Blog Post

Why Apple's New Laptops Get Their Own GPUs

Quick, think about what you do on your MacBook. In addition to web surfing and email, I bet a large number of you use it to organize photos, watch movies or online video, and maybe transfer files to your iPod. And those last three use cases are why Apple’s new line of MacBooks, unveiled today, include Nvidia’s graphics processors.

The more visual our computing and web surfing activities become, the more often we use the GPU rather than the CPU. This move to the GPU started a few years back, when software firms from Microsoft to Adobe starting using it to process imagery in programs ranging from Acrobat to PowerPoint. Last month, Adobe said that its Creative Suite software would run from the GPU rather than the CPU; web applications such as Google Earth, meanwhile, already tap into the GPU to render images. For Nvidia this means its chips are moving out of the creative, scientific and gaming niches and into everyday computing.

It’s also a nice jab at its rival Intel, whose integrated graphics chips are what Nvidia is replacing. However, Intel plans to launch its own standalone graphics processor in 2009, which means Nvidia’s success could be short-lived. Especially if computer makers continue to see problems related to Nvidia’s chips in their desktops and laptops.

For more on Apple’s new laptops, check out these posts on The Apple Bog:

And from jkOnTheRun:

The New Macs Have Landed

6 Responses to “Why Apple's New Laptops Get Their Own GPUs”

  1. the other problem is that there is zero evidence that any MacOS software is going to take advantage of the GPU. There is too much overhead being drawn down by the Finder and the fancy screen effects, but I don’t see the GPU actually changing anybody’s computing experience for 2-3 years, by which time those computers will be obsolete and EOL.

    I suspect Apple went with Nvidia in under to get cross-over gamers to buy their middle-tier notebook.

    My 8 year old Mac cube as a old ATI 128 GPU and can still handle Mac OS 10.4 Finder’s and graphics. Amazing.

  2. This post is confused.

    1) The Air and the MacBook had the GPU integrated into the chipset before, and the new models still have a GPU integrated into the chipset. The difference now is that the chipset (& GPU) come from NVidia, rather than Intel. I’m assuming that its better than anything Intel offers.

    2) The MacBook Pros actually have integrated GPUs now, but they also have a higher performance (but more power hungry) discrete GPU. The user can choose which to use. The current arrangement seems a little clunky. I’m curious if Snow Leopard will make it better, perhaps even allowing both GPUs to be harnessed for some tasks. I guess we’ll have to wait and see.

    As for what the GPU is good for, besides the obvious like 3D graphics, I don’t understand the point about transferring files to the iPod. I assume you meant transcoding, or converting files for the iPod, especially given the post you linked to.

  3. Stacey Higginbotham

    Sebastian, I mean these MacBooks get their own separate GPUs rather than an integrated graphics chip. The link on transferring movies or music to an iPod sends you to a story about Elemental Technologies which is using Nvidia’s GPU to do rapid transcoding. Elemental uses the GPU’s parallel processing to speed up the transferring of files to an iPod. It’s pretty awesome stuff, so check it out.

  4. Sebastian

    “Why Apple’s New Laptops Get Their Own GPUs”

    seriously what do you mean with their own gpu´s? These GPUs are not exclusive to apple. That BT article was already a disaster, and this one is not much better. The GPU will assist with th rippiung of music files from a CD, how ever in no way will it boost transfering files to an ipod. All this stuff is nothing new, can be done with AMD/ati GPUs too. If anything consumers dont want to touch nVidia mobile chips after the latest fiasco.