A discussion of current and future Mac hardware

Posted:
in Future Apple Hardware edited June 2015
These are some of my opinions about Mac hardware. I want to see what you guys think.

In all recent 15 inch MacBook Pro, I think Apple has done a great job in putting the right hardware for optimum performance per watt. They use the latest Intel CPU, fastest SSD, RAM (related to CPU but DDR3L is currently the option for Haswell) and decent battery life.
With that being said, I always find the one and only biggest disappointment in these laptops are the graphics. Apple seems to only put very mid range graphics e.g. GeForce 750M or Radeon R9 M370X. I don't know why can't they put maybe 760M or M375X/M380X into the laptop? I don't think the power usage is that much bigger? Should Apple also try to develop their own GPU?

What would be the Mac's future? My vision is that MacBook Air and non retina MacBook Pro will be gone; 12 inch and 14 inch new MacBook; redesigned 14 inch and 16 inch MacBook Pro with MacBook Air style wedged design, butterfly keyboard (maybe they can get the travel deeper in this one), thinner display like new MacBook, speakers moved to the top but keep stereo, keyboard layout redesigned to fit a num pad in 15 inch model, no ports removed but adding one USB C port on each side. I think that would be nice. Tell me what you think?
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 27
    MarvinMarvin Posts: 14,549moderator
    ljc94512 wrote: »
    I always find the one and only biggest disappointment in these laptops are the graphics. Apple seems to only put very mid range graphics e.g. GeForce 750M or Radeon R9 M370X. I don't know why can't they put maybe 760M or M375X/M380X into the laptop? I don't think the power usage is that much bigger? Should Apple also try to develop their own GPU?

    The 14" Razer managed to put a quad-i7 plus 765M in:

    http://www.anandtech.com/show/7119/razer-blade-14inch-gaming-notebook-review/5

    Apart from being messier, the internal layout looks similar to the MBP:

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    They have more heat pipes and plates across the chips. It might impact battery life - the razer gets under 6 hours. It would cost more for the part and added cooling setup. I assume they must have tested multiple configurations and settled on the one that offered the best compromise. With higher power draw you have to push up the size of the power supply. A 45W CPU + 50-75W GPU needs a 100W+ PSU, which adds to the bulk:

    http://www.razerzone.com/gaming-accessories/razer-150w-power-adapter

    Apple uses a more compact 85W PSU.
    ljc94512 wrote: »
    What would be the Mac's future? My vision is that MacBook Air and non retina MacBook Pro will be gone; 12 inch and 14 inch new MacBook; redesigned 14 inch and 16 inch MacBook Pro with MacBook Air style wedged design, butterfly keyboard (maybe they can get the travel deeper in this one), thinner display like new MacBook, speakers moved to the top but keep stereo, keyboard layout redesigned to fit a num pad in 15 inch model, no ports removed but adding one USB C port on each side. I think that would be nice. Tell me what you think?

    USB C would give them some room to taper it:

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    Magsafe would probably have to go but I think it will anyway with wireless charging in Skylake. Then it would just have 1x TB port on each side at the back and a USB C port on each side, audio jack possibly between them as USB C is the smallest.

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    They're going to be limited by the fan and they won't want to impact battery performance so a slight taper. I definitely think the MBP will get the larger more stable keyboard keys with the neater backlight. A space grey color option would be quite nice too. I don't think moving the speakers would be beneficial as there's less room up top on the 15" than at the sides. A numpad could be integrated into the normal layout if they aligned the keys and I think they should align the keys.

    I'm not sure how they arrive at the display sizes they use, they have very specific sizes like 15.4". With it being Retina, it would likely have the same resolution so it wouldn't add much scaling up from 15.4" to 16" but 14" and 16" would be ok sizes to have. I thought they'd make a 14" MB with the lower one moving to 12". I don't think they need a 13" MBP if they had a 14" MB but it depends on the port setup. Having Thunderbolt is good on the Pro laptops and it won't fit on a MB but if Apple can get PCIe working over USB C then they don't need separate ports at all. Intel wanted to use USB for Thunderbolt to begin with but even though Intel was one of the main companies that brought USB to market in the first place, the spec is governed by a 3rd party and they didn't want anything proprietary. USB C now has an alt-mode though so you can put other data over it and if PCIe data can go over it using all its lanes (40Gbps) then you have a Thunderbolt replacement. A huge benefit is that even if a drive manufacturer doesn't want to support Thunderbolt, it's the same port to use for USB.

    Another improvement would be the metal hinge from the MB. The black plastic looks really out of place when you compare it to the seamless hinge on the MB:

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    The design change probably means losing the illuminated logo but the shiny logo looks cool too and isn't plastic.

    I think they can get rid of the screws round the base too. It can be held in with clasps in the metal on the back with a lip at the thin end. They had these on the mini but put them on opposite sides, which made it really hard to open. The insert to undo the clasps can be tiny too - not quite a pinhole but like a knitting needle size (kensington lock size) because it just needs a lever and they don't have to be all that tight because there would never be pressure sideways, just vertically. The holes could even double up as kensington locks with a very simple design where a pin is inserted and the end rotates to lock it in place. The other end would have to be a flat bar to prevent affecting the laptop height with a lock to release the rotated part and this would be attached to a metal cable.

    If they do get wireless charging sorted, I'd like to see them get rid of the cable entirely, maybe with USB C as a backup option for charging over a long distance. The brick would just be on its own and you'd sit the laptop with 1-2 metres of it. Even if it was just 0.5m, it would be ok because the extension would go between the brick and the outlet and you just sit the brick near the laptop and it would charge all devices at the same time.
  • Reply 2 of 27
    ljc94512ljc94512 Posts: 54member

    So regarding your first point, Apple has to choose between battery and graphics and they chose battery? Are the graphics like 960M really that a power hungry chip?

     

    Do you think they will update HDMI to 2.0 in the next refresh? If MagSafe is gone and they put 2 USB C in there, would you think they will also get rid of the USB A port? I think that would upset quite a lot of people.  I think the transition should be step by step.

  • Reply 3 of 27
    MarvinMarvin Posts: 14,549moderator
    ljc94512 wrote: »
    So regarding your first point, Apple has to choose between battery and graphics and they chose battery? Are the graphics like 960M really that a power hungry chip?

    They are much higher than the chips they use. The CPU is 45W and the power supply is 85W so to avoid draining the battery while on power, the CPU + GPU + all other parts (display, SSD etc) should be below 85W. Anything above 45W is too high. They could move to 100W PSU and bump up the GPU a bit. Under load they'd lose about 25% battery.

    I think to pull that off they'd need to double up the heatsinks they have, bump up the power supply and they would lose a portion of battery life. I think they must have tested it out already and found it to be too much. A higher-end GPU like that would be nice if they put in the extra effort to cool it though.

    You always have to stop somewhere. If they did use the 960M, some people would say why not dual 960M or a 980M.
    ljc94512 wrote: »
    Do you think they will update HDMI to 2.0 in the next refresh? If MagSafe is gone and they put 2 USB C in there, would you think they will also get rid of the USB A port? I think that would upset quite a lot of people.  I think the transition should be step by step.

    USB C is the successor to USB A, it's not like micro USB. All you need for portable drives is a different cable. For mouse adaptors, USB pens etc, they'll need either replacements or a USB C-A cable but everybody will eventually switch over to USB C. Apple never puts legacy ports in beside new ones. I think all new Macs from this point on will have USB C including the desktops.
  • Reply 4 of 27
    ljc94512ljc94512 Posts: 54member

    So are you saying even if they use a 100W power supply instead of 85W they would still lose some battery life? Do you know any idea of the required power of these GPUs out of curiosity ?(750M, 760M, 950M, 960M, R9 M370X)

     

    I currently uses 3 external hard drives for Time Machine backup and daily uses.  They all run USB 3.0 but has this weird shape connector on the other side (between the drive and cable).  Do you think these are easily replacable?  I use Toshiba, Hitachi and My Passport.

  • Reply 5 of 27
    MarvinMarvin Posts: 14,549moderator
    ljc94512 wrote: »
    So are you saying even if they use a 100W power supply instead of 85W they would still lose some battery life?

    The 100W PSU would prevent it draining the battery under load while plugged in but the battery would be affected under load when disconnected from power and running off the battery.
    ljc94512 wrote: »
    Do you know any idea of the required power of these GPUs out of curiosity ?(750M, 760M, 950M, 960M, R9 M370X)

    There are TDP listings online but they state ranges. They won't be the same in every hardware setup. The 750M is 35-40W. 760M 55W. 950M 50W. 960M 60W, R9 M370X is new but I'd assume it would be no more than 45W.
    ljc94512 wrote: »
    I currently uses 3 external hard drives for Time Machine backup and daily uses.  They all run USB 3.0 but has this weird shape connector on the other side (between the drive and cable).  Do you think these are easily replacable?  I use Toshiba, Hitachi and My Passport.

    If it's USB 3 micro-b:

    1000

    someone will make a USB C to this if they haven't already. Worst case you'd put a USB C to A female cable onto it. They'll be coming out with wireless drives too so most likely people will be replacing their external drives not only with USB C models but also wireless ones that don't have to be plugged in at all.
  • Reply 6 of 27
    wizard69wizard69 Posts: 13,377member
    Marvin wrote: »
    The 100W PSU would prevent it draining the battery under load while plugged in but the battery would be affected under load when disconnected from power and running off the battery.
    Actually this is app dependent and some gains laptops will drain the battery even when plugged into their charger. You would need an app (games) that loads both the GPU and CPU significantly. The problem as you know is that everything contributes to the final load on the power supply, a bright backlight, heavy GPU usage and other loads in the system can easily end up past 100 watts on many of the gaming machines out there.
    There are TDP listings online but they state ranges. They won't be the same in every hardware setup. The 750M is 35-40W. 760M 55W. 950M 50W. 960M 60W, R9 M370X is new but I'd assume it would be no more than 45W.
    I suspect one thing that people don't grasp is the huge variability that a set of chips can produce power disapation wise. Apple has to ship a machine that runs reliably under all load conditions, sort of designing for the worst case. As such they have to choose chips that when max d out don't overload the machines cooling capacity.
    If it's USB 3 micro-b:

    1000

    someone will make a USB C to this if they haven't already. Worst case you'd put a USB C to A female cable onto it. They'll be coming out with wireless drives too so most likely people will be replacing their external drives not only with USB C models but also wireless ones that don't have to be plugged in at all.

    In a nut shell Apple doesn't make gaming machines. I know a lot of people don't want to hear this but in general staying away from the high end chips should lead to more reliable machines. By the way, yes bother AMD and NVidia have boned them in this regard. This is probably why you see Apple these days using GPUs at a lower clock frequency than may be common for the chip. This probably also has something to do with the inquest part numbers on chips recently shipped with Macs. By running a given chip at a slightly lower clock rate they do much to improve its reliability. There is also a power benefit. Like I mentioned in another thread about the Mac Pro Apple doesn't build machines for tweakers.
  • Reply 7 of 27
    ljc94512ljc94512 Posts: 54member

    So would OpenCL be the solution for what you are suggesting?

     

    I understand your point that Apple doesn't make gaming machines.  But surely sometimes I do think the X50M series or R9 MX70X Series is not really powerful enough to run something like Adobe CC or Final Cut etc. in a more fluid manner.  I don't know if this is true but maybe Apple can make this type of task run on CPU in addition to GPU, offloading some work.  Maybe in future when X60M series runs in much lower power then we might see if going into MacBook Pros.  It doesn't exactly mean it is for gaming but I think these professional work can also benefit from it.

     

    Regarding my previous post, yeah I now realise my hard drive runs on USB 3.0 micro b.  I just searched eBay and Amazon and there are some items that do type C to micro b.  That is good news for me, because I just need to buy these cables and all my hard drive will work as usual.  I can get new mouse, keyboard and just one adapter for memory sticks.  Then I will be happy with USB type C.

  • Reply 8 of 27
    wizard69wizard69 Posts: 13,377member
    ljc94512 wrote: »
    So would OpenCL be the solution for what you are suggesting?
    What am I suggesting/
    I understand your point that Apple doesn't make gaming machines.  But surely sometimes I do think the X50M series or R9 MX70X Series is not really powerful enough to run something like Adobe CC or Final Cut etc. in a more fluid manner.
    The GPU's get more powerful every year. This go around you are getting 24% better performance, by many measures, out of the GPU. could Apple have gotten more? Possibly but lets remember the horror stories of the Nvidia and AMD chip in that past that failed miserably in Apples machines. Being conservative means you don't have to handle a lot of warranty repairs.

    As far as Adobe CC and Final cut, I don't use them so can't comment directly. However I'm of the opinion that computers will never be fast enough. The only thing that is really important is that the GPU is good enough for your intended usage today.
     I don't know if this is true but maybe Apple can make this type of task run on CPU in addition to GPU, offloading some work.  Maybe in future when X60M series runs in much lower power then we might see if going into MacBook Pros.  It doesn't exactly mean it is for gaming but I think these professional work can also benefit from it.
    The industry is moving towards HSA Heterogeneous System Architecture (if memory serves me) that will better enable the use of the GPU transparently. AMD is hard at work on this.

    Regarding my previous post, yeah I now realise my hard drive runs on USB 3.0 micro b.  I just searched eBay and Amazon and there are some items that do type C to micro b.  That is good news for me, because I just need to buy these cables and all my hard drive will work as usual.  I can get new mouse, keyboard and just one adapter for memory sticks.  Then I will be happy with USB type C.

    Well you can hope that they will work.
  • Reply 9 of 27
    ljc94512ljc94512 Posts: 54member

    Actually this is app dependent and some gains laptops will drain the battery even when plugged into their charger. You would need an app (games) that loads both the GPU and CPU significantly.''

     

     

    That is what you are suggesting.  I am wondering if OpenCL could be a solution of this; to make the most use of both hardware.

     

    Also what do you mean by both AMD and Nvidia graphics failing? Whose fault is it really?

  • Reply 10 of 27
    winterwinter Posts: 1,238member
    Apple wants to get rid of the discrete GPU in as many of their devices as possible.
  • Reply 11 of 27
    wizard69wizard69 Posts: 13,377member
    ljc94512 wrote: »
    …Also what do you mean by both AMD and Nvidia graphics failing? Whose fault is it really?
    I'm not sure how you have missed all the drama surround the various NVIdia and AMD chip failures. In many cases these aren't Apple specific failures. One issue is directly related to new soldering technology which is why reflowing often fixes a laptop for awhile.

    Who's fault is it? Stupidity within the EU might be the root cause. You don't get rid of leaded solders without a suitable replacement.
  • Reply 12 of 27
    wizard69wizard69 Posts: 13,377member
    winter wrote: »
    Apple wants to get rid of the discrete GPU in as many of their devices as possible.

    It is just the March of technology. The next process shrink should be really interesting considering that the GPUs are finally good enough that Intel can start to balance performance of the rest of the on chip electronics.
  • Reply 13 of 27
    winterwinter Posts: 1,238member
    wizard69 wrote: »
    It is just the March of technology. The next process shrink should be really interesting considering that the GPUs are finally good enough that Intel can start to balance performance of the rest of the on chip electronics.

    So you see a point in the next few years where Intel catches up with say the x60M or x70M in terms of GPU power?
  • Reply 14 of 27
    hmmhmm Posts: 3,405member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by LJC94512 View Post

     

    So would OpenCL be the solution for what you are suggesting?

     

    I understand your point that Apple doesn't make gaming machines.  But surely sometimes I do think the X50M series or R9 MX70X Series is not really powerful enough to run something like Adobe CC or Final Cut etc. in a more fluid manner.  I don't know if this is true but maybe Apple can make this type of task run on CPU in addition to GPU, offloading some work.  Maybe in future when X60M series runs in much lower power then we might see if going into MacBook Pros.  It doesn't exactly mean it is for gaming but I think these professional work can also benefit from it.

     

    Regarding my previous post, yeah I now realise my hard drive runs on USB 3.0 micro b.  I just searched eBay and Amazon and there are some items that do type C to micro b.  That is good news for me, because I just need to buy these cables and all my hard drive will work as usual.  I can get new mouse, keyboard and just one adapter for memory sticks.  Then I will be happy with USB type C.


    Adobe CC doesn't benefit as much from that as you might think.  Further OpenCL doesn't just opaquely offload things to the gpu. Code has to be written for that framework, and it's somewhat complicated. Apple also went a different direction on the idevices relative to Macs. You can use either Metal or OpenGL ES, both of which have compute kernel features.

     

     

     


    Quote:
    Originally Posted by wizard69 View Post







    Actually this is app dependent and some gains laptops will drain the battery even when plugged into their charger. You would need an app (games) that loads both the GPU and CPU significantly.

     

    I haven't tested the current generation. This was not true on the 2011s. The 2012s were a bit better. A 2011 could be drained just using handbrake, which was entirely cpu bound. The cpu was rated at a 45W tdp.

  • Reply 15 of 27
    wizard69wizard69 Posts: 13,377member
    winter wrote: »
    So you see a point in the next few years where Intel catches up with say the x60M or x70M in terms of GPU power?

    If Intel doesn't do it AMD will. However realize that discreet GPUs will never really go away, they will just become more of a niche device. Also by the time Intel has x60m or whatever performance level the world of discreet GPUs will also have moved forward significantly.

    My point though is that Intels integrated GPUs are now good enough for many users this means they can put more effort into CPU updates and additional on board logic when designing to the next process shrinks. This should lead to extremely compact hardware operating at very low power points. This is one reason why I see the Mac Book as a head of time.
  • Reply 16 of 27
    winterwinter Posts: 1,238member
    I'm not sure what I really want because I have no need for a non-integrated GPU but having said that if it's available for less than a mini or if there's a PC that is only slightly more (Asus Zenbook Pro), I am interested in that.
  • Reply 17 of 27
    tailpipetailpipe Posts: 345member

    @wizard69 

     

    I agree that the next generation of Intel chips is likely to be very interesting. Intel has had a hell of time shrinking the die from 22 nm to 14 nm. It was a huge leap. Now that we're there, the reduction in motherboard size allows for all kind of GPU options. With Intel GPUs starting to get much better, we should see a useful graphics improvements despite Apple being conservative. Skylake has better power management while a smaller chipset also allows for a larger battery. 

     

    I fully expect to hear rumours that Apple is developing a brand new line of MacBook Pros for release sometime next year. The new MacBook definitely shows the way ahead: very thin, very light. Everything is an Air now, so the name has lost meaning. It was a smart move to call the new MacBook: "MacBook" and not "MacBook Air".

     

    I tend to think we'll see two form factors not three. A 14" model, as well as a 12" model, is likely, but I just don't see Apple producing a 16" laptop. (I'd love to be wrong.) If you want serious screen real estate, I think Apple will recommend that you plug your MacBook Pro into an Apple cinema display. (Apple's monitor line-up is definitely due for an upgrade and, although that's a whole other story, compatibility between laptops and whatever new HiDef screens they offer will be important. They should be big enough to do double-duty as a TV screen.)

     

    In terms of likely specs, the new MacBook Pros will almost certainly get USB-C only, but hopefully two ports instead of one. We may get an HDMI port as well as a headphone socket, but I reckon mag-safe is dead. Two base configurations: 8 Gb /512 Gb SSD HD and 16 Gb/ 1 Tb SSD HD, plus BTO options of 32 Gb / 2 Tb SSD HD. We should see 12-14 hours of use on a single charge, based on % incremental performance improvements of previous chip upgrades.  I am expecting the new MBP to weigh not much more than the current MBA. 

     

    All in all, next year will be a very obvious time to upgrade your Mac laptop. 

  • Reply 18 of 27
    wizard69wizard69 Posts: 13,377member
    I'm of the mind that the 15" MBP is Apples performance laptop as such it doesn't need to compromise to deliver thinness. So my comments below reflect this perspective.
    tailpipe wrote: »
    <a data-huddler-embed="href" href="/u/12056/wizard69" style="display:inline-block;">@wizard69</a>
     

    I agree that the next generation of Intel chips is likely to be very interesting. Intel has had a hell of time shrinking the die from 22 nm to 14 nm. It was a huge leap. Now that we're there, the reduction in motherboard size allows for all kind of GPU options. With Intel GPUs starting to get much better, we should see a useful graphics improvements despite Apple being conservative. Skylake has better power management while a smaller chipset also allows for a larger battery. 
    The ultimate MBP will need a discreet GPU for sometime into the future. However there are many MBP users that don't need a discreet GPU anymore so that discreet GPU will likely become an expensive option.
    I fully expect to hear rumours that Apple is developing a brand new line of MacBook Pros for release sometime next year. The new MacBook definitely shows the way ahead: very thin, very light. Everything is an Air now, so the name has lost meaning. It was a smart move to call the new MacBook: "MacBook" and not "MacBook Air".
    Yeah a lot of people would want this but honestly it would suck hard. The reason is simple, people buy the MBP for performance and currently the best performance comes with a power penalty. Keep the MBP processor in the 45-55 watt range instead of compromising would be my suggestion.

    I tend to think we'll see two form factors not three. A 14" model, as well as a 12" model, is likely, but I just don't see Apple producing a 16" laptop. (I'd love to be wrong.) If you want serious screen real estate, I think Apple will recommend that you plug your MacBook Pro into an Apple cinema display. (Apple's monitor line-up is definitely due for an upgrade and, although that's a whole other story, compatibility between laptops and whatever new HiDef screens they offer will be important. They should be big enough to do double-duty as a TV screen.)
    There are legitimate reasons to want a laptop with a screen larger than 15"'s. It is pretty obvious that Apple didn't sell enough of the 17" model to justify its existence, but they also failed to innovate with that model.
    In terms of likely specs, the new MacBook Pros will almost certainly get USB-C only, but hopefully two ports instead of one.
    I really doubt that would be acceptable to the professional markets. If any thing Apple pro machines would need several USB - C ports. Ideally they would avoid going cold turkey here and phase out legacy ports over a few years.
    We may get an HDMI port as well as a headphone socket, but I reckon mag-safe is dead. Two base configurations: 8 Gb /512 Gb SSD HD and 16 Gb/ 1 Tb SSD HD, plus BTO options of 32 Gb / 2 Tb SSD HD. We should see 12-14 hours of use on a single charge, based on % incremental performance improvements of previous chip upgrades.  I am expecting the new MBP to weigh not much more than the current MBA. 
    I'm undecided with respect to MagSafe. I still believe dedicated charging ports are better. However one interesting thing happens when and if Apple switches to a mainstream port. What is interesting is that everybody can build a charging solution for that port. Want a solar powere solution on your RV or boat - no problem the hardware is open and somebody will build for you a solution. Or DIY a solution if you are inclined as an engineer.

    Maybe it is wishful thinking but I believe the best reason to get excited about USB-C is that it appears that Apple might be getting a bit more open with its hardware. Which brings up an interesting question has anybody seen third part charging solutions that would work on a Mac Book yet?
    All in all, next year will be a very obvious time to upgrade your Mac laptop. 
    Yeah it is too bad my 2008 MBP died this year. I would have waited for the next generation of hardware. Given that the new 13" MBP is a hell of a machine.
  • Reply 19 of 27
    gonezogonezo Posts: 1member

    Thinking there's gonna be a MacBook Touch (screen) coming soon.....

  • Reply 20 of 27
    ljc94512ljc94512 Posts: 54member

    I hope these are the I/O we get for a redesigned MBP:

     

    at least 5 USB 3.1 type C ports (ideally 6) (All thunderbolt 3 supported) (given that apple currently has 2 thunderbolt ports, 2 USB type A port, and 1 for replacing magsafe as the charging port)

    HDMI 2.0

    Headphone

     

    I don't think a lot of people uses SD card.  I could be wrong.  And if I am wrong, I am fine with a SD card slot.

     

    Again, certainly would like to see MBP take the design cue of MBA, MBA phase out replaced by nMB

    Given the smaller size of the type C port I suppose it would save some space as well (unless the thunderbolt controller is big)

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