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Think you have a loud or noisy CD/DVD drive in your MacBook / MacBook Pro?

Apple was kind enough to record the noises from SuperDrives installed in MacBooks so that we can compare our drive sounds to that of “normal” SuperDrives.  In my opinion, the SuperDrives make horrible loud clunky noises completely unbefitting of sleek laptop like the MacBook or MacBook Pro

Listen and compare your cd/dvd drive noise to these official Apple “SuperDrive” sounds.

I’m not sure why, but I can’t help but laugh when hearing these sound clips.

(Photo: Ben McLeod)

First find your current sleep setting by opening Terminal in OS X and entering this at the prompt:

pmset -g | grep hibernatemode

That should return you something like “hibernatemode 3”. Remember this number, send an email to yourself, write it down on a scratch pad, whatever it takes to remember your default mode. Mode 3 keeps your RAM powered during sleep to allow super fast wake-up, but also writes an image file of all memory onto disk in case power is lost.

To change the hibernate safe sleep setting to not create an image file on the disk, i.e. mode 0 (mode zero, not the letter ‘o’), enter the following in a Terminal window:

sudo pmset -a hibernatemode 0

Enter your password when asked to do so. This prevents Safe Sleep from saving your memory contents to disk, in large part the cause of not being able to wake MacBook’s from sleep.

If you’d like to get back about a gigabyte or more of disk space, delete the memory image file with the following Terminal command:

sudo rm /var/vm/sleepimage

Macworld has a great article with more information about safe sleep and hibernation on MacBooks.

Open the lid and nothing? Tap keys, change brightness, close and re-open lid and your MacBook still in sleep mode?

Solution: Turn off Safe Sleep. Or use Smart Sleep.

If you open your MacBook lid and notice that you can’t wake your MacBook from sleep, it’s because of the Safe Sleep system Apple designed. This system puts all your current memory (your RAM) onto the disk, so that it can power down the RAM, save energy, and keep the current working state of your computer, even if you ran out of battery power, changed batteries, etc.

Problem is, it’s slow. And buggy. Often when waking from sleep by opening the lid, the MacBook will remain in sleep.

My solution to this: don’t use Safe Sleep. Unless you’re constantly working on battery power and hate plugging in, you likely won’t ever notice you’re not using Safe Sleep’s hibernate to disk mode.

Here are some instructions on how to turn off Safe Sleep on a MacBook Pro Leopard or Tiger to avoid wake-up problems.

If you still want to use Safe Sleep with disk caching of RAM, use Smart Sleep by Patrick Stein. This software adds a preference pane to your Mac, allowing you to not use disk hibernation until you reach a low battery level, say 20% remaining battery.

In a follow-up to my previous post on the best laptop screen – MacBook Pro 15″ LED backlit screen, I’ve discovered why the laptop screen is quite different in displaying the same photo as compared to something like a Samsung SyncMaster 206bw which I use as my secondary display.

It comes down to screen gamut [pronounced gammet], or how many colors a display can accurately represent. For example, a black and white display has less gamut than a color CRT with a dead electron gun, which in turn has less gamut than a fresh new Apple MacBook Pro LED screen.

Viewing a dedicated display like the Samsung side-by-side with any laptop screen, will make the laptop screen look “washed-out” in terms of color, simply because the laptop screen cannot produce as many different colors. At extremes you’ll have one color replace another, for example, light reds replacing what should be orange hues (which is the most notable deficiency in colors of the MacBook Pro LED screens).

This doesn’t mean the MacBook Pro LED screen is bad, it’s actually the best in terms of color gamut amongst all of the previous Apple laptop screens.

For a more in-depth discussion of color gamut on the MacBook Pro 15″ LED displays, check out these posts from James Duncan Davidson and Rob Gailbraith.

To reduce the temperature of my MacBook Pro I use smcFanControl by Hendrik Holtmann.  Normally my MacBook Pro would run somewhere close the 55-60C mark without doing anything intensive, say a 10-15% average CPU utilization.  I found this somewhat hot for my tastes, especially when using the built in keyboard where it would be uncomfortably hot to touch the speaker/heat dissipation grilles on either site of the keyboard.

I generally run the two internal MacBook Pro fans at 2600rpm each to keep the temperature 50C or below, depending on ambient temperature.  The cost is a little fan noise which is noticeable in a dead quiet room.  If you’ve got any music or background noise, you won’t notice it.  Either way, it’ll blend into the background quickly since it’s “white” noise anyways.

I’m unsure which version is the latest for smcFanControl so here’s another link to smc Fan Control version 2.1.2 in case it’s more recent than the above link.

This post was due to a comments discussion on how to turn off the macbook pro display when using an external display for Front Row.

The Best Laptop Screen available on the market is on a MacBook Pro “Santa Rosa” (named that for their use of the Intel Core 2 Duo chips using the “Santa Rosa” line, i.e. 2.2Ghz and 2.4Ghz speeds). Alright, that’s a bit of a strong statement. The Best Brightness on a Laptop Screen… is found on a Macbook Pro 15.4″ Santa Rosa model. The 17″ MacBook Pro’s still do not feature the LED backlit screen.

UPDATE 080519: MacBook Pro LED color gamut review.

UPDATE: 1920×1200 LED backlit display MacBook Pro 17″ models are now available.

So…

Why is the MacBook pro backlit LED laptop screen so good?

Instant Screen brightness control

Instant changes to the brightness of the screen, brighter or darker, which is perfect for those who use their laptop on batteries often and thus have a relatively short “sleep display” time. For example if you don’t do anything on your laptop for 1 minute, the screen will go black due to the lamp inside the screen turning off to save battery power. Inside old school LCD screens is a fluorescent tube which performs the lighting of the LCD transistors which are creating colored pixels. The problems or drawbacks with fluorescent backlit LCD screens is that the tubes need time to warm up before reaching their full stable luminosity or brightness. Thus, each time the lamp turns off and cools, and then is relit, there will be a period of time where the brightness of the screen is constantly growing as the tube reaches full temperature. LED’s, Light Emitting Diodes, don’t suffer from this problem and reach maximum stable brightness, instantaneously.

If Apple could fine tune their ambient light sensor control software to be more “fuzzy” and less “on/off”, the automatic screen brightness control would be useful. At the moment, the light meter is simply too jittery. Pass your hand over the sensor for an instant, and the screen’s brightness dims because it thinks the ambient lighting has changed. Quite simply, this is retarded. The lighting control software should be taking ambient light measurements and use a moving average as the target luminosity rather than try to adjust the screen brightness instantly with every flicker of light reaching the sensor. The human eye doesn’t adjust that quickly (think about waking up to someone slamming open the shutters or turning on the lights… ouch), so why try to make the MacBook Pro screen brightness change so quick?

LED backlighting uses less energy

The second reason LED backlit MacBook Pro screens are great: they use less energy. This is a simple fact of life (or physics I suppose) that LED’s use less energy than fluorescent tubes, to produce the same quantity of lumens or light power. Lower power consumption on a laptop is always a good thing since that is one a laptop’s main goals: to work on a limited power supply, for as long as possible.

Drawbacks of MacBook Pro 15.4″ LED backlit screens?

Weak Color Richness

The light produced from LEDs is “whiter” than that of fluorescent tubes. By “whiter”, I don’t mean it has less soul, but rather its higher in the color temperature scale, often measured in Kelvin. The effect is similar to that of Xenon lamps in car headlights. The inert gases used in Xenon lamps produce a light that is higher on the color temperature scale and have a bluish white cast. That bluish color is actually white, but we’re so used to old school incandescent lighting that we’re accustomed to a yellowy orange color in our light bulbs. Thus, on a MacBook Pro LED backlit LCD screen, the color appears more washed out and less rich than that of fluorescent backlit screens. For some, this will be a difficult thing to get over, especially art and design professionals for whom color is critical. For the average user, unless they are using a secondary display side by side with their MacBook Pro’s screen, they will not notice the difference. Until you have a point of reference, it is very difficult to tell that the color on a MacBook Pro is different at all. I happen to use a Samsung Syncmaster 206bw with my Santa Rosa MacBook Pro, thus, I can tell the difference in color richness, and it’s significant. Adjustments to the color on my LED backlit screen cannot bring more richness to the colors either. It’s simply a basic difference in lighting and no amount of adjustment to color balance can make LED light appear like fluorescent light.

Conclusion on LED vs. Fluorescent backlit LCD screens?

The constant instant brightness is noticeable every time I bring my screen out of sleep. The difference in color is only noticeable if I have the exact same window displayed on both of my screens simultaneously and I look back and forth between them. Thus, the good outweighs the bad, and you have to search for the bad in order to find it, whereas the benefits are always immediately visible.

I would choose the LED backlit screen again if I had to redo my order.

Update March 1, 2008: More on LED backlighting on the MacBook Pro 15.4″

Probably the nicest feature introduced on the Santa Rosa MacBook Pro’s is the LED backlit screens. The reason? Instant brightness adjustment (which Leopard now fades in for that ultra smooth user experience…).santa_rosas.png

When waking up a dozing Santa Rosa the screen (in Tiger) gets to full brightness immediately. In Leopard it fades into the preset brightness in a couple seconds. This is really noticeable when using the lappy attached to a second external LCD which uses conventional fluroscent tube backlighting, which takes about 5 or so minutes to get to normal operating brightness.

Over the longterm screen brightness should stay quite a bit more constant as well. If you’ve ever compared laptop screens from the same model but from different ages, side by side you’ll notice the older laptop screen is not as bright as the fluro tube gets dimmer as it ages. Not too much of an issue as you can continue to increase brightness (unless you’re a max brightness kinda guy/gal already).

And finally, LEDs use less energy to produce the same lumens as a tube so you get a bit longer battery life as well.