Apple unveiled its new MacBook Air laptops at WWDC 2013 today, as well as giving us a peep at the updated Mac Pro desktop computer which will hit the market later this year. While the new MacBook Air is an evolutionary step forward, the Mac Pro is a serious attempt to demonstrate that Apple still has innovation in its blood.
The new MacBook Air laptops are still thin, light, and sexy. The 11-inch Air measures 11.8 x 7.56 x 0.68 inches (30 x 19.2 x 1.7 cm), and weighs 2.38 lb (1.08 kg) in its basic configuration. The 13-inch model has the same thickness, but is slightly wider and deeper (12.8 x 8.94 in, or 32.5 x 22.7 cm) and weighs in at 2.96 lb (1.335 kg).
The new models include 11-inch (28 cm) or 13-inch (33 cm) LED-backlit screens. The 11-inch model has a screen resolution of 1366 by 768 pixels, and the 13-inch has screen resolution of 1440 by 900. Unfortunately, the new models are not available with Apple’s Retina display.
Both Air models come with a standard 1.3 GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 processor, capable of Turbo Boost up to 2.6 GHz. This processor is equipped with a 3 MB shared L3 cache. As an option, the Air can be upgraded to a 1.7 GHz dual-core Intel Core i7 processor with Turbo Boost to 3.3 GHz and a 4 MB shared L3 cache.
The standard memory is 4 GB of 1600 MHz of the new LPDDR3 RAM, upgradable to 8 GB. Apple says the internal flash memory is roughly 45 percent faster than in previous Air laptops – 128 GB is standard, with a 256 GB option available for US$200. Up to 512 GB of flash memory can be accommodated by the new MacBook Airs.
Graphics support is provided by Intel’s HD Graphics 5000 chip, capable of generating 4K video output and three-screen collages. The 5000 has 40 graphics cores, resulting in a roughly 40 percent graphics performance improvement over previous Air laptops. The 5000 provides flexible graphics support, treating DirectX 11.1, OpenCL 1.2 and OpenGL 4.0 as native codes. It also features a fast Quick Sync encoder. The new Thunderbolt digital video output provides VGA, DVI, and HDMI audio and video outputs, but requires add-on adapters for these uses.
The new Air comes with a 720p video camera, dual microphones, a multi-touch trackpad, and a backlit keyboard. The microphones work together to reduce external noise, and in Dictation mode will automatically adjust their balance to follow a voice.
The laptops now support 802.11ac Wi-Fi, which provides three times faster wireless data access than previous models.
One of the most significant changes in the new Air lineup is the battery. Apple claims that the 13-inch Air can get up to 12-hours of serious use, while the 11-inch will survive for 9 hours. When watching movies, the playback times are specced at about 10 hours and 8 hours, respectively.
The Air laptops now have a standby mode in which your place is kept for a month using battery power alone, and in Power Nap setting, you will continue to receive email and calendar information while the laptop is asleep.
The 11-inch model costs US$999.99, the 13-inch is $1099.99. Both are available now.
“Can’t innovate anymore, my ass,” he said to the assembled crowd after the demo.
The Mac Pro has been redesigned from the ground up. It is based on Intel Xeon processors having a total of up to 12 cores, 256-bit-wide floating point instructions, and a PCI bandwidth of up to 40 GB/s, rendering the new PC about twice as fast as the current model.
The new Mac Pro has a four-channel DDR3 memory controller operating at 1.866 GHz and delivering up to 60 GB/s memory bandwidth, again double that of the current Mac Pro. Equipped with next-generation PCI Express flash storage, a data transfer rate to and from flash storage of 1.25Gb/s is achieved, 2.5 times faster than a SATA flash drive, and over ten times the performance of a SATA hard drive.
This mass of hyper-speed electronics is kept cool by building it around a fan-cooled central thermal core, a single piece of extruded aluminum that maximizes both airflow and thermal capacity. The cooling fan is larger than normal for this class of computer, but runs slower and quieter through increased efficiency in operation.
Expansion of the Mac Pro primarily takes place externally, through an armada of USB 3, HDMI 1.4, two FireWire 800, two Gigabit Ethernet, and six of Apple’s proprietary 20 Gbps Thunderbolt 2 interfaces. The new Mac Pro also boasts 802.11ac and Bluetooth 4.0 wireless interfaces.
Little internal expansion is available save for the standard options offered by Apple, which is a side effect of size of the new Mac Pro. It has only one-eighth the volume of the current model, and measures only 6.6 in (16.8 cm) in diameter and 9.9 in (25 cm) tall. It is enclosed in an aluminum cylinder that lifts off for maintenance and repair.
One feature of the new Mac Pro that will probably not need an external upgrade is the graphic subsystem. It consists of dual AMD FireProGPUs, each provided with up to 6 GB of dedicated graphics VRAM for a total of seven teraflops of computational power.
The new Mac Pro looks like a game-changer. If Apple manages to keep the price in line when it's released later this year, it could a new winner in the gaming and workstation markets.
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