DDR3 DRAM prices drop to all-time low

Posted by:
Date: Thursday, February 23rd, 2012, 07:59
Category: Hardware, News

If you were looking to upgrade your RAM, there’s literally never been a better time for it.

Per Macworld, prices of DDR3 DRAM memory used in notebooks and desktops have dipped to an all-time low of around US$1, and will continue to fall, which could help PC makers pack more memory into computers, analysts said.

Average prices for predominant 2Gb (gigabit) DDR3 DRAM die hit the US$1 mark during the first quarter, which is a massive drop from the average price of roughly US$2.25 for the same memory in the first quarter last year, according to research firm iSuppli. A 4GB (gigabyte) DRAM module was priced between US$18 and US$20 at the end of 2011, a precipitous drop from $40 at the end of 2010.

The price of a 2Gb DRAM chip was between 82 cents and 95 cents on Wednesday, according to DRAMExchange, a website that tracks daily memory pricing.

The drop in memory prices is a continuation of a trend from last year, analysts said. A shortfall in PC demand hurt memory pricing last year, but memory makers are still moving excess inventory into the market rapidly, which has contributed to the continued price drop.

“We’re at a historical all-time low, yes,” said Mike Howard, senior principal analyst at IHS iSuppli. “It costs Dell and Hewlett-Packard less now than a year ago to put the same amount of memory in the PC.”

Instead of packing more memory, some PC makers have opted to load the same amount of memory in PCs to cover the rising cost of other components. Dell earlier this week said it was using the favorable memory and LCD pricing environment to offset the rising prices of hard drives, which were in short supply due to the floods in Thailand last year.

The DRAM industry fundamentals are weak, but memory makers are taking corrective action to balance supply and demand, iSuppli’s Howard said. Some of the existing manufacturing capacity is coming offline to reduce output, but the prices could continue to fall as long as the cost of making memory drops.

The pricing will continue to fall through the second quarter, said Shane Rau, research director at IDC.

“The issue is huge oversupply in the first and second quarter of 2012 and the resulting pricing competition among suppliers,” Rau said.

The DRAM market initially fell apart at the end of 2008 after the economic downturn prompted DRAM makers to reduce memory output. However, production went up the following year as PC demand recovered with the active refresh cycle and the release of the 64-bit version of Windows 7 in 2009, which allowed for a higher memory ceiling.

But PC shipments slowed down again in the second half of 2010 with growing demand for tablets and smartphones, which rely on different memory types such as low-power DDR and nonvolatile NAND flash memory. Some chip makers have now changed business models and are increasing focus on memory for tablets and smartphones.

Stay tuned for additional details.

In other news, I recently upgraded my 2011 MacBook Pro’s RAM to 16 gigabytes…and the ladies still haven’t really noticed.

Tipsters reveal hints as to why AMD “Llano” processor never came to MacBook Air notebook

Posted by:
Date: Thursday, February 23rd, 2012, 07:34
Category: Hardware, MacBook Air, News, Processors

If you wondered as to where the next-gen AMD processors might be on your MacBook Air, there’s a reason for that too.

According to Forbes, former AMD employees revealed that Apple gave its “Llano” chip a “close look” for a new MacBook Air model last year, but ultimately decided not to go with the processor because too many of its parts were faulty.

AMD has been through several reinventions in recent years in a quest to find a niche to call its own. The company was an early competitor to chip giant Intel, but it has struggled to keep up pace with its rival as of late.

Brian Caulfield reports that new “fusion” processors from AMD had a shot at upstaging Intel by making their way into Apple’s popular MacBook Air notebook for last year’s refresh. People familiar with the matter indicated that Apple had given the “Llano” processor, which combined the CPU and GPU into one part, serious consideration for use in its thin-and-light portable.

However, a former employee indicated that AMD was unable to get early working samples of the chip to Apple on time, though tipsters disagreed on exactly how close the company was to delivering the chip, with one claiming that AMD “had it.” According to the report, too many of the parts ended up being faulty and AMD lost the deal.

Sources also said AMD had proposed a low-power processor named “Brazos” for a revamp of the Apple TV box, but Apple declined to go with the option. “Brazos” went on to make inroads in the netbook industry and reportedly kept the company afloat.

“If Brazos had been killed, AMD wouldn’t be in business,” one former employee said.

A separate report from late last year also claimed that Apple had considered the AMD “Llano” option “plan A” for its MacBook Air, but AMD was said to have “dropped the ball” at the last minute.

Apple released the Thunderbolt MacBook Air last July with Intel’s Sandy Bridge processors powering the notebooks. The machines became an instant success and reportedly jumped to 28 percent of the company’s notebook shipments just months after they were released.

SanDisk claims world’s smallest 128-gigabit flash chip

Posted by:
Date: Wednesday, February 22nd, 2012, 08:37
Category: Hardware, News

It may not change the world today, but it could lead to some pretty cool stuff.

Per Electronista, electronics maker SanDisk set a record today after the company claimed to have the world’s smallest 128-gigabit (16GB) memory chip. The 19 nanometer, three-bit-per-cell storage has a footprint of about 170mm square (0.26in square), or less than that of a penny. It’s also relatively quick for its capacity and size at 144Mbps (18MB) per second.

Chips built on the newer storage were considered ideal for smartphones, tablets, and solid-state drives for computers. Many such chips can be stacked on top of each other or side-by-side and give more reasonable capacities without having a physically larger device than they do now.

SanDisk has just recently started making 128Gb flash in large quantities on a basic level, although it has yet to say how quickly it expects the shrunken-down design to reach the market. Other companies have 128Gb chips in development, but these have been larger and usually haven’t reached into mainstream devices.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Hitachi announces 500GB, 7mm, 7,200 RPM Z7K500 notebook hard drive

Posted by:
Date: Wednesday, February 22nd, 2012, 07:22
Category: hard drive, Hardware, News

On Wednesday, Hitachi announced the release of its 500GB Travelstar Z7K500. Per Electronista, the drive is the first to hit a half-terabyte at the slimmer 7mm height while keeping a full 7,200RPM spin speed and just one drive platter. Along with being the first to have both a 6Gbps SATA3 connection and a 32MB buffer, it’s billed as being not just faster than other 7mm drives but faster than many regular 9mm drives as well.

The disk is intended both for thin regular notebooks as well as for ultrabooks. Although not fast enough by itself to match a solid-state drive, including an SSD as a cache theoretically offers a best-of-both-worlds design where the responsiveness of an SSD and the lower prices of a rotating hard drive are combined. It consumes more power, but at 1.8W peak and 0.8W idle is relatively efficient.

Hitachi has had test versions of its newer Z7K500 drives since January and is already expecting mass production for March, with 250GB and 320GB editions already available. It hasn’t named the customers that will be using it, although it conspicuously mentioned that “all major PC OEMs” had already qualified the pre-500GB drives and implied that Apple, Dell, HP, and others were either using or planning to use the new Travelstars.

Final pricing details for the Z7K500 drives also have yet to be announced.

Stay tuned for additional information as it becomes available.

Apple CEO Tim Cook hints at Apple TV opportunities during Goldman Sachs speech

Posted by:
Date: Wednesday, February 15th, 2012, 06:57
Category: Apple TV, Hardware, News

applelogo_silver

Sometimes Apple CEO Tim Cook gets coy and drops hints as to cool new Apple products coming down the road.

And that’s generally a good thing.

Per iLounge, Apple CEO Tim Cook made several comments relating to the Apple TV during a speaking engagement at the Goldman Sachs Technology and Internet Conference, suggesting the company sees a larger market opportunity than is being taken advantage of by the current device. Referring to the company’s past strategies, Cook said that Apple typically doesn’t do hobby projects, but suggested that it created Apple TV because it believed that there was something there, and that exploring the potential of a living room product would be useful. The result has been an increasingly popular device that he recommended people should go out and buy right now. However, Cook noted that if Apple “kept on pulling the string”, it would eventually get from the small hobby business of Apple TV to a bigger market opportunity.

Such a suggestion points towards Apple creating a more stand-alone device than a tethered solution such as the current Apple TV units.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Rumor: Apple to go with NVIDIA’s Kepler hardware for next-gen Mac Pro computers

Posted by:
Date: Tuesday, February 14th, 2012, 12:25
Category: Hardware, Mac Pro, News

You may love your Apple notebook or iOS device, but at the end of the day, it’s the Mac Pro that gets the most number-crunching done.

Per MIC Gadget, Apple’s long-rumored Mac Pro update could signal a return to NVIDIA for graphics based on claims about production progress on Tuesday. The company had reportedly been soured based on is experience with drivers and hardware failures. Instead, it would use NVIDIA’s Kepler hardware, although which exact parts weren’t mentioned.

Apart from possibly better behavior, the graphics switch might also be to improve overall speed for creative pros. Adobe’s Creative Suite still primarily depends on NVIDIA’s CUDA general-purpose computing rather than OpenCL.

Kepler is expected to be about three times more efficient in performance than NVIDIA’s existing technology and may help it leapfrog AMD’s Radeon HD 7000 series.

The same tip had Apple just getting test samples of Ivy Bridge-based Xeon processors. The 22-nanometer chips have reportedly overcome overheating issues and are in high-enough production volumes. Apple would be using eight-core chips with 20MB cache, according to the tip, supporting its own early, inadvertent slip of 16-core Mac Pros that would use two processors.

The finished hardware, if accurate, might not ship until later into the summer, or about two years after the last update. Apple is known to have skipped a 2011 update after Intel’s Xeon E5 missed the market for all but a handful of specially-picked customers.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple pulls plug on white MacBook notebook, product reaches “End of Life” status

Posted by:
Date: Thursday, February 9th, 2012, 07:20
Category: Hardware, MacBook, News

You had to like the white MacBook.

If nothing else, it was plucky and it looked pretty good when you were working on one in a coffee shop.

Unfortunately, Apple has reportedly notified resellers that the white polycarbonate MacBook is now officially classified as “End of Life” and has been discontinued.

Per MacRumors, Apple has stopped selling the white notebook to even its educational markets and notified resellers that the MacBook is now classified as “End of Life.”

The MacBook was Apple’s entry-level notebook for years, but it faced internal competition in 2010 with the release of the 11.6-inch MacBook Air, which also started at US$999 and was an instant hit.

Apple introduced the MacBook in May 2006 during the transition from PowerPC to Intel processors. In 2008, it temporarily received an aluminum makeover, but that machine was later rebranded as the 13-inch MacBook Pro. Apple released a unibody polycarbonate design in 2009 that remained until the product was discontinued last year.

Updated Mac OS X 10.7.3 user interface notes could point towards Retina displays for future Macs

Posted by:
Date: Tuesday, February 7th, 2012, 07:26
Category: Hardware, News

Analyze the new Mac OS X update’s source code and you find some interesting stuff.

Per Daring Fireball, a series of newly-upgraded high-DPI UI elements in Mac OS X 10.7.3 has led to some speculation that Apple is continuing to lay the groundwork for high-resolution Mac displays that approach the pixel density of its Retina Displays.

The article pointed to a series of Twitter posts (1, 2) outing UI resources that scale to larger sizes in the latest release of Mac OS X Lion, which arrived last week.

The new elements include the pointing-finger cursor in Safari, the “grabby hand” in Mail, and the camera cursor for taking screenshots and a few others. One straightforward reason for the change could be that Apple wanted to improve the look of the Universal Access zoom feature. But, reports from some Mac Mini users outputting to HDTVs over HDMI that upgrading to 10.7.3 caused their system to reboot into HiDPI mode have added to the mounting evidence that Apple is planning for high-definition Mac displays.

Apple added HiDPI modes to Mac OS X Lion last year, but they were previously only accessible by installing Xcode. HiDPI is modeled after the UI resolution doubling that takes place on Retina Display iPhones.

Gruber went on to wonder “whether we may be on the cusp of Apple releasing HiDPI Mac displays and/or HiDPI MacBooks. I.e.: retina display Macs.” He did, however, add that he has been anticipating “super-high-resolution Mac displays” for over five years, so his speculation should be taken with “a grain of wishful-thinking salt.”

Late last year, a rumor emerged that Apple was preparing new versions of its MacBook Pro lineup with double the resolution. The resulting display for a 15-inch MacBook Pro would be 2,880 by 1,800 pixels and is expected to set off “a new round of competition for panel specifications.”

Chipmaker Intel has indicated that its next-generation Ivy Bridge processors will support resolutions up to 4K, or 4,096 by 4,096 pixels per monitor. Multiple reports have suggested that the company will launch its Ivy Bridge Processors in the second quarter of 2012, and Apple is expected to begin adding Ivy Bridge chips to its Macs in soon after. Wallpapers as large as 3,200 by 2,000 pixels were also discovered in a developer preview of Mac OS X Lion last year.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Intel demonstrates Near-Field Communications on upcoming Ivy Bridge notebook architecture

Posted by:
Date: Monday, January 9th, 2012, 10:49
Category: Accessory, Hardware, wireless

intellogo.jpg

This could prove spiffy.

Per Engadget and its CES coverage, Intel executive Mooly Eden has just confirmed that the company’s forthcoming Ivy Bridge chips will support Near-Field Communications (NFC), as demoed in a transaction involving a laptop and PayPass-enabled MasterCard.

NFC technology has yet to be truly demoed as incorporated into notebooks and it’ll be interesting to see which companies and developers pick up on this as well as whether this will find its way into upcoming Apple notebooks.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Intel could release Ivy Bridge-based Xeon chips in spring, provide new processor offerings for Mac Pro lineup

Posted by:
Date: Tuesday, January 3rd, 2012, 05:48
Category: Hardware, News, Processors

intellogo.jpg

The upcoming Mac Pro units could get that much niftier, even with a slightly older technology.

Per DigiTimes, Intel’s Xeon E5 launch early this year could be matched by a handful of Ivy Bridge-based models soon after based on a tentative roadmap. After releasing 18 E5 chips based on the current Sandy Bridge architecture, Intel would have 11 Xeons arrive in the spring based on the 2012 design. Billed as Ivy Bridge-H2, these would include Xeon E3 chips like the E3-1290v2 in bulk costs of US$189 to US$884 as well as E5s from US$192 to US$1,440, one of which would be the E5-2470.

The exact specifications of the Ivy Bridge models aren’t apparent. The Sandy Bridge E5 chips were already known to range from a 1.8GHz quad-core processor to 3.1GHz in eight-core varieties.

If sustained, the Xeon lineup could create dilemmas for workstations like the possible Mac Pro refresh. It may push Apple and others into either picking Sandy Bridge models and going for a slightly older but wider range, choosing from a limited Ivy Bridge range, or having to split the computer lineup between the two Intel architectures.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.