Rumor: Apple approaches Genesys to supply USB 3.0 chips for next-gen MacBook Air

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Date: Monday, May 14th, 2012, 06:06
Category: Hardware, MacBook Air, Rumor

This could prove useful.

Per DigiTimes, Apple is said to have inked a deal with Genesys Logic for USB 3.0 card reader controller chips.

The integrated-circuit design house will provide the USB 3.0 chips for Apple’s next-generation MacBook Air models, which will be released in the second half of 2012, DigiTimes reported on Monday. Overall shipments of USB 3.0 products are expected to take off in 2012 with the launch of Intel’s next-generation Ivy Bridge processors, which are also expected to be found in Apple’s next Macs.

Genesys Logic manufactures the GL3220 Card Reader Controller, a USB 3.0 complaint chip which can support various types of memory cards. Apple’s 13-inch MacBook Air includes a dedicated SD card reader, which would make it an ideal fit for the new chips.

The card reader controller allows for a system’s internal SD card slot to connect to a system’s onboard USB 3.0 controllers. The rumored deal with Gensys and Apple could suggest that Apple plans to add USB 3.0 support to its future MacBooks.

Last year, Apple launched its first Macs with the new high-speed Thunderbolt port, which the company co-designed with Intel. Thunderbolt support is set to come to Windows PCs this year, as Intel views it and USB 3.0 as complementary technologies, with support for both built in to Ivy Bridge processors.

Formerly code-named “Light Peak,” Thunderbolt’s data transfer speeds are 20 times faster than the current, widely available USB 2.0 specification. Thunderbolt’s 10Gbps speeds are even twice as fast as USB 3.0.

Last September it was rumored that Apple was investigating USB 3.0 support with new Mac hardware. The third-generation of USB is backward compatible with the previous generation of devices.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Assorted, unmarked iPad 2 units sporting different A5 processor, offer up to 16% additional battery life

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Date: Friday, May 4th, 2012, 06:41
Category: battery, Hardware, iPad, News

Ok, this is interesting.

Per Engadget, an updated model of the US$399 iPad 2 is floating around at retail, and it might improve battery life by as much as 16 percent.

The site is reporting that the lower-cost version of the iPad 2 introduced in March has quietly introduced a new 32nm A5 processor, and that could translate to improved battery life for budget-minded buyers.

The discovery was made by AnandTech, who did an extensive review on the upgraded model, which bears the “iPad2,4” model. Instead of the 45nm process used for the A5 processor used in the original iPad 2 last year, the newer US$399 model features “special A5 chips manufactured using Samsung’s 32nm chip-making process.”



In testing, the website discovered that the 32nm iPad2,4 model boasted improved battery life of 15.8 percent, including a video playback test that lasted 15.7 hours — far better than the original iPad 2 model at 13.3 hours and even the new iPad with its larger battery, which ran for a mere 11.15 hours.

Unforunately, there’s no way to tell which iPad 2 you’re buying until you’ve opened the box and checked the system information.

“This particular iPad 2,4 sample came from Best Buy, and several attempts to find one elsewhere came up short. All indications seem to point to the iPad 2,4 being relatively rare, which makes sense considering what’s inside it,” stated the AnandTech article.

So, it’s sort of a golden ticket that’s out there.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

AOC releases 22-inch, USB-powered LED monitor

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Date: Wednesday, May 2nd, 2012, 09:59
Category: Hardware, News

This could prove both nifty and useful.

Per Electronista, display maker Display maker AOC has begun shipping its USB-powered e2251Fwu monitor that was introduced last June. The 21.5-inch, 1080p LED monitor gets both signal and power through a USB 2.0 connection, making it ideal for use as a secondary display. The monitor is just 10.6mm thick, sports a detachable stand, has a 5ms response time, a 250cd/m2 brightness, a 1,000:1 dynamic contrast ratio, and supports Windows and Max OS X operating systems.



The unit is priced at US$200 and is immediately available.

Recent patent hints at possible near-field communication feature in upcoming iPhone handset

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Date: Monday, April 30th, 2012, 06:34
Category: Hardware, iPhone, Rumor

It’s the patents that provide the really interesting hints as to what’s to come in a product line.

According to Patently Apple, a new patent suggests that the company will be introducing a near-field communication (NFC) chip into its next-generation iPhone, which will enable users to quickly send iTunes gifts to one another.

The story reports that the ‘Gifting’ feature will allow users to share iTunes files including Playlists, though at a cost. Users could buy, send and receive files from iTunes between multiple iPhones, iPads and iPod touches.

A user could select one or more media files to share with another device, and authorize a gift charge. The gift can then be shared with a second device within close range using the NFC chip’s connection.

Gifts may also be sent via email, for those who are not in close proximity of the device they wish to send files to. This will involve sending en electronic gift certificate that can be redeemed by the recipient. These gift certificates will be capable of sharing multiple files in a single transaction.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Intel launches Ivy Bridge architecture, includes 3D transistors in hardware

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Date: Monday, April 23rd, 2012, 06:53
Category: Hardware, News, Processors

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The day you’ve been waiting for has arrived.

Or at least one of them.

Because really good health-related news or the birth of a new child tends to rank up there as well.

Per MacNN, Intel has officially launched the first wave of its Ivy Bridge processors with a new tri-gate transistor technology, touting the new chips as the “world’s first 22 nanometer product.”

The chipmaker released 13 quad-core processors on Sunday and promised that new dual-core processors will arrive later in the spring. The web site reported that the first batch of chips are from the Core i5 and i7 families.

CEO Paul Otellini said earlier this month that the “bulk” of the initial Ivy Bridge lineup would arrive in desktop PCs. However, Apple is expected to use the new quad-core chips in an update to its MacBook Pro line.

After moving to a 22nm process for Ivy Bridge, Intel boasts 20 percent more performance while using 20 percent less power. Intel PC business chief Kirk Skaugen told the BBC that the launch will be Intel’s “fastest ramp ever.”

“There will be 50% more supply than we had early in the product cycle of our last generation, Sandy Bridge, a year ago. And we’re still constrained based on the amount of demand we’re seeing in the marketplace,” he said.

Ivy Bridge also introduces a transistor technology 11 years in the making. By moving from flat two-dimensional transistors to new three-dimensional “tri-gate transistors,” Intel has managed to improve both performance and energy efficiency with minimal cost increases.

Graphics are a key area of improvement for the new processors. Ivy Bridge supports 4K resolution and will feature as much as a 60 percent performance boost over the current-generation Sandy Bridge chips.

Stay tuned and we’ll bring you additional details (and details of anything Apple-related using the new Ivy Bridge architecture) as soon as it becomes available.

Intel to focus “bulk” of initial Ivy Bridge shipments to desktop market

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Date: Wednesday, April 18th, 2012, 06:39
Category: Hardware, News, Processors

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Intel revealed on Tuesday that the first wave of its next-generation Ivy Bridge processors will feature quad-core models, the bulk of which are headed for desktop computers, followed by a second launch of dual-core chips for “mainstream notebooks.”

Per CNET, CEO Paul Otellini relayed the information to investors during a quarterly earnings call on Tuesday.

“The first versions of Ivy Bridge that we’re shipping are quad cores, and then bulk of those are going into desktops,” Otellini said, according to a transcript by Seeking Alpha.

“And then the second launch of the products is in the dual core, which is the mainstream notebooks. So I think that helps put a profile over the course of quarter as well.”

Intel pushed the Ivy Bridge launch back by three weeks in order to “make sure that there was enough inventory in the pipeline,” the company’s CFO said. The chipmaker is expected to launch its first batch of Ivy Bridge chips next week.

Otellini’s comments could still leave room for a MacBook Pro release within the first wave of chips. Apple could potentially obtain enough inventory for initial MacBook Pro shipments even if the “bulk” of Intel’s new processors are headed for desktops. Currently, both the 15-inch and 17-inch versions of the MacBook Pro make use of a quad-core Intel processor, while the 13-inch model has a dual-core processor.

Availability of 15-inch MacBook Pros has been constrained among authorized resellers, often a reliable indicator of an imminent update.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple job listing points to potentially revised power systems for future Macs

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Date: Tuesday, April 17th, 2012, 18:40
Category: Hardware, News

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Sometimes it’s the job listings that prove the most telling.

Per AppleInsider, Apple is looking for a new hire to work closely with Apple’s computer system hardware team for DC-DC power designs integration.

The job listing also makes mention of optimizing power use with “white LED backlight drivers,” related to the LCD screens found on Apple’s iMac and MacBook lineups.

Apple would prefer to hire an employee with a PhD in power electronics. Candidates must have at least 8 years of experience in the field to be considered for the high-level position.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple patent describes effort to create smoother, “unibody” earbuds through ultrasonic bonding process

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Date: Friday, April 13th, 2012, 07:58
Category: Hardware, Patents

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Your Apple earbuds, they could get better through an ultrasonic bonding process.

Per FreePatentsOnline, a new patent application entitled “Ultrasonically Welded Structures and Methods for Making the Same,” describes how different components could be welded together for a seamless look for the Apple earbuds.

Apple describes the new headphones as having an appearance that they were constructed as “a seamless unibody structure,” even though the earbuds may include two different component pieces welded together.

Combining two different elements in this way may form a weld ring that can be cut, sanded, polished and cleaned. This allows the headphone to appear to be one piece, even though it may actually be a number of connected pieces.

Apple’s desire to build a better set of earbuds was also detailed in a separate application published this week, entitled “Curved Plastic Object and Systems and Methods for Deburring the Same.” It describes building curved plastic objects in the shape of a cap or grill of a headphone or earbud.

The filing notes that holes are needed in earbuds to allow sound to travel, but the creation of those holes can result in remnants in or around them that degrade both the appearance of the device and the acoustic properties of the headphones.

The solution presented in that application is a tool for “deburring” a curved plastic object. The tool could be coated in an abrasive material and would conform to the shape of the curved object, then polish it by vibrating while in contact with the plastic surface.

Both the inner and outer surfaces would be both “deburred” and polished, ensuring that no remnants remain in the holes or on any surface of the headphones.

The ultrasonic welding patent application is credited to Jeff Hayashida, Jonathan Aase, Rico Zorkendorfer, and Evans M. Hankey. Both Hayashida and Aase are also credited with the curved plastic patent application.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Rumor: Intel to announce Ivy Bridge architecture on April 23rd

Posted by:
Date: Thursday, April 12th, 2012, 07:18
Category: Hardware, MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, News, Processors

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There’s gotta be some truth to this somewhere…

Per DigiTimes, Intel has moved up the announcement of its next-generation Ivy Bridge processors from the original date of April 29 to April 23 as PC makers ready the second generation of ultrabooks, expected to arrive in May.

The publication claimed on Thursday that sources from notebook players had revealed Intel’s change in plans. The launch comes as Asustek, Acer, Lenovo and Hewlett-Packard are expected to release Ivy Bridge-powered ultrabooks next month.

Multiple sources have pointed to late April for the Ivy Bridge launch. One report claimed late last month that Intel would announce the new processors between April 22 and April 28 and begin selling them on April 29.

Apple’s 15-inch MacBook Pros will likely be the first Macs to feature the new Intel chips. Sources out of the Far East said last month that the updated laptops could arrive by the end of April.

Following the release of its new notebooks, the Cupertino, Calif., company is expected to release updated Ivy Bridge iMacs as early as June or July.

Other hints that Intel is nearly ready to release its Ivy Bridge architecture also came on Thursday when reports surfaced that Intel is shipping its second-generation Thunderbolt controllers for use with Ivy Bridge chips.

Thursday’s report also quoted Intel vice president Kirk Skaugen as saying that ultrabook prices will fall from US$999 to US$699 in the new few months as volume shipments drive costs down. PC makers have been hard at work at reducing the average price of ultrabook laptops in order to better compete against Apple’s MacBook Air.

Intel declared earlier this month that ultrabooks trump the MacBook Air in functionality and value.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Third-generation Apple TV A5 processor studied, second core found

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Date: Thursday, April 12th, 2012, 07:50
Category: Apple TV, Hardware, News, Processors

This is sort of interesting.

An investigation into the custom A5 chip used in Apple TV has found that the new Application Processor uses both a smaller, more efficient 32nm die process and actually incorporates two cores, one of which is simply turned off.

Per Chipworks, the custom A5 “APL2498″ used in the third generation, 1080p Apple TV has improved upon the 45nm LP CMOS process of the previous A5 “APL0498,” used in both iPad 2 and iPhone 4S last year.

The smaller die size makes the Apple TV’s A5 almost 41 percent smaller than the original part, allowing more chips to be created from a single silicon wafer. That makes producing the part cheaper, and also helps improve performance and lower power consumption (as its components are shrunken down and therefore closer to each other).

In addition to being smaller, Chipworks found that the new version of the A5 actually incorporates two cores. Apple only advertises Apple TV as having a single core chip, so the investigation notes that “either Apple is only utilizing one core or they are binning parts.”

By turning off one core, Apple could reduce the power consumption of a device. However, Apple TV lacks the power constraints of battery-powered mobile devices, making it more likely that the company simply developed a smaller, cheaper version of the A5 and is using the dual core rejects to power Apple TV, where one core is sufficient.

Chipworks explains that such “parts binning is a common process in semiconductors where devices are segregated (binned) based on meeting a subset of the overall requirements, in this case they could disable the ‘bad’ core, this increases the usable die per wafer, lowering the cost.”

Chip makers routinely create CPUs and RAM components and test them for the highest speed they can consistently operate at, selling the fastest parts for more and the slower components for less, rated to work at a slower clock speed.

This strategy would allow Apple to use its poorest performing new A5 chips in the US$99 Apple TV, while creating a new supply of fully functional 32nm A5 chips that are faster, smaller and cheaper than last year’s 45nm batch.

Chipworks notes that these chips could either power a new generation of iPhones (or other devices) or help to reduce the cost of existing products such as the iPhone 4S or iPad 2. The latest third generation iPad uses a custom chip Apple calls A5X, which incorporates the same dual ARM cores but delivers quad-core GPUs to drive its Retina Display, with four times the pixels.