April 14, 2009

A note about MacBook Pro graphics

I know this is an incredibly specific thing to blog about, but as it recently affected me, I thought I’d mention it: If you’re using Photoshop CS4 on a new MacBook Pro (as I am; thanks, ‘Dobe), I recommend turning on the beefy GPU (graphics card) you paid for.
The new MBPs ship with two GPUs, and they default to running the lower-power embedded GPU that’s also in these machines. You have to switch on the faster one by choosing System Preferences->Energy Saver, then setting Graphics to “Higher performance.” Doing so requires logging out of the machine–kind of a drag.
I made the switch, and I see a noticeable difference in the smoothness of rotating the canvas & zooming. There’s a very large difference when running the Pixel Bender Gallery plug-in. In terms of battery life, I haven’t been able to notice a difference. Apple.com shows the higher-power GPU taking battery life from 8 to 7 hours. I wasn’t getting anything like 8 hours of life using the slower GPU (more typically 3-4 with WiFi on, maybe 5-6 with it off), so I’d read those number in percentage terms (i.e. the faster GPU should cost you something like 12% battery life). Were I taking a cross-country flight, I’d switch off WiFi & revert to using the lower-power GPU.

Posted by John Nack at 9:43 AM on April 14, 2009

Comments

  • Roger Howard — 10:25 AM on April 14, 2009

    Like other Energy Saver settings, you could have the higher performance GPU automatically used when you’re running on wall power, and the lower performance GPU when on battery… errr, I think, since I don’t own one yet!
    [You'd think so, as I did before getting the new machine, but to the best of my knowledge you have to quit all your apps, then log out & back in. I don't know why it's not possible to switch back and forth between GPUs, or to harness both simultaneously for Real Ultimate Power(tm), but I'm sure if it were easy, Apple would already offer support. Maybe it's something they can enable in a future update (e.g. Snow Leopard). --J.]

  • Shar — 11:00 AM on April 14, 2009

    John
    I am running a 17″ MacPro with a 30″ Cinema display, wacom tablet, and CS4. I design very large files, 2GB+ and I am having huge problems with crashing on smart object changes whether created in PS or AI. Both GCards are turned on and I have installed the Feb update. Still happens. Help please

  • Justin Putney — 11:04 AM on April 14, 2009

    I was getting an error on my MacBook Pro when opening PS CS4 or using GPU in the Pixel Bender Toolkit…That must have been why. Thanks, John!

  • Joshua Dickens — 11:35 PM on April 14, 2009

    I had to turn off the graphics acceleration due to a one very annoying bug: the marquee selection tool gives an inaccurate representation of what’s selected — it’s often 1px offset — making it impossible to have reliable pixel-level control of selections. And considering that I never rotate the canvas, I haven’t missed it that much (though I do like the pixel grid when zoomed in beyond 100%)

  • Trenton Moore — 10:50 AM on April 15, 2009

    Yeah, thanks for the warning:) See my blog. http://trentonmoorephotography.blogspot.com/2009/04/thing-all-macbook-users-need-to-know.html

  • Tim — 5:59 PM on October 14, 2009

    Hey, I know this is an old comment, but this 1px offset problem bothered me for ages, until i sorted it out..
    for pixel perfect design:
    – setup the document with grid visible (grid can be set to 1px),
    – position my guides,
    – then I can hide the grid, and work to the guides.
    i wrote a post about it if you want details:
    Photoshop Bug – Ruler not aligned to pixel grid
    Thanks John.. i’m switching on my 9600 card now!
    Cheers, Tim

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