Rumor: Apple to ship Retina display-equipped iPad mini in early 2014

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Date: Friday, July 12th, 2013, 14:05
Category: Hardware, iPad, iPad mini, Rumor

There’s gotta be a nugget of truth in here somewhere.

Per the Economic Daily News and AppleInsider, Apple’s iPad mini may not gain a high-resolution Retina display until early next year, if the latest rumor about the second-generation 7.9-inch tablet proves accurate.

The claim was published on Friday which said that though Apple originally planned to launch a Retina iPad mini this fall, it may be delayed until the first quarter of 2014. As such, the rumor suggests that a second-generation iPad mini will not launch this year.

It’s expected that a Retina display on the iPad mini would follow the same double-resolution approach used by Apple in existing devices like the iPhone and full-size iPad. That would mean the iPad mini’s 7.9-inch display would need to pack in the same 3.1 million pixels into a panel nearly two inches smaller in diameter.

The latest report comes on the heels of a separate rumor out of the Far East from earlier this week which claimed Apple plans to launch a new fifth-generation, full-size iPad in September. That report claimed that the features of a second-generation iPad mini, such as a Retina display, remain in flux at Apple.

Reputable analyst Ming-Chi Kuo of KGI Securities said in April that Apple was experiencing yield issues in manufacturing high-resolution screens for its next iPad mini. He suggested that production issues would push back the launch of the second-generation tablet, but at the time he believed it would still launch this October.

The first-generation iPad mini debuted last October with a screen resolution of 1,024 by 768 pixels. That matches the resolution of the first-generation iPad and iPad 2, but packs the pixels into a smaller space, giving the display a higher pixel density.

Still, the iPad mini display squeezes in only 163 pixels per inch — an improvement on the 132 pixels per inch found on the first two iPad releases, but still well below the 264-pixel-per-inch density of the third- and fourth-generation iPads.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Rumor: Apple considering switch to IGZO displays to boost next-gen MacBook Pro battery life

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Date: Wednesday, July 10th, 2013, 15:54
Category: Hardware, MacBook Pro, Rumor

The next-gen MacBook notebooks could possess even longer lasting batteries.

Per Korea IT News, Apple is once again rumored to be considering indium gallium zinc oxide (IGZO) LCDs, this time for inclusion in not only upcoming versions of its iPad, but also in its forthcoming MacBook Pros. A recent report has the Cupertino company talking with Sharp and LG Display in preparation for wider manufacture.

The new MacBooks would reportedly be scheduled for release some time early in 2014, though the report gives no word on when IGZO-packing iPads would be set for release. The latest speculation surrounding the iPad does make mention of reduced backlighting and improved battery life, both of which could be outgrowths of IGZO technology.

An oxide semiconductor, IGZO is about 10 times faster in electron mobility than an amorphous silicon semiconductor. This allows the technology to consume far less power in operation. IGZO also requires smaller wiring, which also contributes to its lower power consumption.

The panels are significantly more expensive than traditional LCDs, though, so that could represent an obstacle for Apple in bringing them to market in the MacBook Pro line. Some estimates have Apple paying 1.5 to two times as much for the same panel sizes seen in current models.

A switch to IGZO could be in keeping with Apple’s already established goals for this generation of MacBooks. When introducing the 2013 MacBook Air, Apple made sure to note that the inclusion of Intel’s new Haswell processors had boosted overall battery life to 12 hours for the 13-inch model. The inclusion of less power-intensive displays could push the next generation of MacBook Pros to even greater heights.

Apple has long been rumored to have been looking at IGZO technology for future devices. Previous rumors have focused on the iPhone or iPad.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Review: Injustice: Gods Among Us

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Date: Tuesday, July 9th, 2013, 11:20
Category: iOS, Review, Software, Software

Injustice: Gods Among Us iOS Review
By Mr. S

Yahtzee of Zero Punctuation famously asked his viewers to name one game that has had a fun amor/item/weapon degradation mechanic. He only gives us a millisecond to think about it, but I still can’t think of one. Of course, these mechanics are essential to certain kinds of gameplay scenarios. They make simulation games like Arma feel alive, and games like S.T.A.L.K.E.R feel incredibly dangerous. My point is they have their place, and have proven to be an essential part in bringing out a certain types of emotions from players.


Level up your characters to equip cool attacks like the Green Lantern's girder...

Level up your characters to equip cool attacks like the Green Lantern’s girder…


You know what doesn’t have its place in fun video games? Ridiculous fake currencies and obvious ploys to milk the customer for every dime they have. And for what? So I can use Batman in your second rate, slapped-together clone of about three other games on iOS?

Maybe I should back it up a little.

Injustice: Gods Among Us is a iOS tie in to a very good game for Xbox 360, PS3, and WiiU console created by NetherRealm Studios. You remember those guys, right? Ed Boon took a bunch of Mortal Kombat veterans from the collapse of Midway and bought the rights to Mortal Kombat and created a very deep and brutal game with a very original title called “Mortal Kombat” back in 2011 which actually became a fighting game on par with Street Fighter 4 as one of the finest of this generation. NetherRealm also made the iOS game Batman: Arkham City Lockdown, and it’s clear that the modified Unreal engine they created for that game was repurposed for Injustice.

Normally, that’s a great time to build on what worked and fix what didn’t. Refine the already solid touch screen fighting mechanics so they are perfect, and innovate on new ways to add variety to the formula. That was not the focus for Injustice. The focus was building a compulsion loop that ultimately drives you to purchase the ridiculous currency so you get to play with the characters they showcase in the game’s intro video.


Pick and choose from your favorite D.C. heroes to fight with.

Pick and choose from your favorite D.C. heroes to fight with.


As an experiment, I attempted to play the game without purchasing any currency. I wanted to see if Injustice: Gods Among Us was really “free to play”. By that I mean, can I enjoy this game just as much as any other game without spending money? Will the refusal to give this game money make my experience suck? In a word: absolutely, but to elaborate, it was evident after the first hour that I was not going to get anywhere without a substantial amount of ludicrous “coins”. I ran into a situation where the only way I could proceed is to use all the coins I had earned on the three characters that I started off with and had leveled up, but the only way to get the cool characters with incredible powers is to save up enough coins to buy the equally ludicrous “booster packs” (and by enough coin I mean 100,000+…) To give you an idea of how hard that is to attain I was able to amass over 50,000 after eight hours of play. That number hovered at 50,000 for a very long time because you get only a fraction of the experience points and no coins for replaying past stages.

Let me put all of this in perspective. Imagine Tekken 3 with most of its characters behind paywalls? Imagine how crappy Gran Turismo would be if you couldn’t re-race championships for cash to buy new and better cars? It is true that GT does not give you the same huge payout each time, but you do make progress in a matter of minutes, whereas Injustice tasks the free player to endure hours of monotony. Imagine GT sticking you with a Ford Probe until you fork out some cash? Unthinkable! And yet, in the mobile realm, this is common practice. For those asking why, the answer is simple. “Gamers” as we know them are not the target market for this kind of game. It’s the casual players that are in the crosshairs.


Remember to level up your characters' attacks and attributes after each victory.

Remember to level up your characters’ attacks and attributes after each victory.


It just happens that Injustice also forgets them in its rush to iOS gold. Had you not read the comics or played the console game you would have no clue why there are “Insurgent” or “Regime” versions of Solomon Grundy. “Who the hell is Solomon Grundy?”, you ask. Don’t bother trying to find out on your so-called “card” because you get jack-diddly for context. No bios, no explanations for the setting, no information about their comic origin? Zip. Just a number for damage and a price tag. Fun card!

The real crime of it all is that underneath all this bull, this blatant and game-breaking monetization, there’s a good game. A game that, with a bit more polish, some multiplayer, and the complete removal of all this microtransaction mess for a clean US$5.99 price tag, could be one of the best best 3D touch based fighting games on iOS.

Back in my home state we had a little thing called the Iona Free Fair. It didn’t cost you anything to get in the door, but if you wanted to park, go on any rides, or, dare I say, eat food, it was insanely expensive. I don’t think I need to tell you what word often replaced “free” when the fair came up in conversation.


The real crime: You're not going anywhere without throwing a few bucks in to snag character upgrades along the way...

The real crime: You’re not going anywhere without throwing at least a few bucks in to snag character upgrades along the way…


Injustice is the Iona Free Fair of mobile titles. Make sure to get a tape recorder close to Ed Boon on his deathbed, because I’m almost certain the man who has created some of the best fighting games in history would agree: It’s not up to NetherRealm’s sparkling standards.

Injustice: Gods Among Us is available for free and requires iOS and requires iOS 5.0 or later to install and run.

Rumor: Fifth-gen iPad could arrive in September, second-gen iPad mini not long after

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Date: Monday, July 8th, 2013, 06:22
Category: Hardware, iPad mini, Rumor

The next-gen iPad you’re hoping for could hit in September, the mini version not long after.

Per DigiTimes, a new 9.7-inch iPad is planned to debut in September with a slimmer bezel, as has been rumored.

In addition, the report said the number of LED tubes to backlight the Retina display has been reduced from two to one, and battery life of the device has also been improved.

Pilot production of the device is allegedly already able to satisfy demand for the initial launch. As such, suppliers reportedly indicated they expect Apple to give shipment estimates as soon as the end of this month.

While the full-size iPad is rumored to see a refresh in September, the iPad mini may have to wait a little longer for its second-generation model to launch. Sources have stated that Apple is “still considering whether to adopt a Retina display for the device.”

If Apple does opt for a high-resolution display in its 7.9-inch tablet, the release of the product could be delayed until the fourth quarter of calendar 2013, the report said. It also added that Apple is pushing component suppliers to further shrink the iPad mini bezel, and that the company is pushing for a largely bezel-less design.

Apple launched both the first iPad mini and the fourth-generation iPad at the same event last October. The updated full-size iPad was a moderate surprise, as the third-generation model with Retina display had debuted only six months prior.

The fifth-generation iPad is expected to adopt a design similar to that of the iPad mini, including more rounded edges and a thinner bezel. Leaked schematics have suggested the new iPad will also be thinner than its predecessor, while well-connected analyst Ming-Chi Kuo of KGI Securities has said the device will be 25 percent lighter.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Rumor: Next-Gen iPhone to incorporate LTE-Advanced support, could operate at 150 Mbps data rate

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Date: Monday, July 1st, 2013, 08:46
Category: Hardware, iPhone, Rumor

It’s just a rumor, but it could indicate that something really cool is en route for the next-gen iPhone.

Per The Korea Times, Apple is allegedly in talks with SK Telecom about launching an LTE-Advanced phone later this year. “LTE-A” is an upgraded version of the long-term evolution wireless standard currently found in the iPhone 5.

Citing an unnamed executive with SK Telecom, the report said that Apple is in the midst of negotiations with the carrier. Currently, the Samsung Galaxy S4 is the only device to take advantage of the LTE-A standard with SK Telecom.

LTE-A is capable of theoretical download speeds reaching 150Mbps, which is double that of basic LTE. The executive cited in the story reportedly said there is “no reason” for Apple not to adopt LTE-A with its next iPhone.

The possibility of LTE-A functionality on the next iPhone is believed to be possible because of new chipsets from Qualcomm. A potential “global LTE” chip candidate for Apple was released in February, boasting truly global connectivity support.

The Qualcomm RF360 Front End Solution would enable an iPhone that supports all 2G, 3G, 4G LTE and LTE Advanced networks. Currently, the iPhone 5 is sold in three variants — two GSM and one CDMA — to offer compatibility with various networks across the world.

But Qualcomm’s RF360 would mitigate this problem, and even add support for the obscure TD-SCDMA network used by the world’s largest carrier, China Mobile. Apple does not currently have a deal in place to offer the iPhone through China Mobile, though rumors of a deal have persisted for years.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple files for “iWatch” trademark in Japan, other countries

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Date: Monday, July 1st, 2013, 06:50
Category: Hardware, News

applelogo_silver

Prior to securing the licensing term “iPhone” back in 2006 and 2007, Apple went through a fair amount of rigamarole to get the much-coveted brand name.

It apparently doesn’t want to do that all over again.

Per Bloomberg and MacRumors, Apple has filed for a trademark for the term ‘iWatch’ in Japan:

“The maker of iPhones is seeking protection for the name which is categorized as being for products including a handheld computer or watch device, according to a June 3 filing with the Japan Patent Office that was made public last week. ‘iWatch’ is one of the possible names for the long-rumored Apple wristwatch that has generated increasing buzz over the past year.”

The filing actually represents the second ‘iWatch’ trademark filing discovered from Apple. The first report of the “iWatch” trademark came from Russia, also on June 3rd.

Bloomberg also restated that Apple has a team of about 100 product designers working on a wristwatch computer. The most recent reports have suggested we won’t see the Apple watch until late 2014 and that the watch will feature biometrics as a key feature, allowing for increased security and opening the door to broader health-related applications.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Best Buy recalls select third party MacBook Pro batteries after reports of fires

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Date: Thursday, June 20th, 2013, 07:37
Category: battery, Hardware, MacBook Pro, News

best-buy-logo

The MacBook Pro battery fire issue has reared its ugly head yet again…

Per Macworld, Best Buy has recalled about 5100 replacement batteries for Apple’s MacBook Pro laptops, after 13 reports that the battery caught fire, a U.S. consumer safety agency said.

The ATG lithium-ion batteries can catch fire while charging, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission said in a statement Wednesday.

The recall covers both black and white ATG lithium-ion replacement batteries for MacBook Pro laptops. “Model number ‘MC-MBOOK13B’ is on the label of the black battery and model number ‘MC-BOOK13W’ is on the label of the white battery,” CPSC said. The ATG logo is on both batteries.

Best Buy has received 13 reports that the battery caught fire, including one of a serious burn to a consumer’s leg, according to CPSC.

Consumers have been advised to immediately stop using the recalled battery, remove it from the computer and contact Best Buy for a replacement Apple brand battery or a US$50 Best Buy gift card as a full refund. Best Buy is contacting its customers directly, it said.

Best Buy and Apple could not be immediately reached for comment. The batteries were manufactured in China and imported by a company in Las Vegas, called BTI.

The batteries were sold through Bestbuy.com and Partstore.com, a Best Buy brand, or shipped to customers through the Geek Squad Protection fulfillment at Best Buy from September 2008 through June 2012. A Best Buy spokesman said that it may be one of other companies also selling the batteries, according to reports.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Pegatron CEO: “Low-cost” iPhone may not be as cheap as expected

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Date: Thursday, June 20th, 2013, 06:02
Category: Hardware, iPhone, News, retail

The long-rumored low cost iPhone may not be as affordable as you’d like it to be.

Per the China Times and Mac Otakara, speaking at his company’s shareholders meeting on Thursday, Pegatron CEO T.H. Tung said Apple’s much rumored low cost iPhone won’t be a budget offering, seemingly confirming speculation that the handset will be sold as a higher-end middle tier device.

Tung disagreed with rumors that called Apple’s lower-end offering “cheap,” saying the “price is still high.”

The executive said products currently on the market can carry a number of names, but “cheap” is not one that should be associated with Apple’s less expensive iPhone. He went on to say that, compared to feature phones, smartphones are increasingly offering more value for the price.

The statements appear to confirm previous reports that Pegatron is handling at least a portion of the as-yet-unannounced iPhone’s manufacture. A report in May claimed Pegatron is reportedly preparing to hire some 40,000 workers sometime in the second half of 2013, adding fuel to the low-cost iPhone fire.

Analysts and media sources are divided as to which of Apple partners will be responsible for the majority of production, with some claiming Foxconn is to pull most of the burden.

KGI analyst Ming-Chi Kuo in March said the two companies will nearly split manufacturing duties for the low-cost version, while Pegatron would take on a bigger share of continued iPhone 4 and 4S production.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

iPhone case hints at thicker, rounder design for upcoming low-cost iPhone

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Date: Tuesday, June 18th, 2013, 07:15
Category: Hardware, iPhone, Rumor

Sometimes the upcoming case designs give it away.

Per AppleInsider and Macotakara, case makers in the Far East have begun to produce accessories they hope will fit a new low-cost iPhone model from Apple, featuring a slightly thicker design and rounded edges.

The appearance of a case alleged to fit a new iPhone would suggest that schematics for such a device, legitimate or not, are in the wild.

The case designed by Japan’s MGM Corp. shows rounded edges, and a slightly thicker frame than the iPhone 5. It includes space for a rear-facing camera with flash, as well as volume buttons and mute switch on the left side.

According to the report, the case for the low-cost iPhone is about 2 millimeters thicker than a similar accessory designed for the iPhone 5. The iPhone 5 case also has squared off edges, while the low-cost iPhone case has rounded sides.

Rumors have persisted throughout 2013 that Apple plans to build a new, low-end iPhone model that could be used to target customers who prefer not to sign a new service contract. Currently Apple does not serve the low end of the smartphone market, where the most industry growth is being seen.


case-130618-2

In recent weeks, reports have claimed that suppliers are now shipping parts for such a device. One alleged part claimed to show a plastic rear shell with rounded corners allegedly intended for the device.

Market watchers believe Apple could sell a low-cost iPhone for US$399 without negatively affecting the company’s margins. It’s also been suggested the device will be available in an array of colors, taking a cue from the company’s iPod lineup.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Review: Starcraft II: Heart of the Swarm

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Date: Friday, June 14th, 2013, 08:23
Category: Review, Software, Software

The space opera that is StarCraft continues in fine style.

StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm, the latest installment in Blizzard’s epic StarCraft real-time strategy series, has been out for a while now, reflects a fairly major overhaul in its unit progression, achievement and multiplayer systems. Picking up where StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty left off, the story hones in on Sarah Kerrigan, who, under the protection of Jim Raynor, is attempting to resolve being human again after her transformation into the Queen of Blades and the overall conflict against Emperor Mengsk’s Dominion forces.

Like any space opera, the plot grounds itself in tragic elements, Kerrigan witnessing Raynor’s death at the hands of Mengsk’s forces, allying herself once again with the now-scattered Zerg and working to reunite the Swarm as a tool for vengeance. Not a bad start within the first few missions of the game and Blizzard’s classic strong voice acting and marquee-level cut scenes continue to tell a great, relatable story to its audience.


Send in enough flying units to take down powerful defenders like the Terran Thor unit.

Send in enough flying units to take down powerful defenders like the Terran Thor unit.


If there’s one thing that makes Heart of the Swarm work, it’s an easier approachability than Wings of Liberty offered – and flustered some players with. Unlike Wings of Liberty, unit upgrades aren’t hooked into a currency system and are therefore easier to earn and work with. Unit upgrades can also be switched prior to the beginning of each mission, meaning you aren’t completely locked into a given upgrade once your choice has been made. This comes as a welcome change and it’s fun to experiment with alternate upgrades to see what works best in different situations.

Still, it’s the sheer joy of a Zerg-focused StarCraft game that sells Heart of the Swarm. Here, you’re greeted with the fully awesome disgustingness of the insect/reptilian armies you’ll happily grow, spawn and mutate to defend your nest and annihilate your enemies with. From gruesome-yet-fun “Splortch!!!” sounds as your units emerge from their cocoons to the sounds of your multi-legged units skittering and/or oozing their way towards battle, there’s the unassailable enjoyment of creating and fighting with the most disgusting army in any real-time strategy game.


When in doubt, send everything you've got.

When in doubt, send everything you’ve got.


Heart of the Swarm doesn’t provide a massive graphical update over Heart of the Swarm, but it’s still noticeable. Where Wings of Liberty sometimes chugged along slowly on my late-2011 MacBook Pro, Heart of the Swarm ran briskly, complete with detailed characters and fluid animation. Whatever Blizzard did under the hood of the game, it worked and the title still features all the terrific slime, gore, fangs and ooze you’d expect from the Zerg, even with the resolution turned down to more minimal levels.

It was the new multiplayer features that caught my eye when Heart of the Swarm was in development, Blizzard offering new and altered units and abilities. Even though there’s something of a learning curve with the new stuff, Blizzard came through and delivered, new units such as the Viper allowing you to literally pull your opponent’s high-value units out of a cluster and drag it towards your forces to be quickly attacked and torn apart. Upgraded mine units allow you to create a defensive line where needed and Blizzard has incorporated something of an “arcade” feel to its revised multiplayer gameplay, the program visibly awarding experience points for actions such as gathering resources, building units and defeating enemy units. It’s a small thing, but it brings back a sort of action-based/arcade feel to even standard multiplayer gameplay and makes achievements that much more fun to work towards.


The new Zerg Abomination unit can slug it out with even the toughest ground defenders.

The new Zerg Abomination unit can slug it out with even the toughest ground defenders.


Top this off with new game modes, new customer maps and a better means of sorting players by appropriate player and skill level and the Heart of the Swarm can stand on its own as a multiplayer-only title should you choose to ignore the core campaign. Battle.net, Blizzard’s multiplayer gaming service, has improved dramatically over the years and the only limitations are occasional downtimes for server upgrades and perhaps how your Internet connection happens to be behaving at that point in time.

If there are points of contention to deal with with Heart of the Swarm, they come in the form of some familiar points of conflict gamers have had with Blizzard in recent years. Blizzard has disabled Local Area Network multiplayer gameplay, which is meant as a piracy-prevention technique, but also removes what would literally be the fastest form of multiplayer gameplay available to a group of players. This, combined with the fact that, once activated and hooked into an activation code, players are unable to resell their used copies of Heart of the Swarm down the line. Perhaps Blizzard will figure out a way around this or a more moderate fix, but it still feels like a heavy-handed approach to copy protection. Finally, Blizzard has instituted a requirement that single player achievements can only be earned (and recorded) if the account has logged into Battle.net. Granted, this isn’t as draconian as Blizzard’s requirement that players always be logged into Battle.net even during single player gameplay in Diablo 3 and StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty, but there’s still a sense that you’d like to just open the game and polish off a few single player missions in your free time without having to log into the server.


Send Reaper units after space-based enemies to help keep the Hyperion safe in side missions.

Send Reaper units after space-based enemies to help keep the Hyperion safe in side missions.


Game companies have always had a hard time incorporating replay value into single player campaigns and Heart of the Swarm suffers from some of this, but not to a deal-breaking extent. There’s a fair amount of challenge involved with the Normal difficulty – which makes the game fun – and the game’s challenge scales well with each level of difficulty you attempt, but absolute die-hards have cited that the game could be more challenging in its most difficult modes. This comes down to personal taste and Wings of Liberty had some more definitive storyline and plot-based choices that added to the title’s replay value, but there’s still enough challenge and variety to be found in Heart of the Swarm’s multiplayer game modes to keep you coming back for more.


There's nothing like sweet, sweet StarCraft victory. And explosions to go along with it.

There’s nothing like sweet, sweet StarCraft victory. And explosions to go along with it.


In conclusion, Heart of the Swarm adds a solid contribution to the space opera story that the “StarCraft” franchise is known for, some nice core engine and gameplay improvements and is just as fun as an RTS fan would expect the latest installment of StarCraft to be. The assortment of new units make the single and multiplayer modes that much more fun and it’s cool to go back, look over the new units and develop new offensive and defensive techniques to use based on the new tools available to you. Yes, Blizzard creates its own foibles thanks to its current (and somewhat ever-changing) privacy-prevention techniques, but there’s also the sense that they might be able to eventually arrive at a set of methods that both players and the company can live with. Heart of the Swarm isn’t perfect, but the good more than outweighs the bad, it’s what the next chapter of StarCraft needed to be and the joy of playing – and conquering – with the Zerg is everything you could have hoped for.

Minimum System Requirements:
- Mac OS X 10.7 or later
- Intel Core 2 Duo or faster processor
- NVIDIA GeForce 9400M or ATI Radeon HD 2600 Pro or better graphics card
- 2 GB RAM
- 20 GB available hard disk space
- Broadband Internet connection
- DVD-ROM drive
- 1024 x 768 minimum display resolution

Recommended System Requirements:
- Mac OS X 10.8 or later
- Intel Core i3 or faster processor
- ATI Radeon HD 4850 or NVIDIA GeForce GT 650M or better graphics card
- 4 GB RAM
- 20 GB available hard disk space
- Broadband Internet connection
- DVD-ROM drive
- 1024 x 768 minimum display resolution