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.

Apple releases Boot Camp update for 2011 MacBook, MacBook Pro users

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Date: Friday, April 8th, 2011, 04:36
Category: MacBook Pro, News, Software

Per the cool cats at MacFixIt, Apple has released an update to the Boot Camp drivers for the latest MacBook Pro systems. This update addresses a couple of problems with Japanese and Korean keyboards in the system, and also fixes shutdown problems, according to the update’s download page. The update is specific for Windows 7, so if you are using an alternative version of Windows, this will not apply to you.

The update should be available for Boot Camp users via Apple’s Software Update utility, but it can also be downloaded and applied manually from the Boot Camp 3.2 Update web page. The update is 21.55MB in size.

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

MyService offering 750GB upgrade service for current MacBook, MacBook Pro notebooks

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Date: Thursday, April 7th, 2011, 04:53
Category: hard drive, MacBook, MacBook Pro, News

This could be useful.

Per MacMegasite, MyService has released a new 750GB 7200rpm hard drive upgrade for the MacBook and MacBook Pro notebooks. These new 2.5″ Momentus drives by Seagate are the largest 7200rpm hard drives available for the MacBook and the complete upgrade service is US$299, the price encapsulating the new 750GB drive, round trip shipping, professional installation and data transfer.

Your old hard drive is returned to you and can be used for backups. Since MyService is an Apple Authorized Service Provider, the 750GB upgrade will not void your Apple warranty.

Once your laptop is back at MyService, a certified technician installs the new drive and transfers the data over from your old drive. All drives feature a 3 year manufacturer warranty. After the service is completed, your notebook is cleaned, tested and sent back to you, along with your old drive. All services are completed within 24 hours of arrival.

Apple receives patent for dock connector with USB 3.0, Thunderbolt elements built in

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Date: Wednesday, April 6th, 2011, 03:02
Category: News, Patents

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A patent recently granted to Apple reveals that the company is looking into a modified dock connector compatible with newer high-speed communication standards, such as USB 3.0 and a “dual-lane DisplayPort,” or Thunderbolt, connector.

Per AppleInsider, the invention, entitled “Reduced Size Multi-Pin Male Plug Connector,” was published by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on Tuesday and describes a smaller 30-pin dock connector with updated connection standards.

“Some embodiments of the present invention can provide support for one or more new high-speed communication standards,” the filing read, citing USB 3.0 and DisplayPort as examples of these standards.

The device depicted in the application’s drawings is an iPod, but the invention extends to other mobile devices and laptop and desktop computers.

According to the patent, the multi-purpose connector could carry power, data, video and audio signals. One embodiment includes two legacy USB2 contacts, four USB3 contacts, USB power and a ground. The DisplayPort standard would transfer data at 1.3MP with one lane, 1.8MP with two lanes and 4.1MP when all four lanes are selected.

The patent does not indicate whether the new connector would be backward compatible with Apple’s current dock connector.

The invention is credited to Stephen Paul Zadesky, Brian S. Lynch and Jason Sloey. It was filed for on Sept. 29, 2009.

Though the patent was revealed by the USPTO last year, Intel’s Thunderbolt implementation, which couples a DisplayPort with high-speed interconnect, had yet to be announced.

Intel announced the Thunderbolt interconnect technology in February alongside Apple’s release of new MacBook Pros, the first to take advantage of the new specification.

Formerly codenamed ‘Light Peak,’ the technology provides PCI Express interconnect speeds of up to 10Gbps and utilizes the Apple-developed Mini DisplayPort. Intel had originally hoped to use fiber-optic cabling for the technology, but initial implementations utilize copper wiring due to cost constraints.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

iFixit performs full teardown of early 2011 MacBook Pro, finds interesting new components

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Date: Friday, February 25th, 2011, 05:52
Category: MacBook Pro, News

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It’s been all of a day since the release of Apple’s new Thunderbolt-equipped MacBook Pro noteboooks, but already the cool cats at iFixit have performed a full teardown of the new models.

Per the report, the guys found that the controller for Thunderbolt is the fourth largest chip on the logic board, after the CPU, GPU and logic board controller.

“We believe the chip’s footprint is a testament to the potential of this port,” they said.

iFixit ranked the new 2011 MacBook Pro a 7 out of 10 on its reparability scale. It noted that the new version allows for the battery to be disconnected without removing it from the laptop.

The addition of a “spudger” makes disconnecting the battery easier.

“It’s a nice design choice since you *should* remove all power before performing any repairs,” they said. “The unibody design also allows for easy access to most of the other components, so it won’t be terribly hard to replace things on the machine. The only tricky repair is LCD replacement, which could easily result in shattering the front glass panel.”

Other noteworthy details from the teardown:
– You can chain up to six Thunderbolt devices. In comparison, FireWire supports 63 devices and USB supports up to 127 devices.

– The lower case is secured by Phillips #00 screws, while the battery is secured by Tri-Wing screws, just like the predecessor. There were no Pentalobe screws inside or outside.

– The new MacBook Pro has the same 77.5 watt-hour battery as the earlier model, but Apple has decreased their run-time estimate from 8-9 hours to 7 hours, likely due to more stringent testing.

– The Thunderbolt controller is the fourth-largest chip in the new MacBook Pro.

– iFixit said they’re concerned about Apple’s quality control, as they found a stripped screw holding the subwoofer enclosure in place, and an unlocked ZIF socket connecting the IR sensor.

– RAM has been upgraded to PC3-10600. That’s the same RAM used in the 2010 revision of the 21.5″ and 27″ iMacs, but faster than earlier MacBook Pros.

– The wireless card received a make-over and now includes four antennas instead of three. Wireless connectivity is provided by a Broadcom BCM4331 “wireless solution.”

– The wireless card bracket is aluminum, rather than the plastic found in earlier MacBook Pro revisions. The change was likely made for thermal reasons, as a pink thermal pad is visible and used to transfer heat from the Broadcom chip to the aluminum bracket.

The logic board features four primary chips:
– Intel i7 Quad-Core Processor
– AMD Radeon HD 6490M GPU
– Intel BD82HM65 Platform Controller Hub
– Intel L051NB32 EFL (which seems to be the Thunderbolt port controller)

The teardown uncovered a great deal of thermal paste on the CPU and GPU when the main heat sink was removed. The excess paste may cause overheating issues down the road, iFixit said.

The new 15-inch MacBook Pro is still designated Model A1286. Apple has been using that same model number since October 2008.

Apple resets MacBook Pro ship times to 3-5 days, new models rumored to be on horizon

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Date: Monday, February 21st, 2011, 04:59
Category: MacBook Pro, Rumor

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Yes, you’d like the coolest new MacBook Pro.

And it may be just days away.

Per AppleInsider, Apple has bumped ship times for all US orders of its line of professional notebooks to three to five business days.

On Sunday, reports emerged that Apple had issued strict warnings to dealers not to open sealed pallet shipments that could arrive as early as Monday.

Further evidence that the secretive shipments could contain a significant update to Apple’s MacBook Pros came late Sunday when the company began delaying shipping times for online US orders of the notebooks from the usual 24 hour window to an estimate of three to five business days. Apple usually reserves this kind of across-the-board shipping delay for imminent new product releases.

Placeholder SKUs for new Apple-branded computers discovered Sunday in the Best Buy inventory system appeared to further corroborate the pending upgrade. Five models were listed on the electronics reseller’s Laptop Configuration tool ranging in price from US$1,199 to US$2,499.

Apple’s upgraded professional notebooks are expected to make the jump to Intel’s Sandy Bridge architecture and could also include subtle changes to the chassis design. According to one recent report, Apple may even roll out Intel’s new high-speed optical connector technology, dubbed Light Peak, with the new MacBook Pro notebooks.

Other rumors have stated that each new MacBook Pro will arrive with its very own unicorn.

This unicorn will sing your favorite show tunes, but is still learning the songs to the new Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark musical currently playing on Broadway.

But it’ll bang out a mean score from “Showboat” if you give it a chance…

Best Buy sales system listing 5 new MacBook Pro SKUs, additional data

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Date: Monday, February 21st, 2011, 04:18
Category: MacBook Pro, News

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The new MacBook Pro you’re hankering for might be just around the corner.

Best Buy, one of Apple’s largest authorized resellers authorized, is currently listing this weekend five new stock keeping units for Mac notebooks at price points ranging from US$1,199 to US$2,499.

Per Engadget, the SKUs turned up in the specialty electronics reseller’s online Laptop Configuration tool, where they are listed as “New SKU” with availability of “Coming Soon.”

Although Best Buy’s inventory systems have been a less-than-precise indicator of Apple’s actual plans in the past, this weekend’s listings do provide specific pricing information that has yet to turn up elsewhere.

Specifically, the retailer’s configuration tool specifies that the forthcoming Apple notebooks will be priced at US$1,199, US$1,499, US$1,799, US$2,199 and US$2,499. Those price points could coincide nicely with previous reports that peg the new MacBook Pros to arrive in five retail configurations as opposed to the existing six.

Based on those reports and the new price points, it appears most likely that Apple will continue to offer two configurations of the 13-inch MacBooks (US$1,199 and US$1,499), a single 17-inch configuration (US$2,499, up from US$2,299), and consolidate the three current 15-inch configurations (US$1,799, US$1,999, and US$2,199) into two configurations (US$1,799 and US$2,199), shedding the US$1,999 15-inch configuration.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

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: Updated MacBook Pro units could arrive on March 1st

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Date: Monday, February 14th, 2011, 05:45
Category: MacBook Pro, Rumor

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You’re eagerly waiting for the next MacBook Pro refresh.

And it could happen on March 1st.

A report from Danish blogger Kenneth Lund has claimed that Lund has had heard from retailers in the country that a limited supply of the new MacBook Pros will be available from March 1st.

Last week, it was reported that supplies of MacBook Pros were running low in Japan, following on from January’s news that U.S. stores were also facing dwindling stocks.

It was anticipated that problems with Intel’s new Sandy Bridge processors could delay the MacBook Pro product line refresh, though if the reports about a March 1st launch are correct then it seems that any delays were minor.

Other rumors include the possibility that the new MacBook Pro notebooks could contain solid-state drives as opposed to conventional hard drives. This has yet to be confirmed and only time will tell.

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.