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Future Mac hardware
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Feb 18, 2014, 11:16 AM
 
The last few days, various things in the larger PC hardware market have come together to paint a picture of what we can expect from future Macs.

1) Intel's Broadwell, the next CPU generation and a shrink of Haswell, is late. If this strikes you as a old news, since Intel announced that a few months ago, I'm afraid that that is not the case - Broadwell is even more late. Right now the leaked plans show some early CPUs showing up in Q4, but the most important chips - the low-voltage models - will be launching 2015.

2) Intel's 9-series chipset, which includes Intel's standard PCIe flash solution, seems to be launching on time in May or thereabouts. Since Broadwell is late, it will launch with "Haswell refresh" - the same chip, but 100 MHz more clockspeed, essentially.

3) nVidia just launched it's first "Maxwell" GPU, the low-end GM107. Since it's low-end, it's not all that exciting in absolute terms, but the top model 750 Ti beats the previous 650 Ti Boost while using 60W instead of 140W. Apple uses the predecessor of this chip, the GK107, in the 15" rMBP and the 2 middle iMacs. A mobile model is expected soon.

Knowing all of this, I expect a release plan something like this:

rMBP 15": Will likely stay with nVidia now that AMD got the MP. I expect an update this spring including a slight clockspeed boost and a switch to the first Maxwell GPUs (likely called 850M or something like that). This should mean a small CPU boost and a rather massive GPU boost.

rMBP 13": Harder to predict, but I suspect that we see nothing more than a clockspeed boost. It would be great if we could get a GT3e version of the dualcore chips, but I don't give it a big chance.

iMacs: Middle iMacs should also move to the GM107, which means that they run cooler and much faster. The issue there is that the GM107 only has 16 ROPs, which doesn't really matter at the resolutions MBPs game at, but will be an issue at the high resolutions iMacs run at. Still, it's a boost. Top iMac would then have to move to something more powerful (we can hope), but most likely it will just be another rebranding of what we already have. For the CPUs, there is a slight clockspeed boost from Haswell refresh. Timing likely a month or two after the rMBPs.

MBAs: There is essentially nothing for them to upgrade to, beyond a tiny clock boost, so I guess we'll have to hope for a major redesign so we at least get something.
The new Mac Pro has up to 30 MB of cache inside the processor itself. That's more than the HD in my first Mac. Somehow I'm still running out of space.
     
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Feb 18, 2014, 01:09 PM
 
So, what do we have here...

Things still getting faster AND producing less heat and consuming less energy, right? Oh, I don't know, you are not talking about price drops in retina displays and SSD drives, hmm. Lots of interesting news here, I think. Some possible extremes:

- New MacBook Air, maybe somewhat different shape, but generelly just as thin and light, but with a real graphics card. It's just a paradigm shift, right? Any smartphone and tablet has some sort of relatively fast GPU, notebooks are still an exception here, for good reasons, but this could change in the future. When the original MBA was released, it was still revolutionary to have this tiny a CPU at all, things have changed...
Could also be positioned somewhat different to the rMBP, maybe 12 and 14 inch screens, still thin and light, and cheaper, would be a nice lineup.
- Retina MacBook Pro could finally become standard. Form factor, material etc. don't need to change so much, price tag should drop again, though.
- Sometimes I think iMacs could become Apple's only desktop Macs. With computers being small enough to fit into a cellphone, you do wonder why you need a seperate something at all. However, they don't agree here, right. I wonder if iMacs couldn't be a lot thinner, maybe a more decisive set of configurations would be interesting, something entry to get going with a big enough screen, something high-end really fast consuming so little space, but you can apparently configure something similar. Anyone noticed there's a wall mount option for a while? Cool for all-in-ones, but not good you have to decide either way. I think there's an unexplored future here, people just ignoring it still, but I always liked displays pinned up at the wall.
- There was short article in a German magazine on the Mac Pro, but ... Like many, they are rather cynical, I find. I think the concept is not over-done, I think it' just next-year's concept. I wonder when a MP for 2000 dollars is released, why shouldn't they? SSDs are going to be around forever. You can easily offer a single-GPU model etc. The whole thing is built around new hardware, new thoughts, it is rather efficient... When you google price comparisons, you find it's just as expensive as, so the price tag is to change.
- I still find the Mac mini irritating, confusing. A GPU wouldn't hurt, could be possible, would change a lot. Apple always struggled with its hefty price trags, but the MacBook Air and Mac Mini changed things a lot here. Good.

I always thought a new hardware generation was abound, first visible in smartphones, then tablets, because they require less speed, less capacity. The NEW tech has faster drives, ten times faster, although drive speeds didn't time for ages. So you need new ports, and they are here for ages. Wifi is catching up, too. There are those retina, ultra high resolution displays, whatever you call them, and you need fast GPUs and CPUs here, and sometimes you think the latest iMac would generally be fast enough. Retins could become BTO here this year, plus 1000 dollars. Things are requiring less power and generating less warmth too.
I always tought it is sort of a different feeling to use these new Macs, wheneve you fully encountered one. The MacBook Air was in many ways a comfortable and encouraging demonstration of all this. The Mac Pro is another one.

What do we think here... Personally, I would throw things apart here, not always offering high-end machines, but a few more machines for different needs, but maybe that's an overstatement. I still seek the ultra-cheap machine which is reasonably fast, still seek Macs priced for everyone. Apple is rather aggressive about new tech, but they simply ignore price tradtitions so they are first. Fun. And s bit extravagant...

Pete
     
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Feb 18, 2014, 02:05 PM
 
A discrete GPU in the MBA is probably the last thing to happen. Integrated GPUs are getting ever better, and they use a sliver of both the actual space and the power budget. It's more likely that Apple drops discrete graphics entirely.

Unless they kill some MBA variant, the rMBP stays just where it is. The old MBP will die soon enough, though.

The iMac was recently update to an ever thinner form factor, and they still can't make enough of the MP even at the current price. I doubt it's coming down any time soon.

The mini is due for a redesign, but I don't think it's dying.
The new Mac Pro has up to 30 MB of cache inside the processor itself. That's more than the HD in my first Mac. Somehow I'm still running out of space.
     
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Feb 18, 2014, 04:25 PM
 
I just got the top-of-the-line iMac 27" with 1TB Fusion drive.
This thing is screaming.

In Handbrake, I get up to 120 frames per second.

-t
     
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Feb 18, 2014, 07:10 PM
 
Heck, I'd settle for a simple Haswell CPU w/ Iris 5200 in a Mac Mini. Not asking for too much...
"Like a midget at a urinal, I was going to have to stay on my toes." Frank Drebin, Naked Gun 33 1/3: The Final Insult
     
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Feb 19, 2014, 04:34 AM
 
The desktop version of that starts at $255. The mobile version, which is what the mini uses today, starts at $434. At the mini's current price point, that doesn't leave all that much left for the rest of the computer. I think it might happen if Apple transitions the mini to using desktop chips (like those Intel NUCs), but as long as it stays the current mobile shape, $434 might be a bridge too far.
The new Mac Pro has up to 30 MB of cache inside the processor itself. That's more than the HD in my first Mac. Somehow I'm still running out of space.
     
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Feb 19, 2014, 08:23 AM
 
Originally Posted by P View Post
The desktop version of that starts at $255. The mobile version, which is what the mini uses today, starts at $434. At the mini's current price point, that doesn't leave all that much left for the rest of the computer. I think it might happen if Apple transitions the mini to using desktop chips (like those Intel NUCs), but as long as it stays the current mobile shape, $434 might be a bridge too far.
Then offer it as an option. There is so much pent-up demand for the mythical "headless iMac" I bet these would sell like hot cakes.
"Like a midget at a urinal, I was going to have to stay on my toes." Frank Drebin, Naked Gun 33 1/3: The Final Insult
     
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Feb 19, 2014, 08:38 AM
 
Really anxious for the mac mini refresh. I have a project coming up that a mini would suit very well and I just know the refresh will come 15 days after purchase.
     
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Feb 19, 2014, 10:14 AM
 
Originally Posted by cgc View Post
Then offer it as an option. There is so much pent-up demand for the mythical "headless iMac" I bet these would sell like hot cakes.
Apple used to offer a mini with discrete graphics of comparable quality (Mid-2001 model had an option with a Radeon 6630M, similar to what was in the low-end MBP at the time) and stopped after one generation. I doubt they'd do that if it sold like hotcakes.

There are boxes a lot like that mini in what Intel calls a NUC:

AnandTech | GIGABYTE BRIX Pro: A First Look at the Intel i7-4770R with Iris Pro HD 5200
AnandTech | Intel's Haswell NUC: D54250WYK UCFF PC Review

(The one that looks like an ugly mini uses the same type of mobile chip as the mini, the thicker black one uses Iris Pro 5200).
The new Mac Pro has up to 30 MB of cache inside the processor itself. That's more than the HD in my first Mac. Somehow I'm still running out of space.
     
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Feb 19, 2014, 10:59 AM
 
Any news for X99 and HSW-E? Presumably not caught up in the BDW delays?
     
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Feb 19, 2014, 04:04 PM
 
Nothing new - the leaked roadmaps do not include those chips at all. AFAIK, it's still Q3 2014.
The new Mac Pro has up to 30 MB of cache inside the processor itself. That's more than the HD in my first Mac. Somehow I'm still running out of space.
     
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Feb 19, 2014, 07:52 PM
 
Originally Posted by P View Post
Apple used to offer a mini with discrete graphics of comparable quality (Mid-2001 model had an option with a Radeon 6630M, similar to what was in the low-end MBP at the time) and stopped after one generation. I doubt they'd do that if it sold like hotcakes.

There are boxes a lot like that mini in what Intel calls a NUC:

AnandTech | GIGABYTE BRIX Pro: A First Look at the Intel i7-4770R with Iris Pro HD 5200
AnandTech | Intel's Haswell NUC: D54250WYK UCFF PC Review

(The one that looks like an ugly mini uses the same type of mobile chip as the mini, the thicker black one uses Iris Pro 5200).
I had looked into NUCs but I've got a few bucks invested in OSX software and want to stay with Apple. I still think a Mini with dedicated GPU would sell but it's easier and cheaper for Apple to push out boxes with integrated graphics. Most people won't notice. I need to buy something by the beginning of April so I've got my fingers crossed as I don't want a laptop, iMac, or another MacPro.
"Like a midget at a urinal, I was going to have to stay on my toes." Frank Drebin, Naked Gun 33 1/3: The Final Insult
     
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Feb 23, 2014, 07:36 AM
 
Hi...

Well, actually, I was trying to say something really important I find. I think a new generation of hardware is abound, I think it is here, now, and I discuss a few things that are going to change forever now. I cannot understand some of the disagreements here... I can try to explain myself better.

It is a story about the MacBook Air. I do not know about anyone else, but the moment you hold it in your hand... When you hold an iPhone or iPad, it is different, you do use a new device. The MBA was proof that Notebooks may change forever.
Somehow, when you are a Windows user and you seek the "average" laptop, you want everything normal it should come with concerning speed, display, weight, keyboard, even graphics. Surfing the web is really fast, many Photoshop things are great, for design students it is really extraodinary, it is fast enough for most of general imaging work. P notes the integrated graphics are rapidly improving. There are two comparisons here, I think, with other integrated graphics and with discrete graphics. The whole commercial concept is different, as we know some apps and the OS really need a great GPU, but they don't need something as extreme as most new games require.
At some point, all entry-level notebooks could be ultrabooks, because it is really a notebook without discrete GPU, some ports and only the second-best mobile processors there currently are.

Somehow, I thought it was really a foreshadowing of what was coming, maybe helping to advance the cause. Instead of speed, power-efficiency became an ever more important debate in CPU development. Notebook and thinness were redefined - suddenly, there was a new measure, a new benchmark. Back then, you needed an iPod HD and a specially built CPU, but this changed along the way, although the drives are still rather tiny in capacity, the feeling to use a MacBook Air was greatly helped by the SSD drives, it is so... different.

P says the MPs are not going to drop prices and there is not going go be a discrete GPU in the MBA. Hmm.

I am trying to say... I think computers have finally come to a point where many old paradigms can be thrown out. Anyone remembers computers used to crash all along and that they stopped doing this around 2000? Windows people even remember no longer getting viruses around the same time. The curious thing is, we did regard computers being invented, we found they were not at all finished in any way, but we could accompany the development. So people always thought it was strange to imagine computers could really get better, and simply adjusted their habits to their pros and cons.

So, the time has come in many ways... New notebooks sufficient for nearly everything but high-end graphics are here. Drives have come to a point where they are always way too big, and prices dropping, capacities thriving. The SSD drive alone in the new MP is really costly.
For the faster drives, you need faster ports, Gigabit Ethernet, faster Wifi, USB 3 etc.
Pixel density is finally being tackled. It won't be around forever, at some point, all displays will be retina-like displays, as nearly all smartphones and tablets coming out now have these really high densities.

So the software compliance really improved and the hardware has come to a new and interesting breaking point. Technology also always had the advantage of de-rationalizing itself, if that is English, meaning it can grow less power-consuming, less expensive to produce. Where is the point when computers do not get faster any more, but consume less power? That point is not here, but the power-efficiency, as I understand the Intel roadmap, has been added as key point, combining smaller increases in speed and increases in power consumption as well each year. In some way, it is a step in this direction, when CPUs are simply fast enough.

Suddenly, computers really can get smaller. People may not admit it outright, but there used to be really big towers as computers at some point. The Apple tower of past years was also not small, some PCs were smaller. But if we can put a reasonably fast computer in a cellphone or behind an iMac's display, it is consequential to argue if stand-alone machines should not finally consume much less space. In addition to not being so expendable, on the other hand, peripherals, even expanding ones, take up less space than they used, too, and this changes, too, as with external SSD drives.

So I stick with most of my statements:
- Computers could consume less space, Apple notebooks are really not much thicker than a display these days, emulating my suggestions. The Mac Pro in my opinion is an example of the future. It looks eccentric, but it is also clever and marketable and I think it will surprise people a lot during long-term use - because it is so agreeable and comfortable a machine. The iMac should do something cool and get thinner, but that's just my opinion, somehow, I find the thickness a bit disturbing.
- Computers can consume less energy. It is not the same as with light bulbs however, where you pick a calculator and you find your costs of buying energy saving ones or even LED bulbs at reasonable price point relative to consumption costs. Consumption will probably decrease, steadily, but it takes time. Apple again offers a fine example I think.
- Computers have become more environmentally friendly, glass and metal being 'elitarian' at the beginning, although they are more recycable than plastic from what I understand. If I get this right, this is a huge change, as you simply "need" a new computer every 3-5 years, so they are thrown away rather often.
- Computers could integrate wirelessly a bit more flawlessly in my opinion. When my TV has WiFi and it only offers iOS and Android apps, but no apps for OS X or Windows, this confuses me entirely. When I hold a smartphone close to a WiFi-capable TV, it takes ages to display an image. When my Bluetooth speaker connects, it searches for a while, then makes some noise, before simply being ready. This is weird, WiFi or Bluetooth being everywhere, but software is dopey.
- Smartphones and Tablets are part of the same debate, as they are part of the same hardware evolution, and technologically of the same software development, although software use often differs so greatly. Can there be more devices? How about much larger or much smaller displays? Are gaming consoles still relevant? This is the debate.

Happy Sunday,
Pete
     
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Feb 24, 2014, 10:43 AM
 
The Mac mini is due a refresh, in design and spec. For spec it will probably get the Iris series graphics, the current one still has Intel HD 4000. For design, it doesn't need to be a flat square anymore, optical drives in Macs are not happening now, the Airport is that tower shape now, the mini could go to a cube shape, something like that Piston PC that was meant to be a Steam Box console.


Apple have got patent filings for things like carbon fibre cases, and they've still done nothing with Liquid Metal other than the iPhone SIM tray eject pins.
     
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Feb 24, 2014, 12:08 PM
 
I considered the Airport Extreme chassis as well, but I don't think we'll see that type of excessively cooled box as a mini. Note that the Piston has a wimpy embedded SOC and an external PSU - both things we don't particularly want.
The new Mac Pro has up to 30 MB of cache inside the processor itself. That's more than the HD in my first Mac. Somehow I'm still running out of space.
     
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Feb 24, 2014, 01:48 PM
 
Maybe we'll see a mini Mac Pro design for the new Mac Mini.
     
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Feb 24, 2014, 01:55 PM
 
Now THAT it is an excellent idea!
The new Mac Pro has up to 30 MB of cache inside the processor itself. That's more than the HD in my first Mac. Somehow I'm still running out of space.
     
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Feb 24, 2014, 09:06 PM
 
I hope they release soon but I suspect I'll be buying the current Mac Mini which is more than adequate...just not a fan of buying 1.5 year old technology thought I'd get the SSD and fastest i7 so it'd smoke my MacPro (1,1).
"Like a midget at a urinal, I was going to have to stay on my toes." Frank Drebin, Naked Gun 33 1/3: The Final Insult
     
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Feb 27, 2014, 08:51 AM
 
I think the new Mac mini should look like the Apple TV. This would be mini. Alternatively, a total square, could be fun, but hard to build.

Anyway, will the MacBook Air anytime soon receive a retina display, if it can't have a discrete graphics chip?

In addition, is the integrated graphics chip of the 13" Retina MacBook Pro really a lot faster than the 13" MacBook Air integrated graphics? Any benchmarks? Does it make any sense to, for instance, play non-retina games on it, do they look rubbish?
     
   
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