- Operating systems: GNU Linux is recommended. Also works on Apple OSX (Intel) and MS-Windows (Intel).
- Runtime environment: Matlab Version 7.4 R2007a or later, also GNU Octave version 3.2 or later on Linux and 3.6 on OSX.
- A cautious migration to 64-Bit versions of Matlab and Octave is recommended, especially for users of OSX.
- Graphics card: Recommended are any OpenGL-2.1 or better capable GPUs from AMD or NVidia. Modern Intel HD-Series graphics cards should work for moderately complex workloads. More recent OpenGL-3/4 GPUs may expose additional useful features. The absolute minimum requirement is OpenGL-1.2 support, but functionality will be limited with such old GPUs.
- Sound card: On Linux and OSX, any card supported by the operating system should work well. On MS-Windows, a ASIO capable audio card is absolutely required for research grade timing precision and low-latency.
- Linux: There is full support for the GNU/Linux operating system. We provide Psychtoolbox for Intel compatible PCs and Apple Macintosh computers in combination with both 32 bit and 64 bit versions of Mathworks Matlab 7.4 or later, and for the free and open-source GNU/Octave 3.2 and later. You can use our standard installer for such systems. Psychtoolbox should run well on any recent Linux distribution. However, we currently only test and optimize for recent versions of Ubuntu Linux and its derivatives. Ubuntu 10.04 and later are known to work, Ubuntu 12.04-LTS and 12.10 are actively tested at the moment. We can only provide full support for those distributions should you run into problems or have questions. We recommend staying up to date with the latest Ubuntu versions for optimal performance. However, we do have user reports of successfull use on recent Debian, Fedora Core, Arch Linux and Slackware distributions. A top priority is to further improve Linux support in the future to make it the platform of choice for psychophysics with Psychtoolbox. The NeuroDebian project is an effort to provide especially easy access to neuroscience related software on the GNU/Debian and Ubuntu Linux distributions. A Psychtoolbox for use with 32 bit / 64 bit GNU/Octave is included in the NeuroDebian project. The DownloadAdditionsForNeuroDebian script allows you to use that Psychtoolbox with 32/64 Bit Matlab as well. Therefore, NeuroDebian provides the most simple way of installing and running Psychtoolbox on Linux. Psychtoolbox is also an official part of the GNU/Debian Linux operating system ("unstable" and "testing" branches, and Debian 7.0) as well as Ubuntu 12.10 and later. This is yet another way to conveniently install and maintain it. Debian also provides Psychtoolbox versions for non-Intel processors, e.g., for computers with ARM, MIPS, S/360 and Sun Ultrasparc processors. We recommend Linux as the operating system of choice for demanding experimental setups which require the highest timing precision, precision for color or luminance displays, general performance and flexibility.
- Apple Macintosh: Psychtoolbox is also developed and tested under Apple Mac OSX. It supports 64-Bit Matlab and 64-Bit Octave version 3.6 and later on version 10.6.8 Snow Leopard or later. Testing by the developers has been performed on 10.6.8 and on 10.7.4 with 64-Bit Matlab R2012a. Regular testing currently happens only on the most current release of 10.7 Lion with 64-Bit Octave 3.6 and 64-Bit Matlab R2012a, but more recent OSX versions should work reasonably well, according to user reports. The current toolbox releases are not supported under OSX 10.5 or earlier anymore. The last version that worked on OSX 10.5 and 10.4 can be downloaded by specifying the special 'flavor' parameter 'Psychtoolbox-3.0.10' in our DownloadPsychtoolbox downloader script.The last version that worked on 10.3 can be downloaded by specifying the special 'flavor' parameter 'Psychtoolbox-3.0.8-PreTiger' in our DownloadLegacyPsychtoolbox legacy downloader script. The PowerPC platform is no longer supported by the version 3.0.10 Psychtoolbox. If you need to use a PowerPC machine, stick to version 3.0.9. In general, operating system versions 10.4 "Tiger" and 10.6 "Snow Leopard" seem to be relatively unproblematic for use, i.e., most of the many operating system bugs we found have workarounds implemented in Psychtoolbox. 10.5 "Leopard" was a rather buggy operating system, especially for multi-display stimulus presentation and stereoscopic stimulus presentation. 10.7 "Lion" mostly has restrictions in the precision for visual stimulus timestamping due to various bugs in the operating system. Please install the Psychtoolbox kernel driver to resolve these issues (help PsychtoolboxKernelDriver).
- Windows: Psychtoolbox-3 runs under Microsoft Windows XP, as well as Windows Vista and Windows-7. We do aim to keep the toolbox working under these and future versions of Windows, but full support for all features is a lower priority for us than Linux or OSX. As of 1. December 2009, Windows Vista and Windows-7 have been tested for basic compatibility with PTB-3. Precision of sound presentation hasn't been tested at all due to lack of suitable testing equipment. Test of visual stimulus presentation on 3 test setups showed somewhat mixed results, especially dual display presentation and presentation timing were rather disappointing. We are aware that many people do run the toolbox under Vista or Windows-7 and we didn't receive many reports of trouble so far, but we can't recommend it at all for dual-display stereo stimulus presentation or for tasks with a need for high visual timing precision. For some caveats wrt. Vista and later see our FAQ entry about Vista and Windows-7. All in all you are off worse with Vista or Windows-7 instead of XP with Psychtoolbox, so there is no reason to switch to it. Vista et al. seem to provide less performance than XP while at the same time posing higher hardware requirements.
- Recommended: The latest compatible version of Matlab or GNU/Octave. On all systems we support 32-Bit and 64-Bit versions of Matlab. On Linux and OSX we also support 64 bit versions of Octave and on Linux we also support 32-Bit Octave. PTB-3 is developed and tested for compatibility with Matlab V7.4 (R2007a) and later. Matlab versions prior to V7.4 are no longer supported by current PTB version 3.0.10. Our installer will redirect you to an old and outdated version 3.0.9 of PTB whose basic functions may still work with older versions if you use a pre-V7.4 Matlab, but in case of any trouble or bugs, you will be on your own with such an ancient Matlab version.
- Linux: Matlab 7.4 or later, 32 or 64 Bit. 32 Bit or 64 Bit Octave 3.2.x on any Linux distribution if Psychtoolbox is downloaded via our downloader, or the default 32 Bit or 64 Bit Octave version of your Debian or Ubuntu Linux distribution if Psychtoolbox is installed via NeuroDebian or the Debian software installer.
- OSX: 64 Bit Matlab, or 64 Bit Octave version 3.6.
- Windows: 32 Bit or 64 Bit Matlab 7.4 or later. You may need to install some Microsoft Visual C runtime libraries to make it work, specifically the vcredist_x86.exe or vcredist_x64.exe, but our installer should give you instructions on how to do that if neccessary.
- Apple Quicktime: 32-Bit Psychtoolbox uses Quicktime 7 on OSX for movie playback, movie creation, video capture and recording by default, but optionally can use GStreamer. Quicktime is installed on any OSX system by default. On Windows you must install the GStreamer multimedia framework. On Linux you also need GStreamer for these operations, but GStreamer is usually a default component of any modern Linux distribution. Type help GStreamer for GStreamer installation instructions for the different systems. On 64-Bit OSX, GStreamer is mandatory, Quicktime is no longer supported.
- For video capture support on 32-Bit Windows you'll use the GStreamer video capture engine, after installing GStreamer (see above). This should provide reasonably well working video capture with most video devices on Windows. On Linux, GStreamer is used as well for excellent video capture support. On 32-Bit OSX, Apple's Quicktime is currently used, but we intend to replace it with GStreamer in the future. GStreamer is already used on 64-Bit OSX for video capture.
Basic hardware requirements:
- Intel PCs: Any Intel-compatible PC that is capable of running the 32/64-bit versions of Microsoft Windows XP/Vista/Windows-7 or 32/64 bit GNU/Linux.
- Intel Macs: Any Intel-based Macintosh computer that is capable of running OSX 10.4 Tiger or later, or 32/64 Bit GNU/Linux.
- The Psychtoolbox distributed by the GNU/Debian project also supports other processor architectures, e.g., PowerPC, ARM, MIPS, Sun UltraSparc, IBM S/360 and some others. ARM based Psychtoolbox versions may allow use of the toolkit on some non-Apple tablets, embedded pc's or smart phones with octave, if you wish.
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.