Mac Pro 5,1 GPU upgrade options

90 Troll Druid
3275
I'm currently looking at upgrading the GPU in my 2010 Mac Pro. It has the stock Radeon 5770 1GB card in it, which does a decent job of running MoP, but I want to upgrade to something that will extend the gaming life of my machine.

Currently, the two options I'm considering are:

EVGA Nvidia GTX 680 Mac

Or

Radeon sapphire 7950 Mac edition

Anyone have experience with these cards? Both are a lot of money, and I would like to know if anyone has used them in a 2010 Mac Pro (5,1) before shelling out the dough. Also if there are more affordable, yet comparable options, I would appreciate suggestions.

Thanks.
Edited by Yoodoovoodoo on 6/5/2013 2:44 PM PDT
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90 Human Priest
6120
Both should offer comparable performance in a Mac Pro 5,1, but if you use CUDA enabled apps, the nVidia card will be more useful to you.
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90 Troll Druid
3275
Thanks for the reply. My main use of my computer is professional audio, I'm just looking to boost gaming performance a bit, for when I'm not working. Video is not my area of expertise, do a lot of games utilize that engine? Like, for example: WoW?
Edited by Yoodoovoodoo on 6/5/2013 2:43 PM PDT
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90 Human Priest
6120
WoW to the best of my knowledge does not make use of CUDA, or if it does, not extensively. Omegal though would know for sure which app sets are best used to determine which card you purchase. But at long as you have a Mac Pro 4,1/5,1 you're pretty much going to get good performance gains out of either card.
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90 Human Mage
7350
I trust robART over at barefeats.com and his tests clearly show an almost doubling of framerates for the Nvidia card over any of the AMD cards.

http://www.barefeats.com/gpu680v.html

On the pro apps side, it's more of a mixed bag... and the differences are nowhere near as wide as in OGL performance (i.e. games by and large).
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90 Human Warrior
18590
those options may be expanding further

http://forum.netkas.org/index.php/topic,6849.0.html

rominator aka macvidcardz already has a 770 working with boot screen and pci expression 2.0 speeds.
the 770 is even more powerful than 680 with a lower price. It seems like the better deal to go for a 770 that's been modded vs a 680
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90 Human Priest
6120
New Mac Pro makes me cry...and not in a good way.
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90 Human Mage
12135
They give off an oniony air? :D Why they make you cry?!
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90 Human Priest
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They give off an oniony air? :D Why they make you cry?!


Take a look at the dimensions listed for the new MP and think about this for a second: The "thermal core" is dissipating heat from not one, but two CPUs, and two additional GPU cards inside a trash can. Now, have you ever known a Xeon CPU to run cool under anything but the most hideously large heatstink designs? The new MP isn't much bigger than the actual heatsink for a single CPU in my current MP. Those poor puppies are going to be thermally throttled like it's going out of style.

I'm glad they're introducing dual GPU support into OS X (it only took them what, twelve years to figure out how to do that?), but FirePro cards? I've never been impressed by the FirePro series when it comes to games. In fact, well, let's just say they've been on par with the nVidia Quadro line, if that says anything.

Oh, and you get what appears to be a single mini-PCIe slot for flash storage. So that's costly, not exactly abundant, and still relatively proprietary. And no internal storage options. You're stuck paying the Thunderbolt Tax on external peripherals, which is going to cost you more money on top of absurdly priced cables.

Oh, and if they aren't using dual PCIe controllers in that thing, that TB2 array will eat 8 lanes of your PCIe bandwidth. Keep in mind that each FirePro card would (hopefully) use 16 lanes for a total of 32 lanes. Add in TB2 and that brings the count to 40 lanes, the maximum for any single controller. The mini-PCIe connector is another lane, likely two (unless they want to cripple the SSD onboard).

The machine appears to have four USB3 ports. That's cool. Until you realize that they're sitting very very close to the wireless card. Apple hasn't exactly inspired its users with its ability to properly shield those USB3 ports thus far (no Mac with them is properly shielded as wireless mouse uses can attest as they have to use extension cables to get their dongles away from the USB3 ports).

I can get the lack of an optical drive, but that's just more space on my desk that I have to give up too, in addition to the RAID tower or external drive enclosure if I want something more spacious than the SSD blade inside.

This thing is like a bastard child from the mating of an iMac with a Mac Mini.

It also looks like one of those ash tray trash cans you see in front of businesses everywhere.

I like how the cross section of the heatsink array looks like it's straight from Darth Vader's helmet, but I'm not convinced of this thing's ability to avoid thermal throttling with just one heatsink "core" dissipating for two CPUs and two GPUs plus internal components, especially without revving up the fan to the point where this could double as an engine replacement for the Dreamliner.

All in all, it's the iMP of throwaway machine designs.
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90 Human Warrior
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I agree with tia 100%. at same time, it's sadly still the best option mac wise if you want to stay mac. a more powerful throw away machine than an imac.

I too am very concerned with video card choice. traditionally work station cards have been good for just that, workstations. They've been terrible gaming gpus all around. destroyed by much cheaper gpus with higher shader counts and better memory.

I did some comparisons and assuming the mac pro uses the HIGHEST available ati options (and we're talking like 3k price tag here each), it'd still under perform compared to a MUCH cheaper 7xx nvidia card at gaming do to a much lower shader count and slower memory bandwidth. these mac pros may simply just be, work stations and alienate power users all together who actually were hoping for something decent for gaming. Do i get to BTO or even throw my own video card in there anymore? heck no. Current mac pros lasted as long as they did because of using a standardized video card and ability to upgrade it every couple years. me and tia still play games today just fine because we could upgrade video card. what's the future of this mac pro? throw away? External video card solutions plugged into wall? all while the built in atis still draw power well after they are obsolete?. An utter abomination

I also do not look forward to a desk full of TB accessories for my blu-ray recorder, my 4 internal hard drives I'd want to move over to new desktop. These cases typically will require their own external power and everything else too. Expansion is everything but external only? HUGE disapointment.

I'm going to wait to see price tag and full detailed specs, but this may be the nail in coffin for some of us mac gamers once and for all. I can see me taking that mac pro fund i saved up and just building a sweet PC rig and going the tonymac route for OS X.
Edited by Omegal on 6/10/2013 4:02 PM PDT
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90 Human Priest
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And I just re-read the advertisement specs on Apple's site. 40 GB/sec PCIe bandwidth. Ladies and gentleman, we have our deal breaker.

Assuming PCIe 3.0 is being used, that's 40 lanes and one PCIe controller shared among two GPUs, a mini-PCIe connector (at least two lanes from Apple's quoted 1.25 GB/sec write speeds), and the Thunderbolt 2 array.

We already know TB and TB2 are both x8 link width connections so that is eight lanes right there. That leaves 32 lanes exactly for two GPUs and the SSD. Guess what folks? You can't fit two x16 video cards along with anything else into a 32 lane setup.

So you're looking at what appears to be x8 link width video cards. Now at PCIe 3.0 speeds, that's equivalant to PCIe 2.0's x16, but this is supposed to be next gen stuff here.

It's Hack Pro time.

Edit: The Thunderbolt specs are listed as 20 GB/sec, meaning that this is the equivalant of an x20 link or twenty lanes. Those two FirePro cards in there are definitely running at x8 link width.
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Edited by Tiapriestess on 6/10/2013 9:23 PM PDT
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90 Human Warrior
18590
I'd hope that it adjusts dynamically. in other words, if TB ports aren't in use, it'd dedicate more lane width to vid cards. While i may get a case for my blu ray drive or hard disks. my disks are unmountable and cd drive will be idle 99% of time.

But yes i agree there are shortcomings everywhere.
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90 Human Priest
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The only dynamic PCIe allocation I've seen so far on PC motherboards has been a select few with dual PCIe controllers that toggle between PCIe 2.0 and 3.0 speeds depending on the card installed, and when doing so it toggles both of the affected slots, usually reserved for video cards. That being the case, there isn't much hope since x8 PCIe 3.0 = x16 PCIe 2.0 so there isn't a real benefit in switching between them in terms of bandwidth.

I think Apple may have finally managed to kill off its Pro market. Remember, this is Made in the U.S.A. meaning it isn't going to be cheap. And it smacks of BMW case design, so there's some more cost too (Remember the Thermaltake GT series cases? Those weren't cheap).

In all honesty, a Mac Pro 5,1 would serve me better for longer than this new machine would just because I can upgrade the video card and not clutter my desk/room with even more wires powering everything.

I guess I better start doing my research on tonymac's site. It looks like I'm going to be needing it.
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90 Human Priest
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Speccing out the FirePro lineup, Apple is probably using a similar card to this one since their combined total is 7 TFLOPS with both cards:

http://www.amd.com/US/PRODUCTS/WORKSTATION/GRAPHICS/ATI-FIREPRO-3D/W8000/Pages/w8000.aspx#3

Those are ~$1400-$1500 each. And only have 4 GB VRAM each whereas the Apple specs list 6 GB VRAM (each). Expect this iTrashCan to cost at least $3k for the minimal specs if this is the case.

That Cosmos II case is looking really attractive right about now...
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90 Human Warrior
18590
And here it is folks, the mac pro killer right here

http://netkas.org/?p=1269

translation, you will never be able to upgrade your gpu on your fancy new mac pro, ever. It'll run like crap cause it'll severely impacted by TB bus. Unless apple allows you to swap the internal video cards on this thing, it is most assured to be a throw away machine every couple years unlike previous mac pros that could swap in the latest power house video card every couple years and breath live into their new mac pro.
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90 Human Mage
7350
Hmmm, everything I read points to a single CPU at up to 12 cores... how sure are we they DO have 2?

Things that jump out at me... there is barely any real choice in TB1 gear... seems nobody else is going that way. So tell me, WHO is going to bother doing TB2? AND if any DO, expect to be paying HUGE sums! I WOULD be curious from a peripheral makers view, as in how much engineering needs to go on to go from TB1 to TB2... somehow I suspect it's more than just a chip swap.

For ~$600 bucks I can have 12T in my 5,1. For the Mac DerpCan I can get a multi-drive TB1 enclosure from OWC w/12T.... for ~$2600 (hot swappable I believe). I DO see a 2 drive locked in enclosure @8T for $800... far more reasonable even though it lacks the utility of a 5,1 box in terms of drive swapping.

I find one TB1 external box that CAN have 2 full length PCI cards... so I assume one double side (aren't most hi end video cards double wide?)... for $800. Oh, don't forget about $600 for 64G of RAM (doubt they will out in even one 16G module, my guess would be 2 8s). So one could be looking at close to 6 grand (and over).

Somehow or other, I can imagine Jobs rolling and screaming at the vision of a desk with boxes and wires running all over it!

NOW, my need for a real pro machine is diminished being as how I'm retired... but I still have issues in that an iMac will not cut it because I live in a wonderful place with windows all around me... and being on the top floor, I don't get blocked much at all by surrounding buildings (even with a very non-reflective LED monitor, I do have issues during the day, things like the trash run before Megara are very hard for me because I should REALLY be doing it at night). Don't get me wrong, I AM VERY happy there are some actual choices in GPUs that I NOW have! At this point, I guess I'm kinda more focused on games than I used to be... a dear friend (who was the one to get me in to WoW in the first place) has been alpha and soon beta testing FF14; not doubt the eye candy is a whole step up from WoW... but the point is it needs some top end gear to run all that candy (I am not hung up on bootcamping into winblowz).

Props to Omegal about potential options to the 680x... this really fits very much in with my strategy. The only real issue is how long can I keep my 5,1 going. I believe the FTC demands 7 years of being able to supply parts, but I'm also sure the fruit will point to it's discontinuation date, which I read to be 06/2012 (as if that "who cares" update last year was worth anything!)... so parts SHOULD be available until 2019. Assuming I have the FTC regs correct!

Now off to bone up on a 770...
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90 Human Warrior
18590
I almost want to buy a 2010 model then beaf it up, but I'd want to buy it at actual value, not the overpriced "sell it at same price we did 3 years ago" crap apple is pulling with it.
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90 Pandaren Monk
6780
Not to hijack this thread but any thoughts on upgrading a Mac Pro 3,1 GPU and possibly processor?

I'm in the same boat at the original poster, trying to breath a bit of life in to my old Mac Pro and looking for any advice.
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90 Human Priest
6120
I almost want to buy a 2010 model then beaf it up, but I'd want to buy it at actual value, not the overpriced "sell it at same price we did 3 years ago" crap apple is pulling with it.


You and I are definitely on the same page here.

Of course, I don't like relying on any system with only one fan. If it ever fails, your machine is toast, and fast.
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90 Human Warrior
18590
Ziriar, depends on gpu you have now. i have a 2008 and i can say that it's at it's limit in 25 man raids. no gpu option is gonna make 25 raids ANY different. you can have a 5870, 7950 or nvidia 680 or 770 and the performance will be crap in all of them. sub 10 fps on pretty heavy fights like heroic lei shen, or megaera during final rampage on heroic. LFR you may be more around 20-25fps with spikes down to 15 which some can play at but me it drives me bonkers. our bottleneck is our old cpu and the fact that wow is a cpu heavy game.

upgrading the cpu is very costly and our options are severely limited. like if you have a 2.8, you can upgrade to the ORIGINAL 3.2 from 2008 which is a marginal improvement at best. you can't actually put a newer gen cpu in it. also do to socket type in 2008, you don't even have many options really either. you have to find a very specific part number to go to 3.2. if you are already at 3.2 then you are at your limit.
vid card, if you don't have at least a 5870, then getting a 7950 may be a good idea. i'd almost say get a PC version of card then flash it yourself to save a couple hundred bucks.

ultimately though, 2008 is not upgradable. don't be like me and poor 1000 dollars into video cards that didn't make it ANY better. the system is bottlenecked and doesn't see the benefits of 680 or 770 like the 2010 model does.
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