Rumor: Apple testing A5 processor, Thunderbolt port with MacBook Air prototype (updated)

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Date: Friday, May 27th, 2011, 03:25
Category: MacBook Air, Processors

Ok, this could be interesting.

Per Japanese blog Mac Otakara, sources have have stated that Apple is testing a MacBook Air with an A5 processor, the same CPU powering the iPad 2 as well as a Thunderbolt port. While the machine performed “better than expected” according to their source, the article says it’s unclear whether this test machine was running Mac OS X or iOS.

If Apple has indeed built such a device, it’s unlikely the company intends to put it on the market. While the A5 processor is powerful enough under iOS, in terms of raw performance it pales in comparison to even the least powerful Intel chips, the A5′s Geekbench score standing around 720, while the lowest-rated MacBook Air processor scored over 2000. Benchmarks don’t tell the whole story, of course, but they’re a fairly reliable predictor of the general performance you can expect to get from a machine.

From what we’ve seen of Mac OS X Lion thus far, it already looks as though Apple’s looking at ways of merging OS X and iOS as far as the software’s concerned. If Mac Otakara’s sources are correct, it seems it’s just a matter of time before the hardware follows.

Stay tuned for additional information as we get it.

Rumor: Thunderbolt, Sandy Bridge-Equipped MacBook Air notebooks to surface in June/July

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Date: Wednesday, May 18th, 2011, 03:01
Category: MacBook Air, Rumor

The line of Thunderbolt and Sandy Bridge-equipped Mac notebooks looks likely to complete with the MacBook Air come June or July.

Per an article in DigiTimes, sources from makers in the MacBook Air supply chain will begin shipping 11.6″ and 13.3″ MacBook Air models “in late May.”

“Main supply chain makers for the new models remain about the same as for the existing MacBook Air, with Quanta Computer solely responsible for assembly, Catcher Technology supplying casings, Auras Technology a main supplier of thermal modules, Shin Zu Shing supplying hinges, and Simplo Technology and Dynapack supplying batteries,” the report noted the sources as saying.

Given the expected high volume of initial shipments of Apple’s thin-and-light notebook and the relatively higher prices of Apple’s components, Taiwan-based makers “rest the hope on Apple orders for revenue contributions,” according to the report.

DigiTimes’ sources corroborate a previous report that pegged MacBook Air shipments as going to mass production in late May. According to Concord Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, checks with Asian suppliers and system builders revealed that, after declining sequentially after the release of new MacBook Pros, MacBook Air shipments are expected to rebound in the June quarter ahead of a refresh.

In February, it had been claimed Apple would transition the MacBook Air to Intel’s Sandy Bridge processors in June.

Apple’s first Macs to feature the Sandy Bridge architecture were the early 2011 MacBook Pros released in late February. The new MacBook Pros also saw the first implementation of the new high-speed Thunderbolt port. Earlier this month, the Cupertino, Calif., Mac maker unveiled new iMac all-in-one desktops with quad-core Sandy Bridge processors and Thunderbolt.

According to one analyst, supply chain sources indicate that Apple intends to refresh the rest of its Mac lineup “in upcoming months,” though further details were unavailable.

Stay tuned for additional information as it becomes available.

Other World Computing offers 480GB solid state drive option for MacBook Air

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Date: Friday, May 6th, 2011, 06:38
Category: hard drive, MacBook Air, News

It’s not cheap but it’s nifty and useful.

Per Macworld, Other World Computing has announced the Mercury Aura Pro Express 480GB, which the company says is the largest high performance solid state drive available for the 2010 MacBook Air. The full Mercury Aura Pro Express line offers solid state upgrades for both the 11.6″ and 13.3″ Airs, in 180GB, 240GB, 360GB, and 480GB sizes.

OWC, which says it is the only company making third-party drives for the 2010 MacBook Air, claims that its drives perform up to 68% faster than Apple’s stock Air drives in real-world use, with peak data rates of 275MB per second. The company also says that unlike other solid state drives, the Mercury Aura Pro Express drives won’t suffer from transfer speed reduction with heavy use.

The large, speedy drive will put a strain on your wallet. The smallest entry in line, the 180GB drive, retails for US$480 while the 480GB unit retails for US$1580.

The drives offer chip-based data encryption, and use SandForce RAISE (Redundant Array of Independent Silicon Elements) technology to provide RAID-like protection without a performance hit.

Rumor: Apple to release Mac OS X 10.7 via Mac App Store

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Date: Thursday, May 5th, 2011, 02:35
Category: Rumor, Software

You know, I was getting used to hoofing it into the Apple Store, giving them a reasonable $29 and walking out with a Mac OS X 10.6 DVD…

It seemed like a good way to live.

Per AppleInsider, Apple will make the switch to a new kind of digital distribution for its upcoming Mac OS X 10.7 (“Lion”) operating system upgrades by releasing the software first through its new Mac App Store.

The Mac App Store, available to all users running the most recent version of Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard, will become the de facto method for obtaining the Lion upgrade, sources familiar with the matter have revealed. Users will be able to upgrade instantly without the need for physical media by purchasing Lion through the Mac App Store.

While the Mac App Store will be the preferred method for installing Mac OS X 10.7 Lion, set for release this summer, it’s logical to presume that Apple will also offer an optical disc for people who may not have broadband. At least one person with knowledge of the situation claims that this will indeed be the case “for those with slower connections, or [for those who for whatever reason do] not want to download it.”

Apple will likely reveal its distribution plans for Lion at this year’s Worldwide Developers Conference in San Francisco, Calif., set to take place June 6 through 10. Apple has promised that this year’s conference will showcase the “future” of the Mac operating system, and will be an event developers will not want to miss.

Evidence that Lion will be available in the Mac App Store can already be found in the pre-release builds Apple has issued to developers. Betas are downloaded from the Mac App Store by entering a redemption code provided by Apple.

Utilizing the App Store will allow owners of the new disc-drive-less MacBook Air to easily install the latest version of Mac OS X without the need for a physical disc. Apple ships its redesigned MacBook Air with a Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard reinstaller on a USB thumb drive, rather than a DVD.

Making the App Store a central component of the Mac experience will also allow Apple to remove disc drives from future hardware as the company looks toward a future of computing without the need for physical media. Removal of SuperDrives from devices like the MacBook Pro is expected to take place over the next 12-18 months, paving the way for even thinner designs with more internal space for a larger battery.

Apple has even moved to limit shelf space for software in its retail stores, allowing greater room for more profitable hardware to be sold. In February, it was rumored that the company actually plans to cease the sale of all boxed software at its retail locations.

The App Store has even been highlighted by Apple as a defining feature of Lion, which is due to be released this summer. But rather than wait for the release of Lion, Apple opted to bring the Mac App Store to Snow Leopard users in January.

Hardware requirements for the Mac App Store are the same as those for Snow Leopard, including an Intel-based processor, 1GB of system RAM, and 5GB of available disk space. But those with Apple’s earliest Intel-based machines will not be able to run Lion, as it has a minimum requirement of a Core 2 Duo processor.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Rumor: Apple to start production of Thunderbolt-equipped MacBook Air notebooks in May

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Date: Monday, April 25th, 2011, 03:05
Category: MacBook Air, Rumor

Apple next month will reportedly begin manufacturing the first updates to its rejuvenated MacBook Air line as the company looks to maintain the impressive sales momentum generated by the ultra-thin notebooks and limit the market opportunity for would-be competitors hoping to wedge their foot in the door.

Per AppleInsider, sales of the aggressively-priced 11.6- and 13.3-inch MacBook Airs got off to a hot start following their introduction last October, with Apple assembling roughly 1 million units within their first quarter of availability. During those three months, consumers reportedly chose the new MacBook Airs at a one-to-two ratio to the company’s more established MacBook Pro offerings, making for one of the company’s most successful Mac product launches ever.

However, shipments of the Airs declined 51% sequentially during the first calendar quarter of 2011 — including a 40% month-over-month decline in February — as Apple introduced new MacBook Pros that caught consumers’ eyes, according to Concord Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, who has proven sources within the Cupertino-based company’s Far Eastern supply chain.

Kuo stated that his latest round of checks with suppliers and system builders in the region reveals that MacBook Air shipments are set to rebound during the current calendar quarter, fueled by an upgrade to Intel’s latest Sandy Bridge microprocessors, integrated Intel graphics, and the expected adoption of the new Thunderbolt high-speed I/O technology that made its debut on MacBook Pros earlier this year.

Specifically, he said the new models will “go to mass production in late May,” which corroborates an earlier report that cited reliable sources as saying Apple would be ready to publicly announce and ship to consumers MacBook Airs with Sandy Bridge processors during following month of June.

The upgrade should help boost Apple’s overall notebook shipments between 5% to 10% sequentially for the current quarter, according to Kuo, reversing a 5% decline from the fourth quarter of 2010 to the first quarter of 2011, which he notes was still less than the 11% average decline for notebook shipments from the top 6 OEMs worldwide during the same period.

In moving to Intel’s 32-nanometer (nm) Sandy Bridge architecture, the mid-2011 MacBook Airs will jettison two-year-old Penryn-based 45-nm Core 2 Duo chips for the chipmakers’ new line (below) of low-voltage and ultra-low-voltage Core i5 and Core i7 chips, which sport between 3MB and 4MB of Smart Cache and support a theoretical maximum of 8GB of internal system memory.

Should Apple follow its current trend of using ultra-low-variants for the 11.6-inch MacBook Air and low-voltage ones for the 13.3-inch models, consumers can expect to see new 11.6-inch MacBook Airs sporting 1.4GHz to 1.6GHz Core i5 and Core i7 chips and 13.3-inch MacBook Airs with 2.10 and 2.30GHz Core i7 processors.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Newer MacBook Air notebooks arriving with faster Blade solid-state drives

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Date: Monday, April 18th, 2011, 04:27
Category: MacBook Air, News

You may be getting a bit more than you paid for with some of the latest MacBook Air notebook units.

Per AnandTech, Apple eventually included a commercially available Toshiba Blade X-gale solid state drive module, model TS128C with the notebook.

Reports have surfaced showing MacBook Airs equipped with a second, even faster SSD with a SM128C part number — the “SM” hinting at its presumed Samsung manufacturing origins. Samsung’s SSD manages up to 260MBps read and 210MBps write speeds compared to Toshiba’s 210MBps read and 185MBps write performance. While it’s hardly unusual for Apple to multi-source components, aa recent decision to source parts from Korea’s Samsung would have been a smart move to keep just-in-time supply lines fully stocked following the spate of disasters in Toshiba’s home country of Japan. Unfortunately, there doesn’t appear to be any way of confirming which SSD you’re about to purchase without cracking open the retail box and running the OS X System Profiler…

To sum it up, you might get a bit luckier than you expected when snagging the current MacBook Air, it’s just a matter of chance.

Recent support note indicates that 2011 MacBook Air, Pro units will only support Windows 7 under Boot Camp

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Date: Monday, February 28th, 2011, 06:50
Category: MacBook Pro, News

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Per a recent Apple support note released Friday, the company’s new MacBook Pro models and the recently refreshed MacBook Air won’t support Windows XP and Windows Vista.

Note: Windows XP and Vista drivers are not supplied for these computers and are not supported.

According to the Apple Core, the note states that Book Camp will support 32- and 64-bit versions of Windows 7 Home Premium, Windows 7 Professional, or Windows 7 Ultimate. If you’re running Window XP or Vista on an older Mac and are moving up to one the new notebooks, then you will have to put a Windows upgrade into your budget.

Window 7 running on Boot Camp requires:

-An optical drive (MacBook Air computers require an external optical disc drive to install Windows 7).

-A blank CD or USB storage device to contain the Windows Drivers created by the Boot Camp Assistant.

-For 32-bit versions of Windows, at least 16 GB of free space.

-For 64-bit versions of Windows, at least 20 GB of free space.

-Boot Camp Assistant, which is pre-installed in /Applications/Utilities/

-An authentic, 32-bit or 64-bit Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium, Professional, or Ultimate disc.

Stay tuned for additional details and if you have a new early 2011 MacBook Pro notebook and have had any experience with Boot Camp, please let us know in the comments.

Rare Apple customer survey sparks hopes for 3G in next-gen MacBook Air

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Date: Tuesday, February 15th, 2011, 05:06
Category: MacBook Air, News

This could be interesting.

Apple, which typically relies on its own in-house research as opposed to customer feedback, began reaching out to select MacBook Air owners this week in a new survey that could help define future versions of the diminutive notebook, posing questions on 3G, data syncing, I/O usage, and the desire for models with more capable computing power.

Per AppleInsider, the wide-ranging survey touches on a number of issues, including the use of USB ports and external disc drives, Web-based file storage and syncing, and use of certain function keys on the keyboard. It also includes a number of queries related to wireless 3G data connectivity, suggesting Apple could be exploring integrated cellular radios in future notebooks.

Official Apple customer surveys on products are not unheard of, though they are rare. The last survey AppleInsider can recall was conducted back in February 2009 to help shape the future of the Apple TV, and that was related to the company’s self-proclaimed “hobby” that was a work-in-progress.

In addition to future MacBook Air models, the new survey could offer a glimpse into Apple’s plans for the MacBook Pro line of notebooks. When the new MacBook Air was released last October, Apple Chief Executive Steve Jobs said the thin-and-light computer is “the first of a new generation of notebooks.”

Interestingly, the survey asks users whether they have connected their MacBook Air to a 3G network, how often they do so, where they connect to 3G, what type of device they use to connect to a 3G network (MiFi, USB device, or tethering with a cell phone).

Though the redesigned MacBook Air launched in late 2010, rumors of its successor have already begun to surface. Last week, it was said that Apple allegedly plans to upgrade its line of thin-and-light notebooks to Intel’s latest-generation Sandy Bridge processors this June. No claims were made about 3G connectivity.

Rumors of a 3G-capable Mac have persisted for years, but the company does not yet sell a notebook with an integrated cellular data radio. Apple even sought to hire a 3G expert for its Mac team in 2009, fueling those rumors that the functionality would be added to a future MacBook.

So, it’s hard to say how much attention to pay to this, but it is sort of interesting and could lead to something cool. If you’ve seen this survey on your end, please let us know in the comments.

Rumor: Apple looking to place Sandy Bridge processor in MacBook Air line this June

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Date: Saturday, February 12th, 2011, 06:22
Category: MacBook Air, Rumor

If you’re hankering for an upgraded processor in your MacBook Air, just wait a bit.

Per CNET, Apple is looking to replace the Core 2 Duo chip found in the current MacBook Air, a processor that is two generations behind Intel’s recently released Sandy Bridge processors. The MacBook Air was updated with a new, thinner design, flash memory drive, and an 11.6-inch model was added to the mix in an update released last fall.

In December, CNET claimed that future MacBooks from Apple with Sandy Bridge processor would not use Nvidia graphics processors in at least some models 13 inches and under. It is rumored that the smaller models will switch to Sandy Bridge-only integrated graphics, while Apple’s larger, higher-end MacBooks with screen sizes of 15 and 17 inches will allegedly rely on GPUs from AMD.

Intel began its roll-out of the Sandy Bridge next-generation processors in January, but the company quickly discovered an error in the chipset that accompanies the processor. That forced Intel to halt production of Sandy Bridge processors while it works on a fix for the 6 Series chipset code-named Cougar Point.

The error affected both desktop and mobile chips, leading to concerns that the issue could have an impact on Apple’s anticipated MacBook Pro refresh. Apple last updated its MacBook Pro notebooks in April of 2010, meaning an update for those products is likely to precede the alleged June refresh for the MacBook Air.

Intel announced this week that it has resumed shipment of chipsets for systems not affected by the Cougar Point design issue, which can lead to poor performance of devices connected to certain SATA ports. The chipmaker also said that it will meet its deadline to begin shipping dual-core Sandy Bridge hips on their previously announced launch date of February 20th.

Users report bugs in iChat video recording on current-gen MacBook Air notebooks

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Date: Monday, January 31st, 2011, 06:16
Category: MacBook Air, News

You love your new MacBook Air.

You would have asked it to prom if it had been around back then.

And it might not be able to record video chats despite having the hardware to do so.

According to MacFixIt, a reader wrote to state has not been able to record video chats in iChat on his new MacBook Air notebook. While video chats work fine, for some reason the “Record Chat” option in the “Video” menu does not work and the program will not allow video chats to be recorded. This is in contrast to both prior MacBook Air models, all other Mac systems that support video chatting.

MacFixIt reader “Joseph” writes:
“I’ve just discovered that the new MacBook Air, unlike every other current-vintage Apple laptop and desktop, is unable to record a video iChat. My local Apple Store tells me that the problem lies within the hardware itself. Can anyone tell me more specifically what that problem is, and whether there might be any workarounds?”

In the midst of diagnosing the problem, the article suggests creating a new user account on the system to test iChat with and see if any user-related settings were contributing to the problem.

On systems that support recording, a green check will appear. On the MacBook Air systems experiencing this problem an “Insufficient CPU” error will be shown.

Apparently other users have reported experiencing this problem, and in a call to AppleCare, one reader was told it is caused by the latest model of MacBook Air having a hardware incompatibility with iChat that prevents video chats from being recorded. To see this, if you go to the “Video” menu and choose “Connection Doctor,” select “Capabilities” from the drop-down menu and the “Record video chat” option will show “Insufficient CPU” instead of a green check.

Some MacBook Air systems that are experiencing this problem have been able to record video when running Mac OS X 10.5.x, indicating this issue may be with the previous 2009 models that shipped with Mac OS X 10.5 in addition to the 2010 models that shipped with Mac OS X 10.6.

The hardware in the latest MacBook Air should be fully capable of recording video chats.

Therefore, this is likely a bug in iChat that is preventing this feature from working. It appears Apple uses a specific feature of certain CPUs in iChat’s recording feature, and this feature is either not present in the CPUs used in the latest MacBook Air systems, or it has been disabled in firmware or by how the CPU interfaces with the other hardware changes in the latest MacBook Air systems.

Meanwhile if you are affected by this issue, one workaround that’s been located is to use QuickTime Player’s video chatting capabilities. To do this, start up a video chatting session and launch QuickTime Player. Then start a screen recording session, switch to iChat, and set the video to be full screen. This will record the screen and your audio input which you should then be able to import into iMovie or any other editing software.

If you’ve seen this issue on your end, please let us know.