updated 06:15 pm EDT, Sun October 28, 2007
Drivers Hint at MacBooks
Apple may have tipped its hand and revealed a near-term update to its 13-inch MacBooks and potentially its Mac minis, based on files discovered inside Mac OS X Leopard's system folders. The company has included a full set of recent drivers for Intel's GMA X3100 integrated graphics chipset, which is only built into the semiconductor firm's mainboards for notebooks based on the Santa Rosa platform. Apple currently uses Santa Rosa for its most recent MacBook Pro line but equips these higher-end systems exclusively with dedicated graphics chipsets from non-Intel providers like NVIDIA, leaving the regular MacBooks with slower but lower-cost Intel offerings.
No other driver-related clues as to the MacBook and Mac mini upgrades have been found, though all the drivers are dated from October 11th -- suggesting that the company had finalized the current version of the drivers only days before Leopard was sent to manufacturing. The Mac producer historically refrains from including drivers for unreleased hardware in its major and minor operating system updates alike unless it expects the current version to be preloaded on to new systems.
The GMA X3100 chipset is said to provide a significant boost to 3D performance on systems where dedicated graphics would be too costly or space-consuming; unlike the GMA 950 graphics used in today's MacBooks and Mac minis, the new chipset adds more advanced pixel and vertex shaders (drawing instructions), hardware transform and lighting acceleration, and better video decoding. Many Windows-based notebook models have begun using the upgrade since it was introduced along with Santa Rosa in May.