Upcoming MacBooks could sport Nvidia Optimus tech

Apple may be taking its sweet time to jump on the Arrandale bandwagon, but according to a story by AppleInsider, the company might be one of the first to adopt Nvidia's Optimus graphics switching technology.

"People familiar with the matter" claim several MacBook Pro laptops capable of automatically switching between integrated and discrete graphics are kicking around Apple's labs, AppleInsider writes. The site adds that Nvidia's Optimus technology, which officially debuted earlier this month, is "strikingly similar to the description of the technology said to be making its way into next-generation MacBook Pros."

Current MacBook Pros can switch between their integrated and discrete GPUs, too, but the process is hardly automatic, involving a visit to the Energy Saver control panel followed by a logout. The Optimus scheme, by contrast, activates the discrete GPU seamlessly when the user needs to run a demanding application or play a video.

Powering next-gen MacBook Pros with Optimus-enabled Nvidia graphics would make plenty of sense. Intel has effectively booted Nvidia out of the chipset game for Nehalem-based processors, leaving Apple without a replacement for the very capable GeForce 9400M chipset that powers current Mac notebooks. At the same time, the new generation of IGPs inside Intel's latest mobile processors hasn't proved very impressive.

Throwing in discrete GPUs therefore seems necessary—especially if Apple wants developers to put Mac OS X Snow Leopard's OpenCL support to good use—and Nvidia may well have the most compelling solution. AMD is admittedly shipping state-of-the-art Mobility Radeon HD 5000-series mobile GPUs right now, but it lacks an answer to Optimus, which likely makes for poorer battery life. (Thanks to PC Perspective for the tip.)

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