Well, I bought this early 2011 13" MBP a little over a year ago:
2.3 GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 2410
GPU: Intel HD Graphics 3000
VRAM: uses 384 MB of system RAM
4GB DDR3 RAM
I also installed a 128GB Crucial M4
I've been doing a lot of After Effects and Adobe Premiere work, and, well, rendering times have been less than satisfactory.
From what I've been reading around the web, the graphics card has little to no effect on After Effects and Premiere Pro performance.
My question is, would I really benefit from building a whole new desktop computer (sub $500, minus monitor, case, HD, and OS)?
Or would it be more cost and performance efficient to install 16GB of RAM in my Macbook (~$100)? I really do like OS X.
It depends because you would likely need to re-buy the license for After Effects and Premier Pro should you build the desktop, since you would be running Windows.
Additionally, there are only a handful of cards that CS5 supports GPU rendering on, the cheapest being the GTX 570 at $300. It all depends on how much your time is worth to you. I would personally try the RAM first and see, since it doesn't cost all that much, but since it is CPU intensive, I would expect the performance gains to be minimal.
GPU Acceleration Supported Cards:
GeForce GTX 285 (Windows and Mac OS)
GeForce GTX 470 (Windows)
GeForce GTX 570 (Windows)
GeForce GTX 580 (Windows)
NVIDIA Tesla C2075 card (Windows)/Maximus configuration
Quadro FX 3700M (Windows)
Quadro FX 3800 (Windows)
Quadro FX 3800M (Windows)
Quadro FX 4800 (Windows and Mac OS)
Quadro FX 5800 (Windows)
Quadro 2000 (Windows)
Quadro 2000D (Windows)
Quadro 2000M (Windows)
Quadro 3000M (Windows)
Quadro 4000 (Windows and Mac OS)
Quadro 4000M (Windows)
Quadro 5000 (Windows)
Quadro 5000M (Windows)
Quadro 5010M (Windows)
Quadro 6000 (Windows)
Quadro CX (Windows)
If you can cross-grade then great. I would love to move away from my PowerMac G5, but moving from PowerPC to Intel requires me to re-buy all of the rather expensive software I have on there (CS4, Autocad, Final Cut).
It should be, although a Google Shopping search shows it going for close to $400. Like the 470, it is old technology however, and can also be rather difficult to find.