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New Macbooks: It’s On

Posted by Scott

oct14th_macbook_1.jpgmacbook_mockup1.jpgpicture-41.pngLooks like we’re on for Oct. 14th after all. It’s also pretty clear that most of the rumored upgrades to the Macbook and Macbook Pro lines are going to be a reality (glass trackpads etc.). What I’m really excited about is the possibility of 3GHz quad core and 8GB ram options for the Pro, this might be the first true desktop replacement I’ve seen that’s actually portable. And all this starts at $1799 (there goes that theory).

New Macbooks: October 14th

Posted by Scott
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brick_mbp.jpgUpdate: The above spy shot of what’s believed to be the new Macbook case showed up on Engadget today. While this seems promising, a lot of sites have been reporting that the release will not happen October 14th as previously anticipated. If and when these new Macbooks come it will most likely be November or January. Guess I’ll have to limp along with my DV9000 hackbook a little longer.

I’ve been anxiously awaiting the (supposedly) impending release of the updated Macbook and Macbook Pros. Word has it they’ll be announced and possibly available on October 14th and will feature a case carved from a solid block of aircraft grade aluminum (known as “the brick“) driving down the cost and increasing strength thanks in part to a revolutionary new manufacturing process. This is a pretty interesting theory, but along with all the other theories about what the new Macbooks will look like, it’s just that: a theory. A seemingly unlikely theory at that; last time I checked, solid blocks of aluminum weren’t called “bricks”, they’re called billets and carving them up isn’t cheap (although I wouldn’t put it past Apple to somehow reinvent this process).

Whether or not any of the rumors are true, it’s a safe bet that some form of Macbook updates will be announced next Tuesday. glass trackpad or no. This is pretty exciting because after much deliberation I’ve finally settled on getting a Macbook Pro to handle my laptop duties. I’ve been using a HP DV-9000 running OS X for a couple months now to test the waters and it’s been a very nice experience all around. I still use the PC for all the production work (music, design, etc.) but OS X is just so much better for blogging, quick video edits, and playing live. At this point I honestly wish I could switch over entirely but I still can’t quite go all in for music production. The software I use (Sonar) is PC-only so I’ll have to stick it out at least until I am done with this current album.

Anyways, long story short: If you’re considering a new laptop purchase you might want to hold out until next Tuesday because your choices might get a lot more interesting. Those of you considering upgrading, what new features would it take to convince you?

Above mock-up via Cult of Mac

Another Nikon Full Frame Coming?

Posted by Scott

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Just in case you’re in the market for a new DSLR and all of the recent announcements weren’t enough for you, this supposedly leaked ad from Nikon Japan just hit the web. The word “Big” appears next to a shadowy DSLR body, perhaps insinuating an impending compact, full-frame Nikon on the horizon. Here’s to hoping this potential model bridges the rather large chasm between the D90 and the D700 and maybe even throws in some of that HD video lacking from the D700 for good measure.

Via Engadget

The Canon 5D MKII

Posted by Scott

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Update:
Added some new images above via DPReview who have a very detailed write up of the new 5D on their site.

21-megapixel, full-frame, Digic 4, full HD video, 6400 ISO….Game over. The ridiculously anticipated Canon 5D MKII is now official and if this wasn’t worth the wait, I don’t know what is. Canon has hit each and every feature and performance threshold I was looking for in a new DSLR and then some. Expect it on store shelves by end of November with a sticker price of $2700 for the body or $3500 with the 24-105mm kit lens. Yes, that’s steep, but take a look at these features:

•14-bit conversion
•3.9FPS unlimited burst rate with JPEG using UDMA CF card, or 14 RAW (standard CF card is 78 JPEG, 13 RAW
•Four-channel readout that’s 2.2x faster than the 5D
•Lens peripheral illumination correction, like 50D, but better supposedly
•15-point auto-focus
•Creative auto mode, also like 50D
•Auto-lighting optimizer
•Three levels of noise reduction that kicks in above ISO800
•RAW, sRAW1 (10MP), sRAW2 (5MP)
•Three-inch, 920,000 dot-screen
•New and improved battery (incompatible with old one) that delivers 850 shots or 1.5 hours of video
•150,000 cycle shutter
•Magnesium alloy body
•NO built-in flash BTW

Jumping from my $2000 D80 kit to this price threshold will be a bit of a stretch, but if this new 5D lives up to it’s performance claims, it will be well worth it. I know nothing can truly be future-proof, but com’on, 21MP? That’s more than enough to make this my workhorse camera for the foreseeable technological future. I love it when a new piece of kit comes out that is so far superior to it’s rivals that it makes the decision easy for you; the 5D seems like one of those things. After my long deliberation over which DSLR to upgrade to it’s nice to see a logical conclusion. I had toyed with the idea of moving to the D90 for the HD video alone, but it’s other specs were so similar to my D80 that it just didn’t seem worth the upgrade.

In my book, the 5D MKII beats Nikon’s recently announced D700 for two reasons: HD video (which is inexplicably absent from the D700) and price (it’s $300 less than it’s Nikon counterpart). I don’t own any pricey Nikon glass, both my lenses are decidedly sub-par, but even if I did, I’d have to believe I’d still give this thing more than a passing glance. How about all you other Nikon users? Would any of you who are invested in Nikon lenses still consider moving to Canon for a camera like this?  Let us know

Via Gizmodo

Nikon D90 & Canon 50D Now Official

Posted by Scott

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Update: Some more D90 specifics can be found here

The long rumored Nikon D90 is now official and is the first DSLR with HD video recording capabilities. The $999 (body only) 12.3MP camera sports a new image sensor with similar high ISO performance to it’s bigger brothers the D700 and the D3, but at a considerably lower price point. Sounds like a winning package; I currently use a D80 and a lot of the features described would be welcome upgrades to my current rig. But at this point, it wouldn’t be worth it to move over to a camera with such marginal performance increases, I am thinking the recently announced D700 will be my next upgrade (or whichever is their latest at that level when I do take the plunge).

This new Nikon release comes in the wake of Canon’s recent 50D announcement. The 50D is the first pro-sumer level camera with the lauded Digic 4 processor. With the 15.2MP sensor on board, it’s a nice entry point for people not willing to fork over the dough for the 5D. At $1400 (body only) the 50D is considerably cheaper than it’s more robust sibling, but will at least get you in the same performance ballpark as the 5D.

I think these two cameras are a great sign of things to come for us graphic designers. Having a high performance camera in your kit is essential for any serious designer, but it’s hard to justify spending so much on one when photography isn’t your primary occupation. I think the D90 and 50D fill a nice little gap in the DSLR price range, and although the 50D carries a larger price tag (a $400 bump over the D90) it sounds like the extra features make a compelling case for the extra expense. I just don’t know if I can make the move to Canon just yet, I’ll have to see how this plays out.

Logitech MX1100

Posted by Scott

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Logitech’s new MX1100 mouse has been getting some glowing reviews and I’m pretty excited to get my hands on one. I have been using an MX Revolution for a couple years now and the battery is failing, so this new model with replaceable batteries will be a welcome addition. The ergonomics on the Logitech mice are great, but the hyperscroll wheel is reason enough to switch (so handy when you’re way zoomed in on a PSD and want to move around quickly). I have tried to make the switch to Wacom pads before without much success. How about everyone else? Do you use a mouse or a tablet, or both? Do you find either is more conducive to design or is it just a simple issue of ergonomics? Let us know in the comments

HP Elitebook: MBP Killer?

Posted by Scott

eb mini-bn_6930p_topclosed HP has announced several new notebooks, but one in particular has a design-centric feature set that has really piqued my interest. I have been using HP notebooks for years now, it’s not that I’m really in love with them, it’s just that they are so damned powerful and ridiculously cheap. Of course that has come at a cost, the construction is downright shoddy; both of mine have broken at one time or another, luckily I had warranties on them. I travel with a TX-1000 series for internet / email chores and a hulking DV-9000 series for on the road video / graphics duties (along with running the visuals for live shows). I am really tired of the sub-par display quality and power management of most PC notebooks so I have been looking at replacing mine with a MacBook Pro. I really like the physical construction of the MBPs and the the power management of OSX (my HPs both have abysmal battery life stats). But HP’s past offenses aside, I may have to reconsider my switch in light of this new breed of designer-targeted notebooks.

The recently announced HP Elitebook 8730w comes with a Dreamcolor display. That’s pretty impressive for a laptop; the specs on the Dreamcolor displays are amazing (1,000,000,000 colors?!) and to have that kind of color reproduction on the road would be a huge advantage. Add to that a dual-SATA drive option (two physical disks for Photoshop Swap Drive duties or RAID-0/1 configurations) along with dual DVI outs (one onboard HDMI/DVI socket, one external via the optional dock) and docking capability (something the MacBook inexplicably lacks) and you have yourself a portable graphic design powerhouse. Another incentive is the anodized aluminum "Duracase" which is hopefully better than the brittle plastic they made the previous models out of. Given the specs (Quad Core Intel / 8GB RAM / 1GB VRAM!) you could get away with using this as your desktop machine as well.

My only concerns with this new offering are the lack of a 15" screen option (17" is a bit too large to really be portable in my opinion) and the fact that HP is gloss-happy when it comes to screens. On both my laptops the screen is so glossy that the glare prevents me from seeing the screen in most outdoor environments (and many indoor environments). The don’t seem to specify whether the screen on the 8730w is glossy or matte, but if they end up offering a 15" matte screen option they can put me down for one.

And the real kicker? It’s $1699. That’s US dollars, and it’s not a misprint. $1699!!!  A comparably equipped MacBook Pro doesn’t exist, but even a lesser-equipped MBP would run you over double that figure. It’s times like these I feel lucky to be so entangled in the complete disaster that is Windows. I learned on Windows and really can’t fully divorce myself from it and therefore am at it’s mercy, so when a great hardware option like this comes along I have to be thankful. Oh yeah, and a Windows XP downgrade option is also available on the 8730w; this is opposed to the earlier HP / MS bed-buddy policy of forcing you to use Vista on new laptop purchases. They went as far as to remove the XP drivers from their site for my DV9000 when Vista came out just to force me to upgrade. To tell the truth, XP has matured into a remarkably stable operating system. I have tested it extensively versus OS X and it’s stood up to the challenge. I will admit that OS X is overall a more stable and reliable OS, but when configured properly, XP gets the job done and gets it done faster.

So here’s to hoping that the 8730w lives up to the hype and eventually spawns a 15" incarnation; it would be a valuable addition to any designers arsenal and a very cost-effective one at that.

Have you used or do you own a Dreamcolor display? What do you think? Any other potential Mac switchers swayed by this recent development? Let us know.