Comparing Mac graphics capabilities

We use a Mac Mini to do typesetting and layout of 2-300 page books. Quark, InDesign, Illustrator, Photoshop, and Word are the only applications that run on it work-wise (FF, Entourage, etc. are also run, but this machine isn’t used for entertainment/gaming at all). There is absolutely no dynamic imaging (i.e., video editing, gaming, animation) done on the machine. It is solely used for page layout and design.

For non-germane reasons, we’re considering upgrading the office’s hardware, and if there is a significant performance boost will upgrade the Mini to an Apple notebook. General advantages of a notebook aside, I’m having trouble deciding if there will be a noticeable improvement in performance given how we use it.

The processors all seem to be in the same range, and I doubt that we’d see a significant/noticeable improvement there (they’re all Intel Core 2 Duo, ranging from 1.83 – 2.4 GHz).

We have 2GB RAM in the Mini, and most systems either come with the 2GB or we’d add up to that.

The suspected performance difference is in the graphics capabilities. (Of course, feel free to correct me here!) However, comparisons between them seem to be lacking. What I have found run gaming and video benchmarks — not very helpful in this case. And while I know, say, that DDR3 is faster memory, would it make for a noticeable difference to us? In other words, Quark rendering a page .002 milliseconds faster isn’t worth it, but 2-3 seconds would be.

Here’s what we’re looking at:

Mac Mini (current system):
Intel GMA 950 64 MB DDR2 SDRAM, shares w/ main memory

White MacBook:
Nvidia GeForce 9400M; 256 MB Shared DDR2 SDRAM

Geforce 9400 256 MB DDR3

MacBook Pro:
Nvidia GeForce 9600M GT; 512MB of GDDR3

I-Mac (not a notebook, but a wildcard option):
ATI HD 2400 XT 128 MB DDR3

I know under our current setup, Word runs as fast as it’s going to run. Will the above graphics options make a difference to Quark? Any sites out there to help answer the question?



All you are doing is 2-D rendering. The improved video card in newer machines isn’t going to help very much, if at all. Newer machines may be noticeably faster due to improved processors. I’d find someone with a machine that you are considering, and run a benchmark. The Apple store may even let you do this.

Yeah if all you are rendering are essentially 2d images on your desktop you will not benefit much from a beefier card.

IF you are currently experiencing window buffer issues (taking a long time to “paint” the current window, or graphic anomalies while dragging windows around) THEN a beefier card will likely help out.

If you are not facing those issues then a more powerful CPU and a larger amount of system RAM will help you out a lot more in rendering content and keeping all your apps running smoothly than a better video card.