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NVIDIA: Snow Leopard will benefit from Fermi

updated 05:35 pm EDT, Fri October 2, 2009

NVIDIA Fermi with Snow Leopard in mind

The just-unveiled Fermi graphics architecture will find its way into Macs and play an important role in Mac OS X Snow Leopard, NVIDIA chief scientist Bill Dally said today. While it's expected that NVIDIA would continue to play an important part of future Macs, the researcher drew a particular connection between the new GPU design and Apple's new OS, expecting that it would provide a significant boost for those apps that implement OpenCL. Windows 7 will also get support through DirectX 11 and DirectCompute.

"A lot of [the new] features accelerate key consumer applications," Dally told CNET. "Both Snow Leopard and Windows 7 enable the GPU to be used as a co-processor... [using a] discrete GPU they can get very good performance on these applications."

He added that Fermi may lose some of its potential in raw graphics performance because of its heavy emphasis on general computing but that it should prove itself once more software starts using the hardware for more than video. Games can exploit unused resources on a Fermi chipset to render physics more accurately without as much of a performance hit, for example, while media creation tools like Photoshop can speed up filter rendering or other duties that normally wouldn't benefit from a faster video chipset.

Few Mac apps are optimized for OpenCL at present. Most that do support general-purpose computing on graphics cards still support NVIDIA's proprietary CUDA format instead, which doesn't work with AMD's ATI-branded cards or other competitors' products.

Dally wouldn't say when GPUs based on the design would appear, but he did state that the first gaming and workstation parts would ship close together. Rumors have a minimum of three high-end cards launching before the end of 2009, targeting gamers and other performance users, while mobile and low-end parts aren't due until 2010.

For Apple, higher-end desktop Macs with discrete graphics, such as the 24-inch iMac and Mac Pro, are most likely to get the upgrade first. 20-inch iMacs, Mac minis and all MacBooks use integrated mobile chipsets for graphics.

By Electronista Staff


  1. Feathers

    Grizzled Veteran

    Joined: Oct 1999



    GPU's, OpenCL, GCD.... all of this is meaningless when you see how stinkingly badly threaded and coded a lot of mere 32bit apps are. Whilst of a generally higher standard than on the Windows platform, the actual power of the hardware is being progressively eroded by stinkingly poor and lazy coding. The status quo is barely maintained by increases in hardware speed. It's about time developers stopped competing in the thumb-up-the-a** Olympics and took some responsibility for writing sleek and efficient code. Oh.. and stop blaming the tools! Natch!

  1. Project7

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Oct 2009


    Couldn't agree more

    Thinking back to when I was in Uni, multi-threading wasn't something covered in much detail. Of course those of us interested in getting real performance out of apps did our homework, but I expect many developers simply aren't aware how quickly and tangled multi-threading can become. Even the common models used don't always provide the right framework for a given task. The other problem of course are time constraints - get something up and working, improve the performance later - except that never happens...

    As for macs getting Fermi - I can't agree with the article on the point that:
    '...Mac Pro, are most likely to get the upgrade first.'

    Given that the top end parts will come out before low end parts - you would think that the top models would get Fermi before the low end do. But if you look at Apple's history with GPUs they've supplied with their machines and their sometimes slow adoption of new graphics hardware, it doesn't always work that way.
    Considering the history of the Mac Pro and the graphics cards Apple has supplied with it - I just don't think they will 'upgrade' the Mac Pro with a Fermi card as standard config - but rather as an over priced option.
    Hopefully NVidia will take the initiative and produce a card for the mac pro sooner rather than later (previously they really took their time - not too many sales to Mac Pro owners, like the 285). But who knows.

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