Whats the benefit of 256 mb VRAM over 128 mb VRAM in the MBP?

Vegeta-san

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Original poster
Aug 4, 2006
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I just want to know the primary purpose of VRAM. I am a gamer, and play games such as BF2 and BF2142 when I get a chance. And I plan on playing games on my MBP. But does the amount of VRAM increase my frame rates or what? What does it actually do? Does more VRAM mean I load into games faster? That it can cache larger amounts of textures? Will I notice any frame rate drops if I opt for the 128mb VRAM MBP instead? Thanks.
 

Vegeta-san

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Aug 4, 2006
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Playing on the MBP's screen and future proofing isn't important. And even if it was, how can 256mb make it more future proof?
 

nitynate

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Jan 22, 2006
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Clearwater, FL
Games in the future are going to need more texture styles, not necessarily ones today.

You will be able to play newer games better.


Pretty much, it just makes games better.

Like the performance difference between 64Mb and 128Mb 64Mb used to be the bee's knees.
 

SpaceMagic

macrumors 68000
Oct 26, 2003
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Every OS release needs more VRAM. Look at Vista, it's aero needs 128mb VRAM. As time goes on more and more processing will be done on the GPU and will need more ram.
 

BlizzardBomb

macrumors 68030
Jun 15, 2005
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With a weak graphics card like the Mobility X1600, the jump from 128 MB to 256 MB will only give you a boost of about a couple of percent in games. However, with MBP you're getting a double-whammy with a faster processor as well when you go for the high-end.

As for OS releases needing more VRAM, you wouldn't see an OS release which would kill the low-end MBP for a while.
 

Mac-Addict

macrumors 65816
Aug 30, 2006
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London
Vegeta-san said:
Whats the benefit of 256mb VRAM over 128 mb VRAM In the MBP?
Better graphics.. if your playing intense games, photoshop, aperture.. get better graphics, if your web surfing and Instant messaging get less better.. simple :)
 

Catfish_Man

macrumors 68030
Sep 13, 2001
2,579
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Portland, OR
Basically, vram is used to store data the graphics card is using. In games this is geometry data (character models, etc...), and texture data. If you have enough vram to store what the game needs, more is not very useful. If you don't have enough though, games will run slowly when you increase the resolution enough to exceed the available vram. In the OS, each window is a texture, so more vram allows for higher res displays and more windows without stuff like expose lagging.
<edit> hrm... that was definitely not my most coherent explanation ever. Hopefully it still made sense. </edit>
 

Zadillo

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Jan 29, 2005
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Baltimore, MD
Can anyone really say in a more concrete fashion what the benefits are between the two though? Almost every discussion I've found has basically said "better", but I'm wondering what this translates to in the real world. Games like Oblivion and BF2 on a MacBook Pro; would you really see a noticeable performance boost or higher quality graphics with the 256 meg VRAM version compared to the 128 meg VRAM version, or are we just talking about slightly longer load times and maybe a few less FPS?
 

Vegeta-san

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Original poster
Aug 4, 2006
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Zadillo said:
Can anyone really say in a more concrete fashion what the benefits are between the two though? Almost every discussion I've found has basically said "better", but I'm wondering what this translates to in the real world. Games like Oblivion and BF2 on a MacBook Pro; would you really see a noticeable performance boost or higher quality graphics with the 256 meg VRAM version compared to the 128 meg VRAM version, or are we just talking about slightly longer load times and maybe a few less FPS?
That's my kind of question...
 

Clydefrog

macrumors 6502a
Feb 24, 2006
593
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Pittsburgh,PA
the more ram in the 256mb will only raise framerates by only 4-5fps. Also the more ram will probably benefit with leapords new animations, etc. Also you will have better performance while working with an external monitor
 

Zadillo

macrumors 68000
Jan 29, 2005
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Baltimore, MD
Yeah, that's really what I'm hoping for too. Actually I don't even care so much about benchmarks, since those don't always reflect the real world.

The big question is, is the price difference between the two 15" MBP models worth it.

I would argue that if you see 5 fps additional in games or something thanks to more texture memory, it probably isn't.

But at the same time, it seems compelling to me if things like Leopard's new Spaces feature will perform better with it. But I wonder how noticeable that would be. Are we to expect that Spaces would just choke with only the 128MB X1600? Somehow I have a hard time believing that, because if so, it would indicate that the MacBook and its GMA950 would be brought to its knees completely.
 

kgarchar

macrumors 6502
Sep 21, 2006
332
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i'm going to be working a lot with a 20 in external display, would the 256 make a big impact on a smaller screen like this? (versus the 30 in acd)
 

SMM

macrumors 65816
Sep 22, 2006
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Tiger Mountain - WA State
Suppose you are a video character standing in the middle of a scene. Now, you can move on 3 (or more) axis's. As you make each movement, the scene you see changes. With each change in scene, the screen must be redrawn. The more memory available, the more the program can cache what you will see. The fastest way is to get the scene change data is from memory. When I was peripherally involved with this, VRAM was microscopic (by today's standards). But, I think VRAM is much faster for the Video Processor than system memory. Regardless, if the refresh data is not available in memory (any), it must retrieve it from media storage. If the entire program is on hard drive, it is somewhat fast. If it is reading it from a CD/DVD, it is going to be slow. Now, you can factor in the detail, complexity of the artwork, etc. All of these thing add to the amount of data which must be accessed. It is easy to see that the more video memory available, the better the performance will be.

Now, if there are game developers who want to take exception to this, I admit my knowledge is absolutely unrelated to games. I worked with some Unix guys at the VR lab at the University of Washington. We were looking at ways to maximize the use of relational databases for their projects.
 

5150 Joker

macrumors member
Oct 24, 2006
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0
Davis, California
Zadillo said:
Can anyone really say in a more concrete fashion what the benefits are between the two though? Almost every discussion I've found has basically said "better", but I'm wondering what this translates to in the real world. Games like Oblivion and BF2 on a MacBook Pro; would you really see a noticeable performance boost or higher quality graphics with the 256 meg VRAM version compared to the 128 meg VRAM version, or are we just talking about slightly longer load times and maybe a few less FPS?

I'm surprised nobody here has been able to properly answer your question. The extra vram comes in useful for storing higher resolution textures. This is particularly useful in games that utilize large textures (e.g. doom 3 has a ultra quality setting that uses up 512 MB vram). So yes you will notice a difference in newer games such as oblivion. Furthermore, I've read you can overclock the ATi GPU in Windows via ATi Tray Tools to get it up to PC notebook levels which will be crucial if you want good framerates.
 

Zadillo

macrumors 68000
Jan 29, 2005
1,538
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Baltimore, MD
5150 Joker said:
I'm surprised nobody here has been able to properly answer your question. The extra vram comes in useful for storing higher resolution textures. This is particularly useful in games that utilize large textures (e.g. doom 3 has a ultra quality setting that uses up 512 MB vram). So yes you will notice a difference in newer games such as oblivion. Furthermore, I've read you can overclock the ATi GPU in Windows via ATi Tray Tools to get it up to PC notebook levels which will be crucial if you want good framerates.
Thanks.

I think the thing I'm curious about would be what that means in terms of noticeable differences between the two systems? Does it just mean that you'd have to play a game like Oblivion on lower quality settings (i.e. load up lower quality textures), or would the image quality be the same and the tradeoff would just be slightly lower framerates or longer load times or something?

-Zadillo
 

eXan

macrumors 601
Jan 10, 2005
4,714
20
Russia
More VRAM for games means playing at higher quality texture settings in the newest games without sacrificing performance. More VRAM wont help older games run faster.

As for $2000 model vs $2500 model, I think 2500 isnt worth it. 2.33 GHz CPUs are considerable more expensive than 2.16 GHz ones and give a small performance boost. But we have to wait fo 1st benchmarks to really check it out :)
 

nevir

macrumors regular
Aug 27, 2006
111
0
Zadillo said:
Thanks.

I think the thing I'm curious about would be what that means in terms of noticeable differences between the two systems? Does it just mean that you'd have to play a game like Oblivion on lower quality settings (i.e. load up lower quality textures), or would the image quality be the same and the tradeoff would just be slightly lower framerates or longer load times or something?

-Zadillo
Yeah, that's about right. Typcially you mainly lose just texture quality. However, some (most) newer games use VRAM for things besides textures as well... In those cases, you could potentially see a huge performance jump with more VRAM. You also may see a performance decrease as the game will have to load new textures into memory more often as you move around the game world (with less VRAM).

But realistically, the main bottleneck is going to be the X1600's processing power, especially for the mid-grade card it is. If you're seriously concerned about quality & speed of newer games, don't get the laptop :p

(I'm pretty sure Oblivion will be fine with 128MB - though SpeedTree does use a good deal of VRAM)
 

macman2790

macrumors 6502a
Sep 4, 2006
716
1
Texas
eXan said:
More VRAM for games means playing at higher quality texture settings in the newest games without sacrificing performance. More VRAM wont help older games run faster.

As for $2000 model vs $2500 model, I think 2500 isnt worth it. 2.33 GHz CPUs are considerable more expensive than 2.16 GHz ones and give a small performance boost. But we have to wait fo 1st benchmarks to really check it out :)
you're joking right?:eek:
 

xPismo

macrumors 6502a
Nov 21, 2005
675
0
California.
I'll be waiting for benchmarkes from barefeats.com and xlr8yourmac.com before I make the jump but I'm really thinking the 2k model will fit the bill.

Can anyone define the difference in video cards for Final Cut Studio?

FCP Multiple Stream Performance?
Real Time Rendering?
Motion Comps (I'd guess longer cached ram files)?
Compressor Encoding?

Any other variables you can think of would be great. (with DV25 mostly, everything bigger is being done in 'online' rooms). :D
 

nick004

macrumors regular
Oct 21, 2005
106
0
I'm planning to go for the 256vram as buying a MBP is such a big envestment for me I might as well go over the top. Need it to last me at least 3 years, to get me through varsity and little bit beyond. So any little bit of power and future proofing will help.
 

eXan

macrumors 601
Jan 10, 2005
4,714
20
Russia
xPismo said:
Can anyone define the difference in video cards for Final Cut Studio?

1) FCP Multiple Stream Performance?
2) Real Time Rendering?
3) Motion Comps (I'd guess longer cached ram files)?
4) Compressor Encoding?
1) No
2) Not now, probably in the future
3) Motion is the only app in FCS that uses GPU to accelerate rendering. However, it writes render results to system RAM, not VRAM
4)No. Done only by CPU.

macman2790 said:
you're joking right?:eek:
Is something wrong?
 

Vegeta-san

macrumors 6502
Original poster
Aug 4, 2006
432
0
A user on "Onmac.net" by the name of "OptimismPrime" posted this about the subject matter of this thread on a thread over there...Hopes it helps anyone else on the fence like me:

"This solely depends on what you plan on doing with your iMac.

You see, to display 1680x1050 you would only need:
5.04 MB of Video Memory @ 24bit
6.72 MB of Video Memory @ 32bit
as a framebuffer (hence why serverboards come with 8 MB integrated PCI Ati Graphics even today)

The only reason for todays graphics cards coming with fairly large amounts of RAM is so that they can buffer extensive amounts of high res. textures (be it for 3D Games or professional 3D applications wich utilize 3D features of the graphics card rather then being mainly CPU dependant for their calculations) or to perform their shader calculations in.

Most games out today only have mesurable (a few fps more) but no noticable performance advantages with 256 MB video memory over being run on a 128 MB Card if any.
Future games however, will come with more and more high resolution textures wich, when not all fitting into the graphics memory on the card, will have to be load into the graphics memory more often from the slower System Ram or even the harddrive, wich will represent more and more of a performance hit, the more frequently it has to happen.

Furthermore - the x1600 only uses a 128bit Interface to the graphics memory wich negates almost any advantages you would get from having more memory by not being able to access it realy fast - and the 3D performance of a x1600, while being about midrange today, is not realy high enough to extensivly profit from more memory.

So for Gaming purposes - having 256 MB over 128 MB THEORETICALY looks to be more future-proof. However, with the fast product cycles of todays graphics chips, the x1600 will be obsolete before 256 MB is going from maybe being a slight advantage to becoming almost a necessaty.


If gaming isn't your main concern there is no reason at all to get the 256MB Version (even if it is, the main reason to get the 256MB version is so you can say "i have the better one"....like getting an expensive car over a cheap one - only reason: you can brag about you having the better model)

The reason why apple stores don't stock the CUSTOM BUILD TO ORDER option Macs is because....well, they are build to order options....

There are a few Basemodels of every Mac Apple offers, wich are supposed to cover most of the customers needs, and those are massproduced.

If the customer wants something different or more it has to be custom built - so Apple offers it in its Onlinestore - Stocking each and every variant of custom configurations in stores would defeat the purpose of having a small productmatrix with 2 or 3 configurations per Model."
 

Zadillo

macrumors 68000
Jan 29, 2005
1,538
39
Baltimore, MD
Awesome, that's one of the most thorough responses to this question I've seen yet. It's a good point that by the time this became an issue for gaming performance, the other aspects of the X1600 itself would be a bottleneck.
 
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