Nvidia For Mac Pro 2008

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Enhancing an early 2008 Mac Pro: The GPU Upgrade

Despite the fact that the “cheese grater” Mac Pro has always been touted as an expandable device, one of my biggest frustrations with it has been the anemic selection of available video card upgrades. Unsurprisingly, these “Mac Pro only” cards also come at a hefty price premium over their PC video card counterparts.

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My early 2008 Mac Pro came with the stock ATI Radeon 2600 video card, sporting a paltry 256MB of VRAM.

Upgrade Gpu Mac Pro 2008

Though the ATI Radeon 2600 has served me surprisingly well over the past few years, as of late, it was really beginning to show its age. Nowhere is this more evident than when running Photoshop CC, which requires a minimum of 512MB of VRAM to leverage the extra processing power of the Graphic Processing Unit (GPU).

The past few weeks I have been researching GPU options for my Mac Pro. Eventually I was brought back to the world of flashed PC video cards. The act of taking a PC based video card and converting it into a Mac version is a popular sub-culture among certain Mac Pro users. It’s popular for two reasons:

  1. It’s cheaper than buying a Mac specific video card.
  2. There are more card options to choose from.

Of course, there are also potential drawbacks:

  1. You may not see the gray Apple logo boot screen if you are directly connecting two DVI displays
  2. ATI’s “Crossfire” technology should work on Windows Boot Camp partitions, but the Mac won’t take advantage of it
  3. It’s not an “official” Mac card

I was ready to gamble. In my mind, the benefits outweighed the drawbacks, with one caveat: difficulty.

About a year ago, I tried flashing a PC Radeon card (a 4870 model, to be precise) as part of a DIY challenge, but failed. What I really wanted this time around was a ready-made solution – a pre-Flashed PC video card that would plug and play as a Mac card without any voodoo on my part.

Enter eBay.

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Nvidia Quadro Mac Pro 2008

As of this writing, a 1GB ATI 5770 Radeon flashed PC video card for the Mac Pro costs between $120 – $160 on eBay, which is substantially cheaper than the official ATI 5770 “Mac Pro” branded model, which retails for $249. After about three weeks of “window shopping”, I scored an ATI Radeon 5770 XFX 1GB video card for $121, with free shipping.

A week later, the card arrived. Included in the box was the card, a color booklet on how to install the card, a DVI -> VGA adapter, and a power cable to connect the card to the Mac Pro’s motherboard.

Installation

2008

After disconnecting all the cables from the Mac Pro, I installed the new video card into Slot 2 on the Mac Pro, keeping the existing Radeon 2600 card in Slot 4. (PCI-e cards that require additional power from the motherboard need to go into Slot 1 or Slot 2.)

Installing the Radeon 5770 was straightforward: First plug it in, then connect the Molex power cable from the motherboard to the card.

The Test

After connecting all the cables back to the Mac Pro, it was time to see if my $121 investment worked. Unsurprisingly, it did. I was able to see the boot screen on my Mac, thanks to the fact that one of my displays (the Yiynova MSP19U) has VGA out. I used a VGA to DVI cable to connect the Yiynova to the Radeon 5770 card. The other DVI out from the 5770 connects to my HP 24″ display.

With both video cards in the Mac Pro, I was able to bring an old 19″ display back to life by connecting it up to the Radeon 2600 card – giving me a three display setup to work with.

Conclusion

In total, I now have five displays connected among two computers. With the Radeon 5770, Photoshop CC’s advanced graphic processing capabilities (including OpenCL) are now at my disposal. Maya runs much smoother. Plus, I have an additional dedicated display to utilize.

Nvidia For Mac Pro 2008

For me, the $121 gamble was worth it.

Nvidia Quadro K5000 Mac Pro 2008

-Krishna

Nvidia For Mac Pro 2008 Upgrade