GPUs for Dummies: (6490 vs 6750)

Discussion in 'MacBook Pro' started by nebulos, Mar 6, 2011.

  1. nebulos, Mar 6, 2011
    Last edited: May 28, 2011

    nebulos macrumors 6502a

    nebulos

    Joined:
    Aug 27, 2010
    #1
    __________________________________________________________________________________________________

    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!!!:p
     

    Attached Files:

  2. nebulos thread starter macrumors 6502a

    nebulos

    Joined:
    Aug 27, 2010
    #2
    any takers?

    (too long? too general? 'official' = annoying?)

    by the way, if it does pan out, we can add the intel 3000 to the discussion for those considering the 13 models with similar concerns.
     
  3. Jaimi macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Jul 22, 2009
    #3
    What does the GPU do???

    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 programs use the GPU?

    Anything that displays anything on the screen uses the GPU.

    Which need a good GPU?

    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.

    Which need/merit the 6570 over the 6490?

    Games. CAD. Anything that uses 3D.

    How will the benefit of/need for a powerful GPU change over time?

    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?

    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 (6570)?

    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.
     
  4. nebulos thread starter macrumors 6502a

    nebulos

    Joined:
    Aug 27, 2010
    #4
    thanks so much! i will incorporate your answers above, a.s.a.p.! THANKS!
     
  5. skiltrip macrumors 68030

    Joined:
    May 6, 2010
    Location:
    New York
    #5
    I like this thread. It's already cleared up a few things for me.
     
  6. Bobby Corwen macrumors 68030

    Joined:
    Jul 16, 2010
  7. nebulos thread starter macrumors 6502a

    nebulos

    Joined:
    Aug 27, 2010
    #7
    tried to simplify a bit. also threw 3000 into the mix.

    ... even though i HATE the 1280x800, at nearly half the price of the 15s, i'm still considering the 13. In this case, i might want to (eventually) run a nice high res monitor: Apple/Dell 2560x1440. wondering how it might handle that and other tasks: video editing, VJing/real-time software, ... dabbling in 3D work?

    p.s. if you want to see this post develop, help it along by contributing! simply adding: "I'm interested in this!" Let's people know you care and brings attention and, hopefully, helps attract the experts!

    Thanky Spanky! :)
     
  8. Littleodie914 macrumors 68000

    Littleodie914

    Joined:
    Jun 9, 2004
    Location:
    Rochester, NY
    #8
    I recently purchased a 2011 MBP 15" that's on its way here, I would be very interested to find out how the 6490 affects flash/HD content playback. I watch a lot of Hulu and Netflix, it would be great to find out how it'll do ahead of time. :)

    Props to the OP for starting this thread, I think it's a pretty great idea.
     
  9. nebulos thread starter macrumors 6502a

    nebulos

    Joined:
    Aug 27, 2010
    #9
    Thanks! I refined the playback question for you!
     
  10. mikeo007 macrumors 65816

    Joined:
    Mar 18, 2010
    #10
    Good effort. I have a feeling that it may be wasted though...most people just hop on here and post a question rather than spending 20 seconds searching for their answer.
     
  11. Littleodie914 macrumors 68000

    Littleodie914

    Joined:
    Jun 9, 2004
    Location:
    Rochester, NY
    #11
    Is the Intel 3000 good enough to run a 2560x1440 cinema display?

    From Apple's spec page for the 13" MBP: http://www.apple.com/macbookpro/specs-13inch.html

     
  12. SamIchi macrumors 68030

    SamIchi

    Joined:
    Aug 1, 2004
    #12
    +1 for this thread, I made a thread about the GPU difference in the 15"'s but only got minimal feedback. So thanks for puttin this together, I will be checking back frequently, even though I'm pretty set on the higher end 15".

    I will be running 3-d rendering and modeling software, So I'm sure it will be helpful.
     
  13. nebulos thread starter macrumors 6502a

    nebulos

    Joined:
    Aug 27, 2010
    #13
    ... thanks. i knew this was a risk going in. i figured i'd give it a shot. we'll see.

    in fact, although i originally had a general post like this in mind, i decided to start my own, specific-to-me, low vs high end 15 thread at first. because every user has different needs, it seems it will often be best to ask for specific advice: What should I get?

    however, this will often result in many short responses: "Card X is fine." "Card Y is worth the upgrade." The problem is, you might get several conflicting answers like this, and if you haven't actually learned something about video cards, you still have a very strange and difficult decision to make.

    i was not surprised to see several others wondering about the different GPUs in the new MBPs; if you're not a gamer, the GPU is often meaningless/mysterious to you; as many of the threads on GPUs are written by and for gamers, its hard to learn about them.

    comparing CPUs seems more doable for most people; the literature is more general-purpose. comparing RAM is relatively easy. comparing storage can get tricky when it comes to, say, 5400 vs 7200, and SSDs seem to be a slippery subject. (i have many questions about SSDs myself.) aside from that, there is the GPU, possibly the least understood, at least, for the many who don't game; i figured it was worth a shot to see if we could help clarify this subject.

    :)
     
  14. nebulos thread starter macrumors 6502a

    nebulos

    Joined:
    Aug 27, 2010
    #14
    ... yeah, thanks. i know it's supposed to be able to run it; but, at the same time, i think even the 1.4GHz Air meets the minimum requirements for running Logic Pro; in practice, however, its probably not very well suited to that task; this is more along the lines of what i was getting at; i'll adjust the question.

    thanks again!
     
  15. nebulos thread starter macrumors 6502a

    nebulos

    Joined:
    Aug 27, 2010
    #15
    ... indeed, i read your thread on this. (and had been meaning to add it to the list above, which i now have.)

    thanks to you! you included a 'list of tasks', like i originally wanted to post. that was one of the reasons i decided to go back and give a general post a shot.

    yeah, it seems for 3D the 6570 should help; although, i think we're both probably wondering how well the 6490 would fare; good enough, for [me]? is the 6570 worth the $$$?

    we'll see.

    good luck and thanks!
     
  16. melterx12, Mar 7, 2011
    Last edited: Mar 7, 2011

    melterx12 macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Jun 22, 2010
    #16
    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.

    The ONLY applications that would benefit by a more powerful GPU are those that render 3D graphics . This includes things like Games, CAD, etc.

    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).
     
  17. ezekielrage_99 macrumors 68040

    ezekielrage_99

    Joined:
    Oct 12, 2005
    #17
    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... Photoshop though not that taxing on a GPU does need memory, 384MB is pretty weak so don't expect stellar results.
    < 30fps for pew pew games and SC2 getting around 20fps is pretty useless IMHO... It's rubbish for games while 6490 isn't much better.

    Since Apple has turned to AMD I thought they may have even gone with the 550V or 5650 for the "lower end" operations, but we are stuck with another smelly Intel GMA series...

    I would have really liked to see different video card options in the BTO...
     
  18. Littleodie914 macrumors 68000

    Littleodie914

    Joined:
    Jun 9, 2004
    Location:
    Rochester, NY
    #18
    Ah, I see what you're saying. I'm sure it will run smoothly. The HD 3000 might be a slow card compared to the discrete AMD offerings, but it can certainly handle 2D animations on a larger screen. Just don't try to game at native res. :)
     
  19. jk6959 macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Jul 11, 2009
    #19
    2 reasons for why 6490 over intel 3000:

    Extra performance - the new AMD cards have significant jump in OpenGL performance which is required to game natively in OSX.
    Extra CPU performance - the intel GPU share resources with the CPU, using a separate, dedicated GPU allows CPU to use all of it's resources on CPU activities.


    I personally can't see the point in shelling out £1700 for a MBP with 6490 and 2630qm and not being willing to spend 10% extra for 6750, 2720qm and cheaper HDD upgrades. But it sounds like in the US there's more of a price difference.

    Just 2 notes, could you amend the GPU from 6570 (old 5700 series rebranded) and rename it 6750 (480 streams vs 400). From talking to friends it sounds like ram is more important than high end GPU for a fair amount of Photoshop activities.

    Nice work on pulling together this guide.
     
  20. Littleodie914 macrumors 68000

    Littleodie914

    Joined:
    Jun 9, 2004
    Location:
    Rochester, NY
    #20
    I actually just purchased a 15" MBP with the 6490 in the US, still waiting for it to arrive. :) I was deciding between the low-end and the high-end 15" versions, primarily because of the GPU, but here (in New York, anyway) it's about a $430 difference to upgrade.

    I will be replacing the HDD with an SSD, so the 500GB -> 750GB drive upgrade didn't concern me, nor did the 0.2GHz speed bump, so shelling out that much extra for essentially just the GPU wasn't something I could justify. I have a desktop PC that I can use to game though, so others might find it easier to shell out for the upgrade.
     
  21. Mac-key macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Apr 1, 2010
    Location:
    Alabama
    #21
    I LOVE this thread! I'm in the position of trying to decide between the base 15 and the high-end 15. I do absolutely NO gaming, BUT I do use FCP quite extensively - including motion, and color.

    So I'd really like to hear from people smarter than I about the base 15 graphics card and how it would perform.

    I'll be checking back often - hopefully someone answers those questions concerning video editing.

    Thanks for taking the time to put this together!
     
  22. nebulos thread starter macrumors 6502a

    nebulos

    Joined:
    Aug 27, 2010
    #22
    sounds good. :cool:
     
  23. nebulos, Mar 7, 2011
    Last edited: Mar 7, 2011

    nebulos thread starter macrumors 6502a

    nebulos

    Joined:
    Aug 27, 2010
    #23
    the US retail price difference is $400, which is 22% of the base $1800. (add tax to that.) the high end CPU is better, but only a 'bit' better than the already very powerful 2.0GHz i7-2635(?)QM, which will more than suffice for many. (how many will notice the difference?) unless you plan to upgrade the HDD through Apple (many will opt for a 3rd party upgrade), the GPU is the deciding factor, as the difference there is actually dramatic. ... but, that brings us to the question at hand: who needs, or will even notice, the better card? gamers, yes. who else? ... ME??? (still dont know.)


    Oops, sorry about that! Thanks! ... GPU Dummy indeed. That must have caused many a rolled eye!


    Thanks! I added your photoshop comment above, btw.
     
  24. nebulos thread starter macrumors 6502a

    nebulos

    Joined:
    Aug 27, 2010
    #24
    ... thanks for the other responses folks! i've included them above. :D
     
  25. jk6959 macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Jul 11, 2009
    #25
    No worries, thanks for keeping this updated. On the pricing comment thats just UK pricing difference and personal preference, but on-topic I'd suggest adding a mini-benchmark section

    What are GPU benchmarks and what do they show?

    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 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, typing on iPad is slow and work soon). My MBP should arrive today, so hopefully can contribute more after i pick it up.
     

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