Early Ivy Bridge benchmark tests surface, show appreciable improvements in graphics, overall performance

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Date: Wednesday, April 11th, 2012, 11:06
Category: Hardware, MacBook Pro, News

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It’s the benchmarks that make an upcoming technology that much more interesting.

Per CPU World, a series of benchmark tests demonstrates how the much-anticipated Ivy Bridge architecture in the upcoming MacBook Pro notebooks could show fairly significant improvements in performance, particularly in graphics.

The chip being tested was the Core i7-3820QM, a 2.7 GHz processor with turbo speeds up to 3.7 GHz paired with Intel HD 4000 graphics. The chip is scheduled to debut with a price of US$568 in high volume, and seems to be the natural successor to the Sandy Bridge Core i7-2860QM that is the current high-end processor for the 15-inch and 17-inch MacBook Pro, available as a build-to-order option.

For benchmarking comparisons, the new Ivy Bridge Core i7-3820QM chip was pitted against a Sandy Bridge Core i7-2960XM, which is an even higher-performance “Extreme” chip than is available in the current MacBook Pro. Consequently, any performance increase between the current high-end MacBook Pro chip and this new Ivy Bridge chip would be even greater than outlined in the benchmarking comparison.

Overall, the 3820QM was found to score an average of 9% higher than the Extreme 2960XM chip, a modest improvement but one which should be significantly higher relative to the 2860QM chip from the current MacBook Pro. Taking into account a roughly 10% higher performance for the tested 2960XM Sandy Bridge processor compared to the 2860QM actually found in the current MacBook Pro, the new 3820QM Ivy Bridge processor should offer roughly 20% higher CPU performance than is currently available in the MacBook Pro.

Looking at the CPU performance, using a few tests, the reduced production process helps the performance for a number of standard tests. In 3DMark Vantage (Entry level preset), Ivy Bridge has a 10% performance improvement over Sandy Bridge for the CPU score, and 9% in the physics score. In Cinebench 11.5, the single thread test showed a performance boost of 4%, and the multi-threaded test gave an improvement of 10%. The performance boost in the Truecrypt 7.0a – AES test was 4%. Finally, using x264 HD Benchmark 4.0, test 1 showed a boost of 13%, and test 2 showed a boost of 11%.

Even more significant gains for the Ivy Bridge chip show up in graphics performance, where the Intel HD 4000 integrated graphics supplants the HD 3000 graphics found in the Sandy Bridge chips. According to the benchmarks, the new HD 4000 integrated graphics outperforms the current graphics by anywhere from 32% to 108% depending on the test.

Apple, of course also includes a dedicated graphics chip in its larger MacBook Pro models, giving users the option of higher performance with the dedicated chip or increased battery life with the integrated graphics. And given that the HD 4000 integrated graphics does not yet approach the performance of dedicated chips, those looking for maximum performance will still want to take advantage of whichever dedicated graphics option Apple includes in updated MacBook Pro models.

But significant improvements to integrated graphics performance could show up as a benefit in a number of areas, including providing users with better performance even when opting for the battery-conserving graphics settings. Apple has also reportedly been considering using integrated graphics only in some of its mid-range MacBook Pro models, with the HD 4000 chip making it feasible for the company to drop the dedicated graphics chip on some of those models while still being able to offer acceptable graphics performance.

Finally, the HD 4000 graphics will offer a marked improvement for the 13-inch MacBook Pro, which is expected to debut in June when Intel rolls out its dual-core Ivy Bridge processors. The smaller 13-inch form factor requires that those models rely solely on integrated graphics, meaning that all users would see a significant boost from the current HD 3000 graphics to the new HD 4000 graphics.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Inventory constraints point towards possibility of new 15-inch MacBook Pro notebook on horizon

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Date: Tuesday, April 10th, 2012, 06:12
Category: Hardware, MacBook Pro, News

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When the current supplies dwindle, interesting things are about to happen.

Per AppleInsider, multiple authorized resellers this week are reflecting stock-outs of 15-inch MacBook Pros, suggesting that Apple is ramping down production of existing models before introducing redesigned offerings that will largely resemble the company’s increasingly popular line of ultra-slim MacBook Airs.

Among those resellers reflecting backorder status on some of the current 15-inch MacBook Pros is J&R, which is now sold out of both the 2.2GHz model, which is listed as “out of stock,” and the 2.4GHz variety, which is currently advertised as “on order.”

In addition, Best Buy has also stopped accepting online orders for the 2.4GHz model for home delivery. The 15-inch notebook is still available on a store-by-store basis, however a quick check of individual store inventory in cities such as Chicago and Austin similarly indicate that between 40 and 60 percent of those shops are similarly reflecting stock outs.

Earlier this week, MacConnection was temporarily out of stock the 2.2GHz model of Apple’s 15-inch MacBook Pro, but the notebook has since come back in stock at the online retailer.

Multiple instances of inventory constraints within Apple’s indirect sales channel are often some of the first signs that the Mac maker is drawing down stock and slowing shipments of existing models before replacing them with materially enhanced offerings. This week’s stock-outs come as Intel is gearing up to launch its Ivy Bridge chips, which have been rumored to begin finding their way into Apple’s Mac product line as early as this month or next.

Apple appears to be planning a staggered overhaul of the MacBook Pro lineup, beginning with an updated 15-inch model, followed by the 13-inch, and ultimately the 17-inch by the end of the year.

Recent rumors have claimed production of the 15-inch model will begin this month with 200,000 units, while production of the new the 13-inch MacBook Pro will occur in June with builds of 400,000 initial units.

The new 15-inch MacBook Pro is rumored to arrive as soon as this month with Intel’s Core i5 and Core i7 Ivy Bridge processors. Reports have suggested Apple’s new notebooks could include Intel’s Core i7-3820QM and Core i7-3720QM models featuring integrated HD 4000 graphics.

There are fewer details on the forthcoming 13-inch MacBook Pro, as one report from March said it was “not clear” if Apple planned to introduce a new MacBook Pro with an entry-level Core i3 Ivy Bridge processor. All of Apple’s current “Pro” laptops feature only higher-end Core i5 and Core i7 processors.

The new MacBook Pros are expected to be noticeably thinner and lighter in design, and will eschew the spinning disc drive to adopt a form factor similar to Apple’s thin-and-light MacBook Air. The MacBook Pro lineup was given a quiet update with faster GPUs and graphics cards last October, while the last major redesign of the lineup came in late 2008.

Separately, in what could be a sign of the end of the Mac Pro desktop line, Amazon is currently out of stock of the 8-core model.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Rumor: Apple internally seeding iPhone unit with 1GB of RAM, upgraded iPod touch device

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Date: Monday, April 9th, 2012, 09:48
Category: Hardware, iPod, Rumor

With one iOS device update out of the way for 2012, Apple is working on updates to the iPhone and iPod touch. While these updates are expected, some additional iOS device details have leaked.

Per 9to5Mac, Apple has internally seeded a prototype next-generation iPhone with the iPhone 4 design. The actual next-generation iPhone is specifically said to not include the iPhone 4/4S design, but Apple is testing these new devices in older casings to throw off leaks. The purpose of the prototype iPhone that we heard about is to test a variation of the “A5X” chip in an iPhone. The A5X processor in the new iPad was specifically built to drive the new Retina Display, so that chip wouldn’t make much sense in an iPhone.

Instead, the iPhone prototypes feature a variation of the A5X’s S5L8945X architecture. Like the A5X-powered iPad, these new iPhone prototypes are packing 1GB of RAM. This prototype is labeled N96 internally, so it’s not certain if this internal codename will carry over to the actual next-generation iPhone. Again, this iPhone is an internal-only unit built for testing the performance of a new chip in an iPhone, not an actual phone that Apple will produce.

The iPod touch was an interesting product for Apple last year as it was the only iOS device to not receive internal nor cosmetic changes (save for a new white model). However, it looks like Apple is still interested in the iPod touch and wants a future for it. According to a file inside of an internal iOS 5.1 build, Apple is working on a fifth-generation iPod touch that is labeled iPod 5,1 internally. No specifics have been confirmed regarding the new iPod touch hardware, but the jump from 4,1 (the current internal iPod touch label) to 5,1 indicates major internal changes, at the very least. Perhaps Apple is finally moving to an A5 or A5X-like chip in the iPod touch. After all, the iPod touch is one of the most popular gaming devices on the market, and Apple’s dual-core iOS device processors offer top-of-the-line graphics performance.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple “noodling” with idea/prototype of 7.85-inch iPad

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Date: Thursday, April 5th, 2012, 07:34
Category: Hardware, iPad, Rumor

Before there’s anything, there’s always a prototype.

Per The Next Web, Apple is “noodling” with ideas and prototypes for a 7.85-inch iPad, though it’s not clear if the device will ever see the light of day.

John Gruber of Daring Fireball commented that he has “heard from nobody” on whether the 7-inch iPad will actually be released and when that would happen. Gruber did speculate, though, that Apple may have prepared enter the low-end tablet market should the Kindle Fire prove to be a runaway success. He also suggested that the company could possibly unveil the smaller iPad at the Worldwide Developers Conference, since it’s unlikely that Apple would release a 2012 iPhone at WWDC.

Reports of a smaller iPad have persisted since the original iPad launched in April 2010.

Speculation on a smaller form factor iPad gained legitimacy in February when The Wall Street Journal reported that Apple officials have been showing off designs for a smaller iPad that has a similar screen resolution as the iPad 2. The report did caution, though, that Apple could be simply testing new designs and might not actually release the device.

Recent reports have also suggested the rumored device could feature a “slim bezel display.” A leaked research note from Samsung Securities that surfaced in March hinted that Apple will release a so-called “iPad mini” in the third quarter of 2012.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

CCTV battery, third-party car charger hacked into do-it-yourself external MacBook battery

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Date: Tuesday, April 3rd, 2012, 08:13
Category: battery, Hack, Hardware, MacBook, MacBook Pro

This falls into the “If You’re Feeling Brave” category, but it could work nicely.

Per The Verge, MacBook Pro user Evan Rodgers took a CCTV battery, a third party MacBook car charger, and some soldering tools to create a do-it-yourself external MacBook battery.

Watch the video, see what you make of it and if you have the parts on hand, you can avoid a fairly costly trip to the Apple Store for a replacement MacBook Pro battery and add about two to three hours of on-the-fly usage:



Rumor: Apple working on external controller for iOS gaming

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Date: Monday, April 2nd, 2012, 06:51
Category: Hardware, iPad, Rumor

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It never hurts to have a good peripheral.

Per AnandTech, Apple is reportedly working on a physical controller to similarly enhance gameplay on its iPad and other mobile devices.

In his review of Apple’s new iPad and its gaming graphics prowess, AnandTech’s Anand Lal Shimpi reported that he has been made aware of “an internal Apple project to bring a physical controller to market,” but said his sources were unable to determine whether the company has made a definitive decision to follow through on its efforts.

Regardless, Lal Shimpi believes such devices may soon be a necessary accompaniment for hardcore mobile gamers, especially as smartphones and tablets come close to equalling the performance of existing game consoles.

He adds that the iPad maker may also be feeling some pressure to this end from rival Google, which has baked in basic wired and wireless controller support into its Android operating system since the release of Honeycomb 3.0 roughly one year ago.

Along with their Android counterparts, iOS devices have emerged as a new frontier for game developers, with one research firm indicating that the two platforms saw their combined share of U.S.-based game software revenue rise more than threefold from just 19% in 2009 to an estimated 58% by the end of last year.

Their success has come at the expense of incumbents Nintendo and Sony, who saw their respective share of software sales slip from 70% to 36% and 11% to 6%, respectively, over the same period.

The situation faced by Nintendo and Sony shows signs of worsening this year, with Sony recently reporting a staggering loss of US$1.2 billion for the December quarter shortly after Nintendo reported the first ever operating loss (US$575 million) in its corporate history.

Meanwhile, Apple has quietly been assembling an arsenal of seasoned gaming executives to help leverage its momentum in the gaming space as it takes a head-on approach to combating encroachment from Google and others.

Most recently, the company was reported to have lured Robin Burrowes away from heading up Microsoft’s overseas XBox Live team. His hiring followed the recruit of Nintendo’s public relation’s chief Robert Saunders last year, as well as Nick Grange — who also at one point ran public relations for Xbox, as well as for gaming heavyweights Activision and Electronics Arts.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Rumor: Apple’s 2012 iMac to feature anti-reflective displays

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Date: Monday, April 2nd, 2012, 06:25
Category: Hardware, iMac, Rumor

Because rumors make technology interesting.

Per DigiTimes, a completely redesigned family of Apple’s iMacs due for release later this year will not only arrive noticeably slimmer than existing models but may also be the first of the company’s desktops to feature anti-reflective displays.

The Taiwanese rumor publication has claimed that G-Tech is ramping up its monthly production capacity of cover glass from 1.8 million units to 3 million units in an effort to supply 25% or more of the cover glass for Apple’s new iPad.

The report curiously cites sources in adding that “G-Tech is also expected to supply AR (anti-reflective) glass solutions for Apple’s all-in-one (AIO) PCs with the new products to also serve as a growth driver for G-Tech.”

That would be a first for an Apple desktop, as the Mac maker has thus far only offered anti-reflective solutions as built-to-order options on its MacBook family of notebooks.

Apple’s last major redesign of the iMac arrived in October 2009 in the form of new 21.5- and 27-inch aluminum-clad models with an edge-to-edge glass design. Since then, the company has been working on a pair strikingly slimmer and lighter models that will more closely resemble the footprint of today’s most popular LED televisions according to sources close to the story.

Rumored for an introduction sometime in the second half of the year, the new iMac will help define a trend that will also see several of the company’s other core products adopt slimmer, more streamlined footprints throughout the year, including new MacBook Pros that resemble MacBook Airs and a thinner iPhone.

Separately, Apple has also been working to cut the fat from peripherals that ship with its industry-leading all-in-one desktop, with recent company filings revealing techniques for a new, slim-form keyboard with keys that could have a total travel range of as little as 0.2 millimeters.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple backs royalty-free licensing of “nano-SIM” cards, looks to incorporate the technology in future iOS devices

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Date: Monday, March 26th, 2012, 06:55
Category: Hardware, News

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It never hurts to play nice every so often.

Per Foss Patents, Apple will reportedly offer to license a new, ultra-compact SIM card technology to rival mobile devices makers if they agree back the format as the new industry standard for subscriber identification modules (SIM), a move which could pave the way for more compact and efficiently-designed iOS devices.

The pledge, said to have been outlined earlier this month in a letter to the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) penned by a senior member of Apple’s legal council, comes just days before the iPhone maker is expected to square off against opponents of the design at the organization’s Smart Card Platform Plenary in southern France.

Sized roughly a third smaller than existing MicroSIM cards found inside current iPads and iPhones, the proposed nano-SIM design — which is also noticeably thinner than that of MicroSIM — has already garnered the support of most European wireless carriers as part of their own proposals to the ETSI.

However, rival mobile device makers Nokia, RIM and Motorola have each voiced concerns in opposing standardization of nano-SIM — mainly out of fears Apple could eventually claim ownership of the patents behind the format, placing the company in a position of powered where it could command royalties from the broader industry.

The March 19th letter to the ETSI stands to invalidate these concerns, according to independent intellectual property analyst Florian Mueller, through “an unequivocal commitment to grant royalty-free licenses to any Apple patents essential to nano-SIM, provided that Apple’s proposal is adopted as a standard and that all other patent holders accept the same terms in accordance with the principle of reciprocity.”

“This shows that Apple is serious about establishing the nano-SIM standard rather than seeking to cash in on it,” he said. “Apple is a company that values its intellectual property and rarely gives it away for free. But as far as the evolution of SIM cards is concerned, Apple is clearly being generous and absolutely pro-competitive.”

In 2010, Apple was said to be working on an embedded SIM design that would allow users to select a carrier and service plan directly from their iPhone. But those plans allegedly upset the wireless operators, who felt they could be marginalized by such a move. As such, the Cupertino-based company compromised and began talking with carriers about designing a smaller SIM card that eventually emerged as the existing MicroSIM.

Apple’s continued push towards further miniaturization of SIM cards aims to reduce the space required to house the identification cards inside its future mobile devices, paving the way for devices that are either more compact or free up additional space for other components, such as larger batteries.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Unreleased Intel Ivy Bridge benchmarked on modified version of Mac OS X 10.7.3, promising results reported

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Date: Monday, March 26th, 2012, 06:25
Category: Hardware, News, Processors

The Ivy Bridge architecture is on its way, which will probably be a cool thing.

Per the tonymac86 Blog, a modified version of OS X 10.7.3 has been tested with an unreleased Intel Core i7 Ivy Bridge chip, giving a first indication of how Apple’s next-generation Macs will perform.

An anonymous tipster provided screenshots of benchmarks conducted with a Core i7-3770K processor to the blog. The Core i7 CPU is one of Intel’s next-generation Ivy Bridge processors, and was tested at its stock speed of 3.5GHz.

The early test, which used a Z77 motherboard, found that OS X runs well on Intel’s forthcoming Ivy Bridge processors. However, while the tests give an idea of how Ivy Bridge will perform with new Macs, the “Hackintosh” benchmarks do not represent any real Apple products.

The person testing the new Intel processor had to modify the boot kernel of OS X 10.7.3 Lion in order to get it to run on the chip. In addition, the Core i7-3770K is a high-end desktop chip that may never find its way into any of Apple’s shipping products.

Still, the tests offer the first look at Apple’s OS X operating system running on an Ivy Bridge chip. It’s also the first glimpse at Intel’s HD Graphics 4000, which previous tests running Windows 7 found is 55 percent faster than the 3000 series graphics integrated with the Sandy Bridge processors released by Intel last year.

The “Hackintosh” machine earned an overall Geekbench score of 13,453, led by a score of 20,250 for its processor floating point performance. The tests gauged the quad-core processor with 8 gigabytes of 2400MHz DDR3 RAM.

Apple’s new Macs with Ivy Bridge processors are expected to begin debuting in the coming months, starting with new, slimmer 13- and 15-inch MacBook Pros that are rumored to already be in production. The new 15-inch model is expected to be offered in variations powered by Intel’s mobile Core i5 and i7 Ivy Bridge CPUs.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Rumor: Apple’s use of double-resolution icons in Mac OS X 10.8 previews hint at Retina Display-equipped Macs

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Date: Friday, March 23rd, 2012, 09:59
Category: Hardware, Rumor

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When in doubt, go with the Retina Display.

Additional evidence has surfaced that high-resolution Retina display Macs are in Apple’s near future has been discovered in an early developer build of OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion.

Per Ars Technica, double-resolution icons were found in “unexpected places” of Mountain Lion according to sources who wished to remain anonymous. Their inclusion was interpreted to suggest Apple could release Retina display MacBooks as soon as this summer.

One double-resolution icon was found in the new Messages application. In the second developer preview of Mountain Lion, released a week ago, some icons are incorrectly displaying at twice their normal size.

Their appearance in the latest build of Mountain Lion led the source to suggest that new MacBooks equipped with Retina displays could appear as soon as this summer, to coincide with the release of OS X 10.8.

Evidence of Retina display Macs cropped up in February when Apple released OS X 10.7.3 with new high-DPI user interface elements. Specifically, a number of cursors in the operating system were updated to scale to larger sizes on higher resolution screens.

Apple added HiDPI modes to OS X Lion last year, but they were previously only accessible by installing Xcode. HiDPI is modeled after the UI resolution doubling that Apple does with its Retina display iPhones, the iPod touch and the new iPad.

Rumors began to crop up late last year that Apple is preparing new versions of its MacBook Pro lineup with double-resolution displays. The resulting display for a 15-inch MacBook Pro would be 2,880 by 1,800 pixels.

Support for higher resolution Macs will come with Intel’s next-generation Ivy Bridge processors. Those chips will support up to the 4K resolution, which allows 4,096-by-4,096 pixels per monitor.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.