Could someone explain the limitations of the Mac Pro as a Windows gaming PC?

Discussion in 'Mac Pro' started by Sesshi, Oct 19, 2006.

  1. Sesshi macrumors G3

    Sesshi

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    #1
    In as close to idiotese as possible please.

    I'm looking to buy another desktop for home use. 3D visualisation, gaming, music-ing in that order of system-spec priority. As painful as my experiences with Apple hardware have been, this isn't for business use so reliability is not as critical. That and I find myself drawn to the Pro like a moth to a light. Damn my tech lust.

    If I buy the Mac I expect to be doing the 3D and music in OS X. But I'll definitely need Windows gaming support. I'd just would like to know a condensed version of all of the Boot Camp issues regarding high-end gaming before I make my mind up.

    I'd spec it with a X1900XT + 30" ACD, or possibly two 23". Haven't quite decided yet.

    And there's no way of using an X-Fi Elite Pro in it, is there?
     
  2. waremaster macrumors 6502

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    #2
    You pretty much hit it right there.. Soundcard support for games is pretty much out at the moment. Also a little more work is required on bootcamp as there are still a few bugs to be worked out. Like ocational stuttering of the mouse in windows when using the x1900xt and heavy disk access. I imagine alot of that will be solved either with the next release of bootcamp or by the time leopard ships.
     
  3. Sesshi thread starter macrumors G3

    Sesshi

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    #3
    Thanks for those.

    I know I'm being a bit lazy but what I'd like is a list of the most common major compatibility 'gotchas' under Boot Camp for in-depth Windows use under demanding gaming apps, as complete as possible. I just like to either know what I'm getting into, or what I'm likely to avoid by picking the Dell Precision 490 instead.

    I managed to beat my account manager down to a price £700 below the Mac Pro for a nearly identically specced 490, only with a 1950XTX instead of the 1900. But given the overall price, it's not a huge difference. I'd *really* like to have OS X on this desktop... but not if it cripples gaming. And I want to order before Christmas. The indecision is driving me loopy.
     
  4. Sesshi thread starter macrumors G3

    Sesshi

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    #4
    Oh, some example games:

    BF2
    FSX
    HL2
    CS:S
    FEAR
    CoH
     
  5. orangezorki macrumors 6502a

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    #5
    As far as I understand it, here are some of the things that make the Mac Pro a less than perfect gaming PC:

    1. Price - because we know that being an 'enthusiast' means you value blue LEDs over build quality and quietness.

    2. FB-DIMM latency, it's high bandwidth and reliable, but make give games a bit of a hit.

    3. Pretty much all Mac GPUs are underclocked - good for reliability and heat production, not for FPS.

    Having said all that, it's still very good at games if you don't get the 7300, and the design and OS X make it the only choice for me - those are factors that discounts can't make up for in my book.

    On the topic of the sound card, I think that we are in reciprocal posts, Sesshi. The reason why I posted a topic about DACs and external sound cards is that so far I haven't seen a single PCIe sound card.

    David
     
  6. Sesshi thread starter macrumors G3

    Sesshi

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    #6
    1 & 2 are redundant in this case. The PC I'd get if I don't get the Mac Pro actually has a higher sticker price. It uses exactly the same chipset, so same issues with FB-DIMM. I'm OK with that.

    The 1950XTX I'd get with the Dell wouldn't be under-anything'd of course.
     
  7. orangezorki macrumors 6502a

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    #7
    That's exactly the point I was trying to put across: it's only slow in the same sense as a BMW M5 is slow compared to a formula 1 car. (If you'll forgive the car analogy)

    David
     
  8. lowfi macrumors newbie

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    #8
    Ati has a buildin overclocker in its controls centre.

    Im able to play hl2 ep1 @ 1920x1200 full detail. 3ghz radeon and 3gb ram.
     
  9. Swarmlord macrumors 6502a

    Swarmlord

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    #9
    In other words, just like a real Windows computer.

    It's hard to believe, but the most resource intensive activity that affects my gameplay on my Windows machine is when it decides to check for, automatically download and then install the Norton Antivirus signatures. You'd think that with a Athlon 64 X2, 2GB RAM, a serial ATA drive and an 802.1 G ethernet connection a computer could perform that operation in the background without affecting the performance of a DirectX game in the foreground.

    Why does every software manufacturer automatically believe that they should hog 100% of your processing power when they want to do something?
     
  10. irishgrizzly macrumors 65816

    irishgrizzly

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    #10
    What kind of soundcard does a Mac Pro use?

    When you say soundcard support is is out, does that mean you'd get no sound playing games or just that surround and etc. is not going to happen?
     
  11. MRU macrumors demi-god

    MRU

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    #11
    dd 5.1 Sound via spdif output on my mac pro works perfectly in windows.
     
  12. waremaster macrumors 6502

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    #12
    You will get sound but not the kind of sound you would get if you had say an Audigy X-Fi or ZS
     
  13. Sesshi thread starter macrumors G3

    Sesshi

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    #13
    If you're n00b enough to use Norton, sure.

    Back to relevant points, soundcard support in games is pretty important. EAX for example is environmental audio, which will handle multiple layers of environmental audio (incorporating support for occlusion etc) and virtual 3D positioning. Cards like the X-Fi do all that in hardware, and do it far more effectively than the very basic Intel HD Audio onboard the Mac Pro. 5.1 support is fine and is of course offered by HD Audio but that's not the issue with games. This is definitely a major limitation, but it's not necessarily a debilitating one for me if I choose not to be too picky about game audio (although for a £4,000 PC I guess I should be picky). This is one limitation I've been more or less aware of and it might not be a deal-breaker.

    I'd like to hear more about graphics limitations under Boot Camp, any other tics, etc.


    Edit: You know, I was too busy looking at the Precisions, didn't even think to look at the XPS range. I did tell the account manager what I'd be doing with it and he's sent over another quote.

    XPS
    Core 2 Duo Extreme 3Ghz
    2Gb RAM
    3 year on-site warranty
    500Gb HDD
    Dual DVDs
    1Gb 7950GX2 x 2 (i.e. Quad-SLI)
    128MB Physics Processor
    3007WFP
    MX1000 + keyb
    and I can just drop an X-Fi Elite Pro right inside.

    Not as high a discount, so slightly more than the 490, still less than the Mac Pro. This setup definitely outclasses both for games. But he was unable to say whether it'd work effectively for 3D drafting applications. I'll have to do more digging around for this, I'd appreciate more feedback on Boot Camp oddities as I said above.
     
  14. tbmx macrumors newbie

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    Sep 17, 2006
    #14
    I don't know if it helps at all...I've got a dual 2.66ghz, 1 gig ram and x1900. I've run Q4, Painkiller (old), Oblivion, Fear, Prey and they all run well at my 1680 by 1050 resolution of the 20 inch cinema display. The only thing I need is more ram to help occsional stutters
     
  15. mdntcallr macrumors 65816

    mdntcallr

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    #15
    well, sounds good to me. enjoy the new mac pro.

    you may want to wait until apple announces the new Mac Pro's in nov/dec with QUAD core chips. this may reduce price on the current models, or possibly it will be a premium model. dunno.

    one more thing... who knows, apple may intro it with a new graphics card, not that the x1900 isnt hot.

    Also, BUY IT WITH 2 GB of RAM. not 1. the machine will need it.
     
  16. Sesshi thread starter macrumors G3

    Sesshi

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    #16
    Only the severely cash-strapped will buy a machine like this with just 2Gb of RAM for 3D use. For games, 2 sure. That's actually thing about the C2D machine which concerns me.
     
  17. yellow Moderator emeritus

    yellow

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  18. Sesshi thread starter macrumors G3

    Sesshi

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    #18
    The C2D XPS quote includes Quad-SLI. The 7950GX2 has 2 GPU's onboard in SLI and two of those cards run in SLI.

    I did ask a mate though and he says that for 3D visualisation work, I have to balance a proper GPU with as much horsepower than I can muster. He says the Mac Pro or the Precision is a better bet than the XPS. For games, obviously no contest - the XPS wins. I would like the machine I buy to be excellent at both.

    I'm getting a headache.
     
  19. Chone macrumors 65816

    Chone

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    #19
    Basically the limitations of the Mac Pro as a gaming PC would be the FB-DIMMs which really take a toll on FPS, other than that there also the impossiblity of being able to SLI/Crossfire.

    The Xeon is basically a faster Conroe (but suffers because of FB-DIMMs) and you can put any damn card you want in there (it'll work in WindowsXP but not Mac OS X) and under BootCamp the Mac Pro is a PC and works 100% like a PC.
     
  20. novagamer macrumors member

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    #20
    Has anyone actually tried crossfire? I know SLi works with hacked drivers so that leads me to believe Crossfire might also work.

    As an aside, source-engine games run great at 2560x1600 on my 3GHz/X1900XTX Mac Pro.
     
  21. apfhex macrumors 68030

    apfhex

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    #21
    I can't recall seeing any hard numbers backing the FB-DIMM situation. I'm not convinced it has a significant (that's the key word) impact on gaming performance.

    I think your second paragraph deserves emphasis here.
     
  22. tobyg macrumors 6502a

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    #22
    http://www.anandtech.com/mac/showdoc.aspx?i=2832&p=13

    Start there, check the next few pages.
     
  23. durandal77 macrumors newbie

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    #23
    Just bear in mind that the performance of FB-DIMMS very much depends on the exact configuration (number and size of modules).

    Anandtechs benchmarks are based on 2 x 1 GB modules, which limits bandwidth compared to f.ex. the same amount configured as 4 x 512 mb - not sure how it affects latency.

    As for real-world game performance, all i've been able to test myself so far is HL2 (episode 1 and Lost Coast) and GRAW.

    On a mac Pro 2.66/x1900xt/4 x 512 Mb, at 2560 x 1600 with all quality settings (HDR, textures etc) maxed out and 8x AF, but no AA - the Lost Coast Stress test reports avg. FPS of 75.

    Don't have any frame rates for episode 1 or GRAW, but both felt nice and smooth - and GRAW is really a killer.

    To the original poster: If you're interested in numbers, i could do proper tests with FRAPS of HL2, FEAR, GRAW, Prey, Doom3 and FarCry (think that's about it for more recent/demanding games ..)

    in any case - you could easily build a better gaming PC than the Mac Pro, but as a professional workstation that can also double as a decent gaming rig, the Mac Pro is really good value.

    YMMV, but for me it's definitely the best money i've ever spent on a rig.

    Good luck with whatever you go with....
     
  24. Sesshi thread starter macrumors G3

    Sesshi

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    #24
    Either way I realise I'll have to compromise a bit as it's now clear to me that visualisation and gaming are not as simialr in terms of computing requirements as they might initially seem. On the other hand while I don't game that often, but I'm sure you can appreciate that when I do I don't want to feel hamstrung after spending four grand + VAT on a machine.

    I don't know, I'm no nearer to a decision and since I'm trying to reduce the box count in my home office I don't have any intention to buy separate machines for both uses.

    So far we've got:
    a) Audio card limitations, fairly obvious.
    b) Occasional mouse stuttering in Windows
    c) Underclocked GPU if I plump for an X1900XT

    What else?
     
  25. tobyg macrumors 6502a

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    #25
    That's true. Also bear in mind that your 512's are single ranked DIMMS. 1GB dimms are dual ranked. I'm not sure exactly what's faster, 4 single ranked dimms running in 256bit mode or 2 dual ranked dimms in 128bit mode. Either way, I have 4 1GB DIMMS so I think I'm effectively about as fast as you can get. 256bit, dual ranked with the minimum amount of dimms required, so that means less latency. 8 dual ranked dimms would equal a bit more latency.

    I haven't tried any Windows games yet. WOW on OSX wasn't as fast as I had hoped, even with the X1900 XT, but it's very playable with all the eye candy on and such.
     

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