2011 iMac Graphics Card Upgrade

Discussion in 'iMac' started by MichaelDT, Jun 14, 2013.

  1. TPA5 macrumors newbie

    Apr 10, 2012
  2. macmee Suspended


    Dec 13, 2008
    I have a 2011 iMac, it has a Radeon 5750, could I upgrade that? What about the CPU?
  3. Bezaleel macrumors newbie

    Nov 28, 2013
    Hey everyone I have a 27inch iMac 2011-2012 model (not the slim one) with a
    -3.4GHz Quad-Core Intel Core i7
    -4GB 1333MHz DDR3 SDRAM - 16GB
    -1TB Serial ATA Drive
    -AMD Radeon HD 6970M 1GB

    I am heavily into motions graphics in after effects cs6. My problem is that this card does not support cuda drivers and I can't get any raytrace or GPU to work on my projects in after effects. Cs6.
    So now I want to upgrade to a more powerful graphics card say an Nvidia GeForce card. Now my questions is, what model or kind of card will be compatable with my iMac and where can I get that card? Any answers will be greatly appreciated!
  4. TPA5 macrumors newbie

    Apr 10, 2012
    As far as I have researched, any Nvidia MXM card should work with your system. In the FAQ here: http://forums.macrumors.com/showthread.php?t=1440150 it appears that if you have 10.7.5 or forward (which I assume you do) than theoretically any Nvidia card should work.
  5. TofuTodd macrumors newbie

    Oct 3, 2013
  6. GMacUser macrumors newbie

    Feb 26, 2014
  7. GMacUser macrumors newbie

    Feb 26, 2014
    680m OTW

    Ordered a GTX 680m. I also have the 21.5 mid 2011 iMac. I will update with how it goes...
  8. wulleybully macrumors newbie

    Feb 28, 2014
    Let us know how that goes for sure!

    Anyone have any recommendations for a video card upgrade that wont cost over $500? Mid 2011 21.5" or should i just be prepared that, that's what I'm going to have to shell out?
  9. GMacUser macrumors newbie

    Feb 26, 2014
    I paid $365 for mine. You just gotta be an eBay hawk, all MXM cards are OEM so you have to buy them pulled from laptops or iMacs.
  10. wulleybully macrumors newbie

    Feb 28, 2014
    Anywhere I can find a list of what cards will work with the mid 2011 21.5? I don't want to get all worked up over a card only to find out that it wont work lol.
  11. GMacUser macrumors newbie

    Feb 26, 2014
    Nobody knows, nobody cares.

    Nope, most Mac users seem to discourage the necessary experimentation needed to find out these kinds of things. So there is very little information about which cards are compatible with the iMac. If you want to be safe you can upgrade to the a pulled 6970m ($600).

    You're not gonna get an official Mac part without paying full price.

    Check eBay or http://www.dvwarehouse.com/Used-Macs-c-253_53.html?gclid=CJO97fHw8LwCFas-Mgod30sAjg

    I will let you know how the 680m goes. It's unfortunate OP has ghosted from this thread.
  12. wulleybully macrumors newbie

    Feb 28, 2014
    Kinda what I had figured, but really want to do an upgrade! I plan on cracking it open to install a ssd figure I might as well do the graphics card at the same time.
  13. NoNig macrumors newbie

    Mar 2, 2014
    Hi everybody

    - sorry for reviving an old thread. But...

    Last month I bought an 21.5 iMac 2011, and soon began searching the web for ways to upgrade my computer and stumbled upon this thread.

    However, a couple of things confuse me.

    When I opened my iMac to do my DYI Fusion Drive, I noticed that there doesn't seem to be room for a larger MXM card?

    A larger MXM card would indeed seem to collide with the HDD.

    It does seem that OP ghosted the thread, but I'd like to know if anyone tried to replicate MichaelDT's specific findings/upgrade?

    If desired, I can try to take some pictures of my disassembled iMac so that you can see what I mean.

    - regards

    P.S.: Sorry for my English, it's not my native language:eek:

    P.P.S.: My upgrade would be replacing the i5-2400S with and i7-2600S and perhaps a Geforce 6xx-series. I've already done a DIY Fusion and added another 16 gigs of RAM to the 4 gigs, for a total of 20 gigs of RAM.
  14. GMacUser macrumors newbie

    Feb 26, 2014
    Hi, I'm still waiting for the card. I will be replicating OPs experiment. I too noticed that the card would not fit after installing a separate SSD. A closer inspection of OP's photo shows that his logic board is actually seated higher than normal allowing the graphics card to sit over the HDD.

    There is also a piece of plastic that appears removable that would allow the MXM B card to fit. Anyways, I can't offer anything concrete until I attempt the install. The card should be getting here this week.

    Also, I have question for you: Is the CPU upgrade worth it? I can't decide. I am mainly upgrading for gaming in boot camp and was also thinking about going from i5 to i7 but I feel if I can pull off this graphics card upgrade that's all I would need.
  15. NoNig, Mar 11, 2014
    Last edited: Mar 11, 2014

    NoNig macrumors newbie

    Mar 2, 2014
    I agree 100 % with your observations. That was my thoughts as well.

    I spent a lot of time, by looking up spec.s and so on. I don't if it's considered common knowledge, but the PSU in the stock 21.5 iMac 2011, is rated at 205 Watts (part no: 661-5299).

    My speculation was, that a 65 Watt CPU, would leave around 140 Watts to the rest of the system. According to various sources, the Radeon 6750M and 6770M are rated at 35 Watts. However. The MXM-A specification states that up to 55 Watts is acceptable.

    Taking into consideration, the hassle with finding just the right video card, that supports UEFI (don't know how else to put it. English skills, you know - sorry :eek: ), and at the same time not toasting your iMac... well. I figured it wasn't worth the risk.

    I've already paid 4,800 DKR (the Danish currency "kroner"), what equals to around 600 USD, in "Apple-currency" [the way I usually calculate prices in foreign currency is, that I multiply or divide by the factor, between the two currencies, on various Apple products*]. I just doubled that, by spending money on a new logic board and video card - silly me :rolleyes:


    Regarding your question on performance, I really can't give you any specific answer. My original plan was to upgrade later, and run some benchmarks then. For that reason I haven't got around to test between the CPUs. And, to be honest, I don't think I'm going to, just now. You know. If it ain't broke... (I'm jinxing it now. I can feel it)

    However. I based my original decision on various benchmarks, around the web. In particular those on Passmark and Geekbench.

    The i5-2400S isn't... bad. I've been gaming Supreme Commander: Forged Alliance, with all settings at max. I ran just fine, and if you by any chance should happen to know that particular game - that's saying something.

    But. I'm also spending some time in After Effects and Premier Pro (creating some content for educational use - I'm a teacher), and I had no doubt about the i7-2600S being a lot faster than the i5-2400S.

    I can't feel the difference. In desktop or gaming, right know. But I have no doubt, that it'll show when I fire up those programs.

    I'd say, in the long run, that you'll probably appreciate the CPU-upgrade route, instead of the video card upgrade. It depends on what video card you get, obviously. But if you, like me, was considering the 6770M over the 6750M - I don't think it's worth it.

    Then I'd rather go all the way. But, like I stated earlier, I just didn't want to take the risk. I've already spent the original (used) price, twice - and to be honest: Can't decide wether or not I've should just have bought the 2013 entry-level.

    I know, it's not the same and I am definitely a tinkerer.

    I'll just keep my fingers crossed, that this one isn't going sudden-death on me as well :eek:

    Hope it made sense. Again, I have to apologize if my English is a little confusing :eek:

    * - For instance: The 21.5 iMac 2013 base model is priced at $1,299 USD on .com, and 10,499 DKR on .dk. The ratio is then around 8.1x. I paid 4,800 DKR for my used iMac. The calculation is then: 4,800 DKR / (8.1 DKR/USD) ~ $ 592.6 USD. I know, it's not the same as the currency exchange, but it's my experience that it represents a better/more accurate figure, than calculating VAT, tax, etc.
  16. GMacUser macrumors newbie

    Feb 26, 2014

    The GTX 680M has just arrived. I will now attempt to replicate OP's experiment and I will update my with findings here.

    Wish me luck!
  17. efegue macrumors member

    Jul 2, 2008
    Good luck mate! Really want to know the result :)
  18. GMacUser, Mar 20, 2014
    Last edited: Mar 20, 2014

    GMacUser macrumors newbie

    Feb 26, 2014
    Good news everyone!

    OP was not lying and the 680M works! I did not get an initial boot screen but the OS started.

    I freaked out at first because when I initially turned it on the computer started beeping but it was just a ram chip that didn't go in correctly. Quick fix :).

    Attached Files:

  19. NoNig macrumors newbie

    Mar 2, 2014

    I wonder, how did you make the video card fit? You haven't screwed it to the back of the case, or?

    My observation was, that the video card would be on level with the HDD, but on your pictures it looks like the HDD is 'under' the video card?

    Again. Awesome. Please keep us (me?) updated with your findings and observations on heat, power usage etc. :)
  20. efegue macrumors member

    Jul 2, 2008
    Awesome! Congrats! :)
    Can you tell if any 680M will work? Should I look to something specific when searching for one?
  21. GMacUser macrumors newbie

    Feb 26, 2014
    I got mine from ebay the seller's name was chooseyoursestiny or something based in Slovakia. Last time I checked he had more 680Ms for sale. A quick search should lead you to him.

    I removed the HDD then removed the plastic barrier that separated the GPU HDD and ODD, then re installed HDD. This allowed the graphics card to sit right above the HDD with logic board completely seated.

    I will be opening it up again to modify the heatsink and I will post pics
  22. NoNig macrumors newbie

    Mar 2, 2014
    What's the status on heat and power usage?

    Quick question, supid perhaps, but: Why would you mod the heatsink?

    BTW: Thanks a bunch for your feedback. It's much appreciated, very much indeed :)
  23. GMacUser macrumors newbie

    Feb 26, 2014
    UPDATE/Random Info

    I discovered my card is this exact Clevo: http://www.techpowerup.com/vgabios/128829/clevo-gtx680m-4096-120530.html

    Getting the card to work in Windows was a huge pain because of the way NVIDIA controls drivers for laptop cards, a modified INF file was needed for the install, google helped.

    I flashed the card with slv7's modified vBios and I am running slightly overclocked at 758/1800.

    3D Mark Cloud Gate: http://www.3dmark.com/3dm/2792191

    idle temps are at around 50 degrees.

    Running Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn in Windows 8.1 Bootcamp at max settings 1080p/60fps -- temps max out at about 82 degrees Celsius with a 4500 rpm fan setting via SMC fan control.

    I did not have any thermal pads (only paste) during installation so I am going to "modify" the heat sink with copper shims and/or thermal pads so the card can run at a lower fan speed setting (its a little loud).

    I made further modifications to the HDD by un pinning it and taping it down. This is not necessary.

    If you plan on doing this make sure you don't give up; a black screen doesn't mean ****. I did whatever I could to get into my computer to install the drivers I had a black screen the entire time i was trying to get the drivers to install-- through remote desktop on my iPad. For OSX I often times had a black screen but the second screen always works.

    The Nvidia drivers are not as stable as the OSX drivers.

    For me, the iMac built in display will only work if I select Mac as the startup disk from bootcamp, shutdown (not restart) and then turn the computer back on. There's a bunch of little work arounds like that that aren't a problem with the SSD + i7 boot times. I have yet to find a major bug most things are minor and are fixed with a reset. Once the drivers are configured, windows will become your best friend as it has the most stable and bug free drivers for booting with the card.

    I was actually forced to flash the card with modified bios because the card was behaving like it was on battery power (laptop throttling) and was stick at 135mhz/400mhz.

    The most important thing with flashing is you need to be 100% certain what the model of your card and vBios version is and only flash with the exact corresponding modified vBios. Don't flash a Clevo with an MSI vBios rom... It's not worth the risk of bricking your new card.

    I use system preferences and bootcamp control panel to change my start up disk.

    Overall, I am very pleased with the upgrade but I would not recommend it to anyone who isn't comfortable doing there own research and problem solving on their own. There are a lot of things that can go wrong and they are not very well documented so you need to use your noodle.

    Luckily Mac OSX works right away and most trouble is with windows. The best sources of trouble shooting info are Alienware and gaming laptop communities and overclocking/mod forums as they have the most relevant hardware.

    Hope this helps.

    Attached Files:

    • 680M.png
      File size:
      163.8 KB
  24. NoNig macrumors newbie

    Mar 2, 2014
  25. GMacUser macrumors newbie

    Feb 26, 2014
    Anytime man good luck.

    Let me know if you decide to upgrade

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