We know that NVIDIA’s “PureVideo HD” tech in both of the MacBooks’ new video cards (9400M for MacBook, dual 9400M and 9600M in MacBook Pro) is endowed with GPU-acceleration for a few heavy video codecs, including H.264. Older Macs, such as the previous generation of iMac and MacBook Pro (with the NVIDIA 8800GT), have also included GPU acceleration. But support for harnessing this tech wasn’t on Mac OS X’s menu until 10.6 Snow Leopard arrives next year with “QuickTime X.”
But perhaps Apple is toying with releasing this tech a little early. In that same aforelinked Ars forum thread, astute = readers noticed that Mac OS X on the new MacBooks includes a “QuickTime/AppleVAH264HW.component” file that isn’t in the most current builds for other machines. The most current public version of Mac OS X Leopard is 10.5, build 9F33, but the new MacBooks are sporting 9F2114. While some of our readers have tried using this component on other Macs with video cards that support GPU acceleration, it’s had no noticeable effect on QuickTime decoding performance.Really? Is Apple “releasing this tech a little early”? This is something that PC users and Windows operating systems have had since LATE 2006!!!
Welcome to two years ago Apple…
All this leads to the theory that the new MacBooks are sporting a custom version of Mac OS X that finally harnesses GPU-acceleration for H.264 decoding (we can only hope this acceleration goes both ways). This wouldn’t be the first time Apple has released new machines with a special build of Mac OS X, though. The MacBook Air got its own version in January (complete with a demo video that plays in the Mouse & Keyboard System Preferences pane) for its introduction of the multitouch trackpad.
This time around, though, Apple is in a different situation. Until last week, the MacBook Air was the only Mac that supported multitouch trackpad gestures, so that tech wasn’t something that Apple could bring to other Macs with a simple software update. But if the MacBook’s special new version of Mac OS X 10.5.5 can indeed support GPU-accelerated H.264 decoding, and previous Macs have had the hardware built in for a while, we hope to see these features show up for the rest of us in 10.5.6.