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New MacBook Air using smaller, cheaper Thunderbolt chip

post #1 of 40
Thread Starter 
New MacBook Air models use a smaller, cheaper Thunderbolt controller that limits them to using a single external display while consuming less space on the logic board.

A report by Anandtech outlines that larger form factor Macs, including the early 2011 MacBook Pros, iMac, and latest mid-2011 Mac mini use a full sized Thunderbolt controller named Light Ridge, which features four bidirectional 10 Gbps channels and support for up to two external DisplayPort screens.

The new Thunderbolt MacBook Air uses a scaled down version of the chip named Eagle Ridge, supplying two Thunderbolt channels and support for a single external DisplayPort screen.

The report notes that the smaller, cheaper chip will likely be the choice of generic PC makers who wish to implement the new interface, which essentially exposes PCIe on an external cable, allowing for very fast data transfers and support for other interfaces such as USB, Firewire and Gigabit Ethernet.

Apple's newly announced (and as yet unavailable) Thunderbolt Display enables computers with a Thunderbolt port to interface with its 27" screen; FaceTime HD camera, mic and speakers; USB, Firewire and Gigabit Ethernet ports; and daisy-chain additional Thunderbolt devices via its integrated port.

Thunderbolt Macs outside of the MacBook Air will be able to connect dual external displays to their Thunderbolt port, while the Air's limited architecture will only support one external display.

post #2 of 40
But who expected to use a Macbook Air to do tasks that would be fitting for a larger, more powerful computer?
post #3 of 40
I thought this was clear from Apple's own page for the new display.

It even shows the air with one display and the pro with two.

I am curious about the fact that Apple clearly states "Expand your 15" and 17" MBP" with two displays, with no mention of the 13" MBP. DOes that mean the 13 inches has/will have the same chip as the Air?
post #4 of 40
Quote:
Originally Posted by bartfat View Post

But who expected to use a Macbook Air to do tasks that would be fitting for a larger, more powerful computer?

too true! I have a MBA and the old 24" display. I am pretty sure my MBA would beat the crap out of me if I tried to run a program that needed another display...or if I even introduced another display into the mix, let alone two thunderbolt displays loaded to the gills with peripherals
post #5 of 40
Quote:
Originally Posted by estyle View Post

I am curious about the fact that Apple clearly states "Expand your 15" and 17" MBP" with two displays, with no mention of the 13" MBP. DOes that mean the 13 inches has/will have the same chip as the Air?

No, it means the graphics in the 13" MacBook Pro suck and can't drive two external displays. It doesn't have anything to do with the Thunderbolt chip being smaller.

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post #6 of 40
Well, this is an interesting article to read, because earlier this year when my company bought several Thunderbolt MacBook Pros, I researched the question of external displays quite a bit. All sources said the Thunderbolt chip can drive two displays, and the internal counted as one, so the MBP can only drive one external display. Here is one such reference: http://tidbits.com/article/12000

Now I find out it can drive two externals? Hmmmm.....
post #7 of 40
I just hope the next iPhone has the needed TB chip in it. Then again, that will mean I'll be buying a new iPhone and MBP within a very short timeframe so maybe I should rethink my wish.


Quote:
Originally Posted by estyle View Post

I thought this was clear from Apple's own page for the new display.

It even shows the air with one display and the pro with two.

I am curious about the fact that Apple clearly states "Expand your 15" and 17" MBP" with two displays, with no mention of the 13" MBP. DOes that mean the 13 inches has/will have the same chip as the Air?

1) As Tallest Skil states the GPU in the MBAs aren't powerful enough to make the 80gbps Thunderbolt chip viable for the dual monitor systems.

2) What Apple puts in the 13" MBP will likely depend on whether it has an Intel integrated GPU or a discreet GPU. I'm wagering the next round of MBPs will introduce us to revamped, ODD-free systems that will give them plenty of space to stick in a dGPU so I'm guessing the full-size TB chip.



Quote:
Originally Posted by ktappe View Post

Well, this is an interesting article to read, because earlier this year when my company bought several Thunderbolt MacBook Pros, I researched the question of external displays quite a bit. All sources said the Thunderbolt chip can drive two displays, and the internal counted as one, so the MBP can only drive one external display. Here is one such reference: http://tidbits.com/article/12000

Now I find out it can drive two externals? Hmmmm.....

There was no monitor out until last week that could daisy chain multiple Thunderbolt equipped displays so it was a moot point unless you were wanting to run multiple mDP displays off your MBPs.
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post #8 of 40
The integrated Intel GPU in the MBA and entry MBP only support 1 external display anyway.

Next.
2011 13" 2.3 MBP, 2006 15" 2.16 MBP, iPhone 4, iPod Shuffle, AEBS, AppleTV2 with XBMC.
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post #9 of 40
Quote:
Originally Posted by ktappe View Post

Well, this is an interesting article to read, because earlier this year when my company bought several Thunderbolt MacBook Pros, I researched the question of external displays quite a bit. All sources said the Thunderbolt chip can drive two displays, and the internal counted as one, so the MBP can only drive one external display. Here is one such reference: http://tidbits.com/article/12000

Now I find out it can drive two externals? Hmmmm.....

depends what size MBP you have. Only MBP >13" can drive two displays.
post #10 of 40
Quote:
Originally Posted by AppleStud View Post

depends what size MBP you have. Only MBP >13" can drive two displays.

1) Remember that the 13" MBP is really a 13.3" display so your comment could be read as the 13" MBP as being able to drive two external displays.

2) AnandTech says the Thunderbolt chip used in the 2011 iMac, MacBook Pro and Mac mini supports 4x channels (80Gb/s) but this MBA chip only supports 2x channels. I can't find any of Apple documentation supporting that data but it could mean that you can run three displays on the 13" MBP.
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post #11 of 40
Besides the weak graphIcs, perhaps the full size thunderbolt chip produces to much heat for the enclosure of the MacBook Air?
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post #12 of 40
In principle if it's full thunderbolt you should be able to use an external graphics card and drive two displays from there.
post #13 of 40
Quote:
Originally Posted by ktappe View Post

Well, this is an interesting article to read, because earlier this year when my company bought several Thunderbolt MacBook Pros, I researched the question of external displays quite a bit. All sources said the Thunderbolt chip can drive two displays, and the internal counted as one, so the MBP can only drive one external display. Here is one such reference: http://tidbits.com/article/12000

Now I find out it can drive two externals? Hmmmm.....

It can run Dual-DVI which means it can run the 30" Cinema Display.

Daisy chaining Thunderbolt monitors is how you run two of the new Apple Displays.
post #14 of 40
I don't think folks would really believe the Air would support two external displays anyways. I ordered th 27" thunderbolt display and that will be more than enough. Anything more, and then you're going into MacBook pro's territory.
post #15 of 40
Quote:
Originally Posted by sflocal View Post

I don't think folks would really believe the Air would support two external displays anyways. I ordered th 27" thunderbolt display and that will be more than enough. Anything more, and then you're going into MacBook pro's territory.

The wonderful thing, that most people won't notice, is that on the MacBook Pro 15/17, Mac Mini and iMac, you can add two Thunderbolt monitors, each of which has ITS OWN HD camera, speaker subsystem, microphone, gigE, FW800 and 3 USB 2.0 ports.

This makes the MacBook Air 11 an incredible machine. Oh so portable, still an i5/i7 processor, and when you get home or to work, you have a massive display and all the peripherals of a full-fledged iMac except for the Superdrive.
post #16 of 40
Quote:
Originally Posted by Twelve View Post

This makes the MacBook Air 11 an incredible machine. Oh so portable, still an i5/i7 processor, and when you get home or to work, you have a massive display and all the peripherals of a full-fledged iMac except for the Superdrive.

You're not trying to say the MBA can come close to an iMac in performance are you? If so, I'd like to know why because then maybe I'd get a MBA or MBP + external display (or two) instead of an iMac for audio / graphics stuff. How does the performance compare with a "15 MBP and an iMac? Would like to avoid buying a bigger iMac and buy a MBP or MBA if there isn't much difference in performance.


.
post #17 of 40
Quote:
Originally Posted by solipsism View Post

I just hope the next iPhone has the needed TB chip in it. Then again, that will mean I'll be buying a new iPhone and MBP within a very short timeframe so maybe I should rethink my wish.

What is the point of adding a TB port to the iPhone? It feels a bit like adding a turbo-charger to your bicycle because your car has one.
Why would Apple want to replace the dock connector with a thicker plug? Right now the speed of the iPhone processor and flash storage is the limiting factor (plus the inefficiency of iTunes), not USB 2.

Quote:
Originally Posted by solipsism View Post

1) Remember that the 13" MBP is really a 13.3" display so your comment could be read as the 13" MBP as being able to drive two external displays.

2) AnandTech says the Thunderbolt chip used in the 2011 iMac, MacBook Pro and Mac mini supports 4x channels (80Gb/s) but this MBA chip only supports 2x channels. I can't find any of Apple documentation supporting that data but it could mean that you can run three displays on the 13" MBP.

One 27" display is 2.25 m pixels, each with 24 bit of colour, add a refresh rate of 75 Hz and you get: 4 Gbit/s. If a 2x channel is 40 Gbit/s, you could run 10 displays. Or what am I overlooking here?
post #18 of 40
Deleted.
post #19 of 40
Sounds like for the first time ever the Mini now supports triple monitors natively!? 2 Via the TB port and a third via the HDMI port -- Wonder if the graphics are even capable of that? Hopefully someone tries it out!

I'm holding out for a TB/DP to dual DVI adapter that gives you the option of plugging in 2 standard DVI monitors. Mainly for the MacBook Pro -- but I can only hope :-D
post #20 of 40
Quote:
Originally Posted by estyle View Post

too true! I have a MBA and the old 24" display. I am pretty sure my MBA would beat the crap out of me if I tried to run a program that needed another display...or if I even introduced another display into the mix, let alone two thunderbolt displays loaded to the gills with peripherals

If you have an Nvidia320M MBA you can drive another 24" display no worries If you have an Intel integrated, well...
post #21 of 40
Quote:
Originally Posted by noirdesir View Post

One 27" display is 2.25 m pixels, each with 24 bit of colour, add a refresh rate of 75 Hz and you get: 4 Gbit/s. If a 2x channel is 40 Gbit/s, you could run 10 displays. Or what am I overlooking here?

Er... for one thing Video RAM? Not just for the framebuffer but also for textures, antialiasing etc. since a lot of the interface actually uses 3D acceleration and so on.
post #22 of 40
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tallest Skil View Post

No, it means the graphics in the 13" MacBook Pro suck and can't drive two external displays. It doesn't have anything to do with the Thunderbolt chip being smaller.

Why does everything suck with you? The graphics happen to be decent in the 13 inch MBP.
post #23 of 40
Quote:
Originally Posted by marvfox View Post

Why does everything suck with you? The graphics happen to be decent in the 13 inch MBP.

Yes, we know you have one. The truth of the matter is, Intel integrated graphics suck for all purposes outside just displaying an OS on the screen.

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post #24 of 40
Quote:
Originally Posted by noirdesir View Post

What is the point of adding a TB port to the iPhone? It feels a bit like adding a turbo-charger to your bicycle because your car has one.
Why would Apple want to replace the dock connector with a thicker plug? Right now the speed of the iPhone processor and flash storage is the limiting factor (plus the inefficiency of iTunes), not USB 2.

I never said to replace the 30-pin dock connector with a TB port interface. I clearly stated "TB chip" implying faster data rates than currently offered over USB 2.0.

Quote:
One 27" display is 2.25 m pixels, each with 24 bit of colour, add a refresh rate of 75 Hz and you get: 4 Gbit/s. If a 2x channel is 40 Gbit/s, you could run 10 displays. Or what am I overlooking here?

Yes.
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post #25 of 40
Quote:
Originally Posted by solipsism View Post

I never said to replace the 30-pin dock connector with a TB port interface.

And who really believes that Apple won't be making the 30-pin connector eventually carry Thunderbolt data in the near future? We'll soon see a 30-pin Dock Connector to branched USB & Thunderbolt cable, just like the old-timey FireWire 400 & USB branched cables.

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post #26 of 40
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tallest Skil View Post

And who really believes that Apple won't be making the 30-pin connector eventually carry Thunderbolt data in the near future? We'll soon see a 30-pin Dock Connector to branched USB & Thunderbolt cable, just like the old-timey FireWire 400 & USB branched cables.

The only question I have is: Will they be able to work with the current Dock connector design or will they change up the dock design they've been using for a decade?
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post #27 of 40
Quote:
Originally Posted by noirdesir View Post

What is the point of adding a TB port to the iPhone? It feels a bit like adding a turbo-charger to your bicycle because your car has one.
Why would Apple want to replace the dock connector with a thicker plug? Right now the speed of the iPhone processor and flash storage is the limiting factor (plus the inefficiency of iTunes), not USB 2.


One 27" display is 2.25 m pixels, each with 24 bit of colour, add a refresh rate of 75 Hz and you get: 4 Gbit/s. If a 2x channel is 40 Gbit/s, you could run 10 displays. Or what am I overlooking here?

DisplayPort is a separate interface on the same cable. You can't actually drive up to the bandwidth limits. It depends on how many display port interfaces are implemented on the host. I'm pretty sure there is also a maximum of two because thunderbolt has two full-duplex channels and only one can be put on each channel. I think you mean 4x channel above too.

This limit could be exceeded up to available bandwidth if you had an external video card though. I don't know of any coming out, but external PCI Express cabinets are coming out soon. You can probably use one to drive a video card. In theory you could drive at least 6 displays (assuming 16X cards) off one port with bandwidth to spare.
post #28 of 40
Quote:
Originally Posted by solipsism View Post

The only question I have is: Will they be able to work with the current Dock connector design or will they change up the dock design they've been using for a decade?

I'm confident that they won't have to change it.

Because just IMAGINE what we'd have to go through if they did. Hundreds of millions of accessories, all obsolete. Even VEHICLES with Dock Connectors all useless...

What are the pins that were carrying FireWire doing now? Just sitting there? Could put it through those...

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post #29 of 40
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tallest Skil View Post

I'm confident that they won't have to change it.

Because just IMAGINE what we'd have to go through if they did. Hundreds of millions of accessories, all obsolete. Even VEHICLES with Dock Connectors all useless...

What are the pins that were carrying FireWire doing now? Just sitting there? Could put it through those...

They aren't being used, but when I look at the FireWire pinout and the full TB pinout for data and power there are too many pins to make it work. That said, they don't need to offer the full bandwidth, just something significantly better than they currently offer for data and charging rates with USB 2.0 (and assumed arsekicking of USB 3.0 data rates).

However, If they want to finally switch the design of the Dock Connector to something, say, smaller for the next decade of iDevices the switch to TB-capale iDevices would be a good time to transition. If you look at the iPad 2 the Dock Connector cable feel natural with how thin the device has become. For peripherals a simple adapter from the old-style dock connector to the new-style dock connector could be used.
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post #30 of 40
Quote:
Originally Posted by solipsism View Post

They aren't being used, but when I look at the FireWire pinout and the full TB pinout for data and power there are too many pins to make it work.

Well, they could do the full bandwidth and just drop the USB pins. Thunderbolt is backwards compatible, after all; just have the USB port on the branch exist through the Thunderbolt pinning.

Quote:
However, If they want to finally switch the design of the Dock Connector to something, say, smaller for the next decade of iDevices the switch to TB-capale iDevices would be a good time to transition. If you look at the iPad 2 the Dock Connector cable feel natural with how thin the device has become. For peripherals a simple adapter from the old-style dock connector to the new-style dock connector could be used.

I'm sure Apple would love to move to a wireless connection for data, as the final models of iPod nano (before the current redesign) were thinner than the casing of the male Dock Connector on the cable, and the newest iPod touches, I'm told, are curved in such a way that the connector itself is seen when fully plugged in.

When's PoWE (Power over Wireless Ethernet) coming out? We have Wireless Power already and Power over Ethernet, so just combine the two!

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post #31 of 40
Quote:
Originally Posted by solipsism View Post

The only question I have is: Will they be able to work with the current Dock connector design or will they change up the dock design they've been using for a decade?

It seems like they are just going to go wireless. If the dock remains it will probably just be for accessories and service. It will probably be replaced altogether by Bluetooth 4.0 (optimized for small devices) at some point.
post #32 of 40
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tallest Skil View Post

Well, they could do the full bandwidth and just drop the USB pins. Thunderbolt is backwards compatible, after all; just have the USB port on the branch exist through the Thunderbolt pinning.

Hopefully you are right and the TB controller in iDevices can switch to the USB protocol making it simple to use the current Dock Connector cable but I wonder if it's possible in that direction.

Let me restate that... With the ATD (Apple Thunderbolt Display) the connection going out to the Mac is TB and the ports going out to peripherals is varied. With the iPhone getting TB access the the cable going into Macs and non-Mac 'PCs' will have to work with both TB ports and USB ports. That's the opposite direction.
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post #33 of 40
Quote:
Originally Posted by esummers View Post

It seems like they are just going to go wireless. If the dock remains it will probably just be for accessories and service. It will probably be replaced altogether by Bluetooth 4.0 (optimized for small devices) at some point.

They have added WiFi, but I don't think it will be replacing the full tethered sync anytime soon. It's just too slow even at 802.11n speeds.
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post #34 of 40
Quote:
Originally Posted by nvidia2008 View Post

Er... for one thing Video RAM? Not just for the framebuffer but also for textures, antialiasing etc. since a lot of the interface actually uses 3D acceleration and so on.

I was replying to a post about the TB port bandwidth not about graphic card 'bandwidth'. Obviously the graphic card is the limiting factor on the current MBA but it was suggested that the TB chip also was limiting things (via the only 2x bandwidth). This was the part I was not 100% convinced about.
post #35 of 40
Quote:
Originally Posted by solipsism View Post

I never said to replace the 30-pin dock connector with a TB port interface. I clearly stated "TB chip" implying faster data rates than currently offered over USB 2.0.

And my point was the that iPhone is still far from using the USB 2 bandwidth, so currently there would be no benefit to switching to TB (or USB 3).

Quote:
Originally Posted by noirdesir

What am I overlooking here?

Quote:
Yes.

I am not sure what the answer 'yes' to a 'what' question means.
post #36 of 40
Quote:
Originally Posted by noirdesir View Post

And my point was the that iPhone is still far from using the USB 2 bandwidth, so currently there would be no benefit to switching to TB (or USB 3).

Why? There's no point in faster NAND chips unless the transfer cable can move the data.

Thunderbolt's a natural progression, regardless of if USB 2 has been saturated.

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post #37 of 40
Quote:
Originally Posted by esummers View Post

DisplayPort is a separate interface on the same cable. You can't actually drive up to the bandwidth limits. It depends on how many display port interfaces are implemented on the host. I'm pretty sure there is also a maximum of two because thunderbolt has two full-duplex channels and only one can be put on each channel. I think you mean 4x channel above too.

This limit could be exceeded up to available bandwidth if you had an external video card though. I don't know of any coming out, but external PCI Express cabinets are coming out soon. You can probably use one to drive a video card. In theory you could drive at least 6 displays (assuming 16X cards) off one port with bandwidth to spare.

I understand that the MBA TB chip only implements one DP signal meaning only one non-TB DP displays can be connected (remember to a DP device the TB port looks like a standard DP port). But once you have a proper TB display (which the new 27" is), the DP signalling is not used anymore, the DP signal is encapsulated into one of the TB channels.
post #38 of 40
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tallest Skil View Post

Why? There's no point in faster NAND chips unless the transfer cable can move the data.

The maximum transfer rates I am seeing with my iPad (which for some reason is faster than my iPhone) are about 16 MB/s or 50% of the real-life maximum USB 2 speed. There would be a point in faster NAND chips if Apple put transfer speed on their priority list. But they don't. It is clear that current storage speed is governed by cost, heat and space considerations, not by the interface.
post #39 of 40
I am so disappointed by this!

Jk, if I did buy a MBA and was crazy enough to get the Thunderbolt monitor, I would never be able to get a second monitor anyways

I would have been happier if we got a GPU rather than thunderbolt, but then the air would be more powerful than the pro.
post #40 of 40
Quote:
Originally Posted by accessoriesguy View Post

I would have been happier if we got a GPU rather than thunderbolt, but then the air would be more powerful than the pro.

Well, no, but then again, it couldn't have received a better GPU, anyway.

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