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Apple's new Thunderbolt iMacs include unreleased Intel Z68 chipset

post #1 of 19
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The new iMac all-in-one desktops released this week include Intel's yet-to-be-released Z68 chipset, which could allow faster solid-state drive caching performance in the future.

As picked up on by tonymacx86, the Intel Z68 chipset for Sandy Bridge 1155 is not set to debut for another week, on May 11. Yet Apple's new Thunderbolt-equipped iMacs, released on Tuesday, were granted first access to the new chipset.

The Z68 chipset allows for solid-state drive data caching when a system is equipped with either a hybrid SSD/traditional drive or a combination of a SSD and a traditional drive in the same machine. Apple's new iMacs, in both the 21.5-inch and 27-inch screen sizes, come with a build-to-order option for a 256GB solid state drive.

User "diver" on the tonymacx86 forums speculated that since Apple's SSD option is 256GB and an extra $500, it's unlikely that Apple is using the caching feature, which is intended to boost performance with hybrid drives or smaller, cheaper solid state drives. Apple's upgrade comes with Mac OS X and all applications installed entirely on the solid state drive by default, while the extra 7200rpm spinning disk drive can be used for storing media and files. But the inclusion of the Z68 could signal the adoption of hybrid drives or solid-state boot drive combos in future Macs.

Apple's adoption of the Z68 chipset was noticed after iFixit conducted its teardown of the new 21.5-inch quad-core iMac. That look inside the machine revealed the Intel BD82Z68 Platform Controller Hub.



It is not new for Apple to be the first to sport Intel's latest hardware in its devices. Apple has previously enjoyed short-term exclusivity of Intel chips in its Macs in years past.

And the new high-speed Thunderbolt port, developed by both Intel and Apple, first appeared on the new MacBook Pros introduced earlier this year. Intel said in February that Apple will have a year-long head start in deploying the technology, which allows data transfer rates of 10Gbps.
post #2 of 19
The Caching features will need Software to work with it. which will properly debut with Lion.

There are only two kind of people in this world.

Those who dont understand Apple and those who misunderstood Apple.

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There are only two kind of people in this world.

Those who dont understand Apple and those who misunderstood Apple.

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post #3 of 19
Oh no, guinea pig iMac users using unreleased to the public chipsets!!!! Run for the hills!
post #4 of 19
I don't think the idea of using SSDs for caching a magnetic disk is going to take off. People will simply use a magnetic disk as their media drive and an SSD for everything else.
post #5 of 19
So if they're using this chipset, why is it still showing up as just SATA II instead of III?

I'd love to see implementation of SSD for caching. It would be perfect for the way I work - I have a ton of data on my hard drives but for the most part I'm only accessing a small subset of it on a regular basis (and need the highest speed that I can get). Right now my options are putting everything on SSD (way too expensive) or trying to manually put the data I use most onto SSD which simply isn't possible with my setup. I assume that I'm in the minority, but I could see it being helpful in general.

Hybrid drives are a step in the right direction but not a workable solution for me since I need much more on the SSD part than most hybrid drives hold. The possibility of having a HD and SSD installed with the computer handling the caching would be perfect.
post #6 of 19
If the feature is there, they should have included a small cheap-ish SSD as an option. Doesn't look too hard to put it in yourself, but OS support might be an issue, like with TRIM, Crossfire, etc.
post #7 of 19
The Z68 chipset was supposed to allow Sandy Bridge to utilize hardware accelerated H.264 video encoding on the IGP even while the discrete GPU is the primary graphics card. Sandy Bridge's hardware video encoder is much faster than CUDA encoding on the GTX 460 which will put it much faster than OpenCL encoding on the HD6970M. This would be the more significant feature for most users than SSD caching given Apple's current implementation. The previous H67 chipset only allows access to hardware accelerated H.264 video encoding when the IGP is the primary graphics card.
post #8 of 19
Apparently the Z68 chip set allows for over clocking the CPU. Do we know if these are the chips without the SATA II data problems from earlier this year?

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post #9 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by ltcommander.data View Post

The Z68 chipset was supposed to allow Sandy Bridge to utilize hardware accelerated H.264 video encoding on the IGP even while the discrete GPU is the primary graphics card. Sandy Bridge's hardware video encoder is much faster than CUDA encoding on the GTX 460 which will put it much faster than OpenCL encoding on the HD6970M. This would be the more significant feature for most users than SSD caching given Apple's current implementation. The previous H67 chipset only allows access to hardware accelerated H.264 video encoding when the IGP is the primary graphics card.

This, this, a thousand times this. I can't believe this isn't in the main article. QuickSync is a perfect match for rapid transcoding your video to portable-friendly formats.
post #10 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by Urinal Mint View Post

This, this, a thousand times this. I can't believe this isn't in the main article. QuickSync is a perfect match for rapid transcoding your video to portable-friendly formats.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ltcommander.data View Post

The Z68 chipset was supposed to allow Sandy Bridge to utilize hardware accelerated H.264 video encoding on the IGP even while the discrete GPU is the primary graphics card. Sandy Bridge's hardware video encoder is much faster than CUDA encoding on the GTX 460 which will put it much faster than OpenCL encoding on the HD6970M. This would be the more significant feature for most users than SSD caching given Apple's current implementation. The previous H67 chipset only allows access to hardware accelerated H.264 video encoding when the IGP is the primary graphics card.

Its nice to see some really really smart posters who know WTF they are talking about on here, unlike the A-hole trolls that love to hang out! And great user names as well!

Thanks for the great insight as I'm planning to use my new top of the line iMac for video editing!
post #11 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by FreeRange View Post

Its nice to see some really really smart posters who know WTF they are talking about on here, unlike the A-hole trolls that love to hang out! And great user names as well!

Thanks for the great insight as I'm planning to use my new top of the line iMac for video editing!

Thanks There's no real heavy-duty editing programs leveraging QuickSync yet - it's all still tuned for quick transcoding to pocket-sized playback - but I imagine FCP and Premiere will be adding support shortly.

There's a more in-depth look at QuickSync in the Anandtech Sandy Bridge review here:
http://www.anandtech.com/show/4083/t...-2100-tested/9

Not only is QuickSync faster than the CUDA path but it destroys it on quality too. Check out the stills from the Casino Royale comparison. It still can't quite compare to dedicated x86; but better tuning in the future may be able to improve the results.
post #12 of 19
With the SSD option, Apple makes it sound like a user's home folder is on the HD while System and Applications are on the SSD.

Is it possible to remap your home folder to a driver other than your startup?
post #13 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by Unicron View Post

With the SSD option, Apple makes it sound like a user's home folder is on the HD while System and Applications are on the SSD.

Is it possible to remap your home folder to a driver other than your startup?

It's probably just me .... but wouldn't you want the home folder on a 1TB hard drive instead of a 256GB SSD? .... way more storage, no?
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See, in the record business, you can show someone your song, and they don’t copy it. In the tech business, you show somebody your idea, and they steal it. (Jimmy Iovine)
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post #14 of 19
Just because a feature is there in a chip set does not imply that Apple is interested or ever will be. The SSD caching function is a really stupid idea in my opinion. As others point out you are far better off going dual drive with the system on the SSD.
post #15 of 19
I'm guessing that Apple got first crack at these because of thunderbolt.
post #16 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by Unicron View Post

With the SSD option, Apple makes it sound like a user's home folder is on the HD while System and Applications are on the SSD.

Is it possible to remap your home folder to a driver other than your startup?

There are several different ways. From using symlinks to editing the paths using the advanced options in Accounts or using dscl. Alternatively you can edit the local mcx and turn the account into a mobile home folder that is stored on the second drive.

Another way, I've been meaning to play with is a union mount of the second drive. That way it appears to be one seamless volume.

That is mounting a drive at /Users rather than in /Volumes.


Using any of these methods makes for a much easier system reinstall or upgrade too, where you can wipe away the system and reinstall and your whole home folder remains intact. You can even move that drive to another machine etc thoughts, comments?
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post #17 of 19
Isnt this cahce thing just an updated turbo boost? I remember reviews stating it did not make things that much faster.
post #18 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by majortom1981 View Post

Isnt this cahce thing just an updated turbo boost? I remember reviews stating it did not make things that much faster.

Depends. Properly implemented, it can make a big difference. Look at the test performance of hybrid hard disk drives. The vendors claim that they are something like 80% of the performance of an SSD. While I don't doubt that they chose tests that were favorable, even third party tests show that hybrid hard disks are much faster than 'plain' hard disks.
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Gatorguy 5/31/13
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"I'm way over my head when it comes to technical issues like this"
Gatorguy 5/31/13
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post #19 of 19
Hold the excitment. If you read the article, it also states that QuickSync only works when the integrated 3000 Intel GPU is used as the display adapter. Since the iMac uses a separate dedicated ATI card for video, QuickSync would not work on the iMac.

Hopefully the article is wrong about that qualification. It does seem like quite a waste to have such a powerful feature, but to be unable to use it.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Urinal Mint View Post

Thanks There's no real heavy-duty editing programs leveraging QuickSync yet - it's all still tuned for quick transcoding to pocket-sized playback - but I imagine FCP and Premiere will be adding support shortly.

There's a more in-depth look at QuickSync in the Anandtech Sandy Bridge review here:
http://www.anandtech.com/show/4083/t...-2100-tested/9

Not only is QuickSync faster than the CUDA path but it destroys it on quality too. Check out the stills from the Casino Royale comparison. It still can't quite compare to dedicated x86; but better tuning in the future may be able to improve the results.
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