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Manufacturer: Apple

Overview

Apple has seen a healthy boost in computer sales and adoption since the transition to Intel-based platforms in 2006, but the MacBook line has far and away been the biggest benefactor. Apple has come a long way both from an engineering standpoint and consumer satisfaction point since the long retired iBook and PowerBook lines. This is especially evident when you look at their current product lineup, and products like the 11” MacBook Air.

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Even though it may not be the most popular opinion around here, I have been a Mac user since 2005 with the original Mac Mini, and I have used a MacBook as my primary computer since 2008. I switched to the 11” MacBook Air when it came out in 2011, and experienced the growing pains of using a low power platform as my main computer.

While I still have a desktop for the occasional video that I edit at home, or game I manage to find time to play, the majority of my day involves being portable. Both in class and at the office, and I quickly grew to appreciate the 11” form factor, as well as the portability it offers. However, I was quite dissatisfied with the performance and battery life that my ageing ultraportable offered. Desperate for improvements, I decided to see what two generations worth of Intel engineering afforded, and picked up the new Haswell-based 11” MacBook Air.

Since the redesign of the MacBook Air in 2010, the overall look and feel has stayed virtually the same. While the Mini DisplayPort connector on the side became a Thunderbolt connector in 2011, things are still pretty much the same.

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In this way, the 2013 MacBook Air should provide no surprises. The one visual difference I can notice involves upgrading the microphone on the left side to a stereo array, causing there to be two grilles this time, instead of one. However, the faults I found in the past with the MacBook Air have nothing to do with the aesthetics or build quality of the device, so I am not too disappointed by the design stagnation.

From an industrial design perspective, everything about this notebook feels familiar to me, which is a positive. I still believe that  Apple’s trackpad implementation is the best I've used, and the backlit chiclet keyboard they have been using for years is a good compromise between thickness and key travel.

Continue reading our review of the MacBook Air 11" (2013)!!

A brief outline of what to expect from Apple in the near future

Subject: General Tech | June 14, 2013 - 12:55 PM |
Tagged: apple, wwdc

If you still want more news about Apple then The Tech Report is your place to be as they've just assembled an overview of the announcements which were made at WWDC.  From OS X 10.9, also know as Mavericks to the new 2D iOS7 they have a bit of coverage on everything.   While Airport Extreme Base Stations might not be overly interesting to the PC crowd, the new Mac Pro and Macbook Air models might be as you can easily re-purpose them into very expensive Windows machines.  They've even joined the Cloud crowd, though if you really want to learn about that you should have been there.

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"If there's one thing I learned from Monday's (June 10, 2013) keynote at Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference, it's that demonstrations of technology are soooo much better than talking about technology. I know this because one of the main presenters, VP of Software Engineering Craig Federighi, told me so at least 39 times during his unveiling of OS X 10.9 Sea Lion. I can't argue with the man or his hair. Well played."

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Tech Talk

Podcast #255 - AMD's 5 GHz Processor, 1080p Oculus Rift, and more news from Computex!

Subject: General Tech | June 13, 2013 - 11:33 AM |
Tagged: wwdc, video, titan, podcast, oculus rift, nvidia, FX, apple, amd, a10-6800k, 5ghz

PC Perspective Podcast #255 - 06/13/2013

Join us this week as we discuss AMD's 5 GHz Processor, 1080p Oculus Rift, and more news from Computex!

You can subscribe to us through iTunes and you can still access it directly through the RSS page HERE.

The URL for the podcast is: http://pcper.com/podcast - Share with your friends!

  • iTunes - Subscribe to the podcast directly through the iTunes Store
  • RSS - Subscribe through your regular RSS reader
  • MP3 - Direct download link to the MP3 file

Hosts: Jeremy Hellstrom, Josh Walrath and Morry Teitelman

Program length: 57:27

  1. Week in Review:
  2. News items of interest:
    1. 0:40:40
  3. 0:49:00 Hardware/Software Picks of the Week:
    1. Ryan: LA Traffic
    2. Jeremy: The mighty can of air
    3. Allyn: Cold Medication
    4. Morry: more pump for your pump - Swiftech MCP35X
    5. Scott: Now with 100% more compelling. Alienware X51
  4. 1-888-38-PCPER or podcast@pcper.com

 

Apple introduces PCI-Express based SSD in new MacBook Air

Subject: General Tech, Storage | June 12, 2013 - 05:04 PM |
Tagged: ultrabook, sandisk, Samsung, pci-e ssd, Marvell, MacBook Air, macbook, haswell, apple

As Scott covered earlier this week, Apple quietly announced an update to the MacBook Air line along side the headline-grabbing Mac Pro redesign preview. Being a MacBook Air user for the past 2 years, I decided it was time to replace my Sandy Bridge-based model with some new Haswell goodness. Today marked the first day of retail store availability, and I picked up an 11" model with 256GB SSD.

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Naturally, when I got back to the office there was only one route to take, installing Windows and disassembling it. While Anand uncovered the fact that these MacBooks were hiding a new unadvertised option, in a PCI-Express based SSD, I wanted to check it out for myself.

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When I did some digging, I discovered that while Anand found a Samsung based SSD in his MacBook, mine actually contained a model by Sandisk. I did a quick initial benchmark in OS X, and proceeded to inspect the hardware itself.

Click here to read more!

Apple turns over a new lead

Subject: General Tech | June 12, 2013 - 10:57 AM |
Tagged: apple, wwdc

The Tech Report spent some time thinking about Apple's keynote yesterday and decided that it demonstrated a big change in Apple's corporate philosophy.  Over the past year Apple has been bereft of direction after spending so much time with a single person at the helm and at the keynote they finally seemed to have found a new set of core values to lead their business.  It seems that Craig Federighi is a much more personable leader, willing to stray from the script and poke fun at himself which is drastically different from the serious soliloquies which has represented Apple's pubic face for so long.  Read on to see what they think these changes could imply for the future of Apple.

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"There was something different about Apple during yesterday's WWDC keynote. According to TR's Cyril Kowaliski, that something was Apple's new soul—a new identity based not on one man's ego, but on human ideals we can connect with."

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Tech Talk

WWDC 13: Dissecting Apple's New Hardware Changes. MacBook Air and the new Mac Pro.

Subject: Editorial, General Tech, Systems, Shows and Expos | June 11, 2013 - 01:06 AM |
Tagged: wwdc 13, MacBook Air, Mac Pro, apple

Sometimes our "Perspective" is needed on Apple announcements because some big points just do not get covered by the usual sources. Other times, portions of the story can be relevant to our readers. This is one of those days where both are true. Either side should review our thoughts and analysis of Apple's recent ultrabook and, especially, their upcoming desktop offerings.

The MacBook Air has been, predictably, upgraded Intel's Haswell processors. Battery life is the first obvious benefit of the CPU, and that has been well reported. The 11-inch MacBook Air gains an extra four hours of battery life, usable for up to 9 hours between charges. The extra space on the 13-inch MacBook Air allows it to last 12 hours between charges.

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Less discussed, both MacBook Airs will contain Intel's Iris iGPU more commonly known as Intel HD 5000. You cannot get Intel HD 5000 graphics without selecting a BGA socket component which you would install by soldering it in place. While there are several better solutions from competing GPU vendors, Apple will have one of the first shipping implementations of Haswell's canonical graphics processor. Iris is said to have double the performance of previous generation Ivy Bridge graphics for a fraction of its power consumption.

Also included in the MacBook Air is an 802.11a/b/g/n/ac WiFi network adapter and Bluetooth 4.0. Apple is not typically known to introduce new standards and often lags severely behind what is available on the PC unless they had a hand in trademarking it, USB 3.0 being the obvious and recent example.

The specifications will be somewhat customizable, the user is able to select between: an i5 and an i7 processor, 4GB or 8GB of RAM, and 128, 256, or 512GB SSD. It has shipped the day it was announced with base prices ranging between $999 for an entry-level 11-inch and $1099 for an entry-level 13-inch.

But now we move on to the dying industry, desktop PCs, where all innovation has died unless it is to graft a touch interface to anything and everything.

"Can't innovate any more, my ass", grunts Phil Schiller, on the keynote stage.

Whether you like it, or think "innovation" is the best word, it's a legitimate new design some will want.

While the new Mac Pro is not a system that I would be interested in purchasing, for issues I will outline soon, these devices are what some users really want. I have been a very strong proponent of OEM devices as they highlight the benefit of the PC industry: choice. You can purchase a device, like the new Mac Pro, from a vendor; alternatively, you can purchase the components individually to assemble yourself and save a lot of money; otherwise, you can hire a small business computer store or technician.

We need more companies, like Apple, to try new devices and paradigms for workstations and other high-performance devices. While it is less ideal for Apple to be the ones coming up with these redesigns, Apple's platform encourages applications to be vendor-specific (only run on a Mac), it can still benefit the PC industry by demonstrating that life and demand still exists; trying something new could reap large benefits. Not everyone wants to have a full ATX case with discrete components but still want workstation performance, and that is okay.

Now when it comes to actual specifications, the typical coverage glossed over what could be easily approximated by a trip to Wikipedia and Google. Sure, some may have been in a rush within the auditorium, but still.

The specifications are:

  • Intel Xeon E5-2600 V2-class CPU, Ivy Bridge-E, 12 cores max (suggests single-socket)
  • 4-channel DDR3 ECC RAM, apparently 4 DIMMS which suggests 4x16GB (Max).
  • Dual FirePro GPUs, 4096 total shaders with 2x6GB GDDR5.
  • PCIe SSD
  • Thunderbolt 2, USB3.0, and WiFi ac (+ a/b/g/n??), Bluetooth 4.0

Now the downside is that basically anything you wish to add to the Mac Pro needs to be done through Thunderbolt, Bluetooth 4.0, or USB 3.0. When you purchase an all-in-one custom design, you forfeit your ability to reach in and modify the components. There is also no mention of pricing, and for a computer with this shoplist you should expect to pay a substantial invoice even without "The Apple Tax", but that is not the point of purchasing a high-end workstation. Apple certainly put in as close to the best-of-the-best as they could.

Now could people stop claiming the PC is dead and work towards sustaining it? I know people love stories of jarring industry shifts, but this is ridiculous.

Source: Apple

WWDC, not WWSJD

Subject: General Tech | June 10, 2013 - 10:01 AM |
Tagged: apple, ios 7, mac, wwdc

If you are wondering what is going on in the computer world on the other side of the fence, you are either watching the live stream from Microsoft (which will not always be on, regardless of their slogan), or you are wearing a black turtleneck and counting down the hours until the big reveal.  Apple is, as always, rather secretive about what the next new release is but The Inquirer has a few well informed hypothesis about what you can expect.  The most interesting will probably be the new operating systems, the new iOS, the first mobile interface designed by Jony Ive and likely to be somewhat different from previous incarnations.  Desktop devices will also be seeing a new interface with the arrival of OS X 10.9, this will likely not change to the extent of the mobile version but it might arrive on a peice of new hardware for you to salivate over.  Their last informed guess is the arrival of iRadio to compete with Spotify and other streaming providers, though completely conjoined to your iTunes account

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"SOFTWARE GIANT Apple's Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) is just a few hours away, with excitement building over what analysts are calling Apple's most important announcements to date.

The firm is widely expected to unveil its next generation iOS and Mac operating systems, as well as its long-awaited Spotify rival, so here's a rundown of what we can expect."

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Source: The Inquirer

Raja Koduri Returns to AMD After 4 Years at Apple

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards | April 19, 2013 - 11:51 AM |
Tagged: raja koduri, apple, amd

Interesting information has surfaced today about the addition of a new executive at AMD.  Raja Koduri, who previously worked for ATI and AMD as Chief Technology Officer, departed the company in 2009 for a four year stint at Apple, helping to turn that company into an SoC power house.  Developing its own processors has enabled Apple to stand apart from the competition in many mobile spaces and Koduri is partly responsible for the technological shift at Apple.

Starting on Monday though, Raja Koduri is officially back at AMD, taking over as the CVP (Corporate Vice President) of Visual Computing.  This position will result in more complete control over the entirety of the hardware and software platforms AMD is developing including desktop discrete, mobile and APU/SoC designs.  This marks the second major returning visionary executive in recent memory to AMD, the first of which was Jim Keller in August of 2012 (also returning from a period with Apple). 

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It will take some time for Koduri to have effect on AMD's current roadmap

Having known Raja Koduri for quite a long time I have always seen the man as an incredibly intelligent engineer that was able to find strengths in designs that others could not.  Much of the success of the ATI/AMD GPU divisions during the 2000s was due to Koduri's leadership (among others of course) and I think having him back at AMD at an even more senior role is great news for both discrete graphics fans and APU users. 

In a discussion with Koduri recently, Anandtech got some positive feedback for PC gamers:

Raja believes there’s likely another 15 years ahead of us for good work in high-end discrete graphics, so we’ll continue to see AMD focus on that part of the market.

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Koduri sees 15 years more GPU evolution

So even though this hiring isn't going to change AMD's position on the APU and SoC strategy, it is good to have someone at the CVP level that sees the importance and value of discrete, high power GPU technology. 

In many talks with AMD over the last 6 months we kept hearing about the healthy influx of quality personnel though much of it was still under wraps.  Keller was definitely one of them and Koduri is another and both of the hires give a lot of hope for AMD as a company going forward.  Some in the industry have already written AMD off but I find it hard to believe that this caliber of executive would return to a sinking ship. 

Source: CNET

That old hat again? Intel and Apple living together ...

Subject: General Tech | March 8, 2013 - 10:27 AM |
Tagged: apple, Intel, rumour, running gag

Once again the old rumour has resurfaced and discussions of what will happen to the market if Apple chooses Intel to manufacture their mobile chips.  As we heard at the end of last year, Intel might be willing to fab ARM processors for iPhones if Apple is willing to move to x86 processors for other larger mobile products.  Today via The Register we heard more about the possibility of the two companies working together, though no real confirmation has yet been made.  This move makes sense for Intel who are not making revenue from the mobile market and even more sense for Apple who are in the midst of suing their current chip provider Samsung in multiple cases across the planet.

"Rumors are again swirling that Apple and Intel are in discussions about Chipzilla baking the chips Cupertino uses to power its iDevices.

"A source close to one of the companies says Intel and Apple executives have discussed the issue in the past year but no agreement has been reached," Reuters reported on Thursday."

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Source: The Register

Bad day for cellphone security

Subject: General Tech | February 14, 2013 - 10:47 AM |
Tagged: Android, iOS 6, apple, security, FROST

Two different mobile phone security concerns were revealed today, one for devices using iOS 6.1 and one for Androids.  DailyTech has posted text instructions as well as linking to a video which shows how an iPhone 5's password protection can be completely bypassed and allow anyone with physical access to your phone to log into the phone with full access.  The second vulnerability, tested with Android 4.0 but possibly wide spread, was discovered by a team at the Friedrich-Alexander University in Germany, and it allows you to recover  information from a phone which has used the Android disk encryption.  They used both a freezer to drop the temperature of the phone and a trick with the battery which puts the phone into 'fastboot' mode and allows the loading of a custom image via a Linux PC which installs their Forensic Recovery Of Scrambled Telephones tool, aka FROST.  As you can see from the images below, that gives you the ability to get the encryption key or even brute force some passwords. 

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"First part:
-Go to emergency call, push down the power button and tap cancel.
-Dial 112 and tap green and inmediately red.
-Go to lock screen.

Ok...ready for second part:
-Go to passcode screen.
-Keep pushing down the power button ...1...2...3...seconds and before showing the slider "turn off"...tap the emergency call button and ...voilá!
-Then without releasing the power button press the home button and ready..."

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Source: DailyTech