Intel exec cites Light Peak as ready for implementation

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Date: Monday, January 10th, 2011, 11:00
Category: Hardware, News

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It was on the horizon and now it’s here.

Per Macworld, an Intel executive on Friday said that its Light Peak interconnect technology, designed to link computers to devices like displays and external storage, is ready for implementation.

Light Peak, announced in 2009, was originally designed to use fiber optics to transmit data among systems and devices, but the initial builds will be based on copper, said David Perlmutter, executive vice president and general manager of Intel’s Architecture Group, in an interview with IDG News Service at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

“The copper came out very good, surprisingly better than what we thought,” Perlmutter said. “Optical is always a new technology which is more expensive,” he added.

Perlmutter declined to comment on when Light Peak-enabled devices would reach store shelves, saying shipment depended on device makers. Intel has in the past said that devices with Light Peak technology would start shipping in late 2010 or early this year.

For the majority of user needs today, copper is good, Perlmutter said. But data transmission is much faster over fiber optics, which will increasingly be used by vendors in Light Peak implementations.

Intel has said Light Peak technology would use light to speed up data transmission between mobile devices and products including storage, networking and audio devices. It would transfer data at bandwidths starting at 10 gigabits per second over distances of up to 100 meters. But with copper wires, the speed and range of data transmission may not be as great.

Computers today are linked to external devices using connectors like USB, but Perlmutter refused to be drawn into a debate on whether Light Peak would ultimately replace those technologies.

“USB 3.0 already has a traction in the market. I don’t know if that will change,” Perlmutter said.

There could be co-existence, with USB, display and networking protocols running on top of Light Peak.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Micron announces 500GB notebook SSD hard drives

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Date: Wednesday, January 5th, 2011, 06:28
Category: hard drive, Hardware, News

Micron Technology on Tuesday announced its highest capacity laptop solid-state drives (SSDs) based on its smallest circuitry technology; the largest SSD doubles the amount of data that can be stored compared to its predecessor.

Micron’s new RealSSD C400 flash drive line offers capacities ranging from 64GB to 512GB and will be available in 1.8″ and 2.5″ form factors, both supporting a 6Gbit per sec serial ATA (SATA) interface. The SSDs are based on Micron’s latest 25 nanometer (nm) NAND flash lithography technology.



Per Macworld, the C400’s predecessor, Micron’s RealSSD C300 drive, was its first to leverage the SATA 3.0 specification, which offers 6Gbit/sec. throughput, and the Open NAND Flash Interface (ONFI) 2.1 specification, which provides sequential read speeds of up to 355MB/sec. and sequential write speeds of up to 215MB/sec. The C300 also came in 1.8″ and 2.5″ models, with either 128GB or 256GB of capacity.

Crucial, a division of Micron, will begin selling the new SSD portfolio under the name Crucial m4 SSD. The Crucial m4 SSD product line is expected to be available online and through select global channel partners in the first quarter of 2011. Micron is not offering pricing information on the new SSDs.

The new drives achieve read speeds of up to 415MBps, which is 17% faster than Micron’s C300 SSDs. With write performance varying by capacity, the new 512GB drive delivers up to 260MBps write speeds, which is 20% faster than the C300 SSDs .

Micron is currently working with notebook manufacturers to qualify its new RealSSD drives, with samples of the RealSSD C400 drives available now. Micron expects mass production to begin in February.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Hitachi announces Z5K500 500GB notebook hard drive

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Date: Tuesday, December 21st, 2010, 05:56
Category: hard drive, Hardware, News

Electronics giant Hitachi has announced the industry’s highest density, single-platter hard disk drive that has an areal density of 636Gbit/inch, almost 100Gbit per square inch more than its closest competitor.

Per Macworld, Hitachi’s 2.5″ in 5400-rpm Travelstar Z5K500 laptop drive is only 7mm in height. The drive is the industry’s highest capacity, single-platter hard disk drive. The Travelstar Z5K500, which comes in 500GB, 320GB and 250GB capacities, is the second second generation of Hitachi products to use the company’s Advanced Format drive, which increases the physical sector size on drives from 512 bytes to 4096 (4K) bytes, thereby improving drive capacity and error correction capabilities.

Western Digital was first to the table with a 1TB laptop drive last year. That Scorpio Blue drive, however, contained three 333GB capacity platters and measured 12.5mm in height. Seagate and Toshiba then followed with their own three-platter, 12.5mm 1TB laptop drives, along with two-platter 750GB 9.5mm-high drives.

Hitachi said its new drive surpasses per-gigabyte cost advantages that other 2.5″ and 1.8″ drives had offered. Of course, it also exceeds the price per gigabyte when compared to solid-state drives, as well.

Hitachi’s new Travelstar Z5K500 drives have 8MB cache and a Serial ATA (SATA) 3Gbit/sec interface.

The drives are aimed at system manufacturers who can use the thinner drives to differentiate product lines by utilizing space savings to produce thinner devices, add battery capacity, increase shock robustness, or improve internal airflow.

The Travelstar Z-series of drives also offer an optional bulk data encryption feature, which allows the drives to be set to encrypt all data stored on them. The drives are expected to ship to distributors this month.

Hitachi said pricing for the new drive models has not been finalized.

Apple releases LED Cinema Display Firmware Update 1.0 for 27″ monitor

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Date: Thursday, December 16th, 2010, 06:00
Category: Hardware, News, Software

Late Wednesday, Apple released its LED Cinema Display Firmware Update 1.0 to try and fix a bug that’s been plaguing some users.

Per Macworld, the issue in question involves audio from the display’s speakers dying intermittently. In order to fix the sound issues, users have resorted to unplugging and replugging the monitor’s USB cable or even rebooting their Mac.

The update, a 957KB download, can be snagged from Apple’s support download site or via Software Update and then run it from your /Applications/Utilities folder and requires a Mac running Mac OS X 10.6.4 or later to install and run.

If you’re tried the firmware update and noticed any changes, please let us know.

Seagate announces one terabyte 2.5″ notebook hard drive

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Date: Tuesday, December 14th, 2010, 06:15
Category: Hardware, News

Hard drive manufacturer Seagate on Monday announced the industry’s first 2.5″ enterprise-class drive with one terabyte of capacity, or about 60% more could be stored previously.

Per Macworld, the next generation Constellation hard drive allows a standard 2U (3.5-in high) storage array to store up to 24TB, and a full server rack to store up to 500TB.

Seagate’s new drive spins at 7200 rpm, contains four 250GB platters, and has 6Gbit/sec throughput. Like the first generation of the Constellation, the second generation comes with serial SCSI (SAS) connectivity. The updated offering also offers serial ATA (SATA).

“We’re comparing this model to a 10,000-rpm drive in the enterprise, which today has a maximum capacity of 600GB,” said Barbara Craig, Seagate’s senior product marketing manager. “Its performance is about three times that of notebook drive and it’s twice as reliable.”

The SAS model of the Constellation.2 is dual ported for resiliency and sports sequential and random read speeds of up to 115MB/sec; the SATA model has 115MB/sec sequential read speeds but boasts 180MB/sec for random reads. Not only did Seagate double the maximum capacity of the Constellation, but it also increased the entry-level drive capacity from 160GB to 250GB.

The Constellation lags behind Seagate’s 1TB, 3.5″ enterprise-class drive in sequential performance, but blows by it in random reads. The random performance is better on 2.5″ drives because of their smaller disks and denser data.

Sequential Performance (MB/S) is better on 3.5″ drives because of the larger disk capacity and the higher areal density of the drive, Seagate said.

Regardless of the performance in comparison to its 3.5″ drive, Seagate pointed out that its new 2.5″ drive offers far greater space and power savings over its larger cousin. For example, the Constellation.2 offers 72 percent power savings while idle over the 3.5-in drive, or 3.85 watts versus 8 watts while idle, the company added.

Like its predecessor, the Constellation.2 is a self-encrypting drive. The latest model offers an encryption algorithm from AES 128-bit to AES 256-bit.

Sometime next quarter, Seagate is set to announce a Constellation.2 drive that has passed the Federal Information Processing Standards (FIPS) and is sealed with a tamper-resistant label.

The estimated mean time between failures (MTBF) was also increased with this drive from 1.2 million hours with the previous generation to 1.4 million hours, according to Craig. The Constellation.2 has twice the lifespan of Seagate’s 2.5-in laptop drive, the Momentus.

Final pricing and availability have yet to be announced for the Constellation.

Rumor: Apple may rely on Intel’s Sandy Bridge line for next-gen notebook CPUs, AMD for graphics processing

Posted by:
Date: Thursday, December 9th, 2010, 06:08
Category: Hardware, MacBook, MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, Rumor

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Per CNET, Apple will use Intel’s Sandy Bridge CPUs in its future notebooks. Interestingly enough, some of these forthcoming machines might rely solely on Intel’s chip for both general and graphical processing tasks.

That’s the word from the usual “sources familiar with Apple’s plans,” who expect “MacBook models with screen sizes of 13″ and below” to eschew the inclusion of a discrete GPU and ride their luck on the improved graphical performance of Intel’s upcoming do-it-all chip. There are currently no sub-13.3″ MacBooks, so the suggestion of one is surely intriguing.

The key point here is that NVIDIA’s being left out of the Apple party, because MacBook Pros are also predicted to switch up to AMD-provided graphics hardware. All these changes should be taking place with Apple’s next refresh, which is naturally expected at some point in the new year.

Even so, this could all be just a massive negotiating ploy to get NVIDIA to play nicer with its pricing, we’re inclined to believe Intel has finally gotten its integrated graphics up to a level where it pleases the discerning tastemakers at Apple.

Apple 27″ Cinema Display units demonstrating audio, slow volume control response problems

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Date: Wednesday, December 1st, 2010, 13:19
Category: Hardware, News

As nifty as Apple’s 27″ Cinema Display, there may be some kinks to work out.

Per MacNN, the device is suffering from serious audio problems, some owners say. Complaints reportedly surfaced back in October on the Apple boards, but have persisted without any solution from Apple. In worst-case scenarios Cinema Displays have been losing built-in audio entirely, although the glitch can be temporarily solved by unplugging and reconnecting the monitor, or in some instances changing audio settings.

Another problem involves slow response times for keyboard-based volume controls. Affected displays can potentially take as long as 6 or 7 seconds to respond to keyboard presses, making onboard sound impractical.

The issues are notably affecting both Mac and Windows systems, suggesting that any permanent solution will require a firmware or hardware fix. The root cause may in fact involve USB connections, as Macs using Mini DisplayPort for audio have been going unaffected. Apple support staff are said to be aware of the problem, but unable to tell if or when a fix is coming. Some customers have managed to secure replacement monitors only to encounter the same trouble.

If you’ve seen these issues on your end or discovered your own fix or workaround, please let us know.

Black Friday prices appear for Apple iOS-based devices

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Date: Friday, November 26th, 2010, 05:16
Category: Hardware, iPad, iPod, iPod Touch, retail

It’s begun.

Per the mighty AppleInsider and its iOS price guide, Apple is offering savings for the shopping holiday, though the company has sold out of its US$79.99 Apple TV deal and may be running low on its US$199 8GB iPod touch inventory.

iPods:
Meanwhile, Amazon.com is offering US$29 off the 8GB iPod touch. The online big-box reseller on Thursday held the best prices on the remained of Apple’s iPod line but has since raised its prices. As such, Apple’s Black Friday sale is extending the best discounts the rest of the iPod touches (up to US$51 off), as well as the iPod nano (up to US$21 off).

iPads:
Unfortunately, supply concerns have prompted Apple not to authorized resellers to take orders for the iPad online, so the product is not yet included in the price guide. Although iPads are listed on Amazon, they are priced above MSRP and sold online through other parties. Therefore, the best deals on iPads (US$41 off) come from Apple, in addition to the MiFi bundle deals offered by Verizon.

Stay tuned for additional Black Friday details as they become available and if you’ve heard of any good deals on your end, please let us know.

Apple, authorized resellers offer Black Friday savings on desktop Macs, notebooks

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Date: Friday, November 26th, 2010, 05:40
Category: Hardware, Mac mini, Mac Pro, MacBook, MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, News, retail

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Black Friday has begun and so have the discounts.

Per iPodNN, Apple is presently offering US$101 off certain Macs, albeit authorized resellers are offering up to $150 off white MacBooks, $270 off MacBook Pros, $180 off iMacs, $130 off MacBook Airs and $100 off Mac minis.

Apple’s Black Friday sale offers US$101 off MacBook Pros, iMacs and 13-inch MacBook Airs, in addition to US$41 off iPads, up to US$21 off iPod nanos, and up to US$41 off iPod touches, plus a handful of accessory deals. In every case but the iPad, however, resellers have well undercut Apple, as can be seen in AppleInsider’s Mac Pricing Guide, below.

White 13-inch MacBooks:
For its part, MacConnection (Black Friday sale) maintains the lowest price on the sole white MacBook, blowing out units at US$849.99 (a US$149 discount).

MacBook Airs:
Long-time reseller MacMall has teamed up with AppleInsider to offer its readers an additional, exclusive 2% discount off Apple’s new family of MacBook Airs when using the links in this article or the price guide. Unlike MacConnection, whose deals are tied to mail-in-rebates, MacMall’s Black Friday savings all run off instant discounts, meaning the prices you see on the reseller’s website are the prices you pay, no rebates needed.

The exclusive coupons on the Airs bring the bringing the 1.40GHz 11″ MacBook Air 64GB to US$929.04 (US$70 savings), the 1.40GHz 11″ MacBook Air 128GB to US$1,116.22 (US$83 savings), the 1.86GHz 13″ MacBook Air 128GB to US$1,174.04 (US$125 savings), and the 1.86GHz 13″ MacBook Air 256GB to US$1,468.04 (US$131 savings).

MacBook Pros:
For MacBook Pros, MacConnection continues to extend the best deals across the board with its mail-in-rebates. Among the standouts are the 2.66GHz 13″ MacBook Pro for US$1,299 (US$200 savings), the 2.4GHz 15″ MacBook Pro for US$1,599 (US$200 savings), the 2.53GHz 15″ MacBook Pro for US$1,579 (US$240 savings), and the 2.53GHz 17″ MacBook Pro for US$2,029 (US$270 savings).

iMacs:
MacConnection is also offering the 3.06GHz 21.5″ iMac for US$1,049.00 (US$150 savings), the 3.20GHz 21.5″ iMac for US$1,349 (US$150 savings), the 3.20GHz 27.0″ iMac for US$1,529 (US$170 savings), and the 2.80GHz 27.0″ iMac quad-core for US$1,819.00 (US$180 savings).

Mac minis:
MacConnection is also offering the 2.40GHz Mac mini for US$599 (US$100 savings), with a strict limit of 1 per customer. Amazon, however, has matched the US$599 pricing without imposing a limit. For the 2.66GHz Mac mini Server, MacMall, Amazon, and B&H Photo have the lowest pricing at US$954 (US$45 savings).

Mac Pros:
When it comes to Mac Pros, a handful of resellers are offering similar pricing on the 2.80GHz 4-Core and 2.40GHz 8-Core models. For its part, MacMall has taken US$400 off the high-end 2.66GHz 12-Core Mac Pro

It should also be noted the both MacConnection and MacMall are offering free shipping and free printers with each Mac purchase. MacMall is also offering a free copy of Parallels Desktop 6 with each Mac purchase. Both offers are tied to rebates.

If you’ve seen any memorable Black Friday Mac deals in your area, please let us know.

Apple may be relaxing liquid/spill-damage repair policies

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Date: Thursday, November 11th, 2010, 05:41
Category: Hardware, News

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A series of internal policy documents leaked to Boy Genius Report shows that Apple may be amending its liquid damage repair policy. Apple’s mobile devices, which currently come with small Liquid Contact Indicator (LCI) patches that react and change color when in contact with water, uses the color change to determine whether a device has been submerged in water before honoring warranty claims for the devices. This policy has resulted in some controversy, with some people claiming the LCIs are changing color in conditions of high humidity or are otherwise changing color without having been in contact with liquids.

Though previously Apple employees would just inspect the patches, the new policies apparently will grant more leeway and also require the employees to look for additional signs of liquid damage before determining that liquid contact was the cause for the device malfunction. This change does relax some of the return and replacement rules for iPods, and may make it easier for Apple employees to swap out devices for users; however, the document does note that the final determination of damage is still up to the Apple Store employees.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.