5870 to 7950: Would I really see any difference?

Discussion in 'Mac Pro' started by judino28, Mar 14, 2016.

  1. judino28, Mar 14, 2016
    Last edited: Mar 14, 2016

    judino28 macrumors member

    Jul 29, 2008
    I currently have an upgraded Eight Core Mac Pro 2,1 Dual 3.0ghz X5365 with 8gb Ram and a genuine Apple Radeon HD 5870 graphics card.

    I originally had the 512mb 1900xt which I upgraded to an Apple Radeon HD 5770 and then last summer upgraded again to the 5870. In all cases, I saw a noticeable increase in performance.

    Mainly, in terms of graphics useage, I've been playing GTA V and a few other games on Windows 7 Ultimate 64 bit in Boot Camp. It runs very well considering the age of my Mac Pro, hitting a very playable 30fps 85-90% of the time, and only dropping to about 22-25fps in very demanding locations at 1680x1050 resolution.

    I've always been tempted to upgrade to a flashed 7950, especially for the 3gb VRAM since GTA V easily maxes out the 5870's 1gb. I've done a lot of research but I can't really find any definitive answers: Would I see an improvement in terms of being able to, at the very least, keep my current FPS performance yet being able to load higher quality textures and such due to the increased VRAM if I were to upgrade at some point or have I reached my limit?

    I figure that I've got to be CPU bottlenecked at some point, but I rarely see that thought up. And, from what info and comparisons I can find, there seem to be conflicting reports regarding if the PCIe 1.0 of my Mac Pro truly causes a bottleneck in these cases as many still see some improvements (at least in benchmarks) when using newer cards, but there isn't much real world useage info that I can find.

    Anyway, sorry for such a long post. Any insights would be most appreciated!
  2. h9826790 macrumors G4


    Apr 3, 2014
    Hong Kong
    For gaming, yes, you should see the difference. Even though you are already CPU limiting (not saying that you are, but assuming the worst case), the 3G VRAM still make huge difference on modern game. 3G is not much nowadays, just barely able to run some game at medium texture. 1G may not even enough to run some game at normal setting.

    GTA V sure can fully utilise all 3G VRAM. I tried that on my Mac (Windows 10).

    PCIe 1.0 is no big deal, I have my 2nd 7950 in a PCIe 2.0 x4 slot, overall bandwidth just equals to PCIe 1.0 x8. But the performance penalty (for real world usage and most benchmark) is less than 5% (only few specific benchmark can show huge difference (e.g. 30%)

    I have 2x 7950 now, so it's absolutely no problem to run GTA V at constant 60FPS (2560x1440) with some high demanding effects turned on. I am pretty sure even a single 7950, if you do the setting right, it can gives out pretty good picture at ~60FPS (1080P, and if you are not CPU limiting).
  3. judino28 thread starter macrumors member

    Jul 29, 2008
    Hmm, interesting, so you really think that I can still get some better graphics performance out of this old rig, even though it's a Mac Pro 2,1 (originally a 1,1)?

    Part of me hates to put more money into it, especially if I've hit my performance wall. At the same time, it's really fun squeezing every last drop of performance out of this amazing almost 10 year old machine, which still handles everything I need it to do and feels up to par to today's standards. I've got four hard drives in there with an SSD boot drive running Mavericks on the OSX side, which I know I can upgrade to Yosemite or El Capitan if I ever really want to, though I have El Capitan on my MBP mid-2012 2.7 i7 Antiglare, so I just use that if I have anything that requires it, though the majority of the time, I still use the trusty Mac Pro.

    Any other thoughts or experiences out there?
  4. phillyboy82 macrumors regular


    Oct 27, 2015
    Not from Philly
    For gaming? Absolutely, without a doubt. Not quite double the performance but very close to it:


    You probably wouldn't see that much of a gain due to the slower processors that are in a 2,1 but I would still expect a nice speed bump nonetheless.
  5. judino28 thread starter macrumors member

    Jul 29, 2008
    Thanks for the insights, phillyboy! There doesn't seem to be much data regarding these cards, specifically the 7950, in a Mac Pro 2,1, probably since none of these newer cards are officially supported and people figure that they will be limited by the PCIe 1.0 (and possibly the older CPUs). But, from the little data I can find, the upgrade from a 5870 to a 7950 in these older models doesn't seem to result in much (though there is a tiny bit) of a performance increase in benchmarks and graphics/video apps. Yet, I see other people putting in even newer cards than the 7950 so there must be some real benefit.

    The data for games running in BootCamp is definitely lacking and from the replies so far, the consensus seems that, all other things being equal, the extra VRAM alone would result in an increase in gaming performance. Hmm, I'm so torn, haha!

    Any other thoughts or experiences? I'm sure that there are others on the forum in a similar predicament as mine, namely, wanting to squeeze every last bit of performance out of these old Mac Pros but not wanting to make the investment if it wont result in any real world difference, especially since the price of a flashed 7950 (sometimes even an unflashed one) is almost as much or more than these Mac Pros are selling for these days.
  6. ActionableMango macrumors G3


    Sep 21, 2010
    Certain upgrades, like CPUs or memory, are basically "trapped" in that computer. But a 7950 is just a PCIe card, it could always be moved to a newer model Mac Pro if you get one in the future. So it's not really a waste to put it in your 2006. Your hard drives and SSD too.
  7. Flint Ironstag macrumors 6502a

    Flint Ironstag

    Dec 1, 2013
    Houston, TX USA
    Anecdotal evidence only; I didn't run many benchmarks with my maxed 3,1 with 7970, but it was a decent box. I went from a 1,1 with 5770 to the 3,1 with 7970. Massive improvement in games (mainly WoW, Deus Ex, and Bio Shock). Recently got a 6,1 with d700s and I am underwhelmed by the gaming performance (crossfire in boot camp rocks, but I don't have time to boot into windows 10). Compute performance on the other hand is quite good considering what a small package the new mac pro is.

    It looks like you have the slots available, so I would do this:

    - buy a 7970
    - move the 5770 to another slot and hook it up to a secondary monitor
    - use a drive bay to power the 7970

    Sounds like you're going into this well-informed, so you know you won't be able to run the latest eye candy maxed out. For $100, it's hard to beat a 7970. PCIE 1.0 will not materially affect your gaming experience.

    Have fun with your build!
  8. MacStu09 macrumors regular

    Aug 27, 2009
    5870 has become almost worthless for anything graphics related; editing a 1080p After Effects composition is nearly impossible. Definitely worth it to upgrade to a 7950. I upgraded from a 5870 to 3gb 7950 a while back with a tremendous increase in performance. Although it was a 3,1 - I think you'll see a similar increase.

    I bought my 7950 for around ~$65 used, and sold my "apple 5870" for $200. Definitely get rid of the overpriced apple card, replace it with something far better, and walk away with some profit. If you want two cards, you can literally buy a 7950, another 5870, and still have profit after selling the "apple" 5870. It's crazy that some people still pay the insane premium for those cards.
  9. judino28 thread starter macrumors member

    Jul 29, 2008
    Just an update to let you all know that I got a brand new flashed 7950 off of eBay and installed it this weekend. I can believe how much better this thing performs when compared to the 5870 even in my almost 10 year old machine. I'm seeing huge improvements in BootCamp gaming and my Unigen Heaven score doubled. It's great knowing that I have a "modern" graphics card that should keep this old Mac Pro perfect for my use for at least a couple of more years.

    Thank you all for your help and insights last week!

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