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.
Could Apple transition from Intel processors to ARM processors within the next few years? A report by SemiAccurate yesterday suggests that, yes, Apple is planning to transition Intel processors off its laptop line in the not too distant future.
They suggest that the transition will take place once ARM has matured onto full 64-bit chips which is expected by mid-2013; likely using something akin to NVidia’s upcoming Denver chips. Furthermore they note:
At that point, Apple can move to ARM without worrying about obsoleting code with an [instruction set architecture] that is on the verge of changing, and no memory overhead worries either. Basically, it looks like the perfect time. Ironically, SemiAccurate’s moles tell us that the boys on infinite loop are planning to move laptops to ARM at about that time. Coincidence? Nope.
Apple isn’t a stranger to the ARM architecture; it has a heavy investment in it with its iOS platform of devices, strengthened recently by its acquisition of ARM designers P.A. Semi and Intrinsity. Whilst ARM has been known for their low power processors, in recent times there have been strong signs that ARM will move into high-performance computing as well – a suggestion strengthened by the announcement of 64-bit chips and NVidia’s “Project Denver“.
Despite the promise of ARM’s power, it still is, like yesterday’s 3D iPad rumor, a rumor that is at this point fairly far-fetched. Apple’s transition from PowerPC to Intel came with some serious amount of engineering and whilst that paid off, it also created compatibility issues. Similarly, if Apple made the transition to ARM processors they would not be able to run existing OS X applications without an emulation layer and it wouldn’t just be Apple that would have to do a lot of work to get everything working, developers too would feel the pain.
As MacRumors points out, SemiAccurate is not a frequent of source of Apple rumors, although the site does point out that they were correct in predicting Apple’s move away from NVidia GPUs in their computers. Meanwhile, earlier this year, at CES, Microsoft demoed an early build of Windows 8 running on ARM processors which does suggest that perhaps Apple and Microsoft have seen the potential in ARM and are willing to go through the hard yards and re-engineer their Operating Systems to run on the ARM architecture.
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.
Check out the full gallery of leaked shots here.
As noted by CNET, Intel has updated its price list to include details for the new dual-core Sandy Bridge chips likely to be implemented by Apple in the next-generation MacBook Pros that, according to the rumors, should come out on Thursday.
The chipmaker yesterday added i3, mobile i5, and mobile Core i7 dual-core chips to the list of Sandy Bridge processors for sale.
A low-power i5-2537M (1.4GHz) and standard-power i5-2540M and i5-2520M mobile chips have been added to the price list. They are priced at $250, $266, and $225, respectively, in thousand unit quantities.
A sizable cluster of new dual-core i7 mobile processors includes the i7-2620M (2.7GHz), i7-2649M (2.3GHz) and i7-2657M (1.6GHz). Those are priced at $346, $346 (also) and $317, respectively.
The new i3 processors include the i3-2120 (3.3GHz) and i3-2100 (3.1GHz). They are set at $138 and $117, respectively.
Intel previously confirmed the Sandy Bridge CPU line would ship on February 20th after initial issues encountered in the manufacturing process with SATA connectors on the new chips. CNET also reported two weeks ago Apple is set to release new MacBook Airs in June, powered by Intel’s Sandy Bridge processors.
A second report from Digitimes this evening suggest that Apple might outsource the production of the A4 chip and the rumored Cortex-A9-based A5 to Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company, TSMC. Apple is reportedly concerned about leakage of production techniques and specs now that Samsung is directly competing with them in smartphone and tablet market, and TSMC already provided A4 production when Samsung was unable to meet demand last year.
Apple is reportedly looking to outsource the production of its A4 processor as well as the next-generation ARM Cortex-A9-based A5 processor to Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC), according to industry sources. The Apple A4 processor is currently exclusively produced by Samsung Electronics, and the previous S5PC100 used in the iPhone 3GS was also developed and manufactured by the Korean company.
TSMC declined to comment on the report.
Digitimes also reports the iPad 2 will feature an “enhanced” version of the A4 chip, while the iPhone 5 will come with the brand new Apple A5 processor. A number of reports surfaced in the past indicated Apple was working on a CPU for the next iPhones and iPads, although it is unclear at this point which one will get the new A5. Several pundits also speculated Apple will adopt dual-core processors and implement RAM up to 1GB in the iPhone 5, which will likely come with a universal GSM / CDMA antenna as well.
According to the latest rumors coming this morning from Digitimes and Apple Daily, the next generation iPhone, the “iPhone 5″, will adopt Qualcomm’s chipsets, which use substrates from Kinsus IC. Similar rumors surfaced months ago after Intel acquisition of chipset maker Infineon.
According to this report, the iPhone 5 is set to come out in the second quarter of 2011 (announced at the WWDC, we guess?) and will include a new “A8 processor”. Currently, the iPhone 4 is based on the “Apple A4″ processor, which is a combination of a ARM Cortex-A8 CPU and a GPU. From the reports of this morning, as also noted by Slashgear, it is unclear whether these rumors of a new A8 processor are pointing to an upgrade of the current Cortex-A8 or a new, rebranded Apple version of the CPU that might suggest a move to a dual core processor, like two Apple A4s combined.
Today’s reports don’t tell much about the details of this new processor, but we wouldn’t be surprised to see Apple taking existing technology and rebrand it to their own name like they did with the Apple A4. Furthermore, a dual-core processor in the iPhone 5 would help Apple stay relevant considering what manufacturers are doing on Android with the Tegra2.