Intel comments on chips in new MacBook, Nvidia win

Chipmaker comments on the processors used in the new MacBooks and Apple's use of Nvidia graphics instead of Intel's.

Updated with correction about Intel processors.

Nvidia in, Intel out? Not quite. Intel is still very much a player in the silicon that powers the newest MacBooks.

That said, Intel did get bumped by Nvidia in graphics. The new Apple MacBook and MacBook Air both now come with the Nvidia GeForce 9400M graphics chip, which Apple CEO Steve Jobs said delivers "five times the graphics performance." Jobs didn't mention Intel integrated graphics by name (used in the older MacBook Air and MacBook), but that was the yardstick.

Apple's Steve Jobs talks about new Nvidia 9400M graphics chip Tuesday.
Apple's Steve Jobs talks about new Nvidia 9400M graphics chip Tuesday. CNET Networks

For the record, the Nvidia GeForce 9400M graphics processor comes with 256MB of DDR3 SDRAM shared with main memory. The chip features 16 parallel processing cores that deliver 54 GFLOPs of processing power, Nvidia said. GFLOPS stands for Giga (billion) Floating Point Operations per Second.

Intel commented on the development Tuesday. "Intel continues to have a strong relationship with Apple. Graphics is a competitive market and we compete for all new business. Intel's technology is integrated throughout Apple's product line but we didn't win this particular design," said an Intel spokesperson.

"We believe our products offer significant performance and value to our customer and we will work hard to win back the business," she added.

But new Intel processors did make a debut in the refresh of the MacBook Air. Instead of the Small-Form-Factor (SFF) 65-nanometer Merom chips, Apple has gone with the more advanced 45-nanometer Penryn SSF processor. Penryn chips typically boast either 3MB or 6MB of cache memory versus the 2MB or 4MB that the older mobile processors offer. (Cache memory speeds performance.)

In the MacBook Air, for example, both the 1.6GHz and 1.86GHz processors sport 6MB of cache memory. This is indicative of a Penryn processor. And in the aluminum MacBook line, the 2.4GHz model comes with 3MB of cache memory, a Penryn chip. (Though it should be noted that Apple was already using Penryn processors in the previous MacBook line.)

"On the MacBook Air, it's the 45nm/Montevina/Penryn. What we call our 'small form factor' Core 2 Duo s series which is a small package size (compared with) the regular part," Intel said Tuesday.

(Correction: Montevina is a platform within the Penryn class of processors.)

For complete coverage of the Apple notebook news, see "Apple polishes up its MacBook line."

About the author

Brooke Crothers writes about mobile computer systems, including laptops, tablets, smartphones: how they define the computing experience and the hardware that makes them tick. He has served as an editor at large at CNET News and a contributing reporter to The New York Times' Bits and Technology sections. His interest in things small began when living in Tokyo in a very small apartment for a very long time.

 

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