Apple may switch back to Nvidia GPUs

Maybe you haven’t noticed, but right now, all of Apple’s Mac computers ship with either Intel integrated graphics or AMD discrete GPUs by default. According to SemiAccurate, that’s about to change. The site quotes unnamed sources as saying Nvidia "has won the next round of Macs," and that GeForces could start showing up in next year’s models featuring Intel Ivy Bridge CPUs.

SemiAccurate says this change of heart has to do with Apple’s purported decision to cancel a MacBook Air model featuring AMD’s A-series APU. Reportedly, that system was "really close to production" this spring, but Apple balked because of the supply problems plaguing AMD’s 32-nm products. The current, Intel-powered MacBook Air was Apple’s "plan B," SemiAccurate claims.

The link between those two rumors might seem tenuous, but Apple does have a reputation for being tough with suppliers. Nvidia GPUs were unceremoniously phased out from the Mac family after Nvidia’s solder bump problems, which caused chip failures in many pre-built machines, came to light.

In any case, Apple adopting GeForces again would be great news for Nvidia—especially considering Mac sales are still growing much faster than PC sales. Nvidia has stopped developing integrated graphics chipsets, though, so a chunk of Apple’s Mac lineup may feature Intel IGPs regardless.

Comments closed
    • End User
    • 8 years ago

    Anything but Intel GPUs!

    • WaltC
    • 8 years ago

    [quote<]...—especially considering Mac sales are still growing much faster than PC sales.[/quote<] I can't help it--statements like these, for their sheer lack of veracity, have always rubbed me the wrong way...while technically your statement is true, it is nonetheless highly deceptive. Considering that a Mac is a PC today, eh? In terms of hardware, in what sense is today's Intel x86-powered Mac *not* a PC? Apple's *marketing* pretends to a difference, but even the OS X difference is entirely artificial as there is no fundamental reason (hardware reason) why OS X wouldn't run as well on a Dell as on today's Apple-branded PCs nostalgically called "Macs"...;) Except--that Apple doesn't want OS X to run on anyone's PC other than its own, so that it can keep on collecting the very real "Mac tax". Indeed, why would anyone want to pay $1200 for a copy of OS X because their Apple-branded "Mac Pro" PC costs $1200 more than the equivalent, just non Apple-branded, PC? (I ask that rhetorically, because there are some unfortunate folks who have done exactly that...;] Now, if you are someone who really and truly actually believes OS X is worth $1200 a copy, well I find it hard to argue with such devotion...:)) Secondly, your statement here is one based on percentages as opposed to aggregate numbers. In percentages, viewing Apple as a single company, it is true; as an aggregate number comparing Apple's PC sales to everyone else's, it's completely false. Apple-branded PC's still commandeer [url=http://www.theage.com.au/digital-life/computers/apples-worldwide-share-of-pc-market-reaches-15year-high-20111121-1npqf.html<]~5% of the total number of PCs sold in the world[/url<]. Outpacing everyone else? Hardly. To demonstrate the percentage games: let's say that company x, we'll call Apple, sells 50 machines this quarter, contrasted with the 38 machines it sold last quarter; and that "the rest of the PC market," whom we'll call Y, sold 1000 machines this quarter, contrasted with the 950 Y sold last quarter. It looks like Apple "grew" by ~25%, whereas it looks like Y "grew" by only 5%; yet total sales for Apple amount to only 5% of the total sales for Y. Obviously, when much smaller numbers increase by even small amounts, the [i<]percentage of growth[/i<] appears to be much higher. Also, contrast Apple's 5% of the PC market with [url=http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2394603,00.asp<]HP's 28.x% of the PC market[/url<], and we'll begin to appreciate the way the real numbers break down. The fact that the Mac is in every sense a PC (that can even boot Windows natively), and the fact that Apple still sells a mere ~5% of all the PCs sold in the world each year combine to show how your statement above has little if any substance--beyond marketing, that is. A long time ago, before Apple went Intel x86, there was a significant difference between "a Mac" and "a PC." In short, the real "Mac" was natively incompatible with a "PC" from both hardware and software perspectives, and as such *would not* boot Windows natively. Those machines, Macs, haven't been manufactured anywhere in the world for quite a number of years now.

      • faramir
      • 8 years ago

      Whoever rated this guy down is an idiot. He stated a fact and fanboys among you really should get over it.

        • samurai1999
        • 8 years ago

        He’s wasting everybody’s time by stating the obvious, in a very long & boring way!
        – I mean, come on, explaining how percentages work? Give us a break!

          • derFunkenstein
          • 8 years ago

          preachin’ to the choir, brah. +1 for you.

          • TakinYourPoints
          • 8 years ago

          Brevity is the soul of wit, and WaltC has none.

          Just scrolling past his inane wall-of-text posts in whatever forums I see him on is frustrating. I learned a long time ago to stop reading them, that changes the mood from frustration to wtf-is-this-idiot-rambling-on-about?

      • travbrad
      • 8 years ago

      I completely agree with your post, but there is also a lot higher profit margin on Macs (as you alluded) so with only 5% of the market they still manage to make a ton of money. Market share would be nice to have, but companies tend to care more about profits.

        • derFunkenstein
        • 8 years ago

        Market share is for fanboys, plain and simple. That works both ways – Apple fans raving about how great it is they hit around 10% in the US and Apple anti-fans going on about how Windows is still at roughly 90%. To Apple, Dell, Acer, MS, et. al it’s about making as much money as they can in their respective markets.

      • End User
      • 8 years ago

      [quote<]Apple still sells a mere ~5% of all the PCs sold in the world each year[/quote<] Apparently Apple currently has 15% of the world PC market and they are projected to become the #1 PC manufacturer next year - [url<]http://goo.gl/5bPKK[/url<]

        • sweatshopking
        • 8 years ago

        including the ipad, which not everyone agrees is a fair metric. I personally think it’s fine, but many people don’t consider them full pc’s. just bigger phones.

    • tviceman
    • 8 years ago

    If AMD and Nvidia are coming out with new GPUs around the same time, and Apple choice Nvidia over AMD, that may be a telling sign. I think Kepler is going to surprise people (in a good way). There was hardly any positive talk about Fermi leading up to it’s launch, but now that Huang has started talking about Kepler and the business side of their future GPUs in the same breath, indications are that Kepler is going to be a very strong first generation 28nm GPU.

    From the Nvidia conference call last week – “The vast majority of the increase is coming from the very significant increase in design wins that we have in several areas. We have more notebook design wins for the Ivy Bridge cyle than we ever had in notebooks. And this is likely the most successful notebook cycle we’ve ever experienced.”

    So right now there are more notebooks for sale with Nvidia GPU’s than ever before, and they have more design wins for next year’s Ivy Bridge platform than they have at any other time.

    • HisDivineOrder
    • 8 years ago

    Apple went nVidia originally (way back) because of ATI accidentally releasing product info on then-unannounced Apple models that were to come. Apple removed every trace of ATI afterward and went all-in with nVidia for years.

    I suspect Apple went AMD for a bit there because of the superior heat/efficiency of the current AMD line. And if they’re leaving AMD, then that suggests that nVidia’s Kepler may be the real deal on improving their performance per watt. Combining an even better performance per watt from Ivy Bridge with an advanced and better performance per watt GPU from nVidia in the few cases where a discrete GPU is necessary, they are aiming for less Macbook’s that implode after only a couple of years.

    It does make me look forward to IB+Kepler.

      • derFunkenstein
      • 8 years ago

      They never went entirely nVidia – even when everything else was a GeForce 9000 series GPU, the Mac Pro still came with a Radeon 2600XT video card, and the 5770 has been the default for a long time when everything else had GeForce 300-series GPUs.

      Apple used nVidia for so long because of their Core 2 chipset graphics being so much better than even Intel’s first-gen Core i3/i5/i7 (dual core) graphics.

      • d2brothe
      • 8 years ago

      Actually, given what you said, it suggests that ATI had some performance-unrelated guffaw which has caused apple to switch.

        • derFunkenstein
        • 8 years ago

        that would seem to agree with the article. 😉

      • samurai1999
      • 8 years ago

      I wonder how Tegra & Project Denver (aka 64-bit ARM) fit into this
      – AMD have no ARM strategy, whereas nVidia is fully committed to ARM
      – although Apple is doing very well with Samsung developing their ARM chips, they probably want to distance themselves from Samsung as fast as is reasonably possible
      – and maybe nVidia have promised them better ARM chips in the future

        • samurai1999
        • 8 years ago

        Maybe Apple is just going to go ahead & buy nVidia, thereby assuring itself an excellent supply of GPUs & ARM chips
        (ok, it’s unlikely!)

    • burntham77
    • 8 years ago

    Too bad for AMD. They could use the help it seems.

    • yogibbear
    • 8 years ago

    Lowest bidder with highest kickbacks to someone on the decision board….

      • HighTech4US2
      • 8 years ago

      So is that how AMD/ATI won the last round?

        • travbrad
        • 8 years ago

        No only Nvidia is evil, didn’t you get the memo?

          • HighTech4US2
          • 8 years ago

          I put up a spam block on Char-LIE so I must have missed it.

    • crabjokeman
    • 8 years ago

    If this means Optimus designs running on OS X, maybe Nvidia will finally support Omtimus on Linux.

      • Narishma
      • 8 years ago

      I don’t think it would help much. Linux and OSX’s graphics stacks don’t have much in common.

    • sircharles32
    • 8 years ago

    Why punish AMD because of CPU supply issues, if it’s the GPU in question?
    Are there shortages on 6000 series GPU’s? It’s certainly too early to spank them over
    7000 series shortages.

    I’m confused.

      • Hattig
      • 8 years ago

      Apple is a petty company and their users (including me) have to live with the bitchy decisions the people there make.

      Or Nvidia whored themselves to Apple cheaply, and AMD just said “enjoy the STDs, Apple” instead of lowering themselves in the same way.

        • TEAMSWITCHER
        • 8 years ago

        Apple isn’t petty, more like calculating. In the case of nvidia GPUs, it’s their road map. Their next generation of GPUs (Kepler) will double the performance per watt of todays chips. The generation of after that (Maxwell) will double it again. These huge gains in power efficiency will allow Apple to deliver the thinner, lighter, and more powerful versions of their extremely popular products – iMac, MaBook Pro, and MacBook Air. If you think I’m wrong consider this…even though Apple is embroiled in trade dress litigation against Samsung, they have no qualms about sourcing iPad3 processors from them.

          • Hattig
          • 8 years ago

          I’m sure AMD has a roadmap. But I also expect AMD’s management to be so piss poor (especially before RR arrived) that they neglected to tell Apple about it, and Apple went with the information they had to hand.

          • Sahrin
          • 8 years ago

          > In the case of nvidia GPUs, it’s their road map. Their next generation of GPUs (Kepler) will double the performance per watt of todays chips.

          Yeah, just like Fermi did. Wait… Either Apple is blindingly gullible (because nVidia has a history of poor delivery on new architectures) or they are petty. As much as I wish it were so, I don’t believe Apple is stupid – so they must be petty. Which we know to be true (see: Steve Jobs) so I don’t know what we’re talking about this.

          • flip-mode
          • 8 years ago

          Apple may be calculating, but Apple is definitely PETTY. Steve Jobs has (had) the same kind of personal grudge temperament as Sarah Palin.

            • NeelyCam
            • 8 years ago

            Apple [i<]was[/i<] petty. Steve Jobs is gone, and his personality won't linger in the Apple corporate culture forever.

            • ssidbroadcast
            • 8 years ago

            For the first time ever, [b<]flip-mode[/b<] is off point. 🙁

            • shank15217
            • 8 years ago

            lol whatever..

          • sweatshopking
          • 8 years ago

          they are moving as quickly as possible away from samsung. It’s not news.

      • Deanjo
      • 8 years ago

      Given the rash of AMD GPU problems in the Macs this is not surprising. AMD/ATI has always had a problem supporting OS X properly which is why you see so many firmware updates for the AMD/ATI card based systems in comparison to the nvidia based systems (and this is not speculation, this is pure fact based on thousands of engineering reports that I came across while working for Apple).

        • Hattig
        • 8 years ago

        But the AMD GPUs didn’t cause mass motherboard replacements like the NVIDIA GPUs when they failed.

        OTOH my work MacBook has the 320M integrated graphics, and they’re reliable and no slouch.

        And NVIDIA doesn’t have solder bump issues any longer.

      • bcronce
      • 8 years ago

      Apple doesn’t purchase AMD products out of the goodness of their heart. Apple has certain a target volume and AMD can’t meet that mark.

      AMD has a few issues at hand. They are sharing some tools between their 45nm and 32nm parts, so they can only produce one at a time. AMD is also trying to ship Bulldozer, which is a 2bil(some people saying 1.2bil) tran chip with bad yields. 32nm is overall having bad yields.

      These things are cutting in their ability to ship volume for APUs.

      The AMD APUs may have been the tiebreaker for stick with AMD graphics also. Once the APU was out of the picture, they may not have had enough reason to use AMD GPUs.

        • Hattig
        • 8 years ago

        Bulldozer is a 1.2 billion transistor chip according to AMD’s own documentation (i.e., 16 core Interlagos is a 2.4 billion transistor chip).

        But yes, AMD was burned by their fabs again – although for Llano is looks like a portion of the blame lies with the design which didn’t sit comfortably on 32nm. Trinity is looking better.

        And AMD makes GPUs at TSMC, so GF issues aren’t an issue.

      • HighTech4US2
      • 8 years ago

      You are confused because you outright believe Char-LIES BS reasons.

      Actual reasons are these:

      #1 Apple regularly switches back and forth between GPU makers.

      #2 Nvidia aligned the Kepler GPUs for the Ivy Bridge launch.

      #3 Nvidia has Optimus.

        • tay
        • 8 years ago

        This…. Modded up.

        • NeelyCam
        • 8 years ago

        This makes a lot of sense.

        • Antimatter
        • 8 years ago

        #1 Possible.

        #2 Why does that matter? Rumors indicate a similar launch period for both AMD and Nvidia, with AMD’s launch perhaps a bit earlier.

        #3 Apple does not use Optimus, Apple uses its own graphics switching tech which it also implements on AMD GPUs.

          • sweatshopking
          • 8 years ago

          yeah, you’re correct, on all three points.

          • HighTech4US2
          • 8 years ago

          #2 Apple must have had facts not rumors. Don’t you think both AMD and Nvidia supplied working parts to Apple for evaluation and a schedule for production. And then Apple picked the supplied who better aligned with what they wanted.

          #3 Nvidia is spending gobs of money supplying engineering resources to work with vendors. For Nvidia to win over Apple Optimus needed to be ported to the iOS.

          • ImSpartacus
          • 8 years ago

          Yet, the MBP graphic switching was totally borked on the last release.

          The last release used AMD GPUs, while the previous one (and its working switching) used nVidia GPUs. Connection?

          For more on the subject,
          [url<]http://www.anandtech.com/show/4205/the-macbook-pro-review-13-and-15-inch-2011-brings-sandy-bridge/9[/url<]

    • FuturePastNow
    • 8 years ago

    Apple regularly switches back and forth between GPU makers. This isn’t surprising at all.

    • mcforce0208
    • 8 years ago

    This is good news.

      • NeelyCam
      • 8 years ago

      Why is this good news?

        • raddude9
        • 8 years ago

        It’s not even news, it’s a rumour 🙂

          • HighTech4US2
          • 8 years ago

          Which was confirmed yesterday by Longbow Research.

          [url<]http://blogs.barrons.com/techtraderdaily/2011/11/21/nvda-lonbow-agrees-they-pushed-out-amd-at-apple/?mod=yahoobarrons[/url<]

    • derFunkenstein
    • 8 years ago

    Hopefully they get their drivers fixed, then. With hardware that has roughly similar performance on Windows (for example, GTS 450 and Radeon 5770), nVidia’s hardware is *always* slower on OS X. There are no exceptions to this and the differences are not small.

      • Deanjo
      • 8 years ago

      Sorry but that is pure BS. If anything, as performance goes the Nvidia GPU are usually faster then the ATI GPU’s in OS X.

        • derFunkenstein
        • 8 years ago

        That hasn’t been anybody’s experience and hasn’t been true in benchmarks, either.

          • torquer
          • 8 years ago

          Since I don’t use OSX I don’t *really* care, but…. proof?

            • derFunkenstein
            • 8 years ago

            Well it all starts with a Radeon 6490M outrunning the 330M (discrete graphics) in the previous generation Macbook Pros. Most of the direct comparisons require Hackintoshes since the CPU is different with every generation. Even still, 1440×900 max-quality Starcraft II isn’t even close:

            [url<]http://www.anandtech.com/show/4205/the-macbook-pro-review-13-and-15-inch-2011-brings-sandy-bridge/8[/url<] And that's just a start. The same is true of Source engine, too. Radeon 6490M has a 64-bit memory bus, so it's definitely hobbled compared to the GT 330M, yet it ties or outruns the GeForce.

            • PixelArmy
            • 8 years ago

            Your assertion may still be true, but this is extremely shoddy evidence.

            The linked article isn’t [i<]remotely[/i<] a valid comparison. The 330M is on a "Mid 2010" system (w/ core-i5/7). The 6490M is on an "Early 2011" system (w/ sandy bridge cpu). Not to mention 330M is based on a chip two generations old (desktop GT240, circa 2009), while the 6490M is based on a current generation chip (desktop 6450, circa 2011). Additionally, the GTS450 is closer to a Radeon 5750 (as opposed to your OP). Never mind all that, the Radeon is disadvantaged cause of its the bus speeds?!? *Edit* - According to Wikipedia, the 330M and 6490M have the same memory bandwidth, 25.6 GB/s. To be fair, you did say, "Most of the direct comparisons require Hackintoshes since the CPU is different with every generation.". Yet, you post the rest as if this has no bearing...

      • JohnC
      • 8 years ago

      Use BootCamp to install Win7 on same hardware, problem solved (at least if all you want is to play some game). Slightly inconvenient, but it’s worth it if you want to get the max performance out of your current Mac hardware when playing games (not to mention you have much, much better game selection with Win7).

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