Could NVIDIA chipsets replace those from Intel in next-gen Macs?

Posted:
in Future Apple Hardware edited January 2014
One high-tech journalist is making a compelling argument for why chipsets from graphics chip designer NVIDIA stand the most likely chance to replace those from Intel in Apple's next-generation Macintosh computers.



In a report earlier this week, AppleInsider noted that Apple appears to be forgoing Intel's Montevina chipset -- not its Core 2 Duo processors -- for an unknown alternative beginning with an upcoming generation of Macs.



Weighing that report alongside comments by Apple chief financial officer Peter Oppenheimer about an upcoming "product transition," as well as strategic plans on the part of NVIDIA, PC Perspective's Ryan Shrout concludes that there's "no doubt that come fall you will find updated MacBooks and MacBook Pros with NVIDIA chipsets and GPUs inside."



Shrout's analysis starts by evaluating Apple's options should it decide not to use Intel's supporting chipsets going forward. Currently, the company's 13-inch MacBooks obtain their graphics capabilities via the Intel GMA X3100 graphics processor built into Intel's Santa Rosa chipset. And while there's nothing stopping Apple from developing its own proprietary integrated graphics solution, assuming that task on its own would be daunting.



"This would take much longer, and require many more resources than I think Apple has in its engineering team," he writes. "Designing their own core logic and IGP (integrated graphics processor) chipset just isnÂ?t in the equation at this point."



Apple's remaining option is to therefore reach out to a third party chipset manufacturer, for which there are only two suitors: ATI (which is now part of AMD) and NVIDIA. While AMD may seem like an ideal partner, Shrout argues that the company lacks a "top-shelf chipset" and has been spending the majority of its time on its Puma platform, which is built for use solely with its own breed of Turion mobile processors.



On the other hand, NVIDIA has been developing its own MCP79 family of chipsets that will work with Intel's latest mobile processors and compete directly with Montevina. The company has also been quite vocal on what it thinks of Intel's integrated graphics solutions. During an analyst conference earlier this year, chief executive Jen-Hsun Huang called out Intel on performance and promised that NVIDIA would "open a can of whoop ass" later this year.



Shrout believes the MCP79 is exactly where Apple may be headed. Each variant of the chipset incorporates a GeForce graphics core supporting Shader Model 4.0 visual effects, NVIDIA's VP3 video processor for accelerating movie playback, and support for power management techniques that include Hybrid Power, Hybrid SLI and Hybrid Performance. The MCP79 also sports an HDMI video output interface and supports features very similar to Intel's own Centrino 2 platform, such as support for a 1066 MHz front side bus, DDR2 or DDR3 memory, DriveCache (similar to Intel's Turbo Memory flash memory cache) and up to 20 PCI Express 2.0 lanes.



And unlike Intel's chipsets, which contain separate northbridge and southbridge chips, the MCP79 is actually just a single compact chip. It's also compatible with a new line of GeForce mobile GPUs introduced by NVIDIA this week.



Before NVIDIA suddenly went silent on its mobile plans earlier this year, the company said it was developing at least six distinct members of the MCP79, including a version with integrated graphics that could possibly be powerful enough for a MacBook Pro without the need for a discrete GPU, as well as an ultra-low voltage version that would be a sure candidate for the MacBook Air.



In his report, Shrout also made reference to NVIDIA's sudden secrecy.



"They have been surprisingly silent for quite some time; there have been no planned media summits or technology days on these well known mobility products," he wrote. Â*"And that fits in with the traditional Apple mentality of keeping their partners silent as long as possible. Â*If an OEM asks you to pull back on promoting a product you have had in development for this long, that OEM had better be as big a name as Apple."



A move towards NVIDIA chipsets would also address comparatively weak 3D gaming support for Apple's MacBook and iMac lines while playing into the company's longer term software strategy. One of the more publicized features of Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard is support for the proposed OpenCL standard, which will allow next-generation Macs to pass off to the new wave of graphics chips some of the calculations once reserved only for the primary CPU.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 57
    aplnubaplnub Posts: 2,597member
    Why has Intel not purchased NVIDIA? If this is true, I bet Intel is loving Steve about now.
  • Reply 2 of 57
    foo2foo2 Posts: 1,077member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by aplnub View Post


    Why has Intel not purchased NVIDIA? If this is true, I bet Intel is loving Steve about now.



    Wasn't there some speculation on intel.com that Jobs' cancer had returned? Maybe that was on msn.com where I saw it. Or was it on a verizonwireless.com blog? I'm sorry, I just don't remember--and my name isn't Scott Moritz!



    Yay, OpenCL!!!
  • Reply 3 of 57
    shanmugamshanmugam Posts: 1,200member
    so AMD is dead and gone? ....



    kinda sad, hope apple use AMD some ways, if they go with nVidia, we may not even see ATI hmmm
  • Reply 4 of 57
    aapleaaple Posts: 78member
    Makes sense to me...also lessens Apple's reliance on Intel for processor AND chipset, and allows them a little more secrecy again as to when they release updated hardware (only have to follow Intel's processor refreshes, not their chipset refreshes too)...not that these would be the primary reasons for them doing it.



    @aplnub, I'm assuming that's sarcasm?
  • Reply 5 of 57
    solipsismsolipsism Posts: 25,726member
    Why this rings as true...
    ? NVIDIA has always been very boisterous about their products and hasn't said a word in a while (as stated in the article)

    ? Intel is still having issues with their Montevina chipset this close to their new launch date.
  • Reply 6 of 57
    eaieai Posts: 417member
    It sounds plausible, except I can't see why this would cause significant profit issues for Apple...
  • Reply 7 of 57
    solipsismsolipsism Posts: 25,726member
    I assume that we'll finally see new ACDs with integrated IR and iSights via the accompanies USB. As well as the move of DisplayPort in both the ACDs and new Macs.





    Quote:
    Originally Posted by eAi View Post


    It sounds plausible, except I can't see why this would cause significant profit issues for Apple...



    Who said that?
  • Reply 8 of 57
    19841984 Posts: 955member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by solipsism View Post




    Who said that?



    Peter Oppenheimer, Apple's CFO
  • Reply 9 of 57
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by aplnub View Post


    Why has Intel not purchased NVIDIA? If this is true, I bet Intel is loving Steve about now.



    I don't think Intel can afford Nvidia.



    Nvidia's integrated graphics are pretty good, and they do offer a single-chip solution (no separate southbridge). But those are the only positives from this.



    Two issues that I have:



    1) Nvidia's northbridge chips run very hot. Hot enough to cause stability issues on desktop mobos that normally have generous cooling. Gamers tolerate them because they're the only way to get SLI, but nobody else in their right mind would choose NV over Intel for a chipset. *I should add that this applies to current desktop computers, not mobile products. But the difference is less than you'd think.



    2) Nvidia does not have a QPI license and Intel says that it will not sell them one. This means that there will never be an Nvidia chipset for Nehalem processors. Of course, companies do change their minds (Intel wants the quid-pro-quo of an SLI license, which NV won't give them).
  • Reply 10 of 57
    nagrommenagromme Posts: 2,834member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by FuturePastNow View Post


    1) Nvidia's northbridge chips run very hot. Hot enough to cause stability issues on desktop mobos that normally have generous cooling.



    Are you referring to future mobile products (the ones Apple wound use) or past desktop products? The future ones Apple would use, they probably have more info on than we do.
  • Reply 11 of 57
    solipsismsolipsism Posts: 25,726member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by 1984 View Post


    Peter Oppenheimer, Apple's CFO



    The text I read stated, "Peter Oppenheimer, Apple's CFO, said on a conference call that the company's profit margins will be pressured in part by a "future product transition" that he said he was not at liberty to discuss at the present time."



    I don't read that as "significant profit issues."
  • Reply 12 of 57
    Apple should buy NVidia.



    Think about the potential.



    NVidia's graphic processors are supercomputers.



    It would put Apple far ahead of their competitors to have nVidia in their fold making custom processors for the Mac.



    They can still make GPUs for PCs - just as Filemaker makes software for Windows.



    But... nVidia is a hardware company. And Apple is a hardware company. It would be a marriage made in heaven.



    nVidia is also worth less than 7 billion dollars.



    Apple can easily buy a majority of nVidia's stock with it's $20+ billion in cash in the bank.
  • Reply 13 of 57
    wheelhotwheelhot Posts: 465member
    How come no one see this as a good thing? If Apple were to use Nvidia Chipset, then it could mean that in the future the new MacBook will have a better GPU.
  • Reply 14 of 57
    I don't know about the new nVidia products, but I hope they are power efficient and run cool, since older nVidia chipsets had the reputation of not being very power efficient. Plus, I hope they support all the different throttling modes in Penryn.



    Seems like a decent option for a MacBook due to the IGP, but not really for the MBP or iMac since they use discrete GPUs anyways.
  • Reply 15 of 57
    solipsismsolipsism Posts: 25,726member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by wheelhot View Post


    How come no one see this as a good thing? If Apple were to use Nvidia Chipset, then it could mean that in the future the new MacBook will have a better GPU.



    I do. Anything that increases my functionality is alright by me and if Nvidia's earlier claims are half as good as they stated then we should be in for a treat, if Apple uses them.
  • Reply 16 of 57
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by nagromme View Post


    Are you referring to future mobile products (the ones Apple wound use) or past desktop products? The future ones Apple would use, they probably have more info on than we do.



    The current desktop products. Yes, you're right, Apple would use the future mobile version. I'm not hopeful about it but I could be wrong.
  • Reply 17 of 57
    hookhook Posts: 42member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by wheelhot View Post


    How come no one see this as a good thing? If Apple were to use Nvidia Chipset, then it could mean that in the future the new MacBook will have a better GPU.



    I agree. This sounds like a potential big step forward for the mb &/or mb pro. Not sure how exclusive Nvidia's new chips will be to Apple.



    From what I remember (?) Macs have a past history of being behind the curve when it came to GPUs. Things have improved in recent years, but the thought of being first to market with more advanced technology in this area, used to be an extreme long shot (even if its not necesarily the GPU we're talking about).
  • Reply 18 of 57
    fuyutsukifuyutsuki Posts: 293member
    Sounds like good news to me, and very plausible.



    Hopefully Apple can get a bit of power conscious mojo into heat packing nVidia.

    And hopefully Intel can take this on the chin, and learn to share QPI for some SLI loving in return!
  • Reply 19 of 57
    targontargon Posts: 103member
    Im inclined to call everything reported here and a few days ago fanciful BS. Nothing more than sensationalist drivel to help fill in the the void when there is nothing else going on to report on.



    1) Intel's Nehalem is a SOC design, it is due early 09. I doubt Apple will not use Nehalem nor likely Apple will do a major overhaul before Nehalem.



    2) Nvidia's chipset in question wont be ready till later this year, not in 4 weeks time when new MB/MBP's are due.



    3) Nvidia have a history of unreliable, non-functional and buggy NForce chipsets, Apple can't risk getting involved with such problems which may exist.



    4) Nvidia and Intel do not have a good relationship, Intel denying Nvidia some key licensing due to their competitiveness in some markets.



    5) Apple would seriously p!ss Intel off if they did a 180 and began using 3rd party solutions so close to their own technology soon to be released. Additionally Intel are far more open when it comes to development source and documentation. Nvidia OTOH has a repressive closed source development policy.
  • Reply 20 of 57
    solipsismsolipsism Posts: 25,726member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Targon View Post


    Im inclined to call everything reported here and a few days ago fanciful BS. Nothing more than sensationalist drivel to help fill in the the void when there is nothing else going on to report on.



    1) Intel's Nehalem is a SOC design, it is due early 09. I doubt Apple will not use Nehalem nor likely Apple will do a major overhaul before Nehalem.



    2) Nvidia's chipset in question wont be ready till later this year, not in 4 weeks time when new MB/MBP's are due.



    3) Nvidia have a history of unreliable, non-functional and buggy NForce chipsets, Apple can't risk getting involved with such problems which may exist.



    4) Nvidia and Intel do not have a good relationship, Intel denying Nvidia some key licensing due to their competitiveness in some markets.



    5) Apple would seriously p!ss Intel off if they did a 180 and began using 3rd party solutions so close to their own technology soon to be released. Additionally Intel are far more open when it comes to development source and documentation. Nvidia OTOH has a repressive closed source development policy.



    You make some very good arguments, but note that Nehalem for mobile platform isn't due until late 2009.
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