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New NVIDIA hardware capable of more than Apple lets on

Mat Lu

We've already seen some suggestions that more is hiding under the hood of the new unibody MacBooks than Apple has disclosed. Now Gizmodo is reporting that the NVIDIA folks have revealed to them that the graphics hardware in the new MacBooks is capable of quite a bit more than Apple has has chosen to use.

In particular, the the dual GPUs in the MacBook Pros can apparently be run in a Hybrid SLI mode allowing them both to be active at once (and thus increasing graphics performance over the discrete chip alone). In addition, the hardware is apparently capable of on-the-fly switching between the two GPUs instead of the present implementation which requires logging out to switch between the integrated 9400M and the discrete 9600M GT. In principle, this would allow the machine to dynamically switch between using the discrete chip when plugged in and the integrated chip when running on battery power.

So what's the upshot? In the short run, not much. Just because the features are supported in the silicon means squat unless Apple decides to implement them in software. In the best case scenario, however, the new MacBook Pros might see performance increases with only software and/or firmware updates. Of course, whether Apple will choose to do that (which would perhaps decrease the incentive to buy the next generation of machines) is another question altogether.

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