New MacBook Air Using Scaled-Down Thunderbolt Chip

Discussion in ' News Discussion' started by MacRumors, Jul 29, 2011.

  1. MacRumors macrumors bot


    Apr 12, 2001


    Portion of MacBook Air motherboard with Eagle Ridge chip outlined in teal (Source: iFixit)
    AnandTech takes a look at the Thunderbolt controller used by Apple in the new MacBook Air, finding that the company has opted to use a scaled-down "Eagle Ridge" controller chip from Intel instead of the "Light Ridge" chip found in larger Thunderbolt-enabled machines.
    With Eagle Ridge only supporting a single DisplayPort output, MacBook Air users are only able to drive a single external display via the Thunderbolt port, although the machine's integrated Intel HD Graphics 3000 would also preclude the use of two external monitors on the MacBook Air as it does on the 13-inch MacBook Pro.

    Thunderbolt adoption has thus far been limited to high-end devices in part due to high costs associated with inclusion of the technology. Use of the scaled-down Eagle Ridge controller could help push Thunderbolt into lower-end products, presuming that the smaller chip carries some cost savings for manufacturers.

    Article Link: New MacBook Air Using Scaled-Down Thunderbolt Chip
  2. slrandall macrumors 6502

    Jun 15, 2011
    Lower-cost TB external drives would be great for MBAs, and are especially welcome with the news of the Air-like MBPs.
  3. DrJohnnyN macrumors 6502a


    Jan 27, 2010
    California and Texas

    "Anandtech’s report also notes that the MacBook Air’s cheaper chip is likely to be the one used by PC makers who are making machines traditionally less expensive than those from Apple."
  4. wjlafrance macrumors 6502

    Dec 23, 2009
    Madison, WI
    I'm not sure where they're getting their information that the 13" MBP can't drive dual displays, but I was driving dual monitors on my Dimension 2400 with an MX4000 too long ago to remember. For perspective, that's the card that was in the original iMac G5.. 7 years ago.

    To boot, I drive an external display at work five days a week, and can drive the internal display at the same time. If I close the lid, I have to drive just as many pixels with dual external displays - totally feasible.
  5. Akzel macrumors regular

    Mar 18, 2008
    I was more enthusiastic about this Air refresh (I have the previous generation with the 320M GPU), but every day there's a piece of news about how it's not sooo amazing as expected: Different SSD models ("did you get the fast one?"), integrated GPU "almost as good" as nVidia offer, and now a thunderbolt port that's, let's face it, crippled down compared to other Macs.
  6. RichardBeer macrumors regular


    Jul 11, 2009
    Does this mean that the speed is possibly lower as well?
  7. igazza macrumors 6502a


    Aug 7, 2007
    Thunderbolt is so overrated. Apple should adopt USB3.0 asap.
  8. DrJohnnyN macrumors 6502a


    Jan 27, 2010
    California and Texas
    According to "The scaled down Thunderbolt chip used in the new MacBook Airs, however, is named Eagle Ridge, and features only two Thunderbolt channels — meaning it’s half as fast — with support for just one external display."
  9. Duke15 macrumors 6502


    May 18, 2011
    They should make that information available to someone buying a mba, not that its a deal breaker but comon that's kinda cheap
  10. diamond.g macrumors 603


    Mar 20, 2007
    If the full size chip can have 4 channels, why are we limited to 6 devices per port?
  11. BornAgainMac macrumors 603


    Feb 4, 2004
    Florida Resident
    Thunder...Thunder...Thunderbolt. Every time I hear that name I think of a cartoon. I hope it survives.
  12. Vol7ron, Jul 29, 2011
    Last edited: Jul 29, 2011

    Vol7ron macrumors 6502


    Jun 11, 2009
    Derry, NH
    Woah there.....

    First off, this is about the Macbook Air, not the Macbook Pro. The Air has considerably less room inside of it then the Pro model does.

    Second, this really doesn't mean that it is crippled. It just means that can only have one extra display hooked up to it. Kinda like how the previous Air models were and the previous iMac and MacBook Pro models were before Thunderbolt came a long.

    This is first generation technology. It will get refined and i bet that we will see the quad channels eventually.

    My question to you is, how are you going to use 4GB of bandwidth per second? Only my VMware ESXi servers use dual 10G fiber cards. I mean, that is a lot of data moving back and forth. Most people would never come even close to utilizing that much bandwidth. So to say that the device is crippled is ridiculous....
  13. Chupa Chupa macrumors G5

    Chupa Chupa

    Jul 16, 2002
    Is Apple withholding this information? The MBA tech specs page states it can support "an external display" (note singular). So I'm under what your qualm is here.
  14. hstewart macrumors regular

    Jun 1, 2011
    A simple solution - somebody make a Thunderbolt to USB 3.0 adapter, my guess it possible a single Thunderbolt channel could possibly drive 2 USB 3.0 ports - not sure if can combine 2 USB 2.0 ports on one channel.
  15. basesloaded190 macrumors 68030


    Oct 16, 2007
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    Thunderbolt is not supposed to replace USB 3.0, it's meant to supplement it. Thunderbolt has so many more capabilities compared to USB.
  16. justinfreid macrumors 6502


    Nov 24, 2009
    NEW Jersey / USA
    This seems like reasonable product differentiation to me.
    Besides, only a small minority of users will ever drive 2 external displays from their laptop.
  17. hstewart macrumors regular

    Jun 1, 2011
    My guess the new Mac Mini's also have the Eagle version. But specs state it supports dual display - most likely one on Thunderbolt and one on HDMI port.
  18. solgae macrumors newbie

    Apr 2, 2011
    This doesn't mean you have half the bandwidth available for Eagle Ridge - you still have bidirectional 10Gbps interface for both Eagle Ridge (MBA version of thunderbolt) and Light Ridge (MBP/iMac version of thunderbolt). It only means Eagle Ridge has one displayport interface for external display as opposed to two on Light Ridge. If you look at the anandtech's test result with the Pegasus array, you'll see that both MBA and MBP perform practically the same.
  19. hstewart macrumors regular

    Jun 1, 2011
    I am part of the minority, for work I have Lenova that drives 2 24in monitors for development - one off DVI and other other one off VGA - laptop display is not being use in this configuration.
  20. activ8 macrumors member

    Jul 20, 2011
    Wirelessly posted (Mozilla/5.0 (iPhone; U; CPU iPhone OS 4_3 like Mac OS X; en-us) AppleWebKit/533.17.9 (KHTML, like Gecko) Version/5.0.2 Mobile/8F190 Safari/6533.18.5)

    I can only connect 1 monitor to my MBA? That's okay. I'll just buy a big ass monitor! Problem solved.
  21. RogerWilco macrumors 6502


    Jul 29, 2011
    Is that really a DIP switch on the lower left side of the board? Talk about wasting space...
  22. DrJohnnyN macrumors 6502a


    Jan 27, 2010
    California and Texas
    Ah, I see. Sorry, I only dabble in tech, and don't know all the ins and outs.
  23. Riemann Zeta macrumors 6502a

    Feb 12, 2008
    These 'thunderbolt' ports and controllers are only somewhat pricey because they are a new introduction. Now that Intel has ditched the "light" part of its original "Light Peak" specification (at one point, 'light peak' ports were going to be optical in nature), they should be just as cheap as any other port eventually.
  24. Hattig macrumors 65816

    Jan 3, 2003
    London, UK
    It's an addressing issue rather than a bandwidth issue. That seems to be the addressing limit per port, for some reason.

    In reality the bigger controller allows two display outputs to go over a single ThunderBolt connection, whereas the smaller one allows only one display output. The bigger controller can drive two physical ThunderBolt output ports, but Apple chooses to only implement one. They use the bigger controller to allow two monitors to be chained off that single ThunderBolt port.

    HD3000 can't do it (naff Intel graphics) and there's no discrete option, so why use the big controller on the Air? The port has the same bandwidth however as the smaller controller has everything needed to drive a single port.
  25. paradox00 macrumors 65816

    Sep 29, 2009
    Two bi directional 10 Gbps lanes per port is whats indicated in the Thunderbolt spec. I think it's more appropriate to say that the "Light Ridge" chips are scaled up (or capable of supporting two ports) rather than the "Eagle Ridge" chips are scaled down (capable of supporting one port). Funny how a change in wording could completely change how something like this is perceived.

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