DDR3 DRAM prices drop to all-time low

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Date: Thursday, February 23rd, 2012, 07:59
Category: Hardware, News

If you were looking to upgrade your RAM, there’s literally never been a better time for it.

Per Macworld, prices of DDR3 DRAM memory used in notebooks and desktops have dipped to an all-time low of around US$1, and will continue to fall, which could help PC makers pack more memory into computers, analysts said.

Average prices for predominant 2Gb (gigabit) DDR3 DRAM die hit the US$1 mark during the first quarter, which is a massive drop from the average price of roughly US$2.25 for the same memory in the first quarter last year, according to research firm iSuppli. A 4GB (gigabyte) DRAM module was priced between US$18 and US$20 at the end of 2011, a precipitous drop from $40 at the end of 2010.

The price of a 2Gb DRAM chip was between 82 cents and 95 cents on Wednesday, according to DRAMExchange, a website that tracks daily memory pricing.

The drop in memory prices is a continuation of a trend from last year, analysts said. A shortfall in PC demand hurt memory pricing last year, but memory makers are still moving excess inventory into the market rapidly, which has contributed to the continued price drop.

“We’re at a historical all-time low, yes,” said Mike Howard, senior principal analyst at IHS iSuppli. “It costs Dell and Hewlett-Packard less now than a year ago to put the same amount of memory in the PC.”

Instead of packing more memory, some PC makers have opted to load the same amount of memory in PCs to cover the rising cost of other components. Dell earlier this week said it was using the favorable memory and LCD pricing environment to offset the rising prices of hard drives, which were in short supply due to the floods in Thailand last year.

The DRAM industry fundamentals are weak, but memory makers are taking corrective action to balance supply and demand, iSuppli’s Howard said. Some of the existing manufacturing capacity is coming offline to reduce output, but the prices could continue to fall as long as the cost of making memory drops.

The pricing will continue to fall through the second quarter, said Shane Rau, research director at IDC.

“The issue is huge oversupply in the first and second quarter of 2012 and the resulting pricing competition among suppliers,” Rau said.

The DRAM market initially fell apart at the end of 2008 after the economic downturn prompted DRAM makers to reduce memory output. However, production went up the following year as PC demand recovered with the active refresh cycle and the release of the 64-bit version of Windows 7 in 2009, which allowed for a higher memory ceiling.

But PC shipments slowed down again in the second half of 2010 with growing demand for tablets and smartphones, which rely on different memory types such as low-power DDR and nonvolatile NAND flash memory. Some chip makers have now changed business models and are increasing focus on memory for tablets and smartphones.

Stay tuned for additional details.

In other news, I recently upgraded my 2011 MacBook Pro’s RAM to 16 gigabytes…and the ladies still haven’t really noticed.

Apple pulls plug on white MacBook notebook, product reaches “End of Life” status

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Date: Thursday, February 9th, 2012, 07:20
Category: Hardware, MacBook, News

You had to like the white MacBook.

If nothing else, it was plucky and it looked pretty good when you were working on one in a coffee shop.

Unfortunately, Apple has reportedly notified resellers that the white polycarbonate MacBook is now officially classified as “End of Life” and has been discontinued.

Per MacRumors, Apple has stopped selling the white notebook to even its educational markets and notified resellers that the MacBook is now classified as “End of Life.”

The MacBook was Apple’s entry-level notebook for years, but it faced internal competition in 2010 with the release of the 11.6-inch MacBook Air, which also started at US$999 and was an instant hit.

Apple introduced the MacBook in May 2006 during the transition from PowerPC to Intel processors. In 2008, it temporarily received an aluminum makeover, but that machine was later rebranded as the 13-inch MacBook Pro. Apple released a unibody polycarbonate design in 2009 that remained until the product was discontinued last year.

Apple releases firmware updates for early 2010 MacBook Air, Pro notebooks, adds Lion Recovery and sleep fix

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Date: Wednesday, February 8th, 2012, 06:20
Category: MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, News, Software

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Firmware updates…they get useful.

Late Tuesday, Apple released MacBook Pro EFI Firmware Update 2.6 for its early 2010 MacBook Pro notebooks. The update, a 3 megabyte download, enables Lion Recovery from an Internet connection on MacBook Pro (Early 2010) models.

The company also released MacBook Air EFI Firmware Update 2.3 for its early 2010 MacBook Air notebooks. The update, a 3 megabyte download, enables Lion Recovery from an Internet connection and also addresses an issue where the system would sometimes restart when the power button was pressed immediately after waking from deep sleep.

The updates can be located and installed via Mac OS X’s Software Update feature and require Mac OS X 10.7.3 or later to install and run.

If you’ve tried the firmware updates and noticed any changes, please let us know in the comments.

Updated Mac OS X 10.7.3 user interface notes could point towards Retina displays for future Macs

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Date: Tuesday, February 7th, 2012, 07:26
Category: Hardware, News

Analyze the new Mac OS X update’s source code and you find some interesting stuff.

Per Daring Fireball, a series of newly-upgraded high-DPI UI elements in Mac OS X 10.7.3 has led to some speculation that Apple is continuing to lay the groundwork for high-resolution Mac displays that approach the pixel density of its Retina Displays.

The article pointed to a series of Twitter posts (1, 2) outing UI resources that scale to larger sizes in the latest release of Mac OS X Lion, which arrived last week.

The new elements include the pointing-finger cursor in Safari, the “grabby hand” in Mail, and the camera cursor for taking screenshots and a few others. One straightforward reason for the change could be that Apple wanted to improve the look of the Universal Access zoom feature. But, reports from some Mac Mini users outputting to HDTVs over HDMI that upgrading to 10.7.3 caused their system to reboot into HiDPI mode have added to the mounting evidence that Apple is planning for high-definition Mac displays.

Apple added HiDPI modes to Mac OS X Lion last year, but they were previously only accessible by installing Xcode. HiDPI is modeled after the UI resolution doubling that takes place on Retina Display iPhones.

Gruber went on to wonder “whether we may be on the cusp of Apple releasing HiDPI Mac displays and/or HiDPI MacBooks. I.e.: retina display Macs.” He did, however, add that he has been anticipating “super-high-resolution Mac displays” for over five years, so his speculation should be taken with “a grain of wishful-thinking salt.”

Late last year, a rumor emerged that Apple was preparing new versions of its MacBook Pro lineup with double the resolution. The resulting display for a 15-inch MacBook Pro would be 2,880 by 1,800 pixels and is expected to set off “a new round of competition for panel specifications.”

Chipmaker Intel has indicated that its next-generation Ivy Bridge processors will support resolutions up to 4K, or 4,096 by 4,096 pixels per monitor. Multiple reports have suggested that the company will launch its Ivy Bridge Processors in the second quarter of 2012, and Apple is expected to begin adding Ivy Bridge chips to its Macs in soon after. Wallpapers as large as 3,200 by 2,000 pixels were also discovered in a developer preview of Mac OS X Lion last year.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple releases firmware updates for early, mid-2010 MacBook Pro notebooks

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Date: Wednesday, January 25th, 2012, 09:58
Category: MacBook Pro, News, Software

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It’s the firmware updates that make all the difference.

On Wednesday, Apple released MacBook Pro EFI Firmware Update 2.5. The update, a 4.1 megabyte download, enables Lion Recovery from an Internet connection, early-2010 MacBook Pro models.

The company also released MacBook EFI Firmware Update 2.1. The update a 3.1 megabyte download, enables Lion Recovery from an Internet connection on mid-2010 MacBook Pro models.

Both updates require Mac OS X 10.7.2 or later to install and run and can be snagged via Mac OS X’s Software Update feature.

If you’ve tried these updates and have either positive or negative feedback to offer, please let us know what you think in the comments.

How-To: Troubleshoot keyboard backlighting on a MacBook Pro

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Date: Monday, January 23rd, 2012, 08:07
Category: How-To, MacBook Pro

You like your MacBook Pro.

And if you paid extra for it, you’re probably pretty fond of your MacBook Pro’s backlit keyboard.

So when it goes south/doesn’t light up, there’s some room for consternation.

To this end, the cool cats over at MacFixIt have assembled a useful list of steps to take if your backlight fails at any point in time. Click the link, take a gander and with any luck, your darkened living room will soon be illuminated by that keyboard glow once again.

Claims deadline approaches for MagSafe power adapter owners

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Date: Thursday, January 5th, 2012, 08:02
Category: MacBook, MacBook Pro, News

If you have a MagSafe power connector for your MacBook or MacBook Pro, there’s only so much time left to make your claim under the class action settlement relating to problems with the adapter. The lawsuit was settled by Apple in November 2011.

Per The Apple Core, he problem with the early MagSafe was a week sleeve. Of course, the cable bent and the wires inside the plastic sleeve could become frayed and pull out. This posed a fire hazard and many customers replaced the units. Apple settled, but of course, “the settlement is not an admission of wrongdoing.”

Owners of MacBooks and MacBook Pros can receive various cash payments covering the purchase of replacements adapters within the first three years following the initial purchase of the computer. The amount of the cash payments vary depending on when the replacement adapter was purchased.

The FAQ page for the settlement is here and the timeline page is here. The date to object to the suit and to exclude oneself from the suit just passed. The site says that March 21, 2012 is the due date for the sending of claim forms, which can be downloaded from the site.

If you have two cents to throw in or your own MagSafe power adapter story, please let us know what’s on your mind in the comments.

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.

Catcher unibody plant remains closed, odors being examined

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Date: Thursday, December 8th, 2011, 08:50
Category: MacBook Pro, News

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If they could just get the odors under control, things would be set.

Following up on our previous coverage of assorted odors closing down the Catcher unibody plant, Chinese authorities continue to inspect a factory that produces aluminum casings for Apple’s MacBook laptops, following residents’ complaints of unbearable odors coming from the facility.

Per Macworld, Apple’s MacBook inventories, however, appear so far to be unaffected by the factory’s temporary shutdown, according to one analyst.

In mid-October, Taiwan-based Catcher Technology announced that it had stopped production at its factory in Suzhou, China. Authorities have since been inspecting the factory to ensure its manufacturing processes will not emit any strong odors that will affect nearby residents.

Catcher could not be reached for comment. The company said in a Taiwan Stock Exchange filing on Wednesday that authorities are still inspecting the factory. In an earlier filing, the company said that its October sales revenue would be down by 20 percent, and November sales by 40 percent, if the factory could not be restarted in time.

Local Chinese authorities have been working to improve and test the factory’s waste-gas treatment systems, according to Yee Fang, a spokeswoman with the Suzhou Industrial Park Administrative Committee. The authorities have nothing new to report at this time, she added.

Helen Chiang, an analyst with research firm IDC, said Apple appears to have mitigated the effect of the factory’s outage as it shifted production to its other supplier. “It’s been controllable at this point,” she said. Apple’s MacBook demand for the fourth quarter is also forecast to be less than the third quarter, Chiang added.

Apple declined to comment.

Stay tuned for additional smell-o-riffic details as they become available.

Apple specifies discounts for 2011 Black Friday sales

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Date: Wednesday, November 23rd, 2011, 03:01
Category: iPad, iPod, MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, News, retail

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As mentioned yesterday, Apple will be planning assorted discounts for this year’s Black Friday shopping holiday.

Per 9to5Mac, the discounts are in-line with last year’s prices with only modest discounts on their products. Price drops for their core products are as follows:

iPad 2: US$41 to US$61 Off

iPod nano: US$11 off

iPod Touch: US$21 to US$41 off

MacBook Air: US$101 off

MacBook Pro: US$101 off

iMac: US$101 off

Meanwhile, 3rd party accessories are also seeing some small discounts ranging from US$11-US$101.95 in savings for accessories such as iPad Smart Covers, iPhone battery packs and external hard drives.

These prices should be available for both online and local retail Apple store locations. For those who were planning to purchase from Apple retail anyway, it makes sense to wait until Friday. For those looking for more savings, other online retailers frequently their own Black Friday sales on Apple products as well. Depending on your location, those other online retailers may provide the added advantage of not charge sales tax on online orders. Apple’s online store does charge local sales tax on all orders due to its local presence in every state.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.