Intel Thunderbolt Stories September 27, 2011

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 […]

Intel Thunderbolt Stories September 23, 2011

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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Intel Thunderbolt Stories September 20, 2011

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: expand full story

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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Intel Thunderbolt Stories September 16, 2011

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: expand full story

Intel Thunderbolt Stories September 15, 2011

Apple’s 27-inch Thunderbolt Cinema Displays have begun arriving to customer’s homes. The display looks virtually identical to the previous generation of the giant 27-inch Cinema Display from Apple, and includes USB ports, a Thunderbolt port, a FireWire 800 port, and an Ethernet port.

More photos courtesy of reader Scott are after the break.

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Intel today released a couple tidbits to cast more light on Thunderbolt I/O and give folks some perspective concerning its road map. This is my next details some of the features which are outlined in greater detail over at the brand new Thunderbolt web site, which mostly covers branding and various technicalities. For example, we now have it in writing that all Thunderbolt-branded products are to interoperate across all vendors. Per official information, the maximum allowed length of electrical Thunderbolt cables is three meters. Plugs are compatible with Mini-DisplayPort, but DisplayPort cables won’t work as a Thunderbolt cable replacement.

The biggest takeaway is that active optical cables are coming “sometime next year.” Optics will extend Thunderbolt cables to “tens of meters”, but they’ll still provide the same 10 Gbps bidirectional data transfer speeds per channel (there are two channels per cable), much as today’s electrical cables that have circuitry in cable ends. In all, about twenty third-parties are backing Intel’s technology, which isn’t that much considering that Thunderbolt, after all, is a future-proof I/O technology from the world’s largest chip maker.

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…in New Zealand anyway.  One 9to5Mac reader said that the Thunderbolt Display he ordered on August 17th was now en route to his home.  If anyone else has a shipping display let us know in the comments or at tips@9to5mac.com.

What’s perhaps most interesting about this shipment information is that these displays aren’t shipping directly from China as most Apple products do. They are shipping from a holding spot in Australia (below) perhaps indicating that the wait on these displays isn’t because of hardware, but in fact software, which, incidentally was updated last night on Thunderbolt MacBook Pros and Mac Minis.

Intel Thunderbolt Stories September 14, 2011

After releasing an EFI firmware update for the MacBook Air earlier this week, Apple has released an EFI update for both the MacBook Pro and Mac mini this afternoon. The MacBook Pro update is version 2.2 and Mac mini version 1.3, fixing compatibility issues for the upcoming Thunderbolt Display and bringing numerous Lion fixes — and adding Lion Internet Recovery on the MacBook Pro.

Hit up Software Update on your Mac to get downloading. (via The Next Web)

Intel Thunderbolt Stories September 13, 2011

Belkin took a little bit of time today at IDF to show off their new Thunderbolt Express Dock that provides a selection of ports that mirror the new 27-inch Apple Thunderbolt Display, sans the $999 price point.

The accessory sports three USB ports, a Thunderbolt port, Firewire 800 port, and Gigabit Ethernet. Perhaps the dock could use some more of that Apple “mimimalism” – we’re sensing some wasted space being used here.

There is no word on pricing or availability as of yet, and Daily Tech reminds us we might still have to cough up $50 for a Thunderbolt cable. We’ll keep you updated when the device is officially announced. More Thunderbolt accessories here, another image after the break. expand full story

Intel Thunderbolt Stories September 12, 2011

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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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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Intel Thunderbolt Stories September 7, 2011

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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Intel Thunderbolt Stories September 6, 2011

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: expand full story

Intel Thunderbolt Stories August 25, 2011

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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Intel Thunderbolt Stories August 18, 2011

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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Intel Thunderbolt Stories July 29, 2011

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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Intel Thunderbolt Stories July 20, 2011

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 articleNew 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 today released its new Apple Thunderbolt Display with Gig Ethernet, Firewire 800, USB 2.0 and access to more Thunderbolt accessories, all over one cable.

Those ports are now on the rear of the Cinema display, much like an iMac…

All in one singe cable.  Full specs below: expand full story

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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Intel Thunderbolt Stories July 19, 2011

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.

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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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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Intel Thunderbolt Stories July 15, 2011

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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