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Apple plans dual graphics enhancements on future MacBook Pros

post #1 of 110
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One of the advances Apple plans for future MacBook Pro models is an improvement to the handling of the notebooks' dual graphics chips, AppleInsider has learned.

Dual-graphics auto switching

More specifically, the Mac maker has up and running in its labs several next-generation MacBook Pros that can switch between their integrated and discrete graphics processors automatically, according to people familiar with the matter.

This differs from the company's existing MacBook Pro lineup, which requires users to manually toggle between an integrated Nvidia GeForce 9400M graphics core and the more powerful 9600M GT discrete processor by first making a selection in their Mac's Energy Saver system preference pane, then logging out and back in for the change to take effect (as shown below).

While those privy to Apple's plans could not say with complete certainty that the new technology would qualify for inclusion in the most immediate update to the MacBook Pro family, they do believe that's indeed the Cupertino-based company's plans. The current chipset situation Apple faces across its notebook lines also lends support to these claims.



Chipset setback

A year and a half ago, Apple made a radical decision to jettison Intel's supporting chipsets from its MacBook line in favor of cutting-edge chipset technology from Nvidia, one which works to support the systems' primary Intel CPU while bundling a GeForce 9400M integrated graphics processor supporting better battery life and up to five times faster graphics performance. MacBook Pros received similar treatment, with the addition of a secondary, more powerful Nvidia GeForce 9600M GT discrete graphics processor for higher performance operations.

The move threatened Intel's chipset business, prompting the chip maker to refuse Nvidia a licensing extension to develop rival chipsets for its latest-generation Nehalem architecture. Nehalem embodies the new Core i5 and Core i7 processors Apple and the broader industry are widely expected to use (1, 2) to power their forthcoming notebook refreshes, thereby requiring PC manufacturers like Apple to once again rely on proprietary Intel chipsets and their integrated graphics processors.

For its part, Nvidia disputed Intel's claim, saying it believed its license with Intel extended to the Nehalem architecture. In an effort to hold its ground, Intel took the matter to the courts, filing a lawsuit against the graphics chip maker to halt its development of compatible chipsets for Nehalem and future Intel architectures. These actions caused the U.S. Federal Trade Commission to step in last December with a lawsuit of its own against Intel, accusing the company of using its leverage in the market to stifle competition.

The ongoing high-tech spat has brought Nvidia's fledgeling chipset business to screeching halt, hindering Apple's future notebook designs in the process, according to people familiar with the matter. They say these unexpected complications may be a cause of blame for the aging status of the existing MacBook Pro line, which hasn't seen a significant update in over 16 months -- well beyond its average.

Still, Nvidia hasn't been standing idle and as recently as this month introduced a new technology called Optimus [white paper PDF] to help secure its footprint in notebook designs across the industry. It's also strikingly similar to the description of the technology said to be making its way into next-generation MacBook Pros, which, given Apple's tight relationship with Nvidia, appears to be a bit more than a coincidence.

Specifically, Optimus was designed to work alongside Nehalem notebook designs that include an integrated Intel graphics processor in addition to a discrete Nvidia graphics chip, choosing the best of the two graphics processors for running a given application and automatically routing the workload to either the discrete Nvidia chip or Intel integrated graphics core to deliver the best performance while also providing optimal battery life.

"Just as a Hybrid car chooses between the gas-powered and electric car engine on-the-fly and uses the most appropriate engine, Nvidia Optimus technology does the same thing for graphics processors," Nvidia explains. "Optimus Technology instantly directs the workload through the most efficient processor for the job, extending battery life by up to 2 times compared to similarly configured systems equipped with discrete graphics processors."
post #2 of 110
How does Intel's latest chipsets and their integrated graphics processors compare to nvidia's? If Apple has to release Macbook Pro's with Intel's graphics chips, is this a step backwards?
post #3 of 110
I just wish they'd hurry the heck up and get the new i5/i7 Arrandale MBP's out soon... selling the current models with Core 2 Duo at those prices is criminal. C'mon Apple, put the "Pro" back in MacBook Pro!
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post #4 of 110
Quote:
Originally Posted by PatsFan83 View Post

How does Intel's latest chipsets and their integrated graphics processors compare to nvidia's? If Apple has to release Macbook Pro's with Intel's graphics chips, is this a step backwards?


they suck and yes


If Intel wanted to snuff Nvidia, they should have bought them like AMD bought ATI.


Guess they figured they just could move right in and not meet any resistance. I'm glad Intel is being sued by the Feds.

We need separate GPU's.
post #5 of 110
Considering Sony's new Z series of Vaio notebooks can auto-switch GPUs, I would certainly expect Apple to offer a similar solution. It's a shame the current MBPS can't already...
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post #6 of 110
After Nvidia's zero concern with Apple after the MacBook issue, I say dump them and go for ATI

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post #7 of 110
Quote:
Originally Posted by CdnBook View Post

I just wish they'd hurry the heck up and get the new i5/i7 Arrandale MBP's out soon... selling the current models with Core 2 Duo at those prices is criminal. C'mon Apple, put the "Pro" back in MacBook Pro!

Read the article. Apple can't just stick a Core i5 or i7 into a MacBook with the same chipset. Due to Intel being greedy bastards, Apple are being forced to use Intel's own chipset, which only has Intel integrated graphics. This means that they can't get decent graphics performance on machines without enough physical space for a dedicated GPU. That was the marvels of the Nvidia chipset, the 9400m gives good graphical performance on an integrated GPU, where the Intel integrated graphics have bad performance.

With Apple's move toward GPU computing, i.e. OpenCL, all their computers need to have a GPU that has at least some amount of processing power. Otherwise they may as well scrap OpenCL and use the CPU. The integrated Intel GPUs lack any decent amount of processing power (and most likely don't support OpenCL anyway), which is why Apple is in a bit of a pickle.

So, even if Apple does switch to the Intel chipset and put a Core i5/i7 in their MacBooks and Mac minis, the graphics performance will be worse than with the Core 2 Duo and 9400m.
post #8 of 110
Continuing to wait 'patiently' for these MBPs to be released. I'm sitting on a CD1.83/2G/500GB and I'd really love to invest in a nice little i5!
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post #9 of 110
Quote:
Originally Posted by Lukeskymac View Post

After Nvidia's zero concern with Apple after the MacBook issue, I say dump them and go for ATI

That's sort of the way I feel too. But the new optimus stuff from NVIDIA looks pretty nice...if it works as advertised.

AFAIK, ATI doesn't offer anything comparable to this.
post #10 of 110
Quote:
Originally Posted by Lukeskymac View Post

After Nvidia's zero concern with Apple after the MacBook issue, I say dump them and go for ATI

I'm not sure what ATIs mobile CPUs are like, but their desktop ones run extremely hot, which is perhaps why Apple's not using them in their portables.
post #11 of 110
AnandTech has a nice detailed article on NVIDIA Optimus
post #12 of 110
So perhaps this is why Apple is too busy to fix that screen blinking issues with MBP. When settings are set to "better battery life" the upper half or screen would occasionally blink out and back on again. Temporary black screen.
post #13 of 110
Bring it on!!!
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post #14 of 110
Quote:
Originally Posted by Elijahg View Post

Read the article. Apple can't just stick a Core i5 or i7 into a MacBook with the same chipset. Due to Intel being greedy bastards, Apple are being forced to use Intel's own chipset, which only has Intel integrated graphics. This means that they can't get decent graphics performance on machines without enough physical space for a dedicated GPU. That was the marvels of the Nvidia chipset, the 9400m gives good graphical performance on an integrated GPU, where the Intel integrated graphics have bad performance.

With Apple's move toward GPU computing, i.e. OpenCL, all their computers need to have a GPU that has at least some amount of processing power. Otherwise they may as well scrap OpenCL and use the CPU. The integrated Intel GPUs lack any decent amount of processing power (and most likely don't support OpenCL anyway), which is why Apple is in a bit of a pickle.

So, even if Apple does switch to the Intel chipset and put a Core i5/i7 in their MacBooks and Mac minis, the graphics performance will be worse than with the Core 2 Duo and 9400m.

You're telling me things I already know buddy... I've read nearly every page of the entire "waiting for Arrandale" thread over at macrumors. Read the thread... its got 6000+ comments. We've explored virtually every nuance of the Intel/ Nvidia dilemma (months ago)... and we're patiently waiting for an i5/i7 Arrandale MBP along with a discrete gpu. Yes, the Intel IGP is wimpy, but people seem to forget that Apple can still put whatever discrete gpu they want into the MacBook Pro... and Nvidia's Optimus tech is a likely candidate.
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post #15 of 110
This is definitely a plus. I switch between my 9400M and 9600M GT at least once on a daily basis depending if i'm at school or at home. I can't begin to describe how ANNOYING it is to log out to switch graphics. Hopefully Apple will be able to implement some kind of system so that it could seamlessly switch between video cards when plugged or unplugged.

These companies seriously need to stop messing around and actually work like a team. Customers will suffer because some two companies don't agree with each other. Hopefully the whole i3/i5/i7 processor/GPU situation gets resolved. The Macbook Pros lineup could be in serious trouble if it doesn't.
post #16 of 110
I don't see this as a popular solution. As a matter of fact I think it's stupid. Why have two chips when they can just have one and throttle it up or down as needed just like a regular CPU?
post #17 of 110
As a non-Mac user switching back to Macs after a 15-year absence, I just want the hardware now. I'd be happier to get an MBP with an unfinished Nvidia driver than wait any longer. They can always send out software fixes later. I simply cannot stand Windows any longer! It is so horrible. And yet I can't buy a Macbook, which is not so badly priced at $900, because I need more than 4GB RAM. Please Apple, end my pain.
post #18 of 110
I'm willing to wait if they offer a low end discreet card on the 13" MBP. The Intel integrated solution is too lousy and can be considered an overall downgrade from the current generation.
post #19 of 110
Quote:
Originally Posted by bdkennedy1 View Post

I don't see this as a popular solution. As a matter of fact I think it's stupid. Why have two chips when they can just have one and throttle it up or down as needed just like a regular CPU?

Was thinking about that too.

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post #20 of 110
Quote:
Originally Posted by CdnBook View Post

You're telling me things I already know buddy... I've read nearly every page of the entire "waiting for Arrandale" thread over at macrumors. Read the thread... its got 6000+ comments. We've explored virtually every nuance of the Intel/ Nvidia dilemma (months ago)... and we're patiently waiting for an i5/i7 Arrandale MBP along with a discrete gpu. Yes, the Intel IGP is wimpy, but people seem to forget that Apple can still put whatever discrete gpu they want into the MacBook Pro... and Nvidia's Optimus tech is a likely candidate.

Intel integrated graphics suck (I have a couple low end WinPCs and the wifes beater notebook that use intel Integrated.).

I think the the Intel Integrated + Discrete GPU has a great deal of promise, especially with the things I've read about off loading CPU processes to GPU's in OS.X.

Think about it. For intense graphics, OS.X could auto swap to a real GPU, and off load some processing tasks to the intel GPU, functionally boosting both the CPU performance and the Graphics performance.

Now, battery life would suffer. But if done correctly, it could make games, rendering, whatever scream.
post #21 of 110
Quote:
Originally Posted by bdkennedy1 View Post

I don't see this as a popular solution. As a matter of fact I think it's stupid. Why have two chips when they can just have one and throttle it up or down as needed just like a regular CPU?

The problem is the integrated GPU attached to the CPU in Arrandale. It's highly likely that to use these new chips, to get the performance of a high-end performance GPU you need to have it as a second chip alongside the integrated graphics. This switching tech makes it seamless to switch between the two behind the scenes. As I understand it.
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post #22 of 110
Quote:
Originally Posted by bdkennedy1 View Post
I don't see this as a popular solution. As a matter of fact I think it's stupid. Why have two chips when they can just have one and throttle it up or down as needed just like a regular CPU?

That's what happens on my late 2008 MacBook Pro with nvidia 8600 GT. My old PowerBook G4 with ATi Radeon 9600 did that even better. Seems to me Apple is going one step forward, 5 steps back. I'd hate to have to keep logging in and out just so I could use a graphics intensive application, then log out and in again when I don't. Glad I didn't upgrade.
post #23 of 110
Quote:
Originally Posted by Moloch View Post

As a non-Mac user switching back to Macs after a 15-year absence, I just want the hardware now. I'd be happier to get an MBP with an unfinished Nvidia driver than wait any longer. They can always send out software fixes later. I simply cannot stand Windows any longer! It is so horrible. And yet I can't buy a Macbook, which is not so badly priced at $900, because I need more than 4GB RAM. Please Apple, end my pain.

20+ years ago, I started my work in the tech field supporting Macintoshes in a University Lab. I was never able to afford or justify buying a Mac, until last fall when I bought a 27" iMac. And a Mac Mini to replace my wifes aging/failing HP desktop.

I agree with you on the 'can't stand' sentiment. I've been in the tech field for, well, 20+ years. And I've had enough of Microsofts crap.

Examples:
At work, to reboot the PC takes 8-10 minutes. My Mac? 120 seconds.
Operatings system load on RAM? WinXP Pro (32bit) 742 meg. OSX (64 bit) 540 meg.
Systems Crashs, application freezes, PC 3 vs. OSX 0.083 per Week.
Patches Applied per week: PC Avg 4.4 vs. OS.X 0.33 per week.

My next notebook, a Mac. my next tech toy? iPad. Now looking for a job where I can use a Mac at work.
post #24 of 110
I hope the 13 inch gets some hybrid graphics love. Arrandale's IGP is pretty good, coming from Intel, but still a step down from the 9400M. Apple wouldn't sell a downgrade, would they?


...


Would they?




Anyways, about damn time for the processor upgrade. 2000 dollars for a notebook with a Core 2 Duo and a 9400m is just calling your customers stupid. i5's have made it into sub-900 dollar laptops.
post #25 of 110
Quote:
Originally Posted by CdnBook View Post

Yes, the Intel IGP is wimpy, but people seem to forget that Apple can still put whatever discrete gpu they want into the MacBook Pro... and Nvidia's Optimus tech is a likely candidate.

And you seem to forget that Apple likes to sell MacBooks and Mac Minis with integrated graphics only. The Intel / Nvidia issue affects all Macs that use integrated graphics. Even the MacBook Pro is not immune because the 13 inch MacBook Pro has integrated graphics only. Without a competing integrated graphics solution from Nvidia, what's Apple going to do? Start spinning the "wimpy" Intel IGP as superior in performance to what Nvidia can provide, and bring back that "incredible value proposition" marketing BS that they used when referring to Intel integrated graphics in the first Intel Mac Mini?
post #26 of 110
Quote:
Originally Posted by reliason View Post

I was never able to afford or justify buying a Mac, until last fall when I bought a 27" iMac..

I recently decided to calculate what I've spent on computers short-term. I realized I went through a series of low-end PC laptops. Over just the last 4 years I owned 7 laptops, total outlays ~$3500. I generally sold each for about 2/3 of purchase price, so I lost roughly $1200. If I continue using PCs I know I will sell each within a year of purchase. I want to use a mature, visually appealing operating system based on a Unix variant, based on solid, well-designed portable hardware, and the only thing for that is Mac OS/X running on an Apple laptop. (I could rant about Linux but there is no point.)
post #27 of 110
My powerbook 1.5Gb--still running Tiger--is wheezing its last. Waking it up evokes a 15-30-second arpeggio of cacophonous clicking and clanking--the hard drive icon disappeared from the desktop ages ago; it is so clearly circling the drain (i'm running off the external hard drive, btw) that I put a mirror under its nose hourly to see if it's still breathing, so you couldn't be more desperate than me for the release of the next gens

just do it already!
post #28 of 110
Quote:
Originally Posted by DanMacMan View Post

Considering Sony's new Z series of Vaio notebooks can auto-switch GPUs, I would certainly expect Apple to offer a similar solution. It's a shame the current MBPS can't already...

It is a shame. Of all the companies out there you'd think the one that makes the HW and OS would have figured out a way to tackle this problem before it's an option on Windows.
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post #29 of 110
My ... i am hoping this is only part 1 of the upgrades.

Its time Apple integrated Blu-Ray into MBP's. at least on the higher end models. give the consumers the options to decide between.

also, would be great if they brough back matte screens, a real version of it.
post #30 of 110
Quote:
Originally Posted by solipsism View Post

It is a shame. Of all the companies out there you'd think the one that makes the HW and OS would have figured out a way to tackle this problem before it's an option on Windows.

Isn't this a software problem essentially? AFAIK Windows 7 can switch transparently between multiple GPUs on current MacBook Pros due to Microsoft's ingenious abstractions of the actual graphic hardware. I don't expect this kind of functionality on OS X before 10.7 as it likely requires large changes to the graphic layer. Hopefully Apple will not try to tie this to new hardware only but sadly such a stunt can't be ruled out. \
post #31 of 110
Quote:
Originally Posted by mitchelljd View Post

My ... i am hoping this is only part 1 of the upgrades.

Its time Apple integrated Blu-Ray into MBP's. at least on the higher end models. give the consumers the options to decide between.

also, would be great if they brough back matte screens, a real version of it.

I don't think we'll ever see blu-ray due to General Mao's push towards everything iTunes. I think it would cannibalize that market. I do agree that it would be nice to have blu-ray on my Santa Rosa MBP. Now would I be able to take out the SuperDrive and swap it for a SuperBlu? Who knows, but I doubt it. That would suck.
post #32 of 110
Quote:
Originally Posted by Erunno View Post

Isn't this a software problem essentially? AFAIK Windows 7 can switch transparently between multiple GPUs on current MacBook Pros due to Microsoft's ingenious abstractions of the actual graphic hardware. I don't expect this kind of functionality on OS X before 10.7 as it likely requires large changes to the graphic layer. Hopefully Apple will not try to tie this to new hardware only but sadly such a stunt can't be ruled out. \

Don't think this change would require 10.7. The real issue is OS X compatible drivers from Nvidia/Intel. Most likely Windows got it first because they are bigger but with the 9400 being on all the recent Macbooks you can bet Nvidia are trying to sell something beyond Intel's IGP to Apple to juice the graphics. Apple will support discrete graphics at least on the higher end macbook pro where they can charge for the extra silicon. On the macbook the Intel IGP is probably good enough. The 13"" Aluminum is interesting because it carrier the PRO nomenclature it should include PRO features like discrete graphics.

As far as changes to the graphics layer. Both OSX and Windows abstract the hardware which means you can use different vendors product and they work fine.
post #33 of 110
Quote:
Originally Posted by Elijahg View Post

I'm not sure what ATIs mobile CPUs are like, but their desktop ones run extremely hot, which is perhaps why Apple's not using them in their portables.

Not the latest generation. No idea about their mobile graphics though. Nvidia definitely has an edge in power savings with this technology though.
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post #34 of 110
Quote:
Originally Posted by Haggar View Post

And you seem to forget that Apple likes to sell MacBooks and Mac Minis with integrated graphics only. The Intel / Nvidia issue affects all Macs that use integrated graphics. Even the MacBook Pro is not immune because the 13 inch MacBook Pro has integrated graphics only. Without a competing integrated graphics solution from Nvidia, what's Apple going to do? Start spinning the "wimpy" Intel IGP as superior in performance to what Nvidia can provide, and bring back that "incredible value proposition" marketing BS that they used when referring to Intel integrated graphics in the first Intel Mac Mini?

Some current versions have integrated graphics only, there is no rule stating that they have to have remain that way in the future. It will be interesting to see how Apple handles this.
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post #35 of 110
Quote:
Originally Posted by ghostface147 View Post

I don't think we'll ever see blu-ray due to General Mao's push towards everything iTunes. I think it would cannibalize that market.

No it wouldn't, that's what's so hilarious and frustrating about Apple's horrible stance on Blu-Ray. I mean, does anyone believe that iTunes' crappy "HD" seriously competes with Blu-Ray's quality? The two products are aimed at completely different customers! iTunes-movies are all about convenience, not about quality, and Blu-Ray is simply about offering the best quality with no compromises. The two formats do not compete, they complement each other. They will only start competing once Apple offers true 1080p in their iTunes store. (and once the iTunes store offers video content outside the US. The world does not consist of the United States).
post #36 of 110
It looks like the NV Opt. tech would be the way to go for Arrandale MBPs. Hopefully this has all been in the works for a while and they are ready to deliver soon.

It would be really low to hold off product releases until after the iPad.

Shouldn't we have word within a few days now if Apple is planning any sort of March event?
post #37 of 110
Quote:
Originally Posted by CdnBook View Post

I just wish they'd hurry the heck up and get the new i5/i7 Arrandale MBP's out soon... selling the current models with Core 2 Duo at those prices is criminal. C'mon Apple, put the "Pro" back in MacBook Pro!

I know 3 people waiting and waiting- one may buy a Sony instead this weekend.
post #38 of 110
Quote:
Originally Posted by TEKSTUD View Post

I know 3 people waiting and waiting- one may buy a Sony instead this weekend.


HP's Elitebook 8540w has been tempting me for some time now... Come on, Apple!
post #39 of 110
Quote:
Originally Posted by Parkettpolitur View Post

No it wouldn't, that's what's so hilarious and frustrating about Apple's horrible stance on Blu-Ray. I mean, does anyone believe that iTunes' crappy "HD" seriously competes with Blu-Ray's quality? The two products are aimed at completely different customers! iTunes-movies are all about convenience, not about quality, and Blu-Ray is simply about offering the best quality with no compromises. The two formats do not compete, they complement each other. They will only start competing once Apple offers true 1080p in their iTunes store. (and once the iTunes store offers video content outside the US. The world does not consist of the United States).

Please Don't get me started on this. I've stated this over and over for 2 years now since the HD format war ended.
Let's see - how long did it take Apple to get SD flash drives?
post #40 of 110
Quote:
Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post

...This differs from the company's existing MacBook Pro lineup, which requires users to manually toggle between an integrated Nvidia GeForce 9400M graphics core and the more powerful 9600M GT discrete processor by first making a selection in their Mac's Energy Saver system preference pane, then logging out and back in for the change to take effect (as shown below)...

This statement is not correct, because even though my new 13" is part of the MacBook Pro lineup, it does not have the 9600 GPU.
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