iMac retail shortages hint at new models on the horizon

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Date: Monday, July 26th, 2010, 04:14
Category: iMac, News

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A number of Apple retail stores have apparently run out of stock of both current 21.5″ and 27″ iMac models, ahead of an expected refresh to the desktop Mac hardware.

Per AppleInsider, a reader sent word Sunday that the 21.5″ iMac, and quad-core 27″ model are both unavailable for the Reserve and Pick Up option at the company’s retail store in Buffalo, N.Y. In addition, some desktops are unavailable in other locations, including Apple’s Fifth Avenue store in New York City, where the quad-core 27″ is not available for pick-up.

However, for those shopping on Apple’s online store, the hardware is still scheduled to ship within 24 hours.

The changes to the company’s Reserve and Pick Up option come soon after Apple warned its direct and indirect sales channels of near-term shortages of the iMac. The company is drawing down its inventory ahead of the launch of new models, expected to arrive in the coming weeks.

Among those out of stock in some locations are the 3.06GHz 21.5″ iMac, of which Apple has told distributors not to expect any further stock, implying that production of the model has ceased.

Potential configurations of the new hardware include a dual-core Core i5 model and quad-core Core i5 and Core i7 configurations. Sources close to the story had previously indicated that Intel’s low-end Core i3 processor would also find its way into the iMac line.

Earlier this month, it was alleged that the forthcoming iMac update would add USB 3.0, as well as faster FireWire connectivity. The new hardware is not expected to have support for Blu-ray discs.

Signs of another hardware update also came through Apple’s online store Reserve and Pick Up option last week, when customers discovered limited availability of the company’s other line of desktop machines, the Mac Pro. Users found that multiple retail stores showed no availability of either the Quad-Core or 8-core Mac Pro models.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Current 27″ iMac unable to accept 1080p video input, firmware update may be en route

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Date: Thursday, July 22nd, 2010, 03:34
Category: iMac, News

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Apple’s updated 27″ iMac launched with a new feature: a Mini DisplayPort video port that worked in both directions, enabling external video sources to output video to the screen. Unfortunately, this feature is largely limited to 720p in HDTV applications however.

Per AppleInsider, this limitation effectively limits the iMac to accepting video input from recent MacBooks or other computers that produce DisplayPort video, which works significantly differently from earlier analog VGA or digital formats such as DVI/HDMI.

The shortcoming can be bridged by a converter box that accepts a DVI/HDMI signal (the two video standards are essentially the same in different packaging), transforms it to DisplayPort signaling, and scales it to the output resolution of the iMac.

A simple physical adapter won’t work for video input due to the iMac’s DisplayPort-only input limitation; cheap Mini DisplayPort-to-HDMI adapters can only extract the HDMI output signal the iMac generates and pushes through its Mini DisplayPort connector. They do not do any signal translation.

Two products that can do this translation work are the AV360™ Mini DisplayPort Converter and Kanex HD, both of which retail for US$150. However, while those products appear to be capable of generating both 720p and 1080p output, the 27″ iMac only accepts 720p video or its native 2560×1440 resolution.

It appears the 27″ iMac could accept 1080p input, and certainly can support display of the video resolution, as it falls well within its 2560×1440 native resolution. A similar problem affects Apple’s 24″ LED Cinema Display, which has a native 1920×1200 resolution but only supports that resolution via its DisplayPort input; like the 27″ iMac, it won’t accept a 1080p signal (1920×1080), the common format of higher end HD equipment such as HDMI set top boxes and the PS3, even though it appears it should be able to.

The problem is that Apple’s EDID (Extended Display Identification Data) on the iMac and LED Cinema Display doesn’t advertise 1080p as an option. EDID is a simple data structure a display sends to output devices that outlines what video formats and settings it knows how to support. Both devices appear capable of 1080p but simply don’t advertise that capability in a way that external devices like the AV360 and Kanex HD can take advantage of.

It appears Apple could update the firmware for these displays to enable support of 1080p input, allowing users to input full 1080p video from devices such as a PlayStation 3 or current MacBook. Users might not notice a major difference, as experts say its hard to see a real difference between 720p and 1080p on screens smaller than 50 inches.

However, some devices are hardwired to only support 1080p, and can’t scale their output to support the Cinema Display’s slightly higher resolution nor the 27″ iMacs much higher resolution, forcing them to downscale to 720p or not work at all (as is the case with the LED Cinema Display, which is really only indended to work with Apple’s Mini DisplayPort-equipped MacBooks and modern desktop Macs).

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Rumor: Apple to update iMac, Mac Pro desktops for fall, add USB 3.0, improved FireWire

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Date: Monday, July 19th, 2010, 03:12
Category: iMac, Mac Desktop, Rumor

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Amidst the cacophony of the iPhone 4 press conference, French website Hardmac reported Friday that Apple aims to update its iMac and Mac Pro desktops in time for its back to school sales period. The report cited one of the site’s “better sources” in relaying the information.

“On this occasion, Apple should inaugurate two great innovations, the arrival of USB 3.0 and a faster FireWire interface, 1600 or 3200,” they wrote. “Thus, FireWire will not be forgotten. Note that Apple is also interested in LightPeak technology, but they do not expect to use it or set it up before one year.”

Finally, the report also said that the new hardware will not support Blu-ray discs. That news should come as no surprise to those who have heard Apple Chief Executive Steve Jobs’ assessment of the format. Jobs was recently alleged to have said that the physical medium’s days are dying, and will give way to digital download services like iTunes.

The USB 3.0 specification was in Apple’s hands over a year ago. The new standard will be ten times faster than the current Hi-Speed USB standard (USB 2.0), and also more power-efficient, leading to lower active and idle power requirements. Like its predecessor, USB 3.0 is backwards compatible with USB 2.0 devices.

Rumors of a new Mac Pro have persisted for all of 2009, with Apple expected to adopt Intel’s Gulftown processor, the 32nm Core i7-980X with six cores. The chips have 12MB of L3 cache. Apple usually doubles the processors in its high-end professional workstations, so it’s possible the new Mac Pro system could have a total of 12 cores and 24 threads.

The last major refresh to the Mac Pro equipped it with its Nehalem Xeon processors, with a high-end eight-core Mac Pro offering two 2.26GHz Quad-Core Intel Xeon 5500 chips. Last year, Apple quietly upgraded that to a potential maximum 2.93GHz eight-core system.

Last October, Apple updated its iMac desktop line, redesigning the hardware with a new edge-to-edge glass design and seamless all-aluminum enclosure. The LED-backlit iMacs come in screen sizes of 21.5″ and 27″.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple releases firmware updates for 27″ iMacs

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Date: Thursday, April 15th, 2010, 04:12
Category: iMac, News, Software

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Apple’s in one of its update-o-rama sprees again and late Wednesday, the company released firmware updates for its popular 27″ iMac line.

The first update, the 27″ iMac SMC Firmware Update 1.0, a 397 kilobyte download, fixes Target Display Mode compatibility issues on 27″ iMac computers.

The second update, the 27″ EFI FW Update 1.0, a 2.0 megabyte download, addresses the newer Intel Core i5 and i7 iMacs and fixes the following issues:

– Resolves an issue that sometimes caused high processor utilization while playing audio through the headphone output mini-jack.

– Resolves an issue that prevented the display backlight from turning on after powering on the iMac.

Both updates can be located, downloaded and installed via Mac OS X’s Software Update feature and require Mac OS X 10.5 or later to install and run.

If you’ve tried the updates and noticed any differences, please let us know.

Rumor: Apple Looking to Bring HDMI Ports to Various Macs

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Date: Tuesday, March 2nd, 2010, 05:20
Category: iMac, Mac mini, MacBook Pro, Rumor

Because the rumor mill’s fun, sources have stated that Apple plans to introduce HDMI ports on some of its systems this year, embracing a current trend among its competitors.

According to AppleInsider, a prototype of the Mac Mini has been seen with an HDMI port by two sources close to the story. The port sits besides mini DisplayPort connector and marks the first instance of full-featured HDMI connectivity on a Mac. It also represents only the second Apple product to feature the port outside of the company’s fledgeling Apple TV streaming media device. Cosmetically, the Mac mini is otherwise said to look identical to existing models, with no other visible changes to its enclosure.

At least one of the Mac mini prototypes described by those privy to the hardware is said to include Nvidia’s MCP89 chipset, which is the successor to the existing MCP79 (or GeForce 9400M) chipset found alongside Intel’s Core 2 Duo processors across the majority of Apple’s existing Mac product line.

However, an ongoing Intel licensing dispute with Nvidia will prevent Apple (and other PC makers) from using the MCP89 supporting chipset alongside its latest generation of Nehalem-based Core i3, i5 and i7 processors. As a result, Apple may continue to rely on existing Core 2 Duo (pre-Nehalem) processors as part of its upcoming Mac mini revision.

Alternatively, the Mac mini prototype in question could have been in development before Intel’s disagreement with Nvidia came to a head, meaning successive prototype revisions that forgo the new Nvidia chipset in favor of Intel’s may have since emerged, though there’s no evidence thus far to support that theory.

Click the jump for the full story…

Apple Improves 27″ iMac Ship Time, Raises Cap on 3G Downloads

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Date: Friday, February 19th, 2010, 05:33
Category: iMac, iPhone, News

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Following Apple’s recent troubles with its 27″ iMac and a wait time of up to three weeks, AppleInsider is reporting that the company has dropped the ship time to five to seven days, suggesting that the company has managed to address the video issues that haunted the desktops. The change applies to both the Core 2 Duo and Core i5 powered versions of the computer.

Early adopters of the big-screen iMac have seen a number of hardware issues pertaining to the screen, with reports of flickering and yellow discoloration. The company released two software updates to fix the issues, and also reportedly offered some customers a 15 percent refund for their troubles.

Supplies of the 27-inch iMac have been constrained for months, with Apple in December even apologizing for delays, citing considerable demand form consumers. When it first launched in October, the new iMac was the best-selling desktop machine for the month. The 21.5″ iMac came in first place, while the 27-inch iMac took third in overall sales.

In other news, Apple quietly doubled the download limit for files from the iPhone App Store and iTunes via 3G. Users can now download files up to 20MB in size from a wireless carrier’s data network. The previous cap was 10MB for “over the air” downloads.

In addition to applications, the new limit also applies to multimedia files, such as podcasts available through iTunes. The update expands beyond AT&T in the U.S., with international reports stating the 10MB cap has also been lifted.

If you’ve played around with the new limit, let us know.

Apple Releases Second Firmware Fix for Flickering 27″ iMac Screen Issue

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Date: Wednesday, February 3rd, 2010, 06:28
Category: iMac, Software

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Late Monday, Apple released its second firmware update to attempt to resolve the infamous screen flickering issue found on some late 2009 27″ iMac units.

The iMac Display Firmware Update 1.0, a 294KB download, will reportedly “address issues that may cause intermittent display flickering.”

The update requires Mac OS X 10.6.2 or later to install and run and applies to all 27″ iMac models.

If you’ve snagged the firmware update and installed it, please let us know how it worked.

Second 27″ iMac “Flicker Fix” Apparently in the Works

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Date: Tuesday, January 26th, 2010, 07:13
Category: iMac

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Apple’s 27″ iMac is large. And awesome. And spiffy.

And it still kind of flickers.

Per AppleInsider, an Apple Discussions forum thread spanning nearly 250 pages has resulted in conversations with AppleCare representatives who claim a new update is forthcoming. A month ago, Apple released a software fix for the flickering issue on the 27″ iMac, but since then users have said it did not address the problem.

One user, Dennis Murphy, said he was told that AppleCare technicians were issued a bulletin on Saturday that stated a fix would be released in about three weeks. The Apple employee was allegedly instructed to collect customer contact information so they can be reached when the fix is released.

“This would clearly explain the extended shipping times we’re seeing,” Murphy wrote on the forums.

Last week, Apple delayed shipments of new direct-order 27″ iMac units by three weeks. Supply issues have persisted for months, with Apple in December apologizing for the delays.

Another poster, wrote that an Apple representative told them a combination software and driver patch is due in roughly three weeks.

“This will reportedly resolve the issue of the screen flickering (it is not hardware causing the issue),” the user wrote.

The three weeks allegedly cited by AppleCare technicians would coincide with the existing three-week wait time for direct orders of 27-inch iMacs.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

27″ iMac Delays Continue, Set Shipments Back Three Weeks

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Date: Friday, January 22nd, 2010, 06:30
Category: iMac, News

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Things can’t be perfect all the time.

After apparently resolving shipping delays with its popular 27″ iMac desktop, Apple has delayed forthcoming orders of the computer by three weeks.

According to AppleInsider, while the 21.5″ models of the new iMac currently ship within 24 hours, as of Thursday new 27″ iMacs have a three-week estimated shipping time. Only days ago, the Mac maker had improved its supply of the larger models to shipping times of less than a week.

The sudden delay comes just one week after Apple’s authorized resellers began receiving their volume shipments of the 27″ model.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available and if you’ve seen this delay on your end, please let us know.

Apple Releases SuperDrive 3.0 Firmware Update

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Date: Wednesday, December 9th, 2009, 08:20
Category: iMac, Mac mini, MacBook, Software

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Amid its slew of updates, Apple also released its SuperDrive 3.0 firmware update. The update, an 18.4 megabyte download, helps eliminate the noise made by the optical disk drive during system startup and wake from sleep on your Mac. The update applies to some MacBooks, the iMac and the Mac Mini and requires Mac OS X 10.5.7 to install and run.

The SuperDrive 3.0 update can be located and installed via Mac OS X’s Software Update feature and requires Mac OS X 10.5.7 or later to install and run.