2010 Mac Pro 5,1 GPU Upgrade Options & Advice

Discussion in 'Mac Pro' started by victorstan, Aug 16, 2015.

  1. victorstan macrumors newbie

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    Aug 16, 2015
    #1
    Hello everyone. I have been reading this forum for some time, but never ended up registering so please excuse my first post being a topic asking for advice.

    So I recently got a 2010 Mac Pro with dual Xeon 2.4 CPUs, 16GB of ECC RAM and a Radeon 5770. I have upgraded the HDD to a SSD Samsung 850 EVO and added a USB 3.0 card. I plan to double the RAM soon, get a PCIE card for the SSD and also upgrade the GPU. I would also like to upgrade the CPU to the high end 6-core Xeon (I believe it is the 5675).

    I use the MP for anything from photo editing, retouching, video editing and a little animation to more mundane tasks. Also like to spend free time playing games, both OSX and WIN (via Bootcamp).

    So here are my questions:

    CPU: is there any place I could buy (new or sh) MP compatible processors? I do not want to get the lidded one and take the risk, I am also not willing to try and de-lid the cpus so is buying de-lidded cpus a viable option? I am thinking getting them off ebay from someone that has experience with this?

    RAM: Is there any reason to get another 16GB of ECC memory (I do not and will not do any scientifical or data crunching so I can't see the need for EC) or should I just sell it and get regular non-ECC modules? I'm guessing I can sell 4x4GB for more than I can buy the same regular modules, so that would cover some of the expense.

    GPU: Ok, this is the tough one that I can't seem to wrap my head around. Since I am going to use a lot of the Adobe CC suite + Final Cut + Resolve, I am thinking it's best to go the nVidia route. It also does make sense since Maxwell has a low TDP consumption and thus can find 2x4pin GPUs easily. But here is what I am not fully understanding. Using a non-EFI GPU means I do not have bootscreen, so no access to boot options or recovery partition. I couldn't care about boot options since I can always restart in Win/Osx from Osx/Win, but Recovery Partition is something I used in the past and will probably use in the future. I will keep my current GPU just in case things go wrong though. However, I read that in Yosemite there are compatible drivers for the newer nVidia cards so will those give me boot screen or only load up, once I get to login screen?

    Also, is it that viable to have the Bios flashed, can I live without it? What are the real advantages besides Boot screen? I read that there is not a great difference in performance betwen PCI 1.1 and PCI 2.0. I am trying to get hold of a used Radeon 7950 or GXT 680, both Mac Edition, but it's almost impossible to find one. OWC and MacVidCards sells them for a prohibitive price, I'd rather get a 960/970 for the same price to be honest and live without then working natively. Even so, if I decided to go with a non-mac gpu, is it easier to flash ATI cards or NVIDIA cards? I am talking about flashing them myself, not send them all the way to USA (from EU) as that will cost me more than half the card itself.

    So what are the best practices? Is there a website or forum where people talk about what cards work and what don't in the non-trashcan Mac Pros?

    Thank you kindly,

    Victor
     
  2. VAGDesign macrumors 6502

    VAGDesign

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    #2
  3. victorstan thread starter macrumors newbie

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    #3
    Thank you VAGDesign for the link. Yeah, that covers a lot of the questions I had about flashing, seems to be easily done on ATI. I read that NVIDIA are harder to flash, they need hardware method, not software, correct? Do you know of any HD7950 that has a reference cooling design, I don't want to get these open fan models as it will just mess up the airflow which is already pretty limited in this enclosure.

    In the meanwhile, I have stumbled quite accidentally (after searching days about this) on a forum post from reduser, where someone mentioned that 2010/2012, meaning all 5,1 Mac Pros use lidded CPUs, the de-lidded were only present in 2009 models. Is this true? That should make a CPU upgrade easy peasy, wonder why no one one the countless guides I read ever mentioned this. I will eventually just remove my heatsinks and check what kind of CPU I have installed, as I need to replace the thermal paste anyway.

    Thanks a lot!
     
  4. pastrychef macrumors 601

    pastrychef

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    #4
    CPU: First check to see exactly which model Mac Pro you have. Easiest way would be to look in System Profiler (aka System Information). Mac Pro 4,1 shipped with CPUs without IHS and Mac Pro 5,1 shipped with CPUs with IHS.

    RAM: Check with Activity Monitor to see how much RAM you are using, whether or not you are paging, page ins and page outs. This will give you an indication of whether you need more RAM.

    As to whether you should use ECC or not, that's debatable. All I can say is ECC is what is recommended by Apple.

    GPU: This is a complicated matter... There are many, many threads on this forum related video cards and Mac Pros. I suggest searching and doing some reading. Remember, if you really need boot screens to have access to recovery partition, the GTX 680s and some AMD cards can be flashed on your own.
     
  5. victorstan thread starter macrumors newbie

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    Aug 16, 2015
    #5
    CPU: I have 5,1 so that means I have IHS CPU. Hooray to painless upgrade :D

    RAM: Will do it. However 16GB cuts it in normal-moderate use, I would double that just to be safe. 4x4GB of 1066 Mhz RAM is easy to find and really cheap. But if I upgrade to a 12-core, I should sell and get 1333 Mhz anyway, even though the performance boost is really negligible...

    The thing about ECC is that the RAM I have installed is impossible to find (French SPQ manufacturer using Hynix modules) so to have 8 identical modules would mean selling the ones I have so that opens up to getting non-ECC memory. I guess Apple supported ECC simply because Xeon is a server CPU, thus the work environment demands it. I read that ECC is slower due to having to error correct so not sure if it suits my worflow.

    GPU: Yeah I know. I did extensive reading, but 80% of what I find online are from people who have the previous models that I do so I can't really make an impression. It seems that those who own a 5,1 MP either don't need an upgrade or are very few in the first place. I did not manage to find a guide or discussion on flashing 680, as I understand it requires a chip to be removed and another one to be re-soldered in place. The 7950 does seem the most straightforward route, but I'd rather get a 680 to be honest.

    Thank you for your reply pastrychef :)
     
  6. pastrychef macrumors 601

    pastrychef

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    #6
    As far as I know, the differences in speed between the different type of memory are negligible. In my opinion, it's more important to have enough memory and reduce paging as much as possible.

    This thread will give you information on flashing a GTX 680 4GB on your own.

    This thread will give you information on flashing a GTX 680 2GB on your own.

    GTX 680s do not need their ERPOMs replaced. The standard EPROMs are large enough for the Mac compatible firmware.
     
  7. ActionableMango macrumors 604

    ActionableMango

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    Sep 21, 2010
    #7
    The higher end CPUs you can drop in there is the x5690.

    I'd get the correct RAM. First of all, the slower speed is a myth. It is very slightly slower in some tests and very slightly faster in others, but so close in either case that there is no effective difference. Secondly, proper RAM will have the temperature sensors that the MP is expecting to see, which will give you temperature reporting and correct fan speeds in the case. Third, ECC RAM logs ECC errors and provides reporting in both OS X and Windows, so you can quickly see if you have a problematic RAM stick.

    Proper RAM is DDR3-1333 PC3-10600 240-pin ECC SERVER RAM. Most server RAM has the temperature sensors. Most 240-pin non-ECC non-server RAM does not have the temperature sensors (except for "enthusiast" RAM). For optimal performance, get three identical sticks.
     
  8. victorstan thread starter macrumors newbie

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    Aug 16, 2015
    #8
    Thank you for the reply ActionableMango.

    Yes, I was looking at x5690 online and found quite a few at very good prices, will definitely get a pair for the upgrade.

    I understand about the RAM, had no idea about the temperature sensor, that does make sense to get ECC so I will. I have 8 slots so looking to fill all of them with 4GB modules or even 8GB if I find a good deal online. Too bad the memory I have installed is such an exotic brand, otherwise I would only need to buy 4 sticks instead of 8. How much do the sticks need to match? If I get different brands that use the same RAM chip will that be ok? I am guessing that most brands only slap a sticker and sell as their own, but I know some do design their PCBs so that might be an issues, right?

    As for the GPU upgrade, there are only 2 EVGA GTX 680 models that are powered by 2x6-pin, and surprisingly these are the hardest to find as they are just above the basic model. They are the SC models, one has a backplate, the other does not.
     
  9. h9826790 macrumors 604

    h9826790

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    #9
    If you still consider 7950 as an option, this card has a cooler like the reference one, but a bit bigger and much quieter. Since it's a bit bigger, it will prevent you to install another full length PCIe card in slot 2 (assuming you install this card in slot 1), but for other smaller card (like my USB3.0 card), there is no problem to install in slot 2.

    I just got this a month ago ($150 new). So should be still avail on the market.

    Agree that looking for a correct card is very time consuming. Especially those 9xx / R9 3xx card already on the market and make the older card off the shelf. I am quite conservative on this issue. That's why I still pick up a 2x6pin R9 280 (a renamed HD7950) but not the newer card which may provide better cost to performance ratio. Anyway, be careful if there is a backplate on the card, it may not fit in slot 1. And If the cooler is bit thicker than the reference one, install that in slot 2 may effectively block both slot 3 and 4. Which only leave you slot 1 for other PCIe card.
     
  10. ActionableMango macrumors 604

    ActionableMango

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    #10
    Please ignore my recommendation "three sticks is ideal". I forgot you had a dual CPU model.

    From a sheer compatibility perspective, the sticks don't have to match at all really, except you cannot mix registered DIMMS with unregistered DIMMS (rDIMMS and uDIMMS) at all, you shouldn't mix ECC and non-ECC (although a few people have done so and say it all works as non-ECC), and I think there are some issues with quad-rank RAM mixing with other ranks but that's a really obscure problem. Mixing brands and sizes is not optimal, but totally fine. I myself mixed 1GB Apple sticks with Hynix chips and 4GB SuperTalent sticks with Micron chips--no problems whatsoever. Many, many people have mixed brands--this is perfectly normal. You can always buy 4 now and if they are incompatible, buy another 4.

    Any EVGA GTX 680 except for the "Signature" editions will work fine in your Mac Pro with standard 6-pin cables, regardless of whether the cards have 8-pin power sockets or not. Just plug the 6-pin power cable directly into the 8-pin socket with no adapter.
     
  11. victorstan thread starter macrumors newbie

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    Aug 16, 2015
    #11
    I see, I see. As I understand, registered memory also does not work so it has to be unregistered. Not sure about buffered or unbuffered though. Any idea about that?

    As far as GPU is concerned, I finally managed to track down a EVGA GTX 680 Mac Edition brand new (Warehouse Overstock) on ebay and won the auction for 150 GBP. I hope the unit is good and will see how it goes once I have it delivered. I do have one question though. I know this model does not come with a backplate and I found the backplate from the EVGA SC version (identical board design and model layout) and was wondering if it would make any sense to buy it and mount it. Will I have issues mounting the GPU in the Mac Pro because of it? Will it give me better cooling by dissipating some of the PCB heat into the aluminum chassis?

    It's very cheap to get it so I might just go ahead and try it, but wonder if anyone attempted this before me and has any input on that.

    Thank you for all your help :)
     
  12. h9826790 macrumors 604

    h9826790

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    #12
    How can the backplate help to cool the card by transferring the heat to the chassis? The bottom of the PCIe card room is made by plastic (on top of the Aluminum) to avoid short circuit. There is no way that the card can touch the Aluminium chassis directly (apart fromt the mount point).
     
  13. victorstan thread starter macrumors newbie

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    #13
    Yes of course, what was I thinking!? I was imagining that since the GPU sits on the aluminum chassis directly while in the first PCIe slot it could transfer some of the heat to the case for a slight passive cooling improvement. If that is not the case, then yes, a backplate is going to be useless and a waste of money.
     
  14. pastrychef macrumors 601

    pastrychef

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    #14
    Benefits of a backplate:

    1. Aesthetics. A video card with a backplate looks better.
    2. Prevents flex on the video card.
    3. Can help dissipate heat from VRAM if the video card has VRAM on the back.

    Due to how the Mac Pro was designed, when you have a video card installed in the bottom PCI-e slot, there is little to no air flow going to the bottom of the video card. This will limit the effectiveness of the backplate from helping cool the card.

    If, on the other hand, the video card is installed in PCI-e slot 2, there is much more air circulation and a backplate can do its job much more effectively.

    Here, you can see how a backplate can help cool VRAM: http://www.guru3d.com/articles_pages..._review,9.html

    Another thing to consider that isn't mentioned much is types of GPU coolers. Coolers such as the one seen below helps force the heat generated from the video cards out of the computer.

    titan-x-flat-front.jpg

    Coolers such as the one seen below simply cool the GPU heatsink and don't really force the hot air out of the computer. This can cause temperatures of other components to rise.

    9ipFP.jpg
     
  15. MacVidCards Suspended

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    #15
    Another benefit from backplates is that they protect the components on the back of the board. There is a tiny row of capacitors that link the PCIE fingers to the board. The most common cause of card being killed during install is when someone gets a little eager and forces card in ,these little caps get knocked off. Some will make card run at 8 lanes instead of 16. Some will stop card from booting. Cards with backplates don't have this issue.
     
  16. victorstan thread starter macrumors newbie

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    Aug 16, 2015
    #16
    Thank you so much for your replies, explanation and hints. And sorry for my late reply, I was caught up with a lot of work.

    I actually got lucky and snatched a brand new in box Geforce 680 Mac Edition for 150 GBP on ebay. It still had the protective plastic foil on it and all the accessories were sealed. So I couldn't pass up the offer and got it. It runs absolutely perfect, have no issues with it. As for the backplate, I don't think I'll be installing one as I honestly don't think there is enough room to accommodate it. If I can get one at a very low price, I might try and fit it and see how that goes, but other priorities for now.

    I do have another question though. Since this machine will not be able to benefit from thunderbolt, I was thinking of setting up and eSATA external RAID enclosure for better storage and backup solution. I have read that eSATA is still faster than USB3 which I already got a pci card for from Newertech.

    I have done a bit of research and came up with 3 eSATA/USB 3 combo cards as I don't want to have 2 PCI slots used in the end (so will sell my current USB 3 card). Anyone has any experience with any of these or has any technical insight as to which would perform better? The idea is to not connect them to anything internally other than the PCI slot itself, I've seen some cards that require a sata power cable to be run from the mb, but it seems that newer designs do not need it.

    Newertech - http://www.newertech.com/products/pcieesatausb3.php
    Sonnet - http://www.sonnettech.com/product/tempoduopcie.html
    Caldigit - http://www.caldigit.com/Fasta-6GU3pro/

    Any idea what is the internal connector on the Sonnet for (It says "USB 3.0 Dual Port Connector: 1 internal") and the 2 internal ports on the Caldigit are for hooking up 2 extra HDDS, am I right?

    Thanks again!
     
  17. pierrox macrumors regular

    pierrox

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    #17
    Bit late to the party, but that's the card I bought, and pretty pleased with it.
    It's got two Sata III ports inside. It can boot a drive from those.
    I was able to route a cable from it to the optical bay area and plug my boot hard drive to it - getting its full 500mb/s potential instead of Sata 2.
     
  18. Synchro3 macrumors 65816

    Synchro3

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    #18
    Or you can directly get power from SATA above: http://forums.macrumors.com/threads/motherboard-to-pcie-sata-power.1712884/#post-18855446

    Bought the Caldigit FASTA-6GU3 Pro too, four bootable SSD's connected, and very pleased.
     
  19. victorstan thread starter macrumors newbie

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    #19
    Oh so that's what the 2 internal SATA ports are for. Well this just makes this card the best one I think, It totally eliminates the need to have a PCI card for the SSD to get full speed. And it's got USB 3 and eSATA which is just an amazing package for just one card. The only downside is having to go through all the cable routing mess, but I guess that's a necessary evil.

    How did you connect 4 drives with only 2 ports?
     
  20. Synchro3, Oct 15, 2015
    Last edited: Oct 15, 2015

    Synchro3 macrumors 65816

    Synchro3

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    #20
    The FASTA-6GU3 Pro has four ports, two internal SATA and two external eSATA. I'm using a Firmtek MiniSwap/ES http://www.firmtek.com/seritek/miniswap-es/ for the eSATA ports:

    And for the internal drives I get the power from SATA port above:
    firmtek 1.png firmtek 2.png firmtek 3.png SATA intern.png
     
  21. pierrox macrumors regular

    pierrox

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    #21
    Funny how opinions can change...

    A few months later, i.e. last week, my Caldigit card started to behave. USB drives sometimes disappear or just don't mount, anything plugged to my USB3 dock (powered dock) just don't mount anymore. And this week the eSata connectors have become flakey - corrupting drives or not mounting them either.

    I did all that was suggested on the (poor) FAQ on CalDigit's website, didn't make a difference. I wrote an email to support 10 days ago, no reply. I'm a bit disappointed (to say the least) as it wasn't exactly a cheap card, and it's still under warranty. Supposedly...

    Thinking about the Sonnet now, they never let me down...
     
  22. Synchro3 macrumors 65816

    Synchro3

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    #22
    I am sorry for your bad card (if it is the card). Phone them, it's still under warranty, and demand a replacement card.

    Did you try the USB drives at the USB 2 ports of the Mac Pro?
     
  23. m4v3r1ck macrumors 68020

    m4v3r1ck

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    #23
    The FASTA-6GU3 Pro is one of my very best upgrade purchases using a cMP (3.1 & 5.1). I'm still enjoying my USB 3.0 and eSATA (bootable externals mainly for CCC back-up purpose) every day!

    Cheers
     
  24. pierrox macrumors regular

    pierrox

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    #24
    Caldigit Europe doesn't seem very reactive. Will try to call on Monday - they just ignored my emails.
    I loved that card, I hope the company won't fail me.

    And yep I tried he drives in the usb2 on the Mac and they work as they're supposed to. They also have FireWire so that's what I reverted to in the end. But it's clearly slower.
     

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