Steep hardware requirements for new Apple GUI

— 5:47 PM on July 3, 2002

Apple's forthcoming Jaguar OS X update could appear earlier than expected according to this story over at C|Net. What's far more interesting, however, is this little tidbit on the hardware requirements for the new Quartz Extreme rendering engine.

But the new rendering engine, called Quartz Extreme, could tax some systems running older graphics cards. For optimum performance, the new engine requires at minimum an Nvidia GeForce2MX or greater graphics card or any 32MB ATI Radeon graphics card. The hefty graphics requirements could present problems for some Apple notebooks or older desktops.
So what does Quartz Extreme do? Here's Apple's PR:
Jaguar dramatically improves the performance of Mac OS X with Quartz Extreme hardware-based graphics acceleration. Quartz Extreme takes advantage of the OpenGL 3D graphics engine to make the entire desktop a fully accelerated OpenGL scene. A supported* video card can then render the drawing of the desktop, just like it would a 3D game. The main CPU chip(s) can then focus on application-specific needs, making the whole system faster and more responsive.
There's also some additional control over font smoothing targeted at LCD users, you know, like ClearType.

Given some recent performance issues with the new iMacs, I have to wonder what kind of "optimum performance" Apple is hoping to achieve. The GeForce2 MX and 32MB Radeon may be ancient for enthusiasts, but they're by no means common in the Mac world. It doesn't seem reasonable to require that level of graphics hardware just to render a GUI with acceptable performance, no matter how pretty it looks.

I've yet to see a recent discrete or even integrated graphics chipset have any problem rendering Windows XP's eye candy with snappy ease, so I'm not sure what all the fuss is about. I can only hope that any PC users that have recently switched to Macs at least splurged on the fastest available graphics option.

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