Intel has begun shipping its second-generation Thunderbolt controller chip, known as “Cactus Ridge”. Cactus Ridge will arrive in both four-channel (DSL3510) and two-channel (DSL3310) versions, offering Apple a pair of options for including the new chips in its forthcoming products.
They say Apple updates its products like clockwork, releasing something new at the same time in the same place every year. Not so with MacBook Airs anyway. The outfit’s gone and freshened up its 13-inch and 11-inch ultraportables — the second such update in nine months. Although the industrial design hasn’t changed much since the last generation, both models step up to Sandy Bridge Core i5 and i7 processors, Thunderbolt ports, backlit keyboards, and, of course, OS X Lion.
In spite of the “Pro” in its name, Apple’s 2011 MBP got off to a bit of a bumpy start for many users. Some encountered problems when outputting video through the Thunderbolt port to their Cinema Displays, while others found the new MacBook Pro freezing up when processing loads got that little bit too intense. The good news is that Apple now has a software update geared to remedying all these maladies, with changes specifically designed to improve graphics stability, 3D performance, and support for external displays and Thunderbolt devices.
The last time Apple updated its iMac line we were treated to Intel Core 2010 processors. So it’s no surprise — really, no surprise at all — to see Apple refreshing the lineup today. Prices start at $1,199 (as usual) for the 21.5-inch (1,920 x 1,080 pixel IPS panel) model with new 2.5GHz quad-core Intel Core i5 processor and 512MB of AMD Radeon HD 6750M graphics. Prices soon jump to $1,999 for a 27-inch (2,560 x 1,440 IPS) model with 3.1GHz quad-core Intel Core i5 CPU and 1GB of AMD Radeon HD 6970M graphics, or optional 3.4GHz quad-core Core i7 proc and 2GB of HD 6970M graphics if you so desire. We’re talking Intel Sandy Bridge, of course, but Apple never goes into specifics. New owners will also be treated to a Thunderbolt jack (one on the 21.5-inch model and two on the 27-incher) and FaceTime HD camera with 24 hours shipping. Yeah, it looks the same, but it’s the insides that count.
We just got our new 15-inch MacBook Pro review unit, and although it looks almost exactly the same as the previous MBP, it has that fancy new Thunderbolt icon on the side, which ought to make I/O nerd hearts flutter the world over. Unfortunately, there aren’t any Thunderbolt peripherals on the market yet, so we can’t really test the new connection yet, but we can report that backwards compatibility with Mini DisplayPort performs as advertised and that all of our display adapters worked without issue — the first time we can ever remember Apple switching a standard and not requiring all new dongles.
So it’s perhaps not the most original moniker that Apple and Intel could have chosen, but it’s here just the same. After years of waiting Apple has launched its implementation of Intel’s Light Peak standard and it’s called Thunderbolt. It’s making its appearance on new MacBook Pro models and it’s promising 10Gb/second transfer rates. That’s dual-channel, too so you’ll get 10Gb/sec both to and from your devices. Apple suggests this will be useful for external RAID arrays, Gigabit Ethernet adapters, and also mentions support for “FireWire and USB consumer devices” along with HDMI, DVI, and VGA over DisplayPort. Apple expects that Thunderbolt will be “widely adopted as a new standard for high performance I/O,” but we think the USB 3.0 crew might have a thing or two to say about that. Full PR is embedded below.