Only 2.5GHz 2011 Mac mini has Intel's VT-d (virtualization w/ hardware directed I/O)

Discussion in 'Mac mini' started by Crunch, Aug 10, 2011.

  1. Crunch macrumors 6502a


    I just wanted to mention this for those who like to run virtualized operating systems and apps. There is another feature that only the 2.5GHz dual-core Mac mini (the one with the AMD Radeon 6630M dGPU) has and that's Intel's VT-d (Virtualization for direct hardware I/O). While I can understand that the low-end dual-core 2.3GHz might lack an advanced feature like VT-d, I was particularly disappointed to find out that the highest end mini, the 2.0GHz quad-core server, does not have this feature. Virtualization can be an integral part of a server, depending on its role.

    Obviously, for those people who could care less about virtualization, this is a moot point, but I do run Windows 7 via Parallels and with OS X Lion, you can, for the first time, run Lion within Lion. That's great for trying out beta software that you don't want to negatively affect your "main" OS X installation, for example.

    I do want to make one point, though: You can still run virtualized OS's, as I don't know about a single Sandy Bridge CPU that does not have the main virtualization feature called VT-x.

    I currently have the 2.5GHz Mac mini and I really like it. I love the fact that the optical drive is gone, but I'm still on the fence as to whether or not to upgrade to the quad-core mini for what are now TWO reasons. :rolleyes:
  2. japtor macrumors regular

    Jun 29, 2010
    There's more parts to it of course. The chipset has to support it (I'm not sure the mini's does, or if it's an optional feature for the manufacturer) as well as the OS and VM program. 10.6 didn't support it but I have no clue if 10.7 does.

    Most people would never likely make use of the feature of course...but it'd be nice to be able to dedicate one of the GPUs to a VM if that'd be possible. Not really sure it'd be useful for anything else on the mini without extra hardware.
  3. Vermifuge, Aug 10, 2011
    Last edited: Aug 10, 2011

    Vermifuge macrumors 65816


    Mar 7, 2009

    The 2635QM & i5-2410M are lacking "Intel® Virtualization Technology for Directed I/O (VT-d)" and "Intel® Trusted Execution Technology." Trusted Execution Technology probably won't matter for 99% of the users out there. The i5-2520M & the i7-2620M DO have VT-d. VT-d will impact the ability of a virtual machine to render complex graphics. So 3D games or 3D modeling software on the 2635QM & i5-2410M won't get the benefit of VT-d. That said I don't believe Parallels even supports TV-d in the desktop version. Only The Workstation extreme edition. The HD 3000 in the quad core i7-2635QM Isn't all that great of a graphics card to begin with so no real loss

    For most other users just VT-x will be just fine. 3D gaming is still possible with Parallels on Intel Core 2 Duo equipped systems. The P8600 and P8900 found in last years Mac minis supported VT-x as do All 4 processors including the i5-2520M & i7-2620M in the 2011 minis. And this is all that really matters for just running multiple Operating Systems simultaneously.
  4. Westyfield2 macrumors 6502a

    Jun 9, 2009
    Bath, UK.
    Does the $100 upgrade processor (2.7GHz Dual-Core Intel Core i7) support VT-d?
  5. MacVibe macrumors regular

    Dec 21, 2009
    If it is the same one in the higher-end 13" MBP, then yes. Vermifuge, thank you for your comments and education. I was recently looking into this because I would like better video support in the vm, and perhaps direct audio support.

    I could not find evidence of virtualbox, parallels, or vmware supporting VT-d in the current mac lineup for windows 7 64bit. I've read some posts saying that even if the cpu supports it the chipset apple has chosen doesn't. I've found it difficult to get any straight answers. If VT-d is a "feature" than can never really be used on these machines then Apple should say so up front; on the other hand, if it can be used, Apple should have a simple set of instructions about how to use it.
  6. japtor macrumors regular

    Jun 29, 2010
    Yeah the dual i7 supports it, but again the chipset may not, and the OS may not, and if the OS doesn't then none of the VM apps can support it either. I remember someone elsewhere asking VMware about it a while back and they said they'd support it whenever the OS gets around to it. Looking around I found someone saying it's BIOS disabled by default on the HM65 so it could perhaps be enabled (if it isn't already).

    I think the main thing in the way of it is just that you have to dedicate stuff to the VM to use it. Like in the case of a GPU you'd have to disable the UI on the Mac side completely because the VM is taking control, unless you have another GPU to pass it off to...which may work on the Radeon minis if the HD3000 isn't completely disabled, or a Thunderbolt GPU.

    Thunderbolt in general is the reason they should enable it really. With a stock device I could see a bunch of issues to work around, but with separate PCIe devices that Thunderbolt can provide it makes it more sense.
  7. Vermifuge macrumors 65816


    Mar 7, 2009
    Like i said I It works on Parallels workstation Extreme so I imagine VT-d is working on some Mac systems. I would like to know if it is enabled but I think in a system in the mini theres no reason to do so.

    In my line of work Parallels desk top does the job just fine. Even when running some 3D apps.
  8. japtor macrumors regular

    Jun 29, 2010
    Is Extreme a bare metal one? That'd be one way around OS X I guess. I think the Mac Pros support it, maybe the last Xserves, but not sure about any others.
  9. Crunch thread starter macrumors 6502a


    Yes, the dual-core i7-2620M, which is the 2.7GHz CPU does support VT-d. That baby turbos up to 3.4GHz, while the i5-2520M 2.5GHz goes up to 3.2GHz.

    I would have loved to get that setup, but unfortunately, that's only a BTO option. I still have a few days left to figure out if I want to swap out my 2.5GHz dual-core mini for the top-of-the-line server model with the quad-core i7. Decisions, decisions. lol...
  10. Vermifuge macrumors 65816


    Mar 7, 2009
    Looks like Workstation Extreme is for PCs not macs. so that settles that. At this time no one is going to get any benefits for Vt-d on a Mac.
  11. Vermifuge macrumors 65816


    Mar 7, 2009
    I settled on the i7 DC for my every day computer but i'm thinking of getting the i7 Server to replace my 2010 Mini Core 2 Duo server. I have been Using my Server to serve up Parallels to my iPad and I love the set up but but the Quad core i7 with hyer threading would let me run MANy more Parallels systems! I wish i could afford the 16 GB upgrade for the mini server. Hopefully prices will drop.
  12. japtor macrumors regular

    Jun 29, 2010
    Eh keep it simple, do you need more cores or do you need better graphics*? Ignore VT-d cause it's something that may never materialize anyway.

    *Technically you can probably get better graphics down the line through Thunderbolt but that will probably be a few hundred extra on top of the extra $200 of the server to begin with.
  13. dolphin842 macrumors 65816

    Jul 14, 2004
    Fun fact: Intel's flagship i5-2500K and i7-2600K chips don't have VT-d either, while their non-K versions do :eek:. Pretty bizarre, but I guess if Intel isn't putting much stock in it's own tech at the moment, it'll be a while before virtualization vendors do.

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