RUMOURS ARE STARTING to come in that Apple is considering dumping Nvidia graphics on its entry level notebooks in favour of Intel’s new integrated graphics in the upcoming Sandy Bridge processors. Considering that Apple has to move away from Nvidia’s chipset if it’s planning to bring its entire line of notebooks to the Sandy Bridge platform, then Apple doesn’t have much choice.
Intel has very much improved its integrated graphics if we’re to believe early tests performed by Anandtech some time ago now, although that was on a desktop processor and not a mobile processor. Cnet is reporting that Apple’s various analysts are expecting Apple to move away from Nvidia and Intel’s Core 2 processors when it refreshes its MacBook line-up sometime in the first half of next year, as there isn’t meant to be enough room for a discrete graphics option to join the CPU and chipset.
We’d argue that this isn’t quite true, as there are plenty of 13-inch notebooks in the market that pack discrete graphics and it’s simply just a matter of being able to provide a suitable cooling solution that can keep up with the heat output from both the CPU and the discrete GPU. On the other hand, we would expect Apple to continue with its proprietary graphics switching technology, no matter if the company decides to stick with Nvidia as its discrete mobile GPU partner or if it decides to move to AMD.
Considering that Apple’s iMac line features mobile AMD graphics solutions, it sort of makes sense that the company would move its notebooks to AMD graphics as well, although this is purely speculation at this point in time. Logic doesn’t always prevail in this business, so we’ll just have to wait and see what Apple decides to roll out. One thing is certain though, Apple has never been a huge fan of Intel’s graphics, but considering the early benchmarks it’s possible that we’ll see Intel’s HD Graphics 2000 and 3000 series perform as well as entry level discrete solutions.
We can see fitting a discrete graphics solution being an issue in the next generation MacBook Air, but even the 13-inch MacBook should have plenty of space for a discrete GPU. Cnet seems to think that Apple will rely on Intel graphics in its 13-inch and smaller models, although we don’t see a 13-inch notebook with discrete graphics as much of a challenge for Apple. The analyst that Cnet talked to also brings up AMD’s Fusion chips as a possible way for Apple to move forward, although the AMD rumour seems to be a re-occurring one pretty much every time Apple gets ready to refresh a product line.
As far as getting some real indications as to how good or not Intel’s next generation of graphics really is we won’t have to wait long though, as the NDA for reviews expires on the 5th of January which is less than four weeks from now. As to if Apple is going to go down the Intel graphics route or not, well, that’ll take a few months longer until we’ll find out, although the rumour is that we’ll see a MacBook and MacBook Pro refresh sometime in April.S|A
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