Something interesting has popped up with the new NVIDIA graphics hardware in the unibody MacBooks and MacBook Pros: hardware H.264 decoding. MacRumors is reporting that owners of the new MacBooks are seeing considerably less CPU usage when playing high definition H.264 content on the new machines versus the previous generation. One user reported his new MacBook running at only 28% CPU utilization while playing a 1080p video versus 100% for his older MacBook Pro running at the same clock speed.
It's been known for some time that NVIDIA has been including hardware decoding in their chips, but this appears to be the first time that Apple has actually implemented support for it in OS X. Some are speculating that this signals big things for the future of QuickTime X in Apple's forthcoming Snow Leopard (OS X 10.6) and future 1080p video content in the iTunes Store and may be connected to Steve Jobs' recent dismissal of Blu-ray. Of course, none of this has been confirmed by Apple, but it does appear to be the best explanation for the performance increase we're seeing in the new machines.