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Apple Planning Smoother Transitions Between Graphics Processors in Upcoming MacBook Pros?

AppleInsider reports that it has received information that Apple is planning an enhancement to its next-generation MacBook Pros that will allow for automatic switching between integrated and discrete graphics processors based on whichever is the more optimal technology (power consumption vs. performance) at any given time.

Since October 2008, Apple has offered two NVIDIA graphics processors in its 17" and higher-end 15" MacBook Pro models, one discrete processor and one integrated processor. Users of these machines have been able use the Energy Saver pane in System Preferences to select whether they prefer "better battery life" with the integrated graphics or "higher performance" with the discrete graphics, although switching between the two requires users to log out of their accounts temporarily.

Apple's rumored plans appear to be based on NVIDIA's Optimus technology, which allows for seamless switching between graphics processors based on automatic software settings. NVIDIA reportedly developed the technology in response to a dispute with Intel over NVIDIA's ability to build chipsets for Intel's latest processors, a dispute that has led to NVIDIA exiting the chipset business. NVIDIA's Optimus technology offers computer manufacturers an enticing means to pair NVIDIA's well-regarded discrete graphics processors with integrated processors provided by Intel as part of its chipsets.

Today's report notes that the source is not 100% certain that the change will be made in time to appear in Apple's next-generation MacBook Pro, which is widely expected in the near future. Apple's pressing need for a solution to the situation presented by the Intel-NVIDIA dispute, however, makes it very likely that the technology will be included in the forthcoming models.