Intel announces Core M “Broadwell” processors, could pave way to thinner MacBook Air notebooks

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Date: Tuesday, June 3rd, 2014, 10:24
Category: Hardware, MacBook Air, News, Processors

IntelLogo

Your MacBook Air could get even thinner.

Which is impressive, as the current models are seriously thin already.

Per iMore and Engadget, Intel on Monday announced a new family of Core M “Broadwell” processors, which could possibly cut down even further on power consumption via improved cooling solutions.

Presenting the new chips at Computex, Intel president Renee James showed off a 2-in-1 PC powered by the company’s new 14nm Intel Core M chip, making way into the fifth generation (Broadwell) of Intel processors. The new processors utilize less energy and improve battery life, while providing enough power for consumers to enjoy a smooth experience on supported devices. The 2-in-1 PC shown off at Computex was just 7.2mm thick (see below photo) with no fans to hear or external exhausts to see. Those kind of features would be incredibly nice to see on a MacBook Air.

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New MacBook Airs sport new processors and cheaper

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Date: Tuesday, April 29th, 2014, 09:05
Category: Apple, Hardware, Intel, MacBook Air, News, Processors

macbook-air-13-inchApple’s MacBook Air models were quietly updated on Monday, with the only major changes being a slight speed-bump and a lower price. Anyone hoping for Airs with Retina Displays will have to wait a bit longer. At $100 less than the previous models, the starting price for an 11″ Macbook Air is $899 which now uses a 1.4 GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 processor (Turbo Boost up to 2.7GHz) with 3MB shared L3 cache, and 128 GB of flash storage. Both the 11″ and 13″ models can be configured with the faster 1.7 GHz dual-core Intel Core i7 (Turbo Boost up to 3.3GHz) with 4MB shared L3 cache.

 

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If you’re pinching pennies, now might be a great time to grab a discount on the old models.

 

 

Recent security updates make Macs more secure, unless you’re a Snow Leopard user

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Date: Monday, March 3rd, 2014, 08:47
Category: Apple, Lion, Mac, privacy, Processors, security, Software

snowleopardEverybody was concerned last week when it was announced that a nasty bug in OS X was leaving Macs vulnerable to attacks that could grab information traveling across shared networks. While it has been confirmed that the bug only affected Mavericks, Apple simultaneously posted security updates for Mountain Lion (10.8) and Lion (10.7), but there was no sign of any security love for Snow Leopard (10.6). This really shouldn’t be a surprise to most people since 10.6 was also skipped when a previous security update was released as well as an update to the Safari browser. The omission of 10.6 from the current update simply confirms that Snow Leopard is no longer on Apple’s radar.

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New Mac Pro has socketed Intel CPU

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Date: Monday, December 30th, 2013, 09:57
Category: Features, Intel, Mac Pro, Processors, Take Apart, Thunderbolt

mac_pro_2013_internals-250x340Now that people have started to get their hands on the new Mac Pro, naturally the first thing they do is to tear it apart to see what makes it tick. Since the announcement of the Mac Pros specs and hardware, potential buyers have been lamenting the lack of user-upgradeable components in the sleek, black cylinder. It may be one of the reasons Apple was able to make it so small, but that is little consolation to pro users who are used to having more flexibility with their hardware. So far it was believed that the only internal part that could be upgraded was the memory. Apple expects all other expansion to be done through the Mac Pro’s six, high-speed Thunderbolt 2 ports.

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Intel, partners looking to manufacture 64-bit mobile processors

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Date: Thursday, October 31st, 2013, 10:30
Category: Hardware, News, Processors

Never doubt the power of the mobile processor business.Intel-logo

According to Forbes, at the ARM developers conference today, Intel partner Altera announced that the world’s largest semiconductor company will fabricate its ARM 64-bit chips starting next year. The announcement sent shockwaves through the technology industry as Intel is desperately trying to break ARM’s supremacy in the mobile market. Unlike Intel, ARM Holdings of the U.K. doesn’t manufacture chips but its designs are licensed and used worldwide in the mobile industry.

“It’s huge. Imagine ARM’s most powerful and technologically advanced 64-bit processor built on Intel’s leading-edge fabs. A duo that will be hard to beat,” explains Nathan Brookwood, principal analyst at Insight 64.

But this is just the beginning of a much larger endeavor for the chip giant as Intel is even willing to compete with semiconductor foundry leader TSMC for the business of its fiercest rivals, like Nvidia or Qualcomm.

“Intel will build Apple’s, Qualcomm’s Snapdragon or the Nvidia Tegra for the right price. Now, the question is, are they ready to pay that premium [to ARM] and feed their direct competitor? But that would actually make business sense for everyone,” adds Brookwood.

With Intel ready to open up its leading-edge factories to whomever is willing to pay a premium, chip prices could actually come down, with the other foundries (TSMC, UMC, GlobalFoundries, Samsung, IBM or SMIC) feeling the pressure to compete.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Chipworks continues examination of A7 processor, finds new architecture, quad-core GPU

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Date: Monday, September 30th, 2013, 07:57
Category: Hardware, News, Processors

a7processor

There’s some cool stuff going on with the iPhone 5s’ new A7 processor.

Per an analysis published by Chipworks, the A7 contains assorted changes from the previous A6 processor, including the addition of a mysterious SRAM cell never seen in A-series silicon.

Continuing its comprehensive investigation of the new A7 SoC, which on Tuesday confirmed a 28nm manufacturing process, silicon experts at Chipworks are digging deeper into the processor’s major structures and overall design.

The firm notes in the report that the latest findings are currently just “best guesses,” as circuit extraction testing has not yet been performed to yield conclusive data.

Taking the caveat into consideration, one of the more interesting findings would be the “secure enclave” used for Touch ID fingerprint data storage that Apple discussed during the iPhone 5s reveal earlier this month.

Chipworks was unable to identify a given area it had noted, but guesses that a new SRAM cell located above the GPUs is a prime suspect as the rather large storage space is a new addition to the A-series lineup. Extrapolating the size of the memory block and comparing it with metrics of known technology, the firm estimates the SRAM module to have a density of about 3MB.

Moving to the CPU, the A7′s dual-core unit and accompanying memory, estimated at 1MB for L2 cache and 256KB for L1, takes up about 17 percent of the die area. Located across from the CPU setup is a quad-core GPU with shared logic, which accounts for 22 percent of on-die space.

A side-by-side comparison of the A7 and last year’s A6 show the chips’ CPUs do not share the same layout. The new A7 appears to be closer to a conventional automated design, which would be a departure from Apple’s most recent custom-architected A-series SoCs.

Aside from the above discoveries, the rest of the A7′s design appears to be carried over from the A6. Of note, the USB, LCD and camera interfaces are identical to those found in Apple’s A5, A6 and A6X chips.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Rumor: Next-gen iPhone to see 31% speed improvement via A7 chip, will feature motion detection

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Date: Monday, August 26th, 2013, 06:27
Category: Hardware, iPhone, Processors, Rumor

If this report’s anything close to accurate, you’re going to like the speed of the next-gen iPhone.

Per a tweet sent by Fox News and citing inside sources, Clayton Morris claims the so-called “iPhone 5S” will be powered by an Apple-designed “A7″ system on a chip that is some 31 percent faster than the current A6 silicon used in the iPhone 5. In addition, mention of a totally new chip dedicated to “motion tracking” will be used to bring another layer of user interactivity to Apple’s flagship handset.

A 31 percent bump should be noticeable to future iPhone 5S owners in day-to-day use. It is unknown what metrics were being used as a basis, an important question given an applications processor’s architecture includes both the number-crunching CPUs and graphics driving GPUs.

It is largely unknown how Apple is managing to squeeze out the extra horsepower, though analyst Ming-Chi Kuo of KGI Securities noted in a recent report that a move to the ARMv8 architecture could yield a 20 percent increase in efficiency. In that same note to investors, Kuo speculates that Apple could offer 64-bit support in the A7, which would theoretically allow for greater speeds.

As for the motion tracking feature, Morris said in a follow-up tweet, “I’ve also heard there’s a separate chip devoted to motion tracking. Should be an interesting camera upgrade.” It would appear from the tweet’s wording that the unknown chip would be part of the iPhone’s camera package, perhaps as a special post processor.

Apple owns a number of patents regarding post processing techniques, including a few that interpolate camera sensor data for tasks other than outputting an image such as “gaze detection.” Some of these patents include a separate chip, usually disposed on the sensor module’s circuit board, to handle processing duties.

Apple is expected to announce the iPhone 5S at a special event on Sept. 10, possibly alongside a lower cost plastic handset dubbed the “iPhone 5C.”

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Rumor: Apple, Samsung sign deal for Samsung to build A9 chips for 2015 iOS devices

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Date: Monday, July 15th, 2013, 07:21
Category: Hardware, iOS, Processors, Rumor

From friends to litigants to partners again…

Per MacRumors and the Korea Economic Daily, Apple and Samsung on Sunday officially signed an agreement that will see the two companies working together on future A-series chips for Apple’s iOS devices, with the deal specifically covering A9 chips based on a 14-nanometer process node starting in 2015. The claim comes just weeks after Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing (TSMC) confirmed a deal with Apple to begin producing A-series chips in 2014.

Samsung Electronics had supplied the AP [application processor] to Apple since 2007 but lost the contract to supply 20 nano AP A8 chips to Apple to Taiwan’s TSMC last year when it was engaged in patent disputes with Apple. Samsung Electronics developed state-of-the-art nanometer models ahead of its rival TSMC, regaining the order from Apple.

A previous report about Apple’s agreement with TSMC had indicated that it was a three-year deal covering not only Apple’s future A8 chip but also A9/A9X chips. Reports had indicated that Samsung would remain Apple’s primary supplier through next year as TSMC began ramping up its production.

As a result, it is unclear whether today’s deal will see both TSMC and Samsung producing A9 chips for Apple or if Apple has already shifted gears to return to Samsung as its primary supplier as part of its long-term roadmap.

Apple has reportedly been seeking to reduce its reliance on Samsung as a component supplier as the two companies have become fierce rivals in both the mobile marketplace and in the courtroom. The two companies have, however, continued working together in several areas, particularly where Samsung’s competitors in the component market are unable to match its technology, production capacity, or pricing.

The shift to TSMC for production of the high-profile main chips for Apple’s iOS devices had been viewed as breaking one of the most significant remaining ties between Apple and Samsung, but it appears that Samsung has been able to bring Apple back into the fold by leading the charge to 14-nm chips. With partnerships with both Samsung and TSMC, it appears that Apple should be well-positioned to take advantage of whichever company takes the lead in developing the latest technologies.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Intel cites possible 50% battery life improvement in upcoming MacBooks under Haswell architecture

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Date: Tuesday, May 28th, 2013, 06:45
Category: Hardware, MacBook, MacBook Pro, News, Processors

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What a difference a next-gen architecture can make.

According to PCWorld, Intel’s next-generation processor in Apple’s MacBook line could see 50 percent greater battery life thanks to the processors expected to go into them, according to Intel.

In a media briefing ahead of the launch of its Haswell processor platform, Intel chief Rani Borkar said that the chipmaker had designed the line with notebooks and tablets in mind. That focus on mobile devices led to dramatic increases in battery life, with 50 percent longer operation in normal use and extending idle and standby battery life by up to 20 times.

That could mean that battery life for future MacBooks — already near the top of the industry — will see considerable improvements. A 15-inch Retina MacBook Pro’s battery life could jump from about six hours and 15 minutes to Apple’s seven-hour estimate under normal use.

The Haswell line is the latest in the chip giant’s instruction set architecture. The rise of smartphones and tablets has hobbled the PC industry, the main source of Intel’s sales. Increasingly, consumers are opting for mobile devices rather than traditional computing form factors, and Intel has struggled to gain a foothold in the mobile device segment.

The Haswell line, then, is intended to address both traditional computers and tablets as well. Some components of the line have had their power consumption reduced to as low as 7W. Intel’s tablet-tailored offerings are said to offer better performance than non-Intel chipsets, but with comparable battery life.

Intel has been talking up the possibilities of the Haswell line for months ahead of its launch. Most recently, the chipmaker released a document showing that Haswell will double or triple graphics performance compared to previous models.

Apple’s expected refresh of its MacBook line of devices is widely expected to feature Intel’s latest and greatest processor set.

Currently, retailers are running low on supplies of some MacBooks, and many Apple observers expect the company to announce the next generation during the keynote of its Worldwide Developer Conference in June.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Intel details specs for upcoming i7 “Haswell” processor

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Date: Thursday, May 2nd, 2013, 06:59
Category: Hardware, News, Processors

intellogo.jpg

The next-gen stuff always looks pretty sexy…

Per AppleInsider and Engadget, a document released on Wednesday sheds some light on Intel’s forthcoming Core i7 processors, which will boast new integrated graphics silicon that promises to double or even triple performance compared to existing models.

Alongside a new iteration of the “Intel HD Graphics” series, dubbed HD 5000, Intel is introducing the “Iris” and “Iris Pro” tiers to its graphics lineup with Haswell, effectively creating a three-tier system for its upcoming Core i7 offerings. Apple is expected to use products from the newest family of processors when the company refreshes its Mac lineup later this year.

As is the case with every new generation of CPUs, there will be an across the board performance boost with the fourth-generation Core i7 chips. However, while previous generational changes brought only slight gains to Intel’s respective Ultrabook, notebook and desktop class lineups, Iris and Iris Pro will enjoy huge gains, in some cases showing threefold improvements.

The options start out with HD 5000 for 15W TDP (Thermal Design Power) U-series chips, and move to the new Iris graphics with 28W U-series silicon. Iris Pro, which uses embedded DRAM instead of shared system memory, promises to double the speed of current 47-55W H-series laptop processors. Most intriguing is a tripling in 3D rendering speeds for 65-84W R-series desktop CPUs.

According to Intel’s documentation, Iris Pro will also be available on certain M-series laptop and K-series desktop chips.

The 11- and 13-inch MacBook Air currently uses two U-series chips — a 17W dual-core Ivy Bridge Core i5 processor in its standard configuration and an optional Core i7 version. Apple uses M-series Core i5 and i7 chips for its MacBook Pro and MacBook Pro with Retina Display products.

Intel also detailed the three tiers’ feature sets, which support DirectX 11.1, OpenGL 4 and OpenCL 1.2. Display modes include “enhanced” 4K and 2K output and a 3-screen collage, which looks to eschew the need for a discrete graphics card for multi-panel setups.

Full specs, including those pertaining to non-graphics processing performance, are slated to be revealed , one day prior to the Computex Taipei trade show.