As we mentioned a couple of weeks ago, the first round of Sandy Bridge-powered PC laptops is about to hit the market. Intel's new chip architecture is intended to provide a major boost in power for mobile and desktop machines, but there's been some concern about the integrated GPU on these devices when it comes to Apple's laptops.
Today, CNET is reporting that Apple has made the call: future MacBooks will indeed use the Sandy Bridge integrated graphics exclusively, while MacBook Pro models will sport GPUs supplied by Advanced Micro Devices. This may leave current GPU supplier NVIDIA out in the cold with the next or 2nd-next MacBook Pro revamp, although the crystal ball is a little cloudy on that point. Electronista suggests that Apple's testing of Sandy Bridge chips is a lot further along than expected, meaning the company could conceivably be aiming for new model availability relatively close to the January introduction of the new CPUs at the Consumer Electronics Show.
The MacBook Pro line is using NVIDIA graphics hardware in the current generation, with the discrete chips providing more rendering power and also allowing the OpenCL coprocessing stack to run; however, Intel's support for OpenCL in Sandy Bridge is tentative and preliminary at best. Without the ability to offload general computing tasks to the GPU, future MacBook or MBP models might be kneecapped as Mac OS X pushes forward to take advantage of all the goodies in modern hardware.
The good news is that Intel and NVIDIA appear to have buried the hatchet in their licensing dispute that was preventing Apple and other manufacturers from pairing the latest Intel Core i-series chips with NVIDIA GPUs. The bad news is, that rapprochement may not be coming soon enough to affect the design of forthcoming machines in the short term.
Apple MacBook Pro 15-inch with Retina Display (mid 2014)