Apple Mac mini’s Intel GMA950 Integrated Graphics Core reviewed

Yesterday, Apple CEO Steve Jobs introduced the company’s new Intel-based Mac mini which features, among many other things, Intel GMA950 graphics processor with 64MB of DDR2 SDRAM shared with main memory. Back in May 2005, when the Intel GMA950 debuted, Loyd Case took a look at the integrated graphics processor’s performance for ExtremeTech.

Case wrote, “The rendering engine supports all the texture modes you’d expect from a modern 3D engine, including cube map support, various texture blending modes, and S3TC texture compression. New this time around is support for anisotropic filtering. Note that vertex shaders are handled by the host processor, so the faster the CPU, the faster the vertex processing. The new core logic’s support for DDR2/667 should mean more available free bandwidth for the graphics processor. Still, integrated graphics is a balancing act between memory fetches for graphics and memory accesses for the CPU. How that arbitration is handled is the key to balanced performance. Another interesting feature of the GMA950 is the add-on digital video output card. Dubbed “ADD2+”, the card can use 4 or 8 lanes of x16 PCI Express and support up to two displays in multimonitor mode. Alternatively, it can work together to support one very high resolution display. The GMCH can also output S-Video. In addition to the 3D capabilities of the integrated core, Intel has built in a video engine with full hardware motion compensation, MPEG2 hardware decode, subpicture support (e.g., for closed captions), and dynamic de-interlacing.”

Case wrote, “We can state flatly that if you buy a system using Intel’s GMA950 integrated graphics and want to play 3D games, invest at least $60 in an add-on card. If what you want is simply a system that can run standard office software, plus maybe play some DVD movies, then Intel’s new graphics core is probably suitable.”

Full article here.

MacDailyNews Note: We are checking with Apple regarding whether or not the Mac mini contains the “ADD2+” card. If anyone has information regarding this, please email: . Apple does state on their Mac mini web page, “Mac mini features a graphics processor integrated into the system, and one that’s no slouch, to boot. The Intel GMA950 graphics supports Tiger Core Graphics and the latest 3D games. It shares fast 667MHz memory with the Intel Core processor, for an incredible value proposition.”

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Related MacDailyNews articles:
Apple’s new Mac mini: perfect for HDTV – March 01, 2006
Videos of Steve Jobs introducing Mac mini, iPod Hi-Fi – March 01, 2006
Analyst: Apple’s new Mac mini ‘a good first step into the living room’ – February 28, 2006
Old Apple Mac mini G4 vs. new Mac mini’s graphics and video specs – February 28, 2006
Apple introduces new Intel-based Mac mini – February 28, 2006

130 Comments

  1. Ugh… I still don’t feel good about this decision from Apple. How is this really different than a Dell Dimension 2400 with a different CPU, for $200 more? I understand that it’s Apple’s bottom-feeder, or entry-level equipment, but that’s not really the point. We’re losing any sense of differentiation between Macs and any other damned Intel box. OS X is far superior, but trying to convince a customer that it’s $100, 200, 500 better than Windows, all hardware being basically equal? oy…

  2. I can tell you right now it doesn’t have the ADD2+ card. Not that I know for sure, I just think you’re reaching here, hoping that the card is somehow better than it really is.

    In fact, no it really is a crappy integrated card.

    However it will be fine for video playback and running iLife apps, which is what the Mini is for. The Mini is not a games machine.

  3. Steve knows that the mini is really marketed for the mom and pop who already have a computer that is three years old, feel the need to get a new one and only use their computer for simple things, not for playing games. There is a bigger market for these mac minis that most people that post on this website really care to think about.

    Most people that are in the market for a mac mini are not in the demographic community of most of us that will read about it on MDN.

    I think Steve knows what he is doing by not forcing every mac to be on the cutting edge of graphics technology or with all the latest gizmos like a DVR.

    MDN Magic Word: best, as in not everyone needs the best (except everyone does need the best OS)

  4. I can’t believe all this fuss over the graphics capabilities. Do you really think that Joe Public, in the market for a cheap PC, cares a jot about integrated graphics versus a graphics card? Or that anyone who wants to use this as a web browser, emailer, word processor, or (gasp!) a media player will care? Only game players should care – because nobody else is affected, at all. And who buys a mac mini to play hard core Doom?

    Look it is a $599 PC, with a remote control, 4 USB ports, wireless, bluetooth, firewire, digital audio in/out, iLife, Front Row, can access 64MB of DDR2 RAM for video, wirelessly streams video/music, photos around the house with zero configuration, and handles all of Tiger’s requirements and HD video. What else does it need to do? Good lord! Get a grip! If you don’t like it go and buy an iMac. What a load of whining fishwives you all are.

  5. Am I missing something but it clearly states in apple.com

    “Memory available to Mac OS X may vary depending on graphics needs. Minimum graphics memory usage is 80MB, resulting in 432MB of system memory available.”

    That is 80MB minimun but what about maximum? Can the GPU use like 128MB memory if it needs to? Or even more if you have more RAM to share?

  6. 3D gaming across Apple’s entire product line would be a big step towards increasing sales.

    Present 3D games don’t need much CPU performance, a dual core is great, but tons of video card performance is needed.

    Also another thing is with HDCP and DRM to monitors coming, computers may become less upgradeable because the video card will have to be sold/tied with the computer as one unit.

    Home builders of computers may be delegated to the sidelines by all the DRM schemes coming.

    Intel created all these, EFI, Trusted Computing and HDCP etc, Apple had to play ball or we won’t be able to watch any HD content.

  7. Tommo_UK –

    Don’t get confused by the shouting. The fuss is not that anyone here thinks this thing should be a graphics powerhouse. There are two issues fueling this furor:

    1) They slapped a price increase on a performance decrease. That’s crap, and everyone knows it.

    2) The tech media are hailing this thing as “perfect for HDTV” and “a great step into the digital living room,” and Apple hasn’t corrected them. Given what we know about it, it is no such thing, and allowing the misinformation to become widespread could lead to massive consumer disappointment. On a machine that’s supposed to be the gateway switcher system, we the Apple community (boosters and stockholders alike) can’t afford to have it making promises it can’t keep — that’s bad for business.

    BOO Apple. BOO mini.

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