6Gbps SATA

Twenty eight days after Intel launched its Sandy Bridge microprocessors, it announced the stop-shipment of all 6-series Sandy Bridge chipsets. The first shipping version of these chipsets (B2 stepping) was affected by an unfortunate "oversight" that could cause failure in the four 3Gbps SATA ports that branch off the chipset. The remaining two 6Gbps SATA ports were unaffected by the bug.

Most notebooks only use two of the six SATA ports supported by most members of Intel's 6-series chipset family. If a notebook design used the 6Gbps ports exclusively, the notebook would be fine to ship using the flawed B2 stepping parts. With the 3Gbps ports not in use the bug would never show up. Notebooks that used more than just two ports or used at least one of the 3Gbps ports would be affected and would have to be remanufactured with a fixed version of the 6-series chipset. Intel promised to begin shipping fixed (B3 stepping) 6-series chipsets by the end of February.

Apple announced and started selling the 2011 MacBook Pro lineup on February 24, four days before the end of the month. Surely that would be too soon for Apple's manufacturing partners to have received B3 stepping chipsets, built boards around them, integrated them into MacBook Pro designs and shipped them half way across the world to Apple stores all around the US.

Naturally Apple wouldn't comment on what chipset revision was in the 2011 MacBook Pro, so the first thing we did was check to see what SATA ports were in use on our systems.

Here we have the high end 15-inch MacBook Pro. I installed an Intel SSD 510 in the lone 2.5" drive bay and it is connected via a 6Gbps port internally:

So far, so good. The only other bay in the new MacBook Pro is used for the optical drive. And it's connected to a:

...3Gbps SATA port. Uh-oh.

Apple doesn't directly report chipset IDs under OS X. I installed Windows 7 via Boot Camp and headed over to device manager to pull the device ID of the SATA controller: 1C01.

Cross referencing with Intel's datasheets I found that there are two revisions of the SATA controller: 04 and 05. The latter is used in the "fixed" B3 stepping chipsets. And what do we have here at the end of the hardware ID string for the SATA controller?

REV_05.

This is a B3 stepping chipset. In fact, Apple's manufacturing partners seem to have received B3 chipsets before anyone else given that boards were produced, tested and shipped in time for a February 24th launch. It would appear that Apple was among the first if not the first company to receive B3 stepping 6-series chipsets. Although I had concern for the health of the Apple/Intel relationship over the past couple of years, it looks like the two are back to being bedfellows.

Internally there are no visible changes to the MacBook Pro's primary SATA cable. It's still a flex cable but apparently capable of delivering twice the bandwidth of last year's model. Apple doesn't ship the new MacBook Pros with any 6Gbps drives and I would be surprised if it selected anything other than Samsung or Toshiba for SSDs, which means even the SSD options are 3Gbps. Luckily I happen to have a small cache of SSDs, including a bunch of new 6Gbps offerings.

Mostly No QuickSync Apple's SSD Strategy
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  • robco - Thursday, March 10, 2011 - link

    I made the mistake of buying a 15" MBP eighteen months ago and am stuck with a machine that has mediocre graphics and overheats constantly. Don't buy the MBP if you actually use it on your lap. That being said, the only reason I bought it over the MacBook was the dedicated graphics. With the awful performance of the Intel integrated chip, I hope Apple releases a 15" MacBook with the option of dedicated graphics for consumers. I'm not shelling out $2199 just to get something with a decent video card. I wouldn't recommend the 13" at all, as there are several alternatives in the 13-14" range that offer dedicated cards.

    I fell victim to the hype and now I have a fairly recent machine that can barely handle SC2 and an iPhone that can't make phone calls. Don't make the same mistake. Most of the tasks you can do on a Mac you can do on a Windows PC. Unless you are actually a pro and need a pro-grade machine, don't waste your money. For those who can justify the expense, they are nice machines, but if you actually put them to work, be ready to set them on a cool surface or get a cooling pad. They run awfully hot.
    Reply
  • KoolAidMan1 - Thursday, March 10, 2011 - link

    My MBP from last year plays SC2 perfectly, above 60fps most of the time which is great. Same with Source games. People on Youtube have already uploaded video playing the Crysis 2 demo on the new MBPs and it looks great.

    Your machine is almost two years old. Be logical when complaining about performance. Just because your machine is slow doesn't mean that the new ones aren't screaming fast: http://www.pcmag.com/image_popup/0,1740,iid=287468...

    The 13" MBP is also decent with the SB IGP. I've seen clips on YT of people playing games even on the slower Macbook Air and it looks good. IGPs have come a long way from where they were in 2009.
    Reply
  • robco - Thursday, March 10, 2011 - link

    I'm a little miffed that a machine that was so expensive has become outdated rather quickly. I paid a lot just to get dedicated graphics. I could have and should have paid less to get a Windows notebook. I won't make the same mistake again. If you're a consumer and don't need a pro-grade machine but still want good graphics, the MBP is a poor value.

    The MBA actually handles games better than the new 13" MBP because it still uses the C2D and the NV integrated chipset. Once it switches to Sandy Bridge, performance will drop as it has with the MBP. The only area the MBA is slower than the MBP is raw processing power, graphics and disk access are much faster.

    With Apple you can get a notebook that performs well, you just have to shell out $2199 to get it. I did that once, I won't do it again. it just isn't worth it unless you're a pro user who will recoup that cost in a short time. For consumers, it's a waste of money.
    Reply
  • ImSpartacus - Thursday, March 10, 2011 - link

    If you only needed the graphics muscle, you should've gotten a Windows laptop.

    Macbooks are for more mobile-minded users. They are thin, strong and have excellent battery life.

    If you just need a solid mobile workstation that isn't going to be moved a lot, Windows laptops are a much better value.
    Reply
  • SimKill - Friday, March 11, 2011 - link

    ODM manufacturers like Clevo and Compal fit your bill perfectly. I got my system in 2009 August and even today I can play most of the games (ofcourse except godforsaken Crysis) at high settings at 1680x1050 (yep, 16:10) It cost me around $1400 but I'm very happy about it so far. Reply
  • SimKill - Friday, March 11, 2011 - link

    Dam, they don't have an edit button. The hardware internals are pretty good with copper heatsinks and heatpipes and what not too... Reply
  • erple2 - Friday, March 11, 2011 - link

    Hrm. Mac's are more of a semi-pro-grade machine. They still lack some of the important pro-grade features of an actual pro-grade machine. Like a Docking Station. Or a spill-resistant keyboard. Or a thumbprint reader. Or a smart card slot. Or a high-gamut monitor.

    While they are well constructed, they still don't have some of the critical features required for a good business laptop - they lack the all important OpenGL performance GPUs for wireframe models (among other things). See some of the high end Elitebooks or Thinkpads (which also cost a bit more than these MacBook Pros).
    Reply
  • tipoo - Thursday, March 10, 2011 - link

    Ah, I just had a dumb, nevermind me. Reply
  • IntelUser2000 - Thursday, March 10, 2011 - link

    http://www.anandtech.com/show/4205/the-macbook-pro...

    "This is a weird one, since the same GPU gave us significantly better performance in the SNB test system."

    Oh gee, I wonder why. The SNB test system used quad core and the Core i5 2410M is a dual core. Quad vs. Dual does have some impact.
    Reply
  • Anand Lal Shimpi - Thursday, March 10, 2011 - link

    It does have some impact, but not in this case. The HD 3000 is actually GPU bound in those tests - not to mention that most games aren't quite so well threaded that 2 v 4 cores should matter.

    Take care,
    Anand
    Reply

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