Another Look at Apple's Core 2 Duo Choice for New 13-Inch MacBook Pro

131250 intel core 2 duo

With the launch of new MacBook Pros last week, some observers immediately questioned Apple's decision to continue using Intel Core 2 Duo processors in its 13-inch models while bumping up to Core i5 and i7 chips in the larger form factors. At the time, Apple CEO Steve Jobs noted that the company had opted for "killer graphics" and the extended battery life versus what would have been a very small bump in CPU speed. Ars Technica now provides a thorough look at the factors that played into Apple's decision, showing how space constraints and other issues made the Core 2 Duo processors the only real option.

Much of the issue stems from a licensing dispute that has prevented NVIDIA from offering its integrated graphics packages alongside Intel's new family of Arrandale processors that includes the Core i5 and i7 chips used in the larger MacBook Pros, as well as the Core i3 chips that are a step below those adopted by Apple. The dispute left Apple with only two options if it wanted to use Arrandale processors in the 13-inch model, using Intel's "HD" integrated graphics or offering a separate discrete graphics chip from the likes of NVIDIA.

With Intel HD Graphics proving inferior for more demanding tasks to even the NVIDIA GeForce 9400M used in the previous-generation MacBook Pro, the former was not an option. And the latter meant that Apple would need to find room in an already-cramped 13-inch MacBook Pro body for a discrete graphics chip, a feat that was simply not possible, especially given the effect it would have had on battery life both from increased power consumption and from having to reduce the size of the battery to fit the expanded logic board.

Graphics performance would have taken a significant step backwards if Apple opted to rely solely on the Intel HD IGP that comes with Core i3 or i5, so Apple would have also had to include a discrete GPU like that used on the 15" and 17" models. Besides the added cost, there's simply no room on the 13" MacBook Pro logic board to include an additional discrete GPU.

Together, those factors mean that Core i5 and i7, and even the Core i3, were not feasible options for Apple in the 13-inch MacBook Pro, leaving Core 2 Duo as the fallback processor option where Apple could use NVIDIA's graphics technology. While Apple was able to use a slightly bumped CPU speed for the new models, it recognized that it needed to do more on the graphics front to improve performance, and so it engaged NVIDIA to create the GeForce 320M, a beefed-up, custom version of the company's GeForce 310M. The 320M offers tremendously superior performance over the Intel HD Graphics that would have been implemented with Arrandale processors in the 13-inch model had Apple gone that route, as well as offering more efficient power usage.

Clearly, Apple wasn't actively trying to cripple the 13" MacBook Pro by leaving it "stuck" with yesterday's Core 2 Duo technology. Instead, an Apple spokesperson told Ars that the company wanted to maintain the 13" MacBook Pro's unique combination of performance, portability, and extended battery life, as well as its $1,200 starting price. The combination of a faster Core 2 Duo processor and the NVIDIA 320M allowed Apple to do that.

The Intel-NVIDIA dispute that in large part forced Apple's hand with regard to the 13-inch MacBook Pro component choices has been cited as one of the major factors for Apple's rumored consideration of AMD processors over Intel's offerings for future Macs.

Popular Stories

cook sept 2020 event

Gurman: Apple Preparing Pre-Recorded iPhone 14 and Apple Watch Series 8 Event

Sunday August 7, 2022 6:13 am PDT by
Apple has "started to record" its virtual September event, where it's expected to announce the upcoming iPhone 14 lineup, the Apple Watch Series 8, and a new "rugged" Apple Watch model, according to Bloomberg's Mark Gurman. Writing in his latest Power On newsletter, Gurman says the event, which is expected to take place in the early part of September, is already under production, implying...
iPhone 14 Lineup Feature Purple

Color Options for All iPhone 14 Models: Everything We Know

Monday August 8, 2022 3:59 am PDT by
The iPhone 14 and iPhone 14 Pro models are rumored to be available in a refreshed range of color options, including an all-new purple color. Most expectations about the iPhone 14 lineup's color options come from an unverified post on Chinese social media site Weibo earlier this year. Overall, the iPhone 14 and iPhone 14 Pro's selection of color options could look fairly similar to those of the ...
ios 16 beta 5 battery percent

iOS 16 Beta 5: Battery Percentage Now Displayed in iPhone Status Bar

Monday August 8, 2022 10:43 am PDT by
With the fifth beta of iOS 16, Apple has updated the battery icon on iPhones with Face ID to display the specific battery percentage rather than just a visual representation of battery level. The new battery indicator is available on iPhone 12 and iPhone 13 models, with the exception of the 5.4-inch iPhone 12/13 mini. It is also available on the iPhone 11 Pro and Pro Max, XS and XS Max, and...
iOS 16 battery percentage

Apple Limiting iOS 16 Beta 5 Battery Percentage Display to Select iPhones: Here Are the Supported Devices

Tuesday August 9, 2022 2:51 am PDT by
Apple this week brought back one of the most highly requested features from iOS users since the launch of the iPhone X in 2017: the ability to see your battery percentage directly in the status bar. Ever since the launch of the iPhone X with the notch, Apple has not allowed users to show their battery percentage directly in the status bar, forcing them to swipe down into Control Center to...
ios 16 battery indicator 2

Everything New in iOS 16 Beta 5: Battery Percentage in Status Bar, Find My Changes and More

Monday August 8, 2022 12:53 pm PDT by
Apple today seeded the fifth beta of iOS 16 to developers for testing purposes, introducing some small but notable changes to the iOS operating system. Subscribe to the MacRumors YouTube channel for more videos. We've rounded up everything new in the fifth beta below. Battery Percentage in Status Bar The battery icon in the status bar now displays the exact battery percent, a feature that ...
iphone 14 pro max camera bump compared lipilipsi 16 9

Bigger iPhone 14 Pro Max Camera Bump Shown Alongside iPhone 13 Pro Max

Monday August 8, 2022 4:33 am PDT by
The camera bump on the upcoming iPhone 14 Pro Max is expected to be the largest rear lens housing Apple has ever installed on its flagship smartphones, and a new photo offers a rare glimpse at just how prominent it is compared to Apple's predecessor device. iPhone 14 Pro Max dummy (left) vs iPhone 13 Pro Max All iPhone 14 models are expected to see upgrades to the Ultra Wide camera on the...
airpods pro black background

Beyond iPhone 14: Five Apple Products Expected to Launch Later This Year

Monday August 8, 2022 9:43 am PDT by
While the iPhone 14 and Apple Watch Series 8 are expected to be announced in September as usual, there are several more Apple products rumored to launch later this year, including new iPad and Mac models and more. Beyond the iPhone and Apple Watch, we've put together a list of five Apple products that are most likely to be unveiled by the end of 2022. Second-Generation AirPods Pro Apple...