Retina MacBook Pros run three external displays, refreshed Airs get dual external display support

Picture by Gabor Cselle

While Apple already recognized in its support documents for Thunderbolt that the new Retina MacBook Pro supports up to three external displays (as pictured above from Other World Computing’s recent tests of the setup), it has yet to confirm official support for the refreshed Ivy Bridge MacBook Airs. Today, we get word that the new MacBook Airs indeed support two external Thunderbolt displays thanks to the recent “Mac OS X Lion Update (Mid-2012 MacBook Air)” update that “improves external display support.” Apple has not updated the device’s specs page to reflect support for dual external Thunderbolt monitors.

The image below from OWC shows two iMacs running at 2,560-by-1,440 as Thunderbolt displays, and it shows an LG monitor at 1,920-by-1,200 via HDMI. The post noted “moving images and media didn’t create any lag and we were able to play video on all four displays simultaneously.” This makes the new MacBooks the first to support up to four displays at their native resolution. Note: You could theoretically add even more space with AOC DisplayLink displays.

The refreshed MacBook Air with dual external Thunderbolt displays is pictured above, while the MacBook Pro with three displays is below:
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Matrox goes back to the future with DS-1 Thunderbolt Dock—USB 3.0, DVI, GigE for $249

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Do you remember all of those ports you used to see on Macs? DVI, Gig Ethernet (har), and separate analog stereo for in and out? Matrox, a company that used to make mad graphics cards and other video devices, is coming to DubDub with a new $249 piece of kit called the “DS-1.” This box brings you all of those old school ports and even throws in a “superspeed” USB 3.0 port, so you can match the speed of the new MacBooks.

Matrox makes a bunch of other highly rated, high-end Thunderbolt breakout boxes that retail for much more. If you are looking for a (relatively) cheap Thunderbolt dock to hide away from sight and hook up to an old DVI monitor, this may be a good pick up. We should have a review unit to play with next week.

The press release follows: Read more

G-Technology releases its G-RAID Thunderbolt drive, starting at $700

We already took a look at Hitachi’s G-Technology’s Thunderbolt solutions at CES in January but today they are finally available to the public. The Thunderbolt version features two Thunderbolt ports, rather than the eSATA, FireWire, and USB ports found on the regular version of the G-RAID. As for the hard drives inside, there are two SATA 3Gb/s Hitachi Deskstar hard drives, which can be configured in a 4TB, 6TB, or 8TB setup, each running at 7200RPM. All three versions of the drive are priced at $700, $850, and $1,000 respectively. You can see more technical specs below, as laid out by AnandTech.

With two Thunderbolt ports, these drives can be daisy-chained together to build-out the ultimate storage solution. Currently, the G-Technology competes against four other companies in the space: LaCie, Promise, Western Digital, and Seagate. The G-Raid is the only drive that features 8TB of storage, however.

We compared the drive during this year’s CES with a few others:

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Ivy Bridge launching April 23 as next-gen Thunderbolt ships, likely to land in next Macs

Today, we have two pieces of Intel-related news with reports claiming a solid April 23 launch date for the Ivy Bridge introduction, while others report Intel has begun shipping its next-generation Thunderbolt technology.

Late last month, we heard reports from CPU World, which claimed Ivy Bridge CPUs most-likely to land in future Macs would launch between April 22 and April 28 with availability by April 29. Today, we get a solid launch date with Cnet and various other sources reporting Intel will start its initial rollout April 23. As we detailed previously, many of the Ivy Bridge models included in the initial launch would be suitable for MacBook Pro-like devices and desktop offerings. However, Intel’s Ultra low-voltage U-Series Ivy Bridge processors most likely headed for MacBook Air-like designs are expected to launch in June.

Intel today said there would be over 100 Thunderbolt devices by year-end and another report coming from VR-Zone today claimed Intel started shipping its second-generation Thunderbolt controllers codenamed “Cactus Ridge,” which would align nicely if both these updates are headed to future Macs…
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LaCie announces availability of $199 Thunderbolt to eSATA Hub: Connect up to 12 eSATA drives

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At the 2012 Consumer Electronics Show in January, LaCie announced a new product for Thunderbolt users. The eSATA Hub Thunderbolt™ Series is a $199 Thunderbolt pass-through that allows you to connect 2 eSATA drives to your Mac via the speedy Thunderbolt port.  By Daisy chaining six of the devices, you could add 12 eSATA drives to your Mac setup.

Today, those devices are now available.

eSATA speeds are up to 3Gb/s or equivalent to SATA II, so you will not be making full use of the Thunderbolt bus speed. However, you will still be much faster than either USB2 (480Mbps) or Firewire 800 (800Mbps). Apple’s Thunderbolt cables are sold separately at $50 a pop.

eSATA docking stations start at around $30, so if you have some eSATA or SATA drives laying around and want to get them on Thunderbolt, this might be a good—though slightly expensive–solution.

Seagate makes a $99 Thunderbolt to SATA drive adapter, but it is having trouble keeping stock (and it lacks a Thunderbolt pass-through) and reviewers note erratic results.

The full specs and press release follows:

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Thunderbolt display: $900 + free shipping

From 9to5Toys.com:

Today only, MacConnection has Apple’s Thunderbolt Display for $899.99+ free shipping.  That’s $100 off list and the lowest price we’ve ever seen by almost $50.  It features a native resolution of 2560×1440, 1,000:1 contrast ratio, 12ms grey-to-grey response time, 375 cd/m² brightness, built-in iSight camera, 3-port USB 2.0 hub, Thunderbolt port, and Mini DisplayPort connectivity. Read more

Apple releases Thunderbolt, printer drivers and Aperture updates

Apple has today updated Thunderbolt (again), printer drivers, and Aperture.

Today’s updates come after yesterday’s MacBook Pro EFI update firmware 2.3.

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Intel: Existing Thunderbolt Macs will support optical cables


Pictured above: Apple’s $49 Thunderbolt cable (copper).

A representative for Intel, Dave Salvator, told Macworld that the current range of Macs with Thunderbolt I/O will support fiber optic cables which are due next year. This will ensure backwards compatibility of optical cables with existing Thunderbolt ports which work with copper cables.

Circuitry will ensure compatibility of optical cables with existing Thunderbolt ports, Salvator said. Copper cables provide adequate data transfer for use over short distances of up to six meters (about 20 feet), but optical cables will be good for data transfers over longer distances of tens of meters, Salvator said.

Salvator wouldn’t divulge any pricing and availability information, yet to be determined. This confirmation is in line with the promise on the official Thunderbolt web site that all Thunderbolt-branded products are to interoperate across all vendors. This bit is also interesting:

Intel is already thinking ahead, and researchers at the company are developing technology based on silicon photonics that will be able to move data up to five times faster than current Thunderbolt implementations. The technology is slated to hit the market by 2015.

Among the PC vendors, Asustek and Acer will bring Thunderbolt-equipped notebooks to market in the first half of next year. More vendors will follow suit once Intel releases its Ivy Bridge chipsets. Of course, we’re expecting Ivy Bridge MacBooks as well. The Ivy Bridge chipset is said to enable interesting goodies such as OpenCL computing, a 60 percent speed gain over the current Sandy Bridge silicon and display resolutions up to 4096-by-4096 pixels. It will also include built-in support for USB 3.0, but not Thunderbolt.

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AnandTech reviews the Thunderbolt Display

Anand, as per usual, does one of the more in-depth reviews we’ve seen of the Thunderbolt Displays. Some interesting notes:

  • The Thunderbolt Display uses less power than the previous Cinema Display at its dimmest setting (likely just panel efficiency variance) and draws a bit more at max brightness.
  • Pegasus hardware seems to cause serious audio issues which corrupts sound while large file transfers are happening. Expect a fix.
  • There are some nuances with display daisy chaining. For instance, in one configuration Anand had to put a Promise RAID array between the two displays in a daisy chain to get them to work.
  • Next year’s Ivy Bridge will bring more Display options to Macs (and likely USB 3 since the controller is built into the Intel chipset). The future may also hold displays with GPUs built in.
  • For a $1000 display, the speakers “were OK, but not great”. The Camera and Mic were both good.

If you are considering getting one of these displays, check out the full review which was very favorable overall. MacConnection also has the lowest price we could find on the new Thunderbolt display at $979.

Update: Macworld put up a review this morning as well. 4/5 Stars.

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LaCie Thunderbolt Little Big Drives ready for order

We told you late last night that LaCie Thunderbolt disks were arriving in Apple Retail Stores.  Today, LaCie officially announced the availability of its new products which hit the Apple online Store today for $399 (1TB) and $499 (2TB) earlier today.

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That is a $100+ premium over their Firewire drives and you’ll need a $49 Apple Thunderbolt Cable.

The LaCie Little Big Disk Thunderbolt Series sets the new standard for the storage industry. Featuring a pair of 2.5″ drives in a Mac OS RAID configuration, the Little Big Disk delivers stunning read speeds more than 480MB/s in SSD and up to 190MB/s in HDD.

It appears that these drives are limited by the speed of the 2.5-inch drives, not by the bus as the faster SSD blows away the HDD version.  It is curious that they didn’t make a 3.5-inch variety which would have allowed for much greater speed and cost much less.

The SSD version will ship next month.

Promise sells their 4TB Thunderbolt RAID boxes for just over $1000, 8TB for $1500 and 12TB for $2000.

Full Press release follows: Read more

LaCie’s anticipated Thunderbolt-equipped Little Big Disk arrives at the Apple Store, along with Thunderbolt updates

Since Apple and Intel’s joint announcement of the Thunderbolt high-speed I/O technology, one of the most anticipated products to make use of the technology has been the Thunderbolt-compatible Little Big Disk from LaCie. The drive – which comes in both HDD and SSD flavors – was announced all the way back in February for a “summer” launch, and is now finally arriving at Apple Stores in both the United States and internationally. LaCie’s description of Thunderbolt and why it is important for a product like the Little Big Disk:

This new high-speed cable technology connects computers and electronic devices together like never before. Thunderbolt technology supports two 10Gb/s bi-directional channels from a single port, the fastest data connection available on a personal computer. At 10Gb/s, a full-length HD movie can be transferred in less than 30 seconds.

Since the drive carries two ports, it can be daisy chained. The drives have already arrived at Apple Stores, which suggest immediate availability, and we are expecting an official announcement from LaCie in the coming days. The hard disk drive variant with 1TB of storage will reportedly cost $399.

Update: here they are.

Apple also announced Thunderbolt updates, another firmware update and a software update for Snow Leopard…

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Apple outlines some limitations of Thunderbolt displays

Following the first shipments of Apple’s new 27-inch Thunderbolt Display, a new support document reveals some limitations regarding multiple display support that we weren’t exactly expecting.

Nearly every current Mac model is able to support two Thunderbolt displays. The exceptions are the 13-inch MacBook Air (mid 2011), which only supports one, and the 13-inch MacBook Pro which supports two, but disables the device’s main display to do so. Also of note, the $800 Mac mini can support three Thunderbolt displays thanks to the AMD graphics and its HDMI port.

One other somewhat surprising limitation of the new displays is the inability to daisy chain a Mini DisplayPort screen off the new Thunderbolt display. The support document explains:
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