O'Grady's PowerPage » Review

Rumor: Apple 27-inch Thunderbolt supply running short, may indicate forthcoming upgrade in near future

Posted by:
Date: Tuesday, January 15th, 2013, 08:39
Category: Hardware, Rumor

thunderboltdisplay

You know that spiffy monitor Apple sells? It might be about to be upgraded.

Per AppleInsider, a number of resellers have run dry of Apple Thunderbolt Display inventory, suggesting the 27-inch monitor may be due for an upgrade, perhaps with a thinner design that takes cues from the latest iMacs.

As of Monday, major resellers Amazon, MacMall, and J&R are all out of stock of the Thunderbolt Display. Stock-outs are often one of the first signs of a forthcoming upgrade to Apple hardware.

At the very least, the Thunderbolt Display is in need of an upgrade to its MagSafe cable. Apple currently ships a MagSafe to MagSafe 2 Converter with every Thunderbolt Display to allow compatibility with the latest MacBooks.

But the Thunderbolt Display and its predecessor, the Cinema Display, have historically borrowed LCD technology from Apple’s all-in-one iMac lineup. And the iMac was recently redesigned with a reengineered display panel that is thinner and reduces glare by 75 percent.

Miroslav Djuric, chief information architect with iFixit, noted that the current-generation Thunderbolt display employs the same screen as the previous generation of 27-inch iMacs: an LG-built TFT active-matrix LCD panel.

“Think of the Thunderbolt display as an iMac minus the computing hardware,” Djuric explained.

If that trend were to continue, an updated Thunderbolt Display would include a thinner LCD panel, and likely an overall thinner design. Apple’s new 21.5-inch iMac actually has the same LCD as its predecessor, but the panel is 5 millimeters thinner, suggesting the same components have been squeezed into a smaller space.

Apple also made its new iMacs thinner by fusing the LCD to the front glass. Djuric said he expects that design decision to also be utilized in a next-generation Apple Thunderbolt Display.

However, if Apple is planning to bring the new iMac panel design to a refreshed Thunderbolt Display accessory, the new big-screen monitor’s arrival may not be imminent because of potential production issues.

Apple’s new 27-inch iMac remains in short supply because of apparent production issues associated with the display. Until those issues are worked out, Apple may not have enough panels to also provide for a new 27-inch Thunderbolt Display.

One report last week claimed that Apple and LG have only been able to produce about 100,000 27-inch iMacs per month. Apple’s online store continues to advertise that new orders of the 27-inch iMac ship in three to four weeks.

Analyst Ming-chi Kuo of KGI Securities was first to reveal in August that Apple was planning to use a new screen lamination process in its redesigned iMacs. Kuo also noted that manufacturing of the panels would be difficult.

Another possible upgrade for the Thunderbolt Display could be its ports: The current model features three USB 2.0 ports, but Apple began offering faster USB 3.0 connectivity on its 2012 Macs, including the redesigned iMac. USB 3 offers transfer rates up to 5 Gbps, compared to just 480 Mbps for USB 2.

The Apple Thunderbolt Display was released in July of 2011, making it the world’s first display compatible with Apple’s high-speed Thunderbolt I/O technology. In addition to the aforementioned MagSafe charging cable and three USB 2.0 ports, the 27-inch screen includes a FaceTime HD video camera, 2.1 speaker system, one FireWire 800 port, a Gigabit Ethernet port, and a Thunderbolt port for daisy chaining up to five additional Thunderbolt devices.

Apple also still continues to sell the previous-generation 27-inch LED Cinema Display for older Macs that have a Mini DisplayPort instead of the newer Thunderbolt port. Both the LED Cinema Display and the Thunderbolt Display are sold for US$999.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Rumor: Apple to release updated iPad, iPad mini models in March

Posted by:
Date: Friday, January 11th, 2013, 09:42
Category: Hardware, iPad, Rumor

Come March…you may buy the next generation of iPad.

Per AppleInsider, a new rumor has pegged both the full-size iPad and iPad mini as due for updates in March.

Brian White of Topeka Capital Markets said his checks with industry sources at this week’s CES event in Las Vegas, Nev., indicated both the fifth-generation iPad and second-generation iPad mini will debut this March, just five months after the last update was announced.

White was told that the new “iPad 5″ will be lighter and thinner than the fourth-generation model Apple released late last year. The updated model features a new A6X processor and Apple’s smaller Lightning chip but maintained the same design as the third-generation iPad released last March.

As for the iPad mini, White said the second-generation device is expected to have the same form factor. A new model would likely just have upgraded components, such as a faster chip.

No mention was made of a potential high-resolution Retina display in a new iPad mini. One report from last month claimed Apple was focused on boosting the resolution of the next-generation iPad mini.

Though many industry insiders attend CES, Apple does not have an official presence at the annual event. White did not indicate the source of his information aside from unnamed “checks” at the show.

White also reported last week that Apple is expected to debut new iPhones this summer in more sizes and colors, expanding the lineup from the current black and white options. He expects the new iPhones to debut in the May-June timeframe, which would be earlier than the last two years.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Rumor: Apple may start building lower cost iPhone in second half of 2013

Posted by:
Date: Wednesday, January 9th, 2013, 08:03
Category: Hardware, iPhone, Rumor

If you were waiting for the iPhone to become cheaper in the face of increased competition, this might be the year for it.

Per the Wall Street Journal and DigiTimes, Apple is currently working on a cheaper iPhone that could hit the market as soon as this year.

According to people briefed on the matter, Apple is reportedly looking to a new audience with the less expensive iPhone, a move the WSJ claims is in response to slipping smartphone supremacy.

While Apple has supposedly tossed around the idea of building a more affordable iPhone “for years,” the plan is progressing toward a release in the second half of 2013.

The new device could be unveiled later this year and be marketed as an entry-level model to Apple’s flagship iPhone. Sources say the cheaper unit may take on the form factor and design of the current iPhone with a chassis made from less exotic materials like polycarbonate. Other parts could “remain the same or be recycled from older iPhone models.”

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple posts job openings for 802.11ac engineers

Posted by:
Date: Tuesday, January 8th, 2013, 08:37
Category: Hardware, News, wireless

applelogo_silver

Apple’s looking to bring the 802.11ac protocol to the Mac this year.

Now it just needs the people to do it.

Per AppleBitch, a new job listing by the company advertises a position for engineers experienced with Gigabit Wi-Fi.

The mention of 802.11ac comes from a new job posting listed by the company on Sunday, first highlighted by AppleBitch. The role of “System Test Engineer” will be based at Apple’s corporate Campus in Cupertino, Calif., and focuses on Wi-Fi connectivity.

In the job listing, Apple notes that the position requires “technical knowledge” of the Wi-Fi standard in all forms, including the next-generation 802.11ac. The ideal candidate will include “experience on consumer-facing hardware/software products.”

The new job posting comes only days after a rumor surfaced claiming that Apple plans to add Gigabit Wi-Fi to its 2013 Mac lineup. The so-called “5G Wi-Fi” standard offers up to 1.3Gbps data transfers with a three-antenna design.

Current Macs and other Apple devices feature 802.11n networking, the current industry standard for Wi-Fi. That allows transfers of up to 450Mbps with three antennas — a feat that 802.11ac can accomplish with just one antenna.

Apple is rumored to have struck a deal with Broadcom to potentially debut 802.11ac in this year’s Macs. The Broadcom chips reportedly remain in development and are not yet available to use.

Apple has a history of being on the cutting edge with Wi-Fi — it was among the first to bring Wi-Fi to the masses in 1999, while Apple secretly included support for the “Draft-N” specification in some of its devices in 2006 before the 802.11n standard was officially ratified.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Intel shows off fourth-gen Core processor lineup at CES

Posted by:
Date: Tuesday, January 8th, 2013, 08:48
Category: Hardware, Intel, News, Processors

intellogo.jpg

The cool stuff’s en route for this year.

Per AppleInsider, Intel on Monday demoed a number of upcoming processors set to hit market later this year, including low power versions of the company’s “Haswell” fourth-generation Core series CPUs slated to roll out in Apple’s inevitable 2013 MacBook Pro and MacBook Air refreshes.

While Apple wasn’t specifically mentioned in Intel’s keynote, which focused mainly on the chip maker’s push into smartphones and Ultrabooks, the processors outlined on Monday will likely be powering the MacBook lineup later this year.

According to the head of Intel’s PC client group, Kirk Skaugen, the fourth-gen Core family of processors are the first to be designed specifically for the Ultrabook initiative. The new silicon is said to bring the most significant battery life improvement in Intel history, with laptops using the CPUs boasting 9 to 13 hours of continuous on-the-go use.

“The 4th generation Core processors are the first Intel chips built from the ground up with the Ultrabook in mind,” Skaugen said. “We expect the tremendous advancements in lower-power Core processors, and the significant ramp of touch-based systems will lead to a significant new wave of convertible Ultrabooks and tablets that are thinner, lighter and, at the same time, have the performance required for more human-like interaction such as touch, voice and gesture controls.”

Intel is making a strong push for touch capabilities in this year’s thin-and-light lineup, requiring OEMs to include the functionality in return for “Ultrabook” branding. The company is also mandating that Ultrabook manufacturers incorporate Intel Wireless Display technology into 2013 machines, allowing users to view digital content on an HDTV.

As Apple does not participate in the Ultrabook initiative, a category believed to be a response to the MacBook Air, the Cupertino, Calif., company is not required to incorporate touchscreen tech into its laptop products. There have been no reports pointing toward multitouch capable MacBooks and industry sources claim Apple will merely debut refreshed units in June with existing designs.

Stay tuned for additional details

USB 3.0 Promoter Group announces updated spec, anticipated 10Gb/s speeds for 2014

Posted by:
Date: Monday, January 7th, 2013, 07:32
Category: Hardware, News

This could lead to something nifty.

Per CNET and the mighty Jim Tanous of The Mac Observer, an updated USB 3.0 specification that promises to double theoretical maximum bandwidth is scheduled to arrive in mid–2013, the USB 3.0 Promoter Group announced Sunday. The improvements, thanks to revised hardware and more efficient data transfer methods, will double USB 3.0’s speed from 5 gigabits per second to 10 gigabits per second, rivaling the single-channel performance of Thunderbolt.

The news of faster USB speeds will be welcomed by those relying on external solid state or multi-disk hard drives, as some current high-end drives already saturate USB 3.0’s 5 Gb/s limit (equivalent to about 640 MB/s). For those not yet interested in faster speeds, the new technology will still be backwards-compatible with older USB 3.0 and 2.0 devices and ports.

The new specification is expected to be finalized by mid-year, but devices taking advantage of it won’t hit the market until early 2014 at the earliest, with “much broader availability of products in 2015.”

The USB 3.0 Promoter Group, which announced the new specification, is comprised of member companies in the technology field, including HP, Intel, Microsoft, and Texas Instruments, among others. Apple, which belatedly introduced USB 3.0 on its 2012 line of Macs, is not a member, although it pioneered Thunderbolt, an alternative high-speed interface.

Thunderbolt also offers maximum bandwidth of 10 Gb/s (about 1,280 MB/s) but is dual channel, allowing two transfers up to that speed to occur simultaneously between attached devices. However, the limited number of Thunderbolt-enabled computers and the complicated nature of Thunderbolt chipsets and cables have made the technology significantly more expensive than most other interface options. As a result, it is far less ubiquitous than the backwards-compatible and cheaper USB 3.0 standard.

Users interested in the new USB 3.0 specification will need both updated computers and external devices to support it. New USB 3.0 devices will still work in the absence of both of these conditions, but they will operate at much slower USB 3.0 or 2.0 speeds depending on the exact configuration.

Cables, on the other hand, are another matter. Due to changes in the efficiency of the new specification, existing USB 3.0 cables may not work. “Existing SuperSpeed USB cables are not certified to operate at 10 Gbps; it is possible that some existing SuperSpeed USB cables may be capable of operating at 10 Gbps,” the group said.

Now that Apple has introduced USB 3.0 support, it is likely that the company will move to incorporate the faster USB specification once it is available, especially if Thunderbolt adoption continues to progress at a glacial pace.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple adds Fusion Drive as build-to-order option for 21.5-inch iMac

Posted by:
Date: Monday, January 7th, 2013, 06:29
Category: Hardware, News

The cool thing you want is now available for the base model iMac.

Per MacGeneration and AppleInsider, Apple is now offering the Fusion Drive as a build-to-order option when ordering the most affordable 2.7GHz 21.5-inch iMac model, a change in availability from October when the system was limited to high-end versions and the 27-inch iMac.

The revision to the Online Apple Store’s build-to-order options, first spotted by MacGeneration, adds Apple’s hybrid Fusion Drive as a US$250 upgrade to the base model 21.5-inch iMac.

Introduced in October 2012 alongside the redesigned iMac, Apple’s Fusion Drive is a hardware and software solution that promises the performance of a solid state drive with the storage capacity of a hard drive. Initial tests showed the hybrid drive to cut startup times in half while increasing read and write speeds significantly when compared to a traditional 5400-rpm hard drive.

The software driving the technology is built into OS X Mountain Lion and join a 128-gigabyte SSD with either a 1-terabyte or 3-terabyte HDD to form a single addressable volume. Integral applications and the operating system itself are permanently stored on the flash memory while other files are store on the slower spinning drive. The system monitors a user’s operations and swaps frequently accessed files, folders or programs between the two to optimize performance. Transfers take place seamlessly in the background and require no user input.

Previously, the hardware that works in tandem with the Fusion Drive software was only available on the more expensive 2.9GHz 21.5-inch iMac model.

Corning’s Gorilla Glass 3 could be en route to next-gen iOS devices

Posted by:
Date: Friday, January 4th, 2013, 07:54
Category: Hardware, iPad, iPhone, iPod, News

Glassmaker Corning on Thursday announced Gorilla Glass 3, a stronger, more scratch resistant version of the current substrate used in the display of Apple’s iPhone and iPad lines of mobile devices.

Per Engadget, Corning unveiled its latest glass technologies including Gorilla Glass 3 and optical cables for use in fiber-supported protocols like Thunderbolt.



As for the next-generation Gorilla Glass 3, Corning claims the material is three times more scratch resistant than the previous version thanks to “Native Damage Resistance” technology. The company also claims that of the scratches that do occur on the glass, 40 percent fewer will be visible to the naked eye.

Not much information was provided pertaining to the optical cables, but the fiber format promises enhanced speeds and longer cable runs compared to current copper-based solutions. When Apple first launched Thunderbolt-compatible Macs and the Thunderbolt display, the company promised increased performance when optical cables hit the market. Thus far, production of the expensive components has been non-existent, but that is expected to change in 2013.

Corning Glass Technologies President James P. Clappin is scheduled to be a panelist on in the “Disruptive Technologies Impacting the Future of Games and Video” session at 11 a.m. PST on Tuesday, Jan. 8, and will discuss the role of specialized glass in consumer electronics like high-resolution 3D, HD video, internet-connected TVs and tablets, among other devices.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Rumor: Apple inks deal with Broadcom, will bring 802.11ac functionality to 2013 Macs

Posted by:
Date: Wednesday, January 2nd, 2013, 09:30
Category: Hardware, Rumor, wireless

This could lead to something nifty.

Per The Next Web, Apple has reportedly struck a deal with Broadcom that will place superfast 802.11ac Wi-Fi chips in its 2013 Mac lineup.

Sources familiar with the deal indicated that the forthcoming industry standard for Wi-Fi will appear in Apple’s lineup this year. The so-called “5G Wi-Fi” offers up to 1.3Gbps data with a three-antenna design.

Apple has reportedly shown interest in the past of being an early adopter of 801.11ac technology, but the “Gigabit Wi-Fi” technology has yet to appear in any Macs. The new standard achieves much faster wireless networking speeds than 802.11n, which featured in current Macs, by using more frequency bandwidth, more efficient data transfers, and more antennas.

Apple’s current Macs use up to three antennas to achieve 802.11n speeds of up to 450Mbps. But the 802.11ac standard starts at 450Mbps with just one antenna, while a triple-antenna design boosts wireless speeds to 1.3Gbps.

While Apple has reportedly struck a deal with Broadcom, the chips the company will use are not yet available and remain in development.

“We have been told that if work goes according to schedule, they should be part of the new line of Mac computers,” author Matt Brian wrote on Wednesday. “There is no word on whether Apple will introduce similar chipsets in the iPhone, iPad, Apple TV, Time Capsule or other products.”

Presumably Apple’s networking products would receive the necessary upgrade to provide 802.11ac connectivity to the rumored 2013 Macs. That would include the AirPort Extreme Base Station router and AirPort Express portable Wi-Fi base station and AirPlay streaming device.

Apple was among the first companies to bring Wi-Fi to the masses in 1999 when company co-founder Steve Jobs debuted a wireless iBook notebook onstage as his trademark “one more thing” at the July Macworld Expo.

The company also snuck in support for the 802.11n wireless standard in some of its devices in 2006. Support for the “draft n” specification was later added to devices through an available software update. The 802.11n standard was formally ratified in October of 2009 — nearly three years after Apple began rolling it out.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

TSMC to replace Samsung as A6X chip manufacturer for upcoming iPad devices

Posted by:
Date: Wednesday, January 2nd, 2013, 08:14
Category: Hardware, iPad, News, Processors

The company may not have the prettiest logo in the world, but they DO have a killer Apple contract that a lot of people in their industry would love to have.

Per channelnewsasia.com, after years of rumors, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. is said to finally begin trial production of A6X chips for Apple’s fourth-generation iPad this quarter, further marginalizing Samsung’s role in Apple’s supply chain.

TSMC has been contracted to manufacture the A6X chip found in the latest iPad. A report published on Wednesday said trial production of the mobile chips will begin in the first quarter of the year.

Apple has long been rumored to be interested in switching its mobile chip manufacturing from Samsung to TSMC. The iPad maker, which was once Samsung’s biggest customer, has been looking to remove Samsung from its supply chain as the two companies are engaged in a number of patent infringement lawsuits around the world.

Recent reports had indicated that Apple planned to have TSMC begin producing mobile chips in 2013. But some reports pegged a late 2013 start date as more likely.

With the latest rumor pegging TSMC’s deal as only for trial production of the A6X, it’s still unclear exactly when TSMC-produced chips could begin appearing in Apple’s iOS devices. Currently, all of the mobile processors used in the iPhone, iPad, iPod touch and Apple TV are built by Samsung at its chip fabrication plant in Austin, Tex.

Switching its chip manufacturing from Samsung to TSMC is expected to be a complex transition that could take Apple as long as 18 months to complete.

Rumors that surfaced last month pegged TSMC has the most likely company behind a mysterious “Project Azalea” that numerous states are competing to win. The secretive project involves an unnamed semiconductor manufacturing company considering a new chip fabrication plant in four potential states: New York, California, Texas and Oregon.

The chip manufacturer behind the “Azalea” project is said to have ties to Apple, which has led numerous reports to suggest TSMC as the most likely company behind the mystery project. The states bidding for the contract have signed nondisclosure agreements, making the company unknown.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.