Microsoft targets iPad, unveils Surface tablet

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Date: Tuesday, June 19th, 2012, 07:56
Category: Hardware, News

A little competition never hurt anyone.

Per Engadget, Microsoft debuted its Surface Windows 8 tablet on Monday at a last-minute special event in Los Angeles, marking the tech monolith’s entrance into the iPad-dominated tablet market.

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, showed off the tablet computer based on the company’s new Windows 8 operating system he called “the new Surface,” according to the report.

After giving a brief history of Microsoft-branded hardware like the venerable mouse and keyboard, Ballmer introduced the new device, likening it to the Xbox 360 in that it has a strong synthesis of software and hardware that push each other to new limits.

Microsoft’s President of the Windows and Windows Live Division Steven Sinofsky proceeded to show off the 10.6-inch multi-touch tablet, which features a magnesium enclosure called “VaporMg” with built-in stand, dual MIMO arrays, an optically-bonded proprietary display with Corning’s Gorilla Glass 2 and a variety of input ports. The unit is also coated with vapor-deposited magnesium (PVD) to avoid scratching.

Surface will be sold in two distinct incarnations with one touting an Ivy Bridge i5 processor while the other will feature a low-energy NVIDIA-made ARM cortex CPU. The Intel model, called Surface for Windows 8 Pro, will weigh in at 1.9lbs at 13.5mm thick and feature a 10.6-inch 1920-by-1080 pixel ClearType full HD display. Input and output for the higher-tier Surface is handled by USB 3.0, Mini DisplayPort and an microSDXC card reader.

The thinner ARM cortex version will be released under the Surface for Windows RT moniker and will come in at a trim 1.5lbs and 9.8mm thick but bumps specs down to a 1280-by-720 pixel screen. Handling the heat put out by the Intel chip is what Microsoft calls “perimeter venting” or a series of integrated vents encircling the edge of the bezel, which itself is beveled. While the Windows RT model doesn’t carry the high-powered connectivity as its bigger brother, it still manages a microSD slot, USB 2.0 and Micro HD Video.



Accessories for both units include the “Touch Cover” which is a full multi-touch keyboard complete with arrow buttons that changes the color of Surface’s screen to the color of the cover when attached. Much like Apple’s Smart Cover, the Touch Cover also turns the device on and off presumably through use of magnets. The Surface “Type Cover” accessory brings physical switch-type keys and a clickable trackpad, though the part adds 5mm of girth to the tablet.

The Surface supports palm-blocking Digital Ink technology and can mark up PDFs and other supported documents with a digitizer, though the feature seems to be limited to the Intel model.

It is unclear what company is manufacturing the tablet for Microsoft, though the product itself looks to be a branded device with prominent Windows logos adorning the screen bezel and the back kick-stand.

The debut of the ARM-based Windows RT version of Surface is set to coincide with the launch of Windows 8 and will be available in 32GB and 64GB flavors. Pricing will be in-line with competing ARM tablets. The Intel Ivy Bridge i5-based Windows Pro Surface is slated to follow about three months later and will be sold in 64GB and 128GB capacities with prices comparable to Ultrabook PCs.

Full video of the event can be found here and stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple releases Thunderbolt Software Update 1.2.1 firmware upgrade

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Date: Tuesday, June 19th, 2012, 06:59
Category: Hardware, News, Software

On Tuesday, Apple released its Thunderbolt Software Update 1.2.1 firmware upgrade for its Thunderbolt-equipped Macs running Mac OS X 10.7 (“Lion”). The update, a 506 kilobyte download, adds support for the Apple Thunderbolt to Gigabit Ethernet Adapter.

In addition to the direct download, Thunderbolt Software Update 1.2.1 is available through Mac OS X’s built-in Software Update feature. The update requires a Thunderbolt-equipped Mac running Mac OS X 10.7.4 or later to install and run.

If you’ve tried the update and noticed any changes, please let us know in the comments.

Retina Display MacBook Pro battery more expensive than previous iterations

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Date: Monday, June 18th, 2012, 09:15
Category: battery, Hardware, MacBook Pro, News

Apple’s new Retina Display MacBook Pro may be snazzy, but it isn’t cheap to fix if the battery fails.

Per Macworld, the battery on the current model has been priced at 54 percent more expensive than the previous iteration. Apple updated the pricing list for MacBook battery replacements, showing that servicing the new model’s battery will run US$199 before tax.

Some MacBook Pro notebooks with built-in batteries require a replacement battery two or three years down the line. Since all of Apple’s latest models do not feature a user-serviceable battery slot, you have to take it to the Genius Bar to get it serviced. This costs US$129 for 13- and 15-inch MacBook Pros, but the Retina MacBook Pro features a higher price.

A replacement battery for the Retina MacBook Pro will cost you US$199 before taxes, Apple’s price list shows—54 percent more than that of previous models. In comparison, the cost of servicing the battery on the now-retired 17-inch MacBook Pro, which featured a larger battery than its smaller notebook counterparts, was US$179.

iFixit’s teardown of the US$2200 15-in Retina MacBook Pro gives a few hints on the reasoning behind the price increase. The battery has 95 watt hours (Wh) at 10.95 V, compared to last year’s 77.5 Wh battery, and instead of being screwed into the machine, it’s glued into place, making it more difficult to replace.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Rumor: Qualcomm getting ready to prepare 4G LTE chips for next-gen iPhone handset

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Date: Friday, June 15th, 2012, 11:32
Category: Hardware, iPhone, News

You’re probably going to need components if you’re going to build a snazzy new thing.

Per DigiTimes, Taiwanese chip maker Qualcomm is said to be providing high-speed 4G long-term evolution chips produced using a 28-nanometer process.

The company is expected to build its 4G LTE chips at Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company, supply chain sources shared with DigiTimes. Qualcomm will need about 10,000 28-nanometer 12-inch wafers, representing one-third of the 28-nanometer capacity at TSMC, just to produce 4G chips for the next iPhone, the report said.

Also relying on TSMC’s 28-nanometer process for the next iPhone will be Broadcom, which is expected to provide Wi-Fi chips to Apple. And OmniVision is also said to be looking to get in on TSMC’s 12-inch fabrication process.

The report noted that TSMC’s “tight production capacity” for its 28-nanometer process will also have customers Nvidia, Texas Instruments, Altera, Xilinx and others. It’s expected that it will be difficult for TSMC to meet market demand for the 28-nanometer process until it can produce 50,000 units a month around the fourth quarter of 2012.

With supply constraints in mind, STMicroelectronics is said to be ramping up output of MEMS devices for Apple’s next iPhone. Similarly, NXP Semiconductors and Texas Instruments are reportedly stockpiling inventory of analog integrated circuits to meet Apple’s demand.

In March it was said that Apple was in the process of reviewing potential components for the company’s next-generation LTE 4G iPhone. Among the parts Apple was expected to utilize by Barclays was Qualcomm’s “MDM9615″ LTE chip, which supports both voice and data connections on high-speed 4G networks.

Analysts at Barclays also said at the end of May that Apple had “locked down” suppliers of important radio chips for the sixth-generation iPhone. Companies said to have been selected by Apple included Skyworks, Avago Technologies, and TriQuint.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Rumor: Apple to release 13-inch Retina Display MacBook Pro

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Date: Thursday, June 14th, 2012, 10:35
Category: Hardware, MacBook Pro, Rumor

It’s a rumor, but one can always hope it’ll come true.

Per AppleInsider, Apple will bring a high-resolution Retina display to its 13-inch MacBook Pro with a product update set to launch this October, according analyst Ming-Chi Kuo of KGI in a note to clients on Thursday. Kuo stated that he expects Apple to ramp up production of a 13-inch next-generation MacBook Pro with Retina display in September. Such a change would allow the product to hit stores in early October, in time for the holiday shopping season.

Kuo was the first to indicate that Apple would retire its 17-inch MacBook Pro, and that the 15-inch next-generation MacBook Pro with Retina display would be sold alongside the previous-generation MacBook Pro with lower-resolution display and thicker design. Both of those details proved true this week at Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference.

Apple has the “highest hopes” for the new 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display, according to Kuo. But Apple was likely unable to unveil the new product at WWDC this week because of a low yield rate and greater assembly difficulty, he said.

Like the next-generation Retina display MacBook Pro, the 13-inch variety is expected to lack an optical disc drive and rely solely on solid-state flash memory storage. Kuo expects the screen to have a resolution of 2,560 by 1,600 pixels, and he said the 13-inch model will be slightly thinner than the 15-inch model, at 18 millimeters.

The next-generation 13-inch MacBook Pro is not expected to have discrete graphics like its 15-inch counterpart, but will instead rely on Intel HD 4000 integrated graphics. Kuo also expects it to have an Intel Ivy Bridge processor with a clock speed greater than 2 gigahertz.

As for the just-released 15-inch Retina display MacBook Pro, Kuo said that Apple should have about 300,000 units of the next-generation notebook available to sell this month, a number that he called a “moderate” amount.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple quietly updates Mac Pro, adds modest speed boost

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Date: Wednesday, June 13th, 2012, 10:39
Category: Hardware, Mac Pro, News

This sort of slipped in under the wire.

Albeit it wasn’t officially announced at WWDC, the Mac Pro was updated via the Apple Store on Monday with a modest speed boost.

The standard-configuration 12-core Mac Pro features two 2.4 gigahertz 6-core Intel Xeon E5645 processors and 12 megabytes of fully shared L3 cache per processor. The 12-core model starts at US$3,799 with 12 gigabytes of memory, a 1-terabyte hard drive and ATI Radeon HD 5770 graphics with 1 gigabyte of GDDR5 memory.

The quad-core Mac Pro features one 3.2 gigahertz quad-core Intel Xeon processor and 6 gigabytes of memory. It also features a 1-terabyte hard drive and ATI Radeon HD 5770 with 1 gigabyte of GDDR5 for US$2,499.

A Mac Pro server configuration is also available, featuring one 3.2 gigahertz quad-core Intel Xeon processor and 8 gigabytes of RAM standard. For US$2,999 it features two 1-terabyte hard drives, the ATI Radeon HD 5770 with 1 gigabyte of GDDR5 RAM, and it comes installed with OS X Lion Server.

Somewhat disappointingly, the Xeon E5 chip was actually found to be a two-year-old Westmere-EP chip.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

iFixit posts full teardown of mid-2012 Retina Display MacBook Pro, finds significant changes in architecture

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Date: Wednesday, June 13th, 2012, 09:48
Category: Hardware, MacBook Pro, News

Well…that was speedy.

Late Tuesday night, the cool cats at iFixit posted a full teardown of the new Retina Display MacBook Pro.

The company apparently had little trouble maneuvering past Apple’s proprietary pentalobe screws and by Step 6 in the process, the inside of the unit was unveiled for all to see online.



Among the discoveries made:
– The battery is no longer screwed into the machine, but rather glued.

– The 512GB flash storage chips were marked as Samsung, but the chips themselves appear to be proprietary, something new for the MacBook Pro line.

– The RAM itself seems to be soldered to the logic board.

– The proprietary SSD also is not yet replaceable.

– The “display assembly is completely fused, and there’s no glass protecting it,” iFixit writes. “If anything ever fails inside the display, you will need to replace the entire extremely expensive assembly.”

So, yeah, if you’re tinkering with your brand new Retina Display MacBook Pro, please be careful.

Additional details as they become available.

Apple releases Thunderbolt Software Update 1.2 firmware upgrade

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Date: Tuesday, June 12th, 2012, 06:27
Category: Hardware, News, Software

Late Monday, Apple released its Thunderbolt Software Update 1.2 firmware upgrade for its Thunderbolt-equipped Macs running Mac OS X 10.7 (“Lion”). The update, a 510 kilobyte download, adds support for the Apple Thunderbolt to Gigabit Ethernet Adapter.

In addition to the direct download, Thunderbolt Software Update 1.2 is available through Mac OS X’s built-in Software Update feature. The update requires a Thunderbolt-equipped Mac running Mac OS X 10.7.4 or later to install and run.

If you’ve tried the update and noticed any changes, please let us know in the comments.

Apple releases updated MacBook Pro notebooks, adds Retina Display feature to higher-end models

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Date: Monday, June 11th, 2012, 14:12
Category: Hardware, MacBook Pro, News

You may have gotten your wish.

Per AppleInsider, Apple delivered its long-awaited update of its MacBook Pro notebook on Monday, adding Intel’s latest Ivy Bridge processors, as well as dedicated Nvidia GeForce GT 650M graphics on the 15-inch model.

The updated MacBook Pro is different from the next-generation MacBook Pro Apple unveiled on Monday, as the legacy model maintains the design of its predecessor, as well as the optical disc drive. But the hardware has been updated with new processors and better performance.

The new 13-inch MacBook Pro has a 1,280 by 800 display with options for a 2.5 gigahertz dual-core i5 processor, or a 2.9 gigahertz dual-core i7. The low-end model has a 500 gigabyte hard drive and 4 gigabytes of RAM for US$1,199, while the high-end model sports 8 gigabyte of RAM and a 750 gigabyte hard drive for US$1,499.

The 15-inch MacBook Pro has a 1,440 by 900 pixel display, and both models feature Nvidia GeForce GT 650M graphics. The low-end model has 512 megabytes of graphics memory, 4 gigabytes of RAM, and a 500 gigabyte hard drive for $1,799. The high-end model has 1 gigabyte of graphics memory, 8 gigabytes of RAM, and a 750 gigabyte hard drive for US$2,199.

For those with deeper pockets and a craving for Retina Display goodness, the company unveiled an all-new ultra-thin professional MacBook Pro with a high-resolution Retina display.

Unveiled on Monday by marketing head Phil Schiller at Apple’s annual Worldwide Developers Conference, the new MacBook Pro is as thin as the MacBook Air, at just 0.71 inches thick, Apple said. It’s also the lightest Pro ever, weighing under 4 and a half pounds.

The new model’s 15.4-inch display is said to boasts a resolution of 2,880 by 1,880 pixels which equates to a dense 220 pixels per inch, the highest of any laptop in the world Apple says. Like the iPhone and iPad before it, the new Retina Display has pixels so small that Apple says your eyes cannot discern them from a reasonable distance.

The screen has also been improved with deeper blacks and a higher angle of viewing. Glare has also been reduced by 75 percent, Schiller said.

In preparation of the Retina Display-toting MacBook Pro’s debut, Apple has updated a number of OS X apps including Mail, Safari, iMovie and iPhoto. Professional software like Aperture and Final Cut Pro also received performance bumps to take advantage of the screen’s high resolution.

Third-party apps are also being updated for the Retina display, as Apple showed Diablo III running on the device, and said that Autodesk is working on a new version of AutoCAD.


The next-generation MacBook Pro runs exclusively on Intel’s new Ivy Bridge quad-core Core i7 processors and can be configure with up to 16 gigabytes of RAM. Batteries have also been improved as the unit boasts up to 7 hours of life under normal load along with a MacBook Air-like 30 days of standby time.

As far as connectivity, the new machine features the usual SDXC card reader, but adds two high-speed USB 3.0 ports, two Thunderbolt ports, and HDMI-out. Due to the lack of an optical drive, Apple had space to include ports on both sides of the device and relocated the SDXC card slot and one USB port to the right of the keyboard flanking the HDMI-out connector. New Thunderbolt accessories announced on Monday give FireWire 800 and Gigabit Ethernet capabilities to the new transfer technology.

On the audio/visual front, a new FaceTime HD 720p camera is joined by dual microphones, and are accompanied by what Schiller said are the best stereo speakers Apple has ever put into a notebook.

Rounding out the next-generation MacBook Pro’s feature set is a backlit keyboard, Bluetooth 4.0 connectivity, and 802.11n Wi-Fi.

The machine will also sport a new, smaller MagSafe charging port, which Apple has dubbed “MagSafe 2.”

Pricing for the next-generation 15.4-inch MacBook Pro starts at US$2,199 for a 2.3 gigahertz quad-core Core i7 processor and 8 gigabytes of RAM. The most-affordable Retina Display laptop features 256 gigabytes of flash storage and the NVIDIA GeForce GT 650M graphics card with 1GB of GDDR5 memory. The second-tier 2.6GHz model starts at US$2,799 which doubles the SSD size and grants buyers access to the fastest-available 2.7GHz Intel quad-core Core i7 chip.

Tech Specs:
– Height: 0.71 inch (1.8 cm)

– Width: 14.13 inches (35.89 cm)

– Depth: 9.73 inches (24.71 cm)

– Weight: 4.46 pounds (2.02 kg)

Display:
– Retina display: 15.4-inch (diagonal) LED-backlit display with IPS technology; 2880-by-1800 resolution at 220 pixels per inch with support for millions of colors

– Supported resolutions: 2880 by 1800 pixels (Retina); scaled resolutions: 1920 by 1200, 1680 by 1050, 1280 by 800, and 1024 by 640 pixels

Storage:
– All flash, 256GB in 2.3GHz model; 512GB or 768GB in 2.6GHz model.

Processor:
– 2.3GHz or 2.6GHz quad-core Intel Core i7 with 6MB shared L3 cache (configurable to 2.7GHz)

Memory:
– 8GB of 1600MHz DDR3L onboard memory (configurable to 16GB)

Graphics:
– Intel HD Graphics 4000 with discreet NVIDIA GeForce GT 650M with 1GB of GDDR5 memory and automatic graphics switching

Video Support and Camera:
– 720p FaceTime HD camera

– Dual display and video mirroring: Simultaneously supports full native resolution on the built-in display and up to 2560 by 1600 pixels on up to two external displays, at millions of colors

– Thunderbolt digital video output

– Native Mini DisplayPort output

– DVI output using Mini DisplayPort to DVI Adapter (sold separately)

– VGA output using Mini DisplayPort to VGA Adapter (sold separately)

– Dual-link DVI output using Mini DisplayPort to Dual-Link DVI Adapter (sold separately)

Connections and Expansion:
– MagSafe 2 power port

– Two Thunderbolt ports (up to 10 Gbps)

– Two USB 3 ports (up to 5 Gbps)

– HDMI port

– Headphone port

– SDXC card slot

– Apple Thunderbolt to Gigabit Ethernet Adapter (sold separately)

– Apple Thunderbolt to FireWire Adapter (sold separately, available July)

Wireless:
– 802.11n Wi-Fi wireless networking; IEEE 802.11a/b/g compatible

– Bluetooth 4.0 wireless technology

Audio:
– Stereo speakers

– Dual microphones

– Headphone port

– Support for Apple iPhone headset with remote and microphone

– Support for audio line out

Battery and Power:
– Up to 7 hours wireless web

– Up to 30 days standby time

– Built-in 95-watt-hour lithium-polymer battery

– 85W MagSafe 2 Power Adapter with cable management system; MagSafe 2 power port

Electrical and Operating Requirements
– Line voltage: 100V to 240V AC

– Frequency: 50Hz to 60Hz

– Operating temperature: 50° to 95° F (10° to 35° C)

– Storage temperature: –13° to 113° F (–24° to 45° C)

– Relative humidity: 0% to 90% noncondensing

– Maximum operating altitude: 10,000 feet

– Maximum storage altitude: 15,000 feet

– Maximum shipping altitude: 35,000 feet

In the Box:
– MacBook Pro with Retina display

– 85W MagSafe 2 Power Adapter, AC wall plug, and power cord

– Printed and electronic documentation

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple announces next-gen MacBook Air notebooks, adds USB 3.0, Ivy Bridge and larger capacity flash storage

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Date: Monday, June 11th, 2012, 11:56
Category: Hardware, MacBook Air, News

The MacBook Air may not have received a Retina Display, but it has some cool new stuff under the hood.

Per AppleInsider, Apple announced the new generation of the lightweight notebook today, the new generation featuring USB 3.0 as well as Intel’s latest Ivy Bridge processors, and configurations running up to 2.0GHz in speed with a Core i7 processor and 512 gigabytes of flash storage.

The new MacBook Airs also feature 720p high-definition FaceTime cameras for both the 11- and 13-inch models. And they have been upgraded with high-speed USB 3.0 ports that offer up to 500MBps read speed, in addition to the existing Thunderbolt connection. Users can also configure the new MacBook Air with up to 8 gigabytes of RAM.

The 11-inch MacBook Air has a 1,366-by-768-pixel display and a 1.7GHz dual-core i5 processor. It has 4 gigabytes of RAM, Intel HD graphics 4000, and up to 128 gigabytes of flash storage. It starts at US$999 for the 64 gigabyte model, and is US$1,099 for the 128 gigabyte capacity.

The 13-inch MacBook Air has a 1,400-by-900 display and a 1.8GHz dual-core i5 processor standard, with 4 gigabytes of RAM and Intel HD 400 graphics. For 128 gigabytes of flash storage, it costs US$1,199, while 256 gigabytes is US$1,499.

Both new notebooks are shipping today, Apple marketing chief Phil Schiller announced at Monday’s Worldwide Developers Conference Keynote.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.