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I'm buying a 27" iMac and having trouble understanding why I may need a higher-end GPU over the next 4-5 years (intended usage). I do lots of picture editing (Photoshop, Lightroom), movie playing (1080p on an external monitor), and some small time video editing with iMovie. Is it superfluous to upgrade to the higher end gpu for my purposes?

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5 Answers 5

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I do think that the graphics upgrade would be superfluous.

You don't say whether or not you plan to get an SSD for the 27" iMac. That will provide much more of a visible speed boost than a graphic subsystem upgrade.

Given your described usage, I don't think that there's a very compelling reason for you to spend the money to upgrade to the Radeon HD 6970M over the standard Radeon HD 6770M. And even less reason to spend the extra money for the graphics RAM upgrade for the 6970M.

All current Apple desktops and notebooks ship with more than enough graphics power to handle programs like Final Cut Pro X.

Some Adobe products, including Photoshop, have been using the GPU processor in the graphics card, via OpenGL, to speed operations since the CS4 release. See this Adobe Knowledge Base article for a description of what features use the GPU.

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For your current needs, the higher end GPU will speed things up a bit, but won't be absolutely essential. However, upgrading your GPU now will make your iMac a bit more future-proof, allowing it to continue to run applications like these at a decent performance level in the future, as they will need more power as time progresses.

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It is possible to have the graphics card do computation that is used for image editing. The Quartz image engine and Core Image make use of it. I cannot tell you to what extend, though, or whether having the CPU do mainstream computation will become a common feature in the next couple of years.

However, I doubt that Adobe programs make any use of these APIs. Adobe's creativity suite works on various platforms, and the only portable cross-platform way of image computation is in the CPU.

Long story short: I doubt that, if you stay with Adobe, you'll get anything out of your GPU. If you switch to OSX software like Aperture and Pixelmator, there you'll get something.

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Core Image/Quartz are based on OpenGL and several other open source hardware-accellerated APIs, and that is all mostly cross-platform. –  CyberSkull Dec 12 '12 at 10:08

Check out the minimum requirements for Final Cut Pro X:

  • OpenCL-capable graphics card or Intel HD Graphics 3000 or later
  • 256MB of VRAM

I think if your graphics card meets these minimum requirements, that would be a good rule of thumb to make sure you are getting something that will continue to be useful for some years to come, with many different software programs.

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If your going to have it for 4-5 years, i suggest getting the highest possible specs to future-proof your machine. Who knows, apple might imliment OpenCL to do many tasks, and the gnu might help

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