Upgrading Graphics Card in a Mac Pro 3,1

Discussion in 'Mac Pro' started by flyman, Nov 3, 2011.

  1. macrumors member

    Jan 28, 2004
    Hi Everyone,

    I need to replace my graphics card which is an Nvidia 8800GT so I can do gaming in Windows 7 Pro via Bootcamp. The games will be primarily BF3, BFBC2 and Modern Warfare etc.

    Before I delve into the debate about which card to put in I just need some clarification on a couple things as follows:
    1. Can I put in say a Radeon 6780 in 1 slot for use with W7 and leave the 8800GT inplace for OS X?


    2. Could I put in 2 x 6780 card and have them both running together (I believe this is Crossfire mode) for use in W7 & OS X?

    Ultimately I want to get a great gaming setup for use in W7 via Bootcamp. The 8800GT does all I need it to do in OS X.

    Your help and advice would be really appreciated.
  2. macrumors 6502a


    Jan 6, 2011
    United States

    No, and no.

    Best you can put in there is the 5870. Which will play any game you though at it.

  3. macrumors 65816


    Jul 5, 2002
    I assume you meant the 6870 graphic card instead of 6780. The 6870 has been reported to work in a MacPro (even down to the old MP 1,1) when using OS X 10.7 Lion.

    As i am using a flashed 4870 together with a 7300GT, i see no reason why you should not be able to use the 6870 together with the 8800GT.

    Crossfire is another cup of tea - to my knowledge you can not use this under OSX. It should work under Bootcamp with Windows 7, as the MacPro is nothing more than a standard PC when it comes to hardware. However - i'm not sure whether the low-level driver(s) Apple provides for bootcamp usage would support Crossfire mode - neither do i know whether that would be required in the first place...
  4. macrumors 68040


    Dec 19, 2004
    This is quite true the 6870 will work. I would buy a model that is already confirmed. Sometimes vendors tweak a card design to cut costs.

    They work out of the box. With the exception of no boot screen, DVD playback issues and some games don't work right. These are OS X problems not Windows. Windows will work normally.

    Since you have a 3,1 Mac Pro you can use Netkas' 64-bit EFI ROM for 6870. This will fix the above mentioned issues in OS X.

    There are people selling these cards on eBay already flashed to work in the Mac Pro 3,1 and later.

    Some cursory searching shows that the ASUS EAH6870 and XFX HD-687A-ZHFC work fine. Most if not all 6870's will likely work. If you want a card with 2GB memory the XFX HD-687X-CNFC reportedly works.
  5. thread starter macrumors member

    Jan 28, 2004
    I stand corrected it was a typo and should have been the Radeon 6870 thats of interest.

    So the consensus is that its possible to run 2 GPU's in my MP3,1.
    I think I'll rule out the Crossfire/SLI possibilities as it'll just get too confusing!

    This might sound silly but as I only have 1 monitor (a BenQ 241W) is it at all possible to share it with 2 cards without having to remove it?

    I suppose this brings me onto the card options.

    1. Would it be worth while running 2 x 6870 (1GB each) cards or have one 6870 2GB card?
    2. Is there a noticible difference in speed between a Radeon 6870 and Apples 5870?

    If it helps my system specs are as follows:

    I've got to say I'm not very techie when it comes to this sort of stuff and I'm quite wary about trying to flash cards :confused:

    Hardware Overview:

    Model Name: Mac Pro
    Model Identifier: MacPro3,1
    Processor Name: Quad-Core Intel Xeon
    Processor Speed: 2.8 GHz
    Number Of Processors: 2
    Total Number Of Cores: 8
    L2 Cache (per processor): 12 MB
    Memory: 4 GB
    Bus Speed: 1.6 GHz
    Boot ROM Version: MP31.006C.B05
    SMC Version (system): 1.25f4

    NVIDIA GeForce 8800 GT:

    Chipset Model: NVIDIA GeForce 8800 GT
    Type: GPU
    Bus: PCIe
    Slot: Slot-1
    PCIe Lane Width: x16
    VRAM (Total): 512 MB
    Vendor: NVIDIA (0x10de)
    Device ID: 0x0602
    Revision ID: 0x00a2
    ROM Revision: 3233
    BenQ 241W:
    Resolution: 1920 x 1200 @ 60 Hz
    Pixel Depth: 32-Bit Color (ARGB8888)
    Main Display: Yes
    Mirror: Off
    Online: Yes
    Rotation: Supported
    Display Connector:
    Status: No Display Connected

    System Software Overview:

    System Version: Mac OS X 10.6.8 (10K549)
    Kernel Version: Darwin 10.8.0
    Boot Volume: Mac HD
    Boot Mode: Normal
    Secure Virtual Memory: Not Enabled
    64-bit Kernel and Extensions: No
    Time since boot: 1:00
  6. macrumors 65816


    Jul 5, 2002
    I'm not quite sure what you mean by this question. You can connect each graphic card to one of the inputs of your monitor and switch between them by choosing the respective source on your monitor.

    1. You mention two completely different options. Having one 6870 card with 2GB would in theory offer some advantages on high resolutions for demanding games with huge textures. Having two 6870 cards would in theory offer more GPU power, but you said yourself that you want to rule out crossfire configurations. Thus the one 2GB card option would be favourable for you (one could argue whether a 1GB 6870 card would be sufficient, as the benefit of 2GB is not given for that many games - yet).

    2. The 6870 is in fact a little slower than the 5870 (iirc it's roughly 10% less performance, which effectively is barely noticeable), but consumes less power (roughly 32W less under load). Also the 6870 is said to have more/better DX11 features (and better Crossfire performance), which may be helpful for (future) gaming under Windows. As the 6870 is usually available a bit cheaper than the 5870 and works out of the box under Lion, i'd go for that card.
  7. macrumors 6502a

    Oct 30, 2011
    So I hit the website of my local "parts dealer" looking for this 6870, and there are, like, a dozen companies selling boards that appear to be identically spec'ed.

    Does it matter if I choose Asus, or Antec, or Gigabyte, or Sapphire, or XFX, or etc etc etc?

    (This is going into a 3,1 if it matters)
  8. thread starter macrumors member

    Jan 28, 2004
    Thank you Neodym really appreciate the advice.

    I should mention that I'm rather loathed to upgrade to Lion at the moment so do you know if the 6870 will work OOTB with Snow Leopard?

    Regarding the monitor, do you know if a 6870 card will work with my BenQ 241W?
  9. macrumors member

    Feb 18, 2010
    you may head over to http://forum.netkas.org/index.php/topic,1100.0.html :)
  10. macrumors 65816


    Jul 5, 2002
    Unfortunately not. You will at least have to install suitable drivers. You can go directly to Netkas, where you will find both the drivers and the instructions on how to install them. You can also look up Cindori's website, where you can find a complete package to get a 6870 running under SnowLeopard (there are still some shortcomings though regarding usable ports etc.). Cindori is also the programmer of ZEUS (an appliction to make firmware flashing as easy as the click of a button) and you may find some useful guides on his page as well.

    Yes. The connectors are standardized these days and the BenQ offers a variety of possible connectors. DVI should be no problem, HDMI could depend on various factors (driver, firmware etc.).
  11. macrumors 6502a

    Oct 30, 2011
    Thanks for the link. According to the posts there, Core Image and Quartz Extreme don't work with the 6870, and one of he DVI ports doesn't appear to function at all.

    Unfortunately it doesn't look like this card "works" in the sense of the word we've come to expect from Apple, so I guess I'll have to wait a bit longer for an alternate solution...or spring for the Apple-sanctioned one...

  12. macrumors 604

    Nov 17, 2008
    Hollywood, CA

    CI & QE work just fine

    Once flashed, a 6870 is far more functional than a flashed 5770 or 5870. At least in a 3,1 it will be. (It is only the 1,1 and 2,1 machines with issues)

    Also, no need for Zeus or any fiddling.

    The "OOTB" functionality is present in 10.6.8 and 10.7.2.
  13. macrumors 6502a

    Oct 30, 2011
    Maybe, maybe not, I'm just paraphrasing what other people are saying.

    According to the posters on the provided link, the following OOTB deficiencies exist with the 6870 in conjunction with 3,1 (or higher) and 10.6.8 (or higher, including 10.7.2):

    - no boot screen
    - DVD player doesn't work
    - some games (Steam seems especially singled out) don't work at all
    - one of the DVI ports may or may not work depending on the monitor attached
    - flashing (which by definition means !OOTB) seems to fix most of this, for most people
    - but apparently everything works perfectly when bootcamping windows

    If those reports are accurate, then this certainly doesn't meet the :apple: definition of "OOTB functionality", and it doesn't do newcomers any favors pretending otherwise.

    If those reports are inaccurate, it would be great if someone could post the definitive does/doesn't function OOTB, using the :apple: definition, which means *everything* works, with no fiddling or flashing required.
  14. macrumors 68040


    Jan 17, 2008
    please read some more.

    like 10 times i've carefully written down what works and not. go check my prev. posts.

    it's not what you wrote above.
  15. macrumors 6502a

    Oct 30, 2011
    EDIT: Is this your definitive post? There is no mention of flashing in there.

  16. macrumors 604

    Nov 17, 2008
    Hollywood, CA
    On second thought, you sound like an IDEAL candidate for the Apple 5870. It will work with almost any display from 10.6.5 onward. If you can figure out how to get it installed, it will work.

    I apologize for not paying more attention to your posts. You are bound & determined that using a 6870 (and saving $250) is completely beyond your capabilities and now that I have re-read your posts, you have me convinced.

    The 5770 is also a very good option that will require little to no thought. All you have to do is figure out how to get your Credit Card out of your wallet, and the card into your machine. And for $250, it isn't such a bad deal at all.
  17. macrumors 68040


    Dec 19, 2004
    If you want to save some money and don't feel as though you can do the flashing yourself. You can pick up 2GB Radeon 6870's for about $330 on eBay already flashed for the Mac Pro and ready to install or the 1GB model for about $270.

    While many games won't see an advantage at 2GB some will. GTA IV is a few years old yet at max settings it requires over 1GB VRAM. I imagine GTA V with it's expansive world and better graphics will be able to really utilize 2GB VRAM.

    Also the card should work fine with 10.6.8 and later and you can still save money over the 5870.

    If you decide you want more performance you can always go crossfire later (Windows).
  18. thread starter macrumors member

    Jan 28, 2004
    Ok I've been mulling this over during the weekend and just need further clarificaton on some details.

    I'm pretty much set on getting the 6870 but somewhat apprehensive about flashing the card. I understand that if you dont flash you have trouble with DVD player, Steam games and lose the boot screen.

    So if you lose the boot screen does this:

    1. only affect OS X
    2. Do you have to go to system preferences and start up disk to go into Windows?
    3. If you cant see anything at startup (OS X) how do you log in?

    Lastly does anyone know of any reputable people in the UK selling flashed cards?

    Sorry if these appear as dumb a*s questions but I'm a bit noobish when it comes to this kind of stuff! :confused:
  19. damir00, Nov 7, 2011
    Last edited: Nov 7, 2011

    macrumors 6502a

    Oct 30, 2011
  20. macrumors 68040


    Jan 17, 2008

    1. yes
    2. yes
    3. loginscreen is not part of bootscreen and will show. bootscreen = grey apple
  21. macrumors 6502a

    Oct 30, 2011
    Ok, elsewhere you posted:

    Is it then correct to infer that, from a practical user perspective, updating ATY_init and flashing produce the same level of functionality? Boy does that ever clear up a lot, if true.
  22. thread starter macrumors member

    Jan 28, 2004
    Hi Cindori, thank you for the reply.

    So just to summarise for the benefit of myself and others looking at this post we can do the following:

    • Install a 6870 card into a MacPro 3,1
    • In OS X we will lose DVD player, Steam Games amd maybe a DVI port unless the card is flashed.
    • Windows 7 will run in 64bit without any issues.
    • The existing 8800GT can be moved in another PCI slot.

    So with this in mind it leads me to what will hopefully be the last of my questions!...well maybe ;)

    1. Would XFX cards be the best option as I understand they're pretty reliable?
    2. Is it worth getting their 2GB card for games like MW3, BFBC2 and BF3?
    3. If I have the PC card in 1 slot and the 8800GT in another, could I use a switch so that when I boot into OS X it will see the 8800GT to use?
    4. Which would be the best PCI slot to use for the PC card?

    Many thanks once again for all the advice.
  23. thread starter macrumors member

    Jan 28, 2004
    Well I've searched all over the web and cant seem to find any answers so if any one could help?.....Please! :confused:
  24. macrumors member

    Oct 6, 2011
    Flyman, not to complicate this any further but I skimmed all of the posts it doesn't seem as though anyone mentioned running Nvidia cards in your Mac Pro.

    I currently have a Mac Pro 1,1 and I'm running an Nvidia GTX 470 in both Mac and Windows. I too game in bootcamp and the GTX 470 is blazing even though it's not even the current gen.

    MacVidCards on this forum has even reported running Nvidia cards in SLI.

    In Mac, there haven't been any issues whatsoever for me and it was simple enough to get working.

    There's no bootscreen though but no biggie.

    I will tell you, though, you'd likely need to upgrade to Lion. I'm running 10.7.2.
  25. Neodym, Nov 10, 2011
    Last edited: Nov 10, 2011

    macrumors 65816


    Jul 5, 2002
    1. XFX are quite affordable cards, which is why the pioneers often prefer those for their experiments and thus you often have best non-Apple support for cards like that.
    2. Try to find webpages for PC gaming dealing with these games. There are lots of gamers out there who could answer this question in a second and probably far better than the average MacRumors visitor. If the additional price would be marginable, i would go for the 2GB just to be on the safe side (but that is just me - i'm no gamer).
    3. You don't need a switch. Just have the cards installed in whatever order you prefer and OSX will recognize the suitable card(s) automatically.
    4. If you use the "PC card" only for gaming, it should be in the 16x slot (usually the first, i.e. lowest one - recognizable by being the only slot with double-height). Unfortunately Apple is unclear about the number of slots in the 2008 MP (it mentions one 16x slot and two 4x slots, but also mentions the support for up to "four ATI Radeon HD 2600 XT cards" in this knowledgebase article). If there are only three slots with the two remaining slots being only 4x (which is a little slow for a graphic card), it makes no difference where you put the second card.

      If there would be an 8x slot, however, the second graphic card should go in there! Maybe a MP 3,1 owner can chime in to clarify.

      EDIT: Wikipedia says there are 4 slots in the 2008 (3,1) MP, with the first and second slot being 16x (hardwired). In that case your second graphic card should definitely go into the second slot!

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