Early Ivy Bridge benchmark tests surface, show appreciable improvements in graphics, overall performance

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Date: Wednesday, April 11th, 2012, 11:06
Category: Hardware, MacBook Pro, News

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It’s the benchmarks that make an upcoming technology that much more interesting.

Per CPU World, a series of benchmark tests demonstrates how the much-anticipated Ivy Bridge architecture in the upcoming MacBook Pro notebooks could show fairly significant improvements in performance, particularly in graphics.

The chip being tested was the Core i7-3820QM, a 2.7 GHz processor with turbo speeds up to 3.7 GHz paired with Intel HD 4000 graphics. The chip is scheduled to debut with a price of US$568 in high volume, and seems to be the natural successor to the Sandy Bridge Core i7-2860QM that is the current high-end processor for the 15-inch and 17-inch MacBook Pro, available as a build-to-order option.

For benchmarking comparisons, the new Ivy Bridge Core i7-3820QM chip was pitted against a Sandy Bridge Core i7-2960XM, which is an even higher-performance “Extreme” chip than is available in the current MacBook Pro. Consequently, any performance increase between the current high-end MacBook Pro chip and this new Ivy Bridge chip would be even greater than outlined in the benchmarking comparison.

Overall, the 3820QM was found to score an average of 9% higher than the Extreme 2960XM chip, a modest improvement but one which should be significantly higher relative to the 2860QM chip from the current MacBook Pro. Taking into account a roughly 10% higher performance for the tested 2960XM Sandy Bridge processor compared to the 2860QM actually found in the current MacBook Pro, the new 3820QM Ivy Bridge processor should offer roughly 20% higher CPU performance than is currently available in the MacBook Pro.

Looking at the CPU performance, using a few tests, the reduced production process helps the performance for a number of standard tests. In 3DMark Vantage (Entry level preset), Ivy Bridge has a 10% performance improvement over Sandy Bridge for the CPU score, and 9% in the physics score. In Cinebench 11.5, the single thread test showed a performance boost of 4%, and the multi-threaded test gave an improvement of 10%. The performance boost in the Truecrypt 7.0a – AES test was 4%. Finally, using x264 HD Benchmark 4.0, test 1 showed a boost of 13%, and test 2 showed a boost of 11%.

Even more significant gains for the Ivy Bridge chip show up in graphics performance, where the Intel HD 4000 integrated graphics supplants the HD 3000 graphics found in the Sandy Bridge chips. According to the benchmarks, the new HD 4000 integrated graphics outperforms the current graphics by anywhere from 32% to 108% depending on the test.

Apple, of course also includes a dedicated graphics chip in its larger MacBook Pro models, giving users the option of higher performance with the dedicated chip or increased battery life with the integrated graphics. And given that the HD 4000 integrated graphics does not yet approach the performance of dedicated chips, those looking for maximum performance will still want to take advantage of whichever dedicated graphics option Apple includes in updated MacBook Pro models.

But significant improvements to integrated graphics performance could show up as a benefit in a number of areas, including providing users with better performance even when opting for the battery-conserving graphics settings. Apple has also reportedly been considering using integrated graphics only in some of its mid-range MacBook Pro models, with the HD 4000 chip making it feasible for the company to drop the dedicated graphics chip on some of those models while still being able to offer acceptable graphics performance.

Finally, the HD 4000 graphics will offer a marked improvement for the 13-inch MacBook Pro, which is expected to debut in June when Intel rolls out its dual-core Ivy Bridge processors. The smaller 13-inch form factor requires that those models rely solely on integrated graphics, meaning that all users would see a significant boost from the current HD 3000 graphics to the new HD 4000 graphics.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Inventory constraints point towards possibility of new 15-inch MacBook Pro notebook on horizon

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Date: Tuesday, April 10th, 2012, 06:12
Category: Hardware, MacBook Pro, News

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When the current supplies dwindle, interesting things are about to happen.

Per AppleInsider, multiple authorized resellers this week are reflecting stock-outs of 15-inch MacBook Pros, suggesting that Apple is ramping down production of existing models before introducing redesigned offerings that will largely resemble the company’s increasingly popular line of ultra-slim MacBook Airs.

Among those resellers reflecting backorder status on some of the current 15-inch MacBook Pros is J&R, which is now sold out of both the 2.2GHz model, which is listed as “out of stock,” and the 2.4GHz variety, which is currently advertised as “on order.”

In addition, Best Buy has also stopped accepting online orders for the 2.4GHz model for home delivery. The 15-inch notebook is still available on a store-by-store basis, however a quick check of individual store inventory in cities such as Chicago and Austin similarly indicate that between 40 and 60 percent of those shops are similarly reflecting stock outs.

Earlier this week, MacConnection was temporarily out of stock the 2.2GHz model of Apple’s 15-inch MacBook Pro, but the notebook has since come back in stock at the online retailer.

Multiple instances of inventory constraints within Apple’s indirect sales channel are often some of the first signs that the Mac maker is drawing down stock and slowing shipments of existing models before replacing them with materially enhanced offerings. This week’s stock-outs come as Intel is gearing up to launch its Ivy Bridge chips, which have been rumored to begin finding their way into Apple’s Mac product line as early as this month or next.

Apple appears to be planning a staggered overhaul of the MacBook Pro lineup, beginning with an updated 15-inch model, followed by the 13-inch, and ultimately the 17-inch by the end of the year.

Recent rumors have claimed production of the 15-inch model will begin this month with 200,000 units, while production of the new the 13-inch MacBook Pro will occur in June with builds of 400,000 initial units.

The new 15-inch MacBook Pro is rumored to arrive as soon as this month with Intel’s Core i5 and Core i7 Ivy Bridge processors. Reports have suggested Apple’s new notebooks could include Intel’s Core i7-3820QM and Core i7-3720QM models featuring integrated HD 4000 graphics.

There are fewer details on the forthcoming 13-inch MacBook Pro, as one report from March said it was “not clear” if Apple planned to introduce a new MacBook Pro with an entry-level Core i3 Ivy Bridge processor. All of Apple’s current “Pro” laptops feature only higher-end Core i5 and Core i7 processors.

The new MacBook Pros are expected to be noticeably thinner and lighter in design, and will eschew the spinning disc drive to adopt a form factor similar to Apple’s thin-and-light MacBook Air. The MacBook Pro lineup was given a quiet update with faster GPUs and graphics cards last October, while the last major redesign of the lineup came in late 2008.

Separately, in what could be a sign of the end of the Mac Pro desktop line, Amazon is currently out of stock of the 8-core model.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Rumor: Apple to begin production of 200,000 15-inch MacBook Pro notebooks in April, 400,000 13-inch MacBook Pro notebooks in June

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Date: Tuesday, April 3rd, 2012, 13:41
Category: MacBook Pro, Rumor

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It won’t be long now.

Per DigiTimes, Apple is gearing up to begin production of its new thinner and lighter MacBook Pros, with production of the new 15-inch model set to begin first in mid-April.

Mass production of the new 15-inch MacBook Pro will see initial monthly shipments of 200,000 units, according to the web site. The new notebooks are expected to be powered by Intel’s next-generation Ivy Bridge processors.

On the heels of the new 15-inch model, Apple is expected to begin building the thinner 13-inch MacBook Pro in June. For the smaller variant, initial monthly shipments are expected to be greater, reportedly falling between 300,000 and 400,000 units.

The latest report is consistent with previous claims that the 15-inch MacBook Pro would go into production first, and could arrive as early as this month. But Tuesday’s report also suggests initial shipments of the 15-inch model will be slightly greater than was previously expected, as earlier reports claimed that initial monthly shipments would be between 100,000 and 150,000.

The updated notebooks are rumored to borrow the ultra-thin design the company pioneered with its MacBook Air. One person familiar with the new MacBook Pro designs indicated “they’re all going to look like MacBook Airs.”

Like the highly successful MacBook Air, the new MacBook Pros are expected to ditch the built-in optical drive, allowing them to have a thinner and lighter design.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

CCTV battery, third-party car charger hacked into do-it-yourself external MacBook battery

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Date: Tuesday, April 3rd, 2012, 08:13
Category: battery, Hack, Hardware, MacBook, MacBook Pro

This falls into the “If You’re Feeling Brave” category, but it could work nicely.

Per The Verge, MacBook Pro user Evan Rodgers took a CCTV battery, a third party MacBook car charger, and some soldering tools to create a do-it-yourself external MacBook battery.

Watch the video, see what you make of it and if you have the parts on hand, you can avoid a fairly costly trip to the Apple Store for a replacement MacBook Pro battery and add about two to three hours of on-the-fly usage:



Rumor: Apple to begin mass-producing next-gen 15-inch MacBook Pro in April, 13-inch model in June

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Date: Thursday, March 29th, 2012, 06:10
Category: MacBook Pro, Rumor

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To be fair, the rumors ARE getting a little more specific.

Per DigiTimes, a new report out of the Far East claims Apple is scheduled to begin mass production of a new 15-inch MacBook Pro in April, while a 13.3-inch model is rumored to enter mass production in June.

The web site reported on Thursday that, according to upstream supply chain sources, Apple is anticipating higher demand for its upcoming 13.3-inch MacBook Pro refresh than its 15-inch version.

Tipsters indicated an April production schedule for the larger version and a June schedule for production of an update to the 13.3-inch notebook. They said monthly production capacity of the 15-inch MacBook will start out at between 100,000 and 150,000 units and “rise gradually.”

Earlier this month, the same publication reported that Apple’s new 13-inch and 15-inch MacBook Pros had entered production. The new machines are said to lack optical drives while maintaining “more advanced specs” than the MacBook Air.

Sources have separately told AppleInsider that Apple is gearing up to blur the lines between its current MacBook Air models and its pro series of laptops. It’s not yet clear, however, whether the company will revise its marketing names for the machines and collapse the two lineups under one name.

Reports also emerged on Wednesday that Intel’s next-generation Ivy Bridge chips, some of which are presumably bound for Apple’s new Macs, are scheduled to launch at the end of April. Earlier reports have claimed that Apple is aiming to launch the 15-inch MacBook Pro also by the end of next month. Intel has experienced some delays with its Ivy Bridge processors, but it remains to be seen to what extent Apple’s schedule will be affected.

Mounting evidence also suggests that Apple is preparing to upgrade its Mac displays to Retina Display quality and could do so as early as the next generation.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Rumor: Thinner, optical-drive-free 13 and 15-inch MacBook Pro notebooks currently in production

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Date: Friday, March 16th, 2012, 10:09
Category: MacBook Pro, Rumor

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The new MacBook Pro units are coming and their optical drives may be a thing of the past.

Per DigiTimes, initial monthly shipments of the next-generation notebooks will be between 100,000 and 150,000 and sources have indicated that the new MacBook Pros will ditch the optical drive in favor of the “more advanced specs” than the MacBook Air, suggesting that the 13- and 15-inch Pro models will continue to exist alongside the Air.

The new MacBook Pros are said to feature stronger CPU performance and larger storage capacity than their MacBook Air counterparts. Shipments of the new notebooks to Apple will begin this month, the report said.

As suppliers ramp up production of the new MacBook Pro, monthly shipments are expected to eventually reach 900,000 units, well up from the current numbers in limited production.

Supply chain sources suggested that the new MacBook Pro models might arrive around the same time as new Windows Ultrabooks also based on Intel’s latest-generation Ivy Bridge processors.

This week, a pair of reports suggested that Apple will debut a new MacBook lineup in April based on Intel’s Ivy Bridge processors. In particular, much attention has been paid to a new 15-inch notebook model. Reports have differed on whether it will be a 15-inch MacBook Air, expanding the thin-and-light product line to a new form factor, or if it will simply be a new MacBook Pro with a thinner profile.

One report on Thursday claimed that Apple will debut a new, thinner 15-inch MacBook Pro based on Intel’s latest Ivy Bridge Core i5 and Core i7 CPUs. It was said that the new MacBook Pro would still be thinner than the different MacBook Air lineup.

That was somewhat in contrast to a separate report issued on Wednesday that claimed Apple was to launch a new 15-inch MacBook Air in April, “effectively killing the Pro.” It was suggested that the 13- and 15-inch MacBook Air models could even completely replace their MacBook Pro counterparts in the same screen sizes, leaving only the 17-inch MacBook Pro as the only “Pro” laptop from Apple.

Whether Apple’s new 15-inch notebook is known as a “Pro” or an Air,” the model has been rumored since last year. Like the MacBook Air, it is expected to lack a built-in optical drive and Ethernet port, as Apple continues its push for digital distribution of software through the Mac App Store.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Rumor: Apple to debut thinner 15-inch MacBook Pro with Ivy Bridge, i7 processor this April

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Date: Thursday, March 15th, 2012, 07:02
Category: MacBook Pro, Rumor

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The nice thing about the rumor mill is as follows: there has to be a part of the truth in there somewhere.

Per the How To Arena, a “reliable source in the Far East Asian supply chain” relayed to the web site that Apple is planning to release a new, thinner 15-inch MacBook Pro by the end of April. The details corroborate with a separate report that surfaced on Wednesday, though there remains confusion as to whether the new notebook will be a “Pro” or an “Air.”

Thursday’s newest take said the new 15-inch MacBook Pros will be powered by Core i5 and Core i7 Ivy Bridge processors. That would be a change from the existing Sandy Bridge-based MacBook Pros, as both 15-inch models feature high-end Core i7 processors, while an Intel Core i5 CPU is found in the entry-level 13-inch MacBook Pro.

The report said it is “not clear” if Apple plans to introduce a new MacBook Pro with an entry-level Core i3 Ivy Bridge CPU from Intel. It’s possible that, like the current MacBook Pro lineup, all of the company’s “Pro” laptops could feature only Core i5 and Core i7 processors.

Finally, the anonymous supply chain source also reportedly indicated that the new 15-inch MacBook Pro will be “thicker than currently available MacBook Airs but thinner than MacBook Pros.”

Thursday’s report does stand in contrast to an earlier rumor which characterized the forthcoming notebook update as a 15-inch MacBook Air, rather than a MacBook Pro. The confusion likely stems from the fact that Apple’s next MacBook Pros are expected to feature the same design as the ultraportable MacBook Air and ditch the optical disc drive to create a thinner device.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available and we’ll sort this out eventually…

Rumor: Apple to drop Nvidia Kepler GPUs for low and mid-range 2012 MacBook Pro notebooks

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Date: Tuesday, March 13th, 2012, 09:53
Category: Hardware, MacBook Pro, Rumor

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Whatever you were expecting the graphics card to be on the next-generation MacBook Pro, Apple might have something else in mind.

Per SemiAccurate, Apple’s next-generation low- and mid-range MacBook Pro models will not feature dedicated graphics cards, and will instead rely on Intel’s integrated Ivy Bridge graphics due to production issues with Nvidia.

Apple has dropped Nvidia’s next-generation Kepler graphics cards from a “large number” of its upcoming notebooks according to the report filed on Tuesday. The change has allegedly prompted Apple to adopt Intel Ivy Bridge CPUs that have higher shader counts, in order to offset some of the lost graphics processing power.

The change was reportedly made because Nvidia “can’t supply enough small GPUs” to Apple and other PC makers. That’s left Apple in a position where its next-generation low- and mid-range MacBook models “are not going to have a GPU, only a GT2 Ivy Bridge,” the report said.

“Nvidia can’t supply, so Apple threw them out on their proverbial magical experience,” it continued. “This doesn’t mean Nvidia is completely out at Apple, the Intel GPUs are too awful to satisfy the higher end laptops, so there will need to be something in those. What that something is, we don’t definitively know yet, but the possibilities are vanishingly small.”

The rumored issues apparently stem from the fact that Nvidia has struggled with its 28-nanometer manufacturing process for its next-generation graphics processors, code-named “Kepler.” As a result, some mid-range MacBooks will feature dedicated Nvidia GPUs, and some won’t, Tuesday’s report claimed.

The same site first reported last November that Apple would switch back to Nvidia GPUs for its 2012 MacBook models. Higher end 13- and 15-inch MacBook Pros launched early last year relied solely on AMD graphics, while the entry-level 13-inch model features integrated Intel graphics.

Apple’s next-generation MacBook Pros are expected to feature a radically redesigned exterior, borrowing features from the company’s popular ultraportable MacBook Air. They are expected to be based on Intel’s forthcoming Ivy Bridge chip architecture.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Rumor: Apple may be considering 14-inch MacBook Pro form factor for Asian marketplace

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Date: Wednesday, February 29th, 2012, 12:47
Category: MacBook Pro, Rumor

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The rumors may not always be right, but they keep things interesting.

Per DigiTimes, Apple may be weighing the prospect of a new 14-inch MacBook Air model designed specifically to cater to the Asian PC market.

Currently, the MacBook Air is only available in screen sizes of 11.6 inches and 13.3 inches. There have been rumors that Apple is planning to launch a new 15-inch model of the MacBook Air at some point this year, expanding its ultraportable lineup to a larger screen size.

But while Western countries prefer the 15-inch screen size, in the Asia market, 14-inch notebooks account for as much as 40 percent of sales. It’s because of the market’s “fondness for 14-inch models” that Apple is said to be considering a screen size specifically for that region.

“The sources analyzed that Apple is currently turning its targets from North American and Europe to Asia, and is eyeing the China market as its major market since the company still has strong potential in the country,” the report reads. “The consideration of a 14-inch MacBook Air would be an indication the company will become even more aggressive about the China market.”

With Apple expected to dramatically redesign its high-end MacBook Pro lineup this year, there has been some question as to whether a new thin-and-light 15-inch notebook would be an “Air” or a “Pro” notebook. Earlier this month, AppleInsider quoted a person familiar with Apple’s new MacBook Pro designs who indicated: “They’re all going to look like MacBook Airs.”

Apple’s next generation of notebooks are expected to be powered by Intel’s Ivy Bridge processors. This week, an official from the chipmaker stated that the CPUs have been delayed, and will go on sale eight to 10 weeks later than originally planned, likely in June.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Rumor: Thinner, 13 and 15-inch next-gen MacBook Pro units could arrive as early as April

Posted by:
Date: Wednesday, February 29th, 2012, 08:02
Category: MacBook Pro, Rumor

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The new stuff’s en route, you’ll just have to be a bit patient.

New 13- and 15-inch MacBook Pros with a thinner and lighter design are expected to launch in April “at the soonest,” with an initial shipment of just under a million units.

Per DigiTimes, sources in Apple’s upstream supply chain have indicated indicated that the company will launch upgraded MacBook Pros as early as April, with about 900,000 units expected to be shipped at launch. A redesigned version of the 17-inch MacBook Pro is apparently not expected at launch, as it was not mentioned in Wednesday’s report.

The rumor is consistent with stories published earlier this month, revealing that Apple will launch a larger 17-inch model later than the 15-inch model the company is said to be prioritizing. Apple employed the same approach when it redesigned its MacBook Pro lineup in 2008, as the lower-volume 17-inch model became available a few months later.

Apple’s upgraded MacBook Pro lineup along with new MacBook Airs and the forthcoming OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion Mac operating system upgrade are expected in the industry to pose a “significant threat” to notebooks designed to Intel’s thin-and-light Ultrabook specification.

“Since Intel is delaying the mass supply of its Ivy Bridge CPUs from April to June, notebook vendors are concerned about… the postponed launch schedules of their ultrabooks, as it may give Apple advantages in terms of time-to-market,” the report said.

Earlier this week, an Intel executive indicated that the company’s next-generation Ivy Bridge chips are expected to debut eight to 10 weeks later than previously planned. That would push the launch of those chips from April until June.

It’s possible that Apple could still launch new notebooks powered by Ivy Bridge as early as April, if Intel were to give the Mac maker early access to its first run of processors. In the past, Apple has been given early availability of Intel’s latest technology before other PC makers.

As Apple gears up to revamp its MacBook Pro lineup and borrow design cues from its successful MacBook Air, PC makers are still hoping to capitalize on the Ultrabook specification being pushed by Intel. Ultrabooks are intended to be less than 21 millimeters thick, weigh no more than 3.1 pounds, use flash-based solid-state drives, and offer 5 to 8 hours of battery life.

But initial Ultrabooks from Windows-based PC makers struggled to compete with Apple on price, as the entry-level 11.6-inch MacBook Air carries a US$999 cost. And they also felt the squeeze from Apple on components, as PC makers struggled to obtain unibody metal notebook chassis for their products.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.