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I noticed that the new iMacs graphics cards are AMD Radeon HD 6970M.

Why do the new iMacs have mobile video cards? What are the implications of those cards? Are those cards as powerful as dedicated desktop graphics cards?

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up vote 3 down vote accepted

Four factors are in play for choosing how to design a system:

  1. Space
  2. Cost
  3. Performance
  4. Reliability

I certainly won't speak for Apple's engineers, but buying in volume lets a video chip manufacturer pack more performance in a lesser cost package. Any performance that isn't balanced with the rest of the system is wasted performance. One would presume this was the optimal choice for the new iMacs given the state of components available.

Performance is also about efficiency - so if the raw benchmark is big enough to drive three huge monitors on the 27 inch model, why not choose a smaller mobile chipset, manage less drivers in the OS, reuse the same chip on the mobile line and free sourcing, engineering, testing and repair inventory assets for other more pressing problems to solve?

We will soon have benchmarks to see whether the designers did their jobs well this revision. My limited testing shows the new iMacs to scream compared to old MacPro and iMacs which were no slouch in the graphics department by my standards.

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I suppose I was remember the Intel integrated graphics chips of ten years ago. Seeing the M made me jump. – Moshe May 4 '11 at 19:15
Good times back then - huh. The gratuitous graphics horsepower on my iPhone 4 puts most computers 8+ years old to shame :-) – bmike May 4 '11 at 20:04

Yes these Mobile GPUs are very powerful. You might also find them in 14 pound Alienware "Gaming" Laptops for instance.

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