Advanced Micro Devices February 14, 2012

It looks like Apple could (again) select the graphics giant Nvidia as the primary GPU provider for the upcoming Mac Pro hardware refresh. According to a mostly speculative story by MIC Gadget based on unnamed industry sources, new Mac Pros will feature Intel’s upcoming Ivy Bridge chipset fabbed on the chip maker’s latest 22-nanometer Trigate transistor technology (no surprise there). According to Intel, 22nm Ivy Bridge silicon claims a 37 percent speed jump and lower power consumption compared to the chip giant’s 32 nanometer planar transistors. ‘Trigate’ Ivy Bridge chips can feature up to eight processing cores and are more power-savvy, so they should help scale frequency, too. On a more interesting note, MIC Gadget speculates Apple could switch back to Nvidia as the primary supplier of next-generation GPUs for the new Mac Pros.

Nvidia has their “Kepler” platform due out around the same time as Intel is making their changes, and our sources within the company indicate that they have chosen to have Nvidia lead the charge so to speak on the graphics front.

Eagle-eyed readers could mention that AMD recently released the Radeon HD 7970 graphics card powered by the Tahiti GPU (its nearest rival is Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 590), with observes deeming it Apple’s go-to graphics card for future Mac Pros. Indeed, traces of support for Tahiti-driven AMD GPUs are found in Mac OS X Lion 10.7.3, at least indicating people might be able to upgrade their future Mac Pro with this card. Oh, and it’s great for Hackintosh builders, too.

Also indicative is a March 2011 Snow Leopard 10.6.7 update that enabled support for a bunch of AMD/ATI Radeon HD 5xxx and 6xxx cards, not all of which were in Macs at the time. On the other hand, a speculative switch to Nvidia would not be out of character as California-based Apple is known for frequently switching between Nvidia chips and those manufactured by rival AMD…

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Advanced Micro Devices August 11, 2011

(Substitute PowerPC for Intel and Intel for ARM)

There are a lot of people who think Apple is going to eventually move its “Mac” line to iOS. In fact we found it curious when Apple turned ‘MacOSX’ to ‘OSX’ as of Lion earlier this year.

Steve Jobs and Apple in general are very sensitive to CPU power issues with their push to make high end devices thinner.

As part of the WSJ article on Intel spending $300 million on developing MacBook Air alternatives (a hint in itself – why does Intel need to create competition for its own Air), it was revealed that Apple was threatening to leave Intel’s ‘low power’ processors if they didn’t drastically cut power.

Welch said Apple informed Intel that it better drastically slash its power consumption or would likely lose Apple’s business. “It was a real wake-up call to us,” he said.

What are the alternative processors for the MacBook Air? AMD? Not likely (though not impossible).

The big alternative is a platform switch to ARM which certainly schools the Atom Chip in terms of power consumption. It would also mess with a lot of non-App Store Apps built on legacy code.

But, you know Apple would love to create a cheaper, thinner, more power efficient iAir type of hybrid device that still operated like a laptop. In fact, Lion seems to already be heading in that direction.

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Advanced Micro Devices July 8, 2011

Hardware specialists over at Bare Feats ran a series of interesting Final Cut Pro X benchmarks pitting the latest Sandy Bridge-equipped iMac and MacBook Pro against the last year’s Mac Pro. The iMac system rocked a 3.4GHz quad-core Core i7 processor with 16GB of DDR3 1333MHz RAM and AMD Radeon HD 6970M graphics with 2GB of GDDR5 video memory. The MacBook Pro was a 2.3GHz quad-core Core i7 system with 8G of DDR3 1333MHz RAM and AMD Radeon HD 6750M graphics with 1G of GDDR5 video memory. The 2010 Mac Pro desktop had a 3.33GHz six-core Westmere processor with 24GB of ECC DDR3 1333MHz RAM and AMD Radeon HD 5870 graphics with 1G of GDDR5 video memory.

Summing up, in two out of four benchmarks involving blur sharpen and blur directional effects the iMac came in first and the MacBook Pro outperformed or matched the Mac Pro. It is in the remaining two GPU-intensive tests – exporting a Final Cut Pro X project in H.264 (transcoding) and encoding a  Blu-Ray stream in Compressor 4 – that the Mac Pro shined. Although the benchmarks are far from conclusive, they give away the false impression of Apple favoring the newer Sandy Bridge architecture.

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Advanced Micro Devices June 27, 2011


It looks like the report that Apple has a lock on Light Peak technology for a year was wrong.  Sony has gone ahead and announced their first Light Peak product in Europe and perhaps most interestingly, it contains an External GPU.  TIMN summerizes:

The vertically standing peripheral (pictured above) uses Intel’s Light Peak (yes, the same thing as Apple’s Thunderbolt) via a proprietary port and USB 3.0 socket to connect to the laptop. And not only does it provide an AMD Radeon HD 6650M with 1GB of VRAM, but also allows you to connect up to three additional displays via its HDMI and VGA ports.

One of the promises of Thunderbolt was External GPU video cards.  Imagine hooking your Thunderbolt-equipped, Sandy Bridge MacBook Air (with crappy integrated Intel GPU) to an external Thunderbolt GPU which drives a few 27-inch screens?

I like where this is going.

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Advanced Micro Devices March 27, 2011

As Apple transitions its line from NVIDIA graphics cards to AMD (and opens up the OS to much more variety), we’re noting some strong words coming out of each camp on who makes the fastest graphics card in the world.  On the 8th of this month, AMD announced it had released the fastest Graphics card on the market, the AMD Radeon HD 6990.

NVIDIA fired back this week and said they had the fastest Graphics card.  Now it is getting real.

Dave Erskine, Senior Public Relations Manager for Graphics Desktop at AMD just fired this off:

We combed through their announcement to understand how it was that such a claim could be made and why there was no substantiation based on industry-standard benchmarks, similar to what AMD did with industry benchmark 3DMark 11, the latest DirectX® 11 benchmark from FutureMark.

So now I issue a challenge to our competitor: prove it, don’t just say it. Show us the substantiation. Because as it stands today, leading reviewers agree with us hereherehere, and here that the AMD Radeon HD 6990 sits on the top as the world’s fastest graphics card.

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