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Integrated 9400m Question

by lkg558 / March 21, 2009 12:56 PM PDT

I'm having difficulties deciding what type of computer to buy for college and was considering running a vista dual boot on the new aluminum macbook to take advantage of both operating systems. Since I'm planning on majoring in engineering, I was concerned whether the integrated video chipset on the mac was powerful enough for running CAD programs and other 3D applications (such as light gaming). I was pleasantly surprised by the macs performance in some of the benchmarks/videos i've seen online, however, which raised my big question:
-If i would buy the new macbook which model would yield better 3D performance?

-the 2.0 ghz model with 4 gigs of RAM (since integrated video shares this memory)


-the 2.4 ghz model with 2 gigs of RAM.

Any input would be appreciated. Keeping in mind that I'm not looking to spend more than $1500... (which leaves the 2.4 ghz model with 4 gigs of RAM out of my price range)

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Memory not a dealie
by fbbbb / March 22, 2009 7:49 AM PDT

You aren't looking for the IGP to tie up gigabytes of RAM. It's not a big deal in terms of usable memory space if you're only doing a couple of things at a time. If your maximum budget os $1599, then go for the 2.4 and upgrade later. factor Applecare in as well sometime during the 12 months of ownership - more than any other manufacturer I say you'll need it.

Be also aware of some caveats:

To get full performance of Windows you'll need to run Boot Camp - but, contrary to many opinions, that BC environment is not fully Windows compatible. The clearest example is the fact that Boot Camped environments will fail with some commercially copyright-protected engineering & design applications. There are also driver issues to be contended with - power management, video handling, sleep and hibernation are some issues you'll come across with Vista and a Boot Camp environment with a current Macbook. The overall environment is also less reliable than on a 'real' PC - although many people chalk that up to Windows predictably enough, I have to say the only Vista BSOD's I've seen over the last year is on Apples in Boot Camp.

My 17-inch unibody Macbook Pros - which, seeing as they are my newest Macs I Boot Camped with Vista - and they still fail the power management, sleep/hibernate cycle and also some low-level compatibility tests, as does the Macbook. It's not a panacea, and with real-life general application-use runtime of 3 hours 45 minutes for the Macbook in OS X power saving mode (I have the 2.4Ghz models) it's fine, but not a spectacular runtime for a current machine with an IGP. There are some which can manage this runtime even when equipped with the GPU in the same sort of low-impact tasks.

Put quite simply, with Apples there's a huge degree of smoke and mirrors you should factor in - both good and bad. The plus side is of course the sleekness of the machine. I have other price-comparable Windows machines including the Sony Z - hardware wise a much better machine than the Macbook - and lookswise, it's a no brainer. That plus the tactile aspects of aluminium make the machine nothing short of strokeworthy on the surface, but it comes with a number of failings which are disguised by expert marketing and a legion of mindlessly devoted when crowdsourcing opinions, which isn't a facet of other makers simply because they're absolutely no good at the marketing and Moonie-like fanboy quotient, try as they might.

A 2.5ghz Dell Studio XPS 13, loaded with significantly superior specs (4Gb, 500Gb HDD plus the usual amenities such as Bluetooth) as well as better hybrid SLI / CUDA support (the 9400M and the 9500M can be used together) as well as an extensible 2-year onsite support is the same price as the base 2.4 Macbook. I have it's larger sibling, the XPS 16 and I have to say the build quality on the XPS range has improved since the last generation - and these are solid machines. Personally if you're looking to do the heavier lifting in Windows, I'd plump for the Dell. It's heavier by about an iPod Classic, but it's a significantly more functional machine.

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Driver Issues
by lkg558 / March 22, 2009 8:25 AM PDT
In reply to: Memory not a dealie

I can sympathize with poor driver support. I had downgraded an old compaq f500 laptop from Vista home premium to XP Pro a few months back and got nothing more than headaches from driver failure involving power saving features, more headaches than if i had just continued using Vista.

That being said it seems as though boot camp is just something you have to take with a grain of salt. I do wonder if Windows XP SP3 would run better on a boot camp partition than Vista...

One other question: You wouldn't happen to know if Windows running in a boot camp environment has system memory caps? I had heard from a friend that Windows will only recognize 512mb of RAM when running on a mac.

Also do you as a mac user find these compatibility issues worth the hassle? I would really like to learn how to use OS X and I'm fairly tech savvy. I have several more powerful PC rigs at home that I could always use over the mac, I would just like the extra portability for a dorm environment.

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Well - we aren't comparing a
by fbbbb / March 22, 2009 8:52 AM PDT
In reply to: Driver Issues

notebook released while power and display drivers for Vista weren't fully stable, and some, well, no-budget machines like your F500 simply weren't equipped to run Vista. It's a ludicrous parallel to make at the present time.

"One other question: You wouldn't happen to know if Windows running in a boot camp environment has system memory caps? I had heard from a friend that Windows will only recognize 512mb of RAM when running on a mac."

No. There is a 3Gb usable memory limit with 32-bit versions of Windows, but this is not a Mac limitation. 64-Bit Vista/XP will use >3Gb of RAM.

"Also do you as a mac user find these compatibility issues worth the hassle? I would really like to learn how to use OS X and I'm fairly tech savvy. I have several more powerful PC rigs at home that I could always use over the mac, I would just like the extra portability for a dorm environment."

No - I use Windows machines for Windows, and OS X machines for OS X. The compatibility and driver issues aren't worth my trouble, even in a personal mode - let alone professionally.

I've test Boot Camped every Intel Mac I've had for primary personal / working use so far (Every single refresh / model of the Macbook Pro, first and last-gen Macbook, both generations of Macbook Air, every single generation of the Mac Pro - and lots of all of them) and I've found the reliability and issues unacceptable for my own use in comparison to the similar-class machines I use (Dell Precisions, HP xw/nx, Sony flagships). This is before we get to the higher reliability and in many cases, better professional support of those Windows equivalents.

I need OS X for specific applications, but although I have systems at home for things which OS X is better at in certain ways - TV recording / iPod transcoding, some hobbyist apps, etc - the bulk of my work and entertainment is done in Windows. As far as work is concerned we use simulation/modelling, visualisation and design applications in an engineering context - and 100% of it is done in Windows.

If you don't mind the compromises, Boot Camp gives you a dual-purpose OS X system with a not-quite-optimal Windows setup. in my case the Windows side is a deal-breaker as I'm not a tinkerer and I really like stuff to genuinely 'just work', especially as it's something which I find is truer of a well-picked Vista system these days than anything that Apple can crank out.

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You know what would be good? An EDIT button. Any progress?
by fbbbb / March 22, 2009 8:28 AM PDT
In reply to: Memory not a dealie

In terms of extending the Macbook's memory with aftermarket parts, that's pretty simple - although you will need to remove a grand total of 8 screws to get at the slot. I've highlighted the memory slots in red:

All you need to do is to remove the existing RAM and replace with something like this:***
Which, at the time of writing, shaves a full $100 of Apple's upgrade price. And you end up with 2Gb of RAM to - I dunno, turn into bookmarks or something.

In either case, I'd still say that if your 'power' use will be in Windows more than OS X, then there's not that much point in getting an OS X machine which runs Windows with some notable compromises. Unless, of course, you want to make your life harder in Windows - as many Boot Camp users who end up struggling with Windows and curse Microsoft, rather than Apple where the blame should be laid - bizarrely do.

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thanks for the link
by lkg558 / March 22, 2009 8:40 AM PDT

Thank you for the link to that memory upgrade, I've done enough custom builds to know how proprietary upgrades rip you off. I do think that the majority of my computer usage would be on mac OS, I'd really only use windows more as a money saver (why buy the mac version of microsoft office, etc.) Your post definitely gave me a few things to think about. I'm not one to hate on a company just because of operating system flaws, people complain to much about Vista considering half of them didn't have computers powerful enough to handle it.

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by mrmacfixit Forum moderator / March 22, 2009 9:11 AM PDT
In reply to: thanks for the link

Have to admit that the installation of RAM in the newer MacBooks leaves a lot to be desired.

That said, there is nothing proprietary about the RAM that is used. It is standard RAM, available from many sources, but when purchased from the computer seller, beit Apple, Dell, Gateway, etc. it is very expensive.
Purchasing the RAM afterward, as suggested, is the way to go


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The only real problem as far as that's concerned...
by fbbbb / March 22, 2009 10:10 AM PDT
In reply to: RAM that you need the correct screwdriver lest you risk stripping the head. Which isn't that different to the previous Macbook Pro for example, only in that case it was two screws versus 8.

The transition to the Unibody body actually has other problems - in that in all cases, they're slightly structurally weaker than the machines they replace. One of the advantages (for Apple at least) is the improved perception of quality for the user with a shell that doesn't require as much manual assembly given Apple's mediocre QC - although they don't seem to be able to get the 17-inchers straight (all of mine are bent to different degrees).

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Yes and no
by tleMega / March 23, 2009 2:59 PM PDT

All of the older MacBook Pros that I have handled have had titled lids/displays while closed no matter which model. And, as I have complained about several times in the past, the seams on these machines split apart simply because something inside isn't aligned "quite right". In this mindset, I would believe that the new Unibody Macs are stronger and more durable. After picking some up at the store, the improved sturdiness seems to confirm that. However, you spoke of structure. If the MacBooks are indeed carved from a solid block, hollowed out, and have components inserted thereafter, then yes, they are weaker than the older Macs. They wouldn't have a substructure lining the internals and separating/supporting different parts, as the images you showed earlier indicate. I doubt this would be an issue for most users of the 13-inch and 15-inch MacBooks, but the 17-inch models are larger and I'd assume more prone to some sort of "central collapse". Still, that would require a certain amount of force that any intelligent user would try to avoid. Either way, I think the new machines are a vast improvement overall, save the price tag.

Quality is going to vary in any product in mass production, and really, most products out there are going to be of average quality. Some machines stand out, such as a few VAIOs and several HP laptops that I have come to like. My MacBook Pro works well, but it could be better. Still, I like Apple's system-wide integration of their proprietary apps and services. OS X feels more natural to me, so I go with it. Windows runs fine in Boot Camp here, but yes, power management is horrible. I'd avoid running Windows on a Mac portable unless it's absolutely necessary. That was a definitive wake-up call in regards to my aging battery though... Wink For example, any clean and optimized install of Vista, or 7, will run some tasks quicker than OS X. My quad-core HP runs network-related functions faster than my MacBook ever will, that is, when it realizes what's going on and works. The thing always believes certain USB drives are active when no programs are running and all users are logged out...
When I tested Windows 7 on the Mac, I got similar results in basic web browsing. OS X has great sharing and network features of its own, but in terms of raw speed, Windows has won every time in my book. For a company that takes a measure of pride in their wireless networking and protocols, Apple's offerings ought to be more efficient and useful. AirPort connections disconnect frequently on their portables while their Windows counterparts don't. At least their 802.11n devices are lightning fast, when they work.

Although, OS X is for the more graphically inclined, while Windows can be, but isn't always. This may account for the faster speeds in Windows, since OS X is doing/managing more (intensive?) things at once (the Dock, menu bar, desktop icons, dashboard, etc.). Sure, Windows has its own versions, but I haven't seen them tax the hardware so much. Perhaps this is why Apple has developed efficient memory management, or an image of at least.

Nothing is perfect. If you want a more flawless system, you make your own to your liking. In that scenario, you use Windows, or Linux. There's a larger variety of software for Windows than OS X, so I would recommend this route to the OP as well, if he would prefer to have all of it on the notebook. OS X is suited best for media development and the more artistic stuff. Or if you're looking for something that's very easy to use. OS X is a great tool, but dual-booting is better suited for a desktop. Taxing the battery capacity and life is not something you would want to try. I am already feeling the effects of it, and it's not fun.

In the end, the latest versions of each system are usable for most things. Windows 7 is a vast improvement, and Snow Leopard should be too. Apple needs to unleash some more of the Intel power they have under-the-hood. Vista and the current form of Leopard are both nice in their updated aesthetics and features. Just depends what you want at the end of the day. Course a lot of people would be happy with an Eee 1000 or any netbook if they were not alerted to different alternatives... most computers do the same things, it's just how well that they do them that matters. And now I will wrap this up since I have a feeling that I have digressed quite a bit...

I thought MacBook Pros traditionally had 3 screws on the RAM door. Are you talking about the 2008 model?


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You should definately check this out
by tipoo_ / April 1, 2009 2:54 AM PDT
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