O'Grady's PowerPage » MacBook Air

Rumor: Apple to release aggressively-priced $799 MacBook Air to compete with second-gen Intel Ultrabook

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Date: Monday, May 7th, 2012, 06:52
Category: MacBook Air, Rumor

When in doubt, get competitive.

Per DigiTimes, Apple is rumored to be planning to aggressively combat new “Ultrabook” notebooks coming to market by releasing a US$799 MacBook Air model in the third quarter of 2012, a price US$200 less than the company’s current cheapest model.

The claim came on Monday and cited sources in Apple’s upstream supply chain. Apple’s plans are reportedly to counter second-generation Ultrabooks, based on Intel’s specifications for thin and light notebooks, which PC makers hope to price around US$699.

If PC makers are unable to reach the $699 price point with their second-generation Ultrabooks, Apple could have a significant competitive advantage with an aggressive US$799 price point for a new MacBook Air, the report claims.

Currently, Apple’s cheapest notebook option is the 11.6-inch MacBook Air, which is priced at US$999 and comes with a 64-gigabyte solid-state hard drive. Apple also offers a stripped-down 13-inch MacBook Air for education buyers only for US$999.

Last month, it was said that Intel hopes to see shipments of as many as 30 million Ultrabooks this year. The company designed the Ultrabook specification after Apple found great success with its new MacBook Air, which features only solid-state storage, instant-on capabilities, and super-thin design thanks to the lack of an optical drive.

Apple is expected to begin revamping its Mac lineup in the coming weeks with Intel’s latest-generation Ivy Bridge processors. The product makeover is expected to begin with new MacBook Pros, starting with a 15-inch model, that will also rely on solid-state storage and lose an optical drive, taking design cues from the MacBook Air.

Prior to Monday’s report, little has been said of a new MacBook Air lineup, with most rumors focusing on Apple’s next MacBook Pros. In fact, one report even suggested that Apple could merge the two product lines, “effectively killing the Pro” and having all of its notebooks like MacBook Airs.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Rumor: Intel to announce Ivy Bridge architecture on April 23rd

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Date: Thursday, April 12th, 2012, 07:18
Category: Hardware, MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, News, Processors

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There’s gotta be some truth to this somewhere…

Per DigiTimes, Intel has moved up the announcement of its next-generation Ivy Bridge processors from the original date of April 29 to April 23 as PC makers ready the second generation of ultrabooks, expected to arrive in May.

The publication claimed on Thursday that sources from notebook players had revealed Intel’s change in plans. The launch comes as Asustek, Acer, Lenovo and Hewlett-Packard are expected to release Ivy Bridge-powered ultrabooks next month.

Multiple sources have pointed to late April for the Ivy Bridge launch. One report claimed late last month that Intel would announce the new processors between April 22 and April 28 and begin selling them on April 29.

Apple’s 15-inch MacBook Pros will likely be the first Macs to feature the new Intel chips. Sources out of the Far East said last month that the updated laptops could arrive by the end of April.

Following the release of its new notebooks, the Cupertino, Calif., company is expected to release updated Ivy Bridge iMacs as early as June or July.

Other hints that Intel is nearly ready to release its Ivy Bridge architecture also came on Thursday when reports surfaced that Intel is shipping its second-generation Thunderbolt controllers for use with Ivy Bridge chips.

Thursday’s report also quoted Intel vice president Kirk Skaugen as saying that ultrabook prices will fall from US$999 to US$699 in the new few months as volume shipments drive costs down. PC makers have been hard at work at reducing the average price of ultrabook laptops in order to better compete against Apple’s MacBook Air.

Intel declared earlier this month that ultrabooks trump the MacBook Air in functionality and value.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Rumor: Apple to release 15-inch MacBook Air this April, thereby ‘effectively killing the Pro’

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Date: Wednesday, March 14th, 2012, 07:57
Category: MacBook Air, Rumor

Even if it’s just a rumor, there’s often a nugget of truth in there somewhere.

Per Electricpig, rumors of a larger 15-inch MacBook Air continue to surface, with the latest claim suggesting Apple is gearing up to launch a larger ultraportable notebook in April.

A Mac accessory maker who spoke at the CU Exposed show this week indicated that Apple is “likely” to launch its 15-inch MacBook Air in April. The anonymous source said the thin-and-light notebook would be similar to current MacBook Air models, with ports on both sides and no optical drive or Ethernet port.

The vendor reportedly speculated that the new 15-inch MacBook Air would “effectively (kill) the (MacBook) Pro for the average consumer.” They suggested that the new MacBook Air could even replace the 15-inch MacBook Pro, leaving the “Pro” moniker only to Apple’s high-end 17-inch model.

Whether Apple’s new 15-inch ultra-thin notebook is known as a “Pro” or an Air,” the model has been rumored since last year. While it will lack an optical drive, as Apple continues its push for digital distribution of software through the Mac App Store, the new notebooks will be powered by Intel’s next-generation Ivy Bridge processors, which are scheduled to go on sale in the coming months.

Wednesday’s claim of a 15-inch MacBook Air launch next month comes on the heels of a separate rumor that claimed Apple was forced to drop Nvidia’s next-generation “Kepler” graphics processors from its next low- and mid-range MacBook upgrades, leaving the systems to rely on Intel’s integrated graphics solutions. Currently, Apple’s 13-inch MacBook Pro models use Intel HD Graphics 3000, but the company’s higher-end 15- and 17-inch MacBook Pros feature dedicated graphics processors from AMD.

A thinner and lighter 15-inch MacBook Pro without a dedicated graphics card could be difficult to differentiate from a 15-inch MacBook Air, which is why the anonymous accessory maker sees Apple “effectively killing the Pro” model. In anticipation of an upcoming MacBook refresh, their company’s manufacturers are reportedly prepared to build and ship a new product in less than 90 days.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple releases firmware updates for early and late 2011 MacBook Pro, mid-2011 MacBook Air notebooks

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Date: Thursday, February 23rd, 2012, 18:11
Category: MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, News, Software

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Late Thursday, Apple released firmware updates for its early and late 2011 MacBook Pro notebooks as well as its mid-2011 MacBook Air Notebooks.

MacBook Pro EFI Firmware Update 2.7, a 4.1 megabyte download, fixes several issues to improve the stability of MacBook Pro (Early 2011) and MacBook Pro (Late 2011) computers and is recommended for all users.

This update improves the reliability of booting from the network, addresses an issue that can prevent HDCP authentication after a reboot, and resolves an issue with boot device selection when a USB storage device is hot-plugged.

MacBook Air EFI Firmware Update 2.4, a 3 megabyte download, fixes several issues to improve the stability of MacBook Air (Mid 2011) computers and is recommended for all users.

This update improves the reliability of booting from the network, addresses an issue that can prevent HDCP authentication after a reboot, and resolves an issue with boot device selection when a USB storage device is hot-plugged.

The updates can be directly downloaded and installed or located, downloaded and installed via Mac OS X’s Software Update feature and require Mac OS X 10.7.3 or later to install and run.

As always, if you’ve tried the new firmware updates and have either positive or negative feedback to offer, please let us know in the comments.

Tipsters reveal hints as to why AMD “Llano” processor never came to MacBook Air notebook

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Date: Thursday, February 23rd, 2012, 07:34
Category: Hardware, MacBook Air, News, Processors

If you wondered as to where the next-gen AMD processors might be on your MacBook Air, there’s a reason for that too.

According to Forbes, former AMD employees revealed that Apple gave its “Llano” chip a “close look” for a new MacBook Air model last year, but ultimately decided not to go with the processor because too many of its parts were faulty.

AMD has been through several reinventions in recent years in a quest to find a niche to call its own. The company was an early competitor to chip giant Intel, but it has struggled to keep up pace with its rival as of late.

Brian Caulfield reports that new “fusion” processors from AMD had a shot at upstaging Intel by making their way into Apple’s popular MacBook Air notebook for last year’s refresh. People familiar with the matter indicated that Apple had given the “Llano” processor, which combined the CPU and GPU into one part, serious consideration for use in its thin-and-light portable.

However, a former employee indicated that AMD was unable to get early working samples of the chip to Apple on time, though tipsters disagreed on exactly how close the company was to delivering the chip, with one claiming that AMD “had it.” According to the report, too many of the parts ended up being faulty and AMD lost the deal.

Sources also said AMD had proposed a low-power processor named “Brazos” for a revamp of the Apple TV box, but Apple declined to go with the option. “Brazos” went on to make inroads in the netbook industry and reportedly kept the company afloat.

“If Brazos had been killed, AMD wouldn’t be in business,” one former employee said.

A separate report from late last year also claimed that Apple had considered the AMD “Llano” option “plan A” for its MacBook Air, but AMD was said to have “dropped the ball” at the last minute.

Apple released the Thunderbolt MacBook Air last July with Intel’s Sandy Bridge processors powering the notebooks. The machines became an instant success and reportedly jumped to 28 percent of the company’s notebook shipments just months after they were released.

Apple begins offering 13.3-inch MacBook Air notebook to education buyers for $999

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Date: Monday, February 13th, 2012, 07:52
Category: MacBook Air, News

Apple’s tres-nifty white MacBook notebook may have officially gone the way of the dodo last week, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a replacement in the works.

Per AppleInsider, the company has begun selling a less powerful version of its 13.3-inch MacBook Air to educational institutions buying in bulk for US$999, filling the void left by the recently discontinued white MacBook.

The new model, only available to education buyers ordering in bulk sizes of five or more, features the same internal components as the 11.6-inch MacBook Air available to general consumers for US$999. But the new, discounted hardware sports a larger 13.3-inch display. They are advertised to ship within three to five days.

The 13.3-inch education model and the entry-level 11.6-inch MacBook Air both feature a 1.6GHz dual-core Core i5 Intel processor, along with two gigabytes of RAM and a 64-gigabyte solid-state drive. They are also powered by the Intel HD Graphics 3000 chipset included on the Core i5 CPU.

The standard 13-inch consumer-level MacBook Air remains priced at US$1,299. The speedier machine has a 1.7GHz dual-core Core i5 Intel CPU, 4 gigabytes of RAM, and a 128-gigabyte solid-state drive.

Last July, Apple discontinued its white MacBook, which previously served as the entry-level notebook in Apple’s lineup. Its price point was filled by the 11.6-inch MacBook Air, which carries the same US$999 cost.

Apple continued offering the white MacBook to education buyers for months, but this week the company finally ceased sales of the legacy notebook. Resellers have since been notified that the white MacBook is now classified as “end of life.”

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple releases firmware updates for early 2010 MacBook Air, Pro notebooks, adds Lion Recovery and sleep fix

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Date: Wednesday, February 8th, 2012, 06:20
Category: MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, News, Software

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Firmware updates…they get useful.

Late Tuesday, Apple released MacBook Pro EFI Firmware Update 2.6 for its early 2010 MacBook Pro notebooks. The update, a 3 megabyte download, enables Lion Recovery from an Internet connection on MacBook Pro (Early 2010) models.

The company also released MacBook Air EFI Firmware Update 2.3 for its early 2010 MacBook Air notebooks. The update, a 3 megabyte download, enables Lion Recovery from an Internet connection and also addresses an issue where the system would sometimes restart when the power button was pressed immediately after waking from deep sleep.

The updates can be located and installed via Mac OS X’s Software Update feature and require Mac OS X 10.7.3 or later to install and run.

If you’ve tried the firmware updates and noticed any changes, please let us know in the comments.

Tim Cook hints at no ARM-based processor for future generations of MacBook Air

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Date: Monday, February 6th, 2012, 06:37
Category: MacBook Air, News

It’s when Apple executives begin dropping hints as to upcoming product lines that things get interesting.

Per AppleInsider, after meeting with Apple chief executive Tim Cook and chief financial officer Peter Openheimer, Citi analysts noted a strong iPad outlook leaving little likelihood of an ARM-based MacBook Air.

Citi analyst Richard Gardner reported Cook reiterating his comment, originally made during the quarterly earnings conference call, that the market for tablets would eventually grow larger than the conventional PC market.

Apple doesn’t refer to iPad as a PC, but as a “post-PC device,” leaving the ARM-based tablet distinct from the company’s Intel-based Macs. Gardner further indicated the meeting dispelled the notion that Apple might introduce ARM-based Macs, countering rumors that a new MacBook Air featuring an ARM processor might appear sometime soon.

Gardner cited Cook as alluding to “rapid innovation on the iOS platform” that will “significantly broaden the use case for tablets,” and stated he “walked away from this meeting with the impression that Apple feels iPad satisfies—or will soon satisfy—the needs of those who might have been interested in such a product” as an ARM-based MacBook Air.

Speculation about a MacBook Air or other low end Mac models beginning to incorporate ARM processors has been fueled by rapid advances in ARM’s chip designs as well as Microsoft’s Windows 8 strategy that envisions future tablet and clamshell PC devices built around ARM chips rather than Intel x86 compatible processors that Windows has historically been tied to as a platform.

While Apple could deliver ARM based Macs, it appears the company is more focused on increasing the desirability of its existing iPad and leaving Macs as a higher end alternative rather than bringing them into directly overlapping use scenarios.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

OWC releases 480GB Aura Pro Express SSD for MacBook Air

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Date: Friday, January 27th, 2012, 13:51
Category: hard drive, MacBook Air, News

The good news: You can now snag up to a 480GB solid-state drive for your MacBook Air.

The bad part: It ain’t cheap.

Per Electronista, Other World Computing has released a 480GB version of its Mercury Aura Pro Express. The new solid-state drive doubles the storage of its SATA3-based, 6Gbps model line. As with other SSDs, more capacity doesn’t mean a sacrifice in speed, and it can deliver as much as 500MB per second in peak transfer speeds.

Apple’s stock SSDs in current-generation Airs usually stop at around half the maximum speed. OWC gets to the faster speed by using a modern SandForce memory controller. Although it doesn’t officially support the TRIM command to optimize the drive, it’s touted as having its own data block management techniques to keep the SSD fast throughout its lifespan.

The drive works with either size of MacBook Air and has a cost roughly in line with other 480GB SSDs at about US$1,079. Users have to install the drive themselves, but they’re given instructions and a three-year warranty in case the drive itself is faulty. OWC has begun shipping the new drives, which are immediately available.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

MSI demoes external Thunderbolt-based GPU for Apple notebooks at CES

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Date: Wednesday, January 11th, 2012, 05:49
Category: Accessory, MacBook, MacBook Air, MacBook Pro

Ok, this is interesting.

Over at CES this week, MSI is showing off a new external graphics solution that can connect to a Mac through a high-speed Thunderbolt port. Per AnandTech, the MSI GUS IIrelies on the high bandwidth capacity of the 10Gbps Thunderbolt port found on the latest Mac models, including the MacBook Pro and MacBook Air.

“The external chassis features a Thunderbolt interface and an internal PCIe slot,” Anand Lai Shimpi noted. “Despite running on a MacBook Pro there is currently no OS X support for the solution, but it does work under Windows. Presumably if there’s OS X support for the GPU inside the enclosure it would work under OS X as well.”

No timeframe for launch or price for the external GPU were given, but the product could be a solution for users who want more graphics processing power for their MacBook when it’s in use at home. The GPU featured in the MSI GUS II must be powered by PCIe alone, as there are no auxiliary power connectors inside the device.

Thunderbolt-based external drives have also been prevalent at CES this year. Seagate plans to ship by the middle of this month adapters that will allow existing Seagate GoFlex drives to fit into a Thunderbolt slot, while Western Digital plans to release new Thunderbolt drives by the middle of 2012.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.