updated 11:25 pm EST, Sun December 4, 2011
Mac Pro video details slip out early
Signs of Apple's long-in-waiting Mac Pro update emerged in earnest after a discovery in the latest Mac OS X 10.7.3 beta. Netkas found code references in the ATIRadeonX3000 driver extension to "Tahiti," the known codename for AMD's upcoming high-end desktop Radeon HD 7000 line. The chipsets are expected to be the first 28-nanometer chips and have a completely new, liquid-cooled graphics core meant to improve general-purpose computing tasks like those in OpenCL.
AMD has already been releasing its first Radeon HD 7000 mobile chips as of this fall in a likely clue as to its future plans.
Since Apple uses mobile graphics parts in the iMac and Mac mini, the presence of Tahiti makes it likely the drivers are an anticipatory step before new Mac Pros in early 2012. Intel moved the Xeon E5 to early next year and would see its new workstation chips dovetail with AMD's graphics.
Apple's Mac Pro line has seen its longest interval without an update, having last been updated in July 2010. The lack of a revision has mostly been pinned on Intel's lack of mid-tier Xeon updates. In 2011, it was focused all on either low-end Xeon E3 chips or else high-end Xeon E7s intended only for servers. As Apple doesn't usually upgrade the rest of a system, it has left the graphics just as outdated and in some cases has let iMacs outperform their more expensive counterparts.