Could Apple use its own GPU designs in 2016 Macs to beat AMD and Nvidia?
A short time ago appleinsider ran down the options for graphics processing in future Macs.
In http://appleinsider.com/articles/16/08/27/inside-apples-2016-macbook-pro-graphics-processing-unit-choices Mike Wuerthele lists Apple’s options, ranging from integrated GPU by Intel to new Nvidia ‘Pascal’ architecture dedicated mobile GPU.
The biggest loss in Apple’s failure to frequently update hardware as of late isn’t in CPU performance, but is in the advancement of GPU technology. The on-board graphics capability of Intel processors stands far above that of just a few years ago, but it is still remarkably limited when compared to dedicated mobile chipsets.
The problem is although Mac fans expect that Apple will put in the fastest GPU power possible into new computers, the market for such computers might not be worth the investment.
Commenter Marvin points out that Nvidia’s 2015 revenue of $5bn divides out to 8 million or so GPU cards. The market for those who want advanced GPU power looks relatively small:
If Apple was to target this and even manage to capture the entire market, it’s a few million units. Multiply that by $500 net margins to get $2.5b. They made over $50b last year and they wouldn’t get anywhere near the entire enthusiast market, they’d get 20% at most ($500m). If it was a viable opportunity for Apple, they’d go after it. Instead the MBP and iMac target the much larger mid-range segment and that works pretty well for them so that’s what to expect going forward
So Apple might not be interested in the high-end.
One of Apple’s major advantages over the competition is that it controls the OS, the hardware and has a very successful chip design business.
Given the amount of resources Apple puts into developing its A-series of CPUs for iPhones and iPads — including custom silicon for graphics processing — there may be a point where Apple will be able to make their own GPUs that match those created by Nvidia and AMD.
Here’s a link to how the power of the a single D700 GPU (the kind used in high-end 2013 Mac Pros) compares to a iPhone 7 Plus: https://gfxbench.com/compare.jsp?benchmark=gfx40&did1=20918725&os1=OS+X&api1=gl&hwtype1=dGPU&hwname1=AMD+FirePro+D700&D2=Apple+iPhone+7+Plus
By some measures, the iPhone 7 Plus compares well with the Mac Pro GPU. Adding the GPU power of multiple iPhone 7s together doesn’t directly scale. What if Apple have been developing a ‘G11’ GPU that can be used in Macs?
There could be 1 in the entry-level 2016 MacBook, 4 in the entry-level MacBook Pro, 8 in the top-end MacBook Pro and entry-level iMac, 20 in the Mac Pro.
Such a scalable (‘cell’-like) GPU component — would also be very useful for other Apple devices — especially AR consumer products.
If Apple go in a different direction when it comes to CPUs when they announce their next Macs, it could be big news for future VR/AR devices.