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Thunderbolt connector
Apple shows off its '11 MacBook Pro notebooks

Apple today released a revamped MacBook Pro lineup. Those expecting fresh new case designs and SSD boot drives will be disappointed.

The smallest member of the MacBook Pro lineup, the 13" model, is finally moving into the modern era by ditching its base Core 2 Duo processor for a Core i5 processor running at 2.3GHz. Standard storage capacity has been bumped from 250GB to 320GB and the standard 4GB of DDR3 memory is now running at 1333MHz. 

While the sleek 13" MacBook Air is sporting a 1400x900 display, the 13" MacBook Pro still soldiers on with a 1280x800 display. When it comes to graphics, Apple has ditched the NVIDIA GeForce discrete graphics for the on-chip Intel HD 3000 graphs solution with 384MB of shared memory. 

Other features worth noting are FaceTime HD (triple the resolution of the previous FaceTime camera), support for SDXC memory cards, and an implementation of Intel's Light Peak that it dubs "Thunderbolt". 

“Thunderbolt is a revolutionary new I/O technology that delivers an amazing 10 gigabits per second and can support every important I/O standard which is ideal for the new MacBook Pro," said Philip Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of Worldwide Product Marketing.

Apple further describes ThunderBolt:

Thunderbolt enables expandability never before possible on a notebook computer. Featuring two bi-directional channels with transfer speeds up to an amazing 10Gbps each, Thunderbolt delivers PCI Express directly to external high performance peripherals such as RAID arrays, and can support FireWire and USB consumer devices and Gigabit Ethernet networks via adapters. Thunderbolt also supports DisplayPort for high resolution displays and works with existing adapters for HDMI, DVI and VGA displays. Freely available for implementation on systems, cables and devices, Thunderbolt technology is expected to be widely adopted as a new standard for high performance I/O.

The 15" and 17" MacBook Pros also get processors upgrades, and both are now available with quad-core Core i7 processors (2.0GHz in the 15" model, 2.3GHz in the 17" model). Like their little 13" brother, the 15" and 17" MacBook Pros also gain SDXC slots and Thunderbolt. Standard storage on the 15” and 17” MacBook Pros are 500GB and 750GB respectively. 

The biggest news for the two largest members of the MacBook Pro family is the removal of NVIDIA discrete GPUs to accommodate new AMD Radeon graphics. The 15" model comes packing a standard Radeon HD 6490M with 256MB of memory while the 17" is equipped with a Radeon 6750M with 1GB of memory.

As is typically the case with Apple's notebooks, the latest MacBook Pros will cost you quite a bit more than comparable Windows 7-based machines. The 13" MacBook Pro still starts at $1,199 -- Apple also offers a 13" MacBook Pro with a 2.7GHz Core i7 processor and 500GB HDD for $1,499. The 15" MacBook Pro starts at $1,799 and the 17" MacBook Pro starts at $2,499.



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Thunderbolt
By Da W on 2/24/2011 10:13:36 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
Thunderbolt delivers PCI Express directly to external high performance peripherals such as RAID arrays, and can support FireWire and USB consumer devices and Gigabit Ethernet networks via adapters.


Yet it uses a display-port like plug, forcing you to buy a proprietary adapter to plug your USB3.0 key, and every computer built with this has to pay a hefty royalty fee to Intel. not to mention that almost every devices in the world now had a USB plug and that upgrading to USB 3.0 will be painless, bet hey, screw that, lets move the whole market to Thunderbolt cause we are APPLE!




RE: Thunderbolt
By XZerg on 2/24/2011 10:25:34 AM , Rating: 2
The issue with USB is that its design just wasn't built for Optical communication (fibre) in mind. So it will soon hit the ceiling for bandwidth it can provide. A new standard port is required however I don't support the idea of it being a proprietary one. Apple takes it first head on then so be it - need someone to take the first step.


RE: Thunderbolt
By kattanna on 2/24/2011 10:42:58 AM , Rating: 2
considering any data transfers will already be limited in bandwidth by the slow built in HD, even if SSD, USB3 will fill the need of 99.9% of all laptop users.

fiber is simply not needed - it simply offers more bandwidth then the machine itself can handle.

and even on the desktop side for i'd say 98% of all users it will be moot as well.

in the higher end where we need and can use fiber..um.. we already use it and dont need another proprietary format.


RE: Thunderbolt
By XZerg on 2/24/2011 10:59:02 AM , Rating: 2
as I have mentioned before the bandwidth can be limited depending on what you use it for. I personally would like to see manufacturers release a USB3 or the LightPeak based docking station/port replicators like what we see for laptops. Just imagine only couple of cables connecting to the back of your system (desktop/laptop) and the rest connecting to the docking station. It would standardize the docking station for laptops which I believe is very much necessary. It would make for much cleaner desk, simpler cabling solution and ease of (dis)connecting devices.

Just to make sure a worthy docking station would have:
6 USB ports (at least 2 of them usb 3)
esata
network
card reader
audio
spdif
at least 2 of the below display ones (preferably being able to run 2 of them concurrently)
* hdmi
* displayport
* dvi

For the above mentioned, i doubt even a 10Gb is sufficient port but would be much better than what we have currently.


RE: Thunderbolt
By Iaiken on 2/24/2011 11:48:40 AM , Rating: 2
You mention desktop, but I already have a nice clean cabling solution that is called a motherboard/case combo with decent I/O panels.

On the back:
8 USB 2.0 (2 are eSATA combo)
2 USB 3.0 (both are eSATA combo)
2 Ethernet
1 Firewire
1 spdif
8-channel analog audio

On the video card:
2x DVI
1x HDMI
1x Displayport

On the front:
1x Headphone Jack
2x analog line in
4x USB (2 eSATA combo)
1x firewire
card reader (piggy-backs off my internal fire-wire)

I ultimately fail to see how you think this could possibly make for a cleaner desk. Currently the only cable that runs across my desk is my keyboard (which my mouse plugs into).

I can see how this would be nice for a laptop since it would basically offer up a fuller IO panel, but when it comes to desktops, you can just do a better job of picking one out in the first place.


RE: Thunderbolt
By XZerg on 2/24/2011 1:11:12 PM , Rating: 2
yes but every time you want (dis)connect something you have to reach behind the computer which for most users sits under the desk - no good.

the front panel ports are sometimes ugly.

also imagine wanting to have your case sitting further than your rest of the components - screen/keyboard/speakers... And then there is connecting the components to two different system would be a simple cable change from one case to the other.


RE: Thunderbolt
By Iaiken on 2/24/2011 3:54:38 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
yes but every time you want (dis)connect something you have to reach behind the computer which for most users sits under the desk - no good.


Uh... not really... things that I plug in and remove all the time go in the front IO panel(which is actually on the top of the case) or the card reader(in the uppermost bay below my bluray). I haven't unplugged anything from the back panel in at least 6 months.

You can sit and dream up use cases for things all day, but it's hard to beat simply planning ahead and making sure that your workspace is organized and usable.

The only one that I would be at all interested in would be the last point, but that only happens when I want to troubleshoot a second system without setting up a second workspace for it. If I ever bothered with something like this, I would just install it on the rear surface of my desk and even then it wouldn't do all that much to pretty up the cabling on top of the desk. It would also be pointless if the offending system didn't have thunderbolt.

Just another added royalty expense for expense sake...


RE: Thunderbolt
By kattanna on 2/24/2011 11:55:37 AM , Rating: 2
you dont want your video data to have to make 3 passes through the internal system bus, and even if you could get a DMA transfer directly from the the frame buffer to the I/O port itself, thats still a massive strain that could easily lead to starving the CPU and lower overall performance dramatically. also i would highly expect hitching on the video stream itself trying that route out of the system. not a good thing.

the rest of those items could easily be handled by a single USB3 connection out of the laptop to some docking port, and i would be shocked if someone didnt do exactly that.

now im not against this new connection, not at all. its just i dont see a need great enough for OEMs to want to incur the costs when they get can 99.9% of what they want done with a USB3 port.

apple with play with it a bit im sure, but if the add-on market doesnt make anything using the new connection it will die out.

i expect this new connection to become a high end niche thing, if it even survives at all.


RE: Thunderbolt
By XZerg on 2/24/2011 3:42:10 PM , Rating: 2
I willing to sacrifice that CPU power for this sort of communication to simplify life just how USB did years ago. This just takes things a step further. BTW ArsTechnica has posted more in depth information about this port:

http://arstechnica.com/apple/news/2011/02/thunderb...


RE: Thunderbolt
By Taft12 on 2/24/2011 11:56:02 AM , Rating: 3
quote:
fiber is simply not needed - it simply offers more bandwidth then the machine itself can handle.


They said the same about RS-232 (and 640k of memory!)

Things have progressed as they have over the past couple decades due to looking forward at all times. Don't stop doing that.


RE: Thunderbolt
By kattanna on 2/24/2011 4:10:07 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
They said the same about RS-232 (and 640k of memory!)


cute way to "look" smart and yet entirely miss the point

quote:
Things have progressed as they have over the past couple decades due to looking forward at all times. Don't stop doing that.


hey.. im not going to stop you from paying extra for something you cant even use.. feel free

and your comments make it sound like fiber is something new. i design/build and maintain systems that REQUIRE 4Gb fiber connections to do their jobs.. but hey.. what would i know


RE: Thunderbolt
By Tony Swash on 2/24/2011 12:20:03 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Yet it uses a display-port like plug, forcing you to buy a proprietary adapter to plug your USB3.0 key, and every computer built with this has to pay a hefty royalty fee to Intel. not to mention that almost every devices in the world now had a USB plug and that upgrading to USB 3.0 will be painless, bet hey, screw that, lets move the whole market to Thunderbolt cause we are APPLE!


Are you simple? The new MacBooks come with two USB ports and the new Thunderbolt port. How can embracing a new and better (much fast, much more versatile, much broader) standard whilst simultaneously continuing to support the older standard be construed as reducing choice or for that matter being in any way threatening?

Many posters on this forum kill me, it's supposed to be a tech site and it's full of people who are terrified of technical change! What next - a campaign to bring back the serial port? The techie luddite slogan "Forward into the Past"


RE: Thunderbolt
By ICBM on 2/24/2011 12:47:22 PM , Rating: 2
Thunderbolt sounds neat, but I guess the question is, is it needed? USB3 offers way more bandwidth than we can deal with already, so what is the point of thunderbolt? I do think its simpler to continue down the path of USB, since it is all backwards compatible. However since Apple is including USB as well, I don't think we should hate on Apple for this. If anything it's more of a marketing gimmick. Now if we can add a discrete graphics card to a laptop via thunderbolt, then that would be something to applaud!


RE: Thunderbolt
By geddarkstorm on 2/24/2011 3:23:08 PM , Rating: 2
It will be, in the future. And Lightpeak... urg... "Thunderbolt" (honestly? That's the end name for it? How childish sounding) has immense future potential. Hitting 100Gbps is no challenge for its current design by what Intel has released. Its ability to carry multiple protocol signals over the same wire is also a great improvement over USB, and more future proofing.


RE: Thunderbolt
By Da W on 2/24/2011 12:49:10 PM , Rating: 2
You don't get it at all. AMD is embracing open format USB3.0 while Intel (and Apple) are trying to push a proprietary format. Much like intel tryied to push itanium when AMD pushed x86 compatible x64. That was my point. There ain't no USB 3.0 on the macbook.


RE: Thunderbolt
By omnicronx on 2/24/2011 1:14:16 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
The new MacBooks come with two USB ports and the new Thunderbolt port.
Lets be more specific, its going to come with the new Thuderbolt port and two USB 2.0 ports.

What kills me is that Apple is most likely not going to support USB3.0, thats the problem, and this is clearly a case of Apple going against an open standard.

USB 3 can achieve ~5Gbps (half of theoretical speed of lightpath) speeds which is more than enough for pretty much anything but display uses, but will be far superior in terms of powering devices and even sports an increased power draw over USB 2.

So there is clearly a problem here if Apple decides not to support USB three.

Technologies such as fiber are clearly the future, but that does not mean you can forgo the present. I welcome change, but forcing something upon users is not a good way to do business, regardless of your feelings. USB is everywhere, so its not like manufacturers are going to be switching overnight, its going to take years. Does that mean Apple users will be left out of using newer USB3 devices which manufacturers will surely continue to support over LightPath for some time.

So the question is, Will Apple support USB3? If not there is clearly a problem which you cannot ignore.

P.S And I'm not even going to go into the power scenario, USB3 will support much higher draws than USB2, so if manufacturers start making use of this, Apple users may be left out in the cold.


RE: Thunderbolt
By Commodus on 2/24/2011 3:09:25 PM , Rating: 2
No, it's entirely likely that Apple will support USB 3.0.

It doesn't now because there's no official controller chipset from Intel; you pretty much have to talk to NEC to get one. And right now, most systems with USB 3.0 are only using it on one or two ports, and never all of them. Apple probably doesn't want to have to label ports separately or have users decide which one device is important enough to get the fastest connection.

If I remember correctly, it might not be until Ivy Bridge (early 2012) that Intel has official support, and that's when Apple is most likely to make the jump.


RE: Thunderbolt
By Shadowself on 2/24/2011 3:13:16 PM , Rating: 2
So I take it you were adamantly against Apple when they dropped Apple proprietary interconnects (Apple Desktop Bus) and old, slow serial busses (RS-232 and RS-422) when they launched the iMac and only supported USB? Apple was "forcing" people to move to a newer, more universal interconnect system. From what you are saying that was an evil thing to have done. RS-232 was everywhere, RS-422 was common, for Apple users Apple Desktop Bus was the "standard". It has taken a long time for the world to move to a USB standard. Hell, you can still buy brand new motherboards today that support the old keyboard/mouse interconnects! So Apple moving to USB in the late '90s was truly a bad thing to do.

Lightpeak (aka Thunderbolt in Apple parlance) supports the USB 3 protocol over the Lightpeak physical media.


RE: Thunderbolt
By omnicronx on 2/24/2011 5:11:09 PM , Rating: 2
How is any of this rant Apples to Apples..

I don't see how anyone can argue that replacing multiple interconnects with a single standard is a bad thing. That said this is clearly not a fair comparison to what is being discussed.

LightPeak can't replace USB for everything, so its not going away. Merely making it a legacy connection and not attempting to improve upon it when it is the industry standard for pretty much anything is incomprehensible in my opinion.

Of course I'm making predictions here, Apple could very well implement USB3 in which all of what I said is a non issue. Its my opinion that LightPeak should complement USB3, not replace it. (and from what I've gathered, this seems to be Intel's position as well.)

I just have a bad feeling Apple won't follow this path, heck if it were up to Apple we would all be using firewire instead of USB. Alas USB became the standard and Apple had little choice but to implement it. Seems eerily similar, don't you think?

As I said, technologies such as LightPath are the future, but USB3 is the present and cannot be ignored.


RE: Thunderbolt
By Iaiken on 2/24/2011 3:57:58 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
standard


You keep using that word, I do not think it means what you think it means.


RE: Thunderbolt
By TypeS on 2/25/2011 7:02:23 AM , Rating: 2
What display port like plug are talking about...? Oh wait! You mean the one where they are re-using and existing port so that you can still use existing video adapters for your Macbook/Macbook Pro? Wow, isn't that ever so evil of Apple.

Considering the low adoption rate evident in USB3, it's genius business sense of Apple not to use a new standard connector, they'd have to axe another port or clutter the side further. Will you need an adapter for future devices? Well yes but look at the past of USB 1.1/2.0, USB>ATAPI/ATA, USB>Serial, USB>Paralell, USB/Ethernet-WLAN, etc, the list of adapters USB has used can go on.

Your post screams of pure anti-Apple/Intel fanboism and has little merit.

And before you call me an a sheep of the Steve Jobs, I have, do and will always used Thinkpads as my main notebook.


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