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Posts tagged with "thunderbolt"

More Details On What Makes The Thunderbolt Cable Tick

Apple eventually started selling Thunderbolt cables and peripherals on Tuesday but many have asked why the Apple Thunderbolt cable costs, the rather expensive, $50. Ars Technica and iFixit decided to dig into the cable to find a bit more about it and discover why exactly it is so expensive.

First contacting a support technician, they were told that the Thunderbolt cable was “smart”, containing firmware inside it. Subsequently reaching out to Intel, they wouldn’t discuss anything regarding “firmware in the cable” but they did note that any Thunderbolt peripheral or device will require a specific Thunderbolt cable.

Only Thunderbolt cables can be used to connect Thunderbolt products using Thunderbolt connectors, the cables have been designed for the 10Gbps signalling as well as power delivery that are part of Thunderbolt technology.

Digging a little deeper however, Ars found this EETimes article, which noted that Thunderbolt cables use ‘active cabling’ and have different electrical characteristics from Mini DisplayPort to achieve full duplex 10Gbps transmission. Such ‘active cabling’ cables contain “tiny chips at either end that are calibrated to the attenuation and dispersion properties of the wire between them”.

iFixit decided to tear open the new cable and found that it contains two Gennum GN2033 Thunderbolt Transceiver chips which are described by the company as follows:

The GN2033 provides the sophisticated signal boosting and detection functions required to transfer high-speed data without errors across inexpensive Thunderbolt copper cables

[Via Ars Technica, iFixit]


First Thunderbolt Tests: “Dramatically Faster” Than FireWire, Supports Booting from Disk

With the release of the official Thunderbolt cable from Apple earlier this week, the first Thunderbolt-enabled products also started appearing on the Apple online Store. As announced back in February soon after the introduction of the new MacBook Pros with Thunderbolt, Promise made available a set of four different RAID systems called Promise Pegasus R4 (4x1TB and 4x2TB configurations) and Promise Pegasus R6 (6x1TB and 6x2TB capacities). A few publications managed to get their hands on the newly released models and the first results are coming in, detailing how, indeed, the Thunderbolt technology is incredibly faster than regular USB 2.0, but also FireWire 400 and FireWire 800.

First off, AnandTech received a 6-bay 12 TB model of the Promise Pegasus and, whilst a full review will be available later this week, they have confirmed that booting OS X from an external Thunderbolt disk properly partitioned will be possible, unlike some reports in the past months suggested. Thanks to Thunderbolt’s high speed and possibility of daisy-chaining devices, it’ll be interesting to see how fast will Lion run when configured on an external (perhaps even SSD) drive with other peripherals connected.

All of the available Pegasus systems ship with 7200RPM 3.5” hard drives, although Promise mentioned that we will may see SSD enabled configurations in the future. The 12TB R6 we received uses six Hitachi Deskstar 7K3000 2TB drives (HDS723020BLA642) in a 9.7TB RAID-5 configuration. The 7K3000 spins its four platters at 7200RPM and buffers data with a 64MB on-board cache. The drive has a 6Gbps SATA interface although the Pegasus R4/R6 supports SAS drives as well. All of the Pegasus devices ship in RAID 5 however they do support RAID-0/1/5/50/6/10.

Similarly, Macworld received a Thunderbolt 6-bay 12TB Promise Pegasus RAID system and put it through a first round of tests to measure its speed against common standards like USB and FireWire. Unsurprisingly, Thunderbolt scored better reading times – between 6.8 and 11.5 times faster than a FireWire drive from Promise itself, while a copying process of a 2 GB file was 30 percent faster on the Thunderbolt-equipped R6.

We used two different systems to test the RAIDs: a 15-inch 2.2GHz Core i5 MacBook Pro with a 256GB solid-state drive and 4GB of RAM; and a 27-inch 2.7GHz Core i5 iMac with a 1TB hard drive and 4GB of RAM.

When connected to the MacBook Pro (which has a slower processor than the iMac, but a faster internal SSD), we see that the R6’s AJA System Test results are very similar to the results when the R6 is attached to an iMac. In our tests involving the 2GB file and 2GB folder of files, the R6 benefited from the solid-state drive in the MacBook Pro. Across the board in these tests, the R6-MacBook Pro/SSD combination outperformed the R6 attached to an iMac with an internal hard drive.

More benchmarks will be available this week as people get their hands on new Thunderbolt products.


Apple Releases Thunderbolt Cable, Sony Unveils Details Of New PC Featuring Thunderbolt

Update: The cable has made its way on to the online US Apple Store and it is indeed US$49.

Following yesterday’s Thunderbolt firmware update that brought “performance and stability fixes”, Apple has released the ‘Apple Thunderbolt cable’ that allows users to connect and daisy chain multiple Thunderbolt capable devices. The 2m long accessory is simply a cable that features the Thunderbolt connector on both ends. It is priced at $55 in Australia, £39.00 in the UK but has not yet made it into the US Apple Store – although based on similarly priced accessories it will be roughly US$49.

Thunderbolt technology supports blazing-fast data transfer with two independent channels of 10Gbit/s each. Use the Apple Thunderbolt cable to connect your Thunderbolt-equipped peripherals to your new iMac or new MacBook Pro.

As explained in our Thunderbolt editorial a few months ago, the Thunderbolt specification works by daisy chaining multiple devices together – allowing just one cable from the Mac to actually connect a number of devices together. This Thunderbolt accessory cable is that cable that can connect multiple Thunderbolt capable devices together.

The other piece of Thunderbolt news is that Sony has announced details of its new 13.1-inch VAIO Z that features Thunderbolt, except they are calling it Light Peak (the old name of the specification). Interestingly it features a ‘Power Media Dock’ that includes an external GPU and optical drive – all connected by Light Peak. It is certainly an interesting use of the Thunderbolt specification, and with its speeds that external GPU will certainly make that laptop much more powerful when connected.

[Via This is my next]


Thunderbolt Firmware Update Released

A few minutes ago Apple released Thunderbolt Firmware Update through its downloads website and the desktop Software Update control panel, targeting all machines running the recently introduced Thunderbolt I/O connectivity standards. Until today, Apple has released new MacBook Pros and iMacs featuring the Thunderbolt technology from Intel. The update brings “performance and stability fixes”.

This update provides Thunderbolt performance and stability fixes.

When your computer restarts a gray screen will appear with a status bar to indicate the progress of the update.

Do not disturb or shut off the power on your computer during this update.

Apple’s release notes don’t specifically mention the targeted machines so we assume it applies to all 2011 Macs with at least a Thunderbolt port. The new MacBook Airs rumored to be getting a Sandy Bridge and Thunderbolt update later this month or in July will likely come with these fixes pre-installed, so if you need to download the patch now go ahead and pull the 486 KB package from Apple’s website.


MacBook Air Supplies At Best Buy And Others Dwindle, Refresh Creeps Closer

It is pretty clear that a refreshed MacBook Air line is coming soon, based on the numerous rumors and reports that have come in over the past month or so. Further evidence of an imminent refresh came late yesterday night when 9to5 Mac discovered that Best Buy had stopped shipping all MacBook Airs from its website. Although they are still selling them from their retail stores, stock is reportedly low, with some “exceptionally low on MacBook Air stock”.

The UK Best Buy online store is also completely out of stock except for the 128GB version, which is low in stock and can only be collected from certain retail locations.  The story is similar with Canadian retailer Future Shop which is also low on stock as well as Amazon, which has low stock in a number of countries. 9to5 Mac also speculated in its post that July 4th could be a potential release date for the refreshed models, other rumors had suggested the launch would correlate with the launch of Lion.

The refreshed line of MacBook Airs is widely expected to include the new Sandy Bridge processors from Intel, as well as the new Thunderbolt I/O port which made its debut in this years refresh of the MacBook Pro models, and more recently in refreshed iMacs – both refreshes also brought new Sandy Bridge processors.

[Via 9to5 Mac]


High Costs Slowing Down Adoption of AirPlay and Thunderbolt?

According to iLounge, developers of peripherals for iOS and OS X claim high licensing and production costs for the relatively new AirPlay and Thunderbolt standards will slow down the adoption of such technologies from third-party manufacturers.

AirPlay, officially introduced with iOS 4.2.1 in November 2010, allows iOS users to beam audio or video content to compatible AirPlay speakers, AirPort Express stations, and Apple TVs 2nd-gen. By working closely with a company called BridgeCo, Apple built a wireless system that directly interacts with iOS and Mac devices to receive audio streams, as well as artist’s information and other playback data. For video, AirPlay enables users to send video stored locally or from the web to an Apple TV on the same WiFi network. Since AirPlay’s announcement in September at the iPod event, both Apple and BridgeCo stressed how third-party adoption would bring hundreds of AirPlay-enabled products to the market. Until now, however, most of these products have been in high-end range of consumer prices, with Philips only recently exploring price points below $300. iLounge reports implementing AirPlay adds $100 to the final product’s price:

Our sources have described the AirPlay technologies as considerably more expensive to incorporate than Apple’s standard docking Made for iPod/iPhone/iPad Dock Connectors, and noted that Apple is very heavily pushing developers to adopt the wireless technologies despite the costs involved.

Similarly, the cost of adding a Thunderbolt port to an external drive is said to roughly match the price of a low-end drive, which we assume is somewhere below $99 as well. For this reason, it’s likely Thunderbolt will only find its way in high-end professional products in the immediate future, and quite possibly the factor behind Apple’s decision to leave the iPad 2 without a Thunderbolt port, rather relying on wireless sync introduced with iOS 5 (you might remember rumors before the iPad 2 announcement suggested the device could get Thunderbolt – back then codenamed Light Peak).

A variety of Thunderbolt products from LaCie and Promise, among others, were unveiled in the past months, with all of them seemingly oriented to the pro market and audio/video professionals. Thunderbolt is an I/O technology developed by Intel and Apple that allows for bidirectional 10 Gbps connection over a cable, plus a 10 Watt feed to power other devices and attached peripherals.


Mac mini and Mac Pro Refresh In August?

According to Cnet’s Brian Tong, sources have confirmed that updated models of the Mac mini and Mac Pro will come out in August. With a series of tweets on his profile Tong says the “all new” Mac minis and Mac Pros with Sandy Bridge processors and Thunderbolt technology will be released towards the end of July or first week of August. A report from two weeks ago claimed that Apple was looking to refresh the Mac mini and Mac Pro server line-up in July, though Tong seems to believe both the consumer and server lines will receive the much anticipated CPU and Thunderbolt upgrade to follow changes in the MacBook Pros and iMacs.

Tong correctly pinpointed the changes in the 2011 iMac refresh months ago and was the first one to claim back in February that the MacBook Air family was on track for a June update. Several rumors from different publications in the past months have indicated Apple was working on new MacBook Airs with faster processors and Thunderbolt, and the most recent theories suggest the update will come out either in late June or July.

Another report from last week also claimed Apple won’t release new Macs until OS X Lion comes out, and considering Lion’s scheduled July release, it would make sense for Apple to put new Airs for sale (the MacBook Air is now Apple’s most popular notebook) with the new OS preinstalled. In other tweets, Tong also confirms Lion will come pre-installed on new Macs this summer.


The MacBook Air is Apple’s New Crown Jewel

Everywhere you look on Apple’s new Lion page, the MacBook Air is decisively front and center. From the gestures video to screenshots detailing the new features in Apple’s upcoming OS, Steve Jobs and company are decidedly proud of their thinnest Mac yet. AppleInsider reported that Apple would build 400k revitalized MacBook Airs this month (stuffed with Sandy-Bridge processors) after 1 million of them shipped in the first quarter; Phill Schiller at last Monday’s WWDC 2011 keynote went so far as to cite the MacBook Air for Apple’s continuing success. “It’s beautiful, it’s thin, it’s light, it’s fast… The whole PC industry wants to copy it.”

According to AppleInsider, Wall Street analyst Chris Whitmore of Deutsche Bank predicts that if 1.5 million MacBook Airs were shipped per quarter based on current estimates, that the MacBook Air would make up half of Apple’s notebook business. He predicts that many new customers are waiting for the latest technology such as Thunderbolt, Sandy-Bridge processors, and Lion to hit the laptops before consumers upgrade from their current setups.

Darrell Etherington from GigaOM wrote a piece on Lion’s hardware requirements, suggesting that the animation heavy interface would require the latest technology such as an SSD, core i-series processor, and lots of RAM to use comfortably. With Lion taking advantage of gestures on newer trackpads, and requiring the latest technology to use comfortably, he makes the case that the MacBook Air, boasting at an affordable price point, beautiful design, and fast tech, is the perfect candidate for consumers as they purchase new machines.

The MacBook represents Apple’s past; it’s a well-designed traditional notebook that provides users looking for an alternative to Windows laptops with a solid, high-quality, OS X-based alternative. But the MacBook Air represents Apple’s future. It’s a slim, lightweight device with a futuristic design aesthetic, but more importantly, it’s a perfect partner for OS X Lion and iCloud, and like Apple said at its WWDC keynote, iCloud is the new center of the Apple universe.

New MacBook Airs could be coming as soon as Wednesday as Apple’s back to school promotions kick off, but that rumor was later redacted as part numbers matched a series of unlocked iPhones instead of the new laptops. A June or July release is still predicted as MacBook Air supplies dwindle, and there even might be a Mac Mini and Mac Pro refresh to accompany the updated laptops.

Whitmore writes that Mac sales generally spike after a new OS update, and in combination with refreshed MacBook Airs, could fuel a very good summer for Apple. At its heart, however, Apple sees the MacBook Air as the driver of innovation - it is no longer the MacBook Pro or the iMac Apple wants you to think of, but their tapered and lightweight notebooks.

“In two years time, if not less, when you think ‘Mac,’ you’ll think about the MacBook Air first and foremost. And that’s by design, as Apple continues to have outsized influence in the changing definition of personal computing.” I tend to agree with Etherington. Today, the future of the MacBook starts with the MacBook Air.

[Sources: GigaOM, AppleInsider]


Thunderbolt Shows its Speedy Side at Computex 2011 With Products from Promise and LaCie

Apple is trying to convince many that Thunderbolt is the next big thing when it comes to input/output technology, yet Thunderbolt-ready devices aren’t yet available to consumers who wish to utilize their new Mac’s Thunderbolt interface. Manufacturers have already announced a few Thunderbolt powered devices as seen on the NAB show floor, and at this year’s Computex, LaCie and Promise are demonstrating just how fast Thunderbolt enabled storage can be.

Promise demoed two storage systems branded as the Pegasus R4 and Pegasus R6 in four and six bay configurations respectively. These storage arrays have two Thunderbolt ports so they can be daisy chained to the same interface (up to six devices), although video output requires that the last connection be via DisplayPort. The arrays support RAID 0/1/5/6 and RAID 10, and support both 3.5” and 2.5” drives. While 6 Gbps drives are supported, only a transfer rate of 850 MB/s was noted in RAID 0 by AnandTech. With performing transfer rates at 633 MB/s in reading and 734 MB/s in writing, the Pegasus storage arrays aren’t too shabby when it comes to moving storage from your Mac to your hard drives, and speed and data-redundancy geeks can look for a late June release. Past the break, we have a quick video on Promise’s hardware demo and more on LaCie’s competitive alternative.

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