Apple dumping Intel chipsets for NVIDIA's in new MacBooks

Posted:
in Future Apple Hardware edited January 2014
Apple will announce as part of its special media event Tuesday a new family of MacBooks that will abandoned Intel's integrated graphics chipsets for those part of NVIDIA's new mobile platform, AppleInsider can confirm.



People familiar with the matter say, at a minimum, the 13-inch systems will adopt chipsets from NVIDIA's MCP79 platform, as was predicted earlier this week by technology journalist Ryan Shrout.



Word of the switch validates claims first published by AppleInsider earlier this summer, speficially that Apple would drop Intel's stock designs for the first time since the transition to x86 processors in 2006.Â* At the time, Apple was understood to be making the switch to give Macs a more distinct and technically superior design compared to most other notebooks, whose size and performance are dictated by Intel's reference components.



Kept uncharacteristically secret by NVIDIA for most of the year, the MCP79 platform is so far considered a substitute for Intel's Centrino 2 "Montevina" platform, offeringÂ* support for the same 1066MHz front side bus, optional DDR3 memory and PCI Express 2.0 interfaces.



Several advantages may tip the balance in favor of the new platform, however.Â* From a physical design perspective, one of the most important factors is NVIDIA's consolidation of all the controller features into a single chip rather than the two necessary for Intel's current architecture.Â* This reduces the total footprint needed for the mainboard in normally tight notebook enclosures.



It will also sport proprietary NVIDIA features such as DriveCache, which uses flash storage to speed up loading times, and Hybrid SLI, which switches from discrete to integrated graphics to increase battery life in low-demand situations.Â* It's not known whether Apple will make use of any or all of these technologies, however.Â*



The greatest leap, though, will come from NVIDIA's expertise in graphics.



MCP79 is believed to use a new set of GeForce 9300 and 9400 series integrated mainboard graphics processors.Â* Regardless of which variant Apple uses, both are expected to support the latest visual effects and will theoretically blow past the performance of not just the Intel GMA X3100 video on Apple's current MacBooks but also the GMA 4500MHD found on newer notebooks using Intel's reference hardware.



While the performance may not compete with most dedicated mobile graphics hardware, the update potentially addresses a common complaint of sluggish video performance with Apple's 13-inch systems.Â* These entry-level portables are often excluded from the requirements for certain demanding games and are even ruled out entirely from Apple's own Final Cut Studio 2 suite, which depends on faster video acceleration to drive visually intensive apps such as Color and Motion.



Moving to NVIDIA's higher quality integrated graphics would also line up withÂ*Apple's plans for Mac OS X Snow Leopard, the next-generation operating system aimed for release next summer. NVIDIA has already touted support for Apple's proposed OpenCL parallel computing standard, a feature of Snow Leopard, in its recent integrated graphics chipsets.



The use of NVIDIA's higher performance integrated video chipset would give Apple's new line of entry level MacBooks both improved general hardware acceleration via OpenCL, as well as making the systems more viable as basic gaming machines.Â*ExistingÂ*MacBooks can't even run the EA games Steve Jobs promoted at Macworld a year ago.



AppleInsider is working to confirm whether or not Apple's radical change in its portables' underpinnings will extend past the standard 13-inch models.Â* However, it's believed Shrout may have valid insight into the directions for the MacBook Air and MacBook Pro as well.Â* His claim would give the ultraportable model a low-voltage version of MCP79 that detunes the graphics performance and otherwise takes steps to reduce power consumption.



The MacBook Pro may actually see a relatively modest gain compared to the smaller systems; as it already uses much faster dedicated graphics and is rumored to receive the GeForce 9600M graphics chip.



Apple is expected to make the full extent of NVIDIA's role clear at its notebook event next week.



Separately, Digg founder Kevin Rose is claiming in a yet-to-be-shown live Diggnation episode that the new 13-inch MacBooks will include Blu-ray at some level. Rose previously claimed that Blu-ray support was coming via Mac OS X 10.5.6. Apple is a member of the Blu-ray Disc Association but has yet to officially support the optical drive format.



Again, additional expectations for the new notebooks can be found in a series of reports spanning back to April, when AppleInsider first reported on Apple's plans to makeover its MacBook and MacBook Pro families with new aluminum enclosures that take other designs cues from the MacBook Air and the most recent black & aluminum iMacs.



MacBook, MacBook Pro to get new aluminum designs (April)



Next-gen MacBook Pro casing design revealed, new battery cover (July)



New notebooks will include something other than Intel's Montevina chipset (July)



New MacBooks to follow iPods by several weeks; iMac bumps by mid-November (August)



New MacBooks tracking for mid-October timeframe (September)



First test batches of new MacBooks ship out of China (September)



Next-gen MacBook, MacBook Pro spotted in matching outfits (September)



New photo may reveal more of Apple's next-gen MacBook Pro (October)



Sources: latest MacBook Pro photo is the real deal (October)
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 99
    Fantastic news !!!!
  • Reply 2 of 99
  • Reply 3 of 99
    elixirelixir Posts: 782member
    They still use Intel processors though right?
  • Reply 4 of 99
    matt_smatt_s Posts: 300member
    Here's hoping this chipset doesn't end up with the same issues as NVIDIA has in the MacBook Pro models.
  • Reply 5 of 99
    Sorry, I guess Im new to this. If they are moving to a NVIDIA chipset, is the chipset the processor? I didnt know NVIDIA made processors.
  • Reply 6 of 99
    surfratsurfrat Posts: 341member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by newtomac08 View Post


    Sorry, I guess Im new to this. If they are moving to a NVIDIA chipset, is the chipset the processor? I didnt know NVIDIA made processors.



    Up until this point MacBooks have used an integrated Intel graphics chipset. The move this article is talking about represents graphics chipsets only... not the processor.
  • Reply 7 of 99
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Elixir View Post


    They still use Intel processors though right?



    Does it say otherwise anywhere?



    In other words, yes.
  • Reply 8 of 99
    mr. hmr. h Posts: 4,841member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by newtomac08 View Post


    is the chipset the processor?



    No, that's why it's called a "chipset" not a processor. Look at that word: "chipset". It's what it says on the tin: a set of chips.



    The motherboard chipset is the set of chips required in addition to the main processor in order to make the computer work. The main components of a modern computer motherboard are:
    • Processor

    • Northbridge

    • Southbridge

    • Graphics processor

    • Wireless networking

    Most people know what the processor is so I won't go into that. The northbridge connects to the processor, RAM, and the southbridge, and to a dedicated graphics processor if there is one. If a system has "integrated graphics", the graphics processor core is integrated into the northbride chip. The southbridge chip connects to peripherals such as USB, firewire and audio ports. Wireless networking is pretty self-explanatory too.



    Now, nVidia have produced a "chipset" where the northbridge and southbridge are actually one, and so if you go with integrated graphics all you need is a processor and wireless networking and you're good to go.



    The processor is still going to be an Intel Core 2 Duo Penryn of some form or other.



    Quote:
    Originally Posted by SurfRat View Post


    The move this article is talking about represents graphics chipsets only.



    No it doesn't. It's talking about the whole motherboard chipset, including integrated graphics if relevant. You're right it's got nothing to do with the processor.
  • Reply 9 of 99
    rolorolo Posts: 686member
    Sounds good! I wonder if Apple will get a cost break on logic boards by switching to nVidia. Apple warned back in July about tighter margins due to a product transition and this is probably what Oppy was talking about. Using one controller chip instead of two might reduce heat and increase battery life.



    Here's more about the hybrid SLI thing:



    Nvidia Releases "Hybrid" Graphics Technology for Desktops & Laptops



  • Reply 10 of 99
    wobegonwobegon Posts: 764member
    pretty pictar of a standard motherboard chipset:



    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chipset



    Notice the CPU at the top (which will continue to be supplied by Intel).



    NVIDIA's chipset differs from this diagram because, as Mr. H noted, the north and south bridge have been combined, reducing the chipset's overall size. There are other differences too, of course, but that's the major one.
  • Reply 11 of 99
    Wow, is it really almost Tuesday?





    I'm certainly excited.
  • Reply 12 of 99
    I wonder if the Pro, since it has a discrete GPU, will still use an Intel chipset (PM45)? I bet it will. Also:



    Quote:

    It will also sport proprietary NVIDIA features such as DriveCache, which uses flash storage to speed up loading times, and Hybrid SLI, which switches from discrete to integrated graphics to increase battery life in low-demand situations.* It's not known whether Apple will make use of any or all of these technologies, however.*



    I doubt Apple is going to use any of those things. The Drivecache/Turbo Memory/Readyboost/Hybrid Hard Drive were a gimmick that no one uses, and Hybrid SLI requires a discrete GPU in addition to the IGP anyway.
  • Reply 13 of 99
    solipsismsolipsism Posts: 25,726member
    If they do move to NVIDIA I will be waiting until the next revision or until I'm thoroughly convinced that there are no major technical issues before buying a new Mac. This isn't going to really upset my nephew. \
  • Reply 14 of 99
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Mr. H View Post


    No, that's why it's called a "chipset" not a processor. Look at that word: "chipset". It's what it says on the tin: a set of chips.



    The motherboard chipset is the set of chips required in addition to the main processor in order to make the computer work. The main components of a modern computer motherboard are:
    • Processor

    • Northbridge

    • Southbridge

    • Graphics processor

    • networking

    Most people know what the processor is so I won't go into that. The northbridge connects to the processor, RAM, and the southbridge, and to a dedicated graphics processor if there is one. If a system has "integrated graphics", the graphics processor core is integrated into the northbride chip. The southbridge chip connects to peripherals such as USB, firewire and audio ports. Wireless networking is pretty self-explanatory too.



    Now, nVidia have produced a "chipset" where the northbridge and southbridge are actually one, and so if you go with integrated graphics all you need is a processor and wireless networking and you're good to go.



    The processor is still going to be an Intel Core 2 Duo Penryn of some form or other.







    No it doesn't. It's talking about the whole motherboard chipset, including integrated graphics if relevant. You're right it's got nothing to do with the processor.



    I fixed it for you. It's a basic Networking structure, not a specific wired or wireless structure. Those are add-ons targeting a desktop or laptop platform, specifically.
  • Reply 15 of 99
    mr. hmr. h Posts: 4,841member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by mdriftmeyer View Post


    I fixed it for you. It's a basic Networking structure, not a specific wired or wireless structure. Those are add-ons targeting a desktop or laptop platform, specifically.



    The reason I tacked on wireless networking there is because it's part of Intel's Centrino chipset (that Apple doesn't use because it gets wireless chips elsewhere).
  • Reply 16 of 99
    Go read NotebookCheck.com review about the new possible GPU in the MB and MBP and you will learn something.
  • Reply 17 of 99
    Those nVidia chips mentioned will still not allow MacBook owners to play recent and demanding games. Even the 8600GT in the MBP cannot play the new stuff without toning down the resolution and details.



    I hope that the nVidia chips actually consume about the same amount of energy because if they are noticeably hotter and more power hungry, this is bad news, unless Apple gives the MacBook a larger battery.
  • Reply 18 of 99
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by applebook View Post


    Even the 8600GT in the MBP cannot play the new stuff without toning down the resolution and details.



    I'm not a gamer, but why would you need more power than that? Why wouldn't you just get a desktop? If there are more powerful gpu's out there, there is probably a good reason Apple doesn't include one: too much heat would require a larger heatsink and Apple doesn't want to make a thicker laptop, it is not compatible with the current hardware on the MBP, it is too hard/not possible to write drivers for it, etc. At any rate, you can be certain it will not be finding its way into a MacBook!
  • Reply 19 of 99
    solipsismsolipsism Posts: 25,726member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by applebook View Post


    I hope that the nVidia chips actually consume about the same amount of energy because if they are noticeably hotter and more power hungry, this is bad news, unless Apple gives the MacBook a larger battery.



    If they are hotter then they would need larger heat sinks, fans venting, etc. to dissipate heat, which may mean a thicker case to allow for proper air flow, if a more clever option isn't used.



    It's for this reason that I think the NVIDIA option is still very unlikely over Montevina.
  • Reply 20 of 99
    Despite the recent problems, NVIDIA is still the king of graphics. NVIDIA have compensated OEM's like apple for the recent issues despite not actually being required to.



    Why does a regular user care about this change to NVIDIA? Well, if it means it's going to be cheaper(as rumors have suggested) and faster (because Intel graphics suck) ... then it has to be a good thing in my opinion



    NVIDIA hopefully have gotten it right, and we should be able to look forward to cooler, faster and cheaper notebooks.



    On the higher end, the developments from NVIDIA and APPLE with CUDA and TESLA have showed 10 - 20x performance gains for certain tasks, and hopefully will allow more advanced (and visually pleasing) functionality, without breaking a sweat ....



    Two thumbs up to APPLE and NVIDIA as far as I am concerned, can't wait to get my hands on one of these new models.
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