Saturday, January 08, 2005

Possible hints to the PCI Express G5 Power Mac?

A diagram on the aRTiCA Semiconductor website appears to reveal some of the specifications of a future Power Mac.

The diagram, titled "Apple Macintosh Modular System Architecture", highlights the features of the latest system on chip (SoC) design from aRTiCA:
Dual Front Side Bus (FSB)

DDR2 SDRAM 533/667 Controller
- Configurable as 64/72 or 128/144-bit bus
- ECC option with Chip Kill

32 Lane PCI Express Root Complex supports combinations of 1x, 4x, 8x and 16x lane PCI Express slots

PLL Clock Generator for CPUs, SDRAM, PCI-Express, external PHYs

SATA/SAS 3.0 Gbps (4 ports)
- Hardware RAID acceleration
- Supports external multiplexers for unlimited drive expansion

10/100/1000BaseT Ethernet (2 ports)
- RDMA & iSER extensions

Firewire (2 ports)

USB 2.0 (8 ports) supports a wide range of internal & external peripherals
- WiFi™ wireless modem
- Bluetooth™ wireless modem
- V.92 modem
- Audio (Analog, Digital & Optical)
- Trackpad/Keyboard (laptops)
- Serial (servers)

SPI (40 Mbps) supports Open Boot Firmware FLASH

I2C (400 Kbps) for System & Power Management Controllers

The DDR2 and PCI Express support would be the natural evolution for the Power Mac G5 design, if not for the coming iteration, then for the following iteration of the Power Mac. This Power Mac may use a newer G5, which could be the rumoured new G5 PowerPC 970GX. The reference in the diagram to "Dual PPC" for each of the two dual front side busses may hint to a future quad Power Mac using the 970MP, which is the dual core version of the rumoured 970GX.

ECC is also supported, but like with current machines it may be only available in the Xserve, not the Power Mac. Hardware RAID is also supported, which addresses a deficiency in the current Power Mac and Xserve design. RAID support on these machines is either software based or requires a third party RAID controller.

The mention of trackpad and keyboard support also suggests that the future PowerBook G5 could use this same SoC chip, or perhaps a cut down version of it.

Of course, until we have further verification of the above information, all of this should still be considered rumour and conjecture.

[Update: 2005-01-09]

Gary McMillian, listed as Chief Technology Officer of aRTiCA, posted to Macintouch seven months ago and wrote: "I am impressed with the clean system architecture of the Apple G5 computers, but have some suggestions as to the direction of the next generation system architecture."

Judging by this first sentence in his post, it seems Dr. McMillian may not have any association with Apple whatsoever. Dr. McMillian himself states it is merely a suggestion for Apple, and furthermore it would be unlikely for such a person working with Apple to be posting at a Mac enthusiast site. Thus, it is possible the diagram could represent an independent design, or is completely hypothetical.

Still, the design features make sense, and may still indeed be representative of what will appear in a future Power Mac. We shall see, hopefully by WWDC 2005.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

ATI releases Radeon X800 XT for Mac

ATI today announced the Radeon X800 XT for Mac, at US$499. This card utilizes ATI's latest generation GPU, and competes in performance with the nVidia GeForce 6800 Ultra DDL. The main difference with the GeForce card is that the ATI card sports ADC and DVI instead of dual DVI (although ADC can be converted to DVI with a $30 adapter), and while it can drive a single 30" screen, it can't drive two of them like the GeForce card can. On the other hand, the ATI card is $100 cheaper, and doesn't block a PCI-X slot. One cannot build a G5 at the Apple Store with the X800 XT however, as it is strictly a non-OEM retail product. However, it's possible it will appear with the next G5 Power Mac revisions as an OEM built-to-order product.

The Radeon X800 XT is an AGP Pro 8X card. This means it will only run in a G5 Power Mac, although the good news is that it does not require external power. The bad news is that there's still no evidence that Apple will be releasing a PCI Express Power Mac any time soon.

The first reviews of the X800 XT for Mac are up, at AnandTech and at BareFeats.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Apple releases Xsan

Apple is now shipping Xsan, Apple's new Storage Area Network (SAN) software. This software will allow multiple users to read and write to large high-speed shared SAN systems, including SANs using Apple's own XRAID.

Xsan is apparently based upon ADIC's StorNext File System drivers, but integrates Apple's versions of the SAN management applications. In fact, Xsan networks are advertised to have complete interoperability with Windows and Unix machines using ADIC's StorNext drivers.

Pricing for Xsan is relatively inexpensive, at US$999 per node.

Apple releases 2.3 GHz Xserves, drops prices on Cinema Displays

Months ago we mentioned the existence of 2.3 GHz Xserves, which were custom made for the Virginia Tech supercomputer. Today, Apple finally released these to the general public, a year after Apple Canada initially leaked the 2.3 GHz spec.

Apple also dropped pricing on its Cinema Displays. This had been expected, since prices for third party LCD screens have dropped significantly since the introduction of the Cinema Displays. In addition, the Apple Stores in many other countries dropped prices on several other products to compensate for the increased currency values relative to the to weakened US dollar.