Powerful, big-screen ultrabooks may presage new MacBooks
Is the new Acer ultrabook the writing on the wall for laptops this summer? If so, new, 15-inch class MacBooks could have Air-like thinness while offering bulked-up horsepower.
CNET Asia has gotten its hands on a powerful new ultrabook, the Aspire Timeline Ultra M3.
The M3 would easily stick out in a crowd of ultrabooks because of size alone: it has a 15-inch display (most ultrabooks to date are at most 14-inches and many of them smaller than that) though it's still slim, at just under 0.8 inches.
But where it really distinguishes itself is inside. There lies Nvidia's upcoming "Kepler" GT 640M graphics processing unit (GPU), which is expected to be announced later. At the risk of getting too technical, it's the first Nvidia GPU to use a cutting-edge 28-nanometer manufacturing process from TSMC (Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company).
Generally, the smaller the chip geometry, the more power efficient and/or faster the chip is.
And the GT 640M architecture supports 384 processor cores.
What does all of that mean? Ultrabooks and Apple's newest MacBook Air line have not been able to accommodate these powerful, separate, "discrete" GPUs to date. There's just no room for them in a 13-inch sub 0.8-inch design.
But that could change at 15 inches. Imagine a 15-inch MacBook almost as slim as the MacBook Air but packing an Nvidia Kepler GPU (or competing GPU). .
That's a potential game-changer for ultrathin laptops. The fact that the CNET Asia article cited above is titled "Acer's Ultrabook plays Battlefield 3" gives you a good idea why this can be important to power users. (See benchmarks above).
CNET Asia went on to say that users "will be pleasantly surprised at its gaming performance." And if it's fast at gaming, it's fast at doing other tasks including video and photo manipulation.
Knowing that Apple likes fast graphics silicon (look no further than the new iPad with quad-core graphics), one can't help but speculate that Apple has similar plans for upcoming thin MacBooks.
Updated at 11:25 p.m. PDT: edited throughout. Corrected Kepler chip name. It's the GeForce GT 640M, not the GTX 680, the latter is a desktop GPU.