Nvidia on Wednesday introduced its GeForce 9400M graphics chip, a direct threat to Intel's graphics silicon.
Apple's choice of the 9400M for its refreshed MacBook line heralds a much-needed infusion of competition in the market for mobile integrated graphics--a low-cost solution that is built into Intel chipsets. To date, Intel has dominated the market, with many of the top notebook vendors defaulting to Intel graphics in low-end models and ultraportables. Apple chose Intel graphics for previous versions of the MacBook and MacBook Air.
Not this time though. Apple did its homework and CEO Steve Jobs made a point Tuesday to cite the 9400M as a reason for better performance in the new MacBooks. You can bet that other PC makers are looking closely at the 9400M.
The Apple announcement Tuesday is the "first in a string of announcements" coming from PC makers, said Bill Henry, director of notebook marketing at Nvidia. "Most of the top OEMs have designs in the works."
"It's ideal for getting really good graphics capability in 10-inch designs and 12-inch designs," Henry said, referring to small laptop designs that use screens sizes ranging from 10 to 12 inches. These are typically referred to as ultraportables.
Some important 9400M features include the integration of 16 streaming processors to boost game-playing performance and a technology called Hybird SLI, which allows Nvidia's integrated silicon to be paired with an external graphics card for more speed. (SLI stands for Scalable Link Interface.)
The 9400M can handle 30-frames-per-second frame rates in many games and supports Nvidia's PhysX technology for more realistic game playing.
From a PR perspective, Nvidia also made it clear Wednesday that the 9400M won't have any of the issues of past Nvidia mobile graphics. Some of Nvidia's mobile chips have had issues with weak die and packaging materials.
"We've updated the materials we're using to manufacture our chips," Henry said.
Nvidia also issued this statement: "Apple was fully aware of the issue during the MacBook development program, and they are satisfied that Nvidia has implemented corrective actions to ensure there will not be an issue in the future."
The chip is being manufactured by Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company on a 65-nanometer process.