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!

New Matrox DS1 Dock For Macbooks Uses Thunderbolt

Subject: General Tech, Mobile | June 3, 2012 - 08:08 PM |
Tagged: computex, thunderbolt, Matrox, macbook, dock, apple

Matrox has recently launched a new Thunderbolt dock aimed at adding desktop peripherals to Apple Macbooks and Ultrabooks. The dock connects via a single Thunderbolt cable (it does require a separate power source as well) and provides one USB 3.0 port, two USB 2.0 ports, a DVI video output, audio in/out jacks, and a Gigabit LAN port. It will be available for purchase in September with an MSRP of $249 USD.

Matrox has released a new laptop dock called the Matrox DS1 that is designed to pair with Thunderbolt-equipped notebooks and provide several additional connectivity options. The aluminum chassis is reminiscent of a slimmer WD My Book drive because of the book like shape. The front of the DS1 dock is a Thunderbolt input and status LED. On the back of the dock is a DVI output, three USB ports (one USB 3.0, two USB 2.0), microphone input, headphone output, and a Gigabit LAN port. To the far right is a DC power input which means that the dock is a bit less portable than I would like but it is not clear how big of a “wall wart” it will come with.

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The company has stated that the aluminum case should protect the dock in just about every use case, and the additional IO certainly adds much needed connectivity to Ultrabooks where available ports are at a premium. Senior Director of Sales and Marketing for Matrox, Alberto Cieri, has been quoted by Apple Insider in stating “The new Matrox DS1 docking station easily enables the creation of an ergonomic workspace and brings much-needed expandability for printers, scanners, storage, smartphones, optical drives, cameras, flash drives, and other peripherals.”

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The Matrox DS1 will be shown off at Computex 2012 this week in Taipei, Taiwan at Intel’s booth (M0410 in the Nangang Exhibition Hall). After that, it will be shown off at WWDC in San Fransico and Infocomm in Las Vegas on June 12th and June 13th to June 15th respectively. In September of this year it will be available for purchase with an MSRP of $249 USD.

Situations like this are where Thunderbolt really shines, and I would not be surprised to see companies outfitting employees with Ultrabooks for mobile use and a larger monitor and peripherals for in-office use (eschewing a separate desktop machine altogether). The price, especially considering Thunderbolt cables themselves are expensive is going to be the most limiting factor for docks like these despite their usefulness.

Editor's Note: Although Tim didn't mention it, one kind of interesting drawback is that this device does NOT include a Thunderbolt pass through, basically preventing users from taking advantage of the daisy-chain capability TB can offer via a single port / connections on the laptop or computer.

Macbooks With Retina Displays Coming, At A Premium

Subject: Mobile | June 1, 2012 - 05:26 PM |
Tagged: retina display, resolution, notebook, macbook, apple

Late last year, we covered rumors releating to Apple’s Macbook Pro notebooks that hinted at future versions with high pixel density retina displays. Recent rumors suggest that DigiTime’s sources were not far from the truth, and retina displays may be coming to both the 15.4” and 13.3” notebooks.

According to Hexus.net, a senior display analyst, has been talking with Cnet on when such high resolution displays will be available. Allegedly, the display panels are already being supplied to Apple at an additional cost to Apple of $100 and $60 for the 15.4” and 13.3” notebooks respectively. The most likely source of these panels is Samsung (and possibly LG), as they have experience producing the retina displays for Apple’s iPad tablets.

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Reportedly, the 15.4” Macbook will have a display resolution of 2880x1800, which amounts to 220 pixels per inch. On the other hand, the 13.3” Macbook will have a display resolution of 2560x1600–a resolution normally reserved for ~30” desktop monitors. With 2560x1600 in a 13.3” display, that amounts to just under 227 PPI (268.98). For the 15.4” Macbook, the retina display has a PPI that is twice that of the current model’s display resolution of 1440x900 (110 PPI).

Fortunately for everyone without hawk-vision, Apple’s OS X operating system has been engineered to be resolution independent, and will keep icons and text on screen an appropriate size (rather than it becoming miniscule due to the much higher resolution display).

Lastly, the source indicated that the displays would use more power, which sounds resonable considering the GPU would have to drive more pixels, and the backlight would have more work to do as well. In our previous article, and in internal discussions, we have been eagerly waiting for Apple to come out with these displays. We hope that Apple jumping into it as a premium feature will help to nudge other PC manufacturers in the same direction of higher pixel densities. Its obvious that the technology is there, but I think that it will be up to Apple whether or not it will catch on (as other PC makers do not seem eager to reduce profit margins with higher resolution displays). Sure, we won’t be seeing retina displays in budget laptops running windows, but it would be nice to have the option in ultrabooks and other premium PC laptops running Windows at some point.

Source: Hexus

Nobody likes NVIDIA, even Apple won't play with them

Subject: General Tech | March 13, 2012 - 09:15 AM |
Tagged: TSMC, nvidia, macbook, kelper, Ivy Bridge, fermi, apple

NVIDIA has been having a rough life lately with problems besetting them on all sides.  Their IGP business has been disembowelled by AMD's Llano and even Intel is now offering usable graphics with the HD3000 on higher end Sandy Bridge chips.   The console makers seem to have decided on AMD as the provider of choice for the next generation of products which locks NVIDIA out of that market for years to come, as console generations tend to last significantly longer than PC components.  The delays at TSMC have enabled AMD to launch three families of next generation GPU without NVIDIA being able to respond, which not only hurts NVIDIA's bottom line but lets AMD set their own pricing until NVIDIA can finally release Kepler, at a price that will not be wholly of their choosing. 

Now according to SemiAccurate they are losing a goodly portion of Apple's MacBook business as well.  The supply issues which will be the result of the fabrication problems were likely a big factor in Apple's decision to trim back GPU orders but there is also the fact that the low to mid range GPU could well be going extinct.  With the power of the forthcoming Intel HD4000 and AMD's Trinity line of APUs it will become hard for laptop and system makers to justify putting in a discrete GPU since they will have to choose relatively expensive parts to have the discrete GPU contribute to performance. That leaves NVIDIA only providing GPUs for high end MacBooks, a much less lucrative market than the mid range.  Don't even mention the previous issue of overheating GPUs.

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"That is exactly what SemiAccurate moles are telling us is going on. Nvidia can’t supply, so Apple threw them out on their proverbial magical experience. This doesn’t mean that Nvidia is completely out at Apple, the Intel GPUs are too awful to satisfy the higher end laptops, so there will need to be something in those. What that something is, we don’t definitively know yet, but the possibilities are vanishingly small."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

 

Source: SemiAccurate

Apple May Bring High Pixel Density Displays To MacBook Pro Notebooks

Subject: Displays, Mobile | December 14, 2011 - 01:40 PM |
Tagged: mobile, macbook, apple

 Apple pulled off a four times increase in pixel density on it’s smartphone displays with the iPhone 4 which they dubbed the “Retina Display.” Meanwhile the company’s current 13” MacBook Pro is shackled to a 1280x800 display with an approximate pixel density of 116 pixels per inch. The low resolution (especially vertically) can make reading web pages or working with large documents a hassle as it involves quite a bit of scrolling up and down. New rumors; however, suggest that the Cupertino based company may be looking to step up the display resolution in the next iteration of the MacBook lineup. Allegedly, Digitimes has heard from “sources in the upstream supply chain” that the displays will have as high as a 2880x1800 resolution (and an approximate 261.25 PPI). Pretty impressive for a 13” display!

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The current MBP

Whether we will actually see new MacBook models release with such a display remains to be seen; however, it would certainly be a welcomed move as the computer display innovation market has been rather stagnant for the past few years, even going so far as to go backwards in ~24” monitors from 1200 vertical pixels to the now standard 1920x1080 resolution. Perhaps this move by Apple will entice other monitor manufacturers to step up their game and bring 4K gaming to the PC, eventually. Heck, while we are on the topic of monitor tech traveling laterally instead of forward, what ever happened to that curved display from Alienware? Personally, I’m rooting for Apple on this one as the monitor market could use a wake up call!

Source: Tech Report

Apple brings OS X Lion to the masses

Subject: General Tech | July 20, 2011 - 10:52 AM |
Tagged: osx, macbook, mac, lion, imac, apple

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Mission Control (Courtesy of Apple)

Apple released their latest operating system dubbed OS X Lion today that includes more than 250 new features the company states will make dramatic improvements to how users interact with Apple's entire line of computer systems. The $29.99 upgrade includes several new features like multi-touch gestures, full-screen apps, a new Mission Control section, and a new location for Mac apps called LaunchPad.

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LaunchPad (Courtesy of Apple)

Apple expanded OS X's ability to view installed applications through a new program called Launchpad. Launchpad allows users to see all of their apps on one screen gives you instant access to all the apps on your Mac. Previously, loaded apps were viewed in a smaller window and now Launchpad will use all the screen real estate more efficiently to show users all their apps at one time. 

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Apple Mail (Courtesy of Apple)

OS X Lion also showcases a redesigned Mail program that uses a widescreen view to show message lists in modular sections that are more intuitive to read and use. Another section called Conversations gives users a basic timeline to show threads of messages from specific people. The revamped program also includes search suggestions and search tokens to make finding archived or buried e-mails alot simpler than clicking around for them.

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Apple Server (Courtesy of Apple)

Another interesting feature Apple added is the OS X Lion Server that provides more control over user and administerator permissions versus the previous Server app. This program can basically turn almost any Mac into a basic server with secure options for remotely managing computers running Lion and other iOS devices like iPhones and iPad2s. Server admins can also send updates to all their users wirelessly through push notifications. Apple also made many improvements to the OS's file sharing options and to other programs like Wiki Server, iCal Server and Mail Server.

The OS X Lion upgrade can be purchased from the Mac App Store or online at Apple.com for $29.99. The entire download weighs in at around 3.49GB, which is a pretty significant update that should give many users more flexibility in how their use and interact with their Apple systems.

Source: Apple

Rumors point to Apple moving to ARM processors for future notebooks

Subject: Processors, Mobile | May 6, 2011 - 04:11 PM |
Tagged: project denver, nvidia, macbook, Intel, arm, apple

A very interesting story over at AppleInsider has put the rumor out there that Apple may choose to ditch the Intel/x86 architecture all together with some future upcoming notebooks.  Instead, Apple may choose to go the route of the ARM-based processor, likely similar to the A4 that Apple built for the iPhone and iPad.

What is holding back the move right now?  Well for one, the 64-bit versions of these processors aren't available yet and Apple's software infrastructure is definitely dependent on that.  By the end of 2012 or early in 2013 those ARM-based designs should be ready for the market and very little would stop Apple from making the move.  Again, this is if the rumors are correct.

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Another obstacle is performance - even the best ARM CPUs on the market fall woefully behind the performance of Intel's current crop of Sandy Bridge processors or even their Core 2 Duo options.  

In addition to laptops, the report said that Apple would "presumably" be looking to move its desktop Macs to ARM architecture as well. It characterized the transition to Apple-made chips for its line of computers as a "done deal."

"Now you realize why Apple is desperately searching for fab capacity from Samsung, Global Foundries, and TSMC," the report said. "Intel doesn't know about this particular change of heart yet, which is why they are dropping all the hints about wanting Apple as a foundry customer. Once they realize Apple will be fabbing ARM chips at the expense of x86 parts, they may not be so eager to provide them wafers on advanced processes."

Even though Apple is already specing its own processors like the A4 there is the possibility that they could go with another ARM partner for higher performance designs.  NVIDIA's push into the ARM market with Project Denver could be a potential option as they are working very closely with ARM on those design and performance improvements.  Apple might just "borrow" those changes however at NVIDIA's expense and build its own option that would satisify its needs exactly without the dependence on third-parties.  

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Migrating the notebook (and maybe desktop markets) to ARM processors would allow the company to unify their operating system across the classic "computer" designs and the newer computer models like iPads and iPhones.  The idea of all of our computers turning into oversized iPhones doesn't sound appealing to me (nor I imagine, many of you) but with some changes in the interface it could become a workable option for many consumers. 

With even Microsoft planning for an ARM-based version of Windows, it seems that x86 dominance in the processor market is being threatened without a doubt.  

Source: AppleInsider