Quartz Extreme and Core Image (QE/CI) are two technologies that guarantee graphics acceleration in Mac OS X.
To see whether these technologies are active on a system:
- (Leopard) open SystemProfiler/Monitor and check if the entries named "Core Image" and "Quartz Extreme" show "Accelerated Hardware" and "Supported", respectively.
- (Snow Leopard/Lion) there's no information regarding these aspect in System Profiler. You can verify the menu bar: if it is transparent you can be almost sure that QE/CI are active (otherwise the menu bar is solid and whiteish). Also, if you can open DVD Player QE/CI works.
- (All versions of OS X) you can add a widget in the Dashboard: if there is a "ripple effect" then QE/CI is enabled; you can open Chess, move a figure, and if it displays an animation, QE/CI is enabled.
Most of the software in OSX requires QE/CI to be active (e.g., Toast Titanium). Due to the fact that the CPU is the only component in charge of the computation burden, you won't be able to see high-resolution videos, such as DVD or DivX. For the same reason the system will be less reactive (all the animations are handled by the CPU).