Poor NVIDIA — it looks like your honeymoon with Apple is over. There hasn’t been an official announcement from Cupertino yet, but a glance at the customization options for high-end iMacs (the ones that use discrete graphics) and Mac Pros reveals that ATI Radeon HD 4000-series cards are already available as new configurable alternatives to NVIDIA products.
ATI was shown the door at Apple when the computer maker introduced notebooks and desktops that feature integrated NVIDIA GeForce 9400M graphics cards. Many suspect that things turned rocky between Apple and NVIDIA, thanks to the faulty GeForce 8600M GT cards that resulted in the Mac maker offering customers an unprecedented warranty extension for problems related to that component.
We didn’t see the effects right away, because Apple’s supply chain is likely structured in such a way that its product line was probably in place long before any of the hardware problems began to surface. Adding the Radeon HD 4850 to the iMac line and HD 4870 to the Mac Pro as configurable options may not seem like much in the way of retaliation, but it was probably the first option available to Apple short of overhauling its product line.
Both new ATI options are easy single component swap-outs. If Apple intends to get rid of the integrated GeForce 9400M cards, it will have to wait until the computers themselves receive a major update.
ATI is touting the ability of the new cards to fully utilize and benefit from Apple’s implementation of Open CL Version 1.0 in Snow Leopard, which developers can incorporate into their software to allow a sharing of processor load between CPU and GPU. The HD 4850 is a $50 upgrade, available on the 2.93GHz and 3.06GHz 24-inch iMac models, and the HD 4870 is a $200 upgrade for the Mac Pro.