Modest Retina MacBook Pro refresh expected tomorrow, still with GeForce GT 750M but base RAM up to 16GB

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The unverified photo from a Chinese Apple Store appearing to show a slight refresh to the Retina MacBook Pro launch is accurate, claims French site MacG, citing a reliable source. The site claims that the refreshed models will go on sale tomorrow.

The refresh is a minor one, with a modest speed boost of 200MHz and an increase in RAM across the range to 16GB. Apple is also, for the first time, offering a 1TB SSD in a standard model …  Read more

Faster Retina MacBook Pros w/ 16GB of RAM across the board teased by unverified Apple Store photo

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An image posted on a Chinese forum, claimed to have been taken inside of Apple’s new Paradise Walk store, indicates that Apple could be preparing to release an updated line of Retina MacBook Pros in the near-future. The image appears to be from one of Apple’s iPad Smart Signs within the store, and the sign advertises 15-inch MacBook Pros with technical specifications and features not found in the current lineup.

The first possibility is that this image is faked, but the other likely possibility is a system error on Apple’s part. There’s also room for this image to indicate an actual MacBook Pro lineup update coming in the near-future. The rumored specifications indicate that Apple will be bumping the standard 15-inch Retina MacBook Pro line from two models to three, and all will include 16GB of RAM as a standard option. Here are all the purported models:

  • 2.2GHz Intel Core i7 (Turbo Boost to 3.4GHz), 16GB of RAM, 256GB of storage, and Intel Iris Pro Graphics
  • 2.5GHz Intel Core i7 (Turbo Boost to 3.7GHz), 16GB of RAM, 512GB of storage, and Intel Iris Pro Graphics & NVIDIA GeForce GT 750M w/2GB Video Memory
  • 2.8GHz Intel Core i7 (Turbo Boost to 4.0GHz), 16GB of RAM, 1TB of storage, and Intel Iris Pro Graphics NVIDIA GeForce GT 750M w/2GB Video Memory

For comparison, here is the current MacBook Pro with Retina display lineup:

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New Retina MacBook Pros can drive 4K displays at 60Hz – when running Windows, Mac OS needs new drivers

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Tests by French site Mac4Ever.com found that current model Retina MacBook Pro machines can use their Thunderbolt 2 connections to drive the Sharp PN-K321 4K display at 60Hz when running Windows 8.1 with the latest NVidia drivers, rather than the 30Hz possible with OS X. This suggests that OS X will be able to do the same when Apple updates the rMBP video/Thunderbolt 2 drivers.

While 30Hz is good enough for movies, our own Seth Weintraub found on his bargain Seiki that it gives a poor experience when scrolling webpages, and is of course completely unusable for games. 60Hz, in contrast, gives a smooth experience when using a computer. The mystery had been why the latest Retina MacBook Pros, with Thunderbolt 2 support, were limited to 30Hz when the specs should have made them capable of double this – and the video drivers appear to be the answer …

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NVIDIA introduces GeForce 700M Series GPU, prime fits for the next high end iMacs/MacBooks

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NVIDIA announced a new series of notebook GPU’s today branded as the 700M series. Introduced today are five new graphics cards in total, and NVIDIA said they would be available in a long list of laptops over the next few months. The five new graphics cards include two options aimed at the “mainstream segment”, the 720M and the 735M, while the remaining three, the 740M, 745M, and 750M, will be “for the performance segment” of the market.

700m-lineupThe graphics cards are being touted by NVIDIA to “maximize performance and experience,” but they also more power efficient than their predecessors. Because the 700M Series is notebook-only, expect these to be less powerful than a desktop version of the 700 Series that may be announced sometime in the future.

Helping our new 700M chips reach such lofty levels of performance is GPU Boost 2.0, a GPU innovation that extracts every ounce of available computing power from the graphics processor. Before GPU Boost, GPUs were held back by synthetic benchmarks that pushed chips and power usage to the limit, far beyond the levels typically seen when playing games. This ‘worst case scenario’ forced us to throttle GPUs, leaving spare performance on the table when playing games.GPU Boost resolves this problem by monitoring power usage and temperatures, enabling the GPU to use every last ounce of performance without exceeding safety or comfort limits.

While the press release from NVIDIA said the new GPUs will be available in nearly every notebook maker other than Apple, it is possible these GPUs will be seen in the next-gen MacBook Pro with Retina Display. The current 15-inch MacBook Pro with Retina Display sports a NVIDIA 650M GPU, as does the high-end 21-inch iMac model, so an upgrade to the 700M series only makes sense.

The full press release is available below.

New NVIDIA GeForce 700M GPUs Squeeze Every Drop Of Performance Out Of Notebooks, Automatically

Monday, April 1, 2013

NVIDIA today announced five new notebook GPUs which deliver a trifecta of technologies that seamlessly and automatically maximize a consumer’s notebook performance and experience.

With no effort or input from the notebook user, the technologies work in the background to save battery life, enhance performance and enrich the visual experience — providing the best notebook experience the GPU can deliver. They include:

New NVIDIA GPU Boost™ 2.0 technology, which intelligently adjusts GPU clock speed to maximize graphics performance.

NVIDIA® Optimus™ technology, which enables extra-long battery life by switching the GPU on and off so it runs only when needed.

GeForce® Experience™ software, which adjusts in-game settings for the best performance and visual quality specific to a user’s notebook and keeps GeForce drivers up to date.

“There is an elegant simplicity to NVIDIA’s GeForce 700M notebook technologies,” said Rene Haas, vice president and general manager of the notebook business unit at NVIDIA. “You use your notebook how you want, and GeForce makes your experience awesome.”

Incorporating all three of these technologies, the new lineup of NVIDIA GeForce 700M GPUs includes GeForce GT 750M, GeForce GT 745M, and GeForce GT 740M GPUs for the performance segment, as a well as GeForce GT 735M and GeForce GT 720M GPUs for the mainstream segment.

NVIDIA GeForce 700M GPUs are available today. Every leading notebook manufacturer will be introducing notebooks with GPU Boost 2.0 technology, including Acer, Asus, Dell, HP, Lenovo, MSI, Samsung, Sony and Toshiba.

More information about the GeForce 700M family of notebook GPUs is available at http://www.GeForce.com.

NVIDIA graphics chip promises four times the speed, but not until 2016

nvidiaNVIDIA has announced its latest GPU, Volta, that promises 1Tb/s of memory bandwidth—almost four times the speed offered by its current top-of-the-range Titan GPU. However, don’t expect to see the chip appear in a Mac near you until 2016.

Reporting from the GPU Technology Conference in San José, Forbes explained the speed of the chip would enable it to process all the video on a full Blu-ray disc in just 1/50th of a second.

NVIDIA CEO Jen-Hsun Huang told the conference:

Volta is going to solve one of the biggest challenges facing GPUs today, which is access to memory bandwidth. We never seem to have enough! This is unbelievable stuff.

The speed is made possible by stacking DRAM layers on a single chip and drilling holes through the silicon to connect them. This far ahead, the company has sensibly avoided committing itself to either a price or a more specific release date.

Apple announces redesigned 21.5-inch iMac will be available Friday, November 30th; 27-inch models still on for December

After being unveiled in late-October, Apple has officially announced that the 21.5-inch iMac will become available this Friday, Nov. 30. The latest iMac is the eighth generation and “is the most beautiful iMac we have ever made,” according to Apple Senior Vice President of Worldwide Marketing Phil Schiller. It features a 5mm edge, edge-to-edge glass, LED-backlit display with IPS technology, a FaceTime HD camera, dual mics, four USB 3 ports, two Thunderbolt ports, OS X Mountain Lion, Bluetooth 4.0, and more.

The 21.5-inch iMac is available in two versions. The 2.7GHz quad-core Intel Core i5 model (Turbo Boost up to 3.2GHz) is available for $1,299, featuring 8GB of 1600MHz DDR3 memory, 1 TB (5400-rpm) hard drive, and a NVIDIA GeForce GT 640M graphics processor with 512MB of GDDR5 memory. The 2.9GHz quad-core Intel Core i5 model (Turbo Boost up to 3.6GHz) is available for $1,499, featuring similar specs, except a 1TB (5400-rpm) hard drive that can be configured into a Fusion Drive.

Apple also has a 27-inch version iMac on its way. As we reported earlier this month, the 27-inch version is still set to launch sometime in December, according to Apple. CEO Tim Cook has already discussed that the company is expecting shortages of iMacs. Our sources have indicated that the new iMac is in relatively short supply, mainly outside of the United States. Check out Cook’s comments below:

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Apple moves supplier relationship status with Samsung from ‘frenemies’ to ‘enemies’

Just before we heard Apple was not using an ARM-designed processor and instead its first custom CPU design for the new iPhone’s A6, we also heard reports that Apple was reducing component orders from Samsung due to the two companies’ ongoing patent disputes. While we knew Samsung was still—at the very least—manufacturing the new chip, a report from KoreaTimes gives more insight into the company’s involvement directly from a Samsung official. According to the report, the A6 is the first of Apple’s iPhone chips where Samsung did not contribute to development of the technology:

According to industry sources, Apple has not collaborated with Samsung in the process to develop its A6 microprocessor used in its latest iPhone 5. Samsung has handled the manufacturing of the processors used in previous iPhones and believed to have contributed in their design to some degree… It now appears that the structure of the deal has been dramatically adjusted…Apple is still relying on the Korean firm to manufacture its chips but has made it clear it will no longer use its rival’s technology.

We heard conflicting reports in September regarding Apple’s decision to reduce component orders from its biggest supplier, Samsung. Reuters claimed the reduction in orders was an attempt to simply “widen its supply chain,” while others reported Apple is actively reducing orders of displays, memory chips, and batteries specifically due to increasing tension between the companies. According to the report’s source, an unnamed senior Samsung official, Samsung is now only manufacturing the A6 chips on a “foundry basis”:

“There are three kinds of chip clients. Some want us to handle everything from chip design, architecture and manufacturing. Some want us to just design and manufacture. Some want us to just make the chips. Apple is now the third type,’’

Related to today’s report: Apple’s recent hiring of Samsung chip designer Jim Mergard. The report claimed the hiring of Mergard, who was working specifically on ARM chip designs at Samsung and prior, increases the “mutual tension”… Read more

Benchmarked: New iPad’s A5X vs iPad 2′s A5 vs Tegra 3

At the launch of Apple’s third-gen iPad, the company’s Marketing Chief Phil Schiller claimed the device’s new A5X processor with quad-core graphics provided up to 4x the graphics performance of NVIDIA’s Tegra 3 chip. Schiller also claimed the new chip provided 2x the graphics performance of the iPad 2′s A5 chip. NVIDIA was skeptical of the benchmark data behind the claims, but early benchmarks seemed to show A5X outperforming a Transformer Prime running Tegra 3 in the majority of tests.

New benchmark data provided by IGNshows the iPad 2′s A5 chip outperforming both the A5X and Tegra 3 with the A5X’s improved graphics going largely toward powering the new iPad’s high-resolution Retina display of 3.1 million pixels. The A5X shows a significant increase in performance over iPad 2 and Tegra 3 devices only when the chip is not forced to power the Retina display in “off-screen” benchmarks.

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Is Apple experiencing hiccups with GPUs on the next generation MacBooks?

There are rumors that Apple will transition to Nvidia for certain Macs in the near future. In November, SemiAccurate claimed Apple won the bid to supply upcoming Ivy Bridge Macs. Another report popped up last month claiming Apple was eyeing Nvidia’s upcoming Kepler platform for next-generation Mac Pros. Apple now implements AMD after making the switch from Nvidia two years ago. However, a new report from SemiAccurate today claimed Apple will not include Nvidia GPUs in future low- and mid-range MacBooks, and it will instead likely go without a GPU and only a GT2 Ivy Bridge.

Apple upped their SKUs from parts bearing awful Intel GPUs to variants with more of those awful shaders. Since those Ivy Bridge CPUs are going in to laptops that have a GPU, upping the shader count from 6 to 16 should be a waste, they will never be turned on. If they are going to be turned on, that would mean that the discrete GPU in those machines is either going to be much higher spec’d, or it won’t be there. Since Nvidia can’t supply enough small GPUs, what do you think the odds of them supplying the same number of larger and lower yielding ones are? There goes that option, leaving only one possibility, the next gen low and mid-range MacBooks are not going to have a GPU, only a GT2 Ivy Bridge.

The report continued to claim sources indicated Nvidia could not meet necessary supply, which means the Macs would not include a GPU. However, Apple could likely go with Nvidia in higher-end Macs where Intel’s GPUs are not enough. It also claimed the middle-range of Macs might see some models with it and some without it. SemiAccurate ended its report by noting Nvidia’s and AMD’s GPUs used by Apple in mid-range Macs will likely be “dead forever” with Intel’s Haswell expected to win bids for Apple’s upcoming next-generation Macs.

We are not entirely certain that Apple ever planned to use a discrete GPU in its mid-range MacBook Pros. While it seems that Apple is planning to move to Retina displays in its Mac lineup, which requires extra GPU hardware, Intel’s Ivy Bridge CPUs are growing exponentially better at doing graphic intensive tasks. In addition, Apple seems to be doing well with AMD GPUs in its high-end portables.

Moreover, remember Apple took a direct jab at Nvidia at the iPad keynote last week (below). That is not something partners generally do (Samsung notwithstanding).

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Hackintoshers: Mountain Lion natively supports AMD Radeon HD 6950, 6970, & NVIDIA 5xx cards, no hacks required

According to a forum post on tonymacx86, Apple’s latest release of Mountain Lion, the 10.8 developer preview, is able to natively support AMD Radeon HD 6950 and 6970 without the need for any tweaks or hacks. As for the 6950 and 6970 specifically, the reports originate from the netkas.org forums where several posters report a 6950 running Netkas EFI working natively in 10.8. One poster even reported the 6950 continues to be recognized in Lion with unmodified drivers after “warm booting back to Lion from Mountain Lion.”

There are still issues, as tonymacx86 posters pointed out: “It looks like the 69xx situation seems a bit immature and experimental at this point. Even in the new OS.” Another forum poster claimed NVIDIA 5xx cards also seem to run natively with mkchis claiming full support for the GTX 570 graphics card with no hacks or mods. He said it is “running at full res even smoother than a patched Lion. It’s like native.”

When it comes to booting from Mountain Lion to Lion with unmodified drivers, one poster warned it does not seem to work if you are connecting a display to the 6950. The good news is a prominent hackintosher informed us that Chimera was updated to run on both Lion and Mountain Lion with a dev release coming within days:

We’ve fixed Chimera to work with both LIon and Mtn. Lion- there was a small change necessary to boot 10.8. We’ll be releasing that in a day or 2 for devs.

As a side note for Mountain Lion support, Robservatory shared its method of getting VMware Tools to work when running Mountain Lion in VMware Fusion. According to the post, Mountain Lion “will kernel panic” when trying to install VMware Tools. Here is the fix:

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Report: Apple to return to Nvidia for Mac Pro graphics in Nehalem update

It looks like Apple could (again) select the graphics giant Nvidia as the primary GPU provider for the upcoming Mac Pro hardware refresh. According to a mostly speculative story by MIC Gadget based on unnamed industry sources, new Mac Pros will feature Intel’s upcoming Ivy Bridge chipset fabbed on the chip maker’s latest 22-nanometer Trigate transistor technology (no surprise there). According to Intel, 22nm Ivy Bridge silicon claims a 37 percent speed jump and lower power consumption compared to the chip giant’s 32 nanometer planar transistors. ‘Trigate’ Ivy Bridge chips can feature up to eight processing cores and are more power-savvy, so they should help scale frequency, too. On a more interesting note, MIC Gadget speculates Apple could switch back to Nvidia as the primary supplier of next-generation GPUs for the new Mac Pros.

Nvidia has their “Kepler” platform due out around the same time as Intel is making their changes, and our sources within the company indicate that they have chosen to have Nvidia lead the charge so to speak on the graphics front.

Eagle-eyed readers could mention that AMD recently released the Radeon HD 7970 graphics card powered by the Tahiti GPU (its nearest rival is Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 590), with observes deeming it Apple’s go-to graphics card for future Mac Pros. Indeed, traces of support for Tahiti-driven AMD GPUs are found in Mac OS X Lion 10.7.3, at least indicating people might be able to upgrade their future Mac Pro with this card. Oh, and it’s great for Hackintosh builders, too.

Also indicative is a March 2011 Snow Leopard 10.6.7 update that enabled support for a bunch of AMD/ATI Radeon HD 5xxx and 6xxx cards, not all of which were in Macs at the time. On the other hand, a speculative switch to Nvidia would not be out of character as California-based Apple is known for frequently switching between Nvidia chips and those manufactured by rival AMD…

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AMD throws down the gauntlet to NVIDIA on graphics speed claims

As Apple transitions its line from NVIDIA graphics cards to AMD (and opens up the OS to much more variety), we’re noting some strong words coming out of each camp on who makes the fastest graphics card in the world.  On the 8th of this month, AMD announced it had released the fastest Graphics card on the market, the AMD Radeon HD 6990.

NVIDIA fired back this week and said they had the fastest Graphics card.  Now it is getting real.

Dave Erskine, Senior Public Relations Manager for Graphics Desktop at AMD just fired this off:

We combed through their announcement to understand how it was that such a claim could be made and why there was no substantiation based on industry-standard benchmarks, similar to what AMD did with industry benchmark 3DMark 11, the latest DirectX® 11 benchmark from FutureMark.

So now I issue a challenge to our competitor: prove it, don’t just say it. Show us the substantiation. Because as it stands today, leading reviewers agree with us hereherehere, and here that the AMD Radeon HD 6990 sits on the top as the world’s fastest graphics card.

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