In 2012 Intel’s new architecture is named Ivy Bridge, on a technical level the architecture marks a huge leap from the previous Sandy Bridge taking advantage of a 22 nm die shrink process. Some other headline improvements over Sandy Bridge include PCI Express 3.0 support, integrated USB 3.0 and the use of tri-gate transistors (sometimes known as 3D transistors) which offer the same performance as their “2D” counterparts but are said to offer up to 50% less power consumption. Apple may choose not to be cutting edge with all the technologies available in Ivy Bridge as the company tends to enjoy setting its own trends.
Brooks’ post includes a list of candidates for the new CPUs in the Mac mini, iMac, Mac Pro, MacBook Air, and MacBook Pro product lines. Check it out here.
This year’s much rumored Mac hardware upgrade would be, according to ongoing speculation, a thinner, completely redesigned 15-inch MacBook Pro that was originally reported last year ahead of the iPad 2′s launch. The rumor of a 15-inch MacBook Air/redesigned MacBook Pro has constantly surfaced throughout 2011, with most recent rumors indicating such machine carrying an Ivy Bridge CPU was “inbound” for April. Meanwhile, tests performed on the Ivy Bridge processor likely to be used in the MacBook Pro family showed significant improvements.
Earlier today Apple quietly updated its online store to include upgraded MacBook Pro models, which feature improved Sandy Bridge processors, more storage, and other tweaks such as better graphics for the 15-inch and 17-inch Pros. As the rumors suggested in the previous weeks, this is indeed a minor refresh for the line that doesn’t yet come with Bluetooth 4.0, rumored to be making its debut on the MacBook Pros but still nowhere to be seen in the product’s Tech Specs page.
First off, the late-2011 MacBook Pros (the line was last updated in February of this year) feature improved processors: the 13-inch model goes from 2.3 GHz Intel Core i5 and 2.7 GHz Intel Core i5 (both dual-core) to 2.4 GHz Intel Core i5 dual-core and 2.8 GHz Intel Core i7 dual-core; the 15-inch model jumps from 2.0 GHz Intel Core i7 and 2.2 GHz Intel Core i7 (both quad-core) to 2.2 GHz quad-core Intel Core i7 and 2.4 GHz quad-core Intel Core i7; last, the 17-inch variation has been upgraded from 2.2 Ghz Intel Core i7 (quad-core) to 2.4 GHz quad-core Intel Core i7.
As for storage, the MacBook Pro 13-inch now starts with 500 GB or 750 GB of internal storage (up from 320 GB and 500 GB for the previous base configurations), whilst the 15-inch and 17-inch models haven’t seen any storage upgrades. Graphics, however, have been upgraded in these two models, with the 15-inch now getting AMD Radeon HD 6750M and AMD Radeon HD 6770M alongside the Intel HD Graphics 3000(previously, the 15-inch got AMD Radeon HD 6490M and AMD Radeon HD 6750M) and the 17-inch now available with an AMD Radeon HD 6770M with 1GB GDDR5 (previously AMD Radeon HD 6750M 1 GB).
In our “Let’s talk iPhone” event rumor roundup, we noted Apple could announce a new Apple TV on stage. Earlier this year, a number of separate reports have suggested Apple was working on a new Apple TV with A5 CPU (the same of iPad 2 and iPhone 4S) to enhance the device’s processing capabilities and allow for full 1080p playback. The current Apple TV model packs and A4 processor (iPad, iPhone 4) and plays back video up to 720p, but as we know the October 4th event didn’t see any Apple TV updates among iPod, iOS 5, iCloud and iPhone 4S announcements. A rumor from July even suggested Apple was working on a new video format called HD+ to launch this fall in the iTunes Store alongside a new Apple TV model.
According to a code string found in iOS 5 by 9to5mac, a new AppleTV3,1 is in the works, and it should be an updated version with upgraded internals such as the aforementioned A5 processor. The existing Apple TV model is referenced as AppleTV2,1 — Apple typically uses this kind of references to prepare iOS for upcoming devices. References in the iOS filesystem are never 100% accurate, but new devices found in the past through code strings have turned out to be real most of the time.
With Apple pushing towards 1080p video content with the new iPhone 4S camera and AirPlay Mirroring made possible by the A5 CPU, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see a refreshed Apple TV with faster CPU and more powerful video processing capabilities. As a side note, Apple recently started selling the current-gen Apple TV in more European countries.
As reported by Chris Foreman at Ars Technica, code strings related to Marvell’s ARM-based quad-core CPUs have been found in the latest source code of Clang, Apple’s compiler for Xcode. Specifically, Ars Technica notes Clang shows support for Marvell’s Armada XP processor with an “undefined” open source flag, suggesting that only Apple can internally build code targeted towards such CPU.
A developer who works on low-level ARM assembly coding for security products was the first to alert Ars that support had been added for Armada’s Cortex A9-compatible processors in the latest version of Xcode (a claim that we later confirmed first-hand). The source code for a part of Clang that interprets what CPU type is being targeted for optimization includes a definition for an architecture type of “armv7k” and CPU type “pj4b”. PJ4B is a specially optimized CPU design used in Marvell’s quad-core Armada XP embedded processors. Source code available from the LLVM project, including Apple-specific branches, doesn’t contain any reference to the Marvell design.
There are a number of reasons why Apple would like to test support for ARM-based quad-core CPUs. First is low-power consumption, a characteristic of ARM architectures that has allowed Apple to build mobile devices with amazing battery life. Second is performance — just like the dual-core A5 provides faster graphics and performances than the first-gen A4, it wouldn’t be a surprise to know Apple is testing quad-core processors for the next generation of phones and tablets. On the other hand, the MacBook Airs were rumored earlier this year to be considered as the first Mac model to switch to ARM (again, the rumors mentioned battery life, extreme portability, and other often-quoted ARM advantages), although such transition would require developers to update their OS X applications to work with ARM, possibly only on MacBook Airs to start with. Many doubt Apple will switch Macs to ARM in the short term, especially considering Intel’s upcoming Ivi Bridge and Haswell processors (supposed to tackle the battery life and power consumption issues).
It’s interesting to note, however, that Apple is at least testing ARM-based quad-core CPUs internally, and that these references have made it into Clang’s source code.
At an investor event in London earlier today, Intel CFO Stacy Smith said the company would be open to make chips based on external intellectual properties and cores, Reuters reports. Using Intel’s chip manufacturing process, widely regarded as superior to most competitors in the silicon-making space, producing chips for other companies would be a “fantastic business” for Intel, Smith said, though it would trigger an “in-depth discussion” within the company.
If Apple or Sony came to us and said ‘I want to do a product that involves your IA (Intel architecture) core and put some of my IP around it’, I wouldn’t blink. That would be fantastic business for us.
Then you get into the middle ground of ‘I don’t want it to be a IA core, I want it to be my own custom designed core,’ and then you are only getting the manufacturing margin, (and) that would be a much more in-depth discussion and analysis.
Intel’s Sandy Bridge processors are currently used in Apple’s MacBook Pros and iMacs, with the popular MacBook Air line rumored to get an upgrade to the same CPU architecture in June or July. Intel, however, does not make chips for mobile devices like the iPhone or iPad, a growing market where Intel has been left behind, putting British company ARM in a leading position as the only chip maker for iOS devices and upcoming tablets that will hit the market later this year. In the past months, due to the popularity of ARM’s architecture, it was rumored Apple could consider switching from Intel to ARM on the desktop as well; on the other hand, Intel announced its intention to develop chips for always-on, always-connected mobile devices with Silvermont and Airmont processors said to be included in future Android and MeeGo devices. As for Apple, it is unlikely that the company will switch architectures on its iOS and OS X platforms in the immediate future, though Smith’s statements could open to some interesting possibilities when it comes to Apple-designed cores combined with Intel’s manufacturing power.
CPU World reports (via MacRumors) that Intel is working on a series of new Core i5 and Core i7 ULV (ultra-low voltage) processors based on the Sandy Bridge architecture which, offering improved speed and graphics performances over the previous-gen Arrandale CPUs, might be a suitable choice for Apple in the next generation of MacBook Air models. The three new processors, Core i5-2557M, Core i7-2637M and Core i7-2677M, increase clock speed from 1.4 GHz and 1.6 GHz to 1.7 GHz and 1.8 GHz, with turbo boost frequencies set at 2.8 GHz and 2.9 GHz. With increased speeds, performances and the same 17 Watt thermal envelope, the new CPUs might as well end up being used by Apple in the MacBook Airs rumored to receive a Sandy Bridge and Thunderbolt update in June or July.
Two forthcoming Core i7 ULV dual-core processors, i7-2637M and i7-2677M, have 1.7 and 1.8 GHz base, and 2.8 GHz and 2.9 GHz Turbo Boost frequencies. This is 200 MHz higher than the frequencies of their predecessors, Core i7-2617M and i7-2657M. Default clock rate of the HD 3000 graphics on new chips stays the same, 350 MHz, although the maximum turbo frequency is increased to 1.2 GHz. The microprocessors boast 4 MB level 3 cache, and support HyperThreading and Vpro technologies. It is interesting to note that, despite of having lower processor number, the Intel i7-2637M SKU will be faster than the i7-2657M.
Low power consumption and speed are obviously factors Apple considers when selecting the processor to implement in thin and lightweight machines like the MacBook Airs. Whilst no release date has been announced by Intel yet, Apple usually gets components from Intel earlier than other companies, leading to speculation that the upcoming Air refresh may include the update Core i5 and Core i7 CPUs. Several reports in the past months indicated was working on a new version of the MBA line, last updated in October 2010, featuring Thunderbolt connectivity and faster processors following recent hardware changes to the MacBook Pros and iMacs.
Earlier today Intel officially unveiled the technology that will power its next-generation of chips, codenamed “Ivy Bridge”, with production set to start for PCs and servers by the end of 2011. After a decade-long research in Intel’s labs, the company announced a new 3D transistor structure named “Tri-Gate” that will allow to boost performances and efficiency in the new chips that Intel will also make for mobile devices and tablets. This announcement comes after speculation earlier this week about Intel willing to consider making processors for Apple’s iOS devices — which currently feature CPUs manufactured by Samsung, a company that’s at war with Apple over several patent infringement claims as previously reported. Intel hasn’t disclosed any plan to make chips for Apple nor did Apple comment on any of these rumors, but the mobile versions of Ivy bridge featuring 3D transistors for optimized speeds and battery life could surely be an option for Apple in future devices.
Intel’s 3-D Tri-Gate transistors enable chips to operate at lower voltage with lower leakage, providing an unprecedented combination of improved performance and energy efficiency compared to previous state-of-the-art transistors. The capabilities give chip designers the flexibility to choose transistors targeted for low power or high performance, depending on the application.
The 22nm 3-D Tri-Gate transistors provide up to 37 percent performance increase at low voltage versus Intel’s 32nm planar transistors. This incredible gain means that they are ideal for use in small handheld devices, which operate using less energy to “switch” back and forth. Alternatively, the new transistors consume less than half the power when at the same performance as 2-D planar transistors on 32nm chips.
Intel’s first 22nm Ivy Bridge microprocessor was demoed today running on a server, laptop and desktop computer. Production is slated by the end of the year, with Intel likely demonstrating the power of the Ivy Bridge platform with more demoes over the next months.
A series of photos posted earlier today by Boy Genius Report show an unreleased white iPhone 4 unit running on T-Mobile USA network. The device looks like an iPhone 4, although, as BGR notes, the proximity sensor looks different than the one shown in the (allegedly) final white iPhone 4 that’s been already sold in the UK. BGR claims the device, just like the Vietnamese videos from last week, is running an old and internal test version of iOS 4, confirmed by the several Apple internal and field-testing applications like Radar and Apple Connect or the preference panels to measure the performances of the device.
That’s right, you’re looking at photos of an iPhone prototype with T-Mobile USA 3G bands. The actual internal model is N94, and if you remember, the Verizon model is N92 while the standard GSM variant is N90. We have verified that the phone itself is running a test version of Apple’s iOS, much like the one we saw in those videos from Vietnam, and it includes internal Apple test apps like Radar and Apple’s employee directory app. Additionally, the front of the white iPhone pictured looks a little different from the photos of the retail white iPhone 4 that surfaced recently — specifically, the proximity sensor has changed on the retail version.
The model number of this white iPhone 4 is N94, the same one that months ago was mentioned in some iOS 4.3 code strings related to the A5 chip — also implemented on the iPad 2. Whilst rumors point to the white iPhone 4 finally being released on April 27th, the N94 model number and A5 processor indicate this might be an updated version of the iPhone 4 coming out later this year — perhaps the “iPhone 4S” select game developers are already testing ahead of the WWDC and the iOS 5 announcement. It’s also worth remembering that AT&T has filed documents in the US to acquire T-Mobile — if the two networks merge, the iPhone will eventually work on the old T-Mobile network (which currently has different radios and frequencies than AT&T). However, the acquisition is rumored to take several months before completion, and Apple could release an iPhone 5 / iPhone 4S this Fall that also runs on the existing T-Mobile network.
According to a report by 9to5mac, Apple has begun testing a prototype version of the iPhone running the A5 chip with “select developers.” The units, carrying the usual Apple model numbers for prototypes, are apparently based on the iPhone 4 hardware, with the only exception of the Apple A5 processor — clearly aimed at enhancing speed and graphics performances on the next-generation device. The report goes on to say these modified iPhones featuring the A5 CPU have been given to “high-level gaming outfits” in order to start writing gaming applications for the iPhone 5 that will, allegedly, be announced in September. As with the first-generation iPad, Apple is forcing these developers to keep the prototypes in a safe in the company’s offices at night — likely under strict surveillance from Apple employees or security staff.
Apple isn’t taking the next iPhone’s A5-power lightly. They already have select developers working on versions of their iPhone applications that take full advantage of the next-generation iPhone’s speedier and much more powerful hardware. These developers, seemingly from high-level gaming outfits, have been given what is essentially an iPhone 4 but with an A5 processor instead of an A4. The device itself is virtually identical to the iPhone 4, and there is no way anyone can tell it’s not an iPhone 4 based on the phone’s exterior.
According to the report, these early units are nothing but modified iPhone 4s with an A5 chip inside — even the OS is the same iOS 4 that’s currently shipping to customers, only slightly tweaked to work with the new processor. As far as the design goes, these developers haven’t seen anything about the next-generation iPhone that’s not already available to the public with the iPhone 4. From a software perspective, it makes sense to start giving prototypes of a device that’s going to be very similar to the final version away to developers now: the A5 processor will surely find its way in the iPhone 5, and game developers will have plenty of time to test their improved graphics. And as soon as iOS will be previewed at the WWDC ’11 and released in beta form, these same developers will have a chance to test an A5-enabled iPhone running the new OS.
If the iPhone 5 is really going to be a minor refresh of the existing iPhone hardware, being able to test the A5 — which will likely be the most important addition — five months ahead of the rumored release date must sound like a great plan to these developers.