is 512 MB graphic memory enough?

Discussion in 'MacBook Pro' started by Danindub, Nov 13, 2011.

  1. Danindub macrumors member

    Jul 28, 2008
    Hi guys,

    Just after buying 15" MacBook Pro (2.2 Ghz). The graphics on this thing has 512 MB of dedicated memory.

    I purchased it as an investment, hope to lasts me at least some 3 years as my primary machine. I don't play much, but I do.

    Now considering weather to keep it, or return it and get refurbished Early-2011 high-end model with 2.2 CPU and the same graphic card, but with 1 GB, which will cost me some €180 extra (including restocking fee for the one I got).

    WOrth it or I shouldn't bother?

    THanks guys,
  2. Mersailios macrumors regular

    Oct 23, 2011
    Unless you're running with a heavy workload comprised of very large videos or playing very demanding video games configured their highest detail settings on a high resolution display (for example, a 27-inch Apple Thunderbolt Display), then you're not likely to notice the difference between 512 MB and 1 GB of video memory.

    I have 256 MB of video memory in my MacBook Pro and I work with a lot of large photographs and occasionally some videos, browse the Internet, watch high definition videos, and so on -- and it's been perfectly fine for my needs. So I wouldn't worry about it too much.

    Hope that helps, have a great day. :)
  3. Danindub thread starter macrumors member

    Jul 28, 2008
    Very helpful, thanks :)

    I'm glad, not sure I could return my baby just like that ;)

    BTW - Best MacBook ever :) I went through all 13" Pros since they came out, every single Air machine. I was never fan of 15" displays, always considered them way too big for a laptop, but man, was I wrong!?

    Comparing to this, every machine I ever bought was just a toy :)

    THanks again
  4. Macman45 macrumors G5


    Jul 29, 2011
    Somewhere Back In The Long Ago
    It Wouldn't Be Enough For Me

    But as posted, it depends on what you do.....I do high end video and music work, so went the whole hog. If you do return it, the most you would pay is a re-stocking fee from Apple.
  5. Mersailios macrumors regular

    Oct 23, 2011
    No problem, I'm glad to hear that you're enjoying your new MacBook Pro!

    I definitely agree with you on the screen size - while I'm sure I could get away with using a 13-inch display, it's just not as nice as the 15-inch... it's the perfect balance of portability and screen estate.

    Most 15-inch displays only offer a resolution of 1366x768 so the 1440x900 resolution (or 1680x1050 if you opt for the high-resolution display) is nice improvement over what other manufacturers offer.
  6. yusukeaoki macrumors 68030


    Mar 22, 2011
    Tokyo, Japan
    If you play HD videos, play games, edit photos/videos a lot, 512MB will probably not be enough.

    The intel 3000 gains VRAM through your main memory.
    With 4GB, 3000 is 384MB.
    With 8GB, 512MB.

    I use my MBP for all the above and is clearly not enough.
    Most of the time, my Mac switches to Radeon 6750M 1GB.

    So if you do the above, get the high end with a GB of VRAM.
  7. snaky69, Nov 13, 2011
    Last edited: Nov 13, 2011

    snaky69 macrumors 603

    Mar 14, 2008
    Video memory is not the bottleneck in modern GPUs, the number of shaders and memory clock speed is.

    A pixel = 1 byte. 1920x1080(aka Full HD/1080p)=2 073 600 bytes, or 1,9775MB.

    Displaying that image 60 times per second on a screen? 118,6523MB. See where I'm going? Even 256MB, provided the memory itself is fast enough, is plenty to drive very large screen at very high refresh rates.
  8. Jazwire macrumors 6502a


    Jun 20, 2009
    For me no way, 1GB minimum, especially if it was my primary computer.
  9. some idiot macrumors member

    Oct 12, 2011
    Very useful thread.

    Does anyone else care to chime in on what kind of tasks will require 512mb or 1gb VRAM?

    I'm wondering if the refurb i7 2.0/256mb VRAM will be sufficient for casual video and photo editing or if I need to step up to 512mb or 1gb VRAM. Definitely not a hardcore user doing a lot of heavy editing.

    Just curious which tasks put the most demand on a GPU.
  10. Danindub thread starter macrumors member

    Jul 28, 2008
    There's actually very interesting article here:

    Also, for picture - 1 pixel is 1 byte when talking about 8-bit picture (256 colours). For currently popular 32-bit every single pixel will consume minimum of 4 bytes. Still not much, but just saying :)
  11. thundersteele macrumors 68030

    Oct 19, 2011
    The early 2011 low end model will do a bad job. Not so much because of the VRAM (although many games demand 512 now), but because the graphics chip is much slower on that machine.
  12. Spadoinkles macrumors regular

    May 5, 2011
    Very true.


    You sir, barely sound like you know what you're talking about.


    Demands are low. If you're on Creative Suite, you're better off with an nvidia which can be accelerated.

    For casual work, you'll get by more than fine. My late-06 whitebook manages light video work up to 720p, and I've put an early-2011 13" i7 through the paces at full HD. If that can handle it, I'm sure any 2011 15" could.

    People are over-purchasing for their needs - your machine will be fine. I'm pretty sure it's quite CPU-intensive too, in which case Sandy Bridge is, at this moment of time, perfect for it :)


    Bad job, really?
  13. dusk007 macrumors 68040


    Dec 5, 2009
    There are quite a few things wrong with this.
    a) 1 pixel is 4 bytes usually when you use 32bit color space. 1 byte per RGB sub pixel an 1 byte for alpha channel.
    b) all you are talking about is the framebuffer that is only a small part of what is usually stored in the VRAM and needs quite a lot more for one frame
    c) a framebuffer only stores one frame there are other buffers that store 1 or 2 more frames and usually no more than 2-3 frames need to be stored at any given time. In this respect the refresh rate really doesn't matter. Thus frambuffer is actually less than you calculated.
    d) Back in the very old days it used to be just framebuffers but today the GPU is responsible for drawing and creating the picture and needs all kinds of additional information to that. In Games that means textures, geometry information, overlays. All this can be a lot especially in big outdoor levels.
    Even the standard 2D OSX desktop can suck memory like crazy. There are used loads of tricks to concele the lack of enough video memory. Saying that it is easily enough is just nonsense.

    Here a bit of Info about what a OSX desktop would want on video memory.
    and something about gaming and system + video memory.,2778-6.html

    What is the best choice for a Computer that lasts you 3 years?
    Currently with most engines the 6750M is either to slow anyway or as fast as with 1024MB on OSX. I just wanted to point out that snaky's theory is wrong. Still currently you won't feel much of a difference with either VRAM.
    The problems as this described at thg but to a bigger extent are with what you can do. Today for a long while to come all developers will optimze enough for 512mb and there will be little performance difference on default settings. However changing some settings with enough VRAM drops frames by 5% with to little VRAM by 30%. Artefacts and popping textures are another problem. There isn't enough VRAM and some texture isn't in it, it will be loaded but not before the engine for performance sake only says, "get me that data, I will go on for now". And some other service loads the data and it starts popping up in a later frame. That can be annoying but it rarly (if ever) happens in tight CoD environments and many people just ignore it or don't even notice it.
    A lack of VRAM is something few people notice but there are problems. For the next 3 years you will most likely do fine with 512mb. If you like playing ARMA2 1GB might be worth it. 512mb installations won't die quickly because most IGPs still not exeed that and won't for a while to come. 256mb is less and less supported that is where you run into trouble at times. I doubt 512 will reach that state in the next 2-3 years.

    In OSX for all kinds of casual work 512MB is enough. If you open multiple big pictures in PS (which isn't a casual program anyway) or do some serious movie editing some things might not be as smooth anymore, but with video editing usually other things cause more problems. CAD stuff and rendering also pro stuff rely much more heavily on lots of VRAM, which is why Tesla, Quadro, ... GPUs used to come with the biggest VRAM configs the chips supported.
    I would only worry about games as a normal user.
  14. Wattser93 macrumors regular

    Sep 6, 2010
    I wouldn't say bad job, but for the small increase in price (relatively), the performance increase of the 6750M over the 6490M is huge.

    I think that the early 2011 15" base MBP was a bad value because of the GPU, the upgraded GPU was huge. With the late 2011 15" MBP, the base is now the best value from the 15" line. The 6770M is an upgrade (in clock speed...) and twice the VRAM, which is important to some, but not the majority of users.
  15. Danindub thread starter macrumors member

    Jul 28, 2008
    Thanks for this, looks like you have an idea of what you're talking about :)

    To be honest I'm not heavy user by any means - i was somewhat happy with Air on everyday basis. I use computer for college work (programming, assignments, etc.) and some casual gaming (classics like Civilization and Heroes of Might and Magic).

    The real problem was I didn't have all-in-one computer at home, which could run latest Civilization V or Might and Magic VI at playable level. I also found 13" display limiting in Pro, and quality of screen in Air just horrible (poor colors). On top of that I'm wearing glasses/contacts, so high resolution didn't really work well for me.

    I've spend last 4 years getting new laptop practically every 7 - 8 months buying basic models, and it's just not working. Back in 2006 I bought Dell XPS laptop, and I did spend €2k on it, but my niece is using it till this day and it works just fine. I decided to splash out on the 15" pro, even though it's "entry model", I am hoping with quad core CPU and nice graphic chip should be enough for some time.
  16. Pentad macrumors 6502a


    Nov 26, 2003
    Um, there is so much wrong here I don't know where to begin.

    One pixel is 3 bytes, not 1.

    Remember, Google is your friend:

    You can read a great description of how this works here.

    Do you see the problem with the following?


    You might want to check your calculations again and re-read where commas go. Those are not even close.

  17. Spadoinkles macrumors regular

    May 5, 2011
    Aren't we deviating a little from the thread here :p


    I wouldn't expect serious gaming performance out of the Pro, however. I've put many things into consideration before I firmed up on the high-end 15". Sure, Asus and Dell make cheaper and more powerful machines, and if you're after solid gaming performance, that's where to go.

    The Macbook Pro was (I hope) designed as a professional, portable machine. A good, sturdy chassis, display, and respectful battery life. It's not the perfect rendering or gaming machine because it's a laptop, and these are best enjoyed on a desktop.

    For college work & assignments, the air is great. Of course you'll have your own preferences. If your eyes aren't too good and you're on the move a lot, you don't have too much choice. If I wasn't headed for the media (production) industry, or anything similarly computer-intensive, I would've bought an Air and hook it up to a nice display at home.

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