OWC unveils 960GB notebook SSD for almost $1,300

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Date: Monday, June 25th, 2012, 09:23
Category: Hardware, News

It’s the huge SSD unit you always wanted for your Mac notebook…and it’ll be pricey.

Per Mac|Life, Mac peripherals outfitter Other World Computing has announced the availability of the Mercury Electra MAX 3G, a whopping 960GB 2.5-inch solid-state storage drive clocked at 3.0Gb/s for high performance as well as high capacity.

The drive purportedly offers sustained reads up to 254MB/s and writes up to 250MB/s and while not quite as impressive as the read/write speeds clocked from Apple’s latest flash storage on the new MacBook Pro with Retina Display or even MacBook Air, it’s still pretty nifty for an SSD unit with no moving parts.

The Mercury Electra MAX 3G 960GB is available for US$1,269.99 and is currently in stock for same-day shipping.

Apple posts Frequently Asked Questions guide for Thunderbolt Ethernet adapter

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Date: Friday, June 22nd, 2012, 07:16
Category: Hardware, News

The mysteries of Thunderbolt, they’re being unraveled.

Per CNET, Apple has posted a short FAQ on its new Thunderbolt Ethernet adapter, which outlines some uses and limitations of the adapter, and also hints at potential troubleshooting for both it and other Thunderbolt devices.

In the FAQ, Apple makes particular note about the daisy-chaining of Thunderbolt devices; each chain can support up to eight devices (including the host computer). While in most cases users will have peripheral devices such as hard drives or I/O controllers attached to their systems, it is also possible to connect multiple computers in the same daisy chain (one use of this is for Target Disk mode). If such a setup is used, then peripheral devices such as the Ethernet adapter may be captured and used by one computer over the other, so the solution to this would be to first pair it with one computer and then attach the second computer to the daisy chain.
In addition to which devices might be using the controller, the adapter may show reduced performance when connected to high-bandwidth devices such as RAID enclosures, which suggests that other Thunderbolt devices may show similar performance degradation when attached to high-throughput peripherals. Therefore, if your devices are not giving you the performance you desire, try rearranging them in the daisy chain, or using separate Thunderbolt connections. While many of Apple’s systems only have one Thunderbolt connection, newer systems are being developed with two, that give users more possibilities for troubleshooting odd Thunderbolt problems.

In addition, the FAQ suggests that some systems using Apple’s Ethernet adapter may not go to sleep while it is connected to their systems. If your computer has a built-in Ethernet port, then having the adapter connected will keep it awake. In these cases and possibly others in which Thunderbolt devices keep the system awake, you will have to unplug the adapter to put the system in Sleep mode. It may be possible that future software support may allow for proper system sleep, but for now this is the workaround.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Rumor: Apple switching from 30-pin to 19-pin dock connector in 2012

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Date: Friday, June 22nd, 2012, 06:40
Category: Hardware, iPad, iPhone, iPod, Rumor

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It’s the rumor that just won’t die.

Per TechCrunch, multiple manufacturers have independently indicated that Apple is planning to shrink its 30-pin dock connector to a 19-pin port in the next iPhone.

Though rumors of an upcoming “mini dock” connector for Apple’s next-generation iOS devices have swirled for some time now, although the Wednesday report offered the most confident claim yet about Apple’s plans for it by stating it had “independently verified” and “confirmed” the company is prepping a smaller 19-pin port for inclusion on its next iPhone.

According to the report, three independent manufacturers said Apple was working on the connector, adding that accessory makers are currently in limbo as they wait for Apple to officially announce the new standard, which will presumably be incompatible with current accessories. The new port would reportedly come close in size to the Thunderbolt port found on Apple’s newest Macs, but it is not expected to have the same “pin-out.”

Author John Biggs added that a purported video of the next-generation iPhone that surfaced earlier this month partially showed the new connector. That video appeared to show a sixth-generation iPhone metal back plate component with a smaller dock port.

The main reason for the new port is believed to be Apple’s continual quest to free up space in its mobile devices. The dock connector was first introduced in 2003 in the third-generation iPod. The advent of iCloud and wireless syncing has also reduced user reliance on the dock connector.

In addition to this, Apple is hiring engineers to work on new iPod connectors. Late last month, the company posted job listings for design engineers who would help manage “multiple connector designs and developments.”

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Testing shows Retina Display MacBook Pro capable of powering 3 external monitors

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Date: Thursday, June 21st, 2012, 05:14
Category: Hardware, MacBook Pro, News

Ok, this is cool.

Per Other World Computing, testing has shown that Apple’s new Retina Display-equipped 15-inch MacBook Pro can power up to three external monitors for an impressive total of four screens.

The peripheral sales company put the new flagship professional-level laptop through its paces by hooking it up to two iMacs in display mode via Thunderbolt and an LG monitor via HDMI while setting the machine’s own display settings to “Best for Retina.”

Even with all four displays active, the new MacBook Pro did not appear to have any performance issues. “Moving images and media didn’t create any lag and we were able to play video on all four displays simultaneously,” OWC wrote in a blog post about the experiment.

Counting the full resolution of the MacBook Pro’s display, OWC’s four-screen setup shows the laptop powering a whopping 14.86 million pixels.

Apple’s own technical specifications for the MacBook Pro with Retina Display only detail support for two external displays at 2,560 by 1,600 pixels, plus the built-in display. The laptop’s graphics are powered by NVIDIA’s GeForce GT 650M GPU and Intel’s integrated HD Graphics 4000.

The new MacBook Pro has received gushing reviews, with most noting the US$2,200 price as the only major downside.

In addition to the Retina Display, the new MacBook Pro features a thinner form factor, SSD storage, USB 3.0 and Intel’s new Ivy Bridge processors. A recent teardown of the laptop’s display called Apple’s design, which removed a layer of glass, an “engineering marvel.”

So, if you’ve got a brand new Retina Display MacBook Pro and have three external displays to power today…have at it!

LG pinpointed as supplier for MacBook Pro Retina Display

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Date: Wednesday, June 20th, 2012, 06:27
Category: Hardware, MacBook Pro, News

Per a tweet by iFixit, electronics maker LG was identified as one of the parties responsible for the new Retina Display in the recently-released 15-inch MacBook Pro notebook.

Particular interest has been paid to who supplies components to Apple since its largest supplier, Samsung, has become a fierce rival and legal opponent. Over the last year, Apple has shown signs that it would like to move away from relying on Samsung for components, but the company is believed to have been the only partner who could produce Retina displays for the third-generation iPad at launch earlier this year.

The wedge between the two companies has been driven by competition in the smartphone and tablet markets. Last April, Apple was first to sue, when it accused Samsung of copying the look and feel of the iPhone and iPad, and the two companies are now involved in a number of lawsuits that span around the world.

LG has been a major supplier of LCD displays to Apple over the years, and in 2009 the two companies reached a US$500 million deal for the supply of flat-panel displays through the year 2013. But the relationship between the two companies may have strained late last year, when LG was said to have lost its status as the leading display maker for Apple’s iPad 2, when a batch of LCD shipments were reportedly plagued with quality issues.

Going forward, Sharp is also expected to be a major partner with Apple for screen production. Last year, reports indicated Apple had invested in a Sharp plant in Japan, while this year Apple’s manufacturing partner Foxconn bought a 10 percent stake in Sharp to help boost its LCD business.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Microsoft targets iPad, unveils Surface tablet

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Date: Tuesday, June 19th, 2012, 07:56
Category: Hardware, News

A little competition never hurt anyone.

Per Engadget, Microsoft debuted its Surface Windows 8 tablet on Monday at a last-minute special event in Los Angeles, marking the tech monolith’s entrance into the iPad-dominated tablet market.

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, showed off the tablet computer based on the company’s new Windows 8 operating system he called “the new Surface,” according to the report.

After giving a brief history of Microsoft-branded hardware like the venerable mouse and keyboard, Ballmer introduced the new device, likening it to the Xbox 360 in that it has a strong synthesis of software and hardware that push each other to new limits.

Microsoft’s President of the Windows and Windows Live Division Steven Sinofsky proceeded to show off the 10.6-inch multi-touch tablet, which features a magnesium enclosure called “VaporMg” with built-in stand, dual MIMO arrays, an optically-bonded proprietary display with Corning’s Gorilla Glass 2 and a variety of input ports. The unit is also coated with vapor-deposited magnesium (PVD) to avoid scratching.

Surface will be sold in two distinct incarnations with one touting an Ivy Bridge i5 processor while the other will feature a low-energy NVIDIA-made ARM cortex CPU. The Intel model, called Surface for Windows 8 Pro, will weigh in at 1.9lbs at 13.5mm thick and feature a 10.6-inch 1920-by-1080 pixel ClearType full HD display. Input and output for the higher-tier Surface is handled by USB 3.0, Mini DisplayPort and an microSDXC card reader.

The thinner ARM cortex version will be released under the Surface for Windows RT moniker and will come in at a trim 1.5lbs and 9.8mm thick but bumps specs down to a 1280-by-720 pixel screen. Handling the heat put out by the Intel chip is what Microsoft calls “perimeter venting” or a series of integrated vents encircling the edge of the bezel, which itself is beveled. While the Windows RT model doesn’t carry the high-powered connectivity as its bigger brother, it still manages a microSD slot, USB 2.0 and Micro HD Video.



Accessories for both units include the “Touch Cover” which is a full multi-touch keyboard complete with arrow buttons that changes the color of Surface’s screen to the color of the cover when attached. Much like Apple’s Smart Cover, the Touch Cover also turns the device on and off presumably through use of magnets. The Surface “Type Cover” accessory brings physical switch-type keys and a clickable trackpad, though the part adds 5mm of girth to the tablet.

The Surface supports palm-blocking Digital Ink technology and can mark up PDFs and other supported documents with a digitizer, though the feature seems to be limited to the Intel model.

It is unclear what company is manufacturing the tablet for Microsoft, though the product itself looks to be a branded device with prominent Windows logos adorning the screen bezel and the back kick-stand.

The debut of the ARM-based Windows RT version of Surface is set to coincide with the launch of Windows 8 and will be available in 32GB and 64GB flavors. Pricing will be in-line with competing ARM tablets. The Intel Ivy Bridge i5-based Windows Pro Surface is slated to follow about three months later and will be sold in 64GB and 128GB capacities with prices comparable to Ultrabook PCs.

Full video of the event can be found here and stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple releases Thunderbolt Software Update 1.2.1 firmware upgrade

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Date: Tuesday, June 19th, 2012, 06:59
Category: Hardware, News, Software

On Tuesday, Apple released its Thunderbolt Software Update 1.2.1 firmware upgrade for its Thunderbolt-equipped Macs running Mac OS X 10.7 (“Lion”). The update, a 506 kilobyte download, adds support for the Apple Thunderbolt to Gigabit Ethernet Adapter.

In addition to the direct download, Thunderbolt Software Update 1.2.1 is available through Mac OS X’s built-in Software Update feature. The update requires a Thunderbolt-equipped Mac 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 in the comments.

Retina Display MacBook Pro battery more expensive than previous iterations

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Date: Monday, June 18th, 2012, 09:15
Category: battery, Hardware, MacBook Pro, News

Apple’s new Retina Display MacBook Pro may be snazzy, but it isn’t cheap to fix if the battery fails.

Per Macworld, the battery on the current model has been priced at 54 percent more expensive than the previous iteration. Apple updated the pricing list for MacBook battery replacements, showing that servicing the new model’s battery will run US$199 before tax.

Some MacBook Pro notebooks with built-in batteries require a replacement battery two or three years down the line. Since all of Apple’s latest models do not feature a user-serviceable battery slot, you have to take it to the Genius Bar to get it serviced. This costs US$129 for 13- and 15-inch MacBook Pros, but the Retina MacBook Pro features a higher price.

A replacement battery for the Retina MacBook Pro will cost you US$199 before taxes, Apple’s price list shows—54 percent more than that of previous models. In comparison, the cost of servicing the battery on the now-retired 17-inch MacBook Pro, which featured a larger battery than its smaller notebook counterparts, was US$179.

iFixit’s teardown of the US$2200 15-in Retina MacBook Pro gives a few hints on the reasoning behind the price increase. The battery has 95 watt hours (Wh) at 10.95 V, compared to last year’s 77.5 Wh battery, and instead of being screwed into the machine, it’s glued into place, making it more difficult to replace.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Rumor: Qualcomm getting ready to prepare 4G LTE chips for next-gen iPhone handset

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Date: Friday, June 15th, 2012, 11:32
Category: Hardware, iPhone, News

You’re probably going to need components if you’re going to build a snazzy new thing.

Per DigiTimes, Taiwanese chip maker Qualcomm is said to be providing high-speed 4G long-term evolution chips produced using a 28-nanometer process.

The company is expected to build its 4G LTE chips at Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company, supply chain sources shared with DigiTimes. Qualcomm will need about 10,000 28-nanometer 12-inch wafers, representing one-third of the 28-nanometer capacity at TSMC, just to produce 4G chips for the next iPhone, the report said.

Also relying on TSMC’s 28-nanometer process for the next iPhone will be Broadcom, which is expected to provide Wi-Fi chips to Apple. And OmniVision is also said to be looking to get in on TSMC’s 12-inch fabrication process.

The report noted that TSMC’s “tight production capacity” for its 28-nanometer process will also have customers Nvidia, Texas Instruments, Altera, Xilinx and others. It’s expected that it will be difficult for TSMC to meet market demand for the 28-nanometer process until it can produce 50,000 units a month around the fourth quarter of 2012.

With supply constraints in mind, STMicroelectronics is said to be ramping up output of MEMS devices for Apple’s next iPhone. Similarly, NXP Semiconductors and Texas Instruments are reportedly stockpiling inventory of analog integrated circuits to meet Apple’s demand.

In March it was said that Apple was in the process of reviewing potential components for the company’s next-generation LTE 4G iPhone. Among the parts Apple was expected to utilize by Barclays was Qualcomm’s “MDM9615″ LTE chip, which supports both voice and data connections on high-speed 4G networks.

Analysts at Barclays also said at the end of May that Apple had “locked down” suppliers of important radio chips for the sixth-generation iPhone. Companies said to have been selected by Apple included Skyworks, Avago Technologies, and TriQuint.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Rumor: Apple to release 13-inch Retina Display MacBook Pro

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Date: Thursday, June 14th, 2012, 10:35
Category: Hardware, MacBook Pro, Rumor

It’s a rumor, but one can always hope it’ll come true.

Per AppleInsider, Apple will bring a high-resolution Retina display to its 13-inch MacBook Pro with a product update set to launch this October, according analyst Ming-Chi Kuo of KGI in a note to clients on Thursday. Kuo stated that he expects Apple to ramp up production of a 13-inch next-generation MacBook Pro with Retina display in September. Such a change would allow the product to hit stores in early October, in time for the holiday shopping season.

Kuo was the first to indicate that Apple would retire its 17-inch MacBook Pro, and that the 15-inch next-generation MacBook Pro with Retina display would be sold alongside the previous-generation MacBook Pro with lower-resolution display and thicker design. Both of those details proved true this week at Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference.

Apple has the “highest hopes” for the new 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display, according to Kuo. But Apple was likely unable to unveil the new product at WWDC this week because of a low yield rate and greater assembly difficulty, he said.

Like the next-generation Retina display MacBook Pro, the 13-inch variety is expected to lack an optical disc drive and rely solely on solid-state flash memory storage. Kuo expects the screen to have a resolution of 2,560 by 1,600 pixels, and he said the 13-inch model will be slightly thinner than the 15-inch model, at 18 millimeters.

The next-generation 13-inch MacBook Pro is not expected to have discrete graphics like its 15-inch counterpart, but will instead rely on Intel HD 4000 integrated graphics. Kuo also expects it to have an Intel Ivy Bridge processor with a clock speed greater than 2 gigahertz.

As for the just-released 15-inch Retina display MacBook Pro, Kuo said that Apple should have about 300,000 units of the next-generation notebook available to sell this month, a number that he called a “moderate” amount.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.