With its new "for mobile" cards, NVIDIA puts the ball in Apple's court to keep video professionals on Macs.
NVIDIA has long offered downgraded mobile versions of its graphics cards with an "M" appendage at the end, but that ends with the announcement that future video cards designed for the laptop will end with "for mobile."
The big driver behind this is the graphics demands of VR consumption, but filmmakers will benefit from the boost in power.
While it's an awkward verbal change, it's a big statement: NVIDIA is saying to the world that these cards aren't different from normal cards—they are just as powerful as their desktop equivalent, only built for a laptop. The big driver behind this is the graphics demands of VR consumption, but filmmakers will benefit from the boost in power.
Of course, these cards won't be quite as powerful as their desktop equivalents. While they have the same specs, they run at slower clock speeds so they can sip less power. But they will be much closer to their desktop equivalents than previous generations of cards, and that in and of itself is a big deal.
Unsurprisingly, at launch, the cards are primarily in gaming laptops like those made by MSI and ASUS— so you could, if you wanted, buy a laptop with a GTX1080 in it today (for $3,500). Of course, a gaming laptop doesn't tend to have the I/O ports that a video editor might be looking for, and it'll take a few months for these cards to trickle over to the more traditional workhorse laptops we use for editing like the Dell Precision, HP Zbook, and Lenovo P50, which are a better fit for a filmmaker's needs. But they are coming, and the price/performance ratio will be fantastic.
There was a time when any film set had a folding table with 3-4 Apple Macbook Pros. Starting at least with the HVX-200, if you were downloading, you did it on a silver aluminum (or titanium) Cupertino-designed machine. You soon saw more than just the download laptop, with editors and VFX artists moving to set, sitting at that same folding table, on a bunch of silver laptops, with stickers to help tell them apart, downloading, editing, grading stills, and effecting footage. Add in the production team and their Airs, it was a sea of silver on set. (With the occasional desktop, of course, but those are a hassle to drag around.)
This has been fading the last few years: a few Hackintosh or PC folks here or there have been trickling to set, often sporting gaming laptops. Because not only has the Macbook Pro basically not improved in four years, it's gotten worse in the last few. Alex Cranz at Gizmodo recently pointed out that the Geekbench scores actually went down between 2014 and 2015 (the switch to AMD graphics didn't help), and they are only up 10% overall since 2012. For a laptop that runs $2,400, Moore's Law doesn't seem to be in effect.
While the 1070 and 1080 appear to be physically pretty large and demanding—too big to fit into anything newer than the PowerBook G3—the 1060 form factor could easily fit into a Macbook Pro chassis.
Give us a 15" MacBook Pro with a GTX 1060 for mobile and you've got a sale.
Here's your chance, Tim Cook! I've bought at least six MacBook Pros over the last 10 years, and I would really like to buy another, but haven't since 2012. I couldn't care less about an OLED function strip in the new MacBook Pro, and I don't care that much about clock speed on the CPU. Give us a 15" MacBook Pro with a GTX 1060 for mobile and you've got a sale.
I'm afraid Apple will drop this ball. It shouldn't. Not just for us—though filmmakers do matter as a market—but also for VR, which needs this much power to run. And if Apple doesn't make a swing at VR, then they might as well stop making Macs and just be a phone company. Help us, Obi Tim Cooknobi. You're our only hope.
(vs. desktop in parentheses, identical if not noted)
- 1280 CUDA Cores
- 1404MHz core clock (vs. 1506MHz on desktop)
- 1670MHz boost clock (vs 1708MHz on desktop)
- 192-bit memory bus
- 8GHz memory speed
- 192GB/s memory bandwidth
- 6GB GDDR5 memory size