high vs low end 15" for music/art/video (no games)? what's GPU for?! thermal paste?!

Discussion in 'MacBook Pro' started by nebulos, Mar 4, 2011.

  1. nebulos, Mar 4, 2011
    Last edited: Mar 6, 2011

    nebulos macrumors 6502a


    Aug 27, 2010
    EDIT: This thread has been edited from its original version!
    EDIT: As for the 'non-gaming' 6490 vs 6570 question (the main one for me), I've moved to: http://forums.macrumors.com/showthread.php?p=12076312#post12076312

    Low End 15:
    2.0 i7-2634QM (geekbench ~ 8800*)
    6490M (256mb, ...)
    $1799 ($1699 for students)

    High End 15:
    2.2 i7-2720QM (geekbench ~ 9900)
    6750M (1GB, ...)
    $2199 ($1999 for students)

    Both of these CPUs seem quite capable, so, this probably won't be the deciding factor, but the 10% speed increase to the 2.2 is something to weigh in. (Note: Both have 6Mb of cache.)

    Video Card:
    The main purpose for my MBP will be to make music, but I also do art and would like to experiment with a variety of video/graphics stuff including flash, video editing, 3d-modeling/graphics/animation. I'd also like to be able to do real-time video processing, where, for example, I take a live video feed and project it in weird ways (at a music show, in a way that reacts automatically to the music ... ).

    I've never had the set up to do some of this stuff, so I don't know how active I'll be; I'm not really concerned about making video editing 7% faster; I'm more concerned that, say, the 6490 will just not be able to (fluidly) handle task X, limiting what I can and can't do.

    Although I have been enlightened some, I'm still not quite sure what exactly, aside from video games, the GPU really does. As has been explained below, the GPU has 'traditional' responsibilities, like rendering 3d images (as in games, and i'm guessing this is what GPUs were originally used for), but, thanks to OpenCL (and friends) GPUs are also used more generally now, to do other types of 'graphics processing' which can be used in video editing. (Though currently implementation is limited.) But, I'm still not sure what a GPU means to me and your thoughts on the following questions continue to be very appreciated (by me and, no doubt, many other MR users with similar questions).

    Aside from games, when is a good video card important?

    Will I notice the difference between 6490 vs 6750?

    Do you need a good video card to do this? http://www.vimeo.com/channels/dff2010#10224739

    Is OpenCL a reason to consider investing in a better GPU?

    The difference in hard drive space seems essentially irrelevant, except that it makes upgrading to an SSD (from Apple) cheaper, if you plan on that. personally, i think my plan might be to stick with the stock HDD, then maybe buy an SSD later and do the 'optibay' thing; SSD for OSX, HDD for recording.

    As you can see, the difference in price is $400, or $300 for students.

    Which to Buy?
    I was really hoping for a 1440x900 13". I wouldn't be writing this had that materialized, intel GPU or not. I realize the stock MBPs are insanely popular machines, but at the stock resolutions, text on the 13" and 15", coupled with Apple's 'true-over-readable' font smoothing, is, to me, almost unreadable. It's so fuzzy, I can't understand how this is not an issue to people. (I'm also used to my 12" 1440x900 Thinkpad, with Windows 'readable-over-true font smoothing.) (I know you can zoom in on the mac, but that doesn't quite make me happy.)

    Anyways, I think I need a high res screen, which or course requires the jump to the 15", a wildly different price range. I will certainly put the quad core to use, but once I'm spending ~ $2,000, I'd like to make sure I'm getting a 'complete' production machine (for my needs), video power included.

    I can afford either machine, but will I see enough of a difference in performance to justify the extra $300?


    Thermal Paste ???!!!

    Should I be worried about this?:

    iFixit teardown discovers 'gobs' of thermal paste in new MBPs: http://www.ifixit.com/Teardown/MacBook-Pro-15-Inch-Unibody-Early-2011-Teardown/4990/1

    Users report similar findings and dramatic temp drops after clean up:
    EDIT: RECENT THREAD: http://forums.macrumors.com/showthread.php?t=1105643&highlight=thermal
    EDIT: OLD THREAD (2006): http://forums.macrumors.com/showthread.php?t=199840


    Other references:

    Macworld review of the 2011 MBPs, including some GPU tests: http://www.macworld.com/article/157931/2011/03/early2011macbookpro.html

    Barefeats (so far, nothing comparing these two comps, but maybe soon): http://www.barefeats.com/

    Thanks, MR!
  2. toxic macrumors 68000

    Nov 9, 2008
    the graphics card will be useless to you. question for you is: how important is a 10% faster CPU?

    a "good" video card is needed when it's rendering or drawing something very detailed in 3D. more video memory is nice, but it's usually not if you're not running multiple displays. an MBP can only run two at the same time, so no big deal.
  3. brentsg macrumors 68040

    Oct 15, 2008
    You will probably be just as likely to encounter the thermal paste issue on a new MBP 3 years from now as you will now.
  4. aoaaron macrumors 6502

    Sep 4, 2010
    student = 3 years applecare.

    i really wouldnt worry.

    if the thermal paste somehow destroys your PC in 2 years time, you get a new macbook pro. :)
  5. nebulos thread starter macrumors 6502a


    Aug 27, 2010
    thanks for the explanation. i figured i'd be fine with the 6490, but wondered what people had to say. thanks!
  6. nebulos thread starter macrumors 6502a


    Aug 27, 2010
  7. nebulos thread starter macrumors 6502a


    Aug 27, 2010
    as for the replies on the thermal paste issue, i can't say i'm super reassured.

    apple care is great, but of course, comes at a cost. if the paste melts my comp in 3 years, great. the problem is, what if it melts the comp after 3.5 years? (i guess you'd say: sell before then?)

  8. namethisfile macrumors 65816


    Jan 17, 2008
    the low end 15" mbp seems plenty enough according to your needs. the low end model is also enough for final cut studio (one of the most demanding professional appz from apple), unless, you're working with hi-res stuff like 4k video files, in which case, the high end model w/ the higher amount of vram would be needed.

    if i were in the market for a new mbp, the high end model would be worth it, to me, for that extra 768mb of vram, which really puts the mbp into mac pro category. whereas, the low end mbp has mac pro-like cpu, but imac-like graphics, if you think about it. so, that is why i would fork up the extra $400 ($300 students) to get that extra 768MB of VRAM, which you can never upgrade, btw.

    as for the thermal paste, i don't think it is really anything to worry about. i mean, you could, but why bother. the computer will be fine, either way, if there is a little over the ideal amount. even if it is excessive. but, then, again, i don't really know what thermal paste is. lol. nor would i ever open up a notebook to reapply it.

    just my 2 cents.
  9. gofightlose macrumors member


    Feb 1, 2011
    Wow...I'm pretty much in the exact same boat, as far as what I will be using my mac for. I went for the lower end 15' with the 2.0, just because that is already a very powerful computer. While having those extra specs could come in useful, I really doubt I will be using the cpu or gpu to their full potential. So save your money, and spend it on that applecare to cover any potential problems. :)
  10. waw74 macrumors 68030

    May 27, 2008
  11. nebulos thread starter macrumors 6502a


    Aug 27, 2010
    OMGloryHoles!!! So sorry! After reading about the iFixit post and another recent thread (see below), since this 2006 one was seeing action, I didn't notice the original post date.

    Here is the recent one on the 2011 model (slightly less dramatic results):

    ... So, sure, this could be a bit of preemptive hypochondria on my part. But, at a near gazillion dollars, these are quite unsettling sights and stories; First, iFixit's general impression that the paste, and other details, were shoddy, followed by outraged users that felt the need to pop open their very valuable machines, (possibly) compromising their warranties, then posting pretty sizable temp drops.

    To me, scary. Hopefully, enough of you can put my fears to rest. (Cause I REALLY, REALLY NEED a comp.)
  12. nebulos thread starter macrumors 6502a


    Aug 27, 2010
    ... and thanks for the other replies, guys. i appreciate the perspectives.

    the evidence seems to be piling that the low end will suit my needs fine, leaving some $$$ for stuff like a (comforting/wise) applecare plan.

    with what seems like a distinctly better GPU, plus a respectable CPU bump, i'm sure the high end 15 is a fine investment too. (and to be honest, at nearly half the price, i keep encouraging myself to reconsider the 13; also a great computer, i think. ... i'm just (quite unfortunately) very picky about the res.)

    anyways, your comments will certainly help make this decision easier! thanks!
  13. Miss Terri macrumors 6502

    Nov 11, 2010
    US East Coast
    Interesting and well-written initial post, thank you :) I'm not on the verge of buying a new computer, but I'm still paying attention. And I had the same questions as you about the GPU/video card. A lot of attention is paid to how it works for games, but if you don't play games (but may do other things that sound "videoish"), you are left slightly wondering. I'm starting to realize (not sure I'm right, mind you) that a lot of image type things (Aperture, iMovie, FCE) actually use the CPU.

    The thermal paste thing is a bit worrying. I hate the feeling like it's a gamble whether I'm going to get a good computer or not (I just got a new one a few months ago). I think what I would do if I were getting a new one now (since I have learned things here in the past months) is download something like iStat and then work the computer pretty hard in the first week and be prepared to return it to an Apple store within the first 14 days if it runs too hot or has other problems (I'm usually reluctant to do this, but I guess one has to get used to it because you can't just be suffering with a bad computer if it is $2k). They can't really refuse you in the first 14 days because at that point you can just return it outright and re-buy it, if it comes to that.

    I'm the opposite with you on resolution. I read a lot of type/print and -- without resolution independence (which, Get It Please, Apple) -- it is just too tiring for me to read tiny, tiny print all day long, even if it is sharper. Now if they would just make the 13" in anti-glare I would be getting a new one :)

    On the Apple Care: You may already know this, but you have up until the end of the first year to purchase Apple Care. The warranty that comes with the computer is one year and the Apple Care extends it by two years. So you could theoretically wait until day 364 to purchase Apple Care (although if you miss that date you cannot get it anymore).

    What you do miss out on is that the original one year includes 90 days of free phone support from Apple. If you buy Apple Care right away, that extends to the whole first year. So of course if you wait a year to buy Apple Care you miss out on 275 potential days of free phone support.

    I just thought I'd mention that in case you were on a tight budget right now, with the new machine, and it might help things out.
  14. scoober macrumors newbie

    Mar 1, 2011
    Thanks for pointing that out. It was something that I had overlooked as I was going to wait until a year (or just before) to make a decision on Applecare.
  15. nebulos, Mar 4, 2011
    Last edited: Mar 4, 2011

    nebulos thread starter macrumors 6502a


    Aug 27, 2010
    thanks! glad you liked the post. (i did have to work a bit to try to keep it concise and coherent.)

    ... when i go to the mac store and hear people asking insane questions, and saying stuff like "This one has more Gee Bees", and believing (evil?) sales reps when they say "2GB on a Mac is like 4GB on a PC", it blows my mind. however, i'm sure people are just as intellectually revolted when i ask if my GPU will help with Flash (i'm still not positive it doesn't! ... me so dum.)

    but, hey, i guess we all said "Gee Bees" at some point.

    I'm glad to hear I'm not the only one to have confused the 'video card' with all things 'videoish'. in fact, i'm sure this is quite common.

    I can corroborate that what i usually hear/read is that 'straight' video editing is mostly a CPU thing.

    ... but then people also say that even Photoshop uses the GPU for some things. :confused:!

    i've never had a setup to really mess around with video and animation stuff, but if i do go with the 15, i will definitely want to dig in and experiment, and use a lot of effects and wacky processing, which is where my video card concerns lie.

    I visited a friend in Pittsburgh recently, where we caught the annual "Disposable Film Festival" (screened in a huge empty pool!). They played a bunch of shorts, a lot of which were great. many were 'effects based'. Here's a simple one, that together with the music I liked a lot (my friend hated it). I will attach a question to this:

    5. Do you need a good video card to do this?


    ... as for the thermal paste, i also had your idea about testing the computer up front, and i will certainly do that. technically, Apple can/does charge a 10% restocking fee on open computers, but that is, apparently, a flexible policy. also, i was aware of the applecare thing, and probably would wait a bit before buying it, though mainly just to fool myself into believing a lower purchase price. in any case, thanks very much sharing for these ideas!

    as for resolution, with all the different res's Apple has floating around these days, I think its only a matter of time till you get your res independence wish. At a certain point I worried myself that the high res screens would bug me, but i eventually figured that most stuff you really sit and read, web pages, documents, etc. you can zoom into; The New York Times is basically unreadable at normal size on a 17", absolutely agreed, but you zoom in once or twice, and its fine (except all the images now look terrible:() Surprisingly, OSX lacks the ability, that Windows 7 has, of 'scaling the OS up/down', system fonts, menu bars, etc. So, menus (currently) are small on, say, the 17", but, to me, it's an easy trade-off. Aside from fonts looking better to me, the increase in work space is invaluable.

    thanks again for the response!
  16. Miss Terri macrumors 6502

    Nov 11, 2010
    US East Coast
    Although, I do usually wait until later the first year to buy Apple Care. Just because I figure... what if the machine dies, or I don't like it and sell it, or I like it but want/need something else, or etc. Also, having just bought a computer, my budget is usually ready for a break, whereas a year later, it's not so bad.

    I may be wrong, but I feel like I can solve phone-type stuff by looking online, coming places like here, or posting/reading Apple's discussion forums. And if I need to, I can still go to the Genius Bar as I'm always still covered by warranty.

    But then, since I've never used the free phone support, maybe I just don't know what I'm missing.

    At any rate, it's nice to have all the info in order to make the decision. And nice that Apple provides the choice.
  17. toxic macrumors 68000

    Nov 9, 2008
    PS uses the GPU for some things, but frankly it doesn't even tax an integrated chip. the only consideration for GPU and video is for CUDA, which is supported in AE and some plugins for Premiere or Avid or something...but CUDA is a NVidia technology anyway. OpenCL (an open version of CUDA) may or may not arrive with FCP, so far it's been useful for just about nothing.
  18. Miss Terri macrumors 6502

    Nov 11, 2010
    US East Coast
    That has been eliminated, if I recall correctly, as of about December 2010. So it's just a clear, 14-day return policy, and you don't need any special approval. (At least in the US; not sure if everywhere is the same.)

    I sure hope so! I know the 13" is probably going high-res at some point, and I would like resolution independence before then, please. I mean, hey, Windows can do the "change everything generally to larger" thing :apple: ;)

    On the zooming: I do actually still zoom in at normal res :eek: And it's generally okay, but like you say, it can kind of jumble things up in places. So please bring on the scaling!
  19. nebulos, Mar 4, 2011
    Last edited: Mar 5, 2011

    nebulos thread starter macrumors 6502a


    Aug 27, 2010
    hmm. i just now read a tiny bit about CUDA and OpenCL for the first time.

    So, roughly, these are 'languages' that, for one thing, allow the GPU to be used as a (more) 'general' processor, for things other than just 'traditional' graphics processing?

    Are you saying that, as far as video work is concerned, this is really the only way that the GPU is used? And that, with no existing OpenCL implementation, AE/FCP will simply not (currently) use these AMD GPUs, at all? (Of course, that should change soon I'd imagine.)

    ... So, does making a video like the one I posted have much to do with the GPU? (Aside from something like CUDA making editing a bit faster?)

    ... So, now that you mention it:

    6. Is OpenCL a reason to consider investing in a better GPU?
  20. nebulos thread starter macrumors 6502a


    Aug 27, 2010
    Oh, wow, I did not know that. Excellent news, thanks! ;)
  21. polkunus macrumors member

    Feb 15, 2011
    That upgraded graphics card will increase your gaming/graphic applications performance by a significant amount.

    Not to mention the upgraded ghz, cache etc.

    But again, you're not a gamer, 3D artist, etc. so the lower end will fit you perfectly. ( I do recommend spending an extra $100 on the bigger resolution screen though!)
  22. namethisfile macrumors 65816


    Jan 17, 2008
    not sure. open cl just allows an open cl-capable gpu to be leveraged for graphics-extensive tasks alongside the cpu, such as rendering, etc.. a lesser capable gpu might be limited in some ways from certain open cl operations. for instance, it might render huge graphics files slower or not in real-time, or not at all. don't really know. open cl hasn't really been implemented yet by apple, i don't think. but, with cuda, i know that only certain nvidia gpu's take advantage of the mercury engine playback in premiere cs5. so, open cl might be similar in that some gpu's, depending on how beefy it is, just won't be able to handle and support it. lol.

    but, i hope, this is not the case. i hope any open cl capable gpu (beefy or not) can take some of the lifting off of the cpu because the way i look at it, any gpu-muscle is better than no gpu-muscle at all. lol.
  23. mrwonkers macrumors 6502


    Oct 31, 2004
    The upcoming version of Final Cut Pro [mid yearish] is said to be a major revision, I would be very surprised if it did not take advantage of your GPU. Definitely go the top end 15" MacBook Pro if you can strech your $
  24. nebulos thread starter macrumors 6502a


    Aug 27, 2010
    ... just in case, there is the option (in safari at least) to check/uncheck "zoom text only"; i think, with this unchecked, it shouldn't rearrange stuff. ?
  25. nebulos thread starter macrumors 6502a


    Aug 27, 2010

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