Intel GPU reviews for power user?

Discussion in 'MacBook' started by ticklemeozmo, Aug 8, 2008.

  1. ticklemeozmo macrumors newbie

    Aug 8, 2008
    Hello forumers,

    After reading many threads, I think I've decided on what machine is right for me. Thank you to the countless people answering other n00b questions.

    I've decided I will be going with the Macbook, and I had some concerns about the Intel GPU; I was hoping some of the more seasoned users would alleviate them.

    I will, however, still require the use of Windows in the form of VMware Fusion (as seems the general consensus), for the random Windows-only apps my work (and personal crutches) require.

    I'm not a gamer, so I can't justify the MacBook Pro based solely on the video card, but I since I'm from the PC world, if you do not have 3D acceleration, you might as well just use the command line.

    To make a long story short (too late!) my question is will the Intel GPU in the current rev of macbooks (not taking into account the upgrade that will happen in 3 months) be fast enough for my use?

    * Watching full-screen HD trailors in Quicktime at
    * Windows XP in VMware Fusion (no games, no real graphic intensive apps)
    * Light video/photo editing with iLife Suite

    I ask, because as a Windows user, my heart has been broken many times always being underspec'd for just that "one more thing" I want to do. It seems that the Macbook (as spec'd) is right for the dabbler without failing, but once bitten, twice shy.
  2. Animalk macrumors 6502

    May 27, 2007
    Montreal Canada
    I can't stress enough how important it is to get some time with your prospective machines before buying either one. According to your list of activities, you should be able to tell whether or not your are satisfied with the performance of either machine within minutes of trying one. Visit an Apple store or apple retailer if it's possible.

    From my experience with MacBooks, your current list of activities would be satisfied by its performance. Animations within the operating system will not always be buttery smooth and often heavy webpages will not scroll very smoothly. Nonetheless, a MacBook should be able to do the job. If you plan on plugging it into a larger screen, then it will take a performance hit.

    good luck.
  3. ticklemeozmo thread starter macrumors newbie

    Aug 8, 2008
    Thank you. And this is why I wanted to ask around to real world users. I didn't think they'd let me install VMware Fusion and XP on one to test out.

    And yes, my last step before purchasing is to go and play for 15 mins or so, the commercials portray you Mac people as very friendly to us uptight PCers. :D
  4. Eidorian macrumors Penryn


    Mar 23, 2005
    If you consider that being a "power user" then I wonder what running the CPU at 200% for weeks is. :rolleyes:

    You're fine on the GMA X4500 and X3100 for what you have listed.
  5. asphyxiafeeling macrumors regular


    May 31, 2008
    Cali baby!

    agreed. not to be annoying, but your uses sound much more like "light, casual, fluff user" then "power user" :p
  6. winninganthem macrumors 6502a


    Jun 10, 2008
    Yeah, the things you mentioned can't really be called "power-user" things :p.

    You should be just fine with an Intel GPU
  7. ticklemeozmo thread starter macrumors newbie

    Aug 8, 2008
    Well, I left the other things out as they were already answered in other forums: I'd have a few web browsers open, IM, will be doing things in VMware and plan on listening to iTunes. Yes, the distinction between "light, fluffy user" and "power user" wasn't clarified in the first post, I was just wondering about those graphical apps. I assumed I wouldn't need to question if it could handle youtube, iTunes, Vi, remote desktop and a few putty terminals. ;)

    What about Spaces? To handle all this, I'm definitely going to need at least 2. Can the Intel handle a youtube video playing and moving spaces to a VM?

    Is the intel gpu prone to hiccups and slowdowns with a few programs running and moving spaces and using VMs? I understand it won't be buttery-goodness, I'm just worried where the line between "works good" and "not as impressed" will be.

    I understand it's a forum, and my personal preferences aren't anyone else's, I'm just trying to gauge the water so I can get an idea where it is, because as I've mentioned, I'm from a Windows world, an Intel GPU even has hiccups and stutters when minimizing a window with a flash video playing.

    I'm sorry, I'm just nervous about jumping in and spending the cash. The high price to join the club for the low-end model is scary. :-/
  8. great high wolf macrumors regular

    great high wolf

    Jan 30, 2006
    My GMA950 manages that, so a GMAX3100 should be just fine.

    One point, though - for VM usage, stick every byte of RAM you can get in the MacBook, and buy the upgrades from Crucial.
  9. m1ss1ontomars macrumors 6502

    Oct 1, 2006
    I've never had a dedicated graphics card, in any computer I've ever had the (mis)fortune to use, and I've never had problems, even while gaming. The fact that I don't expect much in terms of graphics helps prevent me from being disappointed.

    The GMA950 (predecessor to the X3100 you'll be getting) is more than sufficient for the purposes you've listed, so I would assume the X3100 is too. As for being underspecced, you may want to consider upping the CPU speed (do HD and RAM upgrades yourself).

    I don't understand this forum's love affair with Crucial. I've practically never used Crucial memory in any computer I've upgraded (either as part of my volunteer work or for my own use) and I've had perfectly good results. I used Crucial in my iBook G4 when I upgraded that, but I only chose it because it was cheapest. But yes, you do need RAM for a good VM experience; 2GB is enough for me though.
  10. mckyvlle macrumors 6502a

    Nov 21, 2007
    London, UK
    What the Intel GMA is lacking is 3D performance. It can handle older games OK, say those released a few years ago, but trying to run Crysis on it would be a push. ;)

    I usually have 20+ tabs, spread over three to four Firefox windows, MS Word 2004, several Finder windows, several Adium chat windows and VirtualBox (alternative to VMware) open at the same time. All this is spread over four Spaces.

    So far the Intel graphics is working fine. Exposé and Spaces works smoothly. There is the occasional stuttering if the CPU usage is high or when the is a lot of HDD activity. But no slow downs until it is unusable.

    I would say that Intel graphics is more than enough for heavy day-to-day usage. Just don't expect stellar performance when it comes to 3D apps.
  11. Matek macrumors 6502a

    Jun 6, 2007
    Some stuff needs to be debunked here :). Contrary to the popular belief, a graphics card ONLY affects 3D-accelerated stuff.

    1. Decoding of certain video formats can be performed by a graphics card and intel integrated chips don't have this kind of support. But that aside, videos depend entirely on the CPU. I have a year and a half old MacBook (first with C2D) and I can watch 1080p HD trailers from without glitches on my external 24" display.
    2. If you don't run any games, it won't matter. VMware fusion doesn't do any kind of 3d accelerated stuff, so it will only depend on CPU/memory.
    3. Same as above. Photo editing, even if you do a lot of photoshop work, isn't 3d accelerated AT ALL so it does not depend on the graphics card, although it is perceived as "heavy graphics work". Same goes for video editing, the only exception being some effects you render into your videos (fading, titles, etc, depends on software you use).

    To sum up - considering your description of your needs, i'd say the only place where 3D acceleration will be used will most probably be Expose/Spaces, both of which run quite fine on the Intel graphics cards. And even if they get slightly glitchy at times, it will only be a bad user experience. It won't impact your work in any other way, only the animations will be less smooth while applications will remain just as responsive.
  12. m1ss1ontomars macrumors 6502

    Oct 1, 2006
    FWIW, Half-Life 2 runs quite well at 1280x800.
  13. Cave Man macrumors 604

    Cave Man

    Feb 12, 2007
    Neander Valley, Germany; just outside Duesseldorf
    Two notable exceptions to this are Aperture and Pixelmator.

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