Source claims that Apple MacBook Pro delay from Intel chip bug probably minimal

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Date: Saturday, February 12th, 2011, 05:10
Category: MacBook Pro, News

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Following up on a widely publicized chip design error on Intel’s part has disrupted Apple’s plans for its next-generation MacBook Pro models, but the impact will be largely immaterial to both the company’s bottom line and its customers according to a source.

Per AppleInsider, Intel said late last month that a design flaw in all of its 6 Series Cougar Point chipsets — due to support new Sandy Bridge Core processors bound for mainstream notebooks and desktops like Apple’s MacBook Pro and iMacs — would delay volume launches of those chips due to a lapse in production while it corrected the glitch.

The impact on Apple due to the setback hasn’t been immediately clear. However, one source has stated that some of the company’s upcoming MacBook Pros were affected by the situation. According to the source, Apple elected to make minor tweaks to the logic boards of those models, but that those changes would translate to a delay of less than two weeks.

Reading between the lines can only lead to speculation that Apple was an early recipient of some of those Cougar Point chipsets from Intel, and that the changes it’s making involve tweaks to SATA ports that those MacBook Pros will utilize.

Those chipsets offer support for a total of six SATA ports, but Intel acknowledged the only problem with the chips was the potential for four of those ports — 2 through 5 — to “degrade over time, potentially impacting the performance or functionality of SATA-linked devices such as hard disk drives and DVD-drives.”

However, an Intel spokesperson confirmed that that the problem does not affect SATA ports 0 or 1, so any system builders that received those parts would be clear to ship those chips in systems that utilize only ports 0 or 1. For its part, Apple makes use of only two SATA ports in its current MacBook Pros, according to iFixit teardown specialist Kyle Wiens, and has no reason to require more going forward.

“There are two connections on the board — one for optical drive, and one for HDD,” he said. “The other internal devices (trackpad, keyboard, SD card reader, etc.) use USB.”

In total, Intel said it shipped roughly 8 million of the Cougar Point chipsets to system manufacturers before it discovered the error but that “relatively few consumers” were impacted by this issue because the only systems that actually made it into end consumers hands’ were those based on its new Sandy Bridge Core i5 and Core i7 quad core processors for desktop systems. The rest of the chips — presumably some of which went to Apple — hadn’t yet been built into systems available to consumers.

As such, the launch window for Apple’s new MacBook Pros, which have been rumored to “feature a slight change in chassis design” and speculated to employ the Sandy Bridge Core processors listed in the chart below, remains hazy. Still, evidence from those familiar with the matter and checks within the company’s supply chain suggest a period sooner than later — likely between late February and early April for volume shipments.

Apple as early as last month began drawing down inventories of its lower volume MacBook Pros, namely the 17-inch model, in anticipation of the transition. For instance, some of the company’s largest resellers including Amazon direct, MacMall and J&R Computer World (1,2,3) have long run dry of this model. And just this week, MacConnection and MacMall appear to have run into trouble securing more of the two high-end 15-inch models (1,2,3,4), which are now both out of stock.

People familiar with the buy side of operations for big box retailers like Amazon and Best Buy say Apple initially offered restocking dates of late January for those MacBook Pros but then missed those dates and pushed them out a week late. This trend has continued for the past two weeks, where a restocking date is supplied, only to be missed and rescheduled.

According to those same people, such anomalies in Apple’s Mac supply chain only manifest in the face of a significant production problem or on the cusp of major product line refresh.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple citing delays of 4-6 weeks for replacement MacBook Pro units, refresh seems more likely

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Date: Wednesday, February 9th, 2011, 05:16
Category: MacBook Pro, News

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This came more or less from the horse’s mouth.

Per AppleInsider, Apple has told some customers who need replacement machines they may need to wait four to six weeks for new hardware due to limited supply.

A number of customers who have purchased special build-to-order machines online are reporting very long wait times for replacement hardware. Those who have a faulty custom-configured notebook are apparently being warned that replacement machines could take as long as eight weeks to arrive.

Representatives for Apple are said to be informing those customers that the average lead time for a replacement machine is between four and six weeks. One person said a company representative apologized and asked if the customer wished to be refunded.

Customers with faulty build-to-order MacBook Pros have also been given the option to make a purchase from a retail store, or buy a standard-configuration machine, of which Apple still has inventory available. One customer said that even solid state drive-based machines had a similar lead time to their traditional hard disk drive-equipped counterparts.

Apple’s current line of MacBook Pro notebooks is due for an update. The most recent major upgrade arrived last April, when the high-end notebooks were equipped with what was then Intel’s latest Core i5 and Core i7 processors. Those chips have since been replaced by Intel’s latest processors, code-named Sandy Bridge.

After Intel recently announced a design error in the chipset for its new Sandy Bridge Core processors, there became concern that the anticipated MacBook Pro refresh could be delayed. But this week Intel revealed that it has resumed shipping of processors intended for computer configurations not impacted by the design flaw.

In addition, Intel has stated it will begin shipping a new, fixed version of its support chip, known as Cougar Point, in mid-February. Those chipsets will reportedly address a flaw that could cause degraded performance over time on some, but not all, serial-ATA ports for hard drives and DVD drives.

Intel also said that it will meet its deadline to begin shipping dual-core Sandy Bridge chips on the previously-announced launch date of February 20th. The Core i5 and Core i7 microprocessors, intended for notebooks like Apple’s line of MacBook Pro systems, draw between 17 watts and 35 watts of power, and run at speeds between 1.4GHz and 2.7GHz.

It is rumored that Nvidia’s graphics processors will not be included in at least some MacBook models 13 inches and under, as those low-end notebooks will rely only on Sandy Bridge integrated graphics from Intel. Apple’s larger, high-end MacBook Pros, with screen sizes of 15 and 17 inches, will allegedly rely on graphics processors from AMD.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

New evidence mounts to support MacBook Pro refresh in early March

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Date: Tuesday, February 8th, 2011, 06:28
Category: MacBook Pro, News

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Additional evidence has appeared pointing towards a refresh of Apple’s MacBook Pro notebook line in early March, according to reports.

Per Macworld UK, the Japanese Macotakara web site is reporting that stocks of MacBook Pros in Japan are running low, suggesting that Apple is making room for stocks of the new models.

On top of this, 9To5Mac has stated that tomorrow, February 9th, could be the date for an announcement on the MacBook Pro line, this also being a date that other sites have pencilled in for an iPad 2 announcement.

Further evidence of a refresh for the MacBook Pro line has appeared with the discovery of dummy entries in Best Buy’s internal inventory system. Though the entries don’t absolutely confirm a new MacBook Pro, they do show an entry for Apple in the mobile computing category priced at US$1,199 and due in stock on March 3rd.

Reports have also come in citing dwindling stocks of MacBook Pro notebooks in Apple Stores and third-party retailer locations, Amazon.com listing long waiting times for anyone ordering a MacBook Pro on its website.

Amazon.co.uk currently has only a few 15- and 17-inch MacBook Pros left in stock. On the UK Apple Store website all MacBook Pro models are listed as being in stock.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available and if you’ve heard anything from your end, please let us know in the comments.

Intel confirms SATA controller chip flaw, may delay MacBook Pro refresh

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Date: Tuesday, February 1st, 2011, 05:30
Category: MacBook Pro, News

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If Apple’s notebook refresh is taking a bit longer than you’d like, it might just be Intel’s fault.

Earlier Monday, Intel acknowledged that a supporting chipset for the next-generation Core processors contained a flaw in the Serial-ATA (SATA) controller. The bug can cause poor hard drive performance or even make the drive invisible to the system.

Per Computerworld, Intel said it has stopped shipments of the flawed chipsets and retooled the chipset. It will begin shipping the fixed version late next month, and said that it “expects full volume recovery in April.”

The design gaffe could effect Apple’s next MacBook Pro refresh if the notebook line is to get new processors based on the Sandy Bridge architecture, as many speculated last month.

According to Kevin Krewell, a senior analyst with the Linley Group (the publishers of Microprocessor Report) the mobile version of the supporting chipset may have been flawed.

In an e-mail reply to Macworld UK’s questions, Krewell pointed out a pair of Intel documents that note the mobile versions of the chipset use the same 6Gbps and 3Gbps ports as those used in the desktop versions.

According to Anandtech.com, the flaw affects only the 3Gbps ports — the chipsets’ SATA controller also offers faster-speed 6Gbps ports — making the likelihood of an impact on notebook makers even higher.

While the signs point to a problem for Apple, analysts split today on whether a MacBook Pro refresh would be delayed.

“It could mean a delay of two to three weeks,” said Martin Reynolds, a vice president with Gartner, assuming Apple intended to launch new MacBook Pros in March or even April.

Dan Olds, a senior analyst with Portland, Ore.-based Gabriel Consulting Group, disagreed.

“I don’t think Intel has shipped any [Sandy Bridge] chipsets for mobile yet,” Olds said. “I haven’t heard any chatter from the major players [about upcoming notebooks that use the chipsets], like Dell, for example.”

The unknown, of course, is when Apple was planning to launch revamped MacBook Pro models that rely on the Sandy Bridge architecture, and thus, the flawed chipsets.

Most close Apple watchers have been expecting an imminent refresh. Although Apple doesn’t hew to a set schedule for upgrades, the last time it boosted the MacBook Pro was in April 2010, nearly 300 days ago.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Rumor: Updated MacBook Pro units may be in the pipeline

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Date: Thursday, January 27th, 2011, 07:54
Category: MacBook Pro, Rumor

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Good things come to those who wait.

Per the cool cats at MacRumors, Apple could be preparing to refresh the MacBook Pro product line amid reports that stocks of the 15″ and 17″ models are running low.

The site is claiming that both Apple Stores and third-party retailer supplies are dwindling, suggesting that stocks are being run down in preparation for new models.

Amazon.com says that customers ordering some variants of the MacBook Pro, particularly the 17″ model, will have a long wait, quoting delivery times of between one and two months.

There appear to be some left on the site, though several lines are down to the last few units.

The MacBook Pro line got its last refresh in April of 2010 with the introduction of Intel’s Core i5 and i7 processors. It is widely expected that the next refresh of the MacBook Pro line will happen in the next few months.

Rumor: Apple to release redesigned MacBook Pro, iMac units in first half of 2011

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Date: Thursday, December 16th, 2010, 06:44
Category: iMac, MacBook Pro, Rumor

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Since it’s the rumors that keep you hankering for new technology, here we go:

Per Taiwanese technology industry publication Digitimes, sources from “upstream component makers” indicate that Apple will introduce the upgraded models in the first half of next year.

The Mac maker reportedly plans to launch “at least four upgraded MacBook Pros” with a “slight change” in chassis design and an upgrade to Mac OS X 10.7 Lion. The upgraded iMac is expected to feature “a new panel size and a price point for the mainstream market,” according to the report.

Apple CEO Steve Jobs unveiled Mac OS X 10.7 Lion at the “Back to the Mac” event in October. Mac OS X 10.7 Lion will incorporate features brought back to the Mac from iOS, such as App Home Screens, full-screen apps, and expanded multi-touch gestures. According to Jobs, Apple will release Mac OS X 10.7 Lion in the summer of 2011.

The first day of summer in 2011 is June 22, which would fit within the first half of 2011 timeframe from Digitimes’ most recent report. The report’s sources believe that the MacBook Pro upgrades will help Apple’s notebook shipments grow 30-40 percent year over year in 2011.

Other details were sparse in the report, however, next year’s Macs are generally expected to utilize Intel’s Sandy Bridge processors. Intel reportedly plans to formally unveil the new processors at the Consumer Electronics Show on Jan. 5th, 2011.

Intel CEO Paul Otellini announced in July that the company had decided to accelerate production in response to the “very strong reception” of Sandy Bridge CPUs by the chipmaker’s customers.

2011 MacBook Pro may include Light Peak, USB 3.0, do away with DVD drives

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Date: Monday, November 29th, 2010, 06:46
Category: MacBook Pro, Rumor

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Back in 1998, Apple veered its user base away from the floppy disk drive, whether people were ready or not.

This could happen again next year, if to a smaller degree.

According to Three Guys and a Podcast, Apple’s next-generation MacBook Pro will likely arrive in April 2011 with a new design inspired by the latest slim-line MacBook Air. That means that the high-end laptops will probably dispense with spinning drives altogether and come equipped only with solid-state drives of up to 512GB capacity.

With the internal speed bottlenecks reduced by the flash memory drives and new Sandy Bridge CPUs, Apple will also work on speeding up the external communication interfaces. The much-sought-after Light Peak port technology may finally debut on the MBP, as will USB 3.0. The fate of Firewire is unknown at this time, but it seems unlikely to make the cut, especially if Light Peak is included. The one exception may be if Apple keeps one of the current generation 15″ machines in the lineup as an entry model. If the 13″ MBP also remains in the lineup, the new interfaces, CPUs and perhaps a higher resolution display will be what set it apart from the similarly sized Air.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available and let us know what you’d make of such a notebook in the comments.

Apple releases firmware updates for mid-2010 MacBook Pro notebooks

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Date: Friday, November 19th, 2010, 04:39
Category: MacBook Pro, News, Software

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Late Thursday, Apple released two EFI firmware updates for its mid-2010 MacBook Pro notebook line. The MacBook Pro EFI Firmware Update 2.0, available for the 13″ MacBooks and MacBook Pros released earlier this year, resolve an issue that had caused purple discoloration when some systems were connected to an external display.

The EFI firmware downloads are available directly from Apple’s support site or via Software Update and are also available as a 1.98 megabyte download.

If you’ve tried the new updates, please let us know how they went and if anything caught fire.

Rumor: Next-gen MacBook Air to feature longer lasting battery, upgradable RAM

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Date: Monday, October 18th, 2010, 12:17
Category: MacBook Air, Rumor

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Because next-gen MacBook Air rumors and details are the hip thing today, a couple new interesting tidbits have emerged from the cool cats at Cult of Mac. Per the article, an anonymous source has stated that the refreshed MacBook Air will offer 8 to 10 hours of battery life as well as upgradeable RAM, which will arrive with 2GB onboard that can be upped later on.

The source also indicated that the notebook will be smaller, but will still offer a battery 50% larger, boosting battery life to between 8 and 10 hours, up from the current model’s 5-hour battery life.

The report also rumors that the new MacBook Air will be offered in two sizes: an 11.6″ screen, and a 13.3″ display. The source stated that the 13″ model could be priced as low as US$1,100, while the 11″ model could be just US$999.

The report also indicate that the solid state drive on the device will be upgradeable. Sources have stated that the new device will feature an “SSD Card” that lacks a traditional drive enclosure, and will instead more closely resemble NAND flash. However, it was said the storage will not be easily user replaceable and will be based off of an SATA connection.

Cult of Mac also reported that the new MacBook Air could come in two different configurations: a 2.1GHz processor with 2GB of RAM, and a 2.4GHz processor with 4GB of RAM. It also said that the notebook will sport Nvidia GeForce 320M integrated graphics, a GPU first introduced this April in the 13-inch MacBook Pro.

The report also included a mockup of the device, which is said to be “thinner, lighter and boxier than the current model,” according to author Leander Kahney.

Other details include the following:
- The quick boot time on the new MacBook Air is said to be “unbelievable” and “amazing.”

- The new model has an aluminum unibody design, but is “not as curvy” as the current model.

- The source indicated it is “boxier” like the iPhone 4.

- For inputs, the source indicated the device has two USB ports, an SD card slot on the right side, and a Mini DisplayPort adapter on the left side.

Here’s hoping for the best and let us know what’s on your mind in the comments.

Rumor: Additional details emerge from leaked next-gen MacBook Air photos

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Date: Monday, October 18th, 2010, 04:05
Category: MacBook Air, photos, Rumor

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Additional details have surfaced regarding Apple’s upcoming next-gen MacBook Air notebook. Per AppleInsider, a source has claimed the 11.6″ MacBook Air won’t replace the 13.3″ model, but will instead complement it as a more aggressively-priced option.

The following notes have also come to light:
- Both the new 11.6″ and 13.3″ models sport matching outfits in the form of new, all-unibody designs and single button trackpads.

- The port door found on the existing MacBook Air is gone from the new designs, which feature a port layout similar to the existing MacBook Pro notebooks.

- The new “SSD card” storage is based off a SATA connection.

- The base component of both models is just slightly thicker than a standard USB port at its thickest point.

From the following image, along with one also published of the machine’s system profile, it appears that the following facts have been discovered:



- The new SSD card-based storage sits above and to the left of the new battery chamber, which appears to include 4 separate battery components.

- The unit has dual USB ports, one on each side.

- Other I/O include a MagSafe power adapter, mini DisplayPort, and SD card reader.

- The prototype from April is running the same 1.86GHz Core 2 Duo SL9400 processor found in the current generation MacBook Air.

- It also has 2GB of memory as standard.

- Bus speed clocks in at 1.07GHz.

- The unit identifies itself as MacBook Air 3,1.

We’ll get you additional details as they become available and if you have a comment to hurl in, we’d love to hear it.