Rumor: Apple could shun Arrandale's integrated graphics

— 3:15 PM on December 7, 2009

Could Apple remain a heavy consumer of Nvidia chips despite the licensing woes that forced Nvidia to shutter its chipset business? The folks at Bright Side of News seem to think so. The site received word from "sources close to the heart of the matter" that Apple "rejected" the integrated GPU in Intel's 32-nm Arrandale mobile processors.  The Mac maker may use discrete Nvidia graphics chips, instead.

Just like Clarkdale on the desktop, Arrandale includes two dies on the processor package: one with the two 32-nm processor cores and another, 45-nm die featuring an integrated graphics processor and a memory controller. Intel has vowed to keep improving its integrated graphics hardware, but its latest IGPs don't compare favorably to the competition. Arradale's IGP may simply not be up to Apple's standards.

Apple did use Intel integrated graphics in its original MacBooks, but that was before the firm spearheaded the OpenCL standard for vendor-agnostic GPU computing. Today, Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard has built-in OpenCL support, and to our knowledge, all Macs have at least Nvidia GeForce 9400M-class integrated graphics.

As we've seen with Asus' UL80Vt, low-end Nvidia discrete graphics deliver decent performance and don't have to hamper battery life, since laptops can switch over to the Intel IGP to save power. BSN goes so far as to say Apple ordered Arrandale processors without embedded graphics chips, but that seems somewhat unlikely—even if Apple didn't mind sacrificing mobility, the location of the memory controller would make an IGP-free Arrandale a tricky proposition. (Thanks to TR reader Scott for the heads up.)

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