Thursday, April 14, 2005

New Power Mac, iMac, and eMac specs from Think Secret

Think Secret today published pre-release specifications for new Power Macs, iMacs, and eMacs. The machines are to be released soon, with Tiger and iLife '05.

The rumoured Power Mac speeds are dual 2.0, 2.3, and 2.7 GHz. Although TS mentions the possibility of dual-core 970MP chips, the 512 KB L2 cache spec would suggest that these machines in fact utilize the single-core 970FX chips. The top of the line speed boost is not a terribly impressive, at only 0.2 GHz, but is more impressive if the new machines no longer use liquid cooling like the current dual 2.5 GHz. It's nice to see the line more balanced now though. 2.0, 2.3, and 2.7 makes more sense for a desktop line than 1.8, 2.0, and 2.5, since the latter line's chip speeds are not evenly spread out.

No quad Power Mac is mentioned, which is not unexpected if the chips used are still the 970FX. PCIe is also a no show. One might expect the next revision of the Power Mac to include both PCIe and 970MP support, with one quad (dual dual-core) G5 model. A new Power Mac line might also support DDR2. However, with an April/May release of this new Power Mac line, we shouldn't expect a new PCIe-endowed 970MP Power Mac revision until fall at the earliest.

The stock Power Mac, iMac and eMac GPUs are all listed to be from the ATI Radeon 9600 series, with the high end Power Mac using the 9650. I suspect the 9600 listed may be the slower non-Pro 9600 GPU, but the version is not specified in the article. The 9650 appears to be ATI's RV351, which is a 110 nm die shrunk 9600 Pro class GPU. These chips will likely be fanless, and probably relatively inexpensive for Apple as well. The adoption of the 9600 series GPUs across these desktop lines is especially important for the eMac, since Core Image requires Shader 2.0 compliance for full GPU acceleration, and the previous Radeon 9200 did not support this feature. One may guess that the Mac mini will also get this GPU (or something comparable) at the next revision, possibly in the fall. The 9600 series GPUs also support Quartz 2D Extreme hardware acceleration, although this feature does not (yet) appear to be enabled in Tiger.

Overall, if the TS pre-release specs are accurate, this is a relatively solid update to Apple's desktop lines, although the Power Mac line is still in definite need of a further boost this year.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

No Quartz 2D Extreme for Tiger 10.4?

One of the most exciting things to come out of WWDC 2004 was the description of a technology in Tiger called Quartz 2D Extreme.

Introduced in Mac OS X 10.2 Jaguar, Quartz Extreme replaced Quartz to offload portions of OS X's 2D display work from the CPU to the GPU. Quartz 2D Extreme similarly would replace Quartz 2D to further offload work to the GPU.

(Click picture for video. Go to 22'52".)

However, while the Quartz 2D Extreme code is present in Tiger, rumour has that it is disabled by default in the shipping version of Tiger. Also, there is no mention of it on Apple's public webpages about Tiger. So apparently, even if the hardware includes a Shader 2.0 compliant programmable GPU (which is required for Quartz 2D Extreme), Tiger unfortunately does not use it at this time.

If these rumours are true (and we will only know for sure on the 29th), one can only hope that later point updates of 10.4 will reenable it. In the meantime, one can enable it for testing purposes using the Quartz Debug application in the Developer Tools.

(Note that Core Image is something completely different from Quartz 2D Extreme, and is included and enabled in Tiger. Core Image's GPU acceleration does share Quartz 2D Extreme's requirement for Shader 2.0 support however.)

[Update 2005-04-25]

Several people who now have the release version of Tiger 10.4 (8A428) are reporting that Quartz 2D Extreme is indeed disabled by default.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Install Tiger and be l337!

From the Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger Advanced Technology page:
Remappable Modifier Keys
Remap modifiers such as control and caps lock to be super elite.

Tiger 10.4 released, Core Image GPU requirements

In case you haven't heard yet, Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger was formally announced today, and accompanying this is a nice black motif on the front page of

I'll let everyone else expouse the virtues of the various new features in Tiger, but I just want to make a comment about Core Image in Tiger. Many people seem worried that certain recent GPUs are not listed as fully supported on Apple's site:

When a programmable GPU is present, Core Image utilizes the graphics card for image processing operations, freeing the CPU for other tasks. And if you have a high-performance card with increased video memory (VRAM), you'll find real-time responsiveness across a wide variety of operations.

Core Image-capable graphics cards include:
* ATI Mobility Radeon 9700
* ATI Radeon 9600 XT, 9800 XT, X800 XT
* nVidia GeForce FX Go 5200
* nVidia GeForce FX 5200 Ultra
* nVidia GeForce 6800 Ultra DDL, 6800 GT DDL

Because of this, people are worried their PowerBooks from last year with the Mobility Radeon 9600 for example do not fully support Core Image.

Two things:

1) Core Image supports Altivec fallback, so if the GPU is not fully supported, any G4 or G5 will be able to take over this functionality.

2) The Mobility Radeon 9600 is indeed Shader 2.0 compliant, and will support Core Image GPU acceleration fully. It seems Apple is simply not listing ALL GPUs with this functionality. They are only listing currently shipping GPUs. The Mobility Radeon 9600, the Radeon 9600 Pro, and the Radeon 9800 Pro are all not listed, because no current Macs ship with them. However, all three cards support the required feature set and are actually faster at this than the listed GeForce 5200 series cards.

I look forward to the 29th of April, for Tiger's arrival. :)