NVIDIA GPUs to Take On More in Snow Leopard, Improve Efficiency

nvidiaGenerally speaking, if your not using your Apple (s aapl) computer for graphics-intensive purposes, that NVIDIA (s NVDA) GPU that you have if you bought your computer recently isn’t doing much. Definitely not earning its keep, you might say. In fact, you could think of it like your unemployed cousin who crashes on your couch and expects to be showered with praise when he does the dishes once every three or four weeks. All that is about to change, thanks to the next generation of Mac OS, according to NVIDIA product manager Sumit Gupta.
In an interview with CNET News on Sunday, Gupta discussed general purpose computing on graphics processing units (GPGPU for short), and how Snow Leopard, and Windows 7, would take special advantage of this growing trend to more efficiently share the overall computing workload between CPU and GPU. Apple’s upcoming Snow Leopard OS X installment will use OpenCL to take advantage of the combined power of CPU and GPU using “heterogeneous” computing, meaning, the computer can use all processors at its disposal to get the job done. Read More about NVIDIA GPUs to Take On More in Snow Leopard, Improve Efficiency

Why Apple’s NVIDIA GPU Extended Service Program is Inadequate

Nvidia GPUs PossibleA tip of the hat to fellow TheAppleBlog contributor Clayton Lai in his recent column NVIDIA Killed My 2007 MacBook Pro, and the people who commented with similar tales of premature hardware failure woe, for finally convincing me to cross the late 2008 MacBook Pro off my short list of candidates for my next system upgrade.

Clayton’s ‘Book fell victim to what evidently is a not uncommon defect in the NVIDIA GeForce 8600GT graphics processor units in May 2007 and Early 2008 revisions of the MacBook Pro, combined with a simultaneous hard disk issue which rendered the machine unbootable. The good news is that Apple came through with a repair that involved replacing the entire logic board under a recently announced extended service program for these models even though Clayton’s computer was out of warranty. The bad news is that it seems many owners of these MacBook Pro models are experiencing similar difficulties to such a degree of frequency that Apple announced in October:

“In July 2008, NVIDIA publicly acknowledged a higher than normal failure rate for some of their graphics processors due to a packaging defect. At that same time, NVIDIA assured Apple that Mac computers with these graphics processors were not affected. However, after an Apple-led investigation, Apple has determined that some MacBook Pro computers with the NVIDIA GeForce 8600M GT graphics processor may be affected. If the NVIDIA graphics processor in your MacBook Pro has failed, or fails within two years of the original date of purchase, a repair will be done free of charge, even if your MacBook Pro is out of warranty.”

Apple and NVIDIA stepping up and taking some responsibility for this defect is a good thing as far as it goes, but it almost certainly does not go far enough. There seems not much probable cause to believe that (a) this problem will not eventually afflict most examples of those MacBook Pro models if they are used long enough, and (b) that once repaired there’s any guarantee of the issue not repeating itself after the two-year extended service eligibility or even three years of maximum AppleCare extended warranty coverage.
Read More about Why Apple’s NVIDIA GPU Extended Service Program is Inadequate

NVIDIA Killed My 2007 MacBook Pro

In mid 2008, amid growing evidence, NVIDIA acknowledged that a significant number of its previous-generation GPUs (graphics processing unit) and MCPs (media and communications processors) for notebooks are failing at higher-than-normal rates. For readers who are not aware of this story, TheAppleBlog covered this piece of news back in October.

Three weeks back, I was personally afflicted by this problem. One fine morning, after arriving at the office of a client, I took my mid-2007 MacBook Pro out of my bag and proceeded to fire it up. The MBP never got past the startup chime; there was only a blank, black screen. I took the usual troubleshooting steps: resetting the PRAM and the SMC, booting from the OS X installation disc and from an external hard drive, and finally, plugging in an external display…all to no avail. It was then that my suspicions turned to the NVIDIA GeForce 8600GT graphics card in the MBP, even though I had not ruled out a misbehaving hard drive.
Read More about NVIDIA Killed My 2007 MacBook Pro

Apple’s Laptop Line Gets a Graphics Boost

Apple has updated their laptop line (sans the “white MacBook”) with NVIDIA’s new GeForce graphics chips: the 9400M for the MacBook and MacBook Air, and the 9600M GT for the MacBook Pro.

The 9400M contains 16 parallel graphics cores offering 54 Gigaflops of graphics performance. This translates to, according to Jobs, a “5x faster graphics than the chips [Apple’s] been using”. The 9600M GT doubles the amount of graphics core to 32 and offers dedicated 256 / 512 MB of dedicated GDDR3 memory at the cost of only an hour of battery time (down to 4hrs from the 9400’s five). The 9600M comes in addition to the 9400M on the Pro line for a dual configuration allowing you to switch between processors depending on your needs.
Not only is this great for performance in general, but this is a also huge win for gamers as the integrated Intel chip on the MacBooks have made gaming close to non-existent, as I’m sure many would-be fans of Spore can attest to.

Apple Officially Admits to Faulty NVIDIA GPUs

Following NVIDIA’s July 2008 announcement that a number of their GPUs were experiencing higher failure rates than should be normally expected, Apple today finally released an official support article acknowledging the problem. The article claims that NVIDIA told Apple graphics cards in Macintosh computers were not affected by the problem, which is supposedly related to improper packaging. The reason for the lag time between NVIDIA’s and Apple’s announcements concerning the faulty GPUs is an internal investigation by Cupertino itself which eventually found that MacBook Pro NVIDIA cards were indeed affected.

The GeForce 8600M GT, specifically, is named in the article as having problems, which were used in MBP’s manufactured between May of 2007 and September of 2008. Symptoms include distorted video or no display at all on either the built-in or connected external displays. Anyone affected is directed to take their machine to an Apple Store or authorized service provider to receive a repair free of charge. Those who’ve already paid out of pocket for a fix are also eligible for reimbursement. The offer is valid for two years from the original date of purchase.
Read More about Apple Officially Admits to Faulty NVIDIA GPUs

Update: More “Brick” Rumors, Nvidia MacBook GPUs

A few days ago we posted a story about the much-sensationalized upcoming Apple mystery product, “The Brick.”  While there is still no definite word regarding what it actually is, 9to5mac is now reporting that a “reliable” source has lead them to believe that “The Brick” is not a product at all, but rather a production process and the facility to house it.

The blog cites Steve Jobs’ experience with in-house manufacturing during his days helming NeXT computers, and their earlier accuracy in predicting the arrival of a number of Apple products prior to launch (aluminum iMacs, MacBook Air, etc.) to back up their claims. 
Read More about Update: More “Brick” Rumors, Nvidia MacBook GPUs