Leaked Intel documents present ideas for Thunderbolt-based docking components

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Date: Friday, November 25th, 2011, 12:39
Category: Hardware, News

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This could turn into something nifty.

Per VR-Zone, Intel is hoping to formalize a standard for docking on ultrabooks with Thunderbolt ports, leaked internal notes demonstrate. The implementation would combine the Thunderbolt port with a wider companion dock connector to handle other forms of data, such as Ethernet or USB, VR-Zone said. To keep the Ethernet connection alive for Intel’s vPro remote management or for Windows 8′s Connected Standby mode, however, the docking port would need to have direct access to the Ethernet chipset inside.

Intel also had suggestions for what the dock itself could have, including HDMI or Mini DisplayPort for video out, a USB hub, or even eSATA for fast external drives. Thunderbolt’s support for daisy chaining a total of six Thudnerbolt devices is an option, although it would require the widest bandwidth versions of Thunderbolt and may be rare.

Intel’s strategy would be primarily intended for business, where it’s expected that workers would dock the ultrabook at their desks and get an external display and desktop-like expansion with just one cable. It notably tries to downplay the use of USB 3.0, saying that the standard isn’t ideal for displays or certain kinds of links. Intel might have an economic incentive to discourage USB 3.0, however, since it can profit from its exclusivity on Thunderbolt controller chips where USB 3.0 is generic and won’t see Intel make much if any profit, even when its own hardware is in use.

Apple already has a form of Thunderbolt docking through its Thunderbolt Display and may end up having the superior option for simplicity: its lack of vPro lets it route audio, the display, Ethernet, FireWire, and USB through one cable. Intel’s approach would bring more of that experience to Windows users as well as provide some extras for the pro audience. Non-Mac systems with standard Thunderbolt aren’t due to show until at least early 2012, however, or roughly a year after Apple went first.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

PlugBug accessory simultaneously charges current Apple notebooks, iOS devices

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Date: Wednesday, November 2nd, 2011, 04:30
Category: Hardware, iPad, iPhone, iPod

This could be nifty.

Per Electronica, accessory developer Twelve South on Tuesday Tuesday unveiled a unique add-on to help Apple fans that travel with more than one device. PlugBug takes advantage of the changeable connector on a MacBook, MacBook Air, or MacBook Pro AC adapter to add a 10W USB charger. The add-on can charge anything up to the power levels of an iPad and is seen as a way to charge any iOS device or other USB hardware without having to remember all the cables or charge through the MacBook.

The adapter doesn’t have to slot into the AC brick to work and has a cap to cover the exposed area. Twelve South imagines it as a substitute for those outside of North America who want a converter.

The PlugBug is already on sale and ships for US$35 through the company’s own online store.

If you’ve snagged one or have a favorite charger of choice, please let us know and thanks.

Apple cites iPhone 4S, MacBook Air and Mac mini products as “Bluetooth Smart Ready”

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Date: Tuesday, October 25th, 2011, 11:32
Category: Hardware, iPhone, Mac mini, MacBook Air, News

No one ever said wireless communication with devices was a bad thing.

Per AppleInsider, Apple’s latest products, including the iPhone 4S and updated Mac mini and MacBook Air, are among a group of low-power Bluetooth devices now branded as “Bluetooth Smart Ready.”

Bluetooth Smart is a new brand extension given by the Bluetooth Special Interest Group to devices that implement Bluetooth 4.0. Compatible devices include phones, tablets, PCs and TVs.

“Bluetooth Smart and Bluetooth Smart Ready devices will revolutionize the way we collect, share and use information,” said Michael Foley, Ph.D., executive director of the Bluetooth SIG. “In order to ensure consumers know what these extraordinary devices have to offer, we created the Bluetooth Smart and Bluetooth Smart Ready marks. These new logos will help consumers manage compatibility, and encourage manufacturers to build their best Bluetooth devices yet.”

Bluetooth Smart devices are sensor-type devices like heart-rate monitors or pedometers. They run on button-cell batteries and were created to collect only a specific piece of information.

Bluetooth Smart Ready devices can connect to traditional Bluetooth devices, as well as new Bluetooth Smart devices that are just starting to enter the market. But Bluetooth Smart devices, because of their lower power consumption, will only connect with products labeled as Bluetooth Smart Ready.

Packages will now carry three potential logos created by the Bluetooth SIG to help consumers identify what their device offers, whether it be traditional Bluetooth, Bluetooth Smart, or Bluetooth Smart Ready.

“Consumers can look at new Bluetooth Smart Ready devices the same way they would a 3D ready TV — having the TV is just the first part of the puzzle, you need glasses and content in order to really experience 3D,” said Suke Jawanda, CMO of the Bluetooth SIG. “Once consumers have a Bluetooth Smart Ready device, like the new iPhone 4S, they can continue connecting to existing Bluetooth devices and are also ready to experience the new world of Bluetooth Smart peripheral devices that will carry the Bluetooth Smart logo.”

Bluetooth 4.0 support first appeared in Apple’s products in July, when the MacBook Air lineup and Mac mini were refreshed. Other Macs released this year — new iMacs and MacBook Pros — only support Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR (Enhanced Data Rate), but Bluetooth 4.0 also came to the new iPhone 4S released earlier this month.

Apple joined the Bluetooth SIG board of directors in June, and now takes part in overseeing the development of standards and licensing for the short-range wireless technology. When Apple joined, the special interest group said the iPhone maker would provide insight on platform development, as the company understands that technology is now driven by “hub devices” that capture data, utilize data at the application layer, and even upload it to the cloud.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Rumor: Apple creating HDTV prototypes for late 2012 launch

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Date: Monday, October 24th, 2011, 08:08
Category: Hardware, News, Rumor

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Prior to his passing away, Apple CEO and co-founder Steve Jobs stated that he wanted to capture the television market.

This might be the first step towards that goal.

Per AppleInsider, analyst Gene Munster with Piper Jaffray revealed in a note to investors on Monday that a source close to an Asian component supplier claimed in September that Apple was building prototype models of its rumored high-definition television set.

Munster has long been a believer that Apple will enter the television market, saying as far back as February 2009 that he believed the company was working on a major entrance into the living room. He sees Apple building an all-in-one, Internet-connected television set with access to the App Store and iTunes content.

If Apple were to launch a TV set in late 2012, he believes it would add about 3 percent to the company’s revenue in 2013. With a projected 220 million flat panel TVs to be sold in 2012, 48 percent, or 106 million, will be Internet-connected devices, and he sees Apple selling 1.4 million of those.

With the addition of iCloud and Siri voice control, Munster believes Apple is even more prepared to launch an HDTV in the coming years. With iCloud, users could access TV shows, pictures, and potentially moves, while Siri could “simplify the chore of inputting information like show titles, or actor names, into a TV.”

Munster also met with sources in Asia in January of this year, where he heard word that Apple is investing in manufacturing facilities and securing supply for LCD displays. The company is said to have invested in screen sizes of up to 50 inches for a potential television set.

Rumors of an Apple-built HDTV began to pick up steam once again last week, when it was revealed that Apple co-founder Steve Jobs told his biographer that he had “cracked’ the secret to building an integrated, easy-to-use television set. He said the device “will have the simplest user interface you could imagine.”

Apple is currently in the set-top box market with its US$99 Apple TV, but the company has famously referred to its interest in that market as a “hobby.” The Apple TV allows users to purchase content from iTunes, while new features like wireless AirPlay mirroring have been added with recent software updates.

Stay tune for additional details as they become available and if you have any features you’d love to see on an Apple-branded HDTV, let us know what they might be in the comments.

Industrial designer Jonathan Ive left with additional power/privileges after Steve Jobs’ death

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Date: Friday, October 21st, 2011, 06:41
Category: Hardware, News

If you’re on your way out, leave someone behind to protect your ideals and legacy.

And if that person is less than conventional but has created some of the coolest industrial designs of the past 13 years, all the better.

Per the Associated Press, Apple’s widely praised design chief Jonathan Ive has no true boss who can tell him what to do at the company, a distinction put in place by Steve Jobs himself.

Information from the new biography of Jobs, set to arrive next week, continues to arrive, offering a glimpse into the highly private life of the Apple co-founder. The news wire obtained an early copy of the book, and shared some details on the relationship between Jobs and Ive, Apple’s senior vice president of industrial design.

In talking with author Walter Isaacson for the book, Jobs revealed that he viewed Ive as his “spiritual partner” at Apple. Showing his trust in Ive, the company co-founder left him more freedom than anyone else in the company — a perk that remains even after Jobs’s death.

“He told Isaacson that Ive had ‘more operational power’ at Apple than anyone else besides Jobs himself — that there’s no one at the company who can tell Ive what to do,” the report said. “That, says Jobs, is ‘the way I set it up.’”

Ive and Jobs became close at Apple, working directly together on designing a number of the company’s core products, including the iMac, iPod, iPhone and iPad. Ive, a 44-year-old native of London, joined Apple in 1996 and has held his current job since 1997.

Showcasing their extensive work together, Jobs and Ive share credit for inventing over 200 patents. Jobs is responsible for the most total patents at the company, at 313.

A 2006 profile of Ive said that at the time he and his team worked in a large, secretive open studio that many Apple employees were not allowed to enter. There a “massive sound system” played music as he and his team worked with state-of-the-art prototyping equipment with “intense iteration.”

Ive has been heralded as one of the most influential designers of his time, and legendary Braun designer Dieter Rams publicly praised him in the 2009 documentary Objectified. In return for his design work at Apple, Ive has been well compensated, and is said to be worth more than US$128 million.

In 2009, Ive was declared the “smartest designer” in technology by Forbes. He was also honored with the title “Designer of the Year” in 2003 by Design Museum London, and was named “Royal Designer for Industry” by The Royal Society of Arts.

More details on the relationship between Ive and Jobs will be available in Isaacson’s book, arriving next week. Entitled “Steve Jobs,” will be available in a hardcover edition, as well as digitally through Amazon Kindle and Apple’s iBooks.

iFixit finishes teardown of Thunderbolt display, locates 2009 LG panel

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Date: Wednesday, September 28th, 2011, 08:37
Category: Hardware, News

When in doubt, count on someone geekier than you to dissect Apple’s newest hardware.

The cool cats at iFixit have completed a full teardown of the screen has found.

The new display, powered by Apple and Intel’s Thunderbolt technology, was disassembled this week by iFixit. They found that the LG display is model number “LM270WQ1,” matching the previous iMac as well as the screen found in Dell’s competing UltraSharp U2711 27-inch monitor.

However, Apple’s display uses LED backlights for better picture quality and lower power consumption, as opposed to the cold-cathode fluorescent lamps (CCFLs) found on Dell’s screen. In addition, the Dell display is matte, while Apple’s is glossy.

The solutions provider also noted that Apple’s screen has a 12 millisecond response time and 17.7 million colors, while Dell’s competing panel offers an advertised 6 millisecond response time and 1.07 billion colors.

iFixit found that the glass front of the new Thunderbolt Display can be removed with “heavy duty suction cups,” just like with Apple’s iMac lineup. The LCD screen sports a resolution of 2,560-by-1,440 pixels.

“The fan is easily removed by simply detaching a couple of connectors and unfastening a few screws,” they said. “Apple has, as usual, chosen to go with a large, brushless fan to keep the colossal Thunderbolt Display cool and quiet.”

Inside the display, iFixit found a plethora of chips, causing them to remark that “it’s hard to believe there’s no computer inside.” The screen includes a built-in FaceTime HD video camera, 2.1 speaker system, integrated MagSafe charger, three USB 2.0 ports, one FireWire 800 port, one Gigabit Ethernet port, and a Thunderbolt port for daisy chaining up to five additional Thunderbolt devices.

Some of the chips inside powering all of those features include:

- Pericom PI7C9X440SL PCIe-to-USB 2.0 host controller

- L129NB11 EFL, which looks to be the Thunderbolt port controller

- Analog Devices ADAV4601 audio processor

- NXP LPC2144 USB 2.0 microcontroller

- Delta LFE9249 10/100/1000 Base-T LAN filter

- SMSC USB2517-JZX USB 2.0 hub controller

- Maxim MAX9736B Mono/Stereo high-power Class D amplifier

- LSI L-FW643E-2 open host controller interface

- Broadcom BCM57761 Gigabit ethernet controller

- Supertex HV9982 3-channel switch-mode LED driver IC

The teardown also discovered that the speakers inside the Thunderbolt Display are 49 watts with a miniature subwoofer. In addition, the Flextronics power supply is said to provide 250 watts of maximum continuous power.

If you’ve snagged a new Thunderbolt display and have any feedback about it, please let us know in the comments.

Apple exploring issues between Thunderbolt, Cinema Display hardware

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Date: Monday, September 26th, 2011, 08:04
Category: Hardware, News

Sometimes the newest stuff doesn’t always work the way you’d like it to…

Per AppleInsider, a growing discussion thread on Apple’s boards is filled with users who have experienced issues with their 24-inch Cinema Displays when used with a Thunderbolt port on a new Mac. The thread began in February, just after the new MacBook Pros were released, and new posts continue to be added regularly with users who have experienced screen flickering on the discontinued 24-inch display.

Forum user David Batista sent an e-mail on Friday explaining his own similar issues experienced with multiple 24-inch displays that he owns. He said that none of the Cinema Displays can be used with his new MacBook Pro equipped with Thunderbolt.

“I myself have been on the phone with Apple at least six times now over this,” he wrote. “All they can say is that the engineers are looking into it and hopefully they can find a fix soon.”

Batista said he’s surprised a fix hasn’t been issued considering Thunderbolt ports have been added to new Macs released throughout 2011. The 24-inch Cinema Display was discontinued in 2010 along with the 30-inch model. Apple now offers a single display at 27 inches.

An updated 27-inch model, dubbed a “Thunderbolt Display,” was unveiled by Apple in July. It features Thunderbolt I/O and built-in docking cables for Mac notebooks, and is available for US$999. Orders for the display began shipping last week.

Before Thunderbolt was released this year, Apple’s Cinema Displays were driven by the Mini DisplayPort standard Apple has included in its Macs for years. Thunderbolt ports are the same size as Mini DisplayPort, and are meant to be backward-compatible with earlier hardware, while newer Thunderbolt-equipped devices can handle both video and data over the same 10Gbps copper cable.

Sort of weird that there are backwards compatibility issues with this of all things.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available and if you’ve seen this issue on your end, please let us know in the comments.

Intel quietly mentions 4K support, could introduce higher screen resolutions under upcoming Ivy Bridge architecture

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Date: Tuesday, September 20th, 2011, 06:48
Category: Hardware, News, Software

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The Retina Display: it’s never been a bad thing.

Per VR-Zone, Intel quietly revealed last week that its next-generation Ivy Bridge processors will support the 4K display resolution, with up to 4096 x 4096 pixels per monitor, potentially paving the way for Apple to introduce high-resolution “Retina Display” Macs.

The company announced the news during a technical session at its Intel Developer Forum in San Francisco last week, as noted by VR-Zone. Ivy Bridge chips will rival competing discrete GPUs by including support for the 4K resolution when they arrive next year.

The company also highlighted a Multi Format Codec (MFX) engine that is capable of playing multiple 4K videos at once. The codec is also capable of handling video processing for 4K QuadHD video, a standard that YouTube began supporting last year.

A set of performance enhancements, with special attention to graphics, should give Ivy Bridge as much as a 60 percent performance boost over the current generation of Sandy Bridge chips, according to Intel.

Intel also revealed last week that Ivy Bridge chips will include support for Apple’s OpenCL standard, which should give a performance boost to next-generation MacBook Air and 13-inch MacBook Pro models when they arrive in 2012.

If Apple were to introduce a 4K resolution display with the 16:9 ratio currently used in its Thunderbolt Display, iMac and MacBook Air products, the resulting resolution would be 4096 x 2304. A 27-inch display with 4K resolution would sport a pixel density of 174 pixels per inch. Assuming a working distance of 24 inches and 20/20 vision for the calculations, a 4K 27-inch iMac or Thunderbolt display would count as a “Retina Display.”

Apple first began using the “Retina Display” marketing term with the iPhone 4 last year. Then CEO Steve Jobs touted the 326ppi display as being beyond the capabilities of the human retina when used at a distance of 12 or more inches from the eyes.

In September 2010, the company released a Retina Display iPod touch. Rumors have also swirled that Apple will follow suit with a high-resolution version of the third-generation iPad, doubling the resolution of the tablet to 2048 x 1536.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple support note advises against daisy-chaining Thunderbolt-equipped displays

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Date: Monday, September 19th, 2011, 03:27
Category: Hardware, News

Apple’s new Thunderbolt-equipped displays are getting good reviews and can do a fair number of things.

But they can’t be daisy-chained.

According to an Apple support document, the company has noted that previous DisplayPort screens will not work when attached to the Thunderbolt port of its new display.

Thunderbolt-equipped Macs can support one or two Thunderbolt Displays, depending on the Thunderbolt chip in the system.

Apple notes that MacBook Airs support one external Thunderbolt Display in addition to their built in screen, while MacBook Pros, iMacs and the Mac mini can all support two Thunderbolt Displays.

With two external displays, the lowest end 13 inch MacBook Pro will lose the ability to drive its built in screen, while the highest end Mac mini with discrete AMD graphics can support two Thunderbolt Displays in addition to a third screen attached to its HDMI port.

However, users with an existing Mini DisplayPort external monitor will not be able to daisy chain the screen from the back of the new Thunderbolt Display, despite it being physically compatible with the port. Apple notes that “Mini DisplayPort displays will not light up if connected to the Thunderbolt port on an Apple Thunderbolt Display.”

Existing Mini DisplayPort screens, such as Apple’s LED Cinema Display, have never previously supported daisy chaining multiple screens to a single Mini DisplayPort interface, but the screens are supposed to work at the end of a Thunderbolt chain if there are no other displays in the chain.

Having any other screen in the Thunderbolt chain will kill ability of previous, non-Thunderbolt displays from being able to receive the DisplayPort signal, negating their forward compatibility with the new Thunderbolt standard.

The new Thunderbolt Display just began shipping to users yesterday after Apple released firmware updates for its new Thunderbolt-equipped Macs to solve remaining issues with working with the new screens.

In addition to serving as an external screen with stereo speakers, a FaceTime camera and a Magsafe power supply for powering a connected notebook, the new Thunderbolt Display also incorporates the features of a docking station, supplying connected Thunderbolt Macs with Gigabit Ethernet, three additional USB 2.0 ports, Firewire 800 and an additional Thunderbolt port.

Apple recommends that users connect storages devices to the display’s Thunderbolt port rather than connecting the display further down the chain.

If you’ve received a new Thunderbolt-equipped Apple display and have feedback regarding it, please let us know what you think in the comments.

Apple begins shipping Thunderbolt-equipped Cinema Display units

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Date: Friday, September 16th, 2011, 06:36
Category: Hardware, News

Per AppleInsider, a number of users have reported that Apple has begun shipping LED Thunderbolt Displays directly to them.

The customers reported late Thursday that their Thunderbolt Display orders have shipped, with one Australian customer claimed that the display has already arrived.

Apple unveiled the new US$999 27-inch LED Thunderbolt Display in July alongside new Mac Minis and MacBook Airs, promising availability within 60 days. The new display is the first to support the Thunderbolt I/O technology. In addition to Thunderbolt, the display includes a built-in FaceTime HD video camera, a 2.1 speaker system, MagSafe charger, three USB 2.0 ports, one Firewire 800 port, and one Gigabit Ethernet port.

Reports emerged last week that Apple had begun shipping the new displays to its retail stores with plans to begin fulfilling individual pre-orders on Sept. 15.

Earlier this week, Apple released a MacBook Pro firmware update enabling support for the new display. Early 2011 Thunderbolt MacBook Pro models and other Thunderbolt-capable Macs with discrete graphics support two daisy-chained displays, though the new MacBook Air supports only one display.

Intel and Apple introduced the Thunderbolt technology in February. On Thursday, the chipmaker relayed its plans for the specification, which will eventually support transfer speeds of up to 100Gbps after the transition to optical cabling.

If you’ve received a shipping notice about your Thunderbolt-equipped display or the display itself and have any feedback to offer, please let us know in the comments.