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Next-gen MacBook Pro to shine brighter with new backlight tech

post #1 of 102
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A forthcoming update to Apple's MacBook Pro line will usher in a generation of more vibrant and uniformly-colored notebook displays thanks to some new underlying backlight technology, AppleInsider has learned.

Confirming an earlier but widely discounted report from Taiwan-based DigiTimes, faithful industry sources say the new pro-oriented systems will mark the start of a gradual transition away from cold cathode fluorescent backlights (CCFLs) and towards LED backlights for the Mac maker.

Thus far, those sources say Apple has agreed to implement the LED technology only within a revision to its 15-inch MacBook Pro due sometime in the second quarter of this year. A broader expansion to the 17-inch model and across the company's 13-inch consumer line, though inevitable, reportedly remains under consideration.

While pricer than CCFLs, LED technology is more efficient at distributing lighting evenly across the entire display surface and offers an increase in color saturation. According to a white paper from Cree, a backlight solutions provider expected to provide its LED technology to Apple, LED-based backlights also consume less power, run cooler, and last longer than CCFLs.

For end users, the new technology translates into improved notebook battery life and displays that will maintain their initial levels of brightness longer into their respective life-cycles. Come this spring, LED-lit displays will also deliver a more vivid canvas for the various software user interface enhancements and animation techniques that will be included with Mac OS X Leopard.

Advancements in notebook technology and price/performance have played an essential role in the resurgence of Apple's Mac personal computer line over the last several years. And it comes as little surprise that they would receive the royal treatment ahead of other company offerings, such as the iconic iMac. By the end of of last year, MacBook and MacBook Pro systems accounted for roughly 35 percent more unit sales than the Cupertino-based firm's numerous desktop PC models.



Apple said it sold 969,000 thousand notebook systems during the three-month period ending December, a 65 percent increase over the same period last year. And although it missed the majestic 1 million mark by just a hair, it broke ground by achieving one of the most sought-after buyer habits by PC manufacturers: upsells to premium models.

During its fiscal December quarter conference call with analysts and investors this past Wednesday, Apple said it witnessed a sharp uptick in sales of the professional MacBook Pro systems during the holiday season, as many customers with sights originally set on a consumer-oriented 13-inch MacBook wound up "buying up the line" to the 15-inch models. Sales of the higher margin systems bled through in the company's notebook revenues, which rose nearly 80 percent from the year-ago period to $1.45 billion.

The trend bodes well for Apple leading into the new year, as published reports say one of its primary objectives is to push sales of its 15-inch notebook systems harder than it did in 2006. Preparations for the push have already been set in motion: the company has signed Foxconn Electronics, the now infamous builder of iPod digital music players, as a third contract notebook manufacturer.

Apple's emphasis on breakthroughs for the MacBook Pro line will also signal a veritable about-face in the company's marketing approach for 2007, which began with the seemingly ironic dismissal of the Mac's importance at the recent Macworld conference in San Francisco two weeks ago.
post #2 of 102
This is great news. I can't wait!
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post #3 of 102
Quote:
Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post

A forthcoming update to Apple's MacBook Pro line will usher in a generation of more vibrant and uniformly-colored notebook displays thanks to some new underlying backlight technology, AppleInsider has learned.

While pricer than CCFLs, LED technology is more efficient at distributing lighting evenly across the entire display surface and offers an increase in color saturation. According to a white paper from Cree, a backlight solutions provider expected to provide its LED technology to Apple, LED-based backlights also consume less power, run cooler, and last longer than CCFLs.

For end users, the new technology translates into improved notebook battery life and displays that will maintain their initial levels of brightness longer into their respective life-cycles. Come this spring, LED-lit displays will also deliver a more vivid canvas for the various software user interface enhancements and animation techniques that will be included with Mac OS X Leopard.

1) I had no idea that CCFLs got dimmer over time. I guess I've noticed that my Powerbook isn't quite as bright as it used to be, but I thought I was just getting excited to get a new computer!

2) I've been thinking about the possibility that one day, iSight cameras might be somehow integrated into the screen itself, to allow for eye-contact during chats. Eye contact is the one thing that remains to be worked out before we've really achieved Spaceballs communication status.

Are there any engineers out there? Is this a possibility, ever?

3) To what extent should we expect the battery life to improve with LED backlighting?

I think I may just wait for this revision before I get a new notebook.
post #4 of 102
Quote:
Foxconn Electronics, the now infamous builder of iPod digital music players

Why are they infamous? What have they done that's so awful?

http://www.m-w.com/cgi-bin/dictionary?infamous

Sorry, it's a pet gripe of mine how often that word is misused where something like "famous" is probably intended.
post #5 of 102
LEDs are the future of illumination. They use less power and last for freaking ever, plus they are far less susceptible to mechanical damage than most other lighting tech.

As volume continues to ramp up the cost will come down, and then it's LED light bulbs for your house (you can get them already but not cheap).
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post #6 of 102
Quote:
Originally Posted by noelos View Post

Why are they infamous? What have they done that's so awful?

http://www.m-w.com/cgi-bin/dictionary?infamous

Sorry, it's a pet gripe of mine how often that word is misused where something like "famous" is probably intended.

They're probably referring to the poor-working-conditions scandal a while back. I think "infamous" is an appropriate word in this case.
post #7 of 102
Quote:
Originally Posted by noelos View Post

Why are they infamous? What have they done that's so awful?

http://www.m-w.com/cgi-bin/dictionary?infamous

Sorry, it's a pet gripe of mine how often that word is misused where something like "famous" is probably intended.

http://www.appleinsider.com/article.php?id=1822

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post #8 of 102
Quote:

Da management can consider itself not only vindicated, but even deserving of an apology from Senor Noelos.
post #9 of 102
Quote:
Originally Posted by netdog View Post

Da management can consider itself not only vindicated, but even deserving of an apology from Senor Noelos.

Weren't the allegations largely shown to be BS?
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post #10 of 102
Quote:
Originally Posted by wtfk View Post

Weren't the allegations largely shown to be BS?

More like a stretch. They weren't working slave labor hours but they were still violating the region's overtime laws.
post #11 of 102
Quote:
Originally Posted by CoolHandPete View Post

1) I had no idea that CCFLs got dimmer over time. I guess I've noticed that my Powerbook isn't quite as bright as it used to be, but I thought I was just getting excited to get a new computer!

Like CRTs, plasmas and any florescent design, they use phosphors to make light, which fade over time. Fluorescents are also very hard to dim without something going wrong, whereas LEDs can be dimmed as much as you like. Maybe it will allow people to get their 1000 ft*l penis extension/"feature"/line-item, while I'll just turn my display down to much more reasonable levels that won't cause sunburn and retinal damage.
post #12 of 102
Quote:
Originally Posted by CoolHandPete View Post

2) I've been thinking about the possibility that one day, iSight cameras might be somehow integrated into the screen itself, to allow for eye-contact during chats. Eye contact is the one thing that remains to be worked out before we've really achieved Spaceballs communication status.

Are there any engineers out there? Is this a possibility, ever?

Apple received a patent early last year on such an idea: integrated sensing display.
post #13 of 102
Quote:
Originally Posted by chromos View Post

Apple received a patent early last year on such an idea: integrated sensing display.

Unbelievable! How in the world would such a technology work?

Imagine when web-chatting and web videos, etc. can let users look directly at the screen, instead of at the camera.

I vote for this as my #1 feature for the upcoming MBP.
post #14 of 102
Quote:
Originally Posted by addabox View Post

LEDs are the future of illumination. They use less power and last for freaking ever, plus they are far less susceptible to mechanical damage than most other lighting tech.

As volume continues to ramp up the cost will come down, and then it's LED light bulbs for your house (you can get them already but not cheap).

Current technology LEDs use about 1/4 the power of fluorescent, or 1/10 the power of incandescent light for the same brightness. However, white-light LEDs also use a phosphor that will probably eventually fade over time (they are essentially blue LEDs that make the phosphor glow white). In addition, the newer generation of LEDs just coming on the market are a lot cheaper to produce but don't last nearly as long (perhaps 10x incandescent, but not "forever" like old-style LEDs).

So the trend is for LEDs to get much cheaper to produce in exchange for sacrificing a little of their lifetime, but not their efficiency.
post #15 of 102
Quote:
Originally Posted by CoolHandPete View Post

Unbelievable! How in the world would such a technology work?

Imagine when web-chatting and web videos, etc. can let users look directly at the screen, instead of at the camera.

I vote for this as my #1 feature for the upcoming MBP.

My guess is that such technology would make economic sense at first only for very small LCDs, ergo, the iPhone might see it first. (in a year or two)
post #16 of 102
I just want to point out that the reason people have been buying more pro notebooks recently has nothing to do with them "buying up the line". It is common knowledge that many professional users were waiting until closer to the Adobe updates to upgrade their hardware. Now that the software is coming out for the Intel chips many people are buying the macbookpro. This is clear as day.
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post #17 of 102
There has been some research and work done on producing a near-100% efficiency white OLED backlight. I don't think it will be ready for commercial stuff very soon, but plain-old white LEDs should be able to provide a substantially more efficient backlight than the current CCFL technology.

This is good, because backlight actually makes a big contribution towards battery drain. I'd estimate that the 15" MBP expends more than 12W to drive the backlight at a reasonable setting.
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post #18 of 102
Quote:
Originally Posted by noelos View Post

Why are they infamous? What have they done that's so awful?

http://www.m-w.com/cgi-bin/dictionary?infamous

Sorry, it's a pet gripe of mine how often that word is misused where something like "famous" is probably intended.

Lucky: “One hundred thousand pesos to come to Santa Poco, put on show, stop. The infamous El Guapo.”
Dusty: “What does that mean? Infamous?”
Ned: “Ah, Dusty! Infamous is when you're more than famous! This guy El Guapo is not just famous, he's IN-famous!”
Lucky: “A hundred thousand pesos to do a personal appearance with this guy El Guapo, who is probably the biggest actor to ever come out of Mexico!”
Dusty: “Wow, the IN-famous? IN-famous?”



Quote:
Originally Posted by wealjays View Post

I just want to point out that the reason people have been buying more pro notebooks recently has nothing to do with them "buying up the line". It is common knowledge that many professional users were waiting until closer to the Adobe updates to upgrade their hardware. Now that the software is coming out for the Intel chips many people are buying the macbookpro. This is clear as day.

I do not doubt that there are some Mac users waiting for Intel versions of software before moving to an Intel-based Mac, but there is no possible way that the increasingly high unit sales of MBPs are from that many people waiting for CS3 to arrive.
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post #19 of 102
Not coming in the flagship 17"? Seems utterly silly to me.

Either way, this is good news. No, great news.

The screens on the pro line are pittiful. Uneven colors and backlighting. They are the worst in the industry, especially at this price...
post #20 of 102
Quote:
Originally Posted by Splinemodel View Post

There has been some research and work done on producing a near-100% efficiency white OLED backlight. I don't think it will be ready for commercial stuff very soon, but plain-old white LEDs should be able to provide a substantially more efficient backlight than the current CCFL technology.

This is good, because backlight actually makes a big contribution towards battery drain. I'd estimate that the 15" MBP expends more than 12W to drive the backlight at a reasonable setting.

In the "white paper" linked in the article, supposedly the current (2nd gen) LEDs are 12 percent more efficient than CCFL - with higher efficiency expected soon. Even though the battery life may not be so much longer than current models, the brightness improvement should make the switch worthwhile.

Do you think the price point will remain the same?
post #21 of 102
Quote:
Originally Posted by BWhaler View Post

Not coming in the flagship 17"? Seems utterly silly to me.

Either way, this is good news. No, great news.

The screens on the pro line are pittiful. Uneven colors and backlighting. They are the worst in the industry, especially at this price...

You're right. Some are less bad than others. It's really a crap shoot. I think that they would have to do the 17-inch along with the 15-inch. That would seem wrong to just do one, and have it totally outclass the upscale model. Then again, I think some of the reasons for the problems with Apple's notebook displays is that they are using a mid-resolution screen, and not a full-blown 1920x1200 display. According to some reports that I have read, there are at least two LCD manufacturers of the displays, and further, the displays don't exactly fit right in the enclosure causing like leakage.

Now this could all have to do with Apple's lack of a design overhaul, which may be in store with the next update. The fact of the matter is the next MacBook Pro will probably ship with Leopard because it needs the new OS for the resolution independence.
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post #22 of 102
I'm pretty sure the price will remain the same, even if it does cost Apple a bit more at first. The backlight certainly isn't the most expensive component in a notebook.

I'm really hoping this makes it to the MacBook line sooner rather than later. I'd hate to go shopping in the spring, pick up what's on offer, and find out that the update 6 months later has a much better screen and runs for half an hour longer in real-world use.
post #23 of 102
Quote:
Originally Posted by Booga View Post

Current technology LEDs use about 1/4 the power of fluorescent, or 1/10 the power of incandescent light for the same brightness. However, white-light LEDs also use a phosphor that will probably eventually fade over time (they are essentially blue LEDs that make the phosphor glow white). In addition, the newer generation of LEDs just coming on the market are a lot cheaper to produce but don't last nearly as long (perhaps 10x incandescent, but not "forever" like old-style LEDs).

So the trend is for LEDs to get much cheaper to produce in exchange for sacrificing a little of their lifetime, but not their efficiency.

The Luxeon series from Lumileds (bought a while back by Phillips) claim 70% brightness at 50,000 hrs. That might not be "forever" but it'll do for now.
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post #24 of 102
I hate to rain on this back-slapping party, but I must admit to being rather stunned by the self-referential nature of the conversation here -- if someone came in from the outside (say, PC) world, they would be laughing out loud over the excitement amongst a handful of digiterati over a (supposedly) brighter screen.

That is, I suppose, the good and the bad about Apple.

The good: Apple is, yet again, pushing the technological envelope, and they are very good at getting all of you high-end types quite excited.

The bad: Yet another reason for Apple to keep its prices where they are, and keep throwing at its few high-end consumers the morsels of functionality that are, at best, of questionable value for 99% for the world's computing population (myself included).

Ironically, this is exactly the type of marginal (note that it is bolded, italicized, and underlined) functionality that some of the same digiterati regularly lambaste iPod's competitors over, and praise the iPod as having the discipline to refrain from!

Oh, I'll duck......

\

PS: For the record, I am really quite happy with the screen quality on both my 17-inch MBP (6 months old), and my 24-inch iMac (1 month old).
post #25 of 102
Quote:
Originally Posted by addabox View Post

The Luxeon series from Lumileds (bought a while back by Phillips) claim 70% brightness at 50,000 hrs. That might not be "forever" but it'll do for now.

Interesting. Luxeon refers to a power regulation chip, I believe. There are many Luxeon LED-based flashlights available (I've purchased a few), and they are much brighter than regular white light LED flashlights. They are not as bright as Xenon bulbs.

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post #26 of 102
Quote:
Originally Posted by SpamSandwich View Post

Interesting. Luxeon refers to a power regulation chip, I believe. There are many Luxeon LED-based flashlights available (I've purchased a few), and they are much brighter than regular white light LED flashlights. They are not as bright as Xenon bulbs.

Yeah, I've been watching the Luxeons for a while and it's pretty amazing how they've ramped up the lumens. We've gone from being pretty bright if an LED can produce a single lumen to one that can do over 140.

The big deal at this point seems to be thermal management; there's not much surface area on a given LED to act as a heat sink and they get hot.

I'm curious how LED based laptop screen deals with heat dissipation.
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post #27 of 102
Quote:
Originally Posted by anantksundaram View Post

I hate to rain on this back-slapping party, but I must admit to being rather stunned by the self-referential nature of the conversation here -- if someone came in from the outside (say, PC) world, they would be laughing out loud over the excitement amongst a handful of digiterati over a (supposedly) brighter screen.

That is, I suppose, the good and the bad about Apple.

The good: Apple is, yet again, pushing the technological envelope, and they are very good at getting all of you high-end types quite excited.

The bad: Yet another reason for Apple to keep its prices where they are, and keep throwing at its few high-end consumers the morsels of functionality that are, at best, of questionable value for 99% for the world's computing population (myself included).

Ironically, this is exactly the type of marginal (note that it is bolded, italicized, and underlined) functionality that some of the same digiterati regularly lambaste iPod's competitors over, and praise the iPod as having the discipline to refrain from!

Oh, I'll duck......

\

PS: For the record, I am really quite happy with the screen quality on both my 17-inch MBP (6 months old), and my 24-inch iMac (1 month old).

what exactly are you saying here? that's is odd that we would get excited over new screen technology? i don't see how that's anyway comparable to the ipod situation at all. led backlighting is an improvement of a necessary component of a laptop. most people deride ipod challengers because they needlessly add in poorly-implemented features while not concentrating on making the device better at its main purpose.

having better and more efficient backlighting on a laptop monitor means a brighter screen (for use outdoors) and longer battery life. this whole site is devoted to apple's software and hardware. not every announcement is going to be a device that changes the world.
post #28 of 102
What's this? Tech enthusiasts being enthused by tech? For shame.
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post #29 of 102
Quote:
Originally Posted by anantksundaram View Post

The bad: Yet another reason for Apple to keep its prices where they are, and keep throwing at its few high-end consumers the morsels of functionality that are, at best, of questionable value for 99% for the world's computing population (myself included).

That seems a perfect reason for putting it in the Pro's first, like most other "expensive" innovations. The MacBooks are already great deals and I agree with your sentiments about the need to add needless expensive upgrades to them.

I've notices my TiBook screen fading over just the last few months. I'm glad to know some of this, because it encourages me to wait and buy a new MBP in 6 months rather than try to upgrade it.
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post #30 of 102
Quote:
Originally Posted by noelos View Post

Why are they infamous? What have they done that's so awful?

http://www.m-w.com/cgi-bin/dictionary?infamous

Sorry, it's a pet gripe of mine how often that word is misused where something like "famous" is probably intended.

Martin Short says, "Oh, noelos. In-famous is when you're MORE than famous. This company Apple, it's not just famous, it's IN-famous."

EDIT:

Quote:
Originally Posted by solipsism View Post

...

damn you solipsism, that was my line!
post #31 of 102
So with a brighter screen and resolution independence on Leopard, is it likely Apple will come out with a HD laptop screen ( or a higher resolution), or am I way off? Don't know much about screens
post #32 of 102
Quote:
Originally Posted by Kzelk4 View Post

So with a brighter screen and resolution independence on Leopard, is it likely Apple will come out with a HD laptop screen ( or a higher resolution), or am I way off? Don't know much about screens

Yes, higher res screens will happen. The question is when.
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post #33 of 102
Quote:
Originally Posted by Denton View Post

damn you solipsism, that was my line!

I'm surprised no one beat me to it. It's all I ever think about when I here that word.



PS: My little Buttercup has the sweetest smile.
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post #34 of 102
Quote:
Originally Posted by netdog View Post

Da management can consider itself not only vindicated, but even deserving of an apology from Senor Noelos.

I apologise. I'll even apologize for any American readers.

Noel
post #35 of 102
If you are curious as to what an LED backlit screen looks like, check out certain Sony Vaio models that have been on sale for awhile. I believe the TX series and one other have LED backlit screens.

Advantages: Very bright, VERY thin, very light, better for touchscreens (or is that OLED?), slightly longer battery life (not more than 30 mins-1 hour extra on the Sony models I saw.)

Disadvantages: Cost, durability? (screen is a lot thinner)

Computer monitors and LCD TVs will all have their backlights replaced in the coming years (starting this year) with LED (mainstream next holiday season MAYBE.) The sad thing about HDTV's is that even the crappy flourescent backlight in current models cost the majority of the wholesale price of a t.v. Hopefully LED prices drop fast
post #36 of 102
All these new notebook advancements coming this year are starting to make me consider making the stretch to a new mbp sometime this year even though I've got a CD one. Damn it's both a good feeling and a bad one.
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post #37 of 102
Quote:
Originally Posted by CoolHandPete View Post

1) I had no idea that CCFLs got dimmer over time. I guess I've noticed that my Powerbook isn't quite as bright as it used to be, but I thought I was just getting excited to get a new computer!

2) I've been thinking about the possibility that one day, iSight cameras might be somehow integrated into the screen itself, to allow for eye-contact during chats. Eye contact is the one thing that remains to be worked out before we've really achieved Spaceballs communication status.

Are there any engineers out there? Is this a possibility, ever?

3) To what extent should we expect the battery life to improve with LED backlighting?

I think I may just wait for this revision before I get a new notebook.

LED's dim as well, but their lifetime is so much longer, that it might not be noticable during the laptops lifetime.

A camera would have to work through the backlight, LCD, and color filters. With any current tech, it's not possible. I can think of some future tech that might, but it's too speculative.
post #38 of 102
Quote:
Originally Posted by noelos View Post

Why are they infamous? What have they done that's so awful?

http://www.m-w.com/cgi-bin/dictionary?infamous

Sorry, it's a pet gripe of mine how often that word is misused where something like "famous" is probably intended.

No, famous relates to something that is good, or popular, as well as well known. infamous means bad, unpopular, as well as well known.

The description fits.
post #39 of 102
Quote:
Originally Posted by CoolHandPete View Post

Unbelievable! How in the world would such a technology work?

Imagine when web-chatting and web videos, etc. can let users look directly at the screen, instead of at the camera.

I vote for this as my #1 feature for the upcoming MBP.

Yeah, I read that last year.

I still don't see how a coherent image could be built up from such a design. What they are describing is a sensor that works somewhat like an insects eye. The problem with that is we have no idea how an insect's brain uses the many separate images the hundreds, or thousands, of lenses and sensory cells produce. How do they integrate them into one understandable field of view?

Apple provided us with no information on that matter.
post #40 of 102
Quote:
Originally Posted by CoolHandPete View Post

In the "white paper" linked in the article, supposedly the current (2nd gen) LEDs are 12 percent more efficient than CCFL - with higher efficiency expected soon. Even though the battery life may not be so much longer than current models, the brightness improvement should make the switch worthwhile.

Do you think the price point will remain the same?

Advances in LED are coming fast and furious.

Insofar as lifetime is concerned, LED's are rated differently than all other technologies.

All technologies other than LEDS are rated by the time it takes them to fail. When 50% of a test batch fail, that is the rated lifetime.

LED's are different. Because an LED can run for millions of hours, it is rated with both current and retained heat as the determinants. As current use, and or, temp goes up, lifetime comes down. changing voltage (which changes the current being drawn) changes output by about the same percentage.

Of course, both of those affect other illumination as well. But while standard incandescents may be run at a lower voltage for longer life, the put out much less light. 10% lower voltage usually results in more than a 255 light drop.

Fls and other forms of lighting must be run at about the proper rated voltage to run at all. A new type of Fl can be run at different brightness ratings, but not by lowering the voltage.

The lifetime of an LED is determined by the time it takes for the light output to drop by 50%, for most uses. For more critical uses, 25% is the standard rating.

But, an LED will live on with its output dropping for ages, meaning decades.

One reason why some newer LEDs seem to have a shorter rated lifetime is because they are being rated by that tougher standard.

Previously, LEDs were not used for critical lighting, and so the 50% standard was fine.

The industry is actually ahead in all of its self imposed brightness and efficiency goals.

It's amazing that we now have LEDs bright enough for Tv's and even auto headlights!

And yes, prices are coming down.
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