O'Grady's PowerPage » MacBook Air

Study finds mid-2013 MacBook Air’s 802.11ac Wi-Fi speeds throttled by bug in OS X

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Date: Tuesday, June 25th, 2013, 07:51
Category: MacBook Air, News, Software, wireless

Even in the event that the Wi-Fi connectivity issues on the mid-2013 MacBook Air notebooks are hardware-based, the underlying operating system software is apparently throttling potential data speeds on the new networking protocol.

Per AnandTech and CNET, a series of tests by AnandTech confirms that much of the Wi-Fi speed throttling is software-based. The new MacBook Air was announced by Apple at the recent Worldwide Developers Conference, and in addition to extended battery life, the new systems include support for 802.11ac Wi-Fi networking, which supports up to three times faster data rates in comparison with 802.11n.

In testing, AnandTech noticed that the link speeds of the systems are very high, at an average of about 533Mbps, but when transferring files over standard networking protocols, the speed drops to about 169Mbps at its maximum. This is over three times less than the expected speeds.

In investigating the issue, AnandTech discovered that an apparent bug in OS X limits the TCP window size (the maximum data that can be sent at a time) to a maximum of 64KB, which is far less than the 256KB needed to meet the speed capabilities of the 802.11ac connection.

As a result of this finding, AnandTech shows that in its current state, while the 2013 MacBook Air will still give fast file transfers, these will be limited to about 21MBps, instead of the more than 50MBps expected. Luckily, this limitation being in software means the fix should be easy, and it may be only a matter of a quick update for these systems to realize their full potential.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple looking into mid-2013 MacBook Air Wi-Fi issues, “capturing” units for study

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Date: Tuesday, June 25th, 2013, 07:41
Category: MacBook Air, News, Software, wireless

This might be why your friends, the ones who wait a month or two after a brand new product hits the market, could be right…

Per 9to5Mac, over the past few days, a notable amount of users have complained about Wi-Fi issues plaguing the new 11-inch and 13-inch MacBook Air models released during the week of WWDC. Besides less-battery-intensive chipsets, the marquee feature of the new MacBook Air revolves around faster Wi-Fi connectivity thanks to new 802.11ac cards. As with any new product, bugs are plausible. It’s also been noted that new reports claim that the MacBook Air WiFi issues are due to networking issues in Apple’s OS X software.

The following facts are currently in place:

In the United States, Apple Geniuses and Advisors should capture MacBook Air (13-inch, Mid 2013) and MacBook Air (11-inch, Mid 2013) computers with any Wi-Fi issues.

According to a source at Apple, the company is working to independently identify what exactly is causing the new Wi-Fi-related problems. According to the source, AppleCare and Apple Store Genius Bar employees have been instructed to “capture” affected MacBook Air units. These units will then be sent back to Apple for further testing so a solution could hopefully be achieved. While Apple is asking AppleCare and Genius Bar staff to “capture” units facing problems, that does not mean Apple is confirming the new MacBook Air is flawed. This points to Apple pushing to determine why at least some units are seeing Wi-Fi problems.

There have also been reports of at least a couple of customers facing MacBook Air WiFi issues who have successfully swapped out their notebooks for new ones. One of these people has said that AppleCare provided them with a complementary USB-to-Ethernet adapter so the new MacBook Air could connect to the internet without Wi-Fi. Apple also informed these people that their original laptops have been “captured”.

If you’ve picked up Apple’s latest MacBook Air notebook and have any feedback to provide about its 802.11ac Wi-Fi performance, please let us know in the comments.

Growing number of users cite Wi-Fi connectivity issues with 802.11ac-equipped MacBook Air notebooks

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Date: Friday, June 21st, 2013, 05:15
Category: MacBook Air, News, Software, wireless

To be fair, this is what they invented firmware updates for.

Per Gizmodo, some early adopters of Apple’s latest MacBook Air models have found their new thin-and-light notebook will unexpectedly and repeatedly drop its wireless connection.

A growing discussion thread on the Apple Support Communities website details the connectivity problems being experienced by numerous users. The problems appear to apply to both the 11- and 13-inch varieties of the recently updated notebook lineup.

In addition, an anonymous source from an Apple retail store in London said that their store has had complaints about wireless connectivity for the new MacBook Airs that are “well above average.”

In the thread, users say they’re experiencing the problems across a range of routers, including Apple’s own AirPort accessories. Users say they can initially connect to a Wi-Fi network, but that connection will drop after a short period of use.

At the moment, there doesn’t appear to be an available solution that addresses the problems seen by all users, though some have had success with various routers or even different placement of the MacBook Air.

The updated MacBook Air lineup launched last week at Apple’s annual Worldwide Developers Conference. In addition to faster 802.11ac connectivity, the notebooks also feature Intel’s latest Haswell processors, helping to enable battery life as great as 12 hours.

The new MacBook Airs are also priced US$100 less than their predecessors, with the new low-end US$999 11-inch model packing 128 gigabytes of flash storage.

If you’ve picked up the new MacBook Air and noticed any issues with Wi-Fi connectivity, please let us know in the comments.

Intel-based MacBook Air batteries show best-ever test results according to Macworld Lab

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Date: Thursday, June 20th, 2013, 06:02
Category: battery, MacBook Air, News

The new MacBook Air batteries have been tested.

And you’ll probably like the results.

Per Macworld, the Macworld Lab has completed its run of tests on Apple’s new battery for its updated Haswell-based MacBook Air notebook. And while Macworld Lab didn’t experience the 12-hour battery life cited by Apple, the tests do show that the new MacBook Air lasts considerably longer than before. The results were better than anything seen before by the lab.

The tests were run with the brightness set to maximum and made sure that automatic brightness adjustment was off, backlit keyboards were off, and Screen Saver was set to never start.

In the first test, the lab looped a movie clip in full screen mode with Wi-Fi disabled. The new 11-inch MacBook Air lasted 6 hours and 6 minutes, compared to just 3 hours and 34 minutes for the 2012 model. The new 13-inch standard configuration MacBook Air lasted 8 hours and 18 minutes, 36 percent longer than the new 11-inch MacBook Air, and 65 percent longer than last year’s 13-inch MacBook Air. Compared to a 2013 13-inch Retina MacBook Pro, the 13-inch MacBook Air lasted 75 percent longer.

The lab also ran the tests on “ultimate” configure-to-order (CTO) MacBook Air models from this year and from last year. There wasn’t too much of a battery life hit on the new CTO model compared to the standard configuration; the standard configuration model lasted just 11 minutes longer than the CTO unit that has a faster processor, more RAM, and twice the hard drive capacity. Comparing this year’s CTO “ultimate” to last year’s, they saw that the new model lasted 65 percent longer.

The second run of tests used Futuremark’s free Peacekeeper browser test, which has an option to run the online test repeatedly and report the time at which the system being tested stops responding. This test is much more taxing than the movie playback, using more of the system’s memory and processor. Hence, the lab found that the notebooks couldn’t last as long when running the Peacekeeper test, but did find that the performance still scaled as expected.

In the Peacekeeper tests, the new 13-inch standard configuration MacBook Air lasted the longest at 5 hours and 45 minutes, which was 2.5 hours less than in the movie test. The new 13-inch standard configuration model lasted 41 percent longer than the new 11-inch model and 25 percent longer than the new CTO MacBook Air. It should be pointed out, however, that the CTO Air outscored the new stock 13-inch MacBook Air by about 20 percent in the tasks that Peacekeeper repeatedly runs during its battery test. The new standard configuration 13-inch Air lasted 63 percent longer than last year’s 13-inch MacBook Air and 67 percent longer than the 13-inch Retina MacBook Pro.

The increased battery life is the result of two under-the-hood changes to the MacBook Air. First off, there is more battery capacity. iFixit’s teardown demonstrated that the new models using slightly higher capacity batteries. Second, the new MacBook Air has also switched from using Intel’s third generation Ivy Bridge Core processors to fourth generation Haswell processors. A key difference between the generations is decreased power consumption, which results in increased battery life on the portables it powers.

If you’ve picked up a new Haswell-based MacBook Air notebook and have any feedback about its battery life, please let us know about your experience in the comments.

Parallels Desktop updated to 8.0.18494

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Date: Tuesday, June 18th, 2013, 05:52
Category: MacBook Air, News, Software

parallelslogo1.jpg

Late Thursday, Parallels released version 8.0.18494 of its Parallels Desktop virtualization software. The new update, a 336.4 megabyte download, adds the following fixes and changes:
- Use Parallels Desktop with OS X 10.9 Mavericks Developer Preview (experimental support).

- Work with Parallels Desktop on new MacBooks Air (Mid-2013).

Parallels Desktop 8 retails for US$79.99 and requires a 64-bit Intel-based processor, Mac OS X 10.6.8 or later, 2GB of RAM (4GB recommended to run Windows 7), at least 700 MB of space available on the boot volume for Parallels Desktop installation and 15 GB of available disk space for Windows.

If you’ve tried the new version and have any feedback to offer, let us know in the comments.

iFixit completes Haswell-based MacBook Air teardown, finds changes in battery, SSD, other modules

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Date: Wednesday, June 12th, 2013, 06:21
Category: Hardware, MacBook Air, News

The Haswell-based MacBook Air is out, and in their usual fine style, the ubergeeks at iFixit have completed a full teardown of the notebook. Per AppleInsider, the updated notebook features minor changes seen in battery size, the SSD module and integrated graphics, among others.

Most notable among the hardware revisions is an enlarged battery, which moves from a 7.3V 6700mAh pack to a 7.6V 7150mAh unit. The cells still dominate the Air’s innards.


13.06.12-MBA_Teardown

Apple touts the new 13-inch model will last 12 hours on a charge, but the battery is not thought to be the main contributor to that spec buff. Instead, the Air uses Intel’s Haswell ULT silicon, which offers huge decreases in power consumption while serving up snappier performance.

With Haswell, Intel moved to its next-generation integrated graphics solution, Intel HD Graphics 5000, which doesn’t require a separate board.

Adding to the updated component list is a new SSD module from Samsung, which is smaller than similar parts used in previous MacBook Air iterations. With the new size comes new technology, as the latest SSD unit uses a PCIe bus rather than SATA, a first for Mac. PCIe can achieve rates of up to 800MB/s, while SATA is limited to about 600MB/s.

The new Air is also the first to employ the fast 802.11ac Wi-Fi protocol, which required the computer’s wireless card to be updated. Apple launched redesigned AirPort Extreme and Time Capsule models to take advantage of the new standard, and is planning on incorporating the technology into future Macs as they roll out.

The only change made to the MacBook Air’s chassis is a hole to accommodate the addition of a second internal microphone used for sound cancellation duties.

Other smaller tweaks include a redesigned heat sink clamp, repositioned speaker cabling and a revamped MagSafe 2 board that no longer holds a socket for the laptop’s iSight camera.

If you’ve gotten your mitts on the new MacBook Air and have any feedback to offer, please let us know in the comments.

Haswell-based MacBook Air sports record-breaking SSD benchmark test results, PCIe bus cited

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Date: Tuesday, June 11th, 2013, 07:52
Category: Hardware, MacBook Air, News

If you were considering snagging a brand new, just-released MacBook Air notebook, you’re going to like this.

Per 9to5Mac and French web site MacBidouille, Apple’s new Haswell-powered MacBook Airs produced SSD read and write speeds so fast in bench tests that they initially thought it must have been a bug in their test software. A second run in different software revealed that, no, the latest Airs really do offer read & write speeds higher than the maximum possible with SATA 3.

The secret is that Apple is using the same PCIe-based SSDs in the latest MacBook Air as they announced for the new Mac Pro …

On the storage front, Apple officially leads the charge with the move to PCIe based SSDs. The upcoming Mac Pro, as well as the new MacBook Airs both use PCIe based SSDs instead of SATA drives. A quick look at OS X’s system profiler reveals a PCIe 2.0 x2 interface, capable of 1GB/s in each direction.

PCIe (Peripheral Component Interconnect Express) is the standard already used in the ExpressCard slot used in some notebooks, and offers a direct link to the motherboard without the bottleneck created by a SATA interface (SATA 3 tops out at 600MB/s).

A series of tests over on AnandTech confirmed MacBidouille‘s results, with even higher speeds seen on larger file transfers, describing it as the first time PCIe storage has been seen in a mainstream consumer device.

While Apple’s focus for the new CPU was better battery-life rather than faster speed, tests show that the processor speeds are 3-8% faster than the previous models.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple releases updated MacBook Air, cites 12-hour battery, Intel Haswell architecture

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Date: Monday, June 10th, 2013, 12:45
Category: Hardware, MacBook Air, News

It’s the MacBook Air with the battery you always wanted.

Per The Mac Observer, Apple introduced updated MacBook Air models on Monday during its World Wide Developer Conference in San Francisco. The new ultra-light models sport what Apple called “all day battery life” and also run Intel’s Haswell UTC processors.

The new 13-inch MacBook Air offers up to 12 hours battery life and over a month of standby time, and while it doesn’t gain a high resolution Retina Display, it does include 802.11ac wireless networking — a first for Apple’s product lineup. The new Wi-Fi spec means the MacBook Air can transfer data faster and network connections are more robust.

Like the previous model, the new Air includes Thunderbolt and USB connectors, a built-in camera and microphone, built-in speakers, Bluetooth, and more.

The updated MacBook Air is available now and is priced at US$999 for the 11-inch model, and the 13-inch model is US$100 less at US$1,099.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

13-inch MacBook Air inventory beginning to come up short, new models expected around WWDC

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Date: Monday, May 20th, 2013, 06:29
Category: MacBook Air, News, retail

When the inventory numbers trend downwards, the cool new stuff tends to be around the corner.

Per AppleInsider, availability of Apple’s 13-inch MacBook Air had apparently begun to dry up at major authorized resellers.

The popular 13-inch MacBook Air with a 1.8-gigahertz processor and 256-gigabyte solid-state drive is currently out of stock at resellers Amazon, B&H, MacConnection, and MacMall. In addition, J&R is currently advertising that the thin-and-light notebook is only available for purchase in its brick-and-mortar stores.

In fact, one of the few resellers that is currently advertising available inventory of that 13-inch MacBook Air configuration is Best Buy.

Constrained availability of existing models is often one of the first signs of an impending product refresh, as Apple draws down inventory in anticipation of the release of new hardware. Apple’s annual Worldwide Developers Conference, scheduled for June 10 through 14, would be an opportune time for the company to introduce newly updated MacBook Airs.

Ming-Chi Kuo of KGI Securities indicated last month that Apple apparently plans to introduce new MacBook Airs featuring Intel’s next-generation Haswell processors at WWDC. The new ultraportable notebooks are expected to go on sale before the end of June.

Intel Haswell chips are scheduled to launch the first week of June, boasting more capable processors that will consume less power, leading to longer battery life on notebooks. The chips will also feature next-generation Intel HD 5000 integrated graphics that will offer a 50 percent in improvement over the previous 4000-class.

Kuo also said that Apple will likely introduce Haswell-powered MacBook Pro models at WWDC 2013. He expects that updated versions of the legacy, optical-drive-equipped MacBook Pro will launch alongside new MacBook Airs before the end of June, while a refresh of the premium Retina display MacBook Pro models will become available at a later date.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple releases MacBook Air Flash Storage Firmware Update 1.0 for mid-2012 MacBook Air notebook

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Date: Friday, May 17th, 2013, 05:20
Category: MacBook Air, News, Software

If you’re using a mid-2012 MacBook Air, you’re going to want to snag this.

Per 9to5Mac, Apple on Thursday released its MacBook Air Flash Storage Firmware Update 1.0, a 1.69 megabyte download that helps to address problems with the device recovering from a crash. Apple release notes said the update addresses “a storage firmware issue that, in rare cases, may cause a system to fail to recover from crash.”

The update requires a mid-2012 MacBook Air notebook running OS X 10.7.5 or OS X 10.8.3 or later to install and run.

If you’ve tried the update and have any feedback to offer, let us know in the comments.