PDA

View Full Version : Any drawbacks to the 9400M graphics in the entry-level 21.5" iMac?


pscates2.0
2010-03-27, 12:42
Doing what I do - Illustrator, some Photoshop, iMovie, iPhoto, etc. - is there any deep reason I should look to the second-tier 21.5" iMac with the ATi Radeon HD 4670 graphics?

:confused:

Or am I still going to get all my genies, ripples and other OS "iCandy" (and acceptable performance in the above applications) via the nVidia GeForce 9400M found in the entry-level 21.5" iMac ($999 refurb :devil: ).

What are the main differences - ones I would actually notice or appreciate, considering the usage/apps outlined above - between the standalone ATi card and the nVidia integrated one?

Benefits, sacrifices, upsides, downsides, etc.?

I'd like to hear the scoop from those here who know this kind of stuff.

The sytem requirements for iLife '09 (http://www.apple.com/ilife/systemrequirements.html) don't even get into this stuff (graphics support), but suppose I were to worm my way up to Final Cut Express in a couple of years? Its system requirements (http://www.apple.com/finalcutexpress/specs.html) touch on this stuff a bit...

An AGP or PCI Express graphics card compatible with Quartz Extreme; or an Intel GML integrated graphics processor in a MacBook or Mac mini computer
- Some FxPlug filters are not compatible with integrated Intel graphics processors.

:confused:

What's the story here (bear in mind the Final Cut Express migration is a big "if" and not a truly pressing, pending scenario (so far, iMovie '09 has more than been up to the task for the types of projects I've been doing the past year or so).

Anything I'm going to lose or miss having the 9400M? That's the meat of this thread...




Should my current iMac continue giving me problems and the out-of-warranty repair winds up in the ~$800 neighborhood (and I don't think that's completely unimaginable, based on what I've heard and read), I'll be looking to, instead, put the money into a current-generation 21.5" refurb (rather than sinking all that money into a machine that's coming up on its third birthday this August). That's why I'm asking...

Capella
2010-03-27, 12:52
As far as I know in my usage scenario, no, you won't miss too much.

I had a 9400M in the Mac Mini and will be having a 9400M in a MacBook. I have not used FCP or even iMovie. However I've done some gaming, and I can say that the 9400M provides reasonable gaming; I could, say, play Dragon Age on medium without exploding the computer. It worked great for that. And if it can do a certain level of gaming, I'm sure it can handle movie editing.

To put it in perspective: the sysreqs you quoted above mention an Intel GMA would be okay except for a few effects. Well, the old GMA 950 or GMA X3100 is worse than the 9400M which is worse than the dedicated cards of the upper-end MBPs and iMacs. But if it could run on an Intel, it should be able to run on a 9400M. You just might miss out on a few of those filters.

Hope this helps :)

pscates2.0
2010-03-27, 13:00
Yeah, that's what I was wondering about. Those specs/requirements seem a bit dated, or they're showing the bare minimum (talking about the Intel GMA stuff and no mentions of the newer, "better" nVidia integrated stuff...so I assumed that was the case).

I'm comforted by the fact the iLife requirements don't even delve into the graphics/video end of things (of course, who knows what might change with iLife '10...I'd hate to get this thing and then find out all the cool, new "marquee" features of iMovie '10 required this or that graphics card).

Then again, would Apple go out of their way to shut out the very folks most likely to use the app? Specifically, the MacBook, Mac mini and entry-level iMac owners of the world? That's tough to imagine, so I think I'd be okay should an iMac purchase be required before a new iLife package is announced.

Oh, and "gaming"...that's something I forgot to mention in my initial post. I do none :D (so that might make things easier as well). The only thing I do that could even remotely be considered part of that field would be a couple of daily Flash-based crossword puzzles at Yahoo! But that's hardly up there with the things usually associated with "gaming", huh? I'm not shooting, slaying, flying, driving, invading, etc. anything.

:)

Capella
2010-03-27, 13:08
Then again, would Apple go out of their way to shut out the very folks most likely to use the app? Specifically, the MacBook, Mac mini and entry-level iMac owners of the world? That's tough to imagine, so I think I'd be okay should an iMac purchase be required before a new iLife package is announced.

I highly doubt they would, so I figure you're safe. If they're targeting iLife to the entry-folk, which I think they are, they're not going to block us out. That's what I like about Apple.

Oh, and "gaming"...that's something I forgot to mention in my initial post. I do none :D (so that might make things easier as well).

I figured you didn't, I just tossed it in to provide an example of what the 9400M can do. If it can game well enough to get by, it should be able to perform well enough for video editing, mild Adobe work, etc. I can't imagine it being completely unable to run FCP or Illustrator or Photoshop.

I hope you enjoy the new Mac. :)

pscates2.0
2010-03-27, 13:17
Well, I haven't bought one yet. But that will be my plan should things turn that way (and the repairs on my current one are just too much). I just needed to gather a bit of front-end info, in the event I needed to make a quick move in the coming weeks or whatever.

This graphics stuff was the only "unknown" hovering over me, and the one thing I wasn't 100% sure about. In every other way, I'd be making a pretty nice step up.

PB PM
2010-03-27, 13:38
Just be aware that it steals system memory, so if you are working on large (20+ MB) images in Photoshop, you might want to max out the RAM in the machine.

Dorian Gray
2010-03-27, 14:07
The NVIDIA GeForce 9400M is a great graphics processor, in my opinion (my MacBook Pro has one, of course). Some of its good points:


It consumes relatively little power and thus produces relatively little heat: a good thing in a notebook or all-in-one like the iMac.

It's got a very high level of OS X support. For example, it's the only GPU (http://www.apple.com/uk/macosx/specs.html) that Snow Leopard can use to accelerate H.264 video playback. Granted, Macs with faster GPUs tend to have faster CPUs too, so don't really need hardware-accelerated H.264 video. But the 9400M frees up your CPU for other things, and plays video with a lower power-draw than the CPU, again reducing heat output. It's also compatible with OpenCL so you'll be set for computing-on-GPU features for the foreseeable future.

It has the same capabilities as the discrete cards, in terms of support for Adobe CS4 and other apps that leverage the GPU for certain tasks. It's just a bit slower than the discrete cards. As you know, CS5 is being launched on April 12, so perhaps you should wait until then to see the system requirements, just to be sure.

Although much slower than the discrete cards for 3D acceleration (gaming, 3D modelling, etc.), the 9400M tends to greatly outperform expectations for non-3D, hardware-accelerated features (like Photoshop, video, etc). Thus non-gamers give up only a little speed to the discrete cards by choosing the 9400M. Just ask a dual-GPU MacBook Pro owner.

It's been produced by the million and has an excellent track record for reliability. At this point, any early manufacturing bugs (not that I've heard of any) have also likely been ironed out.

pscates2.0
2010-03-27, 14:16
Good to know. Thanks.