O'Grady's PowerPage » MacBook Pro

Workaround discovered for poor graphics performance/frame rates on 15-inch MacBook Pro

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Date: Friday, January 4th, 2013, 08:54
Category: MacBook Pro, News, Software

In as much as you love your 15-inch Retina Display MacBook Pro notebook, there are times where things aren’t always perfect. Per CNET, some Mac users are finding that some of the latest MacBook systems from Apple are sometimes showing drastic drops in graphics performance, which are particularly notable when playing graphically intensive applications like video games.

The issue seems to be that while at first launching the game will show the expected smooth performance, it may suddenly drop to a very low frame rate and be essentially unplayable. Usually when systems drop to low frame rates it suggests they are being overworked for some reason and are struggling to make the computations necessary for smooth gameplay, and as a result will usually be relatively hot as the graphics card is taxed; however, in these systems this is not the case and in testing some users have noticed that various monitoring tools show the system at a relatively idle state, suggesting the system is not being taxed much and instead is just not performing the computations at hand.

Apple’s 15-inch Retina MacBook Pro systems ship with two graphics cards (a discrete Nvidia Geforce GT 650M for graphics intensive operations and an on-board Intel HD 4000 GPU for standard everyday tasks), which it switches between dynamically to get optimal energy savings and increase battery life. However, it appears that the problem at hand is with how the system is handling this switching behavior, where it will switch back to using the lower power Intel graphics and therefore not be able to manage the demands of fancier games.

The mighty Topher Kessler has listed how to reset the SMC and thus regain some of your graphics frame rate via the following steps:

- Shut down the computer.

- Plug in the MagSafe power adapter to a power source, connecting it to the Mac if its not already connected.

- On the built-in keyboard, press the (left side) Shift-Control-Option keys and the power button at the same time.

- Release all the keys and the power button at the same time.

- Press the power button to turn on the computer.

After these steps have been performed, the system should perform as expected with graphics-intensive applications.

If you’ve tried this fix with your 15-inch MacBook Pro and have any feedback to offer, please let us know in the comments.

Rumor: Apple to update notebooks in June, retain same design with new models

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Date: Friday, December 28th, 2012, 06:08
Category: Hardware, MacBook Pro, Rumor

Rumor: Apple to update notebooks in June, retain same design with new models

Sometimes you just don’t muck with a good design.

Per DigiTimes, Apple will reportedly update the MacBook Pro and MacBook Air product lines in June 2013 with upgraded innards, but no major design changes are expected for either laptop range.

According to the article, Taiwanese supply chain sources said Apple recently issued requests for quotations (RFQs) for a number of notebooks, including the MacBook Pro and MacBook Air, with the new models slated to reach consumers in June 2013.

Little information was offered regarding the revised MacBook Pro as the publication focused its report on the effect Apple’s MacBook Air will have on so-called Ultrabook makers next year. For 2013, Apple’s thin-and-light is said to be switching to a new processor platform, most likely Intel’s next-generation Haswell architecture.

As for design, sources say no major changes are planned for either product line. While the MacBook Pro line was the recipient of a design overhaul with the Retina display model, non-Retina versions still sport a unibody chassis largely unaltered since its debut in 2008. The MacBook Air’s enclosure was revamped in 2010, taking on a more angular look as Apple applied design cues learned from its development of the iPad.

DigiTimes also suggests Apple may cut MacBook Air prices ahead of the June launch, but such a move is unlikely considering the company has no recent history of discounting products prior to a newer version’s release. The publication made similar claims in May when it incorrectly predicted that Apple would introduce a US$799 version of the notebook in the third quarter of 2012.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple patents point to effort to reduce noise on MacBook Pro fan modules

Posted by:
Date: Thursday, December 20th, 2012, 09:02
Category: Hardware, MacBook Pro, News, Patents

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You know the fans on your MacBook Pro?

They’re about to get quieter.

Per the United States Patent and Trademark Office, a trio of patent applications discovered on Thursday reveal how the asymmetric fan blade spacing used in the newest MacBook Pro with Retina display models quiet the spinning impeller without sacrificing performance.

The three patent applications, all titled “Centrifugal blower with asymmetric blade spacing” and numbered sequentially (1, 2, 3) cover separate fan designs that feature asymmetrically aligned fan blades, two with 31 blades and one with 61 blades.

Apple first introduced its asymmetric fan design in June with the 15-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display and a subsequent teardown revealed that the laptop uses a 31-blade unit.

Typical fans incorporate a prime number of blades that are spaced at angles equidistant to each other, an industry standard aimed at reducing unwanted sound. At issue is the blade pass frequency (BPF) which produces harmonics from the pressure wave formed at the tip of each blade. The most noticeable source of noise is the pole pass frequency (PPF) tone, or the “vibration and resulting pressure waves created by the poles in the motor of the fan.”

Apple’s design calls for variably-angled blades that controls the spectral distribution of tones created by the fan. First-hand tests have found the new design to not necessarily quiet fan noise as much as create a less grating sound.

From the patent:
“Dispersing the energy of a tone over a number of discrete frequencies can make the tone seem less noisy to the listener by reducing the perception on the tonal BPF [blade pass frequency]. Spacing fan blades unevenly, while maintaining impeller balance, is one method of controlling pure-tone effects.”

According to the invention, the rearrangement of the fan blade angles cancels some of the noise usually heard in conventional portable computers but allows for the unit to still be balanced as the center of mass is located at the shaft of the impeller. The modified design also allows for the fan system to be smaller, thus permitting a thinner laptop as seen with the Retina MacBook Pros.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple releases MacBook Pro Retina EFI Update 1.1 firmware for late-2012 13-inch Retina Display MacBook Pro notebooks

Posted by:
Date: Tuesday, December 18th, 2012, 08:28
Category: MacBook Pro, News, Software

You might want to snag this.

Late Monday, Apple released its MacBook Pro Retina EFI Update 1.1 firmware update for the late-2012 13-inch Retina Display MacBook Pro notebook. The update, a 5 megabyte download, improves sleep performance, enhances Thunderbolt router support, fixes an HDMI display issue, and improves compatibility when using the 5GHz band in Wi-Fi.

The update can be located, snagged and installed via OS X’s Software Update features and requires a late-2012 13-inch Retina Display MacBook Pro running OS X 10.8.2 or later to install and run.

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

How-to: How to get around “Black Screen of Death” on dual-GPU MacBook Pro notebooks

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Date: Wednesday, November 28th, 2012, 10:50
Category: MacBook Pro, News, Software

Ok, this could be useful.

Per the mighty Topher Kessler of CNET, a workaround has been found for MacBook users who noticed a pretty annoying black-screen bug on their systems, in which the computer would appear to be running but would not show any output on the display. To get around this issue, people were forced to restart their systems, losing any unsaved data.

The primary workaround for this problem was to use the third-party GPU manager utility gfxCardStatus to force the system to use only one of its available GPUs, to avoid the automatic switching between the graphics cards that was leading to the problem. While the increased use of the more powerful dedicated GPU drained the battery a little more, it did avoid the problem for many.

Take a gander here for the full article and if this has been driving you nuts, rest assured that it drove other MacBook Pro users up the wall as well.

Apple releases Thunderbolt Firmware Update 1.1 for mid-2012 MacBook Pro notebooks

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Date: Wednesday, November 28th, 2012, 08:32
Category: MacBook Pro, News, Software

This could come in handy.

Late Tuesday, Apple released its Thunderbolt Firmware Update 1.1, a 468 kilobyte download for the mid-2012 MacBook Pros that offers the following fixes and changes:

- Addresses an issue with MacBook Pro (mid-2012) and some Thunderbolt cables that may prevent bus-powered Thunderbolt devices from functioning properly.

The firmware update can be downloaded directly or located, snagged and installed via Mac OS X’s Software Update feature and requires a mid-2012 MacBook Pro, running Mac OS X 10.7.4 or later to install and run.

If you’ve tried the update and noticed any changes, please let us know what you make of it in the comments.

Samsung reportedly ends flow of MacBook, iPad battery supplies

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Date: Monday, November 26th, 2012, 09:24
Category: Hardware, iPad, MacBook Pro, News

The feud between the Hatfields and the McCoys continues.

Per the cool cats at The Mac Observer and China Business News, Apple has apparently turned to Amperex Technology Limited and Tianjin Lishen Battery for its laptop and iPad battery needs after Samsung reportedly stopped supplying the components. If true, it underscores the ongoing tension between the two companies over patent infringement claims.

This latest claim follows reports that Samsung stopped selling display parts and raised the cost for manufacturing Apple’s custom chips — both of which Samsung has denied. Apple has, however, moved away from working with Samsung on future custom processor designs and instead is using the electronics giant just as a manufacturing partner.

“Samsung’s agreement with Apple is limited to manufacturing the A6 processors,” a senior Samsung executive said in October. “Apple did all the design and we are just producing the chips on a foundry basis.”

Apple and Samsung have been fighting in courts around the world over claims they are using each other’s mobile device patents without proper licensing. Apple managed to win a major victory in August when a U.S. Federal Court ruled Samsung was infringing on a long list of patents and awarded the Cupertino-based company over US$1 billion in damages.

Apple has also reportedly been grooming Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company to take over its processor manufacturing.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

eBay begins Cyber Monday sale, offers $989 deal for mid-2012 13-inch MacBook Pro, other offers

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Date: Monday, November 26th, 2012, 09:38
Category: iPad, MacBook Pro, News, retail

Hey, a deal’s a deal.

Per AppleInsider, eBay, which is currently undergoing a rebranding itself to be in more direct competition with Amazon via a push towards more direct sales, is hosting a Cyber Monday sale offering 5% off iPads with Retina display and 18% off the entry-level 13-inch MacBook Pro (US$989), as well as significant discounts on other consumer electronics like cameras, game systems and more.

The US$989 price (US$210 savings) on the 2.5GHz 13″ MacBook Pro (MD101LL/A) is the lowest price that’s currently been published, and presents an exceptional value proposition for consumers in the market for a sub-US$1000 Apple notebook that still retains a CD/DVD optical drive.

Other notable deals include 5% off 16GB iPads with Retina display (US$474.99, 56% off, 42% off a new Canon T3i Digital SLR Camera with 2 Canon IS lenses 747.25 (US$551.75 savings), and 74% off a 32GB SanDisk SDHC TM Memory Card for US$17.99 (US$52 savings).

Meanwhile, retailers including Amazon, MacMall, B&H Photo, MacConnection and Best Buy have launched their own Cyber Monday sales with pricing on Macs and iPads similar to pricing seen on Black Friday. Additionally, MacMall continues to advocate inventory of the vast majority of Apple’s iPad mini product line (see chart), while Wal-Mart recently received all flavors of the AT&T iPad mini which its shipping out today.

For users looking for a new Mac with 3-years of AppleCare extended protection, B&H Photo’s Buy Together & Save (bundle prices, instructions) offer savings of up to US$450 with its Cyber Monday pricing.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Some users complain of issues after MacBook Air and MacBook Pro Update 2.0, Apple pulls software from web site

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Date: Friday, November 23rd, 2012, 08:17
Category: MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, News, Software

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Sometimes it pays to wait a few days before installing a fairly hefty firmware update…

Per the Apple Core, a number of users have reported issues with the MacBook Air and MacBook Pro Update 2.0, which was recently offered for 2012 models. Worse, late last week, Apple pulled the support page about the update as well as the download link, indicating a recall on the software.

Some users report issues with video memory as well as with Keychain operation, while on the VMware Fusion Blog, a post warned that the update may cause virtual machines to stop working when a 3D application is run.

Users who have already applied this update and are affected by this issue can work-around it by disabling the “Accelerate 3D Graphics” option under Virtual Machine > Settings > Display.

In other news, Apple this week released a new update for Mountain Lion, OS X Mountain Lion 10.8.2 Supplemental Update 2.0, which may address some of the Keychain issues separately.

This update is recommended for all Mac systems introduced in 2012 and, fortunately, the issue appears to be a problem with Mountain Lion and not the hardware on the notebooks themselves.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available and if you’ve seen issues with your MacBook Air or MacBook Pro and the firmware update, please let us know in the comments.

Amazon.com offers discounted MacBook Air, MacBook Pro prices for Black Friday sale

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Date: Friday, November 23rd, 2012, 07:59
Category: MacBook Pro, News, retail

The savings have arrived.

Per AppleInsider, web retailer Amazon.com on Thursday cut pricing on Apple’s MacBook Air lineup and a handful of 13-inch MacBook Pros, yielding the best prices thus far on some models while matching pricing from rival retailers on others.

For MacBook Airs, Amazon has knocked US$100 off all models with the exception of the 1.80GHz 13″ MacBook Air, which it cut by US$174 to US$1,024.99 — the best price for this model thus far. The price cuts also yield the best deals on the 2.5GHz 13″ (4GB/500GB HDD) MacBook Pro US$1,034.99 (US$164.01 in savings) and 2.9GHz 13″ (8GB/750GB HDD) MacBook Pro US$1,349.99 (US$149.01 in savings). Both these prices will best Apple’s Black Friday sale. Amazon also pays some of the highest prices (in Amazon Gift Cards) if you sell them your old Mac (compare with other trade-in services).

So, if you don’t want to venture out there and have to use friends and relatives as shielding today, take a gander at what Amazon might have to offer.