Whither Nvidia? Apple to use Intel “Sandy Bridge” in future MacBooks

According to CNET’s Brooke Crothers, writing on nanotech: the circuits blog, Apple is poised to incorporate Intel’s new Sandy Bridge line of processors in its future line of MacBooks. The processors include a graphics processor right on the chip, rather than elsewhere on the motherboard, essentially including a GPU for free. Sources for CNET indicate that the move will eliminate a separate GPU altogether, at least for the lower end MacBooks.

The move is expected to affect the 13-inch MacBooks, where a GPU on the main processor would certainly be a bonus for Apple; not having a dedicated GPU would mean a significant space savings in an already small form factor. Furthermore, sources allege that higher end MacBook Pro models will use graphics processors from AMD, cutting out NVIDIA completely.

This move away from NVIDIA may not be driven by design and space issues alone. At present, Intel and NVIDIA are in a legal battle over future use of Intel’s data bus technology. Should Intel win, NVIDIA would be unable to sell its chipsets for use with the current i-series and upcoming Sandy Bridge Intel CPUs. Apple may be attempting to sidestep this issue by going with AMD and Intel integrated graphics.

The other question is performance. Anandtech’s testing showed the Sandy Bridge graphics performance to be better than any current integrated graphics solutions, and to be nearly on par with entry level discrete graphics cards. Certainly that is all that would be available for laptop graphics anyway, so the move to a high performance on chip graphics processor shouldn’t cause much of a performance hit, if any.

Keep in mind that Apple switches back and forth between NVIDIA and AMD (formerly ATI) for its graphics cards all the time, so this news doesn’t mean NVIDIA is completely out of the picture. Apple has a delicate balancing act to perform when deciding what goes into a MacBook, weighing issues of size, form factor, energy usage, and performance. For now at least, Sandy Bridge integrated graphics looks like a compelling option.

Article Via CNET

Eugene Huo is a Juno Award winning recording engineer, video editor, photographer, and all around Mac geek. His first Mac experience was with the Macintosh Plus. You never forget your first. You can follow him on twitter @gamerparent, and check… Full Bio