As noted by AnandTech, Apple is using smaller and cheaper Thunderbolt controllers in the new MacBook Airs released on July 20th alongside new Mac Minis, OS X Lion, and the Thunderbolt Cinema Display. The website notes, whereas the 2011 MacBook Pros, iMacs and Mac Minis use Thunderbolt controllers codenamed “Light Ridge” with four bi-directional channels at 10 Gbps (thus achieving 80 Gbps aggregate bandwidth), the smaller chip implemented in the MacBook Air, called Eagle Ridge, is a scaled-down version with access to two channels. Furthermore, whilst Light Ridge comes with up to two DisplayPort outputs, the MacBook Air’s Thunderbolt controller has only one DisplayPort output.
Eagle Ridge is available in two form factors (normal and SFF) and is effectively half of a Light Ridge chip. That means you only get two Thunderbolt channels and one DP output.
Presumably to cut down costs, save motherboard space and have a better impact on battery life, Apple decided to use a smaller version of the Thunderbolt controller that made its first appearance in February on the new MacBook Pros, first to feature the Thunderbolt technology co-developed by Apple and Intel and originally named Light Peak. It was previously reported high production costs of Thunderbolt ports could be the reason behind relatively slow adoption by third-party accessory makers. Currently only a series of high-end RAID configurations are available on the Apple online store and Apple’s own Thunderbolt Display is set to ship sometime next month. You can read more about Thunderbolt here.
[via AnandTech - image: iFixit]
After all the recent rumors and speculation about Apple willing to implement Near Field Communication (NFC) technology into the next-generation iPhone, The New York Times weighed in earlier today to confirm that according to “two people with knowledge of the inner workings of a coming iteration of the Apple iPhone” a future version of the device will indeed include NFC.
The NYT report is rather curious as they’re not sure whether or not Apple will deploy this feature in the iPhone 5, set to debut this summer:
According to two people with knowledge of the inner workings of a coming iteration of the Apple iPhone — although not necessarily the next one — a chip made by Qualcomm for the phone’s processor will also include near-field communication technology, known as N.F.C. This technology enables short-range wireless communications between the phone and an N.F.C reader, and can be used to make mobile payments. It is unclear which version of an iPhone this technology would be built into.
The New York Times also claims that according to another person familiar with Apple’s plans the iPhone will use NFC to enable mobile payments tied to users’ iTunes credit — something that was also reported in the past months, although some people speculated Apple could also consider providing an option for billing users through their carrier, rather than iTunes. At this point, however, it seems very clear that Apple will strongly invest in the iTunes payment option to give users the possibility to “keep it all together” in iTunes. Currently Apple has more than 200 million active accounts in iTunes with credit card information stored on their servers.
In the past months, rumors suggested Apple could also rely on NFC and MobileMe to enable remote computing and usage of App Store apps. Several reports pointed to the iPhone 5 featuring / not featuring NFC, and others also reported such a feature was being considered for the iPad. An e-Wallet application for iOS also made an appearance in a patent design published last year.
Following the various teardowns of the iPad 2 we saw last week, Chipworks decided to take a closer look at the Apple A5, the dual-core processor that powers the iPad 2 and contributes to its impressive gain in speed and performance. Whilst Chipworks’ teardown isn’t something the average Apple geek would be able to fully appreciate (there’s some highly technical stuff in there, like microscopes and layers of aluminum being closely inspected), there are some interesting points worth mentioning.
By looking at the internal structure of the A5, Chipworks concludes it was manufactured by Samsung in spite of the rumors suggesting Apple would go with TSMC due to the competition arisen with Samsung in the cellphone and tablet market.
At this scale even electron microscopes start to run out of steam, so not the clearest of images in either case, but good enough to see the similar shape of the transistor gates and the dielectric layers. So at least this sample of the A5 is fabbed by Samsung, just as all Apple’s processor chips have been for the last while.
Other notes by Chipworks include the ARM cores with ~4.5 Mb of cache memory each, and the A5 being roughly twice the size of the old Apple A4 chip from the iPad 1. Just in case you had any doubts about the performances guaranteed by the A5, this teardown is here to confirm that Apple went with Samsung once again to produce a chip that’s twice the size, dual-core and optimized for a tablet’s battery life. [via TUAW]
After the announcement of the iPad 2 last week, we reported developer Firemint, well known for its award-winning Real Racing series, announced they were seriously interested in updating their iPad game for the new device, and had actually been considering its tech specs for a while, even before the official announcement from Steve Jobs. Firemint sort of knew the iPad 2 would be thinner and lighter for a better handling, have a faster processor for improved graphics, and so forth. The iPad 2 has an Apple A5 CPU with graphic performances up to 9 times faster than the iPad 1 — a feature Apple is promoting and Steve Jobs mentioned multiple times on stage. With the iPad 2 available later this week, Firemint will be able to test its updated version of Real Racing HD with gyroscope support, better graphics and perhaps a new control system built around the new tablet form factor.
Firemint, however, isn’t the first game developer that’s excited about the possibilities offered by the iPad 2. MacNN reports industry-leading company Unity has announced that, in spite of their framework already working with dual-core processors like the A5, they’re going to “really fine tune and really optimize it to run fantastic on the iPad.” We guess iOS developers relying on Unity will take advantage of the new features available once the engine is updated with full iPad 2 support.
What about the popular Unreal Engine 3? Epic VP Mark Rein (Epic Games is the company behind the Unreal Engine, or games like Infinity Blade for iOS — based on Unreal) says the iPad 2 is already capable of taking advantage of the iPad 2′s improved performance:
You can see Unreal Engine 3, what happens as we get more power, you can take a PC and put a much more powerful graphics card in, and turn all the dials up in your game to get more detail, more textures, more shaders — things like that. Clearly those are the kinds of opportunities here. More CPU means potentially more physics and more enemies on the screen, a wider view of an environment. It’s just really fantastic.
These are interesting days to see how game developers are quickly announcing support for the iPad 2, unveiled last week and available “on short notice” this Friday. I wonder how many games with “iPad 2 support” in the changelog will be released next week, and how many will need additional weeks to pop up in the App Store. In the coming months, it would be nice to see Apple update its App Store interface to specify features only available for certain devices — it didn’t happen with the powerful iPhone 4, but we’re betting on the iPad 2 to bring an easy-to-read tech specs page to the App Store this time. [via TUAW]
iFixit didin’t waste any time and, shortly after the release of the new MacBook Pros, tore down a 15″ model to see the changes performed by Apple in this revision. It turns out, not much. Most changes are visible in the logic board (quad-core processor, AMD GPU, Thunderbolt chip) and in the way the battery is attached to the laptop.
A few notes from the teardown below.
Battery life decreased from previous generations, as Apple is performing more accurate tests with more realistic estimates (their tests include Flash installed while browsing the web):
No pentalobe screws;
iFixit thinks Apple made some improvements to wireless performance under the hood;
Broadcom BCM4331 chip.
The RAM in this machine is PC3-10600 RAM. That’s the same RAM used in the 2010 revision of the 21.5″ and 27″ iMacs, but different from earlier Apple laptops. PC3-10600 RAM is backwards compatible with the PC3-8500 RAM in older MacBook Pro Unibody machines, but you can’t use PC3-8500 RAM in this machine
The wireless card bracket is aluminum, rather than the plastic in previous revisions. Perhaps this change was made for thermal reasons, as a visible pink thermal pad is used to transfer heat from the board to its aluminum bracket.
Holy thermal paste! Time will tell if the gobs of thermal paste applied to the CPU and GPU will cause overheating issues down the road.