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You are here: MacNN Forums > Hardware - Troubleshooting and Discussion > Mac Notebooks > New MacBook Air: 11.6" $999, 13.3" $1299

New MacBook Air: 11.6" $999, 13.3" $1299 (Page 3)
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Oct 28, 2010, 04:32 AM
 
The conclusion also has the quote that sums up everything:

If Intel made a 32nm Core 2 Duo, clocked high enough the 11 would be perfect. I guess that’s what Atom is eventually supposed to be, but right now the performance is just too low.
Yes, exactly. Threadshrinks are great - Arrandale isn't so great. Its one saving grace is Hyperthreading.
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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Oct 28, 2010, 08:53 AM
 
Just wondering what you mean by that. Are you referring to the integrated GPU's limitations with Arrandale?
     
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Oct 28, 2010, 09:38 AM
 
I'm wondering if AMD's Fusion wouldn't be a better match for the next iteration of the Air. I haven't seen any benchmarks, but it combines a potent gpu with a power efficient cpu, it may be a good match.
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Oct 28, 2010, 09:42 AM
 
What are the odds that apple will embrace AMD. There were some vague rumors of such this past summer, but realistically is this move feasible?
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Oct 28, 2010, 10:03 AM
 
I don't see why not: they make x86 processors after all and unlike Dell, Apple isn't dependent on Intel's good will to make good margins. Unlike an architectural switch, there are no fundamental technological hurdles as far as I can see.
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Oct 28, 2010, 11:08 AM
 
Originally Posted by Eug View Post
Just wondering what you mean by that. Are you referring to the integrated GPU's limitations with Arrandale?
What I mean is that this is a big game of Three Card Monte.

The big gain with the Nehalem architechture was that the memory controller was integrated on the processor die. On Bloomfield & Gainestown (the first Nehalems, Core i7 900 series, Xeon 3500 and Xeon 5500 series), the memory controller is integrated in much the same way as what AMD has being doing since the first Opteron - separate northbridge still present. As a part of this, the cache structure was redesigned to work better with the new memory system design. Lynnfield & Clarksfield (quadcore i7 800 and i5 700 series, plus quadcore mobile i7) takes this one step further by integrating all of the northbridge onto the die, removing one chip from the motherboard.

Integrating the memory controller means that the latency to main memory is cut significantly. Intel was VERY late to this party, with AMD beating them by years and other server chip manufacturers like IBM doing the same for a long time as well. Nehalem was their big strike back against AMD on the server, and was in many ways a very server-focused chip. It succeeded - AMD now has to sell huge 12 core, 4 socket capable monsters at low low prices to compete - but it meant that the mobile chips were an afterthought.

An integrated graphics chip is integrated into the northbridge, together with the memory controller. Moving the entire northbridge on die would mean moving the integrated graphics onto the die as well. Here is where Intel failed: The original Nehalem-class dualcore chips were called Auburndale and Havendale. They were scrapped very late in the process, ostensibly because the 32nm process was going better than expected, and Intel skipped one generation ahead and went directly to the 32nm shrink of these chips, called Clarkdale and Arrandale.

This is where the red queen goes missing - the northbridge on Clarkdale and Arrandale isn't really integrated. It just looks like that. It's a regular Intel northbridge (at 45nm) that is put on the same package - but not the same die - as the CPU. It retains the exact same latency as the old design did, but it gets the new cache system. The Core 2 cache system used one big L2 cache and extremely aggressive prefetchers to keep it full at all times. The Nehalem cache doesn't, because there is no real reason to work like that when you have a better memory latency. The memory system on dualcore Core iX is therefore worse than Core 2 - the effective latency is higher.

It gets worse. If you just integrate the memory controller, you can keep the GPU in the northbridge and use HT/QPI to communicate with the memory controller on the CPU. This is what AMD does, and Intel could have gone that way and avoided angering its OEMs. They could even have kept the functions currently in the PCH (the old southbridge) in the same chip and stayed with a two chip solution. The problem here is that you can't use the same socket as Lynnfield/Clarksfield, and Intel had communicated well in advance that all chips below Bloomfield would use the same socket.

There are two options for what really happened, good Intel and evil Intel. Good Intel planned to deliver Auburndale and Havendale with the integrated memory controller and GPU on the chip, but failed to do so at 45nm. They saw that AMD had nothing to compete with on the all-important mobiles and figured they could afford to sell the low-end desktop chip cheaply, and hacked together the current setup in an emergency fix. This explains the design and the socket setup, but not where Clarkdale & Arrandale came from. Taping out chips on a new process is not something you do that quickly.

Evil Intel, on the other hand, always planned to have a two die solution. The only change was that the CPU die showed up at 32 nm and a few months late. This is basically what they implied at the time and it seems logical in some ways, but there are holes there. Why move the northbridge to the die so early, in that case? Why not keep the Bloomfield setup for all of this generation - never make Lynnfield at all, and make an integrated PCH with the old northbridge and southbridge as the low end option for all desktops (Bloomfield is cheaper to make than Lynnfield, yet sells for more). Make a similar setup for the mobiles, a quad and a dual both with memory controllers on the die and neither with the northbridge, and chipsets with or without a GPU. The only answer is that they truly wanted to kill nVidia's integrated graphics two years early - hence, they were an evil monopolistic bastard.

Given that the 32nm process is not going swimingly at all - idle power is still higher than 45nm, and TSMC is having huge problems with theirs - my money is on the Good Intel scenario, except that Intel figured it out way earlier than they originally said, giving them time to design the fallback.
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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Oct 28, 2010, 11:12 AM
 
Originally Posted by OreoCookie View Post
I'm wondering if AMD's Fusion wouldn't be a better match for the next iteration of the Air. I haven't seen any benchmarks, but it combines a potent gpu with a power efficient cpu, it may be a good match.
Depends on exactly which Fusion design you mean. If it's the regular mobile chip, Llano, then I'm afraid that it might run off the Sandy Bridge. It's a Phenom II-class CPU, and that is no match for Sandy Bridge. If it is the Atom-smasher, Ontario (or Zacate, the single core model), then I think you might be right - but that is for a significantly cheaper Air.
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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Oct 28, 2010, 11:46 AM
 
Originally Posted by P View Post
Depends on exactly which Fusion design you mean. If it's the regular mobile chip, Llano, then I'm afraid that it might run off the Sandy Bridge.
I was thinking of Llano.
I'm aware that it won't be able to compete with Sandy Bridge for regular notebooks, but do you think the difference in performance between Llano and Sandy Bridge is worse than that of the Air's 1.4 GHz Core 2 Duo compared to, say, a 2.4 GHz Core i5?
( Last edited by OreoCookie; Oct 28, 2010 at 12:29 PM. )
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Brien
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Oct 28, 2010, 02:23 PM
 
I saw an article this morning on how the 11" is selling out nationwide.

Hey, White MacBook: You're screwed.
     
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Oct 28, 2010, 04:07 PM
 
Originally Posted by OreoCookie View Post
I was thinking of Llano.
I'm aware that it won't be able to compete with Sandy Bridge for regular notebooks, but do you think the difference in performance between Llano and Sandy Bridge is worse than that of the Air's 1.4 GHz Core 2 Duo compared to, say, a 2.4 GHz Core i5?
Hm. No, I don't, but Sandy Bridge graphics are roughly 320M level, and I don't think Llano will top that by much, if at all.
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.
     
imitchellg5
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Oct 28, 2010, 04:22 PM
 
Originally Posted by Brien View Post
I saw an article this morning on how the 11" is selling out nationwide.

Hey, White MacBook: You're screwed.
The white MacBook isn't screwed at all, its place in the lineup remains. I think the product that is in the most danger is the 13" MBA.
     
Brien
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Oct 28, 2010, 04:52 PM
 
Yeah, I'd have to disagree, considering that the 13" MBP outsells it by quite a wide margin. If the 11" MBA also outsells it, I don't see why Apple would keep it around.
     
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Oct 28, 2010, 06:02 PM
 
White Macbook is an excellent computer at $799 or so.
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.
     
Brien
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Oct 28, 2010, 06:43 PM
 
But it isn't, it's $999. And I don't see them dropping the price.
     
imitchellg5
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Oct 28, 2010, 07:07 PM
 
Why not?
     
Spheric Harlot
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Oct 28, 2010, 07:16 PM
 
They really want to make the Air attractive.
     
imitchellg5
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Oct 28, 2010, 08:28 PM
 
I don't know. There is a pretty specific group of people that would buy the Air, but not so with the MacBook.
     
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Oct 29, 2010, 01:04 AM
 
That was the case at $1600, not so much at $999.
     
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Oct 29, 2010, 04:18 AM
 
Thing is, the Macbook is now the "base" computer for just simple email and websurfing. The iMac is too expensive, and for that matter too large, to be that. If they dropped the base price of it to something approaching the old mini levels, the mini could be a real HTPC and the Macbook be the "secondary computer for PC users" or "just trying it out" or "I just want to surf a bit".

I don't think it will happen, though. Apple is pushing the iPad to that niche.
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.
     
King Bob On The Cob
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Oct 29, 2010, 10:52 AM
 
Originally Posted by freudling View Post
As a former 2.13 GHZ 128 SSD MacBook Air owner... I can tell you that OS X does not play nice with underpowered systems. That latter was an engineering disaster. Had been from the start. What happens is, the processor heats up so much that it ends up cycling down, and the computer is basically useless. There is really nothing that will solve it. It's just underpowered. Apple's forums and elsewhere are filled with the heat complaints.

What causes it problems? Apply this to any Mac really. Too many problems open at one time, Flash, most notably Safari, and, heavy duty programs like Photoshop.

But it was really Safari that bogged down the MacBook Air. It struggled with more than about 10 tabs going, and with only a couple light applications open in the background. In the end, I just got tired of the slow processor and paltry 2 GB RAM. It's not enough to do stuff that we all take for granted with our MacBook Pros, etc.

If it were me, I would not even touch any of these MacBook Airs but the top end, with the 2.13 GHz processor add on, and the 4 GB RAM option. Anything less than this I would run from in the OS X environment.

OS X is simply a bleeding beast of resource hogging badness. I really hope they fix it. I know I'm not alone. Snow Leopard is not the best release: it's full of bloat and is really slow at times when it shouldn't. Having said that, I know one of the major culprits is Safari, or another web browser. It hogs a lot of system resources, and Flash is just terrible on the Mac. These are the things that really tax a computer like the MacBook Air. And OS X is really bad at addressing memory on SSD and probably Flash memory too. That's because sectors that are supposed to be free are treated as full.

For myself and others I have seen, restarting our SSD Airs would result in sometimes over 10 GB of space freed up again. Only to have it rapidly disappear again. There's lots of discussion about how OS X is lacking regarding SSDs. I just wonder how well Flash will perform. I suspect very good, but I also suspect there's going to be problems with it too.

Another thing: no backlit keyboard. That is an unfortunate omission. Really bad actually. How many of us can live without the backlit keyboard anymore?

Anyway, my advice is to go with the 13.3" 2.13 GHz 4 GB RAM Air, if you are to buy one. Anybody who buys any other model is, IMHO, just getting sucked into Apple's marketing...

Stay with your larger MacBook Pro, iPad, and iPhone. The 11" Air is just not needed.
The SSD had nothing to do with the slowness you were experiencing. You said it yourself: When you restart, you got 10 GB back. That suggests that you were swapping like crazy because you didn't have enough RAM in the system. No system plays well when it's lacking RAM. Change your browser out, because Safari is quite a RAM hog and will eat 1+ GB of memory with its very aggressive memory caching. In my personal opinion, no system, with the current batch of operating systems, should ever have less than 4 GB of RAM.
     
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Oct 30, 2010, 08:19 AM
 
I've been looking around and have found decent Windows 11.6" machines for well under $500: Dual-core 1.3 GHz CULV Core 2 Duo, 4 GB RAM, HDMI, 320 GB hard drive, etc.

However, the biggest drawback of all of them is the weight. Most of the them are over 3 lbs, usually around 3.1 lbs. The MacBook Air is 2.3 lbs. In other words, the Windows versions are a third heavier, not insignificant. I think the lightest Windows one I saw was 2.8 lbs, but IIRC the specs weren't so good.

For reference, my MacBook Pro is only 4.5 lbs. I find it too heavy for every-day travel, and 3.1 would be a huge improvement, but Apple's 2.3 lb Air is a huge advantage over the Windows 11.6" offerings.

BTW, in this < $500 price category, you're very lucky to get Core 2 Duo CULV. Usually it's Atom, and usually single-core.
     
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Oct 30, 2010, 08:43 AM
 
Also, flash over HD is a significant price (and probably speed) factor.

I suspect that with equal battery life, most of those Windows-based ones not only massively exceed the weight, but the size specs of the MacBook Air, as well.
     
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Oct 30, 2010, 12:01 PM
 
Originally Posted by Spheric Harlot View Post
Also, flash over HD is a significant price (and probably speed) factor.
I agree, but I am actually OK with a hard drive if it means saving several hundred dollars, since Windows ReadyBoost caches quite well with a $10 Class 10 SD card. I get the feeling that Windows' caching system is significantly more efficient than OS X's in terms of performance on lower end hardware.

I suspect that with equal battery life, most of those Windows-based ones not only massively exceed the weight, but the size specs of the MacBook Air, as well.
The footprint is about the same size. The main difference is in the thickness with the Windows models over 1" thick, but I value footprint way more than thickness. However, as you said the weight is hugely different.

P.S. I still want an optical drive for some purposes, but I have that covered now, with an inexpensive third party USB-powered slimline slot-load Blu-ray reader / DVD burner off eBhey. That can go in the suitcase when I travel. (Actually, I bought it mainly for my Windows mini-PC as that machine can play BR but doesn't have an optical drive either, but not surprisingly this drive works great with Toast on OS X too.) I wouldn't buy the Apple SuperDrive, since it doesn't reliably work on other Macs.



( Last edited by Eug; Oct 30, 2010 at 12:57 PM. )
     
imitchellg5
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Oct 30, 2010, 05:53 PM
 
Originally Posted by Eug View Post
BTW, in this < $500 price category, you're very lucky to get Core 2 Duo CULV. Usually it's Atom, and usually single-core.
If you go up to $699 though, Lenovo has several ULV offerings that have Core i3 power. Unfortunately the battery life isn't as good as the MBA, but for some, the extra performance may be worth it.
     
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Oct 30, 2010, 07:03 PM
 
Well, that's just it. If it's gonna be over $500, and definitely if it's gonna be over $600, I'd get the prettier and lighter MacBook Air. (I'm counting on the spring education incentives though.)
     
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Oct 31, 2010, 01:49 PM
 
Originally Posted by King Bob On The Cob View Post
...no system, with the current batch of operating systems, should ever have less than 4 GB of RAM.
Agreed. For years now intentionally purchasing or running a 2-GB-RAM-only box has made no sense. And I do not fault the OSs because IMO with cheap RAM available, designers should be designing for more RAM.
     
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Oct 31, 2010, 04:47 PM
 
Originally Posted by SierraDragon View Post
designers should be designing for more RAM.
Problem is that I think designers see the ram, and don't write tight code, but rather sloppy bloated code. I think its one thing to design an application with 4gb in mind, and to effectively use those resources. Its quite another to just throw in features left and right, only to see that you now need 4 gb, otherwise the system will come to a halt.
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Oct 31, 2010, 09:45 PM
 
My system has a 2 gig RAM ceiling. Fact is no developer should be planing on using the entire system's resources. At any given time I'll have at least iTunes and Safari running, as well as Mail, Adium, and I probably won't shut down Adobe's apps either. Actually I've recently realized that if I want to get better battery life, I should shut down all kinds of apps when I'm not using them since even when they're not in use at all, they're still draining the CPU and paging out to the HDD all the time.
     
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Oct 31, 2010, 11:54 PM
 
I'm thinking about getting this. But from certain reviews that the 11" can't play 1080p videos smoothly.
     
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Nov 1, 2010, 01:12 AM
 
Originally Posted by SierraDragon View Post
Agreed. For years now intentionally purchasing or running a 2-GB-RAM-only box has made no sense. And I do not fault the OSs because IMO with cheap RAM available, designers should be designing for more RAM.
2 years ago, 4GB of RAM was only standard on the higher end systems. And even now, I don't know a lot of people running around with 8+ GB of RAM outside of video editors, CAD, 3D etcetera. It's sorta stupid to be designing with 4GB as standard or required; that's just sloppy programming.
     
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Nov 1, 2010, 08:19 AM
 
So the main advantage of the 11" Air is its weight? I suggest this as a cheaper alternative:

York Fitness Neo Hex Dumbells 2 x 2kg - 15633
I have plenty of more important things to do, if only I could bring myself to do them....
     
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Nov 1, 2010, 08:40 AM
 
Originally Posted by rubberwheels View Post
I'm thinking about getting this. But from certain reviews that the 11" can't play 1080p videos smoothly.
Link? If so, that's a deal killer for me.
     
Waragainstsleep
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Nov 1, 2010, 09:31 AM
 
It probably depends on exactly how you are playing 1080p. If you have hardware acceleration, the GPU will be fine playing 1080p. If not, the 1.4 CPU is going to struggle.
I have plenty of more important things to do, if only I could bring myself to do them....
     
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Nov 1, 2010, 09:43 AM
 
Originally Posted by Waragainstsleep View Post
It probably depends on exactly how you are playing 1080p. If you have hardware acceleration, the GPU will be fine playing 1080p. If not, the 1.4 CPU is going to struggle.
Quicktime is supposed to have hardware acceleration for this GPU specifically. However, MKV may be a problem in say VLC. VLC has hardware acceleration, but it isn't very good. Either way though, it would be a deal killer for me, unless the combo of Perian and Quicktime solves the problem somehow. There's also Movist but IIRC that doesn't have much hardware decode support either, but don't quote me on that.

I'm also interested in HD flash support. Vimeo's interface is flash.

In the meantime, I can play back 1080p H.264 just fine on Win 7 on the lowly Atom + ION using Windows Media Player and CCCP. Even Blu-ray works fine on Atom/ION with PowerDVD.
     
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Nov 1, 2010, 10:10 AM
 
HD Flash on Vimeo plays back fine, but I had issues on fullscreen 1080p YouTube clips with the 1.4.
     
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Nov 1, 2010, 10:11 AM
 
I thought hardware acceleration in VLC was Windows only.
I suspect your ION is doing more of the work than the Atom somehow.

QT and presumably iTunes should get hardware acceleration from the 320M. I still find .mkv to be a little flaky with Perian.
Not sure where the hardware acceleration is implemented in QT. I guess its in the codec. Sadly Apple won't be too forthcoming with any helpful data to the authors of VLC or Perian.
I have plenty of more important things to do, if only I could bring myself to do them....
     
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Nov 1, 2010, 10:12 AM
 
Flash hasn't added GPU hardware support for OS X yet. That one is definitely Winblows only.
I have plenty of more important things to do, if only I could bring myself to do them....
     
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Nov 1, 2010, 11:12 AM
 
Actually, Flash added GPU hardware decoding support in version 10.1.82.76 this summer, a few months after they did so on Windows.
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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Nov 2, 2010, 01:21 PM
 
So what's the consensus on the 11" MBA. A good machine, or one that's over priced and you can do better else where?
~Mike
     
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Nov 2, 2010, 02:25 PM
 
Originally Posted by P View Post
Actually, Flash added GPU hardware decoding support in version 10.1.82.76 this summer, a few months after they did so on Windows.
Yes, only for the 320M, 330M, and 9400M however.
     
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Nov 2, 2010, 03:09 PM
 
Originally Posted by imitchellg5 View Post
Yes, only for the 320M, 330M, and 9400M however.
Correct, but those are all the chips that Apple supports acceleration for in Quicktime. Adobe can't do more than that - it's up to Apple to add support for more chips. Also, it means that any Mac laptop from the last two years is supported, and laptops is where this matters the most. It also supports Mac minis from early 2009 and forward and several of the weaker iMacs from that point forward. It does not support the more modern iMacs with Core iX processor, and it doesn't support MPs, but those don't exactly need it.

It would be very easy for Apple to add support for the previous generation of MBPs, though - the 8600M GT GPU has the same H.264 acceleration capabilities as the later models, even if it lacks some of the functions for MPEG1/2 decoding.
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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Nov 2, 2010, 06:42 PM
 
Originally Posted by Maflynn View Post
So what's the consensus on the 11" MBA. A good machine, or one that's over priced and you can do better else where?
Logic board and display issues.
     
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Nov 2, 2010, 09:58 PM
 
Originally Posted by mduell View Post
G3 iBook!
     
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Nov 3, 2010, 04:03 AM
 
Originally Posted by mduell View Post
That sounds like a driver issue to me, actually, but it might be a good idea to hold off on a purchase for a week or so until the waters clear.

Beware of rumor sites reporting problems, though: After the fact, it is obvious that some of their reports on the iMac 27 were fraudulent, possibly in an attempt to affect Apple's stock price.
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.
     
Maflynn
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Nov 3, 2010, 07:02 AM
 
Originally Posted by mduell View Post
I saw that, and I believe macworld is reporting similarly. I guess that's the risks of getting a revision A. machine.

If I were to buy one, I'd probably not pull the trigger on it until after the new year, as my company gives me up to 500 dollars to offset the cost of a new computer, so that will make the 11" MBA very affordable at that point.
~Mike
     
Brien
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Nov 3, 2010, 12:38 PM
 
Has a revision A Macintosh notebook not had some sort of display/logic board issue? I am not surprised.

I would get an 11" if anything, but I really, really like my screen space.
     
Spheric Harlot
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Nov 3, 2010, 03:11 PM
 
     
mduell
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Nov 3, 2010, 05:10 PM
 
Originally Posted by P View Post
Beware of rumor sites reporting problems, though: After the fact, it is obvious that some of their reports on the iMac 27 were fraudulent, possibly in an attempt to affect Apple's stock price.
Huh? My 27" iMac has the f#$^ing bright corners issue they were complaining about. Apple refuses to fix.
     
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Nov 4, 2010, 12:07 AM
 
They are user reviews. they said that they used other players besides VLC to place 1080p and 720p smoothly. something about GPU acceleration.
     
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Nov 4, 2010, 05:39 AM
 
Originally Posted by mduell View Post
Huh? My 27" iMac has the f#$^ing bright corners issue they were complaining about. Apple refuses to fix.
Oh, the defects were real alright. The part that was fraudulent was the reports that Apple stopped all production during certain weeks to fix a hardware problem. There were a few sites that attempted to track defects to the build week in the serial number, and they all showed that production had been up and running as usual during the weeks when the rumor sites claimed that production was shut down.

The verdict seems to be that neither defect was completely hardware in origin. The blinking thing was software/firmware (the GPU crashing and restarting, which had multiple causes) and the bright spot one seems to be damages from insufficient packaging causing one of the layers in the display to come loose. Apple should fix it in either case.
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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