Apple plans dual graphics enhancements on future MacBook Pros

Posted:
in Future Apple Hardware edited January 2014
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."
«13456

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 109
    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?
  • Reply 2 of 109
    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!
  • Reply 3 of 109
    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.
  • Reply 4 of 109
    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...
  • Reply 5 of 109
    After Nvidia's zero concern with Apple after the MacBook issue, I say dump them and go for ATI
  • Reply 6 of 109
    elijahgelijahg Posts: 2,330member
    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.
  • Reply 7 of 109
    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!
  • Reply 8 of 109
    backtomacbacktomac Posts: 4,579member
    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.
  • Reply 9 of 109
    elijahgelijahg Posts: 2,330member
    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.
  • Reply 10 of 109
    patspats Posts: 112member
    AnandTech has a nice detailed article on NVIDIA Optimus
  • Reply 11 of 109
    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.
  • Reply 12 of 109
    Bring it on!!!
  • Reply 13 of 109
    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.
  • Reply 14 of 109
    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.
  • Reply 15 of 109
    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?
  • Reply 16 of 109
    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.
  • Reply 17 of 109
    str1f3str1f3 Posts: 573member
    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.
  • Reply 18 of 109
    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.
  • Reply 19 of 109
    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.
  • Reply 20 of 109
    mr. kmr. k Posts: 114member
    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.
Sign In or Register to comment.