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.

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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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