__________________________________________________________________________________________________ 5/28/11: LET'S CALL THIS CRAZY, TRIPLE-HEADED, THIRTEEN-TOED EXPERIMENTAL DRAGON OF A THREAD 'CLOSED'. ... Why was this beast born in the first place? After the 2011 13 MBP came out at the same old low res, I began researching the 15" options, which meant answering: What do I need the GPU for? ... I being of the non-gaming persuasion, but still interested in multimedia production. It's sort of a tricky question, that is not necessarily very easy to research. In fact, I never arrived at a definitive answer. In any case, I gave up on a 15 MBP and am now hoping to get a 2011 Air. Lighter and cheaper and I think it will do me just fine. __________________________________________________________________________________________________ (BEGIN ORIGINAL THREAD) ... NEW AND IMPROVED!!! ... calling all GPU Dummies/Smarties! ... a communal work in progress! ... help this guide grow by contributing! THANK YOU! ... first, our question of the week ... ish: ********************************************************** QUESTION OF THE WEEK-ish: How will each of the new 15" models (6490M vs 6750M) handle 3D design/animation (Maya, Modo, ... ), video editing (Final Cut, Motion, Color, ... ), and other intense graphics/video work? ... Is the high end (GPU) worth the extra $400? ($300 difference for students) ... How much does the GPU actually do in 3D design/animation, video editing? ... Any thoughts on (the future of) OpenCL? 6490M: http://www.notebookcheck.net/AMD-Radeon-HD-6490M.43843.0.html 6750M: http://www.notebookcheck.net/AMD-Radeon-HD-6750M.43958.0.html Anand: http://www.anandtech.com/show/4205/the-macbook-pro-review-13-and-15-inch-2011-brings-sandy-bridge/8 some related threads: (i'll add more later, your suggestions are more than welcome!) http://www.tomshardware.com/forum/216300-28-rendering-important ********************************************************** ... INTRO & MOTIVATION FOR A 'GPU FOR DUMMIES (non-gamers)' THREAD: Prospective 2011 Macbook Pro buyers will find a spectrum of GPUs across models and, to many, understanding the differences is critical to choosing a model that suits them. For gamers, the situation is simple: Buy the best GPU you can afford. For the rest of us, to whom the GPU is often a mystery, the question is less accessible. This thread is an experiment; To get the MR community to work together to provide a 'concise' guide to the basics of GPUs in general, and to the specific 2011 offerings, ultimately helping users decide which card/model is best for them. As the thread taken in at once is a bit off-putting, I decided to try a different approach; Focus on one question at a time, while continuing to allow for growth of the thread at large. ... YES, admittedly, this is also a way for me to temporarily hijack the thread for my own selfish devices!!! But I do hope one question at a time will make this thread much more inviting! Thus, the title will continue to change: "GPUs for Dummies: [question X]" HOW TO PLAY: You can contribute in any of the following ways. 1. Answer our Question of the Week-ish! 2. Suggest new Questions! 3. Browse the thread at large and contribute any other answers, questions, thoughts, concerns, references, suggestions, ... ! I will continually add your posts to this top thread and hopefully we can put a nice, somewhat complete, guide together! ... More Questions and Answers: GENERAL QUESTIONS: What does the GPU do??? My Preliminary (Dummy) Answer: GPU = graphics processing unit. Traditional responsibilities include rendering (detailed) 3D images (in real time), (as in modern PC videogames). More recently, thanks to CUDA, OpenCL, etc., (see below), the GPU's role has expanded, and can sometimes act by taking some of the load off the (main) CPU in heavy graphics processing. Jaimi says (see below): "It draws the screen. it moves the windows. It blends the shadows of the windows onto the desktop. Anything you see on the screen is drawn by the GPU. It's not just for 3D graphics." Which (types of) programs need a powerful GPU? Jaimi says: "Usually things that open a lot of windows, with bitmaps (etc), or render 3D need a good GPU. But the 6490 is not a "bad" gpu, it's just not really powerful. It's more than good enough if you're not playing games." Melterx12 says: "... The ONLY applications that would benefit by a more powerful GPU are those that render 3D graphics . This includes things like Games, CAD, etc." ... Which need/merit the 6750 over the 6490? Jaimi says: "Games. CAD. Anything that uses 3D." ... Which need/merit the 6490 over the 3000? (dedicated over integrated?) ezekielrage_99 says: "The 3000HD is useless for anything but basic computer operations such as surfing the interwebs, basic image editing, office stuff, transcoding video, watching porno, watching videos, etc.." How will the benefit of/need for a powerful GPU change over time? (see also OpenCL below) Jaimi says: "It's possible to harness the power of your GPU for regular computing tasks. As more developers take advantage of this, it might be that you could get speed benefits. Of course, Games seem to push the edge all the time." What is video ram used for? My preliminary (dummy) answer: When using several, or (very) high resolution, external monitors. Jaimi says: "Video RAM is used to hold the information that goes on the screen. The windows themselves, All the bitmaps that make them up, the desktop background, etc. Are all stored in video RAM." ... Which of these merits the upgrade from 256MB (6490) to 1GB (6750)? Jaimi says: "256MB is a lot of Video RAM. a 32 bit screen at 1920x1080 only takes 8MB. Triple that for all the buffering, and you still have over 200mb to hold bitmaps, do blending, etc. So the simple answer is "none of them". Except of course for Games and 3D apps." TASK-SPECIFIC QUESTIONS: Is GPU important for video editing? My preliminary (dummy) answer: Video editing is mostly CPU, then RAM and hard disk. However, GPU is important in programs like Motion, and is utilized by some 3rd party Final Cut plug-ins. ... Is the 6750 worth it for (casual/serious) video editing? (answers needed) ... Is the 3000 sufficient for (casual/serious) video editing? (answers needed) ... What about real-time video like VJing (Modul8, ...) ? (answers needed) Do I need a good GPU for Photoshop (graphic design/photo editing)? My preliminary dummy answer: Photoshop does use the GPU, but 'barely taxes an integrated card'. ezekielrage_99 says: "Photoshop though not that taxing on a GPU does need memory, 384MB [on the 3000] is pretty weak so don't expect stellar results." jk6959 says: "From talking to friends it sounds like ram is more important than high end GPU for a fair amount of Photoshop activities." Is the Intel 3000 good enough to smoothly run a 2560x1440 cinema display? (answers needed) What is OpenCL? Will it be (more) important soon? How does that affect my decision? Melterx12 says: " ... Note that I am not talking about OpenCL/CUDA, these technologies that allow the GPU to handle operations that would normally be done by the CPU are actually not supported by most programs (this could change in the future)." Is the 6490 sufficient for light 3D design? ... light 3D animation? (answers needed) Is the 6490 sufficient for AutoCAD? (answers needed) Does the GPU affect flash playback, 1080p playback? ... If so, is the 3000 okay for this? ... 6490? Melterx12 says: "Yes, the GPU is used for flash video, however even the Intel HD 3000 will have no problems whatsoever playing a 1080p video. ... In general, things like video playback / editing is handled by any modern GPU quite easily. Things like video playback are considered a 2D application. The GPU does not render the images, it simply processes (decodes) the current frame of the video, in some cases may apply subtle post-processing effects to it (image enchancement), and outputs it to the display." PROGRAM-SPECIFIC QUESTIONS: Does anyone have experience with ... SolidWorks, Rhino, 3d, Alias, Showroom, Keyshot? (answers needed) What are GPU benchmarks and what do they show? (written by jk6959; in progress; GREAT! THANKS!) "GPU benchmarks can be synthetic (3dmark06) or actual (Crysis), they are used as a way to compare the performance of one computing item or system against others. 3dmark benchmarks are synthetic benchmarks to test DirectX performance of the system. The year shows which DirectX is being used, the most commonly used is 3dmark06 which tests DirectX 10 performance but has gotten to a stage where CPU power can distort the results (3dmark05 - DirectX 9, 3dmark06 - DirectX 10, 3dmark11 - DirectX 11) 3dmarkvantage is another synthetic GPU benchmark, which tends to be used alongside 3dmark06 and is generally viewed as more reflective of GPU power or less influenced by CPU. Early tests indicate the 6750m has similar performance to the Nvidia GTX 260m, a high-end card of 2009. Games are one of the main consumer uses of graphics cards, hence a potential buyer who is keen just to play Crysis or SC2 would be more interested in the benchmarks for those specific games than a general synthetic benchmark. Crysis is frequently quoted as it has high enough requirements that laptops today are still unable to max everything and play at 60 fps (frames per second). Notebook check.net (links below) is a reasonable source for all GPU related info and benchmarks. They are fairly scientific in their measurement of GPU's but take their Order of GPU's with a pinch of salt. (to be continued ... )" ... see thumbnail below for some of notebookcheck's benchmarks on recent macbook GPUs! Some Good References: Notebookcheck: http://www.notebookcheck.net/ Notebookcheck's GPU list: http://www.notebookcheck.net/Mobile-Graphics-Cards-Benchmark-List.844.0.html Barefeats: http://www.barefeats.com/ MacWorld review of 2011 MBP: http://www.macworld.com/article/157893/2011/02/2011macbookpro_benchmarks.html Anandtech review of 2011 MBP: ... waiting. (add a suggestion? submit below) Related MR Threads: http://forums.macrumors.com/showthread.php?t=1104104 http://forums.macrumors.com/showthread.php?t=1101953 http://forums.macrumors.com/showthread.php?t=1108790 http://forums.macrumors.com/showthread.php?t=1104845 http://forums.macrumors.com/showthread.php?t=1104046 http://forums.macrumors.com/showthread.php?t=1101756 http://forums.macrumors.com/showthread.php?t=1109229 (add a suggestion? submit below) Thanks for playing!!!