Hi there, and welcome to 2013!
Well, that didn’t take long. Last week in my review of what I think will be coming from Apple for MacBook and iPad users in 2013, I said I wouldn’t be surprised to see new MacBook Air revisions later in the year.
On the weekend, Taiwanese industry watcher site Digitimes reported that Apple has issued requests for quotations (RFQ) to Taiwanese/Chinese OEMs to supply both new MacBook Airs and MacBook Pros. It isn’t specified in the article, but presumably that would be Retina MacBook Pros (rMBP), as I think another upgrade of the old school Pros is highly unlikely, although Apple has chosen to soldier on with the iPad 2 alongside the fourth-generation iPad and iPad mini as an entry-level full size ‘Pad, so what do I know?
Personally, I think there would be an abiding niche market for at least a basic version of the older design, with its internal optical drive, hard disk drive data storage, and upgradable RAM, for a long time yet if Apple were to choose to go that route. The Retina Pro machines are also pretty pricey, so a logical case can be made for keeping the late 2008 unibody design around for content producer users for whom versatility, data capacity, and upgradability trump razor thin form factors, the speed of solid-state flash storage, and ultra high resolution displays.
So what will we see in the MacBook Air and rMBP revisions? Digitimes says that a form factor change isn’t on the agenda for the Air, and the rMBPs are so new the likelihood of them being redesigned is about zero. So we can deduce that what’s more probable is upgraded internals, most likely to a new CPU/IGPU — namely Intel’s next generation “Haswell” family of high efficiency Core i chips.
Reportedly, Intel’s primary focus with Haswell will be not so much speed advances over the current Ivy Bridge Core i processors, but in improved power management with enhanced thermal efficiency and lower power consumption, refinement of L2 and L3 cache performance, improvements in the CPU’s ability to handle multiple instructions simultaneously, and the ability to run two simultaneous floating-point operations.
As I noted last week, one of Haswell’s marquee new power management features will reportedly be “Active Idle,” whereby most of the CPU’s capacity shuts down, even for short periods of time like pauses while you’re typing, but leaves a small percentage of the video output controller active to refresh the computer’s display and the full system primed to wake up in milliseconds on demand. Another Haswell power management tweak is lower power consumption with the CPU in full deep sleep mode.
As for graphics, one of the more exciting bits of scuttlebutt about Haswell is that it’s rumored to have a significantly more powerful integrated graphics processor (IGPU) unit that it’s speculated could allow Apple to offer a MacBook Pro with Retina display sans a tandem discrete GPU while still supporting the Retina screen’s processing overhead demands. Reports indicate that Haswell’s IGPU will also support OpenGL 4.0, OpenCL 1.2, scaled-up graphics pipeline efficiency, and more.
Macworld has a thorough profile of what we can expect from Haswell here:
Another interesting possibility would be for the MacBook Air to get a Retina display, presuming that Apple is intending to go all-Retina across the board eventually. Of course that would remove the Retina display’s exclusive cachet as the new school MacBook Pro’s marquee feature, but if the late 2008 Pros are to be discontinued, which I still think is most likely, the Pro designation would become its main distinction, with the MacBook Air more decidedly repositioned as Apple’s entry-level price leader notebook.
Touchscreen capability is another intriguing MacBook concept, especially with many PC Ultrabooks to be adopting that feature in 2013. I wouldn’t categorically rule it out, but I do think it’s a long shot for this year, and Apple will probably bide its time and see how well-received touchscreen support in laptops is in the Ultrabook orbit before committing to the technology for its notebooks.
These are matters of more than academic interest for me, I’m anticipating upgrading my own MacBook system in 2013. It won’t be to a Retina MacBook Pro for budgetary reasons, and because remain unhappy about the rMBPs’ almost perversely miserable upgradability and repairability. That narrows it down to either an old school Pro or an Air, with the former most likely. A 13-inch old-style MacBook Pro with a Haswell CPU would be great, but as I noted above don’t have very lively hope of there ever being one.
Whatever I get, I intend for it to be an Apple Certified Refurbished unit, so that would push purchase of June 2013 revision machine into the fall. Actually, I’m not entirely averse to picking up a 2011 vintage Sandy Bridge MacBook Pro, which would still be able to boot from OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard, giving it backward compatibility with my legacy Carbon PowerPC apps and my Apple USB dial-up modem. Dial-up? — you say.
Yes, the New Year was ushered in here in this neck of the literal woods by a wireless broadband Internet service outage that was caused by a major winter storm that blew through over the weekend, and which still hasn’t been restored at this writing. Consequently, I’ve been experiencing severe high-speed Internet withdrawal and dependent on really slow dial-up (26,400 bps) for any Internet access at all for several days. While dial-up slowness is maddeningly awful, it’s still a whole lot better than no Internet access at all. Outages are banefully frequent here in this isolated rural redoubt, so dial-up recourse is likely to be required for the foreseeable future, and unhappily Apple has chosen to remove support for its own modems from OS 10.8 and later. Reportedly, some other brand modems will still work, but it’s a sore point. Sometimes there’s simply no other alternative, and dial-up is a lot better than nothing.
That issue aside, it’s reassuring to hear that Apple remains committed to the MacBook platform. I love my iPad, but remain a hard-core (no pun intended) laptop aficionado at heart.
Happy New Year!