Get your MacBook Air ready for Thunderbolt with EFI firmware update 2.1

Apple’s Thunderbolt hardware pieces are coming together and to get ready, Apple is updating MacBook Air firmware. The 4 MB update promises to enhance the stability of Lion Recovery from an Internet connection, and resolve issues with Apple Thunderbolt Display compatibility and Thunderbolt Target Disk Mode performance on MacBook Air (mid 2011) models.

Thunderbolt parts have already began shipping and new products include Docks, external PCI Card adapters, as well as storage.

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mLogic rethinks Mac’s expansion ports with three new accessories

While we’ve yet to witness the abundance of Thunderbolt-enabled peripherals (they are coming, though), accessory makers have finally begun churning out interesting products for getting some mileage out of your Thunderbolt Mac. We spotted mLogic’s mLink this past weekend and love it a lot. The $399 box, SlashGear explains, hooks up with your Mac via a Thunderbolt port and acts as an external chassis that lets you connect PCIe cards to any Thunderbolt-equipped Mac, just like Magma’s ExpressionBox 3T. They also launched mDock and mBack accessories. The mDock, aimed at mid-2009 or later MacBook Pros, includes either a 2.5-inch Time Machine-friendly 500GB or 1TB SATA 5400 rpm hard drive, port extender and port blocker.

Of course, you can add additional storage by attaching your own external drive via a front-facing USB port. The accessory replicates all of the ports found on the side of your notebook, including MagSafe and mini DisplayPort for hooking up external monitors. Its dedicated front facing USB port provides 10 watts of power for charging the iPad and the box doubles as a standalone charger when not docked. Pity it lacks a pass-through Thunderbolt port. The mDock also neatly routes cables to the back, an important feat for the people in the never-ending pursue of the clutter-free desktop. And about that mBack gizmo…

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Peripherals aplenty as Apple preps to ship its Thunderbolt Display

Usually, when a brand new industry standard debuts on Macs, there’s a period of shortage before compatible devices begin trickling in. Thunderbolt is no different. Intel partnered with Apple on Thunderbolt earlier this year and it took Apple several months to update its notebooks, iMac and Mac mini families with Thunderbolt I/O. The offering of supported peripherals was initially limited to Apple’s $49 Thunderbolt cable, LaCie and Promise RAIDs, Matrox gearBlackMagic’s solution for field video editing and a couple other devices.

Following Intel’s release of the Thunderbolt development kit, more companies are announcing Thunderbolt-ready products. By the way, 9to5Mac, MacRumors and other publications received tips that Apple began shipping its new $999 Apple Thunderbolt Display to stores. Now, among the upcoming Thunderbolt gadgets, Magma’s ExpressBox 3T, seen in the above image, caught our attention. Basically a three-slot expansion chassis allowing any Thunderbolt-equipped Mac to connect to PCIe 2.0 cards, the box also lets you power up your MacBook Air’s integrate Intel HD Graphics 3000 processor with any PCIe graphics cards, useful if you’re going to do some serious video-related work or play latest games on your Air. The accessory is to be demoed at the upcoming Intel Developer Forum which runs September 13 – 15 in San Francisco.

Magma joins Sonnet, which also unveiled a similar Thunderbolt box last month. The $150 Sonnet ExpressCard/34 Thunderbolt adapter accepts ExpressCard peripherals and also expands your Air’s connectivity with eSATA, USB 3, Firewire 800, Gigabit Ethernet and SDXC and CF cards. More product highlights after the break…

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Seagate announces industry’s first 4TB hard drive

We’re big fans of the Seagate GoFlex series of hard drives and, as of this evening, Seagate has pushed the size limit to an impressive 4TB on a single physical disk.

Currently the 4TB disk is only available in the form factor to the right for a significant $249 price tag. Obviously, the added density drives will filter down into other form factors including bare drives and RAID arrays in the coming weeks and months.

Seagate’ GoFlex enclosure got a facelift as well but alas, no Thunderbolt action for a few more months according to the press release.

As for the USB Desktop version pictured, we’re looking to get our hands on one for a review as soon as possible.  It is available for pre-order now for $229 at Amazon.

Full press release below:
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Add SATA2, Firewire or Gig Ethernet to your new MacBook Air with Sonnet Thunderbolt ExpressCard adapter

If you aren’t interested in the $1000 Apple Thunderbolt display but still want to add some speedy data transfer to your new MacBook Air, Sonnet has a pretty good solution.  Shipping in October, Sonnet’s Echo ExpressCard/34 Thunderbolt Adapter
[ECHO-E34] will set you back $150 but give you access via ExpressCard to the faster data transfers including eSATA, USB 3, Firewire 800, Gig Ethernet or even speedier access to SDXC and CF cards.

There will be more of these “Thunderbolt docks” coming before the holidays.

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Apple bumps up Thunderbolt Display deliveries, 3rd parties expect delivery in a week

Apple updated its Thunderbolt display delivery page today, indicating that Thunderbolt Displays would ship in 2-4 weeks. 9to5Mac readers who ordered on launch date got shipment estimates anywhere from September 14th – 26th.

Perhaps more enticing, 9to5Mac affiliate partner MacConnection takes $20 off (as well as Tax advantages in most states) and believes they will begin taking delivery on August 26th, just 8 short days away (below).

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The new Air has scaled-down Thunderbolt chip: Two 10Gbps channels, one external display

The new MacBook Air is not on par with 2011 iMacs when it comes to Thunderbolt I/O performance because the notebook uses a scaled-down version of the Thunderbolt chip, AnandTech discovered having taken a peek under the Air’s hood. Due to space constraints on the ultra-thin notebook, Apple used a smaller Thunderbolt controller chip named Eagle Ridge which sports two Thunderbolt channels and supports just one external display.

Its full-size counterpart dubbed Light Ridge supports two external Thunderbolt displays plus four bidirectional 10Gbps channels for an aggregate bandwidth of 80Gbps. An Eagle Ridge chip measures half of a Light Ridge chip’s dimensions. The Air is the only machine from Apple that has the Eagle Ridge chip: The latest Thunderbolt-equipped Mac mini, iMac and MacBook Pro all use the faster Light Ridge controller.

This means, MacRumors notes, that the mid-2011 MacBook Airs can only drive one external display using the Thunderbolt port, “although the machine’s integrated Intel HD Graphics 3000 would also preclude the use of two external monitors on the MacBook Air as it does on the 13-inch MacBook Pro”.

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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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