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Ask Max: Upgrading a Mac Mini Video Card

Asked on 12/05/2007:

I just bought a new Mac Mini with the dual core processor, 2 GB RAM, 2 GHz (I think). Yet the new Harry Potter game refuses to play on it because the computer has a GMA 950 video card, and the game wants Nvidia card. What's the deal? Can the cards be swapped or anything? That darn game is so fussy in its demands and you can't even tell from the box.

Please tell me you can install a different video card in my new computer....



The use of an integrated video chip-set, like the GMA 950, has caused many compatibility problems throughout the computer world. Although Apple is not the only computer maker to use this type of "video card," it does seem strange for Apple to use such a low-end component in their Mac Mini. The problem with integrated graphics is that it does not have RAM dedicated to the video card, it instead it shares the system RAM. Because RAM has to be shared, the performance of those cards is slower than cards with dedicated fast video RAM. Its use will often causes a computer with integrated graphics to fall short on most games system requirements. This is true in the PC world as well. Integrated graphics are not completely useless; it will work well for most work you will do on a Mac. It just is not fast enough to play games at their peak performance and many game makers would rather not let it work at all, if it is going to work poorly.

So the next part of your question is whether you can change out the weak GMA 950 card for a more capable video card. Unfortunately you can not. The term "integrated graphics" is a suitable description of what you have. It is a hardwired part of your logic board, and not replaceable. It is possible that an update exists for that Harry Potter game. That update may let you run it on the GMA 950. You should check on the game maker's website. If they do not have an update that will let you run the game on a GMA 950 Mac, then it will not work on a MacBook or Mac mini with integrated graphics.

Sorry I did not have better news for you, but I hope the information helped some.

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