Mac Pro 5,1 GPU upgrade options

90 Pandaren Monk
6780
Thanks for the reply. My big concern was as you described... putting $1000 in to a card that makes no difference.

Over the years, I've upgraded to 16gb of ram and installed an SSD, both upgrades showed minimal improvement.

Maybe there is a trash can in my future..
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100 Human Mage
9505
Omegal, totally understand! You probably already know, but keep checking their refurbs... I have always bought refurb and have always thought they were new machines because they were so amazingly clean. Refurbs do go through additional quality checks that assembly line machines do not.

Tia, generally speaking, I almost never am even aware of the fan turning in mine... and summers up here are getting more brutal by the year!

So I did some reading on the 770 and frankly am confused. Did not catch much about flashing, and kept reading about using the web drivers (WTF does that mean... just that they are downloadable?).

Speaking of which, I'm curious how we get to even having some code to download to alter the OEM firmware. Seems to me it means someone has to somehow get to the source code, then modify it, then create a package to flash the firmware... how DOES that happen?

Also, I am curious about the "faster." Yes I read the spec differences, but I also know that years ago I kind of participated in the whole overclocking thing. My takeaway was that there was no question it made things quicker... but that was all based on artificial tests. Practically, I noticed no real difference just using the machine day to day. So if the 770 gets me, say, an extra 5-8 fps, it may never be noticeable (based on, say, a 680 that does 60, if I get 65-68 with the "faster" card I doubt I'd ever notice it). My general experience is that once one gets to 60, 70 feels absolutely no different.
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100 Human Warrior
20890
the 770 is cheaper than 680 though, so better for cheaper is good. as for flashing it. that's easy part. you just have to get a rom for it. the rom hasn't actually been released yet. the hacking has already been done.

http://www.ebay.com/sch/macvidcards/m.html?_nkw=&_armrs=1&_from=&_ipg=25&_trksid=p3686

if you don't want to do flashing yourself, but bare in mind, you pay the premium of having him do it for you. this guy makes a killing buying pc cards, using his experience to flash em to mac cards, then selling em 200 bucks higher (which really is no diff than what EVGA does with the 680 to begin with)

this gives you options like 770 and ati 7970 though which are just higher end than the official 680 from nvidia and 7950 from ati.

how to do it yourself usually means following netkas.org. generally he releases his firmware work there eventually on his post account "rominator". he generally doesn't do it right away. i don't think he's released the 770 one yet, gonna make his money off of it first before he lets people complete with him on ebay ;) i think he sold his 680s on ebay for 2-3 weeks before he released the rom for the do it themself people. No fault in good business there, he did hack the rom, let the man make his $ first. :)
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90 Human Priest
6220
Tia, generally speaking, I almost never am even aware of the fan turning in mine... and summers up here are getting more brutal by the year!


It's not the noise, it's the lack of redundancy/failover. One fan = if it dies, your entire system dies. And you're not going to notice it until you start smelling burning electronics.
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90 Human Warrior
4800
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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There are only 3 thunderbolt controllers servicing the 6 ports. I wouldn't worry about the GPUs speed.
Edited by Boland on 6/15/2013 6:11 PM PDT
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90 Human Priest
6220
There are only 3 thunderbolt controllers servicing the 6 ports. I wouldn't worry about the GPUs speed.


There may be three controllers, but the total bandwidth allotment to those controllers remains the same. Thus, the FirePro cards run at x8 link width (which at PCIe 3.0 speeds isn't "bad", but obviously not optimal).

It'll be interesting to see if one card is for GPU use and the other is for compute use. If so, that makes the Mac Pro even worse for gamers than just a simple dual GPU setup when using FirePro cards.
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90 Human Warrior
4800
06/16/2013 06:10 AMPosted by Tiapriestess
There are only 3 thunderbolt controllers servicing the 6 ports. I wouldn't worry about the GPUs speed.


There may be three controllers, but the total bandwidth allotment to those controllers remains the same. Thus, the FirePro cards run at x8 link width (which at PCIe 3.0 speeds isn't "bad", but obviously not optimal).

It'll be interesting to see if one card is for GPU use and the other is for compute use. If so, that makes the Mac Pro even worse for gamers than just a simple dual GPU setup when using FirePro cards.
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I wouldn't jump to that conclusion yet... The controllers are running at 4x PCIe 2.0 not 8x.
We shall see about the gaming capabilities when it's released. There are so many unknowns at this point.
Edited by Boland on 6/16/2013 7:53 PM PDT
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90 Human Priest
6220
I have doubts that the TB2 controllers are running at x4 link width @ PCIe 2.0 speeds. That wouldn't even feed a single port's 2.5 GB/sec max throughput rate, let alone two ports. x4 PCIe 3.0 can't even do it as that is only 4 GB/sec. Six TB2 ports @ 2.5 GB/sec max throughput each requires a minimum of fifteen PCIe 3.0 lanes to fully feed. I've yet to see an x5 configuration, meaning that if there are in fact three controllers they would be in x6 configuration taking eighteen lanes, far more than the necessary 16 lane configuration of dual x8 or single x16 designed controllers.

I'm sorry, but the math just doesn't pan out there. You can't fit 15 GB/sec into three x4 PCIe 2.0 configurations or even three x4 PCIe 3.0 configurations. Running at PCIe 2.0 speeds would require a full thirty lanes since PCIe 2.0 is 500 MB/sec per lane.

Where exactly are you getting your specs from? I don't doubt that there might be three controllers for six ports (Apple did note up to three 4k displays can be connected), but those speeds you mentioned can't possibly be right.
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90 Human Warrior
4800
What specs? Thunderbolt is 4x PCIe 2.0.
Thunderbolt 2 just combines the four channels into two. The bandwidth doesn't change.

http://www.examiner.com/article/returning-to-apple-values-like-a-thunderbolt-the-new-mac-pro-desktop-revealed

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thunderbolt_(interface)

http://www.anandtech.com/show/7049/intel-thunderbolt-2-everything-you-need-to-know
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90 Human Priest
6220
OK, so correct me if I'm wrong here:

Each cable in TB1 can carry 40 Gb/sec (5 GB/sec) total bandwidth, with each direction (upstream and downstream) having two 10 Gb/sec (1.25 GB/sec) channels, with each channel pair limited to 10 Gb/sec of either PCIe data or DisplayPort data in each direction, yes?

Now TB2 is simply combining those channel pairs into 20Gb/sec (2.5 GB/sec) upstream and downstream channels that can send a mix of PCIe and DisplayPort data in each of the aggregated 20 Gb/sec directions, correct?

Both solutions are a total of 5 GB/sec of total data throughput (unless they are not full duplex in which case it's 2.5 GB/sec at any given time per cable). Assuming three controllers per port pairs, and assuming 2.5 GB/sec transfer rates from being half duplex (worst case scenario if true), at a PCIe 2.0 x4 link width, even just a single port couldn't do 2.5 GB/sec (assuming no overhead mind you) since an x4 link provides only 2 GB/sec of throughput, or 16 Gb/sec, a fair bit short of the 20 Gb/sec per port Apple is claiming. There's just no way to sustain that much data in an x4 PCIe 2.0 link.

This is where I'm getting lost - Apple's own claims are as follows:

Thunderbolt 2 delivers twice the throughput, providing up to 20Gb/s of bandwidth to each external device.


Please note the underlined part. A PCIe 2.0 x4 connection cannot provide for those claims. If in fact that connection is being used, the claims are false. You can't just magically make bandwidth appear like that. So the combined data throughput of the six TB2 ports, due to using three controllers each at PCIe 2.0 x4 link width is 6 GB/sec before overhead. That's nowhere near Apple's claims of 20 Gb/sec per port x6, or 15 GB/sec. Not by a longshot.

So either they're using pitifully bottlenecked tech and their claims are flat out false or they're using something better than PCIe 2.0 x4 in there. There's just no way around the PCIe 2.0 limitations without additional lanes or it actually being PCIe 3.0.

So in the end, you can hook up three 4k displays and nothing else, or whatever number of devices but you'll never get 20 Gb/sec per port if all six are in use.
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90 Human Warrior
4800
Here you go Tia.

http://www.intel.com/content/www/us/en/io/thunderbolt/thunderbolt-technology-developer.html?wapkw=thunderbolt
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90 Human Priest
6220
That doesn't tell me anything more than the anandtech article did (actually anandtech explained it better than Intel does there).

It still stands that with a PCIe 2.0 x4 interface that the controller can't even supply full speed (not factoring in overhead) to a single port, let alone two. That makes using a PCIe chassis pretty much pointless for expandability.
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90 Human Warrior
4800
That doesn't tell me anything more than the anandtech article did (actually anandtech explained it better than Intel does there).

It still stands that with a PCIe 2.0 x4 interface that the controller can't even supply full speed (not factoring in overhead) to a single port, let alone two. That makes using a PCIe chassis pretty much pointless for expandability.
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Correct. I wasn't implying you were wrong about this. Just wanted to show that it was a PCIe 2.0 x4 interface, and there is the intel page showing it...

I'm guessing they're expecting 3 of the ports to be used for displays. Which would explain only 3 controllers for the 6 ports.
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90 Human Priest
6220
Correct. I wasn't implying you were wrong about this. Just wanted to show that it was a PCIe 2.0 x4 interface, and there is the intel page showing it...

I'm guessing they're expecting 3 of the ports to be used for displays. Which would explain only 3 controllers for the 6 ports.


What gets me is that even with six controllers, using a PCIe 2.0 x4 interface can't feed all the ports at full speed. There's already overhead on top of the fact that it's 500 MB/sec less than what a single port is rated for in terms of throughput. The PCIe 2.0 interface worked OK for TB1 because those ports topped out at 1.25 GB/sec before overhead for real world purposes - TB2 can do twice as much with a lot more flexibility in the data types sent (as in the data types aren't restricted so more data can go through period).

This is going to be a real deal breaker for a lot of pro users that are being forced to go external for their gear. If the controllers can't even muster full speed for one port, there's no way they can do so for two.

The sad thing is Apple will get away with it because of the "up to" in that advertisement. That's what really sticks in my craw. I've not known Apple to make false claims like this before. For a Mac Pro, they're sure cheaping out on the expansion capabilities. And those ports when used as 4K display drivers will just barely beat the 15.5 Gb/sec requirement since the max they can push out is 16 Gb/sec before overhead.

That to me is very lame design for what they're going to likely charge for the whole package.

Very, very disappointed.

Edit: I'm guessing Apple is using an as-of-yet unannounced Xeon E5 CPU since Intel's ARK site shows the fastest E5 Xeon to be this one:

http://ark.intel.com/products/64587/Intel-Xeon-Processor-E5-2643-10M-Cache-3_30-GHz-8_00-GTs-Intel-QPI

And that's a mere quad core CPU. The more cores you get, the lower the CPU speed. Not even the Xeon E7 series lists a 12-core version, and neither family lists any CPU at 30 MB cache.

I don't see anything but the highest end Mac Pro having any real speed in WoW with such low CPU speeds. But I guess we'll have to wait until somebody ponies up the money for one and becomes a guinea pig.

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Edited by Tiapriestess on 6/17/2013 11:14 PM PDT
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90 Human Warrior
4800
Yeah, although one upside from what I can tell, is when you're driving 3 displays, the DP 1.2 signal gets fed directly to the thunderbolt controllers. The displayport signal doesn't touch the PCIe bus. So you should be able to get full speed on 3 ports, even if the other 3 were driving 4k displays.

The machine is going to be a monster for video/photo/audio editing. But I agree that it might be limited in other areas.

But in saying that, until they're actually released, benchmarked, and tested in the real world. All of this is pure speculation.
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90 Human Priest
6220
Yeah, it's speculation for sure. If the DP data bypasses the PCIe bus, that'll be nice. But sadly the other half of the data (PCIe) doesn't have that luxury. I can see Apple getting off on the 20 Gb/sec claim if and only if the DP data gets sent directly to the controller from the GPU, and even that's splitting some mighty fine hairs in terms of truth in advertising.
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100 Human Warrior
20890
worse case scenario, the machine sucks, but gives us new video drivers and OS X features for hackintosh. Such as true dual video card support. drivers for newer generation ATI offerings. etc.
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90 Human Priest
6220
worse case scenario, the machine sucks, but gives us new video drivers and OS X features for hackintosh. Such as true dual video card support. drivers for newer generation ATI offerings. etc.


Yeah, I'm thinking the same thing. A sweet PC mobo with dual PCIe controllers that can run a mix of PCIe 2.0 and PCIe 3.0 and CrossFire would freaking rock. There are such mobos out there, but I'm not sure if any of them are hackie-compatible yet.

What I'd love to see (and would constantly drool over) is dual GPU support in D3/SC2/WoW where the second GPU is used for physics while the first renders the environments. That would mean a huge speed boost since the game would no longer be completely CPU bound.

Imagine a 7990 in a hackie with that kind of support. /drool
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100 Human Warrior
20890
http://www.macrumors.com/2013/06/19/apples-new-mac-pro-begins-showing-up-in-benchmarks/

all i can say is, what a pile of crap. BARELY outclasses a 2010. Don't the 2012 imacs perform at a similar level when souped up with BTO options. lets see what the 2013 imacs bring to table.

Just waiting to see a 2010 with a nvidia 780 in it against a 2013 with it's firepro garbage. i bet the 2010 mops floor with it. :)

also, love how they point out the machine chokes up after a few tests do to probable "thermal issues". did you call that one tia? ;)
Edited by Omegal on 6/20/2013 12:07 AM PDT
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90 Human Priest
6220
Just waiting to see a 2010 with a nvidia 780 in it against a 2013 with it's firepro garbage. i bet the 2010 mops floor with it. :)


MacVidCards has determined that the 7970 with flashed EFI (PC version obviously) + Mavericks = FirePro 9000 in terms of OpenCL performance. Sapphire's gotta be loving that news.

also, love how they point out the machine chokes up after a few tests do to probable "thermal issues". did you call that one tia? ;)


Why yes, yes I did. And to celebrate our new overlord the Dark Helmet Thermal Core Heatsink:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9P_AI5hZDEY
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Edited by Tiapriestess on 6/20/2013 2:29 AM PDT
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