• New MacBooks to use NVIDIA Optimus Dual Graphics?

    Apple is testing NVIDIA's Optimus switchable graphics to improve performance, according to a leak reported by AppleInsider. Currently, switching from the energy-efficient Intel integrated graphics to the dedicated card requires users to log out and log back in. The Optimus technology would allow this switchover to happen in the background. The next refresh to the MacBook Pro line is anticipated to use new NVIDIA chipsets that enable this functionality, according to AppleInsider's sources.

    Since the changeover from integrated Intel graphics to NVIDIA's CPU-supporting chipset in 2008, MacBook Pro users have had to make a selection in the Energy Saver pane in System Preferences to switch between the NVIDIA GeForce 9400M integrated graphics processor - which offers longer battery life - to the high-performance GeForce 9600M GT discrete graphics processor. As Intel began rolling out chips based on its Nehalem architecture, which includes integrated graphics processors, it sued NVIDIA to prevent it from developing compatible chipsets. As a result, NVIDIA halted all development until the case is resolved. The US Federal Trade Commission took Intel to court in December for allegedly using its dominant position in the market to stifle competition. AppleInsider's source asserts that this uncertainty is the cause of the lack of major updates to the MacBook Pro line since the unibody models with NVIDIA graphics appeared in October 2008.

    "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," according to NVIDIA's white paper. Any application that is graphics-intensive and taxes the integrated graphics will trigger the high-performance discrete processor. If the leak holds water, it's likely that new MacBook Pros will use the GeForce 300M series, which is the follow-on to the GeForce 9600M GT chipset in current MacBook Pros and supports Optimus technology. The GTS 360M has 96 cores with a 128-bit bus width and 2GHz memory clock, and is rated at 413 gigaflops. The midrange GT 335M has 72 cores and the 330M and 325M have 48 cores, while the low-end 64-bit GT 310M and 305M both have 16 cores.

    Neither Apple nor NVIDIA would comment on the reports.
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