Nvidia Brings Quadro 4000 GPUs To The Mac Pro

Nvidia on Monday expanded its Quadro professional graphics solutions to the Mac platform. As a result, Mac Pro owners running Mac OS X Snow Leopard -- or any Apple platform from OS X onward -- can take advantage of Nvidia's Fermi architecture for high-performance GPU computing.

Several professional applications make use of Nvidia's Quadro 4000 GPU, including Adobe Premier Pro CSS and MatLab as well as a range of visual effects software, according to a statement from Nvidia. Quadro is designed to improve non-linear editing workflow utilizing Nvidia's Fermi architecture for parallel processing, also known as CUDA.

The Quadro 4000 GPU for Mac includes 2GB of GDDR5 memory and 256 CUDA cores processing 890 million triangles per second. It also comes with built-in DisplayPort, DVI-I Dual Link connector, a 3D stereo bracket and the Apple-only mini-DisplayPort. MacPro owners can enable up to four high resolution displays with dual Nvidia Quadro 4000 graphics cards.

System builders could also benefit from Quadro technology coming to the Mac Pro. Nvidia says it's making the Quadro 4000 solution for Macs available through Apple resellers and technology integrators.

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"This is a very hot market for us, we are doing a lot with Nvidia's Quadro processors," said Todd Swank, vice president of marketing at Burnsville, Minn.-based system builder Nor-Tech. "It's really interesting to see Apple in this space. With the iPad, you're seeing more and more enterprise penetration. Nobody's ever used Apples in a corporate market, that's a totally new thing."

As Apple moves further into the market for integrated technology, it's increasingly putting pressure on Microsoft, Swank says. "If you start taking some of the best parts of the PC, like the Quadro and Intel's Xeon processor and integrate them into the Mac, you can take away more and more market share from PCs," Swank said.

One system builder says part of the demand for high-performance GPUs in Apple systems is the current lack of high-performance CPU processing in those very systems.

"Apple's laptop systems, especially the ultra-portables like the new MacBook Air, have been stuck using the Core2Duo chips for a while now, specifically due to Apple's desire to use Nvidia graphics instead of the much lower-performing Intel integrated graphics processors," said Nick Gold, director of business development at Baltimore, Md.-based Chesapeake Systems.

"None of us know whether Apple is willing to take a few steps forward on the CPU front, or if that inherently means taking a few steps back on the GPU side of things," Gold said.

Next: Apple And The Channel

Another area of uncertainty is Apple's commitment to selling through its partners. Apple has not typically offered products through the reseller channel in the past, a fact which tempers any enthusiasm among system builders toward the introduction of new technology to the Mac platform.

"Apple is purely proprietary," Swank said. "For example, they sell technology for education direct, and that's always been a big market for the system builder channel. They sell to a lot of markets direct. Those are the disadvantages for Apple partners."

Nvidia's Quadro 4000 GPUs for Macs are priced at $1,199. It's available from Apple's Website and from select distributors including PNY Technologies for US customers, as well as from Apple resellers.