MSI demoes external Thunderbolt-based GPU for Apple notebooks at CES

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Date: Wednesday, January 11th, 2012, 05:49
Category: Accessory, MacBook, MacBook Air, MacBook Pro

Ok, this is interesting.

Over at CES this week, MSI is showing off a new external graphics solution that can connect to a Mac through a high-speed Thunderbolt port. Per AnandTech, the MSI GUS IIrelies on the high bandwidth capacity of the 10Gbps Thunderbolt port found on the latest Mac models, including the MacBook Pro and MacBook Air.

“The external chassis features a Thunderbolt interface and an internal PCIe slot,” Anand Lai Shimpi noted. “Despite running on a MacBook Pro there is currently no OS X support for the solution, but it does work under Windows. Presumably if there’s OS X support for the GPU inside the enclosure it would work under OS X as well.”

No timeframe for launch or price for the external GPU were given, but the product could be a solution for users who want more graphics processing power for their MacBook when it’s in use at home. The GPU featured in the MSI GUS II must be powered by PCIe alone, as there are no auxiliary power connectors inside the device.

Thunderbolt-based external drives have also been prevalent at CES this year. Seagate plans to ship by the middle of this month adapters that will allow existing Seagate GoFlex drives to fit into a Thunderbolt slot, while Western Digital plans to release new Thunderbolt drives by the middle of 2012.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

iOS alarm bug resolved under newer versions of iOS, Apple recommends updating if possible

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Date: Monday, January 2nd, 2012, 12:06
Category: iPhone, News, Software

Sometimes Apple can pin things down from their end.

Per The Unofficial Apple Weblog, a problem with iOS alarms breaking on January 1st or the 2nd appears to been solved by Apple, at least in part. In 2011 the glitch caused some iOS devices to stay silent despite alarms being toggled on in the Clock app. Most iOS 5 devices have been working normally in 2012.

Still vulnerable though are devices running iOS 4.2.1. The gap is important mainly because v4.2.1 is last version of iOS supported by the iPhone 3G and the second-generation iPod touch. Those devices will likely never have fully-functional alarms, since Apple has never retroactively updated iOS, unlike OS X.

Stay tuned for additional details and if you’ve seen this bug on your end, please let us know.

Rumor: Intel Ivy Bridge-equipped Mac notebooks to launch April 8th, 2012, sport ample new features

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Date: Wednesday, December 28th, 2011, 13:52
Category: MacBook, MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, Processors, Rumor

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It’s kind of neat when the rumors point towards a specific date.

Per DigiTimes, Intel is rumored to release a total of 25 new 22-nanometer Ivy Bridge processors on April 8, 2012, signaling a potential launch window for Apple’s next generation of Macs.

Intel will release 17 desktop CPUs and 8 notebook Ivy Bridge processors in early April according to the article. The initial chips are said to include models 3820QM and 3720QM, priced at US$568 and US$378, respectively, which could be candidates for Apple’s MacBook Pro lineup.

The notebook Ivy Bridge processors will feature the new Intel HD Graphics 4000 architecture. Intel’s M-Series lineup is expected to have nominal thermal design power of between 35 watts and 55 watts.

Set for a “later” launch, according to sources, are the Core i7-3667U and Core i5-3427U processors, intended for Intel’s Ultrabook lineup. Those processors would also be possible candidates for Apple’s own thin-and-light notebook, the MacBook Air.

Earlier reports have said the i7-3667U processor will be clocked at 2GHz, and can overclock to 3.2GHz in single-core mode, while the i5-3427U will run at 1.8GHz and overclock to 2.8GHz in single-core mode. Both models are said to feature a graphics processor clocked at 350MHz that can run as high as 1150MHz.

The rumored April 8 launch date for the first Ivy Bridge processors is slightly earlier than what a leaked roadmap from Intel showed earlier this month. Those documents showed a tentative launch date of May 2012 for the new chip platform.

Recent reports have pegged a MacBook Pro update from Apple to arrive in the second quarter of calendar 2012, a timeframe that would fit with the April debut of Intel’s next-generation Ivy Bridge processors. The new MacBook Pros are rumored to feature a redesigned look with new high-resolution 2,880-by-1,800 Retina Display screens.

Retina Display MacBook Pros would be possible with Ivy Bridge because the next-generation architecture will bring support for 4K resolution. That gives Apple and other PC makers the option to build a display that is 4,096 pixels across.

For high-end MacBook Pro models with dedicated graphics cards, one report from November claimed Apple will switch to Nvidia for its 2012 notebooks. The last MacBook Pro models to feature Nvidia graphics arrived in 2010.

As for the MacBook Air, Apple is expected to expand the lineup and add a 15-inch model. Currently, its ultraportable notebook is available with screen sizes of 11.6 inches and 13.3 inches.

Cool stuff if it’s true. Stay tuned for additional details as they become available and let us know what you think in the comments section.

Rumor: Apple developing specialized CPUs for HDTV units

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Date: Wednesday, December 28th, 2011, 09:17
Category: Hardware, News, Processors

When in doubt, roll your own.

Per DigiTimes, rather than utilize off-the-shelf chips from a company such as Intel, Apple is expected to use its own custom-built chips like in the iPhone and iPad for its anticipated television set.

Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company, Advanced Semiconductor Engineering and Siliconware Precision Industries are three companies expected to bid on orders with Apple. The companies could build custom ARM-based chips to power an Apple television, much like the A4 CPU, first released in the iPad in 2010, is found in the current Apple TV set-top box.

Apple is said to have already signed a foundry agreement with TSMC earlier this year, utilizing its 28nm and 20nm process technologies. That deal was said to be for next-generation “A6″ and “A7″ processors for the iPhone and iPad, but it’s possible an Apple television could also utilize the advanced chips.

In addition to featuring custom chips, the Apple television is also expected to be assembled by Foxconn Electronics, industry sources reportedly said. Foxconn already builds most of Apple’s devices, including the iPhone and iPad.

The report said Apple is expected to finalize the hardware standards for its television set at the end of the second quarter of 2012. After that, it will place orders for customized chips and other components directly with its contract manufacturers. That’s the same approach Apple uses to build its iPad and iPhone lineups.

The Taiwan electronics industry publication once again pegged the Apple television for launch by the end of 2012. On Tuesday, DigiTimes also said that suppliers are expected to begin preparing components for the anticipated HDTV in the first quarter of 2012, and that it will have screen sizes of 32 and 37 inches.

Earlier reports also claimed that Apple will buy chips from Samsung for its television set, while Sharp is expected to manufacture displays. As for content, analyst Shaw Wu with Sterne Agee said earlier Wednesday that Apple is hoping to offer Internet-based content subscriptions that will allow customers to choose their own custom channel lineups, offering an experience very different from current cable and satellite plans.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

iPhone 4S to arrive in mainland China come January

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Date: Tuesday, December 27th, 2011, 10:52
Category: iPhone, News

The iPhone 4S is en route to the easy…just wait about a month.

Per Chinese web site People’s Daily, Apple has met all of the requirements for the iPhone 4S to launch in mainland China, and the handset will reportedly debut before the Chinese New Year in late January.

The web site reported this week that the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology granted China Compulsory Certification for the iPhone 4S on Dec. 22. That means Apple has met all of the requirements necessary to launch its latest smartphone in mainland China.

The report said the handset will debut “at the beginning of January 2012,” and will hit the market before the Chinese New Year. That takes place on Monday, Jan. 23, 2012.

Filings with the Chinese government show a WCDMA phone manufactured by Apple was granted approval. Though it does not specifically reveal that the device is the iPhone 4S, it is listed as model number A1431, which is the same number Apple used to obtain a network entry permit for the iPhone 4S.

The approval process and anticipated release of the iPhone 4S has dragged out in China as Apple has quickly launched its latest smartphone in other major markets around the world. It’s been the fastest rollout ever for a new iPhone model.

The iPhone 4S did debut in Hong Kong in the first week of November, and sold out within minutes. Some regional branches of China Unicom in mainland China have been taking advance bookings for the iPhone 4S for weeks in anticipation of the device’s launch as it goes through China’s approval process.

One of the major selling points of the iPhone 4S is Siri, Apple’s voice-controlled personal assistant application. Rumors have suggested that Siri will gain support for Mandarin, the most popular form of the Chinese language, by March of 2012.

If you have two cents to hurl in on this, let us know what’s on your mind in the comments.

Rumor: Intel to bring Thunderbolt port to “first-tier” Windows PCs in April, 2012

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Date: Tuesday, December 27th, 2011, 10:50
Category: Hardware, News

You were wondering when that rather-nifty Thunderbolt port would make its way to Windows PCs and thus spread the use of the technology?

Well, now there’s something of an answer.

Per DigiTimes, Intel has begun notifying PC makers that it will “fully release” the high-speed I/O in April 2012, according to a new report.

Sources from within PC players have stated that “several first-tier” PC vendors are readying Thunderbolt-equipped motherboards, notebooks and desktop computers for release. Sony and Asus are expected to adopt the new technology, while Gigabyte technology will reportedly launch a Thunderbolt-capable motherboard in April of next year.

According to the report, Intel cooperated with Apple exclusively this year in order to “speed up the standardization of Thunderbolt.” As interest in the technology has continued to grow, Intel has readied the technology for “public use.”

Thunderbolt should see even further adoption in the second half of next year as related costs drop. Sources told the publication that the technology will be “standardized gradually in the future” as chip prices fall.

In June, Sony was originally thought to have developed the first non-Mac Thunderbolt PC with its VAIO Z laptop and Power Media dock. However, it was later revealed that the company had used an early version of Intel’s technology that did not match the Thunderbolt standard.

Apple partnered up with Intel to unveil the Thunderbolt I/O in its MacBook Pro lineup this February. The Mac maker quickly added the technology to its products, including the iMac, MacBook Air, Mac Mini and LED Display.

Thunderbolt combines Intel’s “Light Peak” specification with Apple’s Mini DisplayPort to support transfer speeds of up to 10Gbps. The technology uses the PCI Express standard, allowing for a range of peripherals and functions.

The first Thunderbolt peripherals, such as RAID systems and external drives arrived on the market throughout 2011, but high costs have reportedly been a barrier to companies looking to make Thunderbolt accessories.

For its part, Intel claimed earlier this year that Thunderbolt has attracted “tremendous response from the industry,” touting more than twenty companies, including Belkin, Canon, Seagate, Western Digital and Adobe, interested in adding Thunderbolt support to their products.

Also affecting Thunderbolt adoption is the growing presence of USB 3.0. HP, the world’s largest PC maker, has decided to go with USB 3.0 after not finding a “value proposition” with Thunderbolt. Intel has said it will support USB 3.0 alongside Thunderbolt, which is meant to be “complementary,” but some PC industry insiders have claimed that Thunderbolt could “greatly affect” adoption of the competing standard.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

LogMeIn iOS app now available for free on App Store

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Date: Friday, December 23rd, 2011, 07:16
Category: iOS, iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch, News, Software

You can’t keep a good remote app down.

Per MacNN, LogMeIn Ignition, a US$30 iOS app that allowed users to fully access and control unlimited numbers of Macs and Windows machines from their mobile device, has effectively been superceded by a new, free app simply called LogMeIn from the same company. However, Ignition users will now be automatically upgraded to the feature set of LogMeIn Pro, as well as enjoying a new HD streaming audio and video feature that is set to debut in early 2012.

The two programs allow remote access and full use of available Macs and PCs over Wi-Fi or 3G over an encrypted (AES 256-bit) connection, running applications and viewing documents just as though they were sitting in front of the target machines. Current LogMeIn Ignition customers will receive an upgraded version with the same name that now offers all the features of LogMeIn Pro, including support for Wake-On-LAN and AirPrint printing, My Cloud Bank cloud storage integration to allow moving files between iOS devices (also works with third-party cloud services such as Dropbox and Google Docs), and HD remote control and streaming video and audio to the iOS device from Windows machines (streaming from Mac machines will arrive early next year).

The price for LogMeIn Ignition has been raised from US$30 to US$100 in accordance with its increased abilities, though existing users will be upgraded without charge. LogMeIn Pro is also available as a US$40 per year in-app purchase from within LogMeIn. Users can make their Mac or Windows machines available by simply installing LogMeIn Free on their target computers. LogMeIn Ignition users (new and existing) will get the same features as the subscription upgrade, but without the subscription.

LogMeIn requires iOS 3.0 or later to install and run.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Google’s Schmidt hints at “highest quality” tablet within six months

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Date: Monday, December 19th, 2011, 10:00
Category: Hardware, News

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Where there’s money to be made, there shall be competition.

Per Electronista, Google chairman Eric Schmidt in an interview with Italy’s Corriere Della Sera raised the prospect of a Nexus tablet. The search firm planned to sell a tablet of the “highest quality” within six months’ time. He didn’t mention the Nexus label by name, but Google usually hasn’t marketed anyone else’s tablet itself, even for the reference Xoom.

The timing is such that it would nearly dovetail with plans for Google I/O in June. Google regularly gives away a free device at Google I/O to attendees of the developer-focused show, usually to showcase a new OS. Tips have hinted it might have release Jelly Bean, possibly Android 4.5 or 5.0, at or by the event.

A reference tablet would be an admission that Android tablets may be headed in the same direction as smartphones, where the stock interface becomes the rarity rather than the norm. Most Android 3 tablets launched in 2011 have used the stock interface, but later models and post-launch updates have customized the interface and both guaranteed delayed updates as well as clouded the ability to see the official Google experience.

The tablet would likely be made by a partner like HTC, Motorola, or Samsung, but it would still represent Google co-designing a direct competitor to both other Android partners and to Apple’s iPad.

In other comments, Schmidt wouldn’t comment on the rumored Majel voice command system, saying he wouldn’t comment on future, unannounced products. He insisted Google has long had the “best” voice dictation system and could use it to do things similar to Apple’s Siri. The iPhone 4S-based system has been touted as better since it understands context, follow-ups, and indirect questions where Android’s system is limited to specific syntax.

Thus far, Apple’s been able to dominate the tablet market, so the next year should prove interesting. Let us know what you make of this and we’ll have additional details as they become available.

Rumor: Apple looking to release 7-inch iPad in 2012

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Date: Friday, December 16th, 2011, 05:38
Category: iPad, Rumor

If there’s a rumor, there must be a nugget of truth in there somewhere.

Per DigiTimes, Asian supply chain sources are now claiming Apple will release a 7.85-inch iPad by the fourth quarter of 2012 to face off against competition from smaller tablets such as Amazon’s Kindle Fire.

The web site claimed on Friday that Apple is “likely” to launch a smaller iPad several months after the next-generation iPad, which is expected to arrive at the end of the first quarter.

“In order to cope with increasing market competition including the 7-inch Kindle Fire from Amazon and the launch of large-size smartphones from handset vendors, Apple has been persuaded into the development of 7.85-inch iPads,” the report noted sources as saying.

Apple will allegedly purchase the 7.85-inch panels from LG Display and AU Optronics, with makers within the company’s supply chain expected to begin production of the smaller iPad at the end of the second quarter of 2012.

The report should, however, be taken with some degree of skepticism, as the Taiwanese industry publication has a mixed track record with Apple predictions.

Rumors of a 7-inch iPad were supposedly laid to rest when late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs proclaimed such a screen to be “too small to express the software.” However, reports of the device were resurrected this fall after the announcement of Amazon’s Kindle Fire, which some have touted as the first credible challenger to the iPad.

Ticonderoga securities analyst Brian White claimed in October that he had heard rumblings of a so-called “iPad mini” arriving next year, though he believed the device would be cheaper and not necessarily smaller. Also in October, DigiTimes reported that suppliers were gearing up to ship 7.85-inch screens to Apple.

For its part, Amazon may not even stick with the 7-inch size for its Kindle Fire. Recent reports have suggested that the company is looking to expand to an 8.9-inch model. The Fire does appear to be on its way to success, as Amazon revealed on Thursday that millions of the device had been sold, though it declined to provide specific figures.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Rumor: Apple to release 2880 x 1800 resolution MacBook Pro with Retina Display in Q2 2012

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Date: Wednesday, December 14th, 2011, 05:59
Category: MacBook Pro, Rumor

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This could be amazing.

Per DigiTimes, Apple is rumored to be preparing a new MacBook Pro for launch in the second quarter of 2012 with a Retina Display resolution of 2,880 by 1,800 pixels.

Citing sources in Apple’s upstream supply chain, the publication reported on Wednesday that Apple’s new Retina Display MacBook Pro lineup is expected to set off “a new round of competition for panel specifications in the notebook industry.” A resolution of 2,880 by 1,800 would be exactly twice that of the 1,440-by-900 display currently found on the 15-inch MacBook Pro.

“While the prevailing MacBook Models have display resolutions from 1680 by 1050 to 1280 by 800, the ultra-high resolution for the new MacBook Pro will further differentiate Apple’s products from other brands,” the report said.

Only the 2,880-by-1,800 display was specifically cited in the report in reference to a new MacBook Pro “lineup.” Given that Apple’s different MacBook Pro screen sizes sport different resolutions, it’s likely that the 13- and 17-inch models would sport double-pixel resolutions of 2,560 by 1600 and 3,840 by 2,400, respectively.

Rumors of Retina Display MacBook Pros from Apple in 2012 have reportedly already spurred the competition to work on their own higher resolution displays for notebooks. Acer and Asustek are said to be preparing high-end Ultrabook models with display resolutions of 1,920 by 1,080, an improvement from the 1,366-by-768-pixel displays found on current models.

More evidence of Macs potentially gaining Retina Displays came in September, when Intel revealed that its next-generation Ivy Bridge processors will support the 4K display resolution, at up to 4,096 by 4,096 pixels per monitor. A 4K resolution with a 16-by-9 ratio would be screen resolution of 4,096 by 2,304, or a pixel density of 174 pixels-per-inch.

Apple introduced its Retina Display branding with the iPhone 4 in 2010, featuring a resolution of 960-by-640, packing 326 pixels-per-inch. Recent reports have suggested that Apple also plans to increase the resolution of its next-generation iPad in early 2012.

Not a bad thing if it’s true and 2012 will be interesting to watch.

Let us know what you think in the comments.