New Apple hardware: What you need to know


The old Cinema Display (left) had three USB ports on the back and required a cable with separate power, USB and Mini DisplayPort connections. The new Thunderbolt  display (right) adds Gigabit Ethernet, FireWire 800 and Thunderbolt, all fed to a computer via a single Thunderbolt cable (in addition to three USB ports, built-in microphone and FaceTime HD camera).

We take it you’re still digesting the new hardware Apple has released this morning. Before you grab that credit card, here are some observations you may wanna take into consideration.

MacBook Airs

• Built-in FaceTime camera has not been upgraded to high-definition. As a result, you are not able to FaceTime in HD with people who use the latest iMacs or MacBook Pros, which sport a FaceTime HD camera

•Based on the description from Apple  “And because we place the flash chips directly on the logic board, they take up much less space — about 90 percent less, in fact.” , it sounds like the SSD is probably no longer upgradable via OWC and others (thanks commenter)

• Just as previous, RAM is soldered directly on the motherboard so configure your machine carefully because you won’t be able to upgrade RAM yourself later
• Just like with the previous generation, the 11.6-incher lacks an SD card slot found on the 13-inch model
• Last year’s models got a significant discount today 

• New Airs sport Bluetooth 4.0 compatibility versus Bluetooth 3.0 in the previous generation, which gives you low-energy wireless Bluetooth transfer within a short range of up to 50 meters, per this Wikipedia article
New MacBook Airs can use Firewire and Gig Ethernet! If you hook up your new MacBook Air to that latest Apple Thunderbolt Display, you will enjoy the ultimate simplicity because a single Thunderbolt cable is all you need to charge your notebook and transfer data from your monitor’s Gigabit Ethernet, FireWire 800, an additional Thunderbolt port, three USB ports, a FaceTime HD camera, 2.1 stereo sound and a built-in microphone.  Perhaps Apple will release a Thunderbolt to GigE, Firewire, etc. standalone adapter.

• On the Thunderbolt Displays, the old MagSafe would have been a better match, because the new one has to be bent around (see the image below) for MacBook Pros

• Additionally, On MacBook Airs, the Thunderbolt port and MagSafe are on opposite sides of the keyboard meaning that cable is going to Y-Out behind the computer.

The new Thunderbolt Display comes with a new MagSafe adapter, which has to be bent around the computer rather than going straight on, like the old MafSafe adapter could have

Mac Minis:

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Apple unveils MacBook Airs with backlit keyboard, Mac minis without optical drive

Apple Store has been down since late yesterday and a lot of folks have been keeping their credit cards ready for new products. Well, Apple has just upgraded Mac minis and MacBook Airs featuring the latest Sandy Bridge processors and Intel’s speedy Thunderbolt I/O technology. As a bonus, Cinema Displays have been refreshed with Thunderbolt technology as well. In line with 9to5Mac’s report, the new MacBook Air family finally features backlit keyboard. Just like before, the new MacBook Airs come in 11.6-inch and 13-inch flavors, each is available in baseline, more powerful and build-to-order flavors.

The base line 11.6-incher includes a 1.6 GHz processor, 2GB RAM and 64GB of flash storage and the pricier model doubles RAM and storage. Note: Because the memory is soldered onto the motherboard, you must decide on RAM at purchase time. The same goes for storage, configurable only at the online Apple Store. The entry-level 13-incher sports a 1.7 GHz processor, 4GB RAM and 128GB of flash storage while the more expensive 13-inch MacBook Air doubles the storage to 256GB. Build-to-order options for both 11.6-inch and 13-inch models include a 1.8 GHz chip, 4GB RAM and 256 GB of flash storage for 13-inchers. Note that a 1.8 GHz processor and 256GB flash storage upgrades are the firsts for the 11.6-incher. All models run on Intel’s HD Graphics 3000 processor with either 256MB (11.6-inch machines) or 384MB (13-inchers) of DDR3 SDRAM shared with main memory. Another thing worth mention: The built-in FaceTime camera has not been upgraded to high-definition. Go past the break for information about the new Mac minis and nice press shots.

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Apple’s faster 13.3 inch and 11.6 inch MacBook Airs revealed

And the Apple Store is down…

Later this week, Apple will officially launch their new MacBook Air line. We previously detailed that these new MacBook Airs will include Thunderbolt ports, i5 and i7 processor options, and a design with little to no changes from the current models. Now, thanks to our source Mr. X, we have all the specifications of the brand-new MacBook Air line.

11.6 inch models:

  • The base model will include a 1.6 GHz processor, 2 GB of RAM, and 64GB of flash storage.
  • The more expensive standard configuration also includes a 1.6 GHz processor but upgrades the RAM to 4GB and the storage space to 128 GB.
  • A built to order model will also be available from the online store. This option includes a 1.8 GHz processor (first for an 11.6 inch MacBook Air), 4GB of RAM, and for the first time in an 11.6 inch MacBook Air, 256 GB of flash storage.

13.3 inch models:

  • The base standard configuration includes a 1.7 GHz processor, 4GB of RAM, and 128 GB of flash storage
  • The more expensive standard configuration also includes a 1.7 GHz processor, 4GB of RAM, but upgrades the storage to 256 GB.
  • A built to order option will also be available and this includes a 1.8 GHz chip, 4GB of RAM, and 256 GB of flash storage

These specifications put the unreliable reports of 4GB of RAM and 128 GB of storage as standard (across the line) options to rest. OS X Lion launches tomorrow, so it is possible that these new ultraportables will, too, but that is unconfirmed. Apple will also release a new Mac mini, as we just revealed, later this week.

New Mac mini and Mac mini Server specs revealed, 500 GB hard drives standard

Besides the new MacBook Air line, which we just revealed, Apple will also drop an upgraded Mac mini line. These new Mac minis will likely retain their currently aluminum unibody design but will pack faster processors and more hard drive space. In addition, the new LED Cinema Display – now called the “Apple Thunderbolt Display” – will debut this week. These new displays will have an optional VESA mount.

The new Mac minis:

  • The base model will include a 2.3 GHz processor with 2GB of RAM, and 500 GB of hard drive storage space
  • The more expensive model will include a 2.5 GHz processor with 4GB of RAM, and 500 GB of hard drive space.
  • Finally, the new Mac mini line will also include a new server model with a 2.0 GHz processor, 4 GB of RAM, and two 500GB hard drives of storage. This new server model should include OS X Lion server, but that’s just a reasonable assumption.

These new Mac minis will likely be powered by the new Intel Sandy Bridge chipsets and include Thunderbolt ports. These new computers should launch by the end of the week, possibly tomorrow – but that is unconfirmed. Thanks, Mr. X!

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Promise Pegasus Thunderbolt RAID topping a gigabyte every three seconds in real-world read/write speeds

ZDNet has benchmarked the latest Thunderbolt-equipped iMac with a Promise Pegasus RAID with Thunderbolt and came away pretty impressed. Because out-of-the-box Thunderbolt RAID experience on new iMacs leaves a lot to be desired due to constrained RAM, author Robin Harris set himself up with a 16GB iMac. This isn’t a common scenario for average consumers, of course, but heavy-duty apps like Final Cut Pro benefit from as much memory as possible.

Harris used Blackmagic’s Disk Speed Test to pit a quad-core 2.66 GHz Mac Pro equipped with a 300GB 10k Velociraptor drive, 1GB ATI Radeon 5770 graphics card and 12GB RAM against a built-to-order 3.4 GHz Core i7 iMac with a 1TB hard drive, the standard 1 GB AMD Radeon HD 6970M video card and 16GB RAM. Both computers were benchmarked against a 4-drive Promise Pegasus Thunderbolt RAID that had both an empty array and more than a third full. The RAID performed pretty nice in both configurations…

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Apple ‘leaks’ Thunderbolt-equipped LED Display…on their website

MacRumors noticed that Apple placed images of their new LED Cinema Display on their website yesterday. The leaked display looks identical to the current model, but will have a Thunderbolt port on the back to easily connect with Apple’s latest Thunderbolt machines: iMacs, MacBook Pros and Mac Pros, MacBook Airs, and Mac minis in the very near future. You can tell that these are new displays based on the unreleased model number, previously thought to be a new White MacBook that they are attached to and by the OS X Lion wallpaper.

The differentiation is important because, as Apple has warned in a previous KB article, the CD no longer has to be the end of a Thunderbolt chain of devices.  For instance, you could have an external hard drive array connected to your monitor permanently rather than having to plug into another device which would terminate at the monitor.  For MacBook Air/Pro users, this would allow the ‘power-USB-Thunderbolt’ cable to do everything, yet again.

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iFixit tears down Thunderbolt cable, reveals active parts

As with just about any new Apple product release, iFixit has torn apart the Thunderbolt cable. Why a boring cable?  iFixit has revealed that the new Thunderbolt cable actually has active chips inside, making transfers  faster.

We found two Gennum GN2033 chips in the connector, one on each side. They were flanked by other, much smaller chips that surely added to the cable’s cost: two chips labeled S6A 1JG on one side, and chips labeled 1102F SS8370 and 131 3S on the other. Of course, there were tons of little resistors (providing impedance as needed) all around the larger chips.

Thunderbolt’s release on MacBook Pros and iMacs should be followed by new Macs coming soon. Inside the cable chip housing below Read more

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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Apple selling Promise Thunderbolt products alongside Mac Pros

As we broke last night, Apple is now carrying Thunderbolt parts. The Pegasus RAID units just showed up but we noticed something a little odd:

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Interesting combo.  Currently the Mac Pro doesn’t have a Thunderbolt port.

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So yeah, Apple art team either jumped the gun, used the wrong equipment, or pre-announced the new Mac Pros.  We were hoping for a slight redesign which doesn’t look to be the case (see what I did there?)… Read more

Apple releases $49 Thunderbolt cable for data transfers and displays

Apple is set to release their own accessory for data transfers and display connections between Thunderbolt Macs. The accessory is coming in the form of a cable with both ends featuring connectors for the Thunderbolt I/O port. As we already know, this port is the same size as the Mini Display ports on current and past generation Macs.

These Thunderbolt cables are perfect for data migration between Thunderbolt Macs (currently the iMac and MacBook Pro) as well as for display connections. Although Apple’s LED Display supports Thunderbolt Macs, this new cable might be a hint at a new Apple LED Display with a Thunderbolt port. Perhaps today’s Thunderbolt update has something to do with the new cord.

Additionally, this new cable comes ahead of new MacBook Airs, Mac minis, and Mac Pro with Thunderbolt I/O in the coming weeks.

Thanks, Mr. X!

Update: Apple has officially released the new cable. It’s $55 AU, £3,9.00 in the UK, and… $49 in the U.S.

Thunderbolt technology supports blazing-fast data transfer with two independent channels of 10Gbit/s each. Use the Apple Thunderbolt cable to connect your Thunderbolt-equipped peripherals to your new iMac or new MacBook Pro.

Apple Thunderbolt cable can also be used for Target Disk Mode between two Macs that support Thunderbolt, or to use a new iMac as a display for a MacBook Pro equipped with Thunderbolt.

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