Apple releases Thunderbolt, Sandy Bridge-equipped 2011 iMacs

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Date: Tuesday, May 3rd, 2011, 09:57
Category: iMac, News

It’s kind of fun when the rumors are true.

Per Macworld, on Tuesday, Apple announced a new generation of iMac models, running at speeds up to 3.4 GHz and powered by the next generation of Intel Core i5 and Core i7 processors. The models also build in support for the new Thunderbolt high-speed peripheral connection interface that debuted in Apple’s MacBook Pro line earlier this year.

In terms of processors, Apple has shifted to Intel’s second-generation Core technology—codenamed “Sandy Bridge”—for the iMac line. “What Intel has done is very tightly engineer the processor, the graphics, the cache, and the memory controller on a single die,” said Apple’s David Moody, vice president of hardware product marketing. Moody said this accelerates transfer between processor components, resulting in some impressive performance gains.

In addition, the processor architecture upgrade has enabled a transition to quad-core processor configurations across the iMac line—in comparison, the previous iMac line had only a single quad-core configuration on the highest-performance model.

“Even in the top-end, moving from the old quad-core configuration to the new quad-core configuration has seen 30 percent faster performance,“ said Moody.

The desktop line now sports the latest generation of AMD Radeon HD discrete graphics processors. The high-end Radeon HD 6790M boasts 1.3 Teraflops of performance and is up to 80% faster than the previous generation. Moody described the technology as “Mac Pro-class graphics” and said it’s the “first time we have the same level of performance in the iMac that you’d have in a Mac Pro.” The gains aren’t limited to high-end either; even the entry-level version’s Radeon HD 6750M graphics processor clocks in at three times faster than the previous configuration.

For external connectivity, the new iMacs boast the same Thunderbolt ports introduced in its new MacBook Pro line released in February. Co-developed with Intel, Thunderbolt offers two bi-directional channels that can transfer data at up to 10Gbps each—12 times faster than the theoretical maximum of FireWire 800. The technology is based on the PCI Express protocol that most Macs use for internal I/O, but via adapters it can support pretty much any other type of connectivity protocol, including FireWire, USB, and Gigabit Ethernet.

The smaller iMac sports a single Thunderbolt port while the larger version includes two—Moody confirmed that those ports are independent as well, meaning that users essentially have four 10Gbps channels. That allows, for the first time, the 27-inch iMac to drive two external displays—and that’s in addition to other high-speed peripherals. Moody also said that the adoption of Thunderbolt is progressing, with several vendors announcing plans for compatible peripherals at the NAB show last month.

As with the MacBook Pro refresh also earlier this year, the iMac line also now has a FaceTime HD camera for video conferencing. The camera can supports 720p high-definition video in a 16 by 9 widescreen format, and supports a wider viewing angle to make it easier for multiple people to get in the picture. High-definition video calls are only supported between Macs with a FaceTime HD camera, such as the iMac and MacBook Pros—calls with other Macs, or iOS devices are limited to standard definition.

The new machine comes in four basic configurations: two 21.5-inch models with a 2.5GHz Quad-Core Intel Core i5 and 2.7GHz Quad-Core Intel Core i5 processor respectively, and two 27-inch models with a 2.7GHz Quad-Core Intel Core i5 and 3.1GHz Quad-Core Intel i5. Apple is also offering build-to-order Web-only options to bump the 21.5-inch model to a 2.8GHz quad-core Intel Core i7, and the 27-inch model to a 3.4GHz Intel Core i7; the i7 processor upgrades add US$200 to the cost.

The low-end 21.5-inch model sports a 500GB hard drive and an AMD Radeon HD 6750M with 512MB of video RAM, while the more powerful 21.5-inch configuration has a 1TB hard drive and an AMD Radeon HD 6770M with 512MB of video RAM. Both versions feature a 1920 by 1080 pixel display and 4GB of memory. They retail for US$1,199 and US$1,499 respectively.

Both of the 27-inch models sport a 1TB hard drive, 4GB of RAM, and a 2560 by 1440 pixel display. The 2.7GHz model has an AMD Radeon HD 6770M with 512MB of video RAM, while the 3.1GHz model has an AMD Radeon HD 6970M with 1GB of video RAM. They retail for US$1,699 and US$1,999 respectively.

Additional build-to-order options include 2TB hard drives, an additional 256GB solid-state drive alongside the main drive, and up to 16GB of DDR3 memory. Customers can choose between a Magic Mouse or a Magic Trackpad with their order.

If you’ve snagged a new iMac, let us know when it arrives and what you make of it and stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

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.

Apple may be looking into creating external “quick charge” battery packs for devices

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Date: Friday, April 1st, 2011, 03:26
Category: Patents

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Apple has apparently shown an interest in developing an integrated external battery pack into its standard charging cable, providing extra power for devices like a MacBook or iPhone when a power outlet isn’t available.

Per AppleInsider, the potential future accessory was revealed this week in a new patent application published by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. The filing for “Power Adapter with Internal Battery” describes a wall charger with an integrated battery pack, allowing users to charge a device at home and give that device extra juice when on the go.

Apple’s application acknowledges that rechargeable external battery accessories do already exist. However, it notes that such accessories are not as advantageous as one that might be integrated with a standard charging cable.

“Such external batteries are generally cumbersome to use, at least because they must be unpacked for use and then repacked for storage,” Apple’s filing states of current options available on the market. “In addition, many users forget to bring the external battery in addition to the adapter while in transit.

“What is needed is a way to combine a power adapter and a battery so that a user does not have to carry an additional battery while traveling with a portable electronic device.”

Apple’s solution would include a “smart” charger with an integrated processor. This would allow the charger to intelligently determine how to distribute charge between the integrated adapter battery, and the battery on a device like a MacBook.

The hardware would also include the ability to share the status of the battery with the device it is charging. This way, users would be able to check the status of the external adapter battery and how much power it has left.

Such a device could be augmented by a “trickle source” for power, such as solar. And it could also include a USB port for charging a device like an iPhone or iPod. The accessory could also include a wireless adapter, allowing a MacBook or other device to access the power adapter even when it is not physically connected.

Apple’s application also notes that its external battery solution could employ current power adapter features, such as its patented MagSafe connector.

The need for such third-party external battery makers could be significantly lessened if Apple were to follow through on its pursuit of power adapters with integrated rechargeable batteries.

Apple first filed the patent application made public this week in September of 2009, and the proposed invention is credited to Duncan Kerr, David Robbins Falkenburg and Michael Nugent.

Apple releases iOS 4.3 for iPhone, iPad and iPod touch devices

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Date: Thursday, March 10th, 2011, 04:02
Category: iPad, iPhone, iPod, News, Software

If you missed it yesterday, Apple released its latest version iOS on Wednesday, the long-awaited iOS 4.3 update becoming available through iTunes and introducing the following new fixes and features:

- Personal Hotspot – Share iPhone 4 cellular data connection with up to 5 devices (combination of up to 3 Wi-Fi, 3 Bluetooth, and 1 USB).

- iTunes Home Sharing – Play music, movies and TV shows from a shared iTunes library on a Mac or PC (requires iTunes 10.2).

- New Airplay features – Play videos from the Photos app including the Camera Roll album, iTunes previews, enabled third-party appsand websites on Apple TV – Play slideshows from Photos on Apple TV using transitions available on Apple TV.

- Faster Safari performance with Apple Nitro JavaScript engine.

- HD video out using the Apple Digital AV Adapter – View 720p HD videos from Videos app, iPod app, Photos, YouTube, Safari, Keynote, and enabled third-party apps on an HDMI display
Ping features.

- Push notifications for comments and follow requests.

- Post and Like songs directly from the Now Playing screen.

- Parental controls.

- New Settings.

- Messages setting for number of times to repeat an alert.

- iPad side switch setting to lock screen rotation or mute audio notifications and sound effects.

- Single tap conference call dialing with a pause to send a passcode.

- Bug fixes.

Amongst the biggest inclusions are Home Sharing (the ability to stream audio and video from iTunes on a local network to the iOS device); AirPlay (the ability to stream audio and video from the iOS device to an Apple TV or computer) for third-party developers; and the ability to create a personal WiFi hotspot from an iPhone or iPad with 3G support.

Per Macworld UK, users may need a qualifying data plan from your carrier and any necessary hotspot or tethering options to enable the much-anticipated Personal Hotspot feature. Users with an unlocked iPhone can use the feature without restriction. However, we advise users of this feature to keep a close eye on data charges as some mobile phone companies are now restricting data usage.

A couple of minor features snuck into iOS 4.3. Users can now enable Push Notifications for Ping activity, and the iPod app’s Now Playing screen offers the options to post about songs and like them on your Ping profile. Also new is a preference to specify how many times an SMS alert is repeated, as well as a conference dialing option to add a pause for entering a passcode.

Missing from iOS 4.3, however, are the new multitouch gestures that Apple asked developers to test on the iPad during the beta period. Gestures like four- and five-finger swipes could switch between apps and reveal the multitasking bar, and a pinch could exit an app and return you to the Home Screen. With the second iOS 4.3 beta, however, Apple clarified that these features were only for testing and would not ship to consumers in the final version. Obviously, they could return in a future iOS update or upgrade, but Apple hasn’t stated any plans.

iOS 4.3 is available now as a free update in iTunes for the iPad, iPhone 3GS, the GSM iPhone 4, and third- and fourth-generation iPod touch. As for the Verizon iPhone 4, it runs a custom version of iOS 4.2.6 that includes some features like hotspot support. Comments from an Apple representative at the iPad 2 event suggest that it might take a little while for Verizon’s iPhone 4 to converge with the same iOS version as Apple’s other mobile devices.

If you’ve snagged the iOS 4.3 update, please let us know how it’s working on your devices, for better or for worse.

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.

Rumor: Next-Gen MacBook Pros to have improved batteries, will see the end of the white model

Posted by:
Date: Wednesday, February 23rd, 2011, 10:39
Category: MacBook Pro, Rumor

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The rumors are coming in a bit more rapidly now with details emerging that the upcoming MacBook Pros will sport larger trackpads, weigh slightly less than the current models and have a 8 – 16 GB SSD boot drive to house Mac OS X (everything else will be stored on a separate HDD). Per MacRumors, tt’s also been reported that the new MacBook Pros will come with a custom all-SSD option at a higher price point.

French Mac site MacGeneration has thrown in its two cents to claim that the new MacBook Pros will feature a SSD (16GB mSATA) boot drive, providing faster startup times and performance improvements. It also claims that new MacBook Pros will weigh 200 – 300 grams less than the current versions: 1.8 kg for the 13-inch model, 2.3 kg for the 15-inch model and 2.65 kg for the 17-inch model.

The site also expects HD resolution displays (1,440 x 900 for the 13-inch model and 1,680 x 1,050 for the 15-inch model), plus a newer Core i3 chip, an extra USB port and 12 hours of battery life for the 13-inch model. The 15-inch model will have 10 hours of battery life.

The article also claims that customers will be able to order the 15- and 17-inch models with additional storage (a solid-state drive replacing the SuperDrive). The 17-inch model is expected to have 8 GB of RAM and the high-end 13-inch model will apparently have a matte screen order option, too. The site claims the MacBook Pros will see the introduction of a “new technology” (most likely, Light Peak, a.k.a “Thunderbolt”.

Finally, MacGeneration has claimed that the white MacBook model will be discontinued, though the memories will always remain…

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.

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.

Unofficial iPhone Dev Team releases redsn0w beta, offers initial iOS 4.2.1 jailbreak

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Date: Monday, December 27th, 2010, 07:28
Category: iPhone, News, Software

The Unofficial iPhone Dev Team has advanced to its next project, posting a beta of redsn0w, its jailbreaking utility for iOS devices. Per iPodNN, the release supports untethered operation in iOS 4.2.1, that is, jailbreaking without having to stay connected to a computer via USB during the process. So far only the iPad, the iPhone 4 and the fourth-generation iPod touch devices are compatible.

The Dev Team warns that because things can potentially go “very wrong,” the software is aimed strictly at beta testers. People are asked to back up any essential content, and avoid the beta entirely if they use the ultrasn0w unlock. The software also requires a separate install of usbmuxd, and that Cydia have v4.2b3 SHSH blobs saved.

Owing to sandbox problems, Bluetooth support is temporarily unavailable. redsn0w 0.9.7b3 is a Mac-only download; the untethered mode can be used by selecting the Jailbreak Monte option. Testers are urged to do a fresh restore before installation in order to rule out variables.

If you’re feeling brave, let too know how it went in the comments.

Apple releases Time Capsule and AirPort Base Station Firmware 7.5.2

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Date: Friday, December 17th, 2010, 05:22
Category: News, Software, wireless

Late Friday, Apple released its Time Capsule and AirPort Base Station Firmware 7.5.2. The update provides bug fixes for all 802.11n AirPort Extreme Base Stations, AirPort Express Base Stations, and Time Capsules. Some of the fixes include the following:

- General fixes to Wi-Fi base station stability.

- Fixes some issues with AirPlay streaming.

- General fixes with USB interoperability including connection to external storage devices.

- Fixes some issues with NAT port mapping settings.

- Disables TKIP security with 802.11n rates per the Wi-Fi Alliance specifications.

The update can be found, downloaded and installed via the software update feature in the AirPort Utility program (Applications–>Utilities), takes about a minute to install and requires Mac OS X 10.4 or later to install and run.

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