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A closer look at Apple's move to NVIDIA chipsets, DisplayPort

post #1 of 77
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Apple's graphics options on all new MacBooks are substantially improved due to the use of NVIDIA chipsets over the Intel graphics provided on earlier models; we examine the significance of this and the choice of DisplayPort as the foundation for Apple's video output future.

NVIDIA to go

At its notebook announcement, Steve Jobs said NVIDIA had presented Apple with a new chip it had in development that incorporated the company's high performance graphics platform into a part that would also handle the general interface of a computer's main Intel processor, a task typically performed by a series of components referred to as a chipset.

NVIDIA had planned to sell the part for use in desktop PCs, but Jobs said Apple wanted to use the part in its new notebook design. The result was the GeForce 9400M, a single chip of which 70% is devoted to GPU functions. It provides as much as 6.2 times the graphics performance of the Intel chipset, integrating its own Intel GMA X3100 graphics processing unit, that Apple had been using in its entry level MacBook since late 2007.

The integrated 9400M part even delivers 55% of the 3D graphics performance of the dedicated NVIDIA 8600M GT GPU Apple had been using in its MacBook Pro; the integrated intel parts used in the MacBooks only delivered 11% of the performance of the dedicated NVIDIA CPU available on the Pro line. "In graphics intensive applications, our customers will notice a world of difference," said Bob Mansfield, Apple's Senior Vice President of Mac Hardware.

The new integrated GPU and 'chipset on a chip' appears to be larger than the MacBook's Intel Core 2 Duo processor itself, and leaves the rest of the compact logic board filled with smaller components rather than a series of other large support chips. On the main logic board (below top), the Intel CPU is black, while the NVIDIA part is a shiny silver (below bottom in detail).





Dual GPUs on the MacBook Pro

In general purpose graphics tests, the 9400M part delivers 82% of the high end, dedicated NVIDIA performance used in the previous MacBook Pros. In addition to the Nvidia GeForce 9400M GPU integrated into all of the new portables, which draws 256MB from the installed RAM (plus another 16MB to drive an external display), the MacBook Pro also incorporates an independent NVIDIA GeForce 9600M GT GPU, which has its own dedicated 256MB or 512MB of graphics RAM.

This gives the MacBook Pro the ability to use integrated graphics when running off the battery to increase its lifespan, or to tap the dedicated GPU for even faster performance when power consumption isn't as critical. Switching to the dedicated GPU delivers as much as a 2.3 times boost in performance over using the integrated 9400M, but trims battery life from 5 hours down to four. Windows-based notebook owners will recognize this as the Hybrid SLI feature that NVIDIA introduced earlier this year.

Apple hasn't yet outlined if it is possible for the system to team the processing power of both GPUs for use at once, either at the present or in the future under Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard, which is being designed specifically to spin processor intensive tasks off onto multiple GPUs. Snow Leopard's OpenCL intends to open up the processing potential of GPUs for general purpose math, not just video or graphics related operations.

Introducing DisplayPort

The MacBook, MacBook Pro, and revised MacBook Air also get a mini DisplayPort connector. Jobs announced that the format wasn't limited to the MacBook range and would be placed "on all our machines." The new port replaces the existing full-sized DVI port on MacBook Pros, the Mini-DVI port used on the MacBook (and iMac systems), and the Micro-DVI port of the MacBook Air.



The relatively new DisplayPort standard (now being adopted by a number of PC makers) is backwardly compatible with VGA, DVI, and dual-link DVI displays. On the entire new MacBook line, it also now provides full support for the 2560x1600 resolution of Apple's 30-inch Cinema Display, thanks to the greater graphics muscle afforded by the NVIDIA 9400M GPU.

DisplayPort offers a variety of advantages over DVI, including a more compact connector lacking the rows of pins on DVI cables that are easy to bend; the use of a digital micro-packet signaling protocol that will enable the standard to support higher resolutions than DVI in the future; and streamlined chip-to-chip communication between the video output on the system and the display. DVI requires more control circuitry in external displays and a separate standard is required to connect to the internal display, but DisplayPort addresses both internal and external links, resulting in cost savings and slimmer display housings.

Moving to Mini Display Port

Attaching an existing Cinema Display or other VGA or DVI display to the mini DisplayPort connector requires a converter cable, but Apple's new 24" Cinema Display released alongside the new laptops now includes a mini DisplayPort connector, signaling a shift for all of the company's displays to the new standard.

The new 24" screen also supplies a MagSafe connector for charging a laptop without having to plug in a separate power adapter, as well as a USB connection to support its iSight camera and integrated USB hub.



The 24" Cinema Display is detailed in:

Apple unveils 24-inch LED Cinema Display

The new MacBook line is outlined in:

Apple unveils new 13" MacBook
Apple debuts new 15" MacBook Pro
Apple refreshes 17-inch MacBook Pro and MacBook Air
post #2 of 77
Super nice products!
post #3 of 77
I think is a first for a notebook to sport dual graphic GPU's, well at least the way Apple did.
Since it has it in both MB Pros I think the overall product offering it represents great value and top notch performance when needed. I guess this kind of structure will prevail and grow larger when Snow Leopard comes in next year. Dam if I only have the money hehehe
post #4 of 77
I like the 24 inch display, but where's the 32 inch display and how about a 40 incher?
post #5 of 77
Quote:
Originally Posted by MacTel View Post

I like the 24 inch display, but where's the 32 inch display and how about a 40 incher?

Apple will release bigger displays when manufacturing comply with its specifications.
By now bigger LED panels are or too expensive or can't deliver the quantities needed for fill orders to other/all Brands (Dell, HP, Viewsonic, Apple, etc)

But hopefully that will change next year
post #6 of 77
Quote:
Originally Posted by plokoonpma View Post

I think is a first for a notebook to sport dual graphic GPU's, well at least the way Apple did.


It's not, Sony has done it before. Anyway, how exactly to the MBP switch between the chips? Is it a hardware switch (not likely), a software switch (in energy saver preferences, more likely) or is it automatically set according to the whims of Apple (also likely)?

/Adrian
post #7 of 77
In the past, NVidia's OS X drivers haven't been that great. The current Mac Pro has a choice of ATI 7600 or Geforce 8800 and the 7600 was faster at CoreImage (LOL), and even after driver improvements came along it was only about equal. So those drivers still have a ways to go.
post #8 of 77
This "mini" port shit is annoying! Why didn't Apple use the regular Displayport size? Adapters/dongles are such a pain in the ass.
You think Im an arrogant [expletive] who thinks hes above the law, and I think youre a slime bucket who gets most of his facts wrong. Steve Jobs
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post #9 of 77
Quote:
Originally Posted by DHagan4755 View Post

This "mini" port shit is annoying! Why didn't Apple use the regular Displayport size? Adapters/dongles are such a pain in the ass.

Agreed..

Could someone post a comparison of Full DVI, Displayport, and Mini Displayport?
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post #10 of 77
Quote:
Originally Posted by Zandros View Post

It's not, Sony has done it before. Anyway, how exactly to the MBP switch between the chips? Is it a hardware switch (not likely), as software switch (in energy saver preferences, more likely) or is it automatically set according to the whims of Apple (also likely)?

/Adrian

If I can recall they used SLI on a gaming laptop, x2 of the same kind/speed. Not a 9400 + 9600 that renders in a whole new way to deliver performance and battery management.
It has an automatic mode that can be set on Preferences/Energy. As all Apple laptops you can override this.
post #11 of 77
Quote:
Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post

The relatively new DisplayPort standard (now being adopted by a number of PC makers) is backwardly compatible with VGA, DVI, and dual-link DVI displays.

I would love to hear something final on this alleged backwards compatible DisplayPort. I realize there's DVI - Female to DisplayPort Male adapters, and that you can plug old displays into the new MacBook's. But from what I understand, going the other way around is not possible. I can't take the new Display Port LED display and plug it into my existing Macbook Pro.

From what I was reading here about Bridging the DisplayPort, that's what I understood. http://www.edn.com/index.asp?layout=...leid=CA6574650

And in the tech specs for the LED display ( http://www.apple.com/displays/specs.html ) Apple says, "Compatible with MacBook, MacBook Air, and MacBook Pro systems with Mini DisplayPort"
post #12 of 77
DisplayPort uses low voltage signaling levels that are incompatible with DVI, VGA, etc. so an adapter requires more than just a cable. For going from DisplayPort output to a conventional display, the GPU would normally take care of the logical protocol conversion (encoding it in a DisplayPort data stream) and a separate adapter would deal with the electrical conversion. The conversion from DVI, VGA, etc. to DisplayPort would be slightly harder because the adapter would have to do the whole conversion, both logical and electrical, and would have to include the scaling circuitry which is present in ordinary displays but not in DisplayPort displays (since, for such displays, the GPU is responsible for image scaling).

It's interesting that future versions of the DisplayPort protocol will be able to incoporate other serial data streams -- such as a USB connection -- into the very fast DisplayPort serial protocol, so that only one connector will be needed for connecting all the data streams to the display. This will make the display connection simpler (e.g., the triple cable on the new display would become a double cable). This will also, however, make bridges to older display protocols more complicated.

This is all very nice but I have a longstanding interface wish that I'm hoping to see someday which would be very easy for Apple to provide. Presumably the Mac laptops will stay awake when closed and connected to the new display. It would be nice if the laptops could also be set to keep their wireless network awake whenever they are simply connected to AC power: this would allow the nice screen sharing and file system mounting software in the Leopard finder to be used to access their data from any nearby Mac desktop, without plugging the laptops into a display at all. This would be particularly nice for the Air, which has no hard-wired connection.
post #13 of 77
Quote:
Originally Posted by Dogcow View Post

Agreed..

Could someone post a comparison of Full DVI, Displayport, and Mini Displayport?

Here's DisplayPort and DVI together:

post #14 of 77
It is possible Apple offers a mini DVI to Display Port to those of us that have an iMac or other system with mini dvi?
I really hope so, that display must look awesome with my iMac...
post #15 of 77
Quote:
Originally Posted by DeaPeaJay View Post

And in the tech specs for the LED display ( http://www.apple.com/displays/specs.html ) Apple says, "Compatible with MacBook, MacBook Air, and MacBook Pro systems with Mini DisplayPort"

I'm afraid we can't join this particular LED Cinema Display club. This product is precisely for the new generation of notebook products. Not us "old school" folks.

Seriously, if this new display is only for the new notebooks, I think it's brilliant! Indeed, if I were to buy a new MB or MBP it fulfills my need for an uncluttered desktop! Only thing is I Just wish they'd address the glossy/matte issue.

-YipYipYipee
post #16 of 77
Quote:
Originally Posted by plokoonpma View Post

If I can recall they used SLI on a gaming laptop, x2 of the same kind/speed. Not a 9400 + 9600 that renders in a whole new way to deliver performance and battery management.

Sony, not Alienware. They used Intel integrated graphics and a discrete NVIDIA graphics card on their SZ series. The other difference was the physical switch used to toggle between the discrete and the integrated card. And, if I remember correctly, it induced a second long screen blackout. So, Apples and NVIDIAs solution is doubtlessly more elegant, but it's not a first.

Edit: Reading the new thread, the solution actually isn't very elegant. Major disappointment.

/Adrian
post #17 of 77
Quote:
Originally Posted by Dogcow View Post

Agreed..

Could someone post a comparison of Full DVI, Displayport, and Mini Displayport?

The mini port is less than half the size of the regular port, still not sure why the size reduction is so critical...

post #18 of 77
I have a laptop with hdmi out and it is awesome for connecting to my HDTV. With it, I can download shows (including iTunes) and watch them on the TV with the audio automatically running through the HDTV. It has completely changed the way I watch and movies.

This mini displayport is the only thing keeping me from ordering a new MBP. Does anyone know if the mini displayport will carry audio? What about an adapter for mini displayport to hdmi - do these exist? Do you think apple or anyone else will make them?
post #19 of 77
Quote:
Originally Posted by c3fcc View Post

I have a laptop with hdmi out and it is awesome for connecting to my HDTV. With it, I can download shows (including iTunes) and watch them on the TV with the audio automatically running through the HDTV. It has completely changed the way I watch and movies.

This mini displayport is the only thing keeping me from ordering a new MBP. Does anyone know if the mini displayport will carry audio? What about an adapter for mini displayport to hdmi - do these exist? Do you think apple or anyone else will make them?

hdmi is just dvi + sound. So displayport to dvi and then dvi to hdmi will do it.
post #20 of 77
Quote:
Originally Posted by Joe_the_dragon View Post

hdmi is just dvi + sound. So displayport to dvi and then dvi to hdmi will do it.

And a separate cable for audio, of course. Put that optical-out to good use.
post #21 of 77
I can't wait till this NVIDIA chipset and DisplayPort trickles down to the Mac mini.
Hopefully they will finally include the option for some type of secondary display output.

And hopefully they will kill the stupid ComboDrive.
post #22 of 77
Quote:
Originally Posted by FuturePastNow View Post

And a separate cable for audio, of course. Put that optical-out to good use.

I'm not sure I'm liking the sound of this. So I have to get a DVI adapter, a DVI cable, and a digital audio cable to connect to my HDTV? I thought Macs were supposed to be simple. I guess I could always transfer the files over to my VAIO Z, but apple is really missing the boat here. How many people care about running a 30inch Apple Display? A couple thousand vs. the millions with HDTVs with HDMI.
post #23 of 77
Since Apple mostly adopt standards early it won't surprise me sometime this fall or early next year HDTV with "Mini Display Port" will start to show up in bigger numbers.

Quote:
Originally Posted by c3fcc View Post

I'm not sure I'm liking the sound of this. So I have to get a DVI adapter, a DVI cable, and a digital audio cable to connect to my HDTV? I thought Macs were supposed to be simple. I guess I could always transfer the files over to my VAIO Z, but apple is really missing the boat here. How many people care about running a 30inch Apple Display? A couple thousand vs. the millions with HDTVs with HDMI.
post #24 of 77
Quote:
Originally Posted by Johnny Mozzarella View Post

I can't wait till this NVIDIA chipset and DisplayPort trickles down to the Mac mini.
Hopefully they will finally include the option for some type of secondary display output.

And hopefully they will kill the stupid ComboDrive.

I looked at the specs of the new Macbooks (including the "new" $999 old white Macbook) and unless I saw wrong, the Combo Drive is indeed finally dead.
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post #25 of 77
Quote:
Originally Posted by DX-OmniGeno View Post

I looked at the specs of the new Macbooks (including the "new" $999 old white Macbook) and unless I saw wrong, the Combo Drive is indeed finally dead.

The $599 Mac mini is still burdened with a combo drive. Not quite dead yet.
post #26 of 77
Quote:
Originally Posted by FuturePastNow View Post

The $599 Mac mini is still burdened with a combo drive. Not quite dead yet.

Ahh, quite right. I forgot about the poor Mac Mini.
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post #27 of 77
Quote:
Originally Posted by Zandros View Post

Sony, not Alienware. They used Intel integrated graphics and a discrete NVIDIA graphics card on their SZ series. The other difference was the physical switch used to toggle between the discrete and the integrated card. And, if I remember correctly, it induced a second long screen blackout. So, Apples and NVIDIAs solution is doubtlessly more elegant, but it's not a first.

Edit: Reading the new thread, the solution actually isn't very elegant. Major disappointment.

/Adrian

But I did like the way that you assumed that Apple would have the more elegant solution without even checking first ...

Still, the Apple solution may not be the most elegant, but it is the safest. Forcing the user to log out makes sure that they will not lose any information in the switch. I guess it will become seamless in both camps when the technology improves.
post #28 of 77
Quote:
Originally Posted by YipYipYipee View Post

I'm afraid we can't join this particular LED Cinema Display club. This product is precisely for the new generation of notebook products. Not us "old school" folks.

Seriously, if this new display is only for the new notebooks, I think it's brilliant! Indeed, if I were to buy a new MB or MBP it fulfills my need for an uncluttered desktop! Only thing is I Just wish they'd address the glossy/matte issue.

-YipYipYipee

Or for all of their upcoming desktops.

As they said Tuesday, this port will be on all of their computers.
post #29 of 77
Quote:
Originally Posted by Rayz View Post

But I did like the way that you assumed that Apple would have the more elegant solution without even checking first ...

Still, the Apple solution may not be the most elegant, but it is the safest. Forcing the user to log out makes sure that they will not lose any information in the switch. I guess it will become seamless in both camps when the technology improves.

To complete this: I own a Sony SZ with integrated graphics and separate graphics card and in order to switch between one or the other it is necessary to reboot the machine after moving the physical toggle switch. While I initially thought it a brilliant idea it is more of a pain in the neck and consequently I rarely use the integrated (energy savings) mode, unless I know I will be sitting on a plane for a while without power connection. It is also disappointing as to how seemingly insignificant power usage differences are.

A different question: Will there be a revised 17 inch Macbook Pro? Seems like Apple is really streamlining their notebook offerings (pro and consumer line definitions are blurring with the cases now all being aesthetically closely related)?
post #30 of 77
Quote:
Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post

The relatively new DisplayPort standard (now being adopted by a number of PC makers) is backwardly compatible with VGA, DVI, and dual-link DVI displays.

Apple may be using the DisplayPort electrical signals, but the Mini connector itself could still be a proprietary Apple design like the Mini DVI and Micro DVI. The displayport.org web site seems to provide no information on Mini DisplayPort, further increasing the likelihood that Mini DisplayPort is an Apple-only connector, and that adapters will only be available from Apple.

How can they claim to follow industry standards if they still stick on their own proprietary connector?
post #31 of 77
Quote:
Originally Posted by plokoonpma View Post

Since Apple mostly adopt standards early it won't surprise me sometime this fall or early next year HDTV with "Mini Display Port" will start to show up in bigger numbers.

Assuming "Mini" DisplayPort even is a standard.
post #32 of 77
I wonder - and I'm bracing myself to being proved an idiot - whether, if dvi to displayport adaptors are a problem, someone could provide a display port adaptor made for the expresscard slot for those of us with older versions of the macbook pro?
post #33 of 77
Quote:
Originally Posted by Rayz View Post

But I did like the way that you assumed that Apple would have the more elegant solution without even checking first ...

Still, the Apple solution may not be the most elegant, but it is the safest. Forcing the user to log out makes sure that they will not lose any information in the switch. I guess it will become seamless in both camps when the technology improves.

I trusted plokoonpmas word. I'm terribly sorry if that shows a lack of character on my part. It's still arguably more elegant than having a physical switch on the computer, at least from a aestethic standpoint, if not an engineering standpoint.

/Adrian
post #34 of 77
Quote:
Originally Posted by stompy View Post

The mini port is less than half the size of the regular port, still not sure why the size reduction is so critical...


So that people can't use normal third party DisplayPort to HDMI/DVI adapters, and Apple can make money selling their own.

Hoping to see third party Mini DisplayPort to HDMI cables very soon!
post #35 of 77
Quote:
Originally Posted by plokoonpma View Post

Since Apple mostly adopt standards early it won't surprise me sometime this fall or early next year HDTV with "Mini Display Port" will start to show up in bigger numbers.

I totally agree with c3fcc. I am so disappointed that all the new macbooks have no HDMI ports. All my 3 HDTV sets are 1080p. To have computer with a build-in HDMI port just makes connecting to these TVs so much easier. I am pretty certain anyone here says you don't need hdmi to connect to TVs doesn't use the HDTV as computer display very often especially in the case of having a portable device such as a laptop to connect any TVs in the house. Apple may be adopting standard early, but it doesn't make sense that 90% HDTVs on the market have HDMI and none of them have this "mini display port".
post #36 of 77
Will they realy put a mini port on the full size mac pro video card?

Or 2 full sized one + with 2 shiping full to mini and full to dvi cables.

You can't ship a desktop with a new port and they make to pay $30+ to be able to use your old display.
post #37 of 77
The ironic thing here is that the one adaptor that Mini display port doesn't have is to display port.
post #38 of 77
Quote:
Originally Posted by c3fcc View Post

I'm not sure I'm liking the sound of this. So I have to get a DVI adapter, a DVI cable, and a digital audio cable to connect to my HDTV? I thought Macs were supposed to be simple. I guess I could always transfer the files over to my VAIO Z, but apple is really missing the boat here. How many people care about running a 30inch Apple Display? A couple thousand vs. the millions with HDTVs with HDMI.

I wonder if there are more people using laptops in combination with HDMI-based TVs, or in combination with DVI-based computer monitors?

I'm personally in the 2nd group -- as are most of the people I know. Not too many people using a laptop in a work environment would have a TV on their desk. It's only when they take their laptop home where they'd likely use a TV, but that's not the majority of the time.
 
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post #39 of 77
One other thing to consider is that Apple is biased towards the movement to watching TV/movies on a computer rather than on a TV (i.e. entertainment is computer-centric as opposed to TV-centric). So from that standpoint, it's easy to understand why supporting TV technology (HDMI) isn't a high priority with them.

Not to mention they'd prefer people buy an Apple TV box for their TV. That's essentially their answer to the question: why isn't it simple to use a Mac with a TV?
 
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post #40 of 77
Quote:
Originally Posted by Rasmoose View Post

So that people can't use normal third party DisplayPort to HDMI/DVI adapters, and Apple can make money selling their own.

Hoping to see third party Mini DisplayPort to HDMI cables very soon!

Typical Apple

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