13-inch MacBook Air inventory beginning to come up short, new models expected around WWDC

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Date: Monday, May 20th, 2013, 06:29
Category: MacBook Air, News, retail

When the inventory numbers trend downwards, the cool new stuff tends to be around the corner.

Per AppleInsider, availability of Apple’s 13-inch MacBook Air had apparently begun to dry up at major authorized resellers.

The popular 13-inch MacBook Air with a 1.8-gigahertz processor and 256-gigabyte solid-state drive is currently out of stock at resellers Amazon, B&H, MacConnection, and MacMall. In addition, J&R is currently advertising that the thin-and-light notebook is only available for purchase in its brick-and-mortar stores.

In fact, one of the few resellers that is currently advertising available inventory of that 13-inch MacBook Air configuration is Best Buy.

Constrained availability of existing models is often one of the first signs of an impending product refresh, as Apple draws down inventory in anticipation of the release of new hardware. Apple’s annual Worldwide Developers Conference, scheduled for June 10 through 14, would be an opportune time for the company to introduce newly updated MacBook Airs.

Ming-Chi Kuo of KGI Securities indicated last month that Apple apparently plans to introduce new MacBook Airs featuring Intel’s next-generation Haswell processors at WWDC. The new ultraportable notebooks are expected to go on sale before the end of June.

Intel Haswell chips are scheduled to launch the first week of June, boasting more capable processors that will consume less power, leading to longer battery life on notebooks. The chips will also feature next-generation Intel HD 5000 integrated graphics that will offer a 50 percent in improvement over the previous 4000-class.

Kuo also said that Apple will likely introduce Haswell-powered MacBook Pro models at WWDC 2013. He expects that updated versions of the legacy, optical-drive-equipped MacBook Pro will launch alongside new MacBook Airs before the end of June, while a refresh of the premium Retina display MacBook Pro models will become available at a later date.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple, Best Buy team up for week-long MacBook Pro discounts, drive prices down across the board

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Date: Monday, May 6th, 2013, 06:50
Category: MacBook Pro, News, retail

One person’s price war is another person’s savings.

Per AppleInsider, Apple and Best Buy have again teamed for a week-long MacBook Pro sale, not only helping the Mac maker push units in an unfavorable climate for the PC market, but also helping to driving down prices for consumers even further at competing resellers.

Best Buy’s MacBook Pro sale took particular aim at the 13-inch Retina MacBook Pros, and initially prompted Amazon to follow suit by offering the 2.5GHz 13″ MacBook Pro (8GB,128GB) for US$1,349.00 this weekend before selling out and diverting its inventory draw from Datavision.

Similarly, MacMall followed Best Buy’s lead, and as of Monday had recouped claim to the lowest prices on 13-inch MacBooks when customers go to the MacMall web site and then apply Promo code APPINSDRMWB38717. For example, MacMall is offering the entry-level 13-inch Retina MacBook Pro with 128 gigabyte solid-state drive for US$1,377.38, compared to Apple’s suggested price of US$1,499.

The latest drops come just weeks before Apple is excepted to introduce its 2013 MacBook lineup at the company’s annual Worldwide Developers Conference in San Francisco. They also arrive amid the largest historical decline in PC growth in recent memory.

Well-connected analyst Ming-Chi Kuo of KGI Securities indicated last month that Apple plans to refresh its MacBook lineup at WWDC in June. Most notably, the refreshed models are expected to feature Intel’s next-generation Haswell processors.

According to Kuo, Apple plans to keep its legacy MacBook Pro with disc drive available, because the hardware is popular in emerging markets where Internet connectivity is not as dependable. He indicated that new MacBook Air and MacBook Pro models will ship by the end of the June quarter, while updated MacBook Pro with Retina display units will arrive later this year due to apparent yield issues with high-resolution screens.

Reduced prices on existing models are usually a sign that updated hardware is on the horizon, but this year it’s believed that the reductions are also driven by weak overall PC sales, as well as initial pricing on Retina MacBook Pros that was too high. That has helped to fuel expectations that Apple’s new MacBook Pro with Retina display models will be available at prices more in line with market expectations.

Intel details specs for upcoming i7 “Haswell” processor

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Date: Thursday, May 2nd, 2013, 06:59
Category: Hardware, News, Processors

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The next-gen stuff always looks pretty sexy…

Per AppleInsider and Engadget, a document released on Wednesday sheds some light on Intel’s forthcoming Core i7 processors, which will boast new integrated graphics silicon that promises to double or even triple performance compared to existing models.

Alongside a new iteration of the “Intel HD Graphics” series, dubbed HD 5000, Intel is introducing the “Iris” and “Iris Pro” tiers to its graphics lineup with Haswell, effectively creating a three-tier system for its upcoming Core i7 offerings. Apple is expected to use products from the newest family of processors when the company refreshes its Mac lineup later this year.

As is the case with every new generation of CPUs, there will be an across the board performance boost with the fourth-generation Core i7 chips. However, while previous generational changes brought only slight gains to Intel’s respective Ultrabook, notebook and desktop class lineups, Iris and Iris Pro will enjoy huge gains, in some cases showing threefold improvements.

The options start out with HD 5000 for 15W TDP (Thermal Design Power) U-series chips, and move to the new Iris graphics with 28W U-series silicon. Iris Pro, which uses embedded DRAM instead of shared system memory, promises to double the speed of current 47-55W H-series laptop processors. Most intriguing is a tripling in 3D rendering speeds for 65-84W R-series desktop CPUs.

According to Intel’s documentation, Iris Pro will also be available on certain M-series laptop and K-series desktop chips.

The 11- and 13-inch MacBook Air currently uses two U-series chips — a 17W dual-core Ivy Bridge Core i5 processor in its standard configuration and an optional Core i7 version. Apple uses M-series Core i5 and i7 chips for its MacBook Pro and MacBook Pro with Retina Display products.

Intel also detailed the three tiers’ feature sets, which support DirectX 11.1, OpenGL 4 and OpenCL 1.2. Display modes include “enhanced” 4K and 2K output and a 3-screen collage, which looks to eschew the need for a discrete graphics card for multi-panel setups.

Full specs, including those pertaining to non-graphics processing performance, are slated to be revealed , one day prior to the Computex Taipei trade show.

Primate Labs testing shows 3-5% performance bump for updated Retina Display MacBook Pro notebooks

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Date: Monday, February 25th, 2013, 07:07
Category: News

If you waited a bit for the newer Retina display MacBook Pros, then you get to feel somewhat wise at this moment in time.

Per the cool cats at Primate Labs, a series of cross-platform Geekbench 2 tests founds slight jumps in performance for the new models.

The 13-inch model, which got a 100MHz bump in processor speed, saw a three to five percent jump in performance on the Geekbench 2 test. Likewise, the 15-inch model, which also got a 100MHz spec bump, saw performance improve between three and five percent. Primate Labs attributes the jump entirely to the new processors.

The new Retina models are available now and were announced along with a price reduction in the line. The 13-inch model now starts at US$1,499 for a model with a 128GB SSD, while the model with a 2.6GHz processor and 256GB SS sells for US$1,699.

If you’ve gotten your hands on the new Retina MacBook Pros and have any feedback to offer, please let us know in the comments.

Apple receives patent for “microslot antennas”, could see improvements in wireless functionality in coming years

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Date: Tuesday, February 12th, 2013, 08:01
Category: Hardware, iOS, iPad, iPad mini, iPhone, iPod Touch, News, wireless

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Your notebook and iOS device’s wireless system could be getting that much niftier.

Per AppleInsider and the United States Patent and Trademark Office, Apple on Tuesday won the patent rights to “microslot antenna” technology that allows micron-wide antenna assets to be integrated into the housing of a portable device, such as an iPhone, making them nearly invisible to the human eye.

As portable electronics become thinner and more compact with each successive generation, internal space is quickly becoming a limiting factor to device designers. Apple’s U.S. Patent No. 8,373,610 for “Microslot antennas for electronic devices,” granted by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on Tuesday, could drastically cut down on the size of at least one component needed to create products like the iPhone.

While the patent refers to implementations in a laptop computer, the antenna tech can be used in other portable electronics like smartphones and tablets.

With Apple’s current technology as seen in the iPhone 5, two internal radio antennas dynamically switch between multiple frequency bands, including those carrying fast LTE data. In order to fit the units within the handset’s slim body, Apple had to design a window for radio waves, while keeping the unit small enough to leave room for other important structures like the logic board and battery.

Tuesday’s patent focuses on so-called “microslot antenna” technology, or “dielectric-filled microslots that are formed in a ground plane element.” According to the invention, the ground plane can be a device’s housing as long as it is conductive, meaning the slots would be integrated on the outer hull of a product. The system can also support multiple communications bands, meaning functionality would not be compromised for size enhancements.

As for the size of the microslots, the patent language states that the widths of the slots are usually significantly less than their lengths. For example, widths can range from microns to hundreds of microns, while a microslot’s length can be on the order of millimeters or centimeters.

Filling the slots is a dielectric such as epoxy, plastic, air or other suitable substance that prevents foreign matter from entering. Antenna feeds can be located at or between the functional microslots, and operate on common communication bands that support Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS and 3G cellular, among others.

The ’601 property was first filed for in December 2007, less than six months after the original iPhone debuted, and credits Bing Chiang, Gregory Allen Springer, Douglas B. Kough, Enrique Ayala and Matthew Ian McDonald as its inventors.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple exploring wireless charging, over-the-air electricity technology

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Date: Thursday, November 29th, 2012, 08:01
Category: News, Patents

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This could lead to something interesting.

Per FreePatentsOnline, a new patent application reveals Apple’s interest in a “realistic and practical approach” to wireless power, providing over-the-air electricity to low-power devices within a distance of one meter.

Apple’s interest in wireless charging technology was detailed in a new patent application published this week by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Entitled “Wireless Power Utilization in a Local Computing Environment,” it describes a system that would rely on “near-field magnetic resonance” to provide power to nearby devices.

Apple’s filing notes that transferring power wirelessly has historically been successful only in fairly limited applications. Specifically, the technology requires a power source and receiver located very close to each other.

This method may be acceptable for devices that require a very small amount of electricity. But Apple says this process is not acceptable for devices that require between a few watts to hundreds of watts.

However, Apple noted that electricity can be transferred from a power source to a receiver within a “near field,” or a distance a few times larger than both objects involved in the transfer. In most scenarios, this near field would be about a meter large.

“In this way, a realistic and practical approach to wireless transferring useable amounts of power over distances suitable for limited applications can be realized,” the filing reads.

By adopting wireless charging technology, Apple could minimize or eliminate what it referred to as “unwieldy” existing chargers that must be plugged into the wall.

Apple’s system goes one step further than the near field, and aims to improve efficiency when transferring electricity wirelessly. It would also allow a number of peripheral devices to be charged wirelessly within the near field, thanks to “cooperation” between them.

Apple’s charging accessory would be able to provide electricity to a number of devices located within the near field, or “virtual charging area.” Low-power devices cited by Apple include a mouse and keyboard.

The power supply transmitter could be a stand-alone device, or it could be embedded in an existing device such as a desktop or notebook computer. The transmitter could also be portable, such as a dongle that could be connected to a legacy device via a port like USB.

Peripheral devices would need to be tuned to the appropriate frequency. This would allow them to receive power from the near-field magnetic resonance (or NFMR) power supply.

“The device being brought into the range of the NFMR power supply can communicate its initial presence using a standard communication protocol such as WiFi or Bluetooth,” the application reads. “However, once incorporated into the resonance circuit, the device can use a communication back channel.”

Apple’s application also describes the use of a “re-resonator” that would allow electricity to be wirelessly shared between multiple accessories. In one example, a Mac desktop may not be able to adequately provide power to a wireless mouse because of an obstacle interfering with the connection between the two devices.

“In this case, (the) keyboard can act as a re-resonator such that a portion of the power delivered to (the) keyboard from the NFMR power supply can be passed on by way of a re-resonator transmission unit,” the filing states.

Apple’s patent filing for a wireless charging system, published this week by the USPTO, was first filed by the company in November of 2010. The proposed invention is credited to Michael F. Culbert, Brett. C. Bilbrey, David I. Simon, and Peter M. Arnold.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

How-to: How to get around “Black Screen of Death” on dual-GPU MacBook Pro notebooks

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Date: Wednesday, November 28th, 2012, 10:50
Category: MacBook Pro, News, Software

Ok, this could be useful.

Per the mighty Topher Kessler of CNET, a workaround has been found for MacBook users who noticed a pretty annoying black-screen bug on their systems, in which the computer would appear to be running but would not show any output on the display. To get around this issue, people were forced to restart their systems, losing any unsaved data.

The primary workaround for this problem was to use the third-party GPU manager utility gfxCardStatus to force the system to use only one of its available GPUs, to avoid the automatic switching between the graphics cards that was leading to the problem. While the increased use of the more powerful dedicated GPU drained the battery a little more, it did avoid the problem for many.

Take a gander here for the full article and if this has been driving you nuts, rest assured that it drove other MacBook Pro users up the wall as well.

Rumor: Manufacturing glitches/low yields leading to delay of 13-inch MacBook Pro Retina Display notebook

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Date: Friday, October 12th, 2012, 07:04
Category: Hardware, MacBook Pro, Rumor

This might be a little harder than Apple expected.

Per the sometimes-reliable DigiTimes, a new rumor cites that Apple’s supply chain is struggling to build new 13-inch MacBook Pros because of difficulty in manufacturing Retina displays.

The article claims that shipments of three key forthcoming Apple products — the new MacBook Pro, along with a 7.85-inch iPad and new iMac — were delayed from September to October because of production issues.

In particular, the 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display was said to have seen delays because of “weak yields” of its high-resolution screen. Analyst Ming-Chi Kuo with KGI Securities, who has a strong track record with predicting Apple product releases, originally said in July that Apple would release a new 13-inch Retina MacBook Pro along with a new iMac in September, but those products failed to debut last month.

Kuo said that Apple had originally hoped for the new 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display to be unveiled at the Worldwide Developers Conference in June, but the company was unable to do so because of a low yield rate and greater assembly difficulty. Instead, Apple only unveiled a 15-inch version of its redesigned Retina MacBook Pro.

According to Thursday’s report, Apple’s production issues go beyond the new MacBook Pro and also extend to the company’s so-called “iPad mini.” The publication claimed that Apple’s smaller iPad is “suffering low yields for components such as the display and chassis.” Unlike the third-generation iPad, the iPad mini is not expected to have a high-resolution Retina display.

Thursday’s report also said that while the iPad mini apparently has a chassis with material similar to the full-size 9.7-inch model, the 7.85-inch variety will allegedly have a “design and tactile feel” different from the full-size variety.

DigiTimes bases many of its reports off tips from Asian suppliers, but the publication has a shaky batting average with regards to accurate information on upcoming Apple products. However, the site was the first to report that Apple would adopt in-cell touch panels for its 2012 iPhone model — a prediction that came true with last month’s launch of the iPhone 5.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple awarded carbon fiber manufacturing patent, could make future MacBooks lighter, more shock resistant

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Date: Tuesday, September 4th, 2012, 07:06
Category: Hardware, MacBook, MacBook Pro, Patents

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The way your new MacBook notebook is manufactured is about to change.

Per the United States Patent and Trademark Office, Apple on Tuesday was granted a patent for a carbon fiber molding process that could one day be used to produce parts made from the lightweight material, like laptop casings or mobile device chassis.

The patent, number 8,257,075, for a “Carbon composite mold design” describes the systems and methods needed to manufacture “aesthetically pleasing” parts from carbon fiber and other resin based composites.

While the applications of carbon fiber composite materials are many, Apple specifically notes that the invention can be used to “form outer housings for a laptop computer or other similar device.” The patent may prove useful as an increasing consumer demand has pushed the industry toward slim and sleek portables with relatively heavy large screens. For example, the weight of the much-rumored next-generation iPhone’s expected 4-inch screen could be offset by a carbon fiber monocoque.

It seems that the invention is aimed at larger devices like Apple’s MacBook line, however, much like Sony’s carbon fiber Vaio Z thin-and-light series.

The patent is described as follows:
“As but one example, it would be particularly helpful if portable electronic device housings and components could be stronger and more durable than what is now typically provided in plastic parts that are formed via ordinary plastic injection molding processes. In particular, it would be beneficial if laptops, notebook computers, and other relatively large and heavy portable computing devices could have outer housings that are better able to protect the entire device from drops and other mechanical shocks.”

The patent notes that traditional resin-based composites are made by layering resin-impregnated sheets of into or over a mold, which then cures under increased heat and pressure. Removal of the part can prove a hassle as the resins stick to the mold surfaces, which often requires manual prying and peeling from an operator. As a result, surface blemishes and other defects often occur.

Apple’s proposed method looks to enable the mass-production of carbon fiber parts that have a consistent visual appearance by streamlining the manufacturing process.

The invention calls for a two-part mold, one a cavity and another portion “adapted to mate with the first,” allowing composite parts to be formed in between. After curing, ejector pins located on one or both of the mold portions are used to separate the material from the mold body.

In another embodiment, a mold can have one or more internal fluid lines to help with cooling, a permanent release coating, and guide pins to accurately align the fiber sheets. Either a fluid or gas-actuated ejection system can also be employed for easy removal of the cured parts.

While Apple has shown no signs of using the advanced carbon fiber molding techniques in any future devices, the company may very well choose to do so in its push toward lighter and stronger products.

So, if nothing else, your future MacBook could become lighter, stronger and perhaps shoot lasers at those who oppose you.

Which is never a bad thing.

Analyst: Apple producing 13-inch Retina Display screens, may launch 13-inch Retina Display MacBook Pro this fall

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Date: Monday, August 27th, 2012, 06:27
Category: Hardware, MacBook Pro, News

You love the MacBook Pro with the Retina Display.

Get ready for it in a smaller size.

Per CNET, an analyst citing upstream supply chain sources claims that a high-resolution display bound for a rumored 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display is now in production, with initial output volumes expected to be higher than the current 15-inch version.

According to NPD DisplaySearch analyst Richard Shim, the display purportedly being produced for the smallest MacBook Pro features a resolution of 2,560-by-1600 pixels, compared to the current iteration’s 1,280-by-800 pixel screen.

“The supply chain indications are that it’s for a MacBook Pro 13.3 — not a MacBook Air,” Shim said.

The analyst goes on to say Samsung, LG Display and Sharp are all churning out the new 13-inch panel to meet a higher initial volume compared to the 15-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display’s launch in June. Stock of Apple’s top-of-the-line laptop quickly dwindled as supply couldn’t meet demand due to low display yield rates, and only recently has the company been able to catch up, with shipments now quoted at two to four business days.

“With 15.4 it’s production of a few hundred thousand units versus one to two million for the 13.3,” Shim said. He prefaced the estimates by noting volume depends on yield rates, noting that if the manufacturers are able to reach rate of 70, 80, or 90 percent, output of the 13-inch panel will likely be in the “million and a half range.”

Shim also pointed out that the manufacturing capabilities of the three different suppliers can factor into how many displays will be ready for assembly.

“With Samsung, if you look at the new [Retina] iPad, they had fewer issues reaching the higher resolution requests from Apple,” he said. “They were the first vendor to get to volume with that panel.”

The production timeline could point to a fall debut for the rumored 13-inch Retina display-packing MacBook Pro, which is in line with previous reports that Apple would be launching the laptop in September.

Sunday’s rumor comes on the heels of multiple sightings (1, 2) of an unknown MacBook Pro seen on online benchmarking site Geekbench.

Currently, the 15-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display is identified as “MacBookPro10,1,” while the legacy 15-inch model is “MacBookPro9,1.” The “10,2″ identifier, first spotted in the logs of an online battery testing site, hints at a Retina version of the 13-inch laptop as the recently updated non-Retina version carries the “MacBookPro9,2″ designation.

While it is unclear when Apple will decide to launch the purported device, the company is expected to debut the next-generation iPhone at an as-yet-unannounced Sept. 12 event. Further rumors suggest a smaller iPad will also be launched in October ahead of a revamped iPod touch and iPod nano.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.