What's the real difference between ATI & NVIDIA (Besides the name)

Planner Dude

macrumors 6502
Original poster
May 31, 2006
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Please bare with me here...I am kinda ignorant on GPU cards:

What's the real difference between ATI & NVIDIA? Is ATI basically substandard compared to NVIDIA? The reason I wonder is because apple and others treat NVIDIA as an upgrade. Is ATI more CONsumer and NVIDIA PROsumer? If they each have the same amount of dedicated graphics RAM shouldn't they operate the same way?
 

Queso

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Mar 4, 2006
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ATI and nVidia are the two companies that managed to survive a big graphics card price war and merger cycle back in the late 90s. For the past five years or so, they've been developing competing technologies that frequently leapfrog the competitor's products in terms of performance. Sometimes Apple uses ATI (like the X600 card in my iMac) and other times nVidia (like the GeForce 440 in my PowerBook) depending on two factors:-

1) Which company is ahead at the time, and
2) Which company hasn't upset Steve Jobs recently

So it's a bit difficult to say in general one is better than the other. Apple have been recently supplying Macs as standard with ATI cards and offering nVidia cards as PowerMac/MacPro options for those that need particular features, but as ATI just got bought out and merged into CPU manufacturer AMD and Apple uses Intel chipsets, I think Apple will probably now shift new Macs back onto nVidia for a bit.
 

Planner Dude

macrumors 6502
Original poster
May 31, 2006
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Thanks for the info!

What stats should I look at in a graphics card besides the mb (ie 128 or 256)?
Is there any hard & fast rules about graphics cards?
 

Queso

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Mar 4, 2006
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It's probably better if you read one of the sites that dedicates itself to comparing various GPU products.

Here's a good one. Bear in mind that some of those products are not compatible with Macs, and others may have different pricidng for the versions equipped with Mac compatible firmware.
 

Temujin

macrumors 6502a
Oct 1, 2005
905
2
Copenhagen
Planner Dude said:
Thanks for the info!

What stats should I look at in a graphics card besides the mb (ie 128 or 256)?
Is there any hard & fast rules about graphics cards?
First of all the amount of memory isn't the most important thing when choosing a card. Instead you should look at what chip the card is equipped with.
Tomshardware http://www23.tomshardware.com/graphics.html compares the newest and fastest chips around.
 

matttrick

macrumors 6502
Aug 28, 2006
371
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they basically leapfrog each other back and forth, similar to amd and intel. the competition drives innovation and its great.
 

Catfish_Man

macrumors 68030
Sep 13, 2001
2,579
1
Portland, OR
Planner Dude said:
Thanks for the info!

What stats should I look at in a graphics card besides the mb (ie 128 or 256)?
Is there any hard & fast rules about graphics cards?
Just to emphasize the point above, a 128MB nVidia 7600GT will be far faster than a 256MB 6600GT.

A greatly simplified rule of thumb is that the GPU (graphics processing unit) controls how fast it goes, and the amount of vram controls how much you can turn the texture detail up in a game before it starts slowing down a bunch (or, in normal OS use, how many windows you can have onscreen before expose starts lagging).
 

Planner Dude

macrumors 6502
Original poster
May 31, 2006
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One last question:

Can one upgrade the GPU in any mac offering besides the Mac Pro??