Intel next-gen chip to support key Apple tech

Intel will add support for a key technology in OS X with its next-generation processor. That may mean a future MacBook Air with comparatively powerful graphics.

Intel's next-generation processor is expected to add support for a key OS X technology that accelerates gaming and financial applications. That potentially means a more powerful MacBook Air in the future.

The MacBook Air could get a boost from the  upcoming Intel processor that supports improved graphics performance.
The MacBook Air could get a boost from the upcoming Intel processor that supports improved graphics performance. Apple

Listed as a "core" OS X technology, OpenCL "dramatically accelerates" applications by tapping into the special processing power of the graphics processing unit (GPU), according to Apple. It taps into what an Apple developer page states as the "the amazing parallel computing power of the GPU."

GPU-centric acceleration can be used for financial modeling, accounting applications, analysis on large media files, games, and media applications. In general, the GPU is much better than the CPU (central processing unit) at certain types of computations--thus the necessity of GPUs in games.

In fact, much of the performance boost in Intel's next-generation Ivy Bridge processor (up to 60 percent faster than Intel's current Sandy Bridge chip) is due to more graphics circuits. Of the several hundred million additional transistors in Ivy Bridge (compared to Sandy Bridge), many are dedicated to boosting graphics performance.

To be fair, Nvidia's and Advanced Micro Devices' GPUs already support OpenCL but since neither of those GPUs are in the third-generation MacBook Air, the popular Apple MacBook would likely need an updated Intel processor to get that support.

That's where Ivy Bridge comes in. That Intel chip is due for volume production in the first quarter of next year potentially putting it in a refreshed MacBook Air sometime after that.

Indeed, that's a question that may dog the MacBook faithful in the coming months. When, in fact, will MacBooks get the Ivy Bridge processor?

Which leads to another intriguing question. Ivy Bridge also supports USB 3.0--a faster version of aging USB 2.0. Will Apple also equip MacBooks with USB 3.0 ports next to the existing Thunderbolt port?

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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