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AMD or even PA Semi/ARM processor for MB Air?

Discussion in 'MacBook Air' started by halledise, May 16, 2010.

  1. macrumors 65816

    I'm sure I've read info on this topic in the threads but I'm blowed if I can find it so …

    with all the discussed restraints of the Air's current and future Intel processors being tied to their dodgy graphics and thus eliminating nVidia from the equation - what do AMD have in the offing (or PA Semi for that matter) that could be successfully paired with nVidia GPU's in future Air's to outperform what we're seeing now?

    (shoot - just found it; but as it's 28 pages long perhaps a new thread on similar topic could be a good thing?!)
  2. macrumors 601


    AMD/ATI have considerably better packages of integrated or dedicated graphics than Nvidia. It's the pairing of AMD CPUs and ATI graphics that so far Apple hasn't gone for so to speak. The problem is the AMD CPUs aren't as energy efficient as Intel CPUs. AMD can provide the same performance but if it means a 5-hour capable AMD or 10-hour capable Intel system, which will Apple choose? AMD has some better and advanced chips in the works as is shown in its projected roadmap. I would also think that Intel benefits from its chips being in Apple's Macs just as Apple probably benefits from stronger sales with Intel chips being in Apple's Macs. Intel is the superior brand with the public. So it's AMD and ATI with less capable CPUs but incredibly more capable GPUs than Intel's Core i5 CPUs that are more capable but its GMA graphics are a joke compared to AMD/ATI solutions whether integrated chipsets or discrete.

    I have noticed with Lenovo computers that AMD chips are offered in $100 less configurations than Intel chips in the same model laptops. I would assume that the Intel configurations sell 5X as many. Hell, I would pay an extra $100 for an Intel CPU. Would Apple rather save the $100 or sell more Macs? That is the difference in using Intel CPUs. The problem lies with the chipset underneath the CPU. That is where Apple is struggling since its 5x graphics capabilities from the Nvidia GPU/chipset has been lost to Intel due to licensing... basically Intel deciding it cannot beat Nvidia so it will force it out of the game. Intel's graphics are incredibly inferior to Nvidia's but since Nvidia doesn't have a CPU it has to provide chipsets for Intel CPUs which requires a license.

    Pairing Intel CPUs with ATI discrete graphics is a possibility, but probably for cost reasons Apple is trying to avoid Intel's chipsets and adding a discrete GPU in addition. Apple can save a lot of money and provide the level of graphics possible in low-end discrete cards with Nvidia's 320m GPU/chipset system. Look at the Nvidia 310m, a discrete graphics solution by Nvidia that I thought could make it into the "MacFive" - MBA 13" MBP, MB, Mm, and 21.5" iMac. The integrated chipset/GPU the 320m provides better performance than the 310m discrete GPU. So integrated isn't always a bad thing and Apple proves this with the C2D and Nvidia GPU/chipset model. Integrated sucks terribly when there's only 2 GB of system RAM and 256 MB of that is immediately given to the integrated GPU. So Apple decided for cost or TDP and battery reasons that the Core i-series CPU plus Nvidia 310m discrete GPU wasn't possible or was too costly to make the cut. Therefore it introduced a Core 2 Duo 13" MBP using the Nvidia 320m GPU/chipset model again. Apple will have to come up with a real solution soon though, as Intel is done making Core 2 Duos at the end of 2010.

    There are already rumors that Intel is considering continuing the C2D with a Core i branding of some sort... Imagine it being called a Core i1 or something??? It's a possibility, and with that Nvidia would be able to still play the game. Or Intel could actually remove the GMA DIE from some chips to keep Apple happy? It's a possibility because Intel could lose Apple entirely if Apple cannot stay happy with Intel's GMA HD offering. The new 15/17" MBPs GMA HD graphics are a joke, but they use very little power as it's included in the 35W TDP of the CPU. So the Nvidia 24W 330GT isn't running when the Intel GMA HD is running. However, the 15/17" MBPs will actually be running graphics slower than the 13" MBPs when their 320m GPU is running.

    In the MBA, I would prefer the 310m with 256 MB of its own VRAM, and a 4 GB system RAM configuration, but it's technically not as powerful as the integrated GPU system of the 320m. Here is the TDP problem. The integrated 320m GPU uses 8W and that includes the chipset. The Nvidia 310m discrete solution uses 14W and that's on top of the 25W Core i7-6x0LM CPU I wanted Apple to use in the MBA (the CPU that's the direct replacement for the SL9x00 CPUs already used in the MBAs). Note the differences in powering a 17W C2D SL9x00 with an 8W Nvidia 320m, is a 25W MBA (4W lower than the current MBA). Now the Core i7 at 25W plus a 14W discrete 310m adds up to 39W. We now see the problem is 39W vs. 25W. Which does Apple choose?

    Now let's throw ATI's discrete graphics into the picture. The ATI 5430 uses 7W which is HALF the power required of the Nvidia 310m. Also note that the ATI 5430 would destroy Nvidia's 310m. This is why EVERYONE expected Apple to use Core i-series CPUs with ATI GPUs in the new MBPs. Looking at the MacFive, we can see that history shows us Apple likes to use grand EoS to ensure maximum margin for its MacFive computers. So apparently this system was too expensive?

    ARM is several years away from being capable to run a computing OS. Then it would require a complete rewrite of the OS X operating system. It's much more likely to come in whatever follows OS X from Apple. In the long run, Apple would have the best bet in creating its own silicon. Apple dreams of getting rid of the CPU battles with PC counterparts. Meaning Apple doesn't want to have to upgrade to Core i7 when it's really not where innovation should come from in computers. Apple can innovate with software and the OS in ARM in 64-core SoC systems that use low power and are stunningly beyond anything we see in today's dual-core processors. It is going to take time to get this technology ready for the power requirements of the computers. I believe the iPad's A8 Cortex chips are a disappointment as is, as the much mightier A9 chips wouldn't have been out of line. I guess people don't consider that it truly takes years to make something like this happen.

    The iPad's Apple A4 CPU probably began a thought or design for the iPhone and since the iPad runs iPhone OS and is still capable of running an iPad, the A4 is the only Apple chip and gets the job. But it shows us where Apple wants to go. It wants to design its own SoC systems to eliminate the problems between suppliers like Intel and Nvidia. And who ultimately loses in this battle, the victor and the conquered Nvidia. Nvidia is now out of the Intel game (past C2D anyways), Intel gets bigger now, but Apple leaves the duo as soon as possible because it cannot stand Intel dictating its computers.

    Anyways, there are my thoughts on Core series CPUs, Nvidia GPUs, AMD CPUs, AMD's ATI GPUs, and ARM.
  3. macrumors regular

    There's also the possibility that we are over analyzing and maybe missing the obvious.


    1) There was a shortage of Intel's mobile Core-i series
    2) The 13" MBP is Apple's best seller
    3) Marketing is something Steve Jobs excels at
    4) Business politics + supply/demand + price negotiations = ??

    I have a feeling that all the rationalizations for going with the c2d will be a moot point once the c2d supply dwindles down and the core-i supply ramps up. Who knows what kind of agreement Apple and Intel have worked out, lol.
  4. macrumors 601


    I think this is being extremely hopeful. I agree Apple had to have an MBP update, but did it have to use C2D again in a WhiteBook and Mac mini now? That is correct both the Mac mini and WhiteBook are rumored (even video of new MB) with Core 2 Duo installed.

    I really believe the MBA will have a Core 2 Duo CPU and Nvidia 320m GPU and follow the MacFive strategy as used in the past with all five of these Macs getting the same basic logicboard and configuration. This system allows Apple to make the most money possible by buying in bulk and truly minimizing the costs for OS integration and etc.

    Now, Apple could move forward with its Core series CPUs and beyond Nvidia with the MBA first, but would Apple really introduce such an MBA three to five weeks after it updated the 13" MBP with C2D and Nvidia 320m GPU/chipset model again? I don't think "pros" would be very happy about that. However, Apple isn't about making its users happy, LOL. Apple does what it thinks is best so I guess it's possible.

    I suppose one way for Apple to raise the prices of the MBA back to pre-June 2009 discounting is to re-up the ante with new CPU technology, a new dedicated GPU, and an all-around truly luxurious and grandiose Mac notebook. I think a Core i7 at 2+ GHz, discrete ATI 5430, two RAM slots (up to 8 GB RAM), 256 GB SSD, and glass trackpad would warrant up to a $2499 price tag. The problem is it's always more difficult to raise the prices once lower prices have been introduced. I mean most people will buy refurbished MBAs as they have in the past when choosing paying $999 over $2499. We saw this with the dumping of the original MBAs.

    I still think a $1999 C2D, Nvidia 320m, 4 GB RAM soldered to board, 192 to 256 GB SSD, and glass trackpad is likely. Adding an IPS display, Core CPU, ATI GPU, RAM slots, and anything else would definitely require a price hike of more than $200. I hope Apple gets back to the BTO options in the MBA. I want to be able to select extra options to get the luxury computer that fits all of my desired. For instance, it might cost too much and Apple wouldn't want to raise the price of a standard high-end MBA back to $2499. In that case it could offer a 192 GB SSD and 4 GB RAM in high-end MBA. If one wants, they can add a 256 GB SSD, up to 8 GB RAM, an IPS HD display, and etc.
  5. macrumors regular

    I'm sorry, I didn't clarify...I meant that the Mac5 would stay the same (c2d/320m) across the board, until the c2d supply is depleted, at which point the whole Mac5 lineup would be updated with core i-series. I was thinking early 2011 for that, which would make the refresh happening 6-8 months after "Rev A" of the core i chips. That's a reasonable time frame for an update right? So in this scenario, all the MBP's would get "Rev B" of the core i-series chips, with the 13" getting it for the first time, along with the rest of the Mac5. This time frame would also allow for things like the Sandy Bridge architecture, new SSD's, and LightPeak to make an appearance....all those combined make for a really nice refresh, and the whole c2d "incident" will be forgotten quickly.

    A side point about the 13" MPB getting the c2d...I think Apple is marketing the 13" MBP as an entry level "Pro" model instead of a machine of Pro caliber with smaller screen size. A lot of that has to do with consumer psychology and purchasing patterns, and I think this is evident if you look at the majority of people who bought a 13" MBP....mostly consumers as opposed to "professionals". This same mentality and pattern is seen with the MBA as well, where it has become a "luxury consumer model" as opposed to a device that caters to business professionals. The net result is an increase in sales of higher profit margin items by upselling to a portion of the consumer population...at the expense of alienating the niche crowd that was the primary target population for the respective devices.

    I do believe (hope) that Apple will come full circle though. The specific acquisitions, NC data center, and product placements will all make sense (relatively) soon. I think for the time being, Apple is being patient and waiting for all the right pieces to fall into place, as they play their cards conservatively. Then when the time is right, I have a feeling that Apple will show their hand, and reveal some truly amazing tech. Based on the amount of resources they have available, not to mention money at their disposal, they have to be waiting for something.... ;)
  6. macrumors 601


    That is my belief. MacFive goes to Core series CPUs and alternative chipsets/GPU when C2D is no longer possible. I definitely think January is the perfect time schedule for this Core update. It will also have Sandy Bridge mobile CPUs with double the GMA power and lower voltage still possible if the GMA DIE goes to 32nm. I would think that's why Apple is updating right now with a fairly significant update if includes 320m at 50% boost, 4 GB RAM, and a 256 GB SSD even if it's BTO.

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