Rational Discussion regarding 256Mb VS 1GB AMD Cards in 15 inch MBP

Discussion in 'MacBook Pro' started by hoxley, Feb 24, 2011.

  1. macrumors regular

    Jan 19, 2011
    Hopefully this can remain sensible.

    Now obviously gamers will have a significant advantage from the better card, and users who just do basics have no need for the power.

    Considering the (other than a slight spec reduction in processor) the main difference between the two 15 inch MBP is the graphics cards I thought I would ask this.

    What uses / users do really require the better card?
    In what situations does make do with the cheaper card apply?
    Are there and relevant benchmarks the show the differences between the cards that are 'real world' intelligible and are not just spec circle jerkery?

    I do not game at all (but do use an external 1080p monitor), and think i might be able to "make do". which is why i ask.

  2. macrumors 68030

    Jul 16, 2010
  3. macrumors 68000


    Apr 10, 2007
    I think it depends partly on how long you'll have it.

    At work, I keep my computer for 4-6 years. I got the 17", so it's not relevant here. But if I was getting the 15", it wouldn't be so much if I needed the better graphics card now, but in 2-3 years am I going to wish I had it? Because I won't be able to upgrade it then.

    Hard to say, really. But I keep my computers long enough that I pay the extra now.
  4. macrumors member


    Jan 11, 2011
    I for one need for video editing on final cut pro, color correcting on color and specially for apps like after effects and 3d maya. So this update is REALLY good for me.

    Only thing that disappointed me really was that there is no option to go 1920 x 1200 on the resolution without going 17".

    But a quad cpu and 1gb gpu is mooooore then enough for me to upgrade. Design isn't really that important for me as i'm going antiglare as well so it kind of changes the design aspect of the macbook pro anyways, so all i'm waiting for now is osx lion and ofcourse the money and i'm getting one for sure! :D
  5. macrumors 68030


    Oct 17, 2007
    Fort Worth, TX
    If you are watching HD video on an external 2560x1440 or 2560x1600 monitor, the extra video RAM might come into play, it's not just for 3D gaming. When you are working with super-high resolution external displays (anything over 1920x1200), it has been shown that having 512MB of VRAM has a significant advantage over 256MB in the higher resolutions. Along these lines, having the 1GB of video RAM would give you a significant advantage if you are working with a 27" or 30" external display.
  6. macrumors 65816

    Feb 18, 2008
    VRAM Really won't matter unless you're doing heavy 3D work and or playing games. Also, the 6750M is guaranteed to be quite a bit faster then the 6490M.
  7. macrumors 6502a


    Jan 27, 2009
    NW Indiana
    Exactly the 6490M is equivalent to a $20 PC card sporting 64bit memory and only 256MB of ram. The $1799 model should just be skipped completely.
  8. whitedragon101, Feb 24, 2011
    Last edited: Feb 24, 2011

    macrumors 6502a

    Sep 11, 2008
    You will be fine with the 6490m

    if you don't:
    - play 3D games
    - Edit photos on super high res displays
    - edit videos
    - play videos on huge high res displays (i.e higher than 1080p)

    To be honest (other than gamers) the only users who need fast graphics know they need it because they use it all the time (video editors, photo professionals etc).

    The 6490m will be terrible if you try any of those 4 things. But you don't notice bad performance of something you don't use.
  9. macrumors 6502a

    Jul 22, 2010
    As Kalach notes, the advantage of having a video card with more RAM comes in both video and photo editing. Part of the load is off-loaded from the CPU to the video chip.

    If you're doing a LOT (i.e. you do this type of stuff full time) of video editing, 3D work, or working with large Photoshop files, then this will most definitely be of an advantage. Personally, I'm not sure I see the need.
  10. macrumors 68020


    Oct 1, 2008
    Tampa, FL
    basically the 6490 was a throwaway "bonus" lol for users that required a 15" screen or quad core. You don't buy the base 15" for the graphics. If you wanted graphics and 15" you must go to the higher end. LAME!
  11. macrumors member

    Jan 28, 2009
    I'm considering the base 15" mainly for internet,e-mail and webdesign but I also do HD video editing. Reading these forums I get the impression that the top model with the better gfx card is beter for gaming but would it be a big difference for editing? Gaming isn't something I do at all on a laptop so that wouldn't be an issue.
  12. thread starter macrumors regular

    Jan 19, 2011
    this is pretty much what i would like answered as well.

    i have a feeling that editing video will be ok. but it would be nice for someone to give a rational informative answer.
  13. macrumors member

    Feb 21, 2006
    So if we plan to hook up to a 1920x1080 display or to something like the Apple cinema display, the 15" MBP with the 6750 would the right choice?
  14. macrumors 6502

    Feb 19, 2011
  15. ddarko, Feb 24, 2011
    Last edited: Feb 24, 2011

    macrumors regular

    May 7, 2007
    This is a common misconception. Photoshop and video editing programs like Final Cut are heavily CPU-dependent; they do not engage or off-load much to the GPU. Here is a recent Tom's Hardware article that tests Photoshop CS5, including a section on GPU acceleration:


    Page 8 discusses GPU acceleration but note the caveats, namely, the acceleration depends on the video card supporting CUDU but CUDU is exclusive to Nvidia GPUs and the support is limited to some plug-ins, not CS5 itself:

    Since the new Macbook Pros use ATI GPU, it doesn't support CUDU acceleration so getting the faster Macbook Pro to take advantage of CUDU acceleration is moot. For photo and video editing, the biggest impact on performance is:

    CPU > main memory > hard drive speed > GPU.

    It's worth pointing out that Adobe's spec page for CS5 explicitly states that the computer needs:


    There is no reason to get the higher end video card for video editing purposes. The base model's GPU will not be a significant limiting factor and will be fine for your purposes. Better to spend your money on increasing your main memory RAM and/or upgrading the hard drive to 7200rpm or SSD.
  16. macrumors newbie

    Jun 15, 2011
    Some Good, but Conflicting, Reports

    So I , too, am confused about this Video Card debate.

    I am looking to purchase a 15" MBP to use mostly for iMovie and possibly FCP, with a splash of PhotoShop etc.

    It is going to replace my 2009 mac mini, or at least supplement it and be my main squeeze.

    So I think the real question is what to get:

    1. 1gb or 256 VRAM option
    2. 128 SSD or 500 (7200 RPM) HD
    3. 8gb or 4gb RAM

    Could some knowledgable on the topic explain the differences between choices 1-3, rate them, and recommend?

    I'd like to purchase today, but would like to know what to order!

  17. macrumors 6502

    Jun 17, 2011
    Given those 3 options, it's a pretty easy choice. RAM can be upgraded, HD can be replaced, video card cannot. So it's either, go with the 6750 and decide on the other two later, or go with the 6490... and decide on the other two later. Not to mention, it's cheaper that way. And probably better performance too.

    For a more detailed explanation: Apple ships the old SATA 3 SSDs, while their chipsets support SATA 6. However, selection of SATA 6 compatible SSDs are... far and few in between. They're quite new, and sort of unstable atm. So if you do go with an SSD upgrade, just know you're not getting your money's worth, in part because Apple's jipping you (albeit not a lot by Apple's standards; they're SSDs are prices pretty competitively), but in the sense that you're not getting the full extent of what MBP has to offer.

    Same applies to the RAM issue as well. Apple upgrades 1333 RAM, whereas SB, at least the 2.2 models, support 1600. Also, there's very VERY few real-world applications where you would need 8 GB. At least for now anyway. RAM is definitely an upgrade as you go thing imo. And the prices drop FAST for RAM.
  18. macrumors member

    Dec 31, 2010
    I actually had a related question about the 6490 vs 6750 issue - I intend to use Spaces extensively and since it spreads your display over multiple 'spaces', aren't each of these spaces kind of like another display? even just 4 spaces combined would make a pretty hi-res display, right? (15" hi-res AG screen is 1680 x 1050 px ; 4 spaces (2 rows, 2 colums) would be 3360 x 2100 px)

    So my the question really is, can the 6490 handle hi-res displays (with not-so-demanding/non-3d stuff - like say just a 1080p video).

    I'm quite inclined to think they are since Intel's HD3000 can handle external displays without much problems.. but i'd rather have the actual mbp owners answer this :)
  19. macrumors regular

    Aug 1, 2009
    I believe I can help on this.
    I had the 13" base model for like 7 days or so, I tried it out with various 1080p videos and all of them play stutter free on my Dell U2711. When you activate spaces while the movie is playing back in full screen, there will be a slight lag in the animation.

    Few days back, I swapped the 13" base to a 15" base. Like the 13", the 15" handles the playback of 1080p videos just fine. Since I use my 15" as a desktop replacement (always plugged in) I set the graphics to be "discrete only". While playing the 1080p video full screen and activating spaces, there is no lag at all. Smooth transition.

    Hope the above helps. :)
  20. macrumors newbie

    Jun 15, 2011
    I do NOT play video games. I do, however, use iMovie to import HD video and edit it as well as export it to DVD. Does the 1GB model really give me that much more performance over 256MB model? I was told no.

    So to clarify then gents, I won't need the 1GB graphics card?
  21. macrumors 603

    Mar 14, 2008
    No, you don't.
  22. macrumors G3

    Jul 23, 2002
    Sol III - Terra
    Actually there are 3 differences:
    1. 2.0GHz vs 2.2GHz i7
    2. 500GB vs 750GB Disk
    3. 6490M with 256MB vs 6750M with 1GB
    Since the price difference between the 2 models includes all 3 differences, you have to consider the value of all of them to you.

    Now as for the GPU difference, you never said what your major application usage is. That would make a difference in the answer. Also, how many years are you thinking of keeping the system? Think of the price difference over that many years. Also, would getting the higher end model let you keep the machine for another 6 months to a year before you upgrade? That changes the price per year as well.

    And any graphics application (like photo editing) which may not hit the graphics card that hard right now, could be updated in a year or two to make use of the GPU.

    All in all, I probably wouldn't buy the base 15" model unless I couldn't afford it.
  23. macrumors G3

    Jul 23, 2002
    Sol III - Terra
    As others have said, no you don't. A faster CPU however would help you. It's all what the speed is worth to you. Also, while the MBP can support an external display just fine, if you plan to do that, it could be worth going with the better video card (but still not needed).
  24. macrumors 6502a

    Jun 4, 2008
    What uses / users do really require the better card?

    People who play games or do 3D work. Even if you use software that benefits from GPU acceleration, the 6490 should be fine for now.

    In what situations does make do with the cheaper card apply?

    When you don't do the above.

    Are there and relevant benchmarks the show the differences between the cards that are 'real world' intelligible and are not just spec circle jerkery?

    Notebookcheck.net has tons of comparisons, games only.
  25. macrumors newbie

    May 26, 2011
    Dang, I thought I had what I wanted completely figured out before I came to this thread. Not the case anymore. I will be heading off to university in the fall and plan to purchase my first macbook pro in the coming weeks. I plan on playing games such as Starcraft 2 and Diablo 3, along with web browsing, music, and perhaps CS5. At the top of my budget right now is the base 15'' model, which I figured would do me alright for what I plan on using my computer for.

    Now I see that everyone thinks that the graphics card on the base 15'' is pretty useless and that it was just added to look like a slight bonus?

    My question is, would I be best off to get the base 15'' and not worry about what people are saying, or get the base 13'' and upgrade it to 8 gigs of ram and a SATA 3 SSD?

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