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You are here: MacNN Forums > Hardware - Troubleshooting and Discussion > Mac Notebooks > 128mb vs 64mb VRAM, any reason besides games?

128mb vs 64mb VRAM, any reason besides games?
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PerfectlyNormalBeast
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May 10, 2004, 09:09 PM
 
I'm thinking about buying a new 15 inch powerbook. I don't play games so I don't see any real reason to upgrade to 128mb, but I also would hate to get stuck later wishing I had put it in. I doubt this will be user upgradable later.

Besides games, is there any reason to upgrade?
     
wtmcgee
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May 10, 2004, 09:21 PM
 
the more vRAM the better. the real issue is, is it worth the cost to you? how long do you plan on having the pBook for? if it's for a few years, i'd say totally drop the extra cash now. future versions of mac OS will definately take advantage of vRAM, and the more you have on board, the faster your OS will seem.
     
jonasmac
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May 10, 2004, 09:29 PM
 
Isn't it only $50 more? I don't see how anyone would not upgrade it. If I had kids, I'd raid their piggy banks for $50 more. I'd dig in between every couch cushion. I'd go to a blood bank and make a deposit. Then I'd scrounge around for $45 more to upgrade the HD to 5400rpm.

Worth it.
     
PerfectlyNormalBeast  (op)
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May 10, 2004, 09:36 PM
 
What you guys said was my gut reaction, but I'm already spending more than I want to. Why is it worth it? Currently, 10.3 won't be a lick faster with 128mb ram. What could you possibly do with 128 that you couldn't do with 64? I'm specifically talking about the next two years.
     
Lateralus
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May 10, 2004, 09:40 PM
 
Agreed. We're not talking about $200 here. It's fifty bucks. Shell out. This is the best under-$100 upgrade option Apple has offered on notebooks in a long time.

And if you're not a gamer, then consider this: When Quartz Extreme was first introduced, 16MBs of video RAM was barely enough to run it at all and 32MBs was enough to provide a pretty good experience. Now, as Quartz Extreme has advanced and we have seen the advent of new Quartz Extreme technologies such as Expose, 32MBs of RAM is now barely enough and 64MBs is enough to provide a pretty good experience.

I suspect that Apple will continue to introduce new Quartz Extreme features in OS X in future releases. Don't buy your PowerBook with Panther in mind. Buy it with Tiger 10.4 and releases beyond that in mind.
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SSharon
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May 10, 2004, 10:24 PM
 
I would spend the extra money for sure. Its not much (cheaper with edu discount) and it gives you double the RAM. I also hear that it does not negatively impact battery life. Also, don't think that you need to buy the superdrive version to get the upgrade. Click on the superdrive option and then add the video ram and remove the superdrive saving you 200 dollars (or 180 if edu price).
     
NightEyes
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May 10, 2004, 10:26 PM
 
Here's a recent posting from BareFeats on the difference in performance. So far, it ain't much:

Unreal Tournament 2004 Retail - BridgeOfFate Botmatch at Max Settings, 1280x854, average of 3 runs:
With 64MB Video Memory = 29 fps
With 128MB Video Memory = 30 fps


*Cinebench 2003 - HW OpenGL "fly through the room"
With 64MB Video Memory = 8.2 fps
With 128MB Video Memory = 8.4 fps
     
RooneyX
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May 10, 2004, 10:36 PM
 
Originally posted by NightEyes:
Here's a recent posting from BareFeats on the difference in performance. So far, it ain't much:

Unreal Tournament 2004 Retail - BridgeOfFate Botmatch at Max Settings, 1280x854, average of 3 runs:
With 64MB Video Memory = 29 fps
With 128MB Video Memory = 30 fps


*Cinebench 2003 - HW OpenGL "fly through the room"
With 64MB Video Memory = 8.2 fps
With 128MB Video Memory = 8.4 fps
It's most likely because Apple has underclocked the 9700 to save power and also 4X AGP doesn't quite help load a whole scene as fast. PC laptops are showing a far greater improvement.
     
PerfectlyNormalBeast  (op)
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May 10, 2004, 10:39 PM
 
Originally posted by PowerMacMan:
Now, as Quartz Extreme has advanced and we have seen the advent of new Quartz Extreme technologies such as Expose, 32MBs of RAM is now barely enough and 64MBs is enough to provide a pretty good experience.
What are you basing this on? I believe that the move from 16 to 32 makes a difference in performance, but I've yet to notice a difference between 32 and 64 on any current mac. And I use a lot of them. Maybe if I had a cinema display hd... but I don't.

Longhorn's Avalon <cough> ripoff <cough> is supposed to want 128mb of vram, but it's not supposed to be out until late 2005 at the earliest. I really think M$ is anticipating 2048x1536 on everyone's desktop. Or perhaps they want to supersample AA the desktop. That might be cool and might actually need that much memory. Still, it's probably 2 years away.

Also, I don't think the 128mb will make much difference in today's games, but if we ever get games like farcry, doom3 and halflife2 on the mac, it probably will. Still, I have a pc for games. I don't bother on the laptop. I'm strictly interested in non-games stuff.

I'll probably get the extra memory just to cover my bases, but I can't get over the feeling that it's a waste.
     
RooneyX
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May 10, 2004, 10:47 PM
 
Anyone who has played the latest PC games at high res with 8X AGP 256MB cards will tell you it's a joy to have such ultra smoothness when a whole scene loads into memory and there's no disk or system ram swapping.
     
James L
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May 10, 2004, 11:22 PM
 
128MB might not be of huge benefit to today's games, as they aren't designed to take advantage of that much vram.

Tomorrow's games, on the other hand, definitely will benefit from the additional vram. We are going to come close to the time soon when the great games require a minimum of 64MB vram, with 128MB preferred. Check out the difference on those games and it will be more noticable.

Always future-proof your machine as much as possible when you buy it. For the extra $50 it is more than worth it!
     
Lateralus
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May 10, 2004, 11:23 PM
 
Originally posted by PerfectlyNormalBeast:
What are you basing this on?
Personal experience, and the opinions of every other Mac owner I know.

In the past two years, I have owned a G4 533 with a 64MB GeForce 3, a Dual 867 with a 32MB GeForce 4MX, my current Dual 1.4 with a 64MB GeForce 4MX, a G3 900-upgraded G3 Power Mac with a 32MB Radeon 7000 and Radeon Mac Edition using the PCI Extreme hack, a 700 G3 iBook with a 16MB Radeon and a 500 G3 iBook with a Rage 128.

In my experience with Panther and Expose, there is a bigger difference between 32MB and 64MB than there is between 16MB and 32MB.
( Last edited by Lateralus; May 10, 2004 at 11:28 PM. )
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polendo
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May 11, 2004, 12:31 AM
 
For $50 I would say upgrade it.

And not just because of the extra 64 more MB of video memory.. but because is practically unavailable to update the video graphic card in the future (at least in Apple).. so for $50 you could in a way be paying for the opportunity of having a more powerful video processor unit and maxing it out.
     
JKT
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May 11, 2004, 07:34 AM
 
FWIW, another major area where 128 v 64 MB will probably help is with dual monitor support.

Personally, if it was a toss up between the 5400rpm HD and the 128MB VRAM, I'd go for the faster hard drive - this has a much bigger impact on the performance of OS X today than the memory of the graphics card, IMO. Luckily, I could afford both
     
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May 11, 2004, 09:13 AM
 
I remember when in the 1993 I got a computer with 64 MB RAM, the sales people said to me: "You will NEVER need those freaking 64 MB of RAM", LOL, just translate it into the VRAM nowadays. And by the Apple´s price I wont have any doubt.
     
mike one
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May 11, 2004, 09:48 AM
 
Originally posted by JKT:
FWIW, another major area where 128 v 64 MB will probably help is with dual monitor support.

Personally, if it was a toss up between the 5400rpm HD and the 128MB VRAM, I'd go for the faster hard drive - this has a much bigger impact on the performance of OS X today than the memory of the graphics card, IMO. Luckily, I could afford both
agree, agree.

i just got a 15" 1.5 128 5400 combo.

i'm going to run that machine with an external monitor whenever i can so i thought the vram would help.

but to me the 5400 rpm option was a no brainer, that has much more of an impact on performance than vram, so take that into account. also i spent more than i wanted to, and in the end swapped out the superdrive to help lower the cost of an already very expensive machine.
     
StevenWRX
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May 11, 2004, 10:07 AM
 
ditto, i just ordered my 17" with the 5400 and 128 vram option...

both upgrades for less than $100 bucks.. cant go wrong.


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aehaas
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May 11, 2004, 10:12 AM
 
I got the 15 in. with 128 VRAM and 2 gig RAM. When using iphoto the PBook has instant resolution of the pictures whereas my dp1.8 G5 takes several seconds ( I mean 3 - 5) for the page of photos to focus. The G5 has the upgraded 64 M VRAM card and 4 Gig of RAM. I should have gotten the 128 card. This is a really big difference here, very annoying on the G5 now.

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JCT
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May 11, 2004, 10:18 AM
 
Given how well Powerbooks hold up on the long term I would say spending an additional $50 in the beginning as partial future-proofing over the life of the machine is a good move.

Just my $0.02 .

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PerfectlyNormalBeast  (op)
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May 11, 2004, 10:31 AM
 
Originally posted by aehaas:
I got the 15 in. with 128 VRAM and 2 gig RAM. When using iphoto the PBook has instant resolution of the pictures whereas my dp1.8 G5 takes several seconds ( I mean 3 - 5) for the page of photos to focus. The G5 has the upgraded 64 M VRAM card and 4 Gig of RAM. I should have gotten the 128 card. This is a really big difference here, very annoying on the G5 now.

aehaas
We could be onto something... Does anyone know for sure if iPhoto gets faster with more VRAM. This kinda makes sense.
     
striker100
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May 11, 2004, 10:34 AM
 
would iPhoto benefit from more vram if Photoshop doesn't?
Are you running iPhoto 4 on your G5 also?
     
aehaas
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May 11, 2004, 10:41 AM
 
The programs and photos are identical on both machines, iPhoto 4.01.

aehaas
     
MRTrauffer
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May 11, 2004, 10:42 AM
 
I just bought a new 15", and sacrificed the SuperDrive so I could justify the other upgrades...128 VRAM, 5400RPM HD, & 1 stick of 512 RAM. I've got a couple of SuperDrives at work so i didn't need to put it in my PB. Had this machine for a week, and so far so good.

Still glad I made the switch!
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PerfectlyNormalBeast  (op)
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Aug 2, 2004, 02:24 PM
 
I got the 128mb 'book for those who care.

Yesterday I downloaded a little util that lets you check how much VRAM you're using on RADEON chipsets. Well I tested it in 10.3 without playing games. I can't get it to go past 39mb, and to do that I need to use an intensive keynote presentation. I guess I'll try again in 10.4. I think for 10.3 64mb of VRAM is enough for all but the silliest of circumstances. 128 seems to be for gamers for the time being. Even then, most of the games that need 128mb are on the horizon (DOOM).

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Aug 2, 2004, 02:49 PM
 
That is good to know...

I myself wanted to future-proof my Mac purchase, but I was on a limited budget. The 1.5 PB was a little much, even with the superdrive option removed. Still, my 1.33 PB with the 60gb HD works leaps-and-bounds better than my 1.5ghz P4 PC, and does everything I need it to and more. The 64mb vram is more than enough to dual display on my 21" CRT, and all the Quartz features work splendidly. I have vowed to never play games on my Mac, just because I have a throw-away PC to do that. My Mac WILL last me quite a while (years), and I cannot see anything on the horizon that I will need 128mb vram for, even Tiger.

EDIT: I seem to have a problem with buying technology that isnt the best. Doing so irks me a little Believe me, if I HAD the money at the time, I would have gotten the 128 vram without thinking about it. $50 bucks, how could you go wrong?
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azdude
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Aug 2, 2004, 03:33 PM
 
I'll take the road less travelled and say forget it. If you don't play games, that is. Yes, Quartz Extreme is a factor, but does the Finder, or Keynote even, really need 128MB? I'd say heck no... Even in Tiger or beyond.

Take a look at the benchmarks above from Barefeets. Think: Is any Finder in the next 3-4 years going to be more demanding (i.e. store more textures in VRAM) than Unreal Tournament 2004?! Hah... No.

Save the $100 (yes, $100... check the Apple Store) for more system RAM.
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Dog Like Nature
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Aug 2, 2004, 04:04 PM
 
Originally posted by azdude:

Save the $100 (yes, $100... check the Apple Store) for more system RAM.
Yes, they doubled the cost of that particular upgrade.. which just goes to show what a good deal it was.....
     
azdude
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Aug 2, 2004, 04:33 PM
 
Originally posted by Dog Like Nature:
Yes, they doubled the cost of that particular upgrade.. which just goes to show what a good deal it was.....
Only on the 15" model, though... which is curious. The 17" 's 128MB upgrade is still $50.
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Aug 2, 2004, 05:19 PM
 
Originally posted by jonasmac:
Isn't it only $50 more? I don't see how anyone would not upgrade it. If I had kids, I'd raid their piggy banks for $50 more. I'd dig in between every couch cushion. I'd go to a blood bank and make a deposit. Then I'd scrounge around for $45 more to upgrade the HD to 5400rpm.

Worth it.

I'd buy an iBook in your position.
     
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Aug 3, 2004, 02:19 AM
 
Always buy as much as you can afford, then buy some more. If you don't, in 6 months you'll be pissed when Tiger is asking for 64 megs to run some portion of the GUI and you'll be posting on her how your 6 month old laptop is out of date, blah, blah, blah. Do yourself the favor and spend the extra $100 for the graphics card and HD and you will use and enjoy your $2500 laptop more and longer.
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Luca Rescigno
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Aug 3, 2004, 09:22 AM
 
If it was $50 I'd say go for it. But they're charging $100 now. And although it will run faster with dual monitors (64 MB per display vs. 32 MB per display), that's about the only benefit. There will be no difference in gaming performance, because according to benchmarks, it seems that the Mobility Radeon 9700 isn't quite fast enough to max out the 64MB of VRAM, so adding another 64 MB won't help. It would be like using 2 GB of system RAM when the most you ever use on your computer is 1 GB. Sure, you want a little bit of a cushion, but at some point you won't see a benefit anymore. That is the case with the 128 MB of VRAM. I'd say you'd see more benefit saving the $100. That's about what a 512 MB SODIMM costs these days - buy one of those instead. Or use it to upgrade the hard drive to 5400 RPM. Either way, you'll see more benefit.
     
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Aug 3, 2004, 10:03 AM
 
I will say save the $100 for something else. When the time need 128MB VRam, you need a new laptop already. I am pretty sure you can shell out another few grands for another laptop in 2-3 yrs and sell your current model at $600-1000.
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Aug 3, 2004, 12:05 PM
 
Supersize it.

Wish I could have, but I had to take what they gave me when they failed repairing the screen on my 1 Ghz 17" for the 3rd time. I ended up with only a brand new 1.5 Ghz 17" with a 64 MB VRAM...

...sniff...
     
Dog Like Nature
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Aug 3, 2004, 06:27 PM
 
Originally posted by azdude:
Only on the 15" model, though... which is curious. The 17" 's 128MB upgrade is still $50.
That's odd. Didn't notice that!
     
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Aug 4, 2004, 03:11 PM
 
Can someone point me to an URL where I can actually choose the video ram in a new PB?

I can't seem to find this option anywhere on Apple's site. It seems to be whatever video card is listed you get.
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scottiB
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Aug 4, 2004, 04:46 PM
 
It's the first option listed for 1.5Ghz 15" and 17" PowerBooks at the AppleStore online. The option for 128MB is not available on the 1.33Ghz PBook.
( Last edited by scottiB; Aug 5, 2004 at 12:34 AM. )
     
driven
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Aug 4, 2004, 04:50 PM
 
I see now. I was looking at the 1.33Mhz machine.

(Actually I think I tried to find the option on the 12" also.)

Thanks for the tip ... I appreciate it.
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lamewing
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Aug 4, 2004, 08:49 PM
 
The question of maximum video RAM may become moot pretty soon.

Why? Up to this point most games load the graphics directly to the video cards memory, but with the new PCI Express motherboards coming out on the PC side that will replace the AGP based boards, we will see more of the games' graphics being handled by the system memory (allowing quicker access to the CPU).

Games today don't take advantage of the cards that have 256MB of video RAM, heck, most don't take advantage of 128MB of RAM. Many of the newer games that are played on a 3.2 P4 with say a Nvidia 5950 Ultra Card (or ATI equivilant) find themselves bogged down more by the processor than the video card.

While this is the state of affairs on the PC side, the concept is pretty much the same for the Mac side of things.

Will we ever see a game that truly takes advantage of 1/4 (or more) video RAM? Maybe, I would like to think so, but even DOOM 3 doesn't need 256MB.

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Aug 4, 2004, 09:22 PM
 
Shared RAM. Just from a marketing standpoint that will flop.
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Aug 4, 2004, 10:52 PM
 
64MB to 128MB won't make much of a difference on the laptop in terms of games, but it will if you decide to use an external monitor or projector.

I got the 128MB Radeon in anticipation for CoreVideo. I have a feeling that more the VRAM the better for realtime, videocard dependent effects.

Also, for every day tasks, you'll have extra VRAM for Quartz Extreme so your GUI will be snappy as well as your apps.
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Aug 5, 2004, 01:29 AM
 
Whoever said that DOOM3 doesn't use 256mb of Video RAM... That's not true. DOOM3 does use 512MB of Video RAM for it's Ultra-High Quality setting, and then for each lower setting uses less. 256 gets you High, 128 gets you Medium, 64 is the base minimum.

It's all about texture compression and texture quality. I say get the 128mb RAM upgrade. DOOM3 will use it. And even if you don't play DOOM3 or one of its variants, when you finally put your 'book up for sale, that 128MB is going to make it look THAT much more enticing.

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Luca Rescigno
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Aug 5, 2004, 12:02 PM
 
It's not just the VRAM. In order to make it worth getting 128 MB (or 256 MB or 512 MB) of VRAM, you have to have a video card worthy of using that much. If the video card can't process data fast enough, then extra VRAM will go to waste.

If, for example, you were to give 512 MB of VRAM to a Rage 128, it would still be a hell of a lot slower than a 64 MB Radeon 8500. There's a reason video cards are given the amount of VRAM they are. It's not even very expensive to add it. A lot of PC video cards are available with multiple VRAM sizes, and the larger one will only cost maybe $20 more than the smaller one, despite having double the VRAM. It's the graphics processor itself that counts.

EDIT: Although, reading your post more carefully, you're probably right about the texture thing. Doom 3 uses a lot of really big textures, so having a lot of VRAM will help performance because you can load more textures. I saw this when playing Call Of Duty. On a Radeon 8500 with 64 MB, the "Extra" texture detail setting was unplayable, giving me maybe 3-5 fps. After upgrading to a Radeon 9800 with 128 MB, it became just as smooth as running the game at lower settings. That seems pretty impressive. Then again, the 9800 is also much faster than the 8500. It's not just the extra VRAM.

Anyway, given the title of "any reason besides games?," I'm inclined to say that if you're going to be using dual monitors, definitely get the upgrade. If not, don't. Gaming performance might improve with certain demanding games with big textures like Doom 3, but it won't change for less demanding ones. Even so, if it's not being used for gaming, you should just save your money unless you want to use an external monitor often.
     
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Aug 5, 2004, 01:21 PM
 
Even when running dual monitors, 64 megs of VRAM is enough. I was doing it happily with a HP laptop at that. It's not like you're gonna be watching two separate DVD videos on both monitors simultaneously or even playing a game that [gasp] spans both monitors.

Be serious.

In what way is the dual-monitor performance hindered by using only 64megs of VRAM? I'd say the biggest issue with that is system ram.

Please correct me if i'm wrong.
     
PerfectlyNormalBeast  (op)
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Aug 5, 2004, 02:03 PM
 
Originally posted by skelotar:
In what way is the dual-monitor performance hindered by using only 64megs of VRAM? I'd say the biggest issue with that is system ram.
I'm with skelotar. I've been monitoring my VRAM usage with that little tool and I think 32mb per monitor is plenty. The apps that use serious amounts of VRAM rarely span more than one monitor (DOOM, Keynote, etc...). If I had a Cinema HD Display I might want 128mb VRAM to be safe, but if I had a monitor like that I wouldn't really worry about a few extra $$$.

I also agree that games like DDOM make having a lot of VRAM important no matter how fast the GPU is. I've been playing it on my PC and I'm curious to see how the mac version turns out.

It's possible that something like MAYA might use more than 64mb of ram, especially when spanning monitors. MAYA isn't technically a game, but it is a bit special.

I'd be interested to see how much VRAM an app like Motion uses to do it's effects. It's supposed to work very similar to Apple's upcoming Core Image and Core Video. My guess is that it won't use too much more than current apps. I think the amount of texture data loaded is about the same, there is just a lot of shader programs loaded too. Those are small. I could be wrong though.
     
rmongold
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Aug 5, 2004, 08:45 PM
 
While it may not do a whole lot for you right now, I remember when I thought my Pismo was just dandy with it's 8MB VRAM. The Apple came out with Jaguar... and Quartz Extreme and it's 32MB requirement. I can only see Apple implementing more graphics intensive "features" in their UI and games only getting more and more hungry.

So, with that in mind, I don't think it's ever a bad thing to future proof yourself. Not sure if the Radeon 9700 Mobility can actually feed that amount of RAM, but it certainly makes me feel better about my ability to use that machine for another three years.
     
Luca Rescigno
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Aug 5, 2004, 09:55 PM
 
Still, the limiting factor with Pismos isn't the 8 MB of VRAM, it's the Rage Mobility chip. You can hack Quartz Extreme to work on just 8 MB of VRAM provided you have at least a Radeon - the only time you ever have a Radeon with just 8 MB of VRAM is with certain PowerBooks and iBooks that had Radeon Mobility chips with just 16 MB of VRAM. Run dual monitors on that system and it's down to 8 MB per display. Quartz Extreme doesn't provide a huge amount of acceleration with only 8 MB, but it's better than nothing. But it can't run on a Rage, no matter what you do.

The next big graphical leap, I suppose, is CoreImage. With OS X, graphics cards older than the Rage 128 were no longer supported for graphics acceleration. Then Jaguar introduced Quartz Extreme, which required a Radeon. Now, CoreImage is coming, and to get full acceleration (rather than partial) you must have a video card that is only available in G5s, high-end iMacs, Aluminum PowerBooks, and a scant few G4 PowerMacs. The difference between 64 MB and 128 MB is relatively small, but the difference between a Radeon 9000 Mobility and a Radeon 9600 or 9700 Mobility is huge (even with the same amount of VRAM). Look at it this way - the 9000 isn't cut off because it only has 64 MB of VRAM, it's cut off because it's older and less advanced than the 9600 and 9700.
     
arekkusu
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Aug 6, 2004, 12:15 AM
 
Just for a point of reference, if you're into medical imaging (volume visualization of CAT scans etc) a single 256x256x256 x32 bpp texture is 64 megs.

Games don't need that.

Yet.

More VRAM is _always_ better.
     
rhizopod
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Aug 6, 2004, 03:26 PM
 
Well, I shelled out the extra dough for the 128MB VRAM and 5400rpm hard drive on my 15". However, being the cynic that I am, I would like to verify that I indeed received these upgrades. Anyone know how I would go about doing so? I checked the System Profiler but didn't find much.
     
cloudaj
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Aug 6, 2004, 04:32 PM
 
for the harddrive:

in system profiler, go to hardware->ATA->ATA-6 Bus. If the model is a TOSHIBA MK8026GAX, then you have the 5400 rpm model (i am pretty sure apple uses the same HD for all the 5400 rpm drives).

for the vram:

system profiler, hardware->PCI/AGP Cards->ATY(blah blah blah). There is a VRAM (total): field, see if it says 128 mb next to it. If it does, you have the upgrade.
     
moep
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Aug 6, 2004, 04:34 PM
 
I just received my 17" PB and wanted to check the same things. Here's what I came up with:

#1: There's a tool to check the free / available VRAM:
http://www.macupdate.com/info.php/id/15566

#2: To check the HD-speed:
In the System Profiler under Hardware ->ATA ->ATA 6 bus, the model should be one of these:

Hitachi HTS548080M9AT00
Toshiba MK8026GAX

If you have the Toshiba in your PB, you're lucky. The Toshiba drive is rumored to have 16MB Cache while the Hitachi has "only" 8MB. I received my brand new 17" PB (BTO with 128MB and the 5400 rpm drive - ordered in July) with a Hitachi. Nonetheless, it's a fast drive and pretty snappy overall.

//too late.
"The road to success is dotted with the most tempting parking spaces."
     
 
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