I finally got hold of a copy of Final Cut Pro X this summer (paid for too). Initial impressions are that it's a fantastic video editing application, justifiably a leading industry standard and so many steps up from iMovie that it takes video editing to a totally different place when being done at home. Blah, blah, it's great, blah, blah.
Now the downer is, whenever I load it, I get the above error message before anything else happens, basically saying that the graphics card isn't good enough to handle this application. That little prompter isn't just something you can close and ignore - it impacts on what I'm trying to do with the application. So far (I've still done very little in FCP X), it's lead to dropping frames during playback, which is somewhat annoying. I would expect that as I get to know FCP X more, I'll find other quirks of being able to run the app but on a feeble video card.
I checked what the required specifications were for running FCP X and I needed an OpenCL-capable graphics card or an Intel HD Graphics 3000 or later. Didn't know anything about these, but the lowly card pre-installed in my machine is an ATI Radeon x1600 128 MB, which basically means that it's a bit of a seven-stone weakling as far as such processor-intensive activities as video editing are concerned.
Wanting to find out if I could replace the graphics card myself (as I'd done with the RAM in my apparently now-ancient late-2006 20" iMac, I searched a few forums then also called around a bit to see if this could be done. Brighton being the kind of place that it is, there are a lot of Mac users down here, which means that there are also a lot of support options beyond just going to the Apple Store and watching someone from the Genius Bar do a Google search. Thanks to the good folks at South Coast Computers, I had a very informative conversation with one of their engineers on Friday.
The short answer to this quandary is that I can't upgrade my graphics card. It seems that in this particular model, the card is welded to the main board - apparently not the case in all Macs and certainly not the case in most PCs. If I wanted a new card, I'd need a new motherboard too, and as I have zero experience in fitting Mac motherboards, I'd probably need to shell out on paying service fees too. All-in-all, I got given a ball-park figure of around £500. Given that this is roughly half the price of a new one (and I am not planning on getting a new iMac any time soon as in most capacities, it's doing just fine), I decided against it and will just have to live with things as they are.
I don't tend to gripe at Apple very much as even though there are many criticisms that could very easily be levelled at the company, as I'm rather fond of their products. However, this situation did leave me slightly peeved. I'm not an experienced engineer, but given a blog page with the photos of how to do something, I'm quite a happy hacker (having replaced an old iPod battery and the RAM in the iMac using that method, for starters), so would prefer to be able to do this myself.
I suppose that once you buy a sealed box that is not designed to be opened by most people, you should expect things like this. Still, it's nice to have the option, even if most people don't use it.