Apple Gains Early Access to Intel's Z68 Chipset for New iMacs

095114 intel z68

As noted by tonymacx86 (via 9 to 5 Mac), iFixit's teardown of the new iMac released earlier this week reveals that the machine utilizes Intel's BD82Z68 platform controller. The inclusion is notable in part because the Z68 chipset is reportedly not set for public introduction until next week.

Apple use of the Z68 chipset marks yet another exclusive for the company, which has occasionally been granted early access to forthcoming chip components ahead of public unveilings and competitors' offerings.

The Z68 chipset is also notable because it supports SSD caching, a system that marries conventional hard drives to small solid-state drives (SSDs) to provide a seamless user experience with increased performance as the most frequently-accessed files are placed on the speedy SSD.

Apple of course offers SSD options in its iMacs, either as a replacement for or in addition to the traditional hard drive included as standard. The iMac's SSD, however, is a full 256 GB drive rather than the much smaller-capacity drives envisioned for SSD caching. And while Apple doesn't seem to be supporting true SSD caching in the new iMacs, the company achieves a similar but less seamless effect by installing the operating system and applications on the SSD while leaving the traditional hard drive for media on systems configured with both types of drives.

Intel is reportedly preparing to launch its own "Larsen Creek" line of SSDs with capacities around 20 GB and specifically designed to support seamless SSD caching when paired with a traditional hard drive and a compatible chipset such as the Z68. It is unclear if Apple will be looking to incorporate such systems in future hardware, but the company is clearly interested in pursing SSD technology for its performance benefits.

Related Roundup: iMac
Buyer's Guide: iMac (Caution)

Top Rated Comments

alvindarkness Avatar
128 months ago
The Z68 does something far more important than just SSD Caching. It lets you use QuickSync. Basically letting you use the onboard intel HD GPU to accelerate tasks such as encoding while still relying on your dedicated GPU for normal graphics tasks.

Some Z68 motherboard manufacturers have decided to ignore this entirely, such as Gigabyte who dont supply power to the VAXG pin of the CPU - which means the Intel HD GPU is never powered.

I'd love to know what Apple have done. Does their implementation of the chipset/cpu allow OpenCL access to the HD2000/HD3000 on the iMacs?
Score: 6 Votes (Like | Disagree)
BTGeekboy Avatar
128 months ago
More than just SSD Caching...

The Z68 chipset has more functionality than just SSD caching. Check out the writeup from Tom's Hardware: http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/z68-express-lucidlogix-virtu-ssd-caching,2888.html

A few things I learned from the article:
1. SSD Caching is not the best; it's far faster to use the SSD on its own. It does add a small speed bump when it's "primed" but, when I first read about it, it seemed like a lot of work for little gain, which I could already do better with existing chipsets.

2. The other big benefit, and I think this is even bigger than the SSD angle, is it allows you to access the excellent video transcoding capabilities that are included in the video chip built into the processor while making use of the add-in discrete graphics card to run the display. If they can combine that with Grand Central, that's a whole lot more performance out of the same chip than with a P67.
Score: 3 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Al Coholic Avatar
128 months ago
The big news here to me is Apple's continued quick access to components from intel that are barely out of the mold. Bodes well for future updates on their entire computer line.

Is it just me or has Apple been more aggressive with this in the last 12 months or so?
Score: 2 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Lesser Evets Avatar
128 months ago
I'm still waiting for an inexpensive and functioning PCI-e SSD for my tower. The tech is oddly behind for such things, on Mac. I'd love to have a 128gb SSD starter in a PCI-e slot... yeah, I'm slightly off topic.
Score: 2 Votes (Like | Disagree)
wacomme Avatar
128 months ago
It lets you use a cheap hdd to get speeds similar to an expensive large ssd.

Does this imply that with the arrival of TB supported drives, a cheap HD can be paired with a small SSD for speeds on par with a large SSD? Does TB access the Z68 chipset, assuming TB can be used as a boot drive?
Score: 2 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Hellhammer Avatar
128 months ago
That's the thing. We don't know how Apple has the display implemented in the iMac. They've implemented seamless display support allowing the use of both the IGP and a discrete GPU in the MacBook Pros so they can certainly implement something similar to allow the IGP to be active for QuickSync. As for Virtu, Apple would have to implement something similar themselves due to the different windowing/graphics system from Windows. It'll be interesting to see whether they've done so, perhaps in Lion. Certainly the performance of QuickSync over OpenCL for video encoding makes it worthwhile. Particularly, because all subsequent Intel processor generations look to keep and expand QuickSync support so adding support now will have long-term benefits and its something they will probably have to do eventually anyways.

And I've read the latest version of Virtu virtualizes the IGP rather than virtualizing the discrete GPU as before. Perhaps that also means that the display can be connected to the discrete GPU.

Hopefully Apple has since QS is definitely awesome. However, this could have been achieved with H67 as well since it supports the IGP as well so the main point of using Z68 still seems to be the SRT.
Score: 1 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Top Stories

microsoft edge ios android

Bill Gates Says His Preference for Android Over iPhone is Due to Pre-Installed Software

Friday February 26, 2021 3:35 am PST by
Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates this week participated in his first meeting on Clubhouse, the increasingly popular invite-only conversation app, where he fielded a range of questions as part of an ongoing book tour. Gates was interviewed by journalist Andrew Ross Sorkin, and given that the Clubhouse app is currently only available on iOS, naturally one of the questions that came up was...
First Look Big Sur Feature2

Apple Releases macOS Big Sur 11.2.2 to Prevent MacBooks From Being Damaged by Third-Party Non-Compliant Docks

Thursday February 25, 2021 10:07 am PST by
Apple today released macOS Big Sur 11.2.2, the fourth update to the macOS Big Sur operating system that launched in November. macOS Big Sur 11.2.2 comes two weeks after the release of macOS Big Sur 11.2.1, a bug fix update. The new ‌‌‌‌macOS Big Sur‌‌‌ 11.2.2‌ update can be downloaded for free on all eligible Macs using the Software Update section of System Preferences....
flat mbp 14 inch feature yellow

Redesigned 14-Inch MacBook Pro Expected to Feature Brighter Mini-LED Display With Slimmer Bezels and More

Thursday February 25, 2021 7:48 am PST by
Apple plans to unveil new 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pro models with Mini-LED-backlit displays in the second half of this year, according to industry sources cited by Taiwanese supply chain publication DigiTimes. The report claims that Radiant Opto-Electronics will be the exclusive supplier of the Mini-LED backlight units, while Quanta Computer is said to be tasked with final assembly of the...
Top Stories 47 Feature copy

Top Stories: MacBook Pro, iMac, and AirPods Rumors, macOS 11.2.2, MagSafe Wallet Revisited

Saturday February 27, 2021 6:00 am PST by
March is right around the corner, and that means our first good opportunity for Apple product launches in 2021 as the company frequently has significant launches in March or April each year. We're hearing rumors about MacBook Pro, iMac, AirPods, and more, although many of these will be coming out at different times over the course of the year. This week also saw a macOS update to address a ...
maxresdefault

HomeKit Essentials Worth Checking Out

Saturday February 27, 2021 7:05 am PST by
HomeKit was slow to take off after its 2014 launch, but now that it's been around for seven years, there are hundreds of HomeKit products available, ranging from doorbells and speakers to TVs, lights, and cameras. In our latest YouTube video, we rounded up some of our favorite HomeKit products that we find most useful. Subscribe to the MacRumors YouTube channel for more videos. HomePod...
apple store macarthur center

Apple Store at MacArthur Center in Virginia Permanently Closing Following Years of Safety Issues at Shopping Mall

Thursday February 25, 2021 4:45 pm PST by
Apple today indicated that its retail store at the MacArthur Center shopping mall in Norfolk, Virginia will be permanently closing after over 14 years of business, although an exact closure date has yet to be announced by the company. Apple has assured that it will be offering all employees at the store other positions within Apple, and said that it looks forward to continuing to serve...
jon prosser imac 2021colors

Prosser: 2021 iMac to Come in Five Colors, Apple Silicon Mac Pro to Resemble 'Stacked' Mac Minis

Wednesday February 24, 2021 7:26 am PST by
Hit-and-miss leaker Jon Prosser has today alleged that the upcoming 2021 iMac models will offer five color options, mirroring the colors of the fourth-generation iPad Air, and revealed a number of additional details about the Mac Pro with Apple Silicon. In a new video on YouTube channel FrontPageTech, Prosser explained that the redesigned iMacs will come featuring options for Silver, Space ...
apple refurbished m1 mac mini

Apple Begins Selling Refurbished M1 Mac Mini

Thursday February 25, 2021 6:42 pm PST by
Apple today began selling certified refurbished Mac mini models with the M1 chip for the first time in the United States and Canada, with prices discounted by approximately 15 percent compared to brand new models as usual. For example, a refurbished Mac mini with the M1 chip, 256GB of SSD storage, and 16GB of unified memory is available for $759, compared to $899 brand new. Other custom...
mac mini developer transition kit photo feature

Apple Requiring Developers to Return DTK Mac Minis by March 31

Friday February 26, 2021 3:57 pm PST by
Apple today sent out emails to developers who are in possession of a Developer Transition Kit, asking them to return the machines by March 31. The Developer Transition Kits are Mac minis with A12Z chips that Apple provided for development purposes ahead of the release of the M1 Macs. Apple in the emails provided developers with shipping instructions, and plans to begin collecting the DTKs...
m1 mac mini

M1 Mac Users Report Excessive SSD Wear

Tuesday February 23, 2021 7:07 am PST by
Over the past week, some M1 Mac users have been reporting alarming SSD health readings, suggesting that these devices are writing extraordinary amounts of data to their drives (via iMore). Across Twitter and the MacRumors forums, users are reporting that M1 Macs are experiencing extremely high drive writes over a short space of time. In what appear to be the most severe cases, M1 Macs are sai...