Electronic Design

New Intel-Based Apple MACs Let Users Get Double to Quadruple The Throughput

At the annual MacWorld Expo held January 10-12 in San Francisco, Apple Computer unveiled its first desktop and laptop Macintosh computers based on dual-core CPUs manufactured by Intel. Arriving ahead of schedule, the desktop iMAC systems are immediately available while the new MacBook systems will be on the shelf next month.

The Intel Centrino family Core Duo CPU, implemented using 65-nm process rules, packs a 2-Mbyte on-chip level 2 Smartcache and delivers a 3.2X improvement in integer SPECmarks vs the PowerPC CPU used in the desktop iMAC G5 and a 4.5X improvement over the PowerPC-based MacBook G4. Floating point SPECmarks are also vastly improved, with 2.1X boost for the desktop systems and 5.2X improvement for the new laptop systems. By the end of 2006 Apple expects to transition its entire family of desktop and notebook systems to the Intel processors.

For the desktop, the company has crafted two iMAC Core Duo systems, one with a 17-in. widescreen LCD display that will start at $1299, and another with a 20-in. LCD that starts at $1699. Both are based on the Intel Core Duo processor runs its front-side bus at 667 MHz and clocks at 1.83 GHz on the 17-in. system and 2.0 GHz on the 20-in. system. These systems deliver a typical 2X to 3X average compute throughput improvement over the G5 desktop system, while selling for about the same price as the PowerPC-based systems.

Common features in both new desktop systems include 512 Mbytes of DDR2 SDRAM (expandable to 2 Gbytes), an 8X superdrive that includes double-layer optical disk support (DVD+R, DL/DVD+/-RW/CD-RW), a PCIexpress graphics card based on the ATI Radeon X1600 graphics engine and 128 Mbytes of graphics DDR3 memory, a built-in iSight video camera, a Gigabit Ethernet port, three USB and two Firewire 400 ports, and both built-in AirPort Extreme 54 Mbit/s wireless networking and Bluetooth 2.0 wireless connectivity. Also included in both systems are mini-DVI output connectors to drive a second screen, stereo speakers, a microphone, an infrared Apple remote control, and a Mighty Mouse and Apple keyboard .

The 17-in. system also comes with a 160 Gbyte serial ATA hard-disk drive that runs at 7200 rpm. The 20-in. system ups the starting storage capacity to 250 Gbytes. Software included on each system consists of the Tiger operating system, version 10.4.4, Safari, Mail, iCal, Chat AV, Front Row and Photobooth, all running natively on the Intel dual-core processors. The operating system software also includes a software translation technology called Rosetta that lets users seamlessly run most MacOS X PowerPC applications. Also included with the new iMAC systems is a major upgrade of Apple’s iLife digital lifestyle software that includes major enhancements of iPhoto, iMovie HD, iDVD, and GarageBand, as well as a new application called iWeb, which allows users to easily create web pages that contain photos, blogs, and podcasts.

The laptop MacBook Pro will also include the same software as the new desktop systems. There will initially be two versions of the MacBook Pro, and both will include a high-brightness 15.4-in. widescreen 1440-by-900 pixel display (67% brighter than previous Apple notebooks and as bright as the company’s Cinema displays) and deliver up to a 4X performance improvement over the PowerBook G4 computers. The two new systems have similar configurations, with the 1.67 GHz Core Duo version packing 512 Mbytes of DDR2 SDRAM running at 667 MHz , an 80 Gbyte serial ATA hard drive running at 5400 rpm, and an ATI Mobility Radeon X1600 graphics engine with 128 Mbytes of graphic DDR3 memory. The 1.83 GHz version of the system ups the base memory to 1 Gbyte, increases the drive storage to 100 Gbytes, and ups the graphics memory to 256 Mbytes. The hard drives include Apple’s sudden-motion sensors that help protect the drives in case the system falls. The 1.67 GHz system will start at $1999 and the 1.83 GHz version starts at $2499.

Much of the same peripheral hardware will also be included in the base systems—the computers pack a built-in iSight video camera and AirPort wireless networking, Bluetooth connectivity, a Gigabit Ethernet port, two USB 2.0 ports, a Firewire 400 port, and an ExpressCard /34 expansion slot. Additionally, the systems come with the Apple remote, a DVI output port, Dual Link support to drive the Apple 30-in. Cinema HD display, an audio line-in and line-out (both supporting optical digital and analog formats), and a scrolling trackpad and illuminated keyboard. The systems are also quite trim—just under one-inch thick and weighing in at just 5.6 lbs.

One new novel feature incorporated on both laptops is a magnetically-attached power connector the company calls MagSafe. Designed to prevent the computers from being yanked off the desktop by someone tripping over the power cord when the laptops are plugged in, the power connectors are held in place by a magnet that surrounds the electrical contact points between the cord and the laptop. When the cord is yanked, it quickly disconnects from the laptop without any system damage.

For more information, go to www.apple.com/imac, and www.apple.com/macbookpro, respectively.

Click here for Fig. 1: MacBook Pro laptop
Click here for Fig. 2: Intel's Core Duo CPU
Click here for Fig. 3: iChat running on the MacBook Pro laptop
Click here for Fig. 4: iChat running on the desktop iMac system

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