Apple reportedly partners into chip fab to bring processor manufacturing in-house

According to a report today from SemiAccurate, a semi-accurate site that has been hit and miss on Apple rumors in the past, Apple has just bought into a chip fab plant, backing up recent rumors that the company could be moving to build its own CPUs.

Apple has just done something that SemiAccurate has been expecting for months and entered the fab industry. No we are not joking, Apple just bought into a fab, and not in a trivial way either.

The full report remains behind a paywall, so it’s unclear if the site mentions a specific company that Apple has bought into. The tags for the report, however, do list “UMC”, a hint that the company in question could be Taiwan-based chipmaker United Microelectronics Corporation…

Read more

NVIDIA introduces GeForce 700M Series GPU, prime fits for the next high end iMacs/MacBooks

NVIDIA-GeForce-graphics-GPU-700M

NVIDIA announced a new series of notebook GPU’s today branded as the 700M series. Introduced today are five new graphics cards in total, and NVIDIA said they would be available in a long list of laptops over the next few months. The five new graphics cards include two options aimed at the “mainstream segment”, the 720M and the 735M, while the remaining three, the 740M, 745M, and 750M, will be “for the performance segment” of the market.

700m-lineupThe graphics cards are being touted by NVIDIA to “maximize performance and experience,” but they also more power efficient than their predecessors. Because the 700M Series is notebook-only, expect these to be less powerful than a desktop version of the 700 Series that may be announced sometime in the future.

Helping our new 700M chips reach such lofty levels of performance is GPU Boost 2.0, a GPU innovation that extracts every ounce of available computing power from the graphics processor. Before GPU Boost, GPUs were held back by synthetic benchmarks that pushed chips and power usage to the limit, far beyond the levels typically seen when playing games. This ‘worst case scenario’ forced us to throttle GPUs, leaving spare performance on the table when playing games.GPU Boost resolves this problem by monitoring power usage and temperatures, enabling the GPU to use every last ounce of performance without exceeding safety or comfort limits.

While the press release from NVIDIA said the new GPUs will be available in nearly every notebook maker other than Apple, it is possible these GPUs will be seen in the next-gen MacBook Pro with Retina Display. The current 15-inch MacBook Pro with Retina Display sports a NVIDIA 650M GPU, as does the high-end 21-inch iMac model, so an upgrade to the 700M series only makes sense.

The full press release is available below.

New NVIDIA GeForce 700M GPUs Squeeze Every Drop Of Performance Out Of Notebooks, Automatically

Monday, April 1, 2013

NVIDIA today announced five new notebook GPUs which deliver a trifecta of technologies that seamlessly and automatically maximize a consumer’s notebook performance and experience.

With no effort or input from the notebook user, the technologies work in the background to save battery life, enhance performance and enrich the visual experience — providing the best notebook experience the GPU can deliver. They include:

New NVIDIA GPU Boost™ 2.0 technology, which intelligently adjusts GPU clock speed to maximize graphics performance.

NVIDIA® Optimus™ technology, which enables extra-long battery life by switching the GPU on and off so it runs only when needed.

GeForce® Experience™ software, which adjusts in-game settings for the best performance and visual quality specific to a user’s notebook and keeps GeForce drivers up to date.

“There is an elegant simplicity to NVIDIA’s GeForce 700M notebook technologies,” said Rene Haas, vice president and general manager of the notebook business unit at NVIDIA. “You use your notebook how you want, and GeForce makes your experience awesome.”

Incorporating all three of these technologies, the new lineup of NVIDIA GeForce 700M GPUs includes GeForce GT 750M, GeForce GT 745M, and GeForce GT 740M GPUs for the performance segment, as a well as GeForce GT 735M and GeForce GT 720M GPUs for the mainstream segment.

NVIDIA GeForce 700M GPUs are available today. Every leading notebook manufacturer will be introducing notebooks with GPU Boost 2.0 technology, including Acer, Asus, Dell, HP, Lenovo, MSI, Samsung, Sony and Toshiba.

More information about the GeForce 700M family of notebook GPUs is available at http://www.GeForce.com.

Haswell preview suggests similar gains to Ivy Bridge over Sandy Bridge

A detailed performance test of a prototype Core i7 Haswell chip by tom’s Hardware suggests that it will offer a 7 percent to 13 percent performance gain over equivalent Ivy Bridge CPUs—a similar gain to that experienced with the move from Sandy Bridge to Ivy Bridge.

itunes

The integrated HD 4600 GPU experiences an impressive speed boost of almost 30 percent, but the website noted that this still won’t allow for comfortable gaming on HD monitors, so gamers will need discrete graphics chips.

While performance gains reached up to 75 percent in the case of some specific tasks, the gains for typical desktop applications are relatively modest.

NVIDIA graphics chip promises four times the speed, but not until 2016

nvidiaNVIDIA has announced its latest GPU, Volta, that promises 1Tb/s of memory bandwidth—almost four times the speed offered by its current top-of-the-range Titan GPU. However, don’t expect to see the chip appear in a Mac near you until 2016.

Reporting from the GPU Technology Conference in San José, Forbes explained the speed of the chip would enable it to process all the video on a full Blu-ray disc in just 1/50th of a second.

NVIDIA CEO Jen-Hsun Huang told the conference:

Volta is going to solve one of the biggest challenges facing GPUs today, which is access to memory bandwidth. We never seem to have enough! This is unbelievable stuff.

The speed is made possible by stacking DRAM layers on a single chip and drilling holes through the silicon to connect them. This far ahead, the company has sensibly avoided committing itself to either a price or a more specific release date.

Is Apple experiencing hiccups with GPUs on the next generation MacBooks?

There are rumors that Apple will transition to Nvidia for certain Macs in the near future. In November, SemiAccurate claimed Apple won the bid to supply upcoming Ivy Bridge Macs. Another report popped up last month claiming Apple was eyeing Nvidia’s upcoming Kepler platform for next-generation Mac Pros. Apple now implements AMD after making the switch from Nvidia two years ago. However, a new report from SemiAccurate today claimed Apple will not include Nvidia GPUs in future low- and mid-range MacBooks, and it will instead likely go without a GPU and only a GT2 Ivy Bridge.

Apple upped their SKUs from parts bearing awful Intel GPUs to variants with more of those awful shaders. Since those Ivy Bridge CPUs are going in to laptops that have a GPU, upping the shader count from 6 to 16 should be a waste, they will never be turned on. If they are going to be turned on, that would mean that the discrete GPU in those machines is either going to be much higher spec’d, or it won’t be there. Since Nvidia can’t supply enough small GPUs, what do you think the odds of them supplying the same number of larger and lower yielding ones are? There goes that option, leaving only one possibility, the next gen low and mid-range MacBooks are not going to have a GPU, only a GT2 Ivy Bridge.

The report continued to claim sources indicated Nvidia could not meet necessary supply, which means the Macs would not include a GPU. However, Apple could likely go with Nvidia in higher-end Macs where Intel’s GPUs are not enough. It also claimed the middle-range of Macs might see some models with it and some without it. SemiAccurate ended its report by noting Nvidia’s and AMD’s GPUs used by Apple in mid-range Macs will likely be “dead forever” with Intel’s Haswell expected to win bids for Apple’s upcoming next-generation Macs.

We are not entirely certain that Apple ever planned to use a discrete GPU in its mid-range MacBook Pros. While it seems that Apple is planning to move to Retina displays in its Mac lineup, which requires extra GPU hardware, Intel’s Ivy Bridge CPUs are growing exponentially better at doing graphic intensive tasks. In addition, Apple seems to be doing well with AMD GPUs in its high-end portables.

Moreover, remember Apple took a direct jab at Nvidia at the iPad keynote last week (below). That is not something partners generally do (Samsung notwithstanding).

Read more

Report: Apple to return to Nvidia for Mac Pro graphics in Nehalem update

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…

Read more

Apple exploring 3D iOS interface with motion sensing gestures

The United States Patent & Trademark Office published an Apple patent application today (via PatentlyApple) detailing new 3D GUI concepts and touch-free, motion sensing gestures that would allow you to simply wave your hand over a device equipped with proximity sensors. This follows a patent application published in July that explores similar 3D gestures and user-interfaces, and another in September detailing 3D display and imaging technology that could lead to Kinect-like gestures on future Apple products.

The image to the right (larger version is below) shows a 3D UI environment consisting of two sidewalls, a back wall, a floor, and a ceiling. As you can see, 2D objects are posted to the back and sidewalls, while 3D objects rest on the floor of the environment. The patent mentions a “snap to” feature that appears to allow objects to move from one surface to another by changing the orientation of the 3D environment. In other words, the user’s perspective of the UI, which PatentlyApple said could be imagined as the “view from an imaginary camera viewfinder,” would change when rotation of the device is detected by its gyro sensor or accelerometer:

Read more

Imagination details PowerVR Series6 design that could let iPad 3 outshine console graphics

Imagination Technologies, a British-based maker of a mobile graphics and microprocessor chip technology, announced last June its new mobile graphics architecture code-named Rogue. Today, the company shed more light on the first two PowerVR Series6 designs, the G6400 and G6200. According to a press release issued today, we can expect 20 times the performance of current-generation hardware with five times greater efficiency.

The G6400 and G6200 have two and four compute clusters, respectively, with computing performance “exceeding 100 gigaFLOPS” and “reaching the teraFLOPS range.” Base features supported by all members of the Series6 family include OpenGL ES ‘Halti,’ OpenGL 3.x/4.x, OpenCL 1.x – all of which are supported and widely used by Apple’s iOS mobile operating system. They also support Microsoft’s DirectX10 and some chips are said to be WHQL DirectX11.1-compliant.

Eight chip makers signed up for the new designs so far, including ST-Ericsson, Texas Instruments, MediaTek, Qualcomm, Texas Instruments and Renesas Electronics. Whether Apple is amongst the two unnamed licensees is anyone’s guess, but one could assume that Apple’s custom-built mobile chips would continue using Imagination’s efficient PowerVR architecture.

Other advanced features supported by the Rogue architecture include:

Read more