The 'Book Review

Mixed Results from Graphics Update for 15" 2010 MacBook Pro, 16 GB for i5/i7 MacBook Pros, and More

This Week's PowerBook and iBook News

Compiled by Charles Moore and edited by Dan Knight - 2011.10.29

General Apple and Mac desktop news is covered in Mac News Review. iPad, iPod, iPhone, and Apple TV news is covered in iOS News Review. All prices are in US dollars unless otherwise noted.

News & Opinion

Apple Updates

Software

Bargain 'Books

News & Opinion

Graphics Update for 15" 2010 MacBook Pro Getting Mixed Results

MacFixIt's Topher Kessler says that that a software update (see below) that Apple released to address problems where some of 15" Mid 2010 MacBook Pros have been displaying black screens when waking from sleep or performing some graphics manipulation tasks is not proving the desired fix for some users, although it has for others.

Kessler suggests that initial reports and observation of the problem happening under multiple operating systems indicate a likelihood of a hardware problem being the root cause, but Apple's update is a software approach that updates the graphics drivers and aspects of the OpenCL framework.

The MacBook Pro Video Update 1.0 also requires an OS update to OS X 10.7 Lion, which will not be popular with users who want or need to continue using OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard on these machines for a variety of reasons, including compatibility with legacy software.

Upgrade Your i5 or i7 MacBook Pro to 16 GB

MacFixIt's Topher Kessler notes that if you you use programs that take up a lot of RAM and don't have enough installed, you may see your system slow down as it accesses the slow hard drive to manage memory - in such instances, having ample RAM is great for system performance, and he always recommends go with as much RAM as you can afford to put in your system, noting that these days 4 GB is a standard configuration, but he predicts that will soon jump to 8 GB or higher as programs and operating systems get more complex. All current Macs are 64-bit machines, which means that theoretically they can access terabytes of memory, but there are arbitrary built-in limits on how much RAM the system's memory controllers can recognize, and many systems are built with limitations that allow them to hold a maximum of 4 or 8 GB of RAM.

For example, Kessler notes that Apple's MacBook Pro systems have been offered with 8 GB RAM as the maximum configuration, and while more recent, Core i based models have a higher RAM ceiling, Apple still only offers 8 GB RAM upgrades and implies this is maximum amount of RAM the systems can support, although in reality they can recognize up to 16 GB if you add it with upgrades from third-party vendors.

Apple Developing Thinner SuperDrives for Future MacBook Pros

Patently Apple reports that while Intel pushing Ultrabooks into the market to attack Apple's MacBook Air, Apple is working on producing a thinner MacBook Pro for road warriors who need the convenience of an optical drive, with Apple's latest invention describing how Cupertino proposes to minimize the mechanics of an optical disk drive so as to produce a thinner MacBook Pro design in the future.

Intel Starts Ivy Bridge Mass Production

Hardmac's Lionel reports good news for those of us anticipating the next big Mac upgrade, with Intel announcing the start of mass production of its new Ivy Bridge family of Core i processors, confirming that the 22nm Trigate manufacturing process is reliable enough to produce hundreds of millions of chips.

However, we'll have to be patient, because the Ivy Bridge processor launch isn't planned until the very end of Q1 2012, five months hence.

Hardmac's Lionel says the delay between the start of Ivy Bridge mass production and the product launch is caused by the fact that Intel has to modify many manufacturing plants so they can switch to the 22nm manufacturing process, and consumer release is not possible until tens of millions of processors have been produced, since all the computer manufacturers want the new chips right at the start.

Ivy Bridge to Ship in March 2012 at Earliest

Earlier this week, DigiTimes' Monica Chen and Steve Shen reported that Intel is expected to unveil its 22nm Ivy Bridge CPUs in March 2012 at the earliest, with initial offerings focusing on dual- and quad-core models, according to sources at motherboard makers. That timing would dovetail well with Apple's traditional late April/early May calendar envelope for spring laptop upgrades. Chen and Shen note that quad-core Ivy Bridge CPUs will have thermal design power (TDP) ratings of 45W, 65W and 77W, while dual-core models will have TDP ratings of 35W and 55W, according to unnamed sources.

Apple Updates

MacBook Pro Video Update 1.0

This update addresses an issue where MacBook Pro (15-inch Mid 2010) computers may intermittently freeze or stop displaying video.

System Requirements: OS X Lion 10.7.2

EFI Firmware Update for All 2011 MacBook Pros

MacBook Pro EFI Firmware Update 2.3 fixes several issues to improve the stability of MacBook Pro (Early 2011) and MacBook Pro (Late 2011) computers and is recommended for all users.

This update includes improvements delivered in MacBook Pro EFI Firmware Update 2.2 that enables Lion Internet Recovery from an Internet connection, resolves issues with Apple Thunderbolt Display compatibility and Thunderbolt Target Disk Mode performance on MacBook Pro (early 2011) models.

Boot ROM or SMC Version Information: After MacBook Pro update has successfully completed, your Boot ROM Version will be: MBP81.88Z.0047.B24.1110141131

System Requirements:

  • Mac OS X 10.6.8
  • OS X Lion 10.7 and later

EFI Firmware Update for 2011 MacBook Air

MacBook Air EFI Firmware Update 2.2 fixes several issues to improve the stability of MacBook Air (Mid 2011) computers and is recommended for all users.

This update includes fixes delivered in MacBook Air EFI Firmware Update 2.1 that enhance the stability of Lion Recovery from an Internet connection, and resolve issues with Apple Thunderbolt Display compatibility and Thunderbolt Target Disk Mode performance on MacBook Air (mid 2011) models.

Boot ROM or SMC Version Information: After MacBook Air update has successfully completed, your Boot ROM Version will be: MBA41.88Z.0077.B0E.1110141154

System Requirements: OS X Lion 10.7 and later

Software

gfxCardStatus Gives Dual-GPU MacBook Pro Owners More Control

gfxCardStatusPR: Cody Kreiger's gfxCardStatus is a free menu bar application for OS X that allows users of dual-GPU 15 and 17 MacBook Pros to view which GPU is in use at a glance, and switch between them on-demand.

Features

  • Simple, clean graphics and UI - Nobody likes dealing with bloat, so gfxCardStatus is super simple. Simple i and d graphics denote whether your MacBook Pro is using its integrated or discrete GPU.
  • Updates in real time when the GPU switches - Polling? Psh! gfxCardStatus waits for OS X to tell it that the active GPU has changed.
  • Manually switch GPUs at will - Want to save some battery life and decrease heat? Flip over to your integrated GPU and revel in the glory of your favorite new menu bar app.
  • Localized in 15+ languages
  • Growl support - Growl notifications will alert you to the fact that your active GPU has changed.
  • Dependent process list for discrete GPU -Wondering what applications are causing the automatic switch to your discrete GPU? Just pop open the gfxCardStatus menu!
  • Power source-based GPU switching -Want to save some battery life while on the go? Set gfxCardStatus to switch to your integrated GPU upon unplugging your power cord!
  • Automatic updating - gfxCardStatus uses Sparkle, so you're always running the latest and greatest version.

New in gfxCardStatus, v2.1

  • OS X Lion support
  • Huge preferences window overhaul - now looks like a standard OS X preferences panel.
  • Graphical icons in the menu bar are no longer the default - they are now text. See the gfxCardStatus FAQ for info on how to change back to graphical icons.
  • Added a preference for "smart" menu bar icons - e.g. use the first letter of the current GPU ('n' for Nvidia, 'i' for Intel, 'a' for AMD). Doesn't apply to legacy dual-Nvidia GPU machines.
  • Added Czech, Russian, Ukranian, and Slovak localizations.
  • Removed power source info from menu, as it was unnecessary.
  • Moved to standard OS X app about box.
  • Fixed some memory leaks.
  • Enormous refactoring of the codebase.

Known Issues

  • Power source-based switching doesn't work if the machine is sleeping when the power source is changed.
  • Occasionally, when on Integrated Only, after all discrete-triggering apps have been quit, the machine will switch to Discrete Only.

System requirements: You must have a dual-GPU MacBook Pro in order to take advantage of gfxCardStatus. If you have any of these models:

  • 2011 i5/i7 MacBook Pro with Intel HD 3000/AMD Radeon HD 6xxxM GPUs
  • 2010 i5/i7 MacBook Pro with Intel HD/Nvidia GeForce GT 330M GPUs
  • 2009 MacBook Pro with Nvidia GeForce 9400M/9600M GT GPUs
  • Late 2008 MacBook Pro with Nvidia GeForce 9400M/9600M GT GPUs

gfxCardStatus is free, Open Source software.

Bargain 'Books

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