Workaround discovered for poor graphics performance/frame rates on 15-inch MacBook Pro

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Date: Friday, January 4th, 2013, 08:54
Category: MacBook Pro, News, Software

In as much as you love your 15-inch Retina Display MacBook Pro notebook, there are times where things aren’t always perfect. Per CNET, some Mac users are finding that some of the latest MacBook systems from Apple are sometimes showing drastic drops in graphics performance, which are particularly notable when playing graphically intensive applications like video games.

The issue seems to be that while at first launching the game will show the expected smooth performance, it may suddenly drop to a very low frame rate and be essentially unplayable. Usually when systems drop to low frame rates it suggests they are being overworked for some reason and are struggling to make the computations necessary for smooth gameplay, and as a result will usually be relatively hot as the graphics card is taxed; however, in these systems this is not the case and in testing some users have noticed that various monitoring tools show the system at a relatively idle state, suggesting the system is not being taxed much and instead is just not performing the computations at hand.

Apple’s 15-inch Retina MacBook Pro systems ship with two graphics cards (a discrete Nvidia Geforce GT 650M for graphics intensive operations and an on-board Intel HD 4000 GPU for standard everyday tasks), which it switches between dynamically to get optimal energy savings and increase battery life. However, it appears that the problem at hand is with how the system is handling this switching behavior, where it will switch back to using the lower power Intel graphics and therefore not be able to manage the demands of fancier games.

The mighty Topher Kessler has listed how to reset the SMC and thus regain some of your graphics frame rate via the following steps:

- Shut down the computer.

- Plug in the MagSafe power adapter to a power source, connecting it to the Mac if its not already connected.

- On the built-in keyboard, press the (left side) Shift-Control-Option keys and the power button at the same time.

- Release all the keys and the power button at the same time.

- Press the power button to turn on the computer.

After these steps have been performed, the system should perform as expected with graphics-intensive applications.

If you’ve tried this fix with your 15-inch MacBook Pro and have any feedback to offer, please let us know in the comments.

Apple patents point to effort to reduce noise on MacBook Pro fan modules

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Date: Thursday, December 20th, 2012, 09:02
Category: Hardware, MacBook Pro, News, Patents

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You know the fans on your MacBook Pro?

They’re about to get quieter.

Per the United States Patent and Trademark Office, a trio of patent applications discovered on Thursday reveal how the asymmetric fan blade spacing used in the newest MacBook Pro with Retina display models quiet the spinning impeller without sacrificing performance.

The three patent applications, all titled “Centrifugal blower with asymmetric blade spacing” and numbered sequentially (1, 2, 3) cover separate fan designs that feature asymmetrically aligned fan blades, two with 31 blades and one with 61 blades.

Apple first introduced its asymmetric fan design in June with the 15-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display and a subsequent teardown revealed that the laptop uses a 31-blade unit.

Typical fans incorporate a prime number of blades that are spaced at angles equidistant to each other, an industry standard aimed at reducing unwanted sound. At issue is the blade pass frequency (BPF) which produces harmonics from the pressure wave formed at the tip of each blade. The most noticeable source of noise is the pole pass frequency (PPF) tone, or the “vibration and resulting pressure waves created by the poles in the motor of the fan.”

Apple’s design calls for variably-angled blades that controls the spectral distribution of tones created by the fan. First-hand tests have found the new design to not necessarily quiet fan noise as much as create a less grating sound.

From the patent:
“Dispersing the energy of a tone over a number of discrete frequencies can make the tone seem less noisy to the listener by reducing the perception on the tonal BPF [blade pass frequency]. Spacing fan blades unevenly, while maintaining impeller balance, is one method of controlling pure-tone effects.”

According to the invention, the rearrangement of the fan blade angles cancels some of the noise usually heard in conventional portable computers but allows for the unit to still be balanced as the center of mass is located at the shaft of the impeller. The modified design also allows for the fan system to be smaller, thus permitting a thinner laptop as seen with the Retina MacBook Pros.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Rumor: Next-gen iPad mini to include higher resolution display

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Date: Friday, December 14th, 2012, 08:44
Category: Hardware, iPad, iPad mini, Rumor

The nice thing about rumors: there’s a kernel of truth in there somewhere.

Per DigiTimes, Apple is rumored to be focusing on upgrading the resolution of its recently released iPad mini to Retina display specifications, with the changes said to be arriving in the next generation of the small form factor tablet’s next generation.

The Taiwanese publication cited sources from the backlighting industry as saying Apple’s next-gen iPad mini will boast a higher resolution display. It is not yet clear if the 7.9-inch tablet will feature a screen on-par with current Retina offerings, but “market observers” said a HiDPI display is likely the next step for the mini.

If the rumors are true, the next-generation tablet will move to a resolution of 2,048 by 1,536 pixels, which would yield a higher pixel density than the full-size iPad’s 264 ppi due to the discrepancy in screen size.

Sources also said Apple will be modifying the 9.7-inch iPad’s existing LED backlighting system, going from dual light bars to one in an effort to cut weight and slim down the tablet’s profile.

Although DigiTimes has a spotty record when it comes to forecasting upcoming Apple products, the publication’s sources in the display industry are a bit more reliable. In October, it correctly noted that AU Optronics would be tapped as a suppler of the current generation of iPad mini displays, while a second report said weak yields were delaying the release of the iPad mini, 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display and the new iMac.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Adobe releases Retina Display updates for Illustrator CS6 13.0.3, Photoshop CS6 13.0.2

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Date: Tuesday, December 11th, 2012, 07:38
Category: News, Software

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You’ve been hankering for it since the Retina Display came on the market and now it’s arriving.

Per AppleInsider, in conjunction with its Create NOW event, Adobe on Monday released an update to all users of Creative Suite 6 that brings support to HiDPI screens like the Retina displays found in Apple’s top-of-the-line MacBook Pros.

It was first speculated that Adobe woud be releasing HiDPI versions of its professional image editing software in November when the company posted a video that showed a 15-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display running Photoshop CS6 in a native high-resolution mode.

With the new capabilities, Adobe made good on a promise in August to bring Retina support for both Lightroom 4 and Photoshop CS6 by the end of the year. Adobe introduced a release candidate of Lightroom 4.3 earlier in November with support for both the 13-inch and 15-inch Retina display MacBook Pro models.

The updates can be downloaded and installed via Adobe Creative Suite 6′s updater application (pull down the “Help” menu, click “Updates…”) and this will open.

Along with Photoshop and Illustrator, Adobe plans to offer Retina display support for its entire suite of software, including Dreamweaver, Prelude and Premiere Pro, among others. No launch timeline has been announced, but updates are expected soon.

Adobe’s Create NOW Live event is scheduled to start on Tuesday with a keynote from Vice President of Products Jeffrey Veen, which will be followed by discussions ranging from new Creative Cloud features to design talks from industry professionals.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available and if you’ve tried the new versions, please let us know what you make of them in the comments.

Rumor: Video lends support to Retina Display-ready version of Photoshop to be released on December 11th

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Date: Wednesday, November 28th, 2012, 09:35
Category: News, Software

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This could lead to something useful.

Per Mac Otakara, an announcement on Adobe’s website regarding the company’s upcoming “Create Now Live” contains a video> that appears to show a Retina Display MacBook Pro running Photoshop CS6, suggesting the photo editing software will finally be getting native high-resolution screen support.

The embedded video shows a MacBook Pro with Retina display running Photoshop CS6 in what looks to be the laptop’s native Hi-DPI screen resolution.

The most telling evidence is the screenshot above, which clearly shows incredibly smooth font and mouse cursor reproduction indicative of the MacBook’s Retina display.

In August, Adobe announced that it would be bringing support for both Lightroom 4 and Photoshop CS6 by the end of the year. Adobe released Lightroom 4.3 earlier in November with support for both the 13-inch and 15-inch Retina-toting MacBook Pro models.

Adobe is slated to kick off “Create Now Live” on Dec. 11, with a keynote from Vice President of Products Jeffrey Veen. Among the topics of discussion will be new Creative Cloud features and design talks from industry professionals.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available. And hey, a Retina Display version of Photoshop…how can that possibly NOT rock?

Target, Best Buy handing out iTunes gift cards with purchase of iPod touch, iPad units

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Date: Friday, November 23rd, 2012, 07:45
Category: iPad, iPod Touch, iTunes, News, retail

You’ve digested your turkey…now go snag those technology savings.

Per AppleInsider, discount retailer Target is giving away US$60 gift cards with each iPad with Retina display purchase, while Best Buy is offering up a US$50 gift card of its own with each new iPod touch. You can also get a US$100 iTunes Gift Card for US$80.

The retailer is giving away a $60 gift card with each iPad purchase (excluding the iPad mini) while supplies last. Most of the 4th-generation iPads remain available for sale online, but the 16GB models have sold out and shoppers must go to a Target retail store for those models.

Meanwhile, Best Buy is serving up US$50 gift cards with the purchase of the latest generation iPod touch (all colors) (US$294.99) and 4th generation iPod touch ($194.99). A similar deal on the iPod nano throws in a US$20 gift card (US$194.99).

Also, as in years past, Best Buy is selling US$100 iTunes Gift Cards for US$80.

If you’ve found some nifty technology savings for this Black Friday, please let us know in the comments and good luck out there.

Best Buy lowers third-gen iPad price by $50, throws in $75 gift card for Black Friday promotion

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Date: Wednesday, November 21st, 2012, 09:43
Category: iPad, News, retail

Ok, this is nifty.

Per AppleInsider, retailer Best Buy has dropped the price on 32GB and 64GB 3rd-generation WiFi iPads with Retina Display, and is also throwing in a free US$75 Best Buy gift card with each purchase.

As of press time, Best Buy had only white 32GB (US$549.99) models and black 64GB models (US$649.99) remaining. In addition to the US$50 price drop and $75 Best Buy gift card, each order ships free.

Although Best Buy’s iPad overview page for the 32GB Black WiFi iPad 3 indicates it is sold out, the specific product page for that model still allows your to add it to your shopping cart and says orders will leave the warehouse in 1-2 business days.

If you’ve seen any nifty Mac deals for this holiday weekend, please let us know in the comments.

Apple ships LTE-equipped fourth-gen iPad, iPad mini units, possible ETA for Friday in some cases

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Date: Wednesday, November 14th, 2012, 08:16
Category: iPad, iPad mini, News

Your LTE-capable, fourth-gen iPad or iPad mini could show up as early as Friday. Per Mac|Life, emails went out Tuesday afternoon, alerting buyers of both tablets the devices are shipping this week.

The LTE iPad mini email alerts started arriving from Apple this morning. Later the same day, word began spreading of fourth-fen LTE iPad shipping confirmations for the same week. The ship dates on both the LTE iPad mini and fourth-gen LTE iPad were scheduled later than the WiFi-only models.

All models of iPad mini and iPad with Retina Display sold out quickly after the announcement last month. All makes of iPad mini are currently showing a 2-week waiting period for shipment on Apple’s site. While the Wifi-only iPad with Retina Display is currently in stock, the LTE models have a one-week delay.

But if you were quick on the trigger for those early preorders, you just might have your device by this Friday.

If you’ve gotten word as to the final shipping date for your LTE-equipped fourth-gen iPad or iPad mini, please let us know in the comments.

Some 15-inch Retina Display MacBook Pro owners complain of graphical glitches following Retina EFI Update v1.0 installation

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Date: Wednesday, November 14th, 2012, 07:58
Category: MacBook Pro, News, Software

If you have a Retina Display, the last thing you want is graphical weirdness after an update.

According to AppleInsider and threads on the Apple discussion boards, a number of 15-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display owners are experiencing noticeable drops in graphics and processor performance after having updated their machines to the latest EFI (extensible firmware interface) version, such as drastically clipped frame rates when running graphics-intensive programs.

In this case, some 15-inch Retina MacBook Pro users noticed the performance drop immediately after installing Apple’s MacBook Pro Retina EFI Update v1.0, which was released in September. While it is unclear if the firmware is to blame, many owners feel the update has been detrimental to how the system handles heavy workloads.

The issue is most pronounced when waking a computer from sleep, playing a graphics-intensive game or operating Windows in Boot Camp. Under heavy load, the CPU, GPU, or both are being underclocked as core temperatures reach or exceed supposedly conservative thresholds.

In one specific case, a user’s Retina MacBook Pro’s GPU begins to throttle down the machine’s discrete GPU to 700MHz from 850MHz, at a reported temperature of 65 to 70 degrees Celsius. The GPU is pulled back further if the CPU temperature hits 80 degrees Celsius.

From this information, it can be speculated that the computer’s firmware may not be correctly communicating with the thermal sensors, the threshold presets may be conservatively low, or there is an error with systems management.

Processor manufacturer Intel has noted that the Tjunction maximum, or highest operating temperature specification, of the processors used in the Retina MacBook Pro is 105 degrees Celsius, a much higher threshold than where forum members are seeing throttles. This could mean the problem lies in how the thermal management system handles the data from the digital thermal sensor (DTS), which is integral in calculating a processor’s Tjunction.

It should be noted that Intel chips, like most modern CPUs, have built-in thermal shutdown capabilities to prevent permanent damage to the silicon.

According to the forum members, the Retina MacBook Pros operated without fault prior to EFI version 1.0. Some have found that resetting the SMC or flashing the PRAM solves the problem temporarily, however the fix is far from permanent and owners report a reoccurrence after the computer wakes from sleep.

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

Adobe offers Photoshop Lightroom 4.3 as release candidate, includes Retina Display support, other fixes

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Date: Friday, November 9th, 2012, 07:44
Category: News, Software

This could be nifty.

On Friday, Adobe sent version 4.3 of its Lightroom image editing software out as a candidate release via its Adobe Labs web site.

The new version, a 410 megabyte download, offers the following fixes and changes:
- Full support for HiDPI displays such as Retina Display units.

- Unable to upload a large panorama to Adobe Revel via the Revel Publish Plugin.

- Unable to add a second photo to a page layout in a Book. This only occurred when the “Show Unused Photos” filter is selected in the filmstrip.

- A photo can be flagged as both a “Pick” and “Reject” at the same time when using the Toolbar to apply flags.

- Using multiple fonts within the same text cell inside a Book can sometimes cause Lightroom to crash.

- Exposure becomes the active adjustment slider in the Basic panel (within Develop) when moving from image to image.

- Customers using Photoshop Elements 11 were unable to upgrade their catalogs in Lightroom 4.

- Custom Cell padding options in the Book Module reset in between Lightroom sessions

- 1080p video files shot on iPhone 4S flicker on replay.

- Leaving the Book Module after using multiple text colors in the same text cell can sometimes cause the book to be lost.

The latest Photoshop Lightroom 4 also expands camera support to include the following:
- Canon PowerShot S110

- Canon PowerShot G15

- Canon PowerShot SX50 HS

- Casio Exilim EX-ZR1000

- Casio Exilim EX-FC300S

- Nikon D600 (expanded to full support)

- Olympus PEN E-PL5

- Olympus PEN E-PM2

- Olympus STYLUS XZ-2 iHS

- Panasonic DMC-GH3

- Pentax K-5 II

- Pentax K-5 IIs

- Pentax Q10

Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 4 was officially released earlier this year for OS X and PC. It’s available for purchase for US$149 for new customers, or US$79 for those upgrading from a previous version.

If you’ve tried the new build and have any feedback to offer, please let us know in the comments.