15-inch MacBook Pro gets latest Intel chips, better battery life, and a lower price

Apple's MacBook Pro line has now gotten an entirely expected upgrade to current-generation Intel CPUs, just in time for the holiday shopping season. In our hands-on initial testing, these new 13-inch and 15-inch models look and feel just like the previous generation, but the promise of longer battery life, somewhat improved performance, faster Wi-Fi, and lower starting prices is enough to make this a significant overall update...

Read the full story here... Source: CNET

Apple Acquires Low-Power Wireless Chip Developer Passif Semiconductor


Apple has purchased Silicon Valley-based wireless chip developer Passif Semiconductor, reports technology writer Jessica Lessin. The company, which Apple has reportedly been after for several years, specializes in low-power communication chips that could be used to improve battery life in wearable devices such as Apple’s rumored iWatch. 

Passif develops communication chips that use very little power. Its technology, which includes a radio that works with a low-energy version of Bluetooth called Bluetooth LE, is promising for health-monitoring and fitness devices that need extra-long battery life. (Apple, of course, is working on one of those.)

Apple has confirmed the acquisition, with Apple spokeswoman Amy Besette givingAllThingsD the following statement: "Apple buys smaller technology companies from time to time, and we generally do not discuss our purpose or plans." 

According to rumors, battery life is one area where Apple has struggled in its iWatch development. A report in March suggested that the batteries in Apple’s iWatch prototypes were only lasting a couple of days, with the company targeting at least 4–5 days of battery life. 

After trademarking the iWatch name in a number of countries, Apple has been pouring its resources into the smart watch in recent months. The company hired a number of new employees to join the iWatch team, including health sensor experts, as the iWatch is said to focus on health related applications and biosensors. 

Passif's low-power chip technologies could also be used in other Apple products going forward, improving battery life across the board. In addition to Passif, Apple has acquired a number of other small companies in recent months, including Locationary and HopStop.

Source: Mac Rumours


Smaller A5 Chip From Tweaked Apple TV Contains Only One CPU Core, Revamped Analog Circuitry

For the past few days, we've been following the story of the smaller A5 chip found inside of the recently tweaked Apple TV, seeking to understand what changes Apple has made in order to shrink the chip to roughly half the size of the previous A5 chip. 

Yesterday, experts at Chipworks determined that the new A5 was still being manufactured by Samsung using the same 32-nanometer process used for the previous version, indicating that Apple had undertaken significant design changes for the chip. 

Chipworks now has a full image of the A5 die, revealing that this smaller A5 chip contains only a single-core ARM CPU. Apple has listed the Apple TV as having a single-core A5 since the third-generation model launched last year, but the previous design involved a dual-core chip with one core disabled, while the new design contains just the one active core. The new A5 does still contain the same dual-core GPU found in the previous version of the chip.

Chipworks' Dick James tells us, however, that there must be more to the story in order to achieve a nearly 50% size reduction, but the firm has yet to determine exactly what other changes are contributing to the smaller die size. 

A separate observation of interest involves the analog circuitry included on the chip. This new A5 chip appears to take advantage of optimized analog components such as resistors, capacitors, and inductors, yielding a mixed signal chip that seems to be a rather significant technical achievement at the 32-nanometer process node.

My guess is that the analog sections have been re-designed, always a work in progress when we get this small, since analog circuitry does not shrink anywhere near as predictably as digital. And as Jim said earlier, we think this is now in a mixed-signal version of the 32-nm process that allows extra passive components such as resistors, capacitors, and inductors, that is much more suited to analog stuff.

It is still unclear exactly why Apple has elected to redesign the A5 for the Apple TV, as it has been assumed that the company's "hobby" does not generate enough shipment volume to warrant such an investment in and of itself. As a result, it is possible that Apple has plans to use this chip in other products, although the single-core nature of the CPU design will likely limit the range of devices for which it would be suitable.

[Source: MacRumors]


University of Cambridge chip moves data in 3D through magnetic spin

Chips that have 3D elements to them are very much real. Moving data in 3D hasn't been truly viable until now, however, which makes an experimental chip from theUniversity of Cambridge that much more special. By sandwiching a layer of ruthenium atoms between cobalt and platinum, researchers found that they can move data up and down an otherwise silicon-based design through spintronics; the magnetic field manipulation sends information across the ruthenium to its destination. The layering is precise enough to create a "staircase" that moves data one step at a time. There's no word on if and when the technique might be applied to real-world circuitry, but the advantages in density are almost self-evident: the university suggests higher-capacity storage, while processors could also be stacked vertically instead of consuming an ever larger 2D footprint. As long as the 3D chip technology escapes the lab, computing power could take a big step forward. Or rather, upward.

[Source: Engadget]