O'Grady's PowerPage » MacBook Air

Rumor: Intel working on Ivy Bridge chipset for next-gen MacBook Air notebooks

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Date: Friday, September 16th, 2011, 06:52
Category: MacBook Air, Rumor

The next generation of something: it’ll always be a bit niftier than the thing you have now.

Per CNET, Apple next-gen MacBook Air may see an additional performance boost next year with Intel’s next-generation Ivy Bridge processors, which, according to a new report, will add support for the OpenCL technology.

Apple is currently billing its Open Computing Language standard as a technology that “dramatically accelerates” applications by unlocking the “amazing parallel computing power of the GPU.” OpenCL especially offers improvements to financial applications, games and media applications by offloading non-graphics related tasks to the GPU.

Intel is expected to add support for the technology in its line of Ivy Bridge processors due out next year. Intel boasts as much as a 60 percent performance boost over current Sandy Bridge chips, with special attention being paid to graphics performance enhancements.

The MacBook Air and 13-inch MacBook Pro would stand the most to gain from Intel support for OpenCL. GPUs from AMD and Nvidia already support the technology, but Apple’s ultra-thin notebook and entry-level MacBook Pro currently sport a graphics processor from Intel.

Apple’s MacBook Air update in July made the notebook up to twice as fast as the previous generation, which made use of Intel’s aging Core 2 Duo chips. The company has had some trouble keeping the the diminutive notebooks in stock due to the resulting popularity of the models.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Rumor: Apple may unveil updated MacBook Pro notebooks before end of 2011

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Date: Tuesday, September 13th, 2011, 17:15
Category: MacBook Pro, Rumor

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Just when you’d recently bought a 2011, Thunderbolt-equipped MacBook Pro and were feeling somewhat cool.

Per AppleInsider, Apple may be preparing a refresh of its professional notebook line ahead of the holiday shopping season to better bridge the gap.

According to sources close to the story, the late-2011 MacBook Pro refresh will deliver marginal speed bumps to the notebooks’ Core i-Series of Sandy Bridge processors but will otherwise introduce no material changes over the existing models.

While precise timing for the update may change, those same people say the Mac maker currently anticipates an introduction of the refreshed line before the end of the month, possible following the close of the company’s Back-to-School promotion, which ends on September 20th.

Word of the new models comes just one week after Intel quietly refreshed its Sandy Bridge lineup of processors, adding four new Core i7 chips suited for adoption by the MacBook Pro in addition to slashing prices on some other chips, while phasing out a handful of others.

In particular, Intel introduced new 2.4GHz, 2.5GHz and 2.7GHz quad-core Core i7 processors that could replace the 2.0GHz, 2.2GHz and 2.3GHz versions offered in the current 15- and 17-inch MacBook Pros, in addition to a 2.8GHz dual-core Core i7 that could serve as an upgrade path for the current 2.7GHz 13-inch MacBook Pro.

As for the entry-level 13-inch MacBook Pro, Intel continues to list a couple of Core i5 chips at speeds of 2.5GHz to 2.6GHz that Apple could elect to use to bump 2.3GHz Core i5 MacBook Pro for little to no cost increase.

In addition to these chips, Apple may have discounted access to a handful of older Core i5 and Core i7 chips that were introduced early this year, such as the 2.1GHz and 2.3GHz quad-core Core i7 models.

Although the new models may come as somewhat of a surprise for industry watchers given that there has been no indication that Apple is drawing down inventories of existing models, the refresh is likely geared towards assuring the Mac maker’s top-selling notebook family remains competitive in the market until Intel releases its next-generation Ivy Bridge platform at some point in 2012.

The Ivy Bridge architecture was originally slated to debut in late 2011, but leaked documents from Intel surfaced in May and revealed that the next-generation processors are slated to arrive at some point in the first half of 2012. The Ivy Bridge chips are now scheduled to become available at some point in March or April of next year.

The MacBook Pro remains the bread and butter of Apple’s mostly mobile Mac business, even as the newer, thin-and-light MacBook Air gains in sales. Apple’s MacBook Pros are the only notebooks offered by the company that still offer discrete graphics, making them the only option for video professionals and power users on the go.

In addition, the MacBook Pro remains the only Apple notebook with screen sizes larger than 13-inches. While the MacBook Air (and now defunct white MacBook) max out at 13-inches, the MacBook Pro still comes in 15- and 17-inch screen sizes, with faster CPUs and graphics to accompany the greater screen real estate.

Apple last updated its MacBook Pro lineup in February, giving its entry-level 13-inch models dual-core Sandy Bridge Core i5 and i7 chips at speeds of 2.3GHz and 2.7Ghz. The higher-end 15- and 17-inch models gained quad-core Sandy Bridge Core i7 chips at speeds of up to 2.3Ghz.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple releases MacBook Air EFI Firmware 2.1 update, focuses on Thunderbolt issues

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Date: Tuesday, September 13th, 2011, 12:31
Category: MacBook Air, News, Software

Firmware updates, they make a difference.

Per the cool cats at Mac|Life, Apple today released an EFI update for the MacBook Air. The update, available here or via Mac OS X’s built-in Software Update feature, works to boost the stability of Lion Recovery from an internet connection and fixes the Thunderbolt Display compatability issues with Thunderbolt, as well as remedies any issues with the Thunderbolt Target Disk Mode performance.

If you’ve tried the firmware update and noticed any changes, please let us know what you make of it in the comments.

MacBook Air goes on sale in China

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Date: Wednesday, August 31st, 2011, 09:24
Category: MacBook Air, News

Continuing its march across the globe, the MacBook Air has gone on sale in China this week, Apple’s online store for Chinese customers listing all four MacBook Air models—two each in 11- and 13-inch configurations -for sale, but with lengthy shipping delays.

According to Macworld, the 11-inch MacBook Air’s estimated delivery time, according to the e-store, is 9-to-11 working days, while the 13-inch models will reach customers approximately 5 working days after ordering.

Those times, however, are improvements over last Friday, when the China online store said there was “no supply” of 11-inch MacBook Airs and that the larger 13-inch notebooks would be delivered two weeks after an order was placed.

MacBook Air supplies have been tight in the U.S. as well, with spot outages at some Apple stores and more severe shortages at a number of online and brick-and-mortar resellers.

The 11-inch MacBook Air is priced at 7,698 yuan and 9,198 yuan for the 64GB and 128GB flash drive models, respectively. At current exchange rates, those prices are equivalent to US$1,203 and US$1,438, significantly higher than the US$999 and US$1,199 U.S. customers pay.

Apple’s 13-inch MacBook Air costs 9,998 yuan and 12,498 yuan—the latter for the notebook with 256GB in storage space—or US$1,563 and US$1,954. U.S. list prices are US$1,299 and US$1,599 for the same models.

White, who was in Asia last week, said that the MacBook Air was launched in Hong Kong last week to “long lines and stock outs of certain models.”

Apple does not yet have a retail store of its own in Hong Kong—one is slated to open before the end of September—and relies on authorized resellers to sell its products from brick-and-mortar outlets.

Apple’s online store for Hong Kong residents shows better MacBook Air availability than in China: New orders ship within 24 hours, according to that store’s website.

If you’ve snagged a MacBook Air in the Chinese marketplace and have any feedback to offer about the experience, let us know in the comments.

Apple releases Boot Camp 3.3 update

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Date: Thursday, August 25th, 2011, 03:12
Category: News, Software

Late Wednesday, Apple released Boot Camp Software Update 3.3, an update which offered revised Windows support for Macs running Boot Camp 3.x, included as part of Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard. Apple only notes that update supplies “critical bug fixes and hardware support.”

This update is targeted at users running Windows 7 in either the 32 or 64-bit version via Boot Camp 3.2 on Snow Leopard.

Macs running 10.7 Lion do not need the update, as that version (Boot Camp 4) can upgrade itself. Users running Boot Camp 3.2 can download the new package through Software Update or from Apple’s download page.

The update also offers specific support for the ATI-Radeon HD 5870 graphics card, Apple USB Ethernet Adapter, MacBook Air SuperDrive, and addresses critical bug fixes.

That update addressed users of Windows XP, Vista or Windows 7 running BootCamp 3.1 on Snow Leopard.

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

Apple releases Mac OS X 10.7.2 build, eighth iCloud beta to developer community

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Date: Tuesday, August 23rd, 2011, 07:39
Category: News, Software

It’s the updates that make things interesting.

Per AppleInsider, Apple recently issued a new build of Mac OS X 10.7.2 along with the eighth beta release of iCloud for Lion.

According to people familiar with the release, Apple’s beta build 11C40 of Mac OS X Lion 10.7.2 is a 730MB download. Focus areas for the update include AirPort, AppKit, Graphics Drivers, Mac App Store, Mail and Spotlight.

iCloud for OS X Lion beta 8 is an add-on installer for OS X Lion that add in-development iCloud functionality to Macs.

The first external beta of Mac OS X 10.7.2 arrived in late July. Mac OS X 10.7.1 was released to the public last week, with improvements to Wi-Fi and fixes to audio out.

Apple released Lion via the Mac App Store on July 20, quickly selling more than a million copies in 24 hours. According to one analyst, Mac sales got a 26 percent boost in July from Lion’s launch and the release of updated MacBook Airs and Mac Minis.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available and if you’ve gotten your mitts on the beta, please let us know what you think of it in the comments.

MacBook Air examined, found to be using scaled-down Thunderbolt controller

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Date: Friday, July 29th, 2011, 06:28
Category: MacBook Air, News

The new MacBook Air is getting positive feedback and being regarded as nifty.

And the cool nerds at AnandTech found out why.

Per AnandTech, Apple is using a scaled-down “Eagle Ridge” controller chip from Intel instead of the “Light Ridge” chip found in larger Thunderbolt-enabled machines.

Eagle Ridge is available in two form factors (normal and SFF [small form factor]) and is effectively half of a Light Ridge chip. That means you only get two Thunderbolt channels and one DP output. Apple used the small form factor version of Eagle Ridge in its new MacBook Air to cut cost and save on motherboard real estate.

With Eagle Ridge only supporting a single DisplayPort output, MacBook Air users are only able to drive a single external display via the Thunderbolt port, although the machine’s integrated Intel HD Graphics 3000 would also preclude the use of two external monitors on the MacBook Air as it does on the 13-inch MacBook Pro.

Thunderbolt adoption has thus far been limited to high-end devices in part due to high costs associated with inclusion of the technology. Use of the scaled-down Eagle Ridge controller could help push Thunderbolt into lower-end products, presuming that the smaller chip carries some cost savings for manufacturers.

If you’ve gotten your mitts on a brand new MacBook Air, let us know what you make of it via the comments.

Rumor: Apple looking to slim down MacBook Pro, move towards lighter/thinner form factor

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Date: Thursday, July 28th, 2011, 02:54
Category: MacBook Pro, Rumor

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The notion of slimming a notebook down and having it sell well seems to be working for the MacBook Air and this may be where the MacBook Pro is headed.

Per The Unofficial Apple Weblog, Apple seems likely to completely redesign its MacBook Pro line in favor of a thinner and lighter form factor. A 15-inch Air-like MacBook Pro and a 17-inch model are in the works, sources say, and may be here in time for holiday gift giving.

To get to that leaner form factor, Apple will likely ditch the optical drive (perhaps ultimately signaling the death knell for discs) while integrated SSD storage is also expected. The MacBook Pros have been Apple’s laptop workhorses, so we can also expect the premium laptops to offer more ports, better graphics, and more storage than the MacBook Air–at a more premium price but with the slimmer design.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Rumor: Apple developing 15 and 17-inch MacBook Air notebooks

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Date: Wednesday, July 27th, 2011, 02:25
Category: MacBook Air, Rumor

With Apple’s new family of MacBook Airs selling like hotcakes, the company is believed to be working to introduce 15- and 17-inch models with a similar minimalist design to capitalize on the trend towards ultra-mobile computing.

Per MacRumors, the notebook is believed to be in the late testing stages, though no further details were provided. It’s therefore unclear at this time whether the device will be marketed under the MacBook Pro brand or arrive as an extension of the MacBook Air line.

A move away from the hefty, optical- and hard disk drive-equipped MacBook Pros and towards a family of notebooks based exclusively on thin, ultra-lightweight designs is something AppleInsider’s sources first began alluding to back in February. At the time, the transition was expected to take between 12 to 18 months.

The latest report may suggest Apple has ambitions of easing the transition by first introducing a 15-inch MacBook Air as an intermediate step. A jump towards an ultra-thin MacBook Pro before year’s end could ultimately prove burdened by too many sacrifices, given that existing technologies and componentry may not allow Apple to deliver a design as thin and lightweight as the existing Airs but powerful enough to replace the 15-inch MacBook Pro.

Nevertheless, sources close to the story have said that MacBook Air features such as instant-on, standard SSD drives, slimmer enclosures, and the omission of optical drives should begin making their way to the remainder of Apple’s notebook offerings over the course of the next 12 months.

In similar news, The Unofficial Apple Weblog reports that the site has also heard rumors of an ultra-thin 17-inch Apple notebook and believes both models could potentially turn up ahead of the holiday shopping season under the MacBook Pro moniker.

iFixIt teardown points out upgradable SSD in 2011 MacBook Air

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Date: Friday, July 22nd, 2011, 03:43
Category: MacBook Air, News

They snagged it.

And they dissected it.

Per The Unofficial Apple Weblog, the mighty iFixIt team had performed a full teardown of the 2011 13″ MacBook Air.

One of the nicer things to come out of the teardown was the news that the internal solid-state drive isn’t soldered to the logic board, meaning that MBA owners who would like more storage and don’t have an issue with invalidating their warranty can open the computer and install a drive with more capacity. While Apple’s MacBook Air storage solutions max out at 256 GB, while other providers offer faster SSDs with capacities up to 480 GB.

Unfortunately, none of the MacBook Air models are able to take more than 4 GB of RAM, which is soldered onto the logic board.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available and if you’ve picked up a new MacBook Air, please let us know how the experience has been.