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MacWorld Examines Mac mini + Graphics


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#1 IMG News

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Posted 06 March 2006 - 11:13 AM

As a few of our readers are already discussing in the IMG forums, MacWorld has posted new benchmarks for the recently announced Intel-based Mac minis. The new Mac minis features faster processors, improved connectivity, and for the first time ever, a graphics card using shared memory. MacWorld tested the Mac mini on common applications, professional software, and Unreal Tournament 2004.

One change to the Mac miniís architecture appears even more controversial than the processor swap: The switch from ATIís Radeon 9200 graphics with dedicated memory to integrated Intel graphics that use 64MB of system memory have some users up in arms. And while the debate continues, Macworldís initial results show the new minis lagging behind their predecessors in Unreal Tournament 2004 by a couple of frames per second.
See the results for yourself by clicking on the link below.
Return to Full Article - InsideMacGames News


#2 nagromme

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Posted 06 March 2006 - 11:19 AM

"a couple of frames per second" isn't SO bad, considering that the UT2004 settings MacWorld used were really too high to be playable even on the G4. And I know you can play UT04 just fine on that G4 because I've played on worse :)

So if you lower the detail, is UT2004 playable? I've loaded UT2004 on my iPod and am setting out soon in hopes of being allowed to test that. I'll post my results in this thread:
http://www.insidemac...showtopic=24526

Also, this statement makes the game speed issue a little less simple:

"A separate quick test with Nanosaur from Pangea software, tested with the Good settings at 16-bit, 1024-by-768 resolution, show the Intel Macs with an edge. Hereís something to note: The Intel minis didnít suffer much of a hit at higher settings in Nanosaur, but the higher settings werenít even available on the PowerPC minis, as those buttons were grayed out."

It sounds like for SOME gaming--not hard-core high-end 3D--the new Mini may do just fine. Despite not being a "gamer's Mac" as such.

#3 calroth

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Posted 06 March 2006 - 02:59 PM

What joy. The Mac mini went from 14.5 (top-end G4) to 12.7 (top-end x86) in UT2004.

In case this doesn't make this obvious, neither the G4 nor x86 Mac mini was designed for gaming in the first place. To those who say "but those are high-res settings that they tested with", have our expectations dropped so much that we can play at the bare minimum settings at 25fps... with new hardware?

Besides which, those aren't high-res settings that they tested with. High-res is 1600x1200 with full AA and AF.

The iMac x86 gets 50.2 fps. Now that's what people should be looking at, instead of griping over a 2 fps drop from the old Mac mini to the new.

#4 nagromme

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Posted 06 March 2006 - 04:03 PM

You're right, the Mini's not what a "gamer" (which means most people who frequent this site) should be looking at. Not for 3D anyway. But not everyone who plays games is dedicated enough to call themselves a "gamer" or demand a lot of 3D detail.

View Postcalroth, on March 6th 2006, 03:59 PM, said:

To those who say "but those are high-res settings that they tested with", have our expectations dropped so much that we can play at the bare minimum settings at 25fps... with new hardware?

We can--if both of the following are true:

1. The new hardware in question is low-end and not aimed at gamers.

2. Gaming isn't a priority for you, you'd simply like to enjoy a few games from time to time.

Those conditions cover a lot of people--including some who I am currently helping pick out a Mac.

#5 quickquestion

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Posted 06 March 2006 - 04:05 PM

First, I'll admit I'm a noob when it comes to video cards. So ecuse me if my questions are laughable.

On the gma950, info page there is this:

"Dynamic Video Memory Technology (DVMT) 3.0 supports up to 224MB of video memory; system memory is allocated where it is needed dynamically."

Does that mean the base memory of the card is 64 MB with ability function upto 224 MB should there be enough RAM available?

This card is listed as being able to run HD (verified to run 1080p with out loss of frame rate)and lists as M$ Vista compatible (rumors are that Vista is very hard on graphics).

So is this card testing poorly because of base 512 RAM or what?

#6 nagromme

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Posted 06 March 2006 - 04:15 PM

I'd say it tests "poorly" (meaning sometimes worse and sometimes better than the old Mini) simply because some things are harder on the new graphics system than others. There's no one measure of graphics speed.

RAM is likely one factor, but one among many. On paper it's a more powerful system than the old one in specific ways, but weaker in other ways. It seems so far to handle video, UI, Core Image, iLife, and daily computing better than the old GPU. But games are another matter. Some games may run better on the new Mac Mini (like Nanosaur II which is CPU-heavy) but they are going to be the exception.

The way the RAM works is that the graphics system has NO dedicated RAM (VRAM) of its own. It uses up some (80 minimum?) of the systems own RAM, thus reducing your 512 to less than that. It can use more than the minimum too--up to 224--if you have it to spare.

I forgot my iPod cable when I want to the store :blush: Setting out again now...

#7 bobbob

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Posted 06 March 2006 - 04:35 PM

View Postquickquestion, on March 6th 2006, 04:05 PM, said:

Does that mean the base memory of the card is 64 MB with ability function upto 224 MB should there be enough RAM available?

It's not a card. It's a lone chip without memory that can use 64-224 MB of main memory. Apple says they limit it to 80MB and don't vary it.

Quote

This card is listed as being able to run HD (verified to run 1080p with out loss of frame rate)

Run what? What resolutions? They don't say, so it's a meaningless statement. Everything can run an HD desktop.

Quote

and lists as M$ Vista compatible (rumors are that Vista is very hard on graphics).

No, rumors are that Vista is faster than XP and has optional eye candy that requires certain graphics card features and some memory.

#8 Kees

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Posted 06 March 2006 - 04:40 PM

View Postnagromme, on March 6th 2006, 11:15 PM, said:

I'd say it tests "poorly" (meaning sometimes worse and sometimes better than the old Mini) simply because some things are harder on the new graphics system than others. There's no one measure of graphics speed.

RAM is likely one factor, but one among many. On paper it's a more powerful system than the old one in specific ways, but weaker in other ways. It seems so far to handle video, UI, Core Image, iLife, and daily computing better than the old GPU. But games are another matter. Some games may run better on the new Mac Mini (like Nanosaur II which is CPU-heavy) but they are going to be the exception.

The way the RAM works is that the graphics system has NO dedicated RAM (VRAM) of its own. It uses up some (80 minimum?) of the systems own RAM, thus reducing your 512 to less than that. It can use more than the minimum too--up to 224--if you have it to spare.

I forgot my iPod cable when I want to the store :blush: Setting out again now...

as if the lack of dedicated video ram (which btw, is usually quite a bit faster than the system ram) this chipset apparantly also doesn't support transform and lichting or vertex shaders in hardware, meaning these things are left up to the cpu. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I think the last dedicated card that lacked these features was the Rage 128 Pro?

#9 calroth

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Posted 06 March 2006 - 07:50 PM

View PostKees, on March 7th 2006, 09:40 AM, said:

as if the lack of dedicated video ram (which btw, is usually quite a bit faster than the system ram) this chipset apparantly also doesn't support transform and lichting or vertex shaders in hardware, meaning these things are left up to the cpu. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I think the last dedicated card that lacked these features was the Rage 128 Pro?
The Radeon 7000 left off hardware T&L (nobody had vertex/pixel shaders back then), if I recall right. On the Nvidia side... maybe the GeForce 256?

And yes, the lack of hardware T&L is the big drawback. It is the main reason why the video chip is so slow. To give an example of how important it is, the system requirements for The Sims 2 (for PC) are: Pentium III 800MHz if you have hardware T&L, or 2.0GHz if you do not. So you need an extra 1.2GHz of processor to compensate. And those are minimum requirements.

#10 NightCougar_37

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Posted 07 March 2006 - 12:11 AM

Actually MW's benches are very generous on the res. Most testers nowdays are pushing 1600x1200 or more. 2K4 is really CPU bound but to see a couple fps drop says a lot on the weakness of Apple's choice of an Intel chipset. Sharing VRAM with system RAM is never going to show better results over a dedicated VRAM chipset. Plus with no hardware T&L that makes it even worse. Gonna be interesting to see Halo results later which should show how poor the new Mini is. Hopefully Apple won't nerf the GPU on the iBooks but i'm not counting on it.

Oh the next few months are gonna suck cause forums everywhere im sure are gonna be cluttered with Mini owners asking about gaming and wondering why their system can't do jack. Think i'll just make a simple reply to everyone I see: Intel Mini and games = SUPIDITY IF YOU DO IT!! :D