iFixit performs full teardown of early 2011 MacBook Pro, finds interesting new components

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Date: Friday, February 25th, 2011, 05:52
Category: MacBook Pro, News

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It’s been all of a day since the release of Apple’s new Thunderbolt-equipped MacBook Pro noteboooks, but already the cool cats at iFixit have performed a full teardown of the new models.

Per the report, the guys found that the controller for Thunderbolt is the fourth largest chip on the logic board, after the CPU, GPU and logic board controller.

“We believe the chip’s footprint is a testament to the potential of this port,” they said.

iFixit ranked the new 2011 MacBook Pro a 7 out of 10 on its reparability scale. It noted that the new version allows for the battery to be disconnected without removing it from the laptop.

The addition of a “spudger” makes disconnecting the battery easier.

“It’s a nice design choice since you *should* remove all power before performing any repairs,” they said. “The unibody design also allows for easy access to most of the other components, so it won’t be terribly hard to replace things on the machine. The only tricky repair is LCD replacement, which could easily result in shattering the front glass panel.”

Other noteworthy details from the teardown:
- You can chain up to six Thunderbolt devices. In comparison, FireWire supports 63 devices and USB supports up to 127 devices.

- The lower case is secured by Phillips #00 screws, while the battery is secured by Tri-Wing screws, just like the predecessor. There were no Pentalobe screws inside or outside.

- The new MacBook Pro has the same 77.5 watt-hour battery as the earlier model, but Apple has decreased their run-time estimate from 8-9 hours to 7 hours, likely due to more stringent testing.

- The Thunderbolt controller is the fourth-largest chip in the new MacBook Pro.

- iFixit said they’re concerned about Apple’s quality control, as they found a stripped screw holding the subwoofer enclosure in place, and an unlocked ZIF socket connecting the IR sensor.

- RAM has been upgraded to PC3-10600. That’s the same RAM used in the 2010 revision of the 21.5″ and 27″ iMacs, but faster than earlier MacBook Pros.

- The wireless card received a make-over and now includes four antennas instead of three. Wireless connectivity is provided by a Broadcom BCM4331 “wireless solution.”

- The wireless card bracket is aluminum, rather than the plastic found in earlier MacBook Pro revisions. The change was likely made for thermal reasons, as a pink thermal pad is visible and used to transfer heat from the Broadcom chip to the aluminum bracket.

The logic board features four primary chips:
- Intel i7 Quad-Core Processor
- AMD Radeon HD 6490M GPU
- Intel BD82HM65 Platform Controller Hub
- Intel L051NB32 EFL (which seems to be the Thunderbolt port controller)

The teardown uncovered a great deal of thermal paste on the CPU and GPU when the main heat sink was removed. The excess paste may cause overheating issues down the road, iFixit said.

The new 15-inch MacBook Pro is still designated Model A1286. Apple has been using that same model number since October 2008.

Apple releases updated MacBook Pro line, includes Sandy Bridge, Light Peak/”Thunderbolt”, FaceTime HD technologies

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Date: Thursday, February 24th, 2011, 09:08
Category: MacBook Pro, News

Sometimes the rumor mill can be pretty accurate.

On Thursday, Apple released a new refresh of the MacBook Pro notebook, adding new dual-core and quad-core (a first for Apple’s notebooks) Intel processors, 3x faster graphics in the 15- and 17-inch models, ultrafast Thunderbolt (i.e., Light Peak) I/O and a FaceTime HD camera.

Per Mac|Life, the line includes the upgrade to Intel’s latest Sandy Bridge processors, including quad-core on certain 15- and 17-inch models that use the 2.2GHz Quad Core 2720QM and 2.0GHz Quad Core 2630QM CPUs. These processors also include Intel’s Turbo Boost 2.0 technology, so even apps that don’t take advantage of four cores will still see a boost in speed.

Intel’s Light Peak has been included in the new lineup under the new new “Thunderbolt” monicker and using the Mini DisplayPort port. The port technology is anticipated to negate the need for USB 3.0 on computers that implement it, capable of 10 gigabits per second I/O, which is double the throughput of the current USB 3.0 spec.

Graphics performance also gets a boost with the new models, with an integrated Intel HD Graphics 3000 processor now standard on all MacBook Pro models, which powers the new FaceTime HD camera capable of up to 720p video, as well as extending playback time for DVDs and iTunes movies. The 15- and 17-inch models get an extra boost by including high-performance AMD Radeon graphics processors for up to three times the performance of previous models:

-17″ 1920×1200 Display. 2.2Ghz Quad i7. 4GB RAM. 750GB HD. AMD 6750M 1GB. US$2,499

-15″ 1440×900 (1680 option) Display. 2.2GHz Quad i7. 750GB HD. AMD 6750M 1GB. US$2,199.

-15″ 1440×900 (1680 option) Display. 2.0GHz Quad i7. 4GB RAM. 500GB HD. AMD 6490M
256MB. US$1,799

-13″ 1280×800 Display. 2.7GHz Dual i5. 4GB RAM. 500GB HD. Intel HD Graphics. US$1,499

-13″ 1280×800 Display. 2.3GHz Dual i5. 4GB RAM. 320GB HD. Intel HD Graphics. US$1,199

As always, here’s the Apple Store link and let us know what you think in the comments.

Apple prepping Yerba Buena for March 2 press event, updated iPad expected

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Date: Thursday, February 24th, 2011, 04:51
Category: iPad, News

Following yesterday’s announcement of a March 2nd media event where Apple is expected to unveil the next iPad, the company has begun posting promotional signage at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco.

Per MacNN, photos taken at the site show a large Apple logo surrounded by numerous colorful dots.

Invitations to the March 2 event, which contained a calendar date for March 2 being peeled away to reveal an iPad, went out to members of the media earlier this week, confirming earlier reports that had revealed the date.

Apple unveiled the original iPad at the Yerba Buena Center over a year ago. The venue has also hosted a number of other Apple product announcements over the years.

It is widely believed that the next iPad will feature at least one FaceTime capable camera, though several reports have suggested that the device will have both a front- and rear-facing camera.

The touchscreen tablet will also likely have an improved anti-reflection display and will be thinner and lighter. A reliable source has stated that the device will feature an upgraded dual-core SGX543 graphics processor from Imagination Technologies. Apple is also expected to increase the RAM and include a faster CPU on the device.

Customers hoping for a major overhaul of the device next week, however, may be in for disappointment, as reports have surfaced that the upgrade will more closely resemble a version 1.5 upgrade than a full redesign. Earlier this month, speculation arose that Apple is planning a second iPad update for the fourth quarter of this year.

An unverified report on Wednesday suggested that Apple’s initial ambitions for the March 2 iPad refresh had been deferred to an update later this year, with the models set to be released next week serving as an interim solution.

Concord Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo has stated that a second update to the iPad will include a double-resolution display, which had originally been rumored to as an addition to the second-generation iPad. Production bottlenecks and unfeasible costs are likely the cause of the rumored delay.

Parallels Desktop 6.0.11994.637263 released

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Date: Wednesday, February 23rd, 2011, 05:13
Category: News, Software

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Parallels Desktop, the popular virtualization application that allows users to run the Windows and Linux operating systems simultaneously alongside Mac OS X, reached version 6.0.11994.637263 on Thursday. The new version, available here, sports the following major change:

- Resolves compatibility issues with Mac OS X 10.6.5 and 10.6.6.

Parallels Desktop 6 for Mac retails for US$79.99 and requires Mac OS X 10.5.2 later to install and run.

Best Buy sales system listing 5 new MacBook Pro SKUs, additional data

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Date: Monday, February 21st, 2011, 04:18
Category: MacBook Pro, News

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The new MacBook Pro you’re hankering for might be just around the corner.

Best Buy, one of Apple’s largest authorized resellers authorized, is currently listing this weekend five new stock keeping units for Mac notebooks at price points ranging from US$1,199 to US$2,499.

Per Engadget, the SKUs turned up in the specialty electronics reseller’s online Laptop Configuration tool, where they are listed as “New SKU” with availability of “Coming Soon.”

Although Best Buy’s inventory systems have been a less-than-precise indicator of Apple’s actual plans in the past, this weekend’s listings do provide specific pricing information that has yet to turn up elsewhere.

Specifically, the retailer’s configuration tool specifies that the forthcoming Apple notebooks will be priced at US$1,199, US$1,499, US$1,799, US$2,199 and US$2,499. Those price points could coincide nicely with previous reports that peg the new MacBook Pros to arrive in five retail configurations as opposed to the existing six.

Based on those reports and the new price points, it appears most likely that Apple will continue to offer two configurations of the 13-inch MacBooks (US$1,199 and US$1,499), a single 17-inch configuration (US$2,499, up from US$2,299), and consolidate the three current 15-inch configurations (US$1,799, US$1,999, and US$2,199) into two configurations (US$1,799 and US$2,199), shedding the US$1,999 15-inch configuration.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple releases fifth Mac OS X 10.6.7 beta to developer community, directs focus to Safari

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Date: Friday, February 18th, 2011, 05:08
Category: News, Software

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This week, Apple issued the fifth beta of Mac OS X 10.6.7 on Thursday, directing developers to focus on Safari.

Per AppleInsider, build 10J858 was released as a 1008.8MB combo update and a 434.4MB delta update. According to people familiar with the beta, the update was released with no known issues as usual, though the Safari web browser has been added to the list of Focus Areas.

In addition to Safari, Apple has asked developers to look into the Mac App Store, Airport, Bonjour, SMB and Graphics Drivers.

Apple seeded the first beta of Mac OS X 10.6.7 on Jan. 20, just weeks after releasing Mac OS X 10.6.6 and the Mac App Store. The most recent build came a week ago on Feb. 10.

Mac OS X 10.6.7 is expected to have only minor fixes and few new features, as Apple plans to release a major operating system upgrade, Mac OS X 10.7 Lion, this summer. Lion will incorporate features such as a home screen and full-screen applications from the Apple’s iOS back to the Mac.

If you’ve gotten your mitts on the new beta or have any feedback, please let us know in the comments.

VirtualBox updated to 4.0.4

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Date: Friday, February 18th, 2011, 04:44
Category: News, Software

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VirtualBox, an open source x86 virtualization project available for free has just hit version 4.0.4. The new version, a 80.6 megabyte download, sports a list of fixes and changes that can be found here.

VirtualBox 4.0.4 is available for free and requires Mac OS X 10.4 or later and an Intel-based Mac to install and run.

Apple exploring technique for dense lithium battery cell creation

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Date: Thursday, February 17th, 2011, 10:27
Category: battery, News, Patents

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It’s a good day for patent stuff and that counts for something.

According to AppleInsider, Apple is investigating techniques to increase the energy capacity of rechargeable lithium battery cells without increasing the size of the battery, allowing longer battery life in future devices.

The proposed invention is detailed in a new patent application published by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office this week. The filing, titled “Increasing Energy Density in Rechargeable Lithium Battery Cells,” describes charging a battery using a “multi-step constant-current constant-voltage (CC-CV) charging technique.”

The CC-CV charging technique would allow the thickness of the anode active material inside a battery cell to be increased in both “volumetric and gravimetric energy density.” But while the density of the power capacity would be increased, the size of the battery, as well as its maximum charging time and minimum life cycle, would remain unchanged.

Apple’s application notes that the conventional method for increasing the battery capacity, or ampere-hour (mAh), of a lithium-ion or lithium-polymer battery involves increasing the lengths of the anode and cathode current collectors, as well as their coating materials But increasing the area of current collectors results in lower volumetric energy density, and results in a larger battery.

“What is needed is a technique for increasing the energy capacity of a rechargeable lithium battery without increasing the size of the battery sell,” the filing states.

Apple’s application notes that the company intends to make battery cells smaller, allowing the “limited space available in portable electronic devices to be used more efficiently.” The company noted it could use the space savings to add more features, or more battery capacity.

But one issue with employing the multi-step CC-CV charging technique is battery life can be significantly decreased depending on temperature. For example, using the same current-charge density at 10 degrees celsius will lower the cycle life “substantially” when compared to a higher temperature such as 45 degrees.

In addition, current-charge densities further reduce the battery’s cycle life if it is at a higher state of charge, between 70 percent and 100 percent.

Apple’s solution would reduce the charge currents for a mobile device when its battery is at a higher state of charge, or a lower temperature. This would avoid degradation in the cycle life of the battery, and potentially even increase it, without any required change in battery chemistry.

The multi-step charging technique would be compatible with the new battery design and would increase battery life by dynamically adjusting the rate of charge when the battery is at different states of charge, or different temperatures.

The patent application was first filed with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on Aug. 22, 2009. It is credited to Ramesh C. Bhardwaj and Taisup Hwang.

Apple patent suggests combined MagSafe power connector/data connector technology

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Date: Thursday, February 17th, 2011, 06:08
Category: MacBook, MacBook Pro, News, Patents

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Ok, this could be useful.

Per AppleInsider, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office this week published a new patent application from Apple named “Magnetic Connector with Optical Signal Path.” Discovered by AppleInsider, the document describes a single cable that would provide both power and data to a mobile device, like a MacBook Pro, using a single cable.

Like Apple’s existing, patented MagSafe adapters, the new cable would allow for “easy disengagement” due to the use of magnets to attach and properly secure the cable.

The application notes that there are two major needs the portable computers must satisfy if the notebook is to serve as a proper desktop replacement. The first is the need for a power source, since modern batteries often cannot get through an entire workday, while the second is the ability to transfer data over a physical connection.

“Presently, satisfying these two requires at least two connections to the mobile device; one for power and one for data transmission,” the application reads. “But including two (or more) connectors increases cost and consume space, typically along the side of the mobile device. It also requires the user to make two separate connections, thus limiting the usefulness and desirability of the mobile computing format.”

Apple’s filing also notes that the use of two cables can clutter a user’s workspace and degrade the mobile computing experience. More cables also increase the likelihood of a user tripping over one and potentially damaging their computer.

“Thus, what is needed are circuits, apparatus, and methods that provide a power and data transfer system that can supply both power and data to a laptop or other mobile computing device,” the application states.

The application suggests the presence of a fiber optic line inside a connector that looks much like the existing MagSafe power connector found on its line of MacBooks. But it would include additional “pins” inside the connector to allow data transfer for multiple types of inputs.

Potential input methods listed by Apple include USB, fiber-optic, local area networking (LAN) cables, DVI video, and DisplayPort. Corresponding connectors for these devices would be included on the power and data adapter.

In addition, Apple’s proposed invention would allow separate external devices to communicate with one another via the power and data adapter. For example, two or more USB devices could communicate with each other and transfer data between one another over the adapter.

Like a similar patent awarded to Apple last fall, the application revealed this week could offer a glimpse into the company’s potential plans with Intel’s high-speed Light Peak optical cable technology. Intel aims to offer mobile devices bandwidth of 10Gbps, scaling up to 100GBps over the next decade, with its next-generation cable.

Apple has shown great interest in Light Peak and has been “pushing” the chipmaker to bring it to market. Light Peak would allow Apple to roll networking, display, and peripheral cables all into one master cable, much like is described in the latest patent application.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple releases Digital Camera Raw Compatibility Update 3.6, adds support for new camera formats

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Date: Thursday, February 17th, 2011, 05:53
Category: News, Software

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Late Wednesday, Apple posted its Digital Camera Raw Compatibility Update 3.6, an update designed to extend RAW image compatibility for the Aperture 3 and iPhoto ’09 applications.

The update, a 6.4 megabyte download, adds support for the following cameras:
- Canon EOS Rebel T3 / 1100D / Kiss X50

- Canon EOS Rebel T3i / 600D / Kiss X5

- Olympus E-5

- Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ100

- Pentax K-r

- Pentax K-5

It also addresses processing issues for the following cameras:
- Nikon D7000

- Nikon COOLPIX P7000

- Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF1

- Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH2

The update requires Mac OS X 10.5.8 or later to install and run and is also available via Mac OS X’s built-in Software Update feature.

If you’ve tried the new Digital Camera update and noticed any changes, please let us know how it went.