4 of Adobe's DNG Converter will be the last to run on the older Macs, said Lightroom product manager Tom Hogarty in a blog post over the weekend. The software is used to convert digital cameras' proprietary raw-format images into Adobe's Digital Negative format. It's useful in part because older versions of Photoshop aren't updated to support newer cameras, but using the DNG Converter can bridge the … Read more