Psychtoolbox-3 - System Requirements


Short version:

Detailed version:

Operating system:

Runtime environment:
Additional software:
Basic hardware requirements:
Graphics hardware requirements:
Basic Psychtoolbox functions should work on any OpenGL 1.2 capable graphics card with at least 16 MB of video ram (VRAM). Fast stimulus drawing and use of the more advanced features requires recent graphics hardware. In general you should not try to save money on the gfx-adapter, as performance of your stimulus script and the types of stimuli you can create with ease will depend much more on the horsepower and features of your gfx-adapter than on the horsepower of your cpu.

If you want to use all Psychtoolbox features at full performance and precision, make sure to get a recent Direct3D-10/11 capable (aka OpenGL-3/4 capable, aka ShaderModel 4/5 compliant) graphics card from NVidia or AMD/ATI. Almost all cards of the NVidia GeForce 8 series and later (e.g., 8600, 8800, 9600, 9800, GTX 280 etc.), as well as all cards of the AMD/ATI Radeon HD series and later (HD 2400, 2600, 3000 series, 4000 series etc.) and their corresponding counterparts from the NVidia Quadro series and ATI FireGL / FirePro line of cards are technically state of the art and Psychtoolbox can take full advantage of their features.

The latest generation of integrated Intel HD graphics cards, e.g., Intel HD 2000, HD 3000, as found in many modern "Intel Core" processors, provide decent functionality, accuracy and performance for not too demanding tasks. They are OpenGL-3 / Direct3D-10 compliant. Numeric precision is on par with recent NVidia or AMD cards for most (but not all) accuracy tests that have been executed on a Intel HD-3000 under OSX 10.7.4 Lion. Absolute graphics performance is of course significantly lower than that of current discrete NVidia or AMD cards. But for not too demanding visual stimulation paradigms, these cards are now somewhat suitable.

Older Intel graphics cards are problematic for all but the most trivial visual stimulation tasks: While the Intel GMA X3100 series cards and similar are also Direct3D-10 compliant in theory, in practice they suffer from a few limitations, and the quality and performance of their driver support is unclear and untested by us. They may or may not work well for your purpose, but chosing a NVidia or ATI/AMD part has historically proven to be a safer bet. Users of Intel-based Macs should be aware that some Macs (e.g., old Intel MacBook) use a built-in Intel GMA graphics adaptor. The gfx-cards of the GMA-950 series are known to have very low graphics performance and a very restricted feature set. They are cheap and sub-standard by any definition. See e.g., this Wikipedia article for further information.

Products from Matrox, Via and S3 or from other niche vendors are not recommended. As Matrox and S3 seem to have mostly retreated from the 3D graphics market, most of their products are not a good choice for OpenGL based applications like Psychtoolbox. Even the products that nominally claim to support hardware accelerated OpenGL, have a pretty limited feature set and performance, and the quality of their 3D drivers leaves a lot to be desired. If you're searching for a good graphics card for pure 2D imaging (non OpenGL , non PTB etc.), multi-display office work or medical imaging, they are a good choice though.

Follow this link to our graphics hardware requirements page for more detailed information and recommendations for graphics hardware.

For dual display work (e.g, binocular stereo stimulation), we strongly recommend using dual-head or multi-head gfx-adapters (i.e. one card with two or more output connectors) instead of multiple separate adapters. We expect dual/multi-head single-card performance to be higher and the likelihood of gfx-driver bugs to be lower. While separate cards may work, we do not guarantee this and do not provide any support for troubleshooting. Note, too, that stereo work may benefit from the display synchrony provided by some of the dual-head cards. Synchrony is usually hard to achieve with separate cards. We also recommend mostly avoiding Mac OSX for dual display realtime stimulus presentation, as Apple seems to be mostly incapable of and uninterested in implementing decent support for high performance, tear-free dual display support. For rather static stimuli or use as a control monitor, OSX may be good enough.
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