iFixit completes Haswell-based MacBook Air teardown, finds changes in battery, SSD, other modules

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Date: Wednesday, June 12th, 2013, 06:21
Category: Hardware, MacBook Air, News

The Haswell-based MacBook Air is out, and in their usual fine style, the ubergeeks at iFixit have completed a full teardown of the notebook. Per AppleInsider, the updated notebook features minor changes seen in battery size, the SSD module and integrated graphics, among others.

Most notable among the hardware revisions is an enlarged battery, which moves from a 7.3V 6700mAh pack to a 7.6V 7150mAh unit. The cells still dominate the Air’s innards.


13.06.12-MBA_Teardown

Apple touts the new 13-inch model will last 12 hours on a charge, but the battery is not thought to be the main contributor to that spec buff. Instead, the Air uses Intel’s Haswell ULT silicon, which offers huge decreases in power consumption while serving up snappier performance.

With Haswell, Intel moved to its next-generation integrated graphics solution, Intel HD Graphics 5000, which doesn’t require a separate board.

Adding to the updated component list is a new SSD module from Samsung, which is smaller than similar parts used in previous MacBook Air iterations. With the new size comes new technology, as the latest SSD unit uses a PCIe bus rather than SATA, a first for Mac. PCIe can achieve rates of up to 800MB/s, while SATA is limited to about 600MB/s.

The new Air is also the first to employ the fast 802.11ac Wi-Fi protocol, which required the computer’s wireless card to be updated. Apple launched redesigned AirPort Extreme and Time Capsule models to take advantage of the new standard, and is planning on incorporating the technology into future Macs as they roll out.

The only change made to the MacBook Air’s chassis is a hole to accommodate the addition of a second internal microphone used for sound cancellation duties.

Other smaller tweaks include a redesigned heat sink clamp, repositioned speaker cabling and a revamped MagSafe 2 board that no longer holds a socket for the laptop’s iSight camera.

If you’ve gotten your mitts on the new MacBook Air and have any feedback to offer, please let us know in the comments.

Haswell-based MacBook Air sports record-breaking SSD benchmark test results, PCIe bus cited

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Date: Tuesday, June 11th, 2013, 07:52
Category: Hardware, MacBook Air, News

If you were considering snagging a brand new, just-released MacBook Air notebook, you’re going to like this.

Per 9to5Mac and French web site MacBidouille, Apple’s new Haswell-powered MacBook Airs produced SSD read and write speeds so fast in bench tests that they initially thought it must have been a bug in their test software. A second run in different software revealed that, no, the latest Airs really do offer read & write speeds higher than the maximum possible with SATA 3.

The secret is that Apple is using the same PCIe-based SSDs in the latest MacBook Air as they announced for the new Mac Pro …

On the storage front, Apple officially leads the charge with the move to PCIe based SSDs. The upcoming Mac Pro, as well as the new MacBook Airs both use PCIe based SSDs instead of SATA drives. A quick look at OS X’s system profiler reveals a PCIe 2.0 x2 interface, capable of 1GB/s in each direction.

PCIe (Peripheral Component Interconnect Express) is the standard already used in the ExpressCard slot used in some notebooks, and offers a direct link to the motherboard without the bottleneck created by a SATA interface (SATA 3 tops out at 600MB/s).

A series of tests over on AnandTech confirmed MacBidouille‘s results, with even higher speeds seen on larger file transfers, describing it as the first time PCIe storage has been seen in a mainstream consumer device.

While Apple’s focus for the new CPU was better battery-life rather than faster speed, tests show that the processor speeds are 3-8% faster than the previous models.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Next-gen Mac Pro size/scale revealed via hand picture

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Date: Tuesday, June 11th, 2013, 06:24
Category: Hardware, Mac Pro, News, Pictures

Since a picture’s worth a thousand words, this one from Electronista regarding Apple’s upcoming Mac Pro computer says even more…


macprohand

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple releases updated MacBook Air, cites 12-hour battery, Intel Haswell architecture

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Date: Monday, June 10th, 2013, 12:45
Category: Hardware, MacBook Air, News

It’s the MacBook Air with the battery you always wanted.

Per The Mac Observer, Apple introduced updated MacBook Air models on Monday during its World Wide Developer Conference in San Francisco. The new ultra-light models sport what Apple called “all day battery life” and also run Intel’s Haswell UTC processors.

The new 13-inch MacBook Air offers up to 12 hours battery life and over a month of standby time, and while it doesn’t gain a high resolution Retina Display, it does include 802.11ac wireless networking — a first for Apple’s product lineup. The new Wi-Fi spec means the MacBook Air can transfer data faster and network connections are more robust.

Like the previous model, the new Air includes Thunderbolt and USB connectors, a built-in camera and microphone, built-in speakers, Bluetooth, and more.

The updated MacBook Air is available now and is priced at US$999 for the 11-inch model, and the 13-inch model is US$100 less at US$1,099.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple offers first look at next-gen Mac Pro at WWDC

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Date: Monday, June 10th, 2013, 12:47
Category: Hardware, Mac Pro, News

The new Mac Pro is en route.

And it’s really, really, awesomely black.

Per Macworld, Apple senior vice president Phil Schiller unveiled the company’s upcoming Mac Pro during a “sneak peek” at the Worldwide Developers Conference on Monday.

The upcoming new desktop workstation features a sleek, cylindrical design that’s a stark contrast to the mammoth, roomy aluminum tower initially introduced with the PowerPC-based Power Mac G5 in 2003, and revised with the release of the Intel-based Mac Pro in 2006. Apple didn’t announce a formal ship date, stating that the new Mac Pro will ship later this year, nor did it talk about pricing or specific models. It will be designed and constructed in the United States.


nextgenmacpro

The new 9.9-inch tall Mac Pro case is about one-eighth the size of the Mac Pro tower and features a handle for carrying, and a motion sensor lights up to show the I/O ports. The new design, according to Schiller, is based around a “unified thermal core” to help keep the machine cool.

The unit will feature a Xeon E5 processor, which is based on Intel’s Haswell microarchitecture and introduced by the company last April. Configuration with 12-cores will be available, and all Mac Pros will use third-generation PCI Express architecture. Apple is also using 1866MHz ECC DDR3 RAM.

Schiller also went to great lengths to emphasize the new Mac Pro’s graphics performance. The machine will have dual AMD FirePro workstation-class GPUs, and be able to run three 4K displays at one time. Apple says the new Mac Pro’s graphics performance is 2.5 times faster than its predecessor.

The Mac Pro is designed for speed, and Apple is outfitting the machine with PCIe-based flash memory, not traditional SATA hard drives or solid-state drives. Apple touts speeds of 1.25 GBps for reads and 1.0 GBps for writes.

The computer will include the following ports:
- Audio out

- Headphone jack

- Four USB 3 ports

- Six Thunderbolt 2 ports

- Two gigabit Ethernet ports

- HDMI out

- Power

The most remarkable change with the Mac Pro is the elimination of expansion slots. The previous Mac Pro had a pair of 16-lane PCI Express 2.0 slots and a pair of 4-lane PCI Express 2.0 slots. For current owners who have filled their Mac Pro’s slots and still need to use their cards, you’ll have to invest in an external Thunderbolt expansion chassis that will house expansion cards and connect to the new Mac Pro via Thunderbolt.

During the new Mac Pro presentation, there was no visual evidence of an optical drive. With the elimination of the optical drive from the Mac mini, iMac, MacBook Air, and Retina MacBook Pro computers.

Each Thunderbolt 2 port supports up to six daisy-shained devices. With six Thunderbotl 2 ports, the Mac Pro can support up to 36 Thunderbolt peripherals.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Intel announces Thunderbolt 2 protocol, looks toward 2013 launch

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Date: Wednesday, June 5th, 2013, 06:33
Category: Hardware, News

thunderboltlogo

This could be really, really sexy.

Per AppleInsider, Intel on Tuesday finally put a name to its next-generation Thunderbolt protocol as “Thunderbolt 2,” with the newly dubbed standard doubling the throughput of its predecessor while remaining backward compatible.

Previously referred to by its codename “Falcon Ridge,” Thunderbolt 2 will boast a bandwidth of 20Gbps, which Intel said is good enough for the simultaneous transfer and display of 4K “Ultra HD” video.

To double the speed, Intel is using a new controller chip that combines the first generation Thunderbolt’s 10Gpbs uni-directional channels into a single 20Gbps bi-directional channel. In addition, Thunderbolt 2 will carry support for DisplayPort 1.2, enabling video streaming to one 4K monitor, or dual QHD displays.

Because the next-generation protocol is, in essence, a modified controller chip, Thunderbolt 2 requires no new cables or accessory hardware, meaning it will be completely backward compatible with existing Thunderbolt products.

While Thunderbolt has yet to see wide adoption outside of Apple’s Mac lineup, Intel claims 30 PCs and motherboards now use the I/O tech. That’s in addition to the 80 peripherals and accessories that made their way to market since Thunderbolt first debuted with Apple’s late-2011 Mac lineup.

Despite being marketed as a cutting-edge interconnect technology targeting professionals in the video field, Apple still does not offer Thunderbolt in its Mac Pro tower.

In a report last week, Intel stated that it plans to extend the standard’s reach beyond the few product that currently use the tech, and has up to now focused on quality over quantity.

The chip maker has yet to nail down a specific date on Thunderbolt 2′s release, but said it should be in production by the end of 2013, with a ramp into 2014.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple revises store policies, now offers iPhone 5 display repairs for $149

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Date: Tuesday, June 4th, 2013, 06:29
Category: Hardware, iPhone, News, retail

You’ll soon be able to have your iPhone 5 screen replaced at assorted Apple Store locations for US$149, with or without AppleCare+.

Per MacRumors, changes to Apple’s repair policies first surfaced last month, where a town hall session revealed that Apple would begin in-house repairs of displays in June in an effort to save approximately US$1 billion per year.

The site heard from a tipster this morning that the new repair policy had been implemented and the changes have since been confirmed in a forum post from iPhone repair site Quick iFix. The repairs are available for cracked displays as well as screens that experience multitouch issues.

Quick iFix notes that Apple’s US$149 repair cost is competitive, causing the site to change its own repair costs. Quick iFix charged US$174.99 for a display replacement in early May, but began offering repairs for US$139.99 a few days later.

Apple’s new display repairs are in line with AppleCare+ pricing, which costs US$99 up front and then US$49 for each replacement. The repair service is a more affordable alternative for iPhone users who opted not to purchase AppleCare+, as iPhone replacement previously retailed for US$229.

Apple is expected to roll out additional in-house repair options in July, offering repairs of the iPhone’s camera, sleep/wake buttons, and logic boards. Additional changes to AppleCare are also reportedly in the works, with Apple rumored to be switching to a subscription based plan tied to customers rather than individual devices.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Rumor: Updated Retina Display MacBook Pro with 1080p camera, MacBook Air with improved microphone expected at WWDC

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Date: Monday, June 3rd, 2013, 06:12
Category: Hardware, MacBook Pro, Rumor

It’s the rumors that make life interesting.

Per 9to5Mac, Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo of KGI securities listed his forecast for MacBook Pro and Air updates expected at WWDC. Apple’s annual developer-centric conference begins on June 10th with a keynote. The biggest change is Apple will move to Intel’s Haswell processors. These chips dramatically reduce power consumption, which in turn could allow Apple to need fewer batteries in the Retina MacBook Pros:

“We expect the new MacBook, featuring an upgrade to Intel’s (US) Haswell processor, will be in the spotlight for Apple at the upcoming WWDC from June 10. Along with the new processor, we expect the following modifications to each product line:

Retina MacBook Pro to be slimmer slightly, along with a camera upgrade. We expect the 13” Retina MacBook Pro will have a slightly slimmer form factor for increasing its portability. Also, we think the camera spec will be upgraded from HD to full HD. This will improve Facetime and video conference quality in the high resolution Retina display.”

The 1080P camera would match the capabilities of the rear-cameras in recent iOS hardware, but this would represent the first time in which Apple shipped a 1080p-capable front-facing sensor.

If Apple does choose to keep the same batteries and size of the Retina MacBook Pro, the new Haswell chips could push battery life up over 10 hours.

As for the MacBook Air, at least one improvement is expected by Kuo:

“MacBook Air to share dual built-in microphone design of Retina MacBook Pro. We forecast that this year’s new MacBook Air model will also have dual built-in microphones as a result of positive feedback on this feature in Retina MacBook Pro, which delivers clear voice quality on Facetime and VoIP service.”

Apple previously noted that the dual-microphone setup is ideal for voice apps like the included Dictation function.

Kuo expects the older, non-Retina MacBook Pros to freeze and be taken out of the spotlight, much like the iPod Classic. The computer would continue to be sold but with the current Ivy Bridge processors, optical drive slots, and high-capacity hard drives.

The report also notes that MacBooks in general are not immune from the overall global slowdown in PC purchasing caused by the iPad and other tablet cannibalization. The expectation is that 2013 will see 12M units sold, off 1.6M from 2012′s 13.6M total.

Finally, Kuo notes that Apple’s move away from optical and hard drive based storage continues to shift orders to SSD producers:

SSD to be mainstream storage solution for MacBook. We estimate the market share of MacBook with SSD to rise from 45% in 2012 to 64% in 2013, far ahead of the industry’s 15-20%. We also expect SSD penetration to continue to trend up, with SSD eventually replacing conventional hard disk drive and optical disc drive.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Leaked iPad 5 component image points toward thinner, lighter design

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Date: Friday, May 31st, 2013, 08:45
Category: Hardware, iPad, Pictures

It’s a leaked component shot, but it might say something about the design of the next-gen iPad.

Per AppleInsider and Apple.pro, a new image has emerged that shows what looks to be a full-size fifth-generation iPad’s front panel, again showing design cues taken from the iPad mini.


ipadfront-130531

The image shows the rear side of what appears to be the front casing for an as-yet-unreleased iPad 5. The panel bears all of the holes and markings that typify Apple’s tablets — including a hole for the Home button and FaceTime camera — and the connector for the touchscreen component.

The panel bears the same thin bezel seen with Apple’s iPad mini, which observers expect will serve as the design guidepost for the next full-size iPad. Images and video of potential iPad 5 cases have borne the same design cues, with a thinner overall body.

The next full-size iPad is expected to retain the screen size of its predecessors, if only to application development for the device easy. Recent rumors suggest that Apple may add a centered rear microphone to the device to help in audio recording.

The rumored new iPad’s thinner bezels are said to make the device 25 percent lighter and 15 percent thinner. The new iPad, new iPad mini, and the next generation of iPhones and iPods are all expected to arrive some time in the fall.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Review: Game Dev Tycoon

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Date: Friday, May 31st, 2013, 07:14
Category: Review, Software, Software

By Mr. S

Tycoon… What is a Tycoon? Websters defines a Tycoon as “A top leader (as in politics) or a businessman of exceptional wealth and power”. So basically a capitalist that can make something out of nothing. A leader of men and a maker of things.

At some point we have all said to ourselves “I would do a much better job if I was in charge, gob smack it!” and that’s the basis of attraction for “Tycoon” games. They put you in charge and say “Here ya go, sonny! Make it happen or lose it all! It’s up to you!”. This is where Game Dev Tycoon falters big time and it’s heartbreaking considering the amount of love that went into its creation.

But more on why I don’t like it later. Lets talk about the things it does right.

Starting off in the garage of your mystery house you start the journey of a fledgling game designer from the golden era of video games, the 70’s. Like the legendary game designers from that period, you start on your Commodore 64 or PC, pumping out games for a few thousand enthusiasts. The first hour of gameplay in Game Dev Tycoon genuinely captures the magic of those times. When men wore pleats, and code was assembly. In those days, a man could spend a couple grand and start cranking out software to a very earnest and attentive audience.


Because every game studio needs a Delorean in the garage...

Because every game studio needs a Delorean in the garage…


The art direction, while simplistic, has a wonderful charm and watching your company grow from backwoods garage operation to full-on ten person studio is very rewarding at first, but that’s exactly when things start to fall apart.

The game turns into a choir of frustrating guesswork that inevitably leads to total studio failure unless you’re good friends with the app’s “save” and “load” buttons or a Web-based wiki to help guide you.

Instead of giving you a well-presented and balanced system, you’re presented with a single mystery path that forces you to try randomly at success. The game never gives you specific details as to why one of your games failed or succeeded, thereby making a core element of the experience feel hollow and luck-based. Why does having the ability to have steering wheel functionality make my football game engine better? Found a great combo? Don’t use that one again or your game will get panned into oblivion even if the game’s setting is completely different and the last game you put out with that combo was ten years ago.


The critics will love you or hate you...

The critics will love you or hate you, but good luck getting details as to why.


You’re given little room for failure, because every game has to be somewhat of a success to pay a staff necessary to sustain the studio. It feels Sisyphean when your workers have to take a week off every four weeks just to keep them happy, and then you have to waste precious time training these layabouts too. You simply fail or succeed with seemingly no rhyme or reason. Try to experiment and your studio goes bankrupt.


Expand staff where you can and you might just crank out a hit.

Expand staff where you can, and hopefully you’re lucky enough to pay them.


Proper feedback and getting just enough understanding of what’s going on under the hood is imperative to a good tycoon experience, and it’s this essential feedback that is totally missing from Game Dev Tycoon. Sure, you get the reviews from the press, but “meh” or “feels derivative” does not tell you why your Zombie Dinosaur Football Racer tanked. You know when you make a good combo, but you can’t use it again without getting horrible reviews for copying something you already did. It’s why you see little pop-up emoticons in “Roller Coaster Tycoon”: instant feedback. You know the people are digging your new toilet because they go in looking miserable and come out looking great. Vis a vie toilets are good whereas a “meh” reaction tells me next to nothing.

Game Dev Tycoon puts a blindfold on your head and chides you for not knowing the way.
It has all the elements of a great tycoon game, but ultimately fails in providing a rewarding tycoon experience. Its scope needs to be widened with a much larger emphasis on player feedback and much better info on what a certain element will add or subtract from the product you’re making in the game. Greenheart Games is an independent company with a clear love of the craft of game making and is probably painfully aware of its shortcomings. As an early supporter of the game, I hope to see it grow from this interesting idea to a more compelling experience with time, but as it stands right now it’s just not fun being a Game Dev Tycoon. :(

Game Dev Tycoon retails for US$7.99 and requires an Intel-based Mac running Mac OS X 10.6 or later to install and run.

A full demo is available here for your consideration.