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Sawtooth Video Card Upgrade Options

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Veteran Member
Join Date: May 2004
Location: Toronto
2005-05-24, 19:25

Okay, I know, my 400mhz G4 (AGP Graphics) is seriously outdated.

However, I'm pinching my pennies to afford a new laptop this fall, and in the meantime, I'd like to stretch my G4 a bit more.

The 16mb Rage Pro this thing came with isn't really helpful anymore, and it's taking Preview forever to show some PDF pages.

Does anybody have any suggestions which video card upgrades I can choose from to eke out better performance from my tower?
Selfish Heathen
Join Date: May 2004
Location: Zone of Pain
2005-05-24, 22:15

A new graphics card isn't going to help you rasterize PDFs any faster. That is work that's done by the CPU.
Veteran Member
Join Date: May 2004
Location: Toronto
2005-05-25, 11:17

Thanks Brad,

I thought that since the files were taking a loooong time to show on the screen, the video card was the problem.
Selfish Heathen
Join Date: May 2004
Location: Zone of Pain
2005-05-25, 11:39

What's taking so long is that PDFs are generally stored as vector art and your computer is taking a long time to trace all of the curves and save the result as a bitmapped image. The more complicated the artwork (this includes text), the longer it'll take to "rasterize" it all.

Here's a little primer in vector versus bitmap images.

A bitmap of a diagonal line may be stored like this:


...where the 1s draw a line. The image is "blitted" to the screen, which means they'll just directly copied from memory onto the screen.

A vector of the same diagonal line may be stored like this:


...where it's a command and a set of coordinates describing where to put it. When this is displayed on the screen, the computer traces the line over a virtual grid. Once all of the elements have been traced, the result is blitted to the screen. This is why a PDF graphic can be zoomed infinitely and always stay sharp; it's redrawing every piece of the image each time from scratch with a differently scaled grid. This tracing/drawing process into a bitmap is called rasterizing.

As you might be able to guess, rasterizing requires a lot more compute cycles than simple blitting. That's why displaying PDFs on older machines can be painfully slow.

I hope this helps.

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Join Date: Apr 2005
2005-05-26, 08:30

If it is any consolation, I upgraded my Sawtooth G4 450 a few years ago with an ATI Radeon 8500 and the results were quite good. Like previous comments have mentioned, the bottle neck is still the processor. A faster video card will probably not make much of a difference rendering PDFs. In any event, more RAM and a better video card does help to a certain extent.

Join Date: May 2005
Location: Australia
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2005-05-26, 18:02


I have a G4 Sawtooth which has had some upgrading done.

1. 1.2GHz Processor Upgrade
2. 1 Gig Ram
3. ATi Raedon 9000 Pro Graphics Card
4. 120 gig HD

It runs as smooth and I have no problems with rendering pdfs.

I hope this adds to the help
Veteran Member
Join Date: May 2004
Location: Toronto
2005-05-26, 23:16

Thanks Rob.

When you say "rendering pdfs" do you mean files you downloaded on the net, or more graphically rich "press ready" files?
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