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You are here: MacNN Forums > Hardware - Troubleshooting and Discussion > Mac Notebooks > MBP video choices 128 vs 256

MBP video choices 128 vs 256
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Oct 24, 2006, 11:54 AM
 
How likely is it that I would kick myself for not going with the mid range 2gb/256MB video ram model (instead of the "low" end 1gb/128mb model).

1799 and 2299 (Edu prices) are quote a difference in price. With a gig of ram costing $100 thats $400 for the upgraded video.

Would I regret it later? I don't do graphics for a living, and the most I would probably throw at the thing is WOW.

Thanks,

Jason
-Formerly: Mac Plus, PowerMac 8100, Orange Clamshell iBook, G3 B@W, G3 900 iBook, G4 eMac, G5 1.8 Dually, G5 2.0 Dually, G4 iBook, G4 Mac Mini, MBP Rev1 2.0.

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Oct 24, 2006, 12:02 PM
 
If you take the RAM into account, the price difference is $325.

Intel charges Apple $214 for the 2.33 GHz over the 2.17 GHz Core 2 Duo. That means that you are effectively paying $111 for the VRAM upgrade.

If you can make use of the increased CPU clock, I'd go with the upgrade. The important thing with the VRAM upgrade is that it's something you can't do later on. If you think you might be able to make use of it in the future, you'd better get it.
     
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Oct 24, 2006, 12:12 PM
 
Doh, missed the CPU difference there.

Sigh, I hate laptops.

Originally Posted by Simon View Post
If you take the RAM into account, the price difference is $325.

Intel charges Apple $214 for the 2.33 GHz over the 2.17 GHz Core 2 Duo. That means that you are effectively paying $111 for the VRAM upgrade.

If you can make use of the increased CPU clock, I'd go with the upgrade. The important thing with the VRAM upgrade is that it's something you can't do later on. If you think you might be able to make use of it in the future, you'd better get it.
-Formerly: Mac Plus, PowerMac 8100, Orange Clamshell iBook, G3 B@W, G3 900 iBook, G4 eMac, G5 1.8 Dually, G5 2.0 Dually, G4 iBook, G4 Mac Mini, MBP Rev1 2.0.

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Oct 24, 2006, 12:25 PM
 
I thought the same thing. If I'm just using the MBP for graphic design (photoshop, illustrator, etc), then 128 should be fine, but if I do video work on the side, the bump would be beneficial. They were clever in linking memory and video card upgrade so they can charge a premium.
     
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Oct 24, 2006, 12:34 PM
 
If you don't game, it won't matter. WoW should run fine on it. The question is, what of the future? Will future versions of photo and video editing apps be able to use the GPU to encode (there was a PC magazine article about that recently, it can be done, and is more efficient, depending on what you are doing)? My vote is upgrade now what you can't upgrade later.
     
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Oct 24, 2006, 12:46 PM
 
Here's an old Barefeats thread comparing the 64 MB to the 128 MB. I didn't see a knock your socks off improvement except in Halo which is non universal binary. The 7200/5400/4200 RPM HD comparo is interesting there also.

PowerBook 1.5GHz - 64MB vs 128MB VRAM; 4200rpm vs 5400rpm drive

Personally I am considering the ATI 128 MB model but if anyone has more links to additional data I would reconsider.

From that link I see that I definitely do not want a 4200 RPM HD in my future MBP. I don't care how huge they make 'em.
( Last edited by buddy1065; Oct 24, 2006 at 01:14 PM. )
     
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Oct 24, 2006, 03:13 PM
 
I'm really wondering this too, primarily from a gaming perspective. I keep on hearing that the 256 meg one would be better for gaming, but I haven't necessarily heard exactly HOW much better (i.e. better enough that the extra cost is worth it). Would the 2.33 GHz 256meg X1600 version give significantly better performance over the 2.16 126 meg X1600 version in games like WoW, Battlefield 2, Oblivion, etc.? I'm primarily talking about performance using Windows in BootCamp.

If it isn't a major difference I'd go with the base model (which seems like a much nicer value now) and upgrade the RAM with an extra 1GB stick. But if it would be noticeable, I think I can justify the more expensive model.
     
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Oct 24, 2006, 03:53 PM
 
I've also read from Barefeats that mismatched memory sticks are not as quick as matched sticks. Whether buying a 1 gig stick will help when the base model is equipped with 2 matching 512's, I don't know.
     
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Oct 24, 2006, 03:58 PM
 
Check this link near bottom of page about matching pairs of memory; I see quite a difference in some cases:

MacBook Pro 2.0 versus MacBook Pro 2.16
     
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Oct 24, 2006, 09:18 PM
 
If you have a lot of windows open at the same time, you use an external monitor, or you plan on using Spaces in Leopard, I'd get the 256MB. Otherwise 128MB is fine.
     
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Oct 24, 2006, 09:24 PM
 
I'm planning on using spaces......... the X1600 with 128MB of VRAM really wouldn't handle it well?

As a general point, does that mean the MacBook with GMA950 would completely choke on spaces?
     
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Oct 24, 2006, 09:44 PM
 
The MacBook also has lower screen resolution, so the lack of VRAM is partially relieved.

Will a few spaces with a couple windows each be fine on 128MB? Yea, probably.
Will dozens of spaces with a dozen windows each be fine on 128MB? I don't think so.
     
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Oct 24, 2006, 11:04 PM
 
Can you drive 30" cinema display with only 128MB VRAM?
     
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Oct 24, 2006, 11:24 PM
 
Originally Posted by zerroeffect View Post
...If I'm just using the MBP for graphic design (photoshop, illustrator, etc), then 128 should be fine, but if I do video work on the side, the bump would be beneficial...
It is really about the future rather than just today. Even though PSCS2 today still fails to take advantage of GPU power, Apple graphics apps like Aperture do now, and the OS itself will be utilizing GPU power more and more as time goes on. IMO other graphics apps like PSCS3 are very likely to move into modernity as well and better utilize GPU power.

Laptops are by definition limited for graphics, so IMO we should build in all the hardware capability that Apple makes available.

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Oct 24, 2006, 11:41 PM
 
Originally Posted by mduell View Post
The MacBook also has lower screen resolution, so the lack of VRAM is partially relieved.

Will a few spaces with a couple windows each be fine on 128MB? Yea, probably.
Will dozens of spaces with a dozen windows each be fine on 128MB? I don't think so.
Yeah, I would consider the latter to be a pretty extreme scenario. I can see myself using 3 or 4 spaces, and each space would probably only have a handful of windows open (if I got to the point where I had dozens of spaces with dozens of windows each, I think it would get to the point where it wasn't even efficient).
     
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Oct 25, 2006, 12:39 PM
 
More VRAM isn't going to have a big impact on programs that don't require it. If you don't plan on keeping your machine a long time, stick with the 128MB.

If you want your machine to last and last, then get the 256MB so you are a little better future-proofed. Same goes with processor speed. Every little bit counts. Today a 5% increase in speed is not a big deal. In three years, that 5% could be the difference between running the latest software or being forced to upgrade.

You can't add it later. If you can't afford it today, either way you are screwed.

Personally, I think the best bang for the buck is to buy the cheapest model and upgrade frequently. It is certainly cheaper than buying the most expensive model and upgrading frequently. There is still so LITTLE toal difference between the fastest and the slowest macs today that other than features and size, I can't see how one justifies the cost penalty of a few extra % of speed. Unless you are rendering 3D day and night, why waste the money?

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Oct 25, 2006, 01:36 PM
 
Well, if I can use the technology today, then I can afford future technology and upgraded features later with the work I'm able to do. It's all about today, actually and what I can afford. If 128mb gets me by and allows me to do my work at a reasonable pace and can at least handle larger projects, then the same amount of money in the future is probably going to get me what I need to keep up with the standards or even more. Keeping overhead down is the bottom line, at least in my life right now.

Computers are funny that way. Even though Mac users tend to hang onto their old systems and say they work great, they are missing key elements that allow them to move forward and keep up with the trends. Sell the old system and offset the purchase of a new one is my way, and do it for as little as possible.
     
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Oct 25, 2006, 03:44 PM
 
The MBP ATI 128 MB got about 2586 on the 3DMark05 while the 256 MB got about 2866 for what it's worth. Guess it depends on your point of view as to whether 9% is a worthwhile increase.
     
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Oct 27, 2006, 05:21 PM
 
[QUOTE = Elektrix]I'm really wondering this too, primarily from a gaming perspective. I keep on hearing that the 256 meg one would be better for gaming, but I haven't necessarily heard exactly HOW much better (i.e. better enough that the extra cost is worth it). Would the 2.33 GHz 256meg X1600 version give significantly better performance over the 2.16 126 meg X1600 version in games like WoW, Battlefield 2, Oblivion, etc.? I'm primarily talking about performance using Windows in BootCamp.

If it isn't a major difference I'd go with the base model (which seems like a much nicer value now) and upgrade the RAM with an extra 1GB stick. But if it would be noticeable, I think I can justify the more expensive model.[/QUOTE]

For today's apps, the 128 should work fine. Battlefield 2 takes a good bit of memory, but the 128 should run it and Oblivion is pretty graphic intense, but it should also run. What you have to think about are the games in a year or two. With 256mb of VRAM becoming a standard in graphics now (for desktops anyway), and 512 mb becoming a lot more common, games will only grow. If you plan on gaming on it, I would opt for the 256 with the 2 gig of ram. This gives you as much protection against future games as you will get.

If you don't plan on gaming on it, then the 128 should run everything pretty well.

I personally have the G4 Powerbook and am looking at the 2.33 15" MBP now, but my G4 runs a 30" display at full resolution with no issues. Apple is pretty streamlined for their graphics and do well on them. I can't say what they do in Windows in Boot Camp, given that I have no experience with it, but I would think that Windows would mismanage a good bit of Ram in the machine as usual.
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Oct 27, 2006, 09:50 PM
 
Originally Posted by babablacksheep View Post
Can you drive 30" cinema display with only 128MB VRAM?
It is more complicated than that.
     
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Oct 28, 2006, 02:48 AM
 
Go for the 256. You might need it someday. Apps are always needed more resources each year it seems.
     
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Oct 28, 2006, 04:21 AM
 
Worth noting that one difference with 128 vs 256 VRAM is in gaming - used for storing textures so more VRAM = ability to select a better visual setting. IIRC, PC stuff but still relevent, GRAW (and poss. DOOM 3) will not let you choose high quality textures if you have less than 512 MB VRAM, whereas my X1800XT has the grunt but only 256 MB VRAM so the best I can choose is medium. It's not a huge loss, barely perceptable in some cases, but they're doing things like that now, so what of the future? You can't upgrade later so I'd always lean towards the best you can afford now - seems gfx requirements move more quickly than CPU requirements, so as time goes on you have a machine that's still capable but sometimes a bit lacking, more often than not in the gfx department. Slower CPU just takes longer, too slow gfx and you're basically screwed.
     
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Oct 28, 2006, 05:08 AM
 
There is only a 5-10% difference between the cards. The main issue is what sort of a card you have and how fast it runs. The difference between the 128 and 256 is insignificant. The difference between the cpus is also insignificant. 256mb of vram on a outdated card will be of no use in a years time, just as 128mb on an outdated card will be of no use also.
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Oct 28, 2006, 02:06 PM
 
I went to the mall thinking 128 MB model but probably like many bought the 2.33 Ghz C2D at the last minute at the mall today. No dead pixel, lovin' it so far. I'm in the mall food court websurfing and downloading Boot Camp using the mall wi-fi. Palm rests are still ice cold after a half hour, so I don't think heat is going to be a big problem with this baby, but it's early to tell yet.
     
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Oct 28, 2006, 04:58 PM
 
Originally Posted by Eriamjh View Post
...Personally, I think the best bang for the buck is to buy the cheapest model and upgrade frequently...
I disagree as regards heavy users, especially pros (even those not rendering 3D day and night). As apps and the OS evolve over the life of any box the medium-high and high end boxes cope far better with the evolution. Lesser boxes become limiting to evolving apps much more quickly.

From a life cycle cost standpoint better boxes have always turned out to be better value. Especially today with RAM becoming a bigger and bigger part of the investment in computing power.

And owning a better box means you are always working on a high end box rather than always working on a low end box. I would much rather have a high end box every 2.5-5 years than a low end box every 1.5-2 years.

The exception has been during times of total platform change. E.g. for Photoshop users needing new boxes a year ago the smart move was to buy a low end DP G5 tower, planning on moving to MacIntel in Q2 2007 after PSCS3 comes out UB. My solution to the platform change was to hold my DP G4 tower beyond its prime well into its 5th year; only possible because it was loaded top-of-the-line when I bought it in 2001.

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Oct 28, 2006, 05:13 PM
 
Originally Posted by MacGobblin View Post
I went to the mall thinking 128 MB model but probably like many bought the 2.33 Ghz C2D...
I spent the extra money to double the VRAM when I bought my PB G4 in 2004, betting that apps and the OS would make it useful in the future, even though none of my apps including Photoshop used it at the time. Then Aperture came out and suddenly my maxxed PB was doing work my DP G4 tower or even stock Quad G5s could not do, all because of the graphics. Admittedly mostly the card but the extra VRAM surely helps.

I remain convinced that smart life cycle buying of Macs involves building graphics and RAM heavy boxes for the future. Aperture's performance IMO is illustrative of what we can expect from the OS and some apps during the future of new boxes bought today.

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