In Depth: Why there's never been a better time for Mac design


In Depth: Why there's never been a much better time for Mac design
Apple continues to be very busy over the last few months, with new technologies taking the Mac to sustained heights.
The last MacBook Pro refresh brought us the much-vaunted Retina display, the earth's highest-resolution notebook screen.
Then we've got a radically redesigned iMac full of new features, an exciting new storage solution as well as a 13-inch version of the Retina display MacBook Pro.
The late 2012 iMac's call-out feature is its ultra-thin case. At its edges, its body is now just 5mm thick, and 40% smaller in volume compared to the previous generation. But to achieve this thinner, smaller form factor, Apple had to raise its game in many key areas.
The first challenge faced by Apple's engineers was the best way to fix the front from the iMac for the rear section. Standard welding procedures for example fusion arc welding are impossible on this type of thin body, so new solutions were sought.
They found one inch friction-stir welding, a cutting-edge procedure that uses friction-generated heat as well as a high a higher level pressure to fuse the 2 aluminium surfaces right into a seamless joint that's incredibly strong.
Friction-stir welding can be a British invention developed for utilization in the shipbuilding, aircraft and automotive industries. The process was also adopted by NASA for use within the now-retired Space Shuttle programme.
It functions rotating a wear-resistant cylindrical tool at between 180-300rpm, depending on the thickness with the components being welded together. This tool is pressed on the joint at a pressure of between 5,000 to 10,000 pounds per sq . inch, moving along it at between 3.5 to 5 inches each and every minute. A probe inside centre of the otherwise-flat rotating, high-pressure welding tool friction-heats the joint, resulting in the metal to soften without actually melting.
This softened material is then forced back behind the pin, where, under the pressure in the main surface from the tool, it's bonded into a very strong joint.
iMac 2013
Welding the truth joints wasn't the only real challenge faced by Apple's engineers. The ultra-thin form factor also forced a rethink in how the display is put together. Unlike previous iMac models, and then there was a two millimetre gap between your LCD screen and its particular glass cover, here the screen is pressed against the glass utilizing a process called full lamination.
Already applied to tablet devices, this is actually the first time the process may be attempted on a real large screen. The LCD used in the new iMac is 5mm thinner than before too. But the full lamination process does greater than shave a few millimetres over screen's thickness. By pressing the LCD directly against its cover glass, reflections are dramatically curtailed. Light cannot bounce from the LCD screen itself, or back in the cover glass.
retina display
The anti-reflection coating applied to the glass has become revised too. Eschewing the typical application methods, an activity called plasma deposition has become used. This allows Apple to coat the glass with incredibly thin layers of silicon dioxide and niobium pentoxide, decreasing reflections from your front from the glass without compromising the integrity of the display's colours.
It was originally made for much smaller transparent surfaces for example camera lenses and helmet visors, but Apple's engineers have was able to scale it up for usage on the iMac's 21-inch and 27-inch screens. The result is that the new 2012 iMac's screen is 75% less reflective.
SuperDrive
The new form factor has forced the optical drive to become dropped, if you decide to still must burn to or read from CDs and DVDs, you must buy a drive. It's not the very first Mac desktop machine to lower the optical drive, the Mac mini hasn't had one since July 2011 and the MacBook Air range and Retina MacBook Pros were designed without one from their inception.
Could Apple yet again be skating to the location where the puck is going to get, successfully predicting future trends as it did when it dropped the floppy drive in the original iMac last 1998?
Frankly, we have our doubts. The floppy disk would have been a very limited storage medium. Optical storage is much more versatile. You might not get a software physically delivered with a disk any more, but would you still rip CDs to iTunes? Or watch DVD movies in your iMac? Or you could make your own DVD video disks? We suspect sales of USB SuperDrives raises with the arrival with the new iMac.
old iMac
Previous generations of iMac and Mac mini gave us hard disks as standard, and solid-state drives as configuration options. The new Macs give to us a third choice: buy any iMac except the entry-level model or the more expensive in the two Mac minis through the online Apple Store, and you will choose a new Fusion Drive.
The Fusion Drive combines 128GB of solid-state storage which has a 1TB or 3TB harddrive, while using 3TB model purely available in 27-inch iMacs. By storing the main system, regularly used applications and commonly accessed files about the flash section of the drive and everything else for the hard drive platters, a Fusion Drive gives near-SSD speeds without compromising on storage capacity.
According to Apple, a Fusion Drive is approximately three and a half times as speedy like a regular hard disk. The solid-state storage section is not a cache. The Fusion Drive doesn't create copies of regularly used files around the SSD. Nor would it be a RAID drive. Instead, it's really a hybrid drive that looks like one volume inside Finder, having a capacity of just one.12TB for the 1TB version (a 1TB harddrive plus 128GB of solid-state storage), or 3.12TB for your 3TB drive.
Likewise, in the event you back up your Fusion Drive, it's treated being a single volume in lieu of two separate units. The drive itself deals with file management, opting that will put frequently accessed data around the solid-state portion, and moving files you no longer regularly use back for the hard drive.
According to Apple, 'You'll enjoy shorter boot times, and as the system learns the method that you work, you'll experience faster application launches and quicker file access'. There have been hybrid drives before, naturally, especially Seagate's Momentus XT. But Fusion Drive differs. Because it's manufactured by Apple it might integrate directly with OS X, and Seagate's hybrid solution offers approximately 8GB of solid-state storage, not the 128GB enjoyed with the Fusion Drive.
And as regular readers know, we've tested the Momentus XT and were extremely impressed using its performance. Could Apple's Fusion Drive prove quicker still? We certainly anticipate finding out. The new Fusion Drive appears like it will prove a genuine boon for your desktop Mac, let's hope it also comes to notebooks soon.

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