Report: MacBook Air refresh in early 2012, 15-inch model coming

Asian trade publication DigiTimes reported this morning that Apple is readying a MacBook Air refresh and looking to expand its ultra-thin notebook family with a brand new machine. Sometime during the first quarter of next year, according to sources from the upstream supply chain, the company will update existing 11.6- and 13.3-inch models and put out a new 15-inch model we’ve been hearing about before:

The sources noted that related upstream players have already started pilot production of the MacBook Air models and will add a 15-inch model into the product line to expand its reach in the ultra-thin notebook market.

Another interesting bit of the DigiTimes story is that Apple is expected to lower prices of the current lineup ahead of the refresh. The update should include a new Ivy Bridge processors that consume less power while providing a speed boost in the CPU and GPU department (also expected in the next MacBook Pro refresh).
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MacBook Air still starts at $849

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For those who missed out on the Black Friday specials, Amazon still offers the entry level Core i5 MacBook Air for $849.99 plus free shipping.  That’s a significant $150 off of retail and the lowest price available.  This latest MacBook Air includes an Intel Core i5 1.6GHz “Sandy Bridge” dual-core processor, 11.6″ 1366×768 LED-backlit display, 2GB RAM, 64GB SSD, AirPort Extreme (802.11n wireless), Bluetooth 4.0, Facetime camera, Thunderbolt port, and Mac OS X 10.7 Lion.

Amazon also still has the lowest prices on the entry level MacBook Pro ($1049).  Other price lows (mostly from MacMall) can be found here.
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You’ll find the top 3 Popular Science “Best of What’s New” award winners in Apple’s Macs

Popular Science Magazine is once again declaring their Best of What’s New Awards for 2011, and not so surprisingly this year’s top three spots in the computing category are all technologies that you will find in Apple’s latest lineup of Macs.

At number one we have OS X Lion which earned a spot for its ability to close the gap between desktop and mobile operating systems with the publication calling it “the first step toward a computing landscape in which one interface can serve all purposes”.

The number two spot goes to Intel Sandy Bridge chips and their ability to reduce “data’s travel time from component to component by replacing lengths of wire with nearly a billion close-knit microscopic transistors”. We know Apple just recently refreshed their MacBook Air and Mac Mini lineup with new Sandy Bridge processors, and future Macs will likely get the same treatment. The new Thunderbolt I/O has also been an emerging technology Apple has adopted for future Macs, and that brings us to number three…

Last but not least, we have Intel Thunderbolt at the number three spot, which we all know Apple teamed up with Intel to help develop and is now being implemented on future iterations of iMacs and MacBooks. Minor limitations aside, its contribution to the tech industry is pretty obvious, as Popular Science puts it, “Thunderbolt’s wires are the first to combine the languages that handle data and display in one channel, making it faster and more versatile than any other connection”.

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New MacBook Air for $899 bundled with discounted $199 AppleCare

From 9to5toys.com:

Getting the holiday shopping season started a little early this year, MacConnection is offering 9to5Mac readers the base model MacBook Air for the lowest price we’ve ever seen it: $899 (10% off) when bundled with a significantly discounted AppleCare which is just $199 (20% off).  The total $1099 price is $150 below the $1250 you’d pay at the Apple Store and over $60 less than we could find it anywhere else.

This latest MacBook Air includes an Intel Core i5 1.6GHz Sandy Bridge dual-core processor, 11.6″ 1366×768 LED-backlit display, 2GB RAM, 64GB SSD, AirPort Extreme (802.11n wireless), Bluetooth 4.0, Facetime camera, Thunderbolt port, and Mac OS X 10.7 Lion.  AppleCare provides Apple’s three year warranty.

Use code 9-5AIRCARE at checkout to get the deal.   Limit 2 per customer, and this will run out soon.

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MacBook Pro refresh coming before Christmas?

AI reports that the MacBook Pro line will receive minor processor updates before the holiday shopping season.  In fact, they say the updates should come before the end of the month.

According to people with proven insight into Apple’s future product plans, the late-2011 MacBook Pro refresh will deliver marginal speed bumps to the notebooks’ Core i-Series of Sandy Bridge processors but will otherwise introduce no material changes over the existing models.

While precise timing for the update may change, those same people say the Mac maker currently anticipates an introduction of the refreshed line before the end of the month,

The report seems to stem from the recent release of Intel Core i7 2700 series processors fit for use in MacBook Pros (right).

This seems to fly counter to earlier reports from MacRumors that the next update to the MacBook Pro line would be a big redesign.

MacRumors has heard reliable confirmation that the next revision of Apple’s MacBook Pro line will utilize a new case design for the first time in several years.

For what it is worth, we’re seeing no hiccups in the supply chain on current models.  Silent updates aren’t unheard of however.

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Intel’s new chips could give future MacBooks 24 hours of battery life (just like current ARM chips)

Today at the Intel’s Developer Forum, Intel unveiled a new processor that will be able to power a x86 computer for 24 hours/10 days of stand-by time off a single charge. Intel’s new Haswell chip uses a 22-nanometer 3D-transistor architecture that uses 20 times less power than current Sandy Bridge models which are featured in the newest line of Macs. The new chip was demonstrated using solar-power to grab light from a source as small as a light bulb to power the system.  Oh, and the Haswell chips will be faster than current processors.

The new chips will land in 2013, after Intel’s Ivy Bridge in 2012. Recently, Intel revealed that Apple wasn’t entirely pleased with upcoming Intel Chips power usage and were currently investigating other alternatives.  Clearly, Apple’s own ARM AX line which already can provide 24 hour battery life (with PC-sized batteries) is being considered. (via Gizmodo)

It is interesting to note how much the image reminds us of the image below: Read more

Apple Certified Refurbs: 11.6″ MacBook Airs drop to $749, Minis (with Superdrives!) drop to $469

From 9to5toys.com

Along with the new MacBook Air and Mini updates today, Apple dropped the previous Apple-Certified refurbished versions to all time lows offering $250 off yesterday’s prices.  Remember, Apple’s stock of the older models didn’t just disappear.  Many moved to “Refurb”.  Apple also includes the same 1-year warranty.

MacBook Air MC505LL/A Core 2 Duo 1.4GHz 11.6″ 64GB SSD for $749 ($80 drop)
MacBook Air MC506LL/A Core 2 Duo 1.4GHz 11.6″ 128GB SSD for $949 ($50 drop)
MacBook Air MC503LL/A Core 2 Duo 1.86GHz 13.3″ 128GB SSD for $999 ($80 drop)
MacBook Air MC504LL/A Core 2 Duo 1.86GHz 13.3″ 256GB SSD for $1,249 ($80 drop)

Compare those to the new MacBook Airs:
2.4-lb. MacBook Air 11.6″ Core i5 1.6GHz 64GB SSD for $999
2.4-lb. MacBook Air 11.6″ Core i5 1.6GHz 128GB SSD for $1,199
3-lb. MacBook Air 13.3″ Core i5 1.7GHz 128GB SSD for $1,299
3-lb. MacBook Air 13.3″ Core i5 1.7GHz 256GB SSD for $1,599


Apple Certified Minis Also saw drops (Remember, the $469, $549 models have a Superdrive and probably make better media centers  ;):

Apple Mac mini MC270LL/A Core 2 Duo 2.4GHz Desktop for $469 ($130 drop)
Apple Mac mini MC438LL/A Core 2 Duo 2.66GHz Desktop for $549 ($170 drop)
Apple Mac mini MC438LL/A Core 2 Duo 2.66GHz w/ Snow Leopard Server for $749 ($100 drop) Read more

New iMacs and MacBook Pros out-blur Mac Pros in Final Cut Pro X benchmarks


Hardware specialists over at Bare Feats ran a series of interesting Final Cut Pro X benchmarks pitting the latest Sandy Bridge-equipped iMac and MacBook Pro against the last year’s Mac Pro. The iMac system rocked a 3.4GHz quad-core Core i7 processor with 16GB of DDR3 1333MHz RAM and AMD Radeon HD 6970M graphics with 2GB of GDDR5 video memory. The MacBook Pro was a 2.3GHz quad-core Core i7 system with 8G of DDR3 1333MHz RAM and AMD Radeon HD 6750M graphics with 1G of GDDR5 video memory. The 2010 Mac Pro desktop had a 3.33GHz six-core Westmere processor with 24GB of ECC DDR3 1333MHz RAM and AMD Radeon HD 5870 graphics with 1G of GDDR5 video memory.

Summing up, in two out of four benchmarks involving blur sharpen and blur directional effects the iMac came in first and the MacBook Pro outperformed or matched the Mac Pro. It is in the remaining two GPU-intensive tests – exporting a Final Cut Pro X project in H.264 (transcoding) and encoding a  Blu-Ray stream in Compressor 4 – that the Mac Pro shined. Although the benchmarks are far from conclusive, they give away the false impression of Apple favoring the newer Sandy Bridge architecture.

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Apple Store overnight planned for July 13th, new MacBook Airs and Lion signage awaits

We’ve heard from a few overseas sources that Apple Retail stores are planning ‘overnights’ on July 13th.  Overnights are generally where Apple refreshes store displays and trains up management on new products.  Sometimes it is big stuff and sometimes it is insignificant (at least to us).

July 13th, however, lines up with our Lion release date pretty nicely.  We’re expecting the Lion release obviously, and also some new MacBook Airs which may or may not have faster storage (but not this fast), a Sandy Bridge CPU, HD Facetime cam and Thunderbolts coming out the side.

We’ve heard some stories of backlit keyboards, 3Gs, a black option and the mythical 15-inch MacBook Air HD but they seem unlikely at this point.

Along with the Airs, there have been shortages of the White MacBooks, Mac Minis and (perhaps redesigned) Pros  – everything that doesn’t currently have Thunderbolt — so those could also see updates.  If not on the 14th, then perhaps shortly after.

In fact, MacBook Pros and iMacs with Snow Leopard pre-installed have also seen some hiccups in inventory globally so we’re thinking Apple is going to re-package those items for Lion at some point in the next few months.  Probably sooner rather than later.

Just one question?  Anyone camping out?

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New MacBook Air features (Poll)

New MacBook Airs are right around the corner and just about everyone is expecting to see a Thunderbolt port, FaceTimeHD and Sandy Bridge processors.  Apple could even update storage and RAM pricing.

But what else could these new Airs have under the hood?  Put your answers below and any additional items in the comments.

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New MacBook Airs with OS X Lion, Thunderbolt and Sandy Bridge in mid-July

Apple’s new MacBook Air line has been expected for weeks now, with evidence supporting a refresh coming by way of constraints at global retailers and most recently at major Apple reseller BestBuy.com. Although this refresh has been expected, a well-sourced and specific launch time frame is yet to emerge. Now, we’ve been told that Apple is gearing up to launch their upgraded line of ultra thin notebooks in mid-July.

The rumors regarding what the new laptops will feature have been conservative, and according to a person who has seen the new MacBook Air, exterior changes (if any) were so minute that they were not noticed. In other words, don’t expect to be able to tell this mid-2011 MacBook Air apart from the late-2010 model. That is, except for the Thunderbolt logo that sits in place of the Mini Display port logo.

Also, as expected, these new models will pack Intel’s Sandy Bridge processors and are likely the models that Intel recently made available for thinner notebook lines:

  • Core i7-2677M: 2 cores, 1.8GHz (turbos to 2.9GHz), 4MB cache, 17 watts, $317
  • Core i7-2637M: 2 cores, 1.7GHz (turbos to 2.8GHz), 4MB cache, 17 watts, $289
  • Core i5-2557M: 2 cores, 1.7GHz (turbos to 2.7GHz), 3MB cache, 17 watts, $250

In addition, the new notebooks, launching in mid-July, come with OS X Lion pre-installed. Apple shipping out their next-generation operating system with these new Macs would also mean a mid-July launch for 10.7 Lion. An exact release date for both products is yet to be pinpointed, but we’ve been hearing rumblings about July 14th, which is a Thursday.

Also, Apple is holding their financial results conference call on Tuesday, July 19th. Apple typically releases products during the days leading up to the financial results announcement (so they have something interesting to talk about). iPhones and iPads often are released the Friday before earnings, which would be the 15th.

Of course, Apple’s traditional product launch day is Tuesday, which would be the 12th or the 19th. In any case, we’re looking at Lion and new MacBook Airs in about 2-3 weeks. We are also looking, according to recent reports, at new Mac minis and Mac Pros soon after these upgraded MacBook Airs.

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