Category Archives Reviews


Above: Look how much smaller the new bag is, yet it holds all my junk. Ahemâ¦I mean my essential gear for travel. ;-)

If you’re like me, you’re never really happy with your laptop bag. That was me for most of my life (well, most of my laptop toting life anyway), until about 5 years ago when I fell deeply and hopeless in love with Thank Tank Photo’s laptop bag. It was prefect. A pocket for everything â” I could even fit my Wacom tablet in it â” it was justâ¦perfect! Especially for someone who carries a lot of stuff (see below).

Here’s what’s in my bag (as seen above):

  1. 15″ MacBook Pro (this is my main computer day in, day out)
  2. A bunch of plastic cards (gift cards, Delta club card, Hilton Honors card, etc.)
  3. USB drive with backup stuff
  4. One-Tb Back-up hard drive of my entire MacBook, plus USB 3 cable
  5. iPad Charger and cable
  6. iPhone charger and cable
  7. Lexar USB 3 CF and SD card reader
  8. Wacom Wireless Pen and Pen Holder
  9. Backup Wacom Pen
  10. Wacom USB Cable
  11. Bendable Laptop LED light (I use it to light my outline during a seminar)
  12. Love Book (That’s what my daughter called it when she gave it to me. It’s always with me).
  13. Two sets of business cards (I know, that’s probably one too many)
  14. MacBook Charger and Cable
  15. Five Sharpie pens (for signing books and stuff)
  16. Bose headphone adapter
  17. Another USB Flash backup (for paranoid presenters)
  18. Guitar Pick. Hey, ya never know.
  19. OK, I’m carrying more USB drives than I need.
  20. Two DVI adapters to connect MacBook to projectors (one and a backup)
  21. Copy of Photoshop User magazine, outlines for my tour, notes, fan mail from some flounder
  22. Wacom Intuos Pro tablet “Small”
  23. Collapsible iPad stand
  24. AAA batteries just in case my headphone’s batteries go dead. I know, I don’t need three â” just one.
  25. Bose Quiet Comfort Headphones (I so love these things, but I hate their bulky carrying case).
  26. A tin of Altoids (Curiously strong mints)
  27. Screen and Lens wipes
  28. Lens cleaning cloth
  29. Logitech Wireless Slide controller (for slide presentations).
  30. iPad Air
  31. Small bag of marijuana.
  32. Made ya look! ;-)

 

About a year or so ago I saw Think Tank Photo’s booth at a tradeshow (I think it was Photo Plus in NYC), and I thought I’d go pick up another one just like it to replace mine …until I heard the sad newsâ¦.they had discontinued it. I was stunned. It was the best, ever, hands-down and now it’s gone.

It was at that moment that I knew I would have to hold on to my old bag until it literally disintegrated, but luckily that day never came because Wednesday I got something even better than my old Think Tank laptop bag. A brand new, smaller, lighter, better-designed (like they made it just for me) laptop bag. It’s the “My 2nd Brain” Briefcase 15 and it is my new laptop bag dream come true. My world finally makes sense again (Not really).

Above: I did a little iPhone video tour of the bag (iPhone video work by the amazing bearded Brad Moore) to show you how it does it’s thing. It has a perfect pocket for my Wacom tablet, and a separate just for your iPad (In my old bag, I just tossed mine in where I kept my papers and magazines). 

I had pretty much given up on Think Tank Photo ever making another Laptop Bag, and I just cannot tell you excited I was when I found out that not only where they making them again â” that the new one was that much better, smaller and lighter than the old one, but it still held all my gear â” now it’s all just more organized. You’ll have to check out the video to see all the compartments, pockets, sleeves and clever stuff this bag has inside and out. Very well designed, and built like a tank. Super Mclovin’ it!

It sells for $144 over at B&H Photo (that’s where I buy all my stuff). Worth every penny!

Hope this First Look helped you find the bag of your dreams, and here’s wishing you fantastic weekend filled with lots of amazing images. See ya back here on Monday.

Best,

-Scott

Above: The rear view, with the included combination lock attached to the PNY hinge-link. 

A few weeks back I reviewed MacLock’s “MacBook Pro Security Bracket” for securing your laptop from theft when unattended (here’s the link). When I posted that review, a few of the commenters pointed me to PNY’s new “ThinkSafe” lock for the MacBook Pro Retina display model, so I immediately ordered it to do a comparison (and here we go!).

How it works
Basically, this works by having you slide a hard, thin piece of metal between the hinge in your laptop’s lid so it sticks out of the back of your MacBook Pro (scroll way down to see a close up of it). There’s a small hole in the end (the part that sticks out) and the lock hooks right through it (and you wrap the lock around something that won’t move, like a chair leg, or table leg) and that’s it â” the two become one.

Above: Here’s the little hinge lock from the keyboard view. You only see that little metal plate, but that plate doesn’t sit flush â” it kinda slides around loose unless its locked down. 

PROS:
It has a combination lock, which I much prefer over a key lock (if you lose the key, you’re hosed — your MacBook isn’t leaving when you leave, and that freaks me out). Plus, you can register your four-digit code with PNY in case you ever forget it.

The price: it’s only $20 including the combination lock. That’s a third of the price of the MacLocks solution, at around $60.

It comes with a carrying pouch that keeps it all together nicely for travel.

It also supports the MacBook Air & MacBook Pros with the built-in lock hole

It can’t easily be defeated by someone with a small screwdriver.

CONS:
This really isn’t something you would leave attached to your MacBook Pro all the time. You really need to attach it when you need to lock it, and remove the whole thing when you don’t, because the way it sticks out of the back of your MacBook Pro, makes it tough to fit comfortably in a laptop bag. It also looks kind of awkward when not in use.

The potential for scratching everything from a desk, to your MacBook itself is pretty high. It’s a piece of metal hanging out from the back of your computer. As long as you just use it when you need to secure it, it’s probably OK, but if you left it on all the time, something’s gonna get scratched.

You can’t change the four-digit lock code. They give you a pre-programmed code when you buy the lock, so you have to memorize it, because you can’t change it. That’s surprising.

The instruction manual is really poorly designed. It looks very easy at first glance, but it’s confusing as anything for such a simple device. There are not quite enough visuals and not nearly enough text to describe some aspects. It took three of us to figure it out. Having six languages on the page didn’t help the matter either.

The clip that slides into your MacBook’s hinge just sits there kind of loose (not flat and tight), so when it’s not locked down, it slides around, clanks and giggles a bit, and generally is somewhat annoying, kinda like having a large paper clip sliding around between the hinge in the lid of your laptop. It’s not quite that bad, but close. This kinda surprised me as I figured it would be a snug fit.

Above: Here’s a close-up of how the lock attaches to the metal hinge-link that sticks out of the back of your MacBook Pro. There’s a hole in the metal plate, and the lock hooks into it. 

Bottomline
Both of these will do the job of keeping your MacBook Pro from getting swiped unless you come across a determined thief with both time and the right tools. In the end, I see the MacLocks solution as one I can leave on MacBook Pro all the time and only use it when I need it by just taking out my lock. The PNY is one I would need to install each time I want to use it. It’s a quick install (once you know how to do it), but still, you have to take it on/off each time, so it is a different beast.

If I had to choose between the PNY and the MacLock’s solution, I’d spend the extra $40 and go with the MacLocks, because I think it’s an easier-to-live-with solution for everyday use. If you only lock your MacBook on rare occasions, then just spend the $20 on the PNY — it’ll do the job.

Overall Rating
If I actually had a five-star rating-system, with 5 being best, I would give it 4 stars, knocking off a star for the clunkiness of the clip; the fact that you have to take it on/off for the most part, and for the really bad manual.

PNY ThinkSafe Portable MacBook Locking System
Price:
 $20
Works on: Apple MacBook Pros, MacBook Pro with Retina Display, MacBook Air
Available from: Amazon.com

Above: Here’s the small metal locking hole that attaches to the bottom of your Retina MacBook Pro. 

Since this is supposed to be only a 90-second review of MacLocks “MacBook Pro Security Bracket,” I’ll cut to the chase (and then give you the back story if you’re so inclined).

Pros: It’s super-easy to attach (took all of two-minutes and a child could do it). It’s so sleek and slim you don’t even notice it’s there, which is a big step forward. In fact, it actually looks good. The included lock is cleverly designed and the whole thing feels solid and well-built. The install instructions are simple, visual and clear (the locking instructions themselves aren’t quite as good, but not horrible).

Cons: I still hate having to use a key for the lock (rather than a combination lock). If I lose the key, my laptop is staying at the stadium. They have good reasons for using a key for some IT situations, but I would love it if they would offer a combination lock as an option.

Plus, as before (with the older version) the achilles heel of the whole system is that it can be defeated if a potential thief has a very tiny screwdriver — they can just remove the plate altogether and walk off with the laptop (of course, they could just cut the cable with an industrial grade wire/cable cutter, too, right?), but it’s unlikely that either would be the case in the situations where you’d need to lock it down temporarily. So, while it’s not a perfect system, I think it’s as close as we’re going to get at this point.

Bottomline: This is the laptop lock I’ve been waiting for. They totally nailed it! A big leap up from their original clear plastic locking system, which I had been using until now (I wrote a review back in Nov 2012 – here’s the link). It’s not bulky and clear plastic like the old one; it’s lightweight, it’s not obtrusive, it looks and feels much stronger; the lock is better, and it’s faster/easier to attach. Big improvement over the old model, and it’s what I’ll be using from here on out.

Above: Here’s the bottom of the Retina MacBook Pro so you can see the full assembly attached to the top. By the way, these stunning review photos were taken with my iPhone, so be kind. LOL! ;-)

Above: Here’s a close-up of the lock attached to the security bracket. The bracket has little round rubber feet that cover Apple’s existing rubber feet. The whole thing is pretty unobtrusive, especially compared to the earlier model.

Overall Rating
If I actually had a five-star rating-system, with 5 being best, I would give it 4-1/2 stars, knocking off the half star because they don’t offer a combination lock option (only a key lock).

Price: $69.95 (though it appears to be on-sale for $59.95 right now)
Works on: 13″ and 15″ Retina MacBook Pros
Available from: MacLocks.com
Red stars with 2-pixel back stroke: Done in Photoshop

That’s it in 90-seconds. If you want more detail, see below.

————

OK, why do we even need a security bracket like this?
The Retina MacBook Pros are so thin Apple wound up having to leave off something that was a staple of most previous MacBook Pros: the specially designed security locking hole. You inserted the lock directly into the chassis of your laptop. That was sweet, but now they’re gone.

That left me leaving my MacBook Pro unlocked in an un-attended photography work room at stadiums where I was shooting games, until I came across the original MacLocks solution (in November of 2012), which which used a hard, clear plastic case that you screwed into the bottom of your MacBook Pro and it had a hard plastic nub with a hole sticking out the back corner where you could insert their custom lock and lock your computer down. It actually worked pretty well (and protected my laptop until now), but there were two issues on that old model:

(1) The plastic case was a bit bulky and added weight
It covered the entire bottom of the laptop, and that added to its thickness and weight (which stinks because one of the best features of the MacBook Pro was its light weight and thin size). It didn’t bother me at first, but as time went on, it became kind of a pain (and the plastic edge sometimes snagged the sides of my laptop bag. In fact, it finally cracked the clear plastic case on one side).

(2) The clear plastic case kind of looked like you could break it off without too much trouble.
I don’t think it would be easy, but just looking at at, it looked like it might be, and if someone actually did try, they would pretty much trash your laptop. So, even though they might not actually take your laptop, they could trash it to where you wouldn’t want it when they were done trying. It’s a win/lose proposition.

That why this new solution is so much better. You don’t even really notice it, so it doesn’t draw unwanted attention, and it doesn’t look like clear easily breakable plastic.

Hope you found this helpful. :)

Cheers,

-Scott

I just got mine on Friday and here are my initial thoughts: Take an iPad and make it smaller, thinner and lighter and you’ve got an iPad mini. The experience is really just about identical. OK, 50-sec

onds left:

Q. Is it as light and thin as you thought it would be?
A. Actually, it’s thinner and lighter than I was expecting. If actually feels lighter than my iPhone 5. Once you use it, and then pick up your old iPad, the old one feels like a brick (which it never did to me before, but it sure does now).

Q. What about the lack of Retina display?
A. I thought this would bother me, but you really have to be looking for a difference to notice it at this smaller size. Everybody I’ve shown it to was surprised at how good the screen looked after reading about the lack of Retina display. I guess if you put them side-by-side you’d notice.

Q. How about speed? 
A. Seems really zippy. I’m sure in a bench test it would rate it quite a bit slower, but it doesn’t feel like it.

Q. How do you feel about the price?
A. I think they should have come in at $299 to start, or even $249, but the market will determine if it’s actually too high.

Q. Do books and magazines feel too small on that smaller display?
A. This is one of the first things I checked, and they actually look great, especially paperback books. The size is right on the money.

Q. What are people’s reactions to it?
A. Every single person I’ve shown it to falls instantly in love with the size, thinness and how amazingly light it is. Two said they’re going to sell their larger iPad to get this one. You actually have to see it and hold it to really appreciate it.

Q. What if you already own a different type of small tablet and therefore this review has absolutely nothing to do with you?
A. Then you should take this opportunity to attack Apple, the iPad mini, me, and the other stupid people that buy Apple products.

Q. Are you really suggesting that?
A. No, but it’s going to happen anyway (sigh).

My one complaint with my new Retina Display MacBook Pro is that it no longer has a locking hole drilled in the side of the laptop itself, so you can no longer secure your laptop with a Kensington security lock and cable (like you could with other MacBook Pro models). So far, after searching around the only simple solution seems to be this new clear plastic skin from http://www.macLocks.com which lets you attached a cable lock.

Here’s how it works:
You remove five screws from the bottom of your MacBook Pro, then (using the supplied screws and screwdriver) you attach this very lightweight clear, plastic “skin” to the bottom of your laptop (it has ventilation slats), and it has special locking mount in the back right corner (seen in the photo below). I tried it at the Bucs/Chargers game on Sunday and it worked well (and the lock and cable come with the unit).

If you look it it, of course, this plastic skin is not unbeatable (you could break it but it would take some doing and likely trash the computer in the process) but unfortunately that might not be obvious to a thief at first (it looks more breakable than I think it is), so while you might still have your computer at the end of the day, if they seriously tried to break it, your MacBook Pro will probably be fairly damaged as well  — so think of it more of a deterrent but certainly not a local version of Fort Knox.

Its Achilles Heel
If the would-be thief has a very small screwdriver, they can just turn your laptop upside down, remove five screws, and just slide the plastic plate off, so when you return you’ll find a still-locked cable attached to a clear plastic plate, and your laptop will be gone. Yikes!

If I could change one thing…
…..it would be that it has a combination lock rather than a key-lock, because if you lose that key you’re really stuck (you do get one back-up key, but you’d better have it on you). Other than that, it seems well-thought out and so far seems to be the best solution out there in the absense of the old Kensington lock with a hole drilled in the body (like before) and so it makes a less-than-ideal situation workable for folks who need to lock down their laptop when they step away.

Price: $59.95
From: MacLocks (direct link)

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