Apple turns to Intel for Sandy Bridge graphics

The low end of Apple's MacBook line of laptop computers will be powered by Intel's forthcoming Sandy Bridge architecture, according to reports.

Cnet is quoting anonymous sources who reckon the Cupertino company will boot Nvidia out of its 13-inch and below portables and maybe even the Mac Mini.

Current models use Intel Core i and Core 2 Duo CPUs alongside Nvidia GPUs but the as yet-unreleased Sandy Bridge chips feature intergrated GPUs with all the size and power savings that entails.

There are even rumours that Apple will be turning to AMD for graphics hardware on its premium laptops and desktop workstations, and if that's the case Nvidia might be out of the picture entirely as far as Apple is concerned.

Apple already uses integrated Intel graphics in some of its notebooks, which are able to seemlessly switch between the onboard GPU and a hotter, hungrier Nvidia version when he need arises, when watching HD videos or playing grapically-intensive games for example.

Sandy Bridge, which is expected to be officially launched at CES on January 5th, will support OpenCL, which allows the CPU to offload maths-intensive processes to the GPU when it's not busy drawing pretty pictures, by the time it is launched.

Nvidia has so far lead the OpenCL charge but Intel is working on the functionality as we write.

If the rumours turn out to be true it will add another layer of animosity to the current spat between Intel and Nvidia over chipset licensing.

It's not yet clear where AMD stands as far as Apple's graphics future goes, but the company's Fusion architecture would seem to be a perfect fit for 'low-end' Apple boxes, so we can expect to see AMD and Nvidia duking it out over Steve's patronage in the not-to-distant future.