Advice for gaming on a 5.1 Mac Pro? (Six core)

Discussion in 'Mac Pro' started by LMR80, Jul 1, 2016.

  1. LMR80 macrumors member

    Joined:
    Jul 1, 2016
    #1
    Hi,

    I've been looking into the idea of using my Mac Pro as a gaming platform.
    It's the 2009 model, and I've upgraded the firmware from 4.1 to 5.1, and also upgraded the CPU from a quad core to a six core setup since I bought it.

    I was wanting to build a gaming PC initially, but then with the ability to use Windows with boot camp and the countless people I've seen on this site throwing some really beefy cards in there (albeit the ones with a higher CPU count) I thought I'd rather use my Mac.

    I've seen a lot of cards used, but I was wondering if anyone had any advice on which would be recomended.
    I'd presume given the rest of the specs with the six core that there's a point where a more powerful card is overkill, so I was wondering what's the most powerful card you could put in there to maximise performance?

    I was thinking GTX 970?

    Thanks a bunch
     
  2. Mikael H macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Sep 3, 2014
    #2
    Gaming is usually mostly GPU driven unless you're really hardcore about your gaming. Get a good graphics card (I'm not the right person to advice you when it comes to the Mac Pro) and invest in SSD storage and at least 8 GB of RAM if you don't already have it. 6 CPU cores won't be a limiting factor, but clock speed could be, at least in a while.
     
  3. ActionableMango macrumors 604

    ActionableMango

    Joined:
    Sep 21, 2010
    #3
    You don't mention a budget. The most powerful card you could put in there that supports Windows and OS X is the Titan X.

    The GTX 1080 pulls past that, but there is no OS X support yet.
     
  4. h9826790 macrumors 604

    h9826790

    Joined:
    Apr 3, 2014
    Location:
    Hong Kong
    #4
    It depends on few parameters.

    One of the factor is the display resolution. If you want 4K, then a single 970 may not good enough for max setting 60FPS in modern games.

    For gaming, you want the highest clock speed CPU, but not more cores. There are only few games can use more then 4 cores now. 6 is more then enough. However, clock speed does matter.

    Some games a very GPU intensive. For those games, may be even a TitanX can be pushed to 100% if your setting is high enough.

    On the other hand, some games are CPU intensive. For those games, cMP can't even beat the iMac. And even though you lower the resolution, the FPS may be still limited by the CPU single core performance.

    In general, the 970 should be good enough for normal gamer. And this card also work in OSX (after web driver installed). But if you don't want to deal with the web driver (only black screen avail before the web driver correctly install and selected. And this may cause issue when OS upgrade). Then the best gaming card may become the 680 4G. It has native support in OSX. And perform quite well in most of the game at 1080P.

    I personally on the other route. Because I want more performance for FCPX, and I need natively supported GPU to avoid trouble (I share use the cMP with my wife). So, I go for the mutual GPU setup. If you click the "crossfire" in my signature. You can see my dual 7950 setup. Which of course good enough for most of the game. However, crossfire gaming will greatly increase the chance of having shuttering etc. If you check the driver's release notes of both AMD and Nvidia, you can see lots of issues about multi GPU setup. And quite a few games need 3-4 patch to fix the crossfire issue.

    So far, I am happy with this. The setup can be relatively cheap. $300 is more then enough to get 2x 7950 in my town (new card). The card can be flashed to give me boot screen. Crossfire 7950 is good enough for 4K gaming. And it gives me very good FCPX performance. Of course, this system is getting old now. 3G effective VRAM is not good for modern games. Hopefully there is some magic in 10.12 (final version) which allow us to use some new GPU natively. Then I can go for a pair of RX480 (if it won't burn my PCIe slots), and keep my 7950 in the box in case I need the boot screen.
     
  5. SoyCapitanSoyCapitan macrumors 68040

    SoyCapitanSoyCapitan

    Joined:
    Jul 4, 2015
    #5
    Problem is the best Maxwell cards perform the same as good Kepler cards on a Mac until the drivers mature and OSX has a decent mainstream API.

    Look at this. Same hardware, same computer. Same games. Only the OS and API was different.

    barefeats.com/razer_core.html

    So use Windows.
     
  6. LMR80 thread starter macrumors member

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    Jul 1, 2016
    #6
    Thanks for the tips, good idea on the SSD; I didn't think of that.

    Clock speed for the CPU is 3.33ghz
    --- Post Merged, Jul 1, 2016 ---
    I didn't, sorry about that.
    Reason being, I just wanted to know what sort of power you could get out of the machine and then decide from there.
    I'd be willing to spend up to £300/$400 on the GPU.
     
  7. h9826790 macrumors 604

    h9826790

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    Apr 3, 2014
    Location:
    Hong Kong
    #7
    SSD may help the loading time, but not much help inside the game. Of course, if money is not an issue, it's better to run games from a SSD. Or at least put a SSD that's big enough to store Windows + 1 big AAA game (the game you actively play in that period of time) + some free space as buffer. And store the rest of the stuff on a HDD.
     
  8. LMR80 thread starter macrumors member

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    Jul 1, 2016
    #8
    Thanks for the reply.

    Well, I don't own a 4K monitor or television at the moment.
    In the future, though, I presume that will change as 4K becomes more of a standard and everyone moves over to it, so I suppose that's something to think about.
    You mentioned the prospect of having only one 970 in there would be a limiting factor now.
    Does the Mac Pro support a dual GPU setup, then?
    If I was able to put another 970 in there if it became really limiting that would be fine (might be way off with that so please excuse my naivety on the subject)

    I'll check out the 680 also.
    --- Post Merged, Jul 1, 2016 ---

    Interesting, thanks for the link
    --- Post Merged, Jul 1, 2016 ---
    Understood, thanks for the tips. I'll bare that in mind
     
  9. scott.n macrumors 6502

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    Dec 17, 2010
    #9
    I'd buy an Xbox or PlayStation instead of trying to turn a seven-year-old workstation into a gaming machine.
     
  10. h9826790 macrumors 604

    h9826790

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    #10
    Yes, It's totally possible to SLI 2 970 in a cMP. My 7950 has much higher TDP than the 970, I can still crossfire them with just the internal power (without any PSU mod). Of course, then will push the 6pins power supply to the limit (or even exceed the official limit a little bit), but my experience told me that the 6pins in a 4,1 can deliver 90+W continuously (official limit 75W) without any problem (I did that for more than 2 years already). The shut down protection kicks in at about 120W, and I don't think a single 970 will draw anything close to that (assuming standard clock).
    --- Post Merged, Jul 1, 2016 ---
    I am looking for the XB Scorpio, 6 TFLOPS of processing power, that's a dream console. I was considering building a gaming PC. And after this news, I will simply wait. I enjoy the console more in general, because it's painless, just plug and play. No need to deal with driver, setting, crashes.... But the graphic quality in consoles is so fall behind. So, I still play games on my 4,1 if I really want some good graphics. Hopefully the Scorpio can have both advantages, then I will be a super happy gamer.
     
  11. LMR80 thread starter macrumors member

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    Jul 1, 2016
    #11
    True, but I prefer the PC as a platform nowadays.
    as far as I'm aware, all the new Xbox games from now on are going to be cross platform with Windows 10, so if I can put a decent card in my Mac, use Windows in boot camp and play the same games on the Xbox I'd rather do that.
    That way you have access to the the entire PC library and the ability to upgrade.
    No Sony exclusives have interested me much yet so not much point for me to buy a PlayStation.

    The 5.1 Mac Pro might be an aging machine, but the consoles are certainly behind the curb too power wise.
    --- Post Merged, Jul 1, 2016 ---
    Great, thanks for the info. That's good news.

    And yeah, the Scorpio does look interesting; not allot of information on it at the moment, though. So who knows how it will really perform or what the price will be.

    I still find it odd that all the Microsoft games are coming to Windows also.
    Doesn't that kind of negate any benifit of having an Xbox?
    Surely the exclusive games are what is meant to sell the system.
    If you could get them on an ultimately more future proof and more versatile and powerful platform, I'd go with the PC.
     
  12. Shamgar macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Jun 28, 2015
    #12
    I also have a 3.33 GHz Mac Pro that I game on. The processor is still a beast, but somewhat dated in the single-thread performance. It's good enough to drive any modern game, but it's not as smooth as a more current processor. I splurged on a GTX 980 Ti, and sometimes it's overkill and sometimes it's struggling to push 60 frames. On my 4k monitor, it's just good enough. On my 1080p TV, it's usually overkill, but it was at its limit driving Rise of the Tomb Raider with the settings turned up.

    If you play at 1080p, the GTX 970 will give a good framerate on high settings for just about everything. So it's a solid choice. If you play at 1440p, or want to really drive cutting edge games, the GTX 980 will currently fit in your budget. The GTX 1070 is pretty close as well to your budget, so you could try waiting to see if Nvidia puts out OS X drivers for those.
     
  13. LMR80 thread starter macrumors member

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    Jul 1, 2016
    #13
    Interesting, thanks for the response.
    Yeah, the W3680 is a nice CPU. I bought my Mac for music production, and when you have a full stack of high fidelity orchestral samples that are 4 to 5 gbs per patch, I've noticed a big difference from the quad core to the six core.
    But yes, that's the sort of thing it's made for rather than gaming, but it's good to know it performs pretty well in that area and won't bottle neck the system straight away.

    At the moment I'll definitely be gaming 1080p as I don't have a 4K setup, but as I said, that will likely change as 4K becomes the new norm - 4K TVs hate already come down allot.

    I'll check out the 980 and the 1070, thanks for the tips.
     
  14. frou macrumors regular

    frou

    Joined:
    Mar 14, 2009
    #14
    If you're in the optimising mindset, remember that the W3680 runs best with a triple-channel RAM arrangement (e.g. 3x8GB modules in slots 1-3 and slot 4 empty). Whether increased bandwidth vs decreased capacity is a tradeoff worth making is another question.
     
  15. LMR80 thread starter macrumors member

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    Jul 1, 2016
    #15
    Thanks for the tips.
    to get the best performance as far as bandwidth, does it have to be three modules of the same size? Or can you have say, two 16gb sticks and one 8gb? Or would you have to have all 16gb sticks for you were going to do that.
    As far as I'm aware, the six core Mac Pro only supports up to 42gb (I think) unofficially.
     
  16. frou macrumors regular

    frou

    Joined:
    Mar 14, 2009
    #16
    Not sure about that, but someone else will know. Though, I'm fairly sure the max RAM with W36xx is 50-something GB.

    It was my experience that there wasn't available an accurate indication of whether triple-channel mode was "properly engaged" (don't know where to look in OS X, and in Windows, CPU-Z seemed to report what the HW was capable of rather than how it was currently operating). BUT: The score that comes out of Geekbench will show a clear difference.

    I used the phrase "optimising mindset" in my previous post because, to be honest, I think pursuing triple-channel operation on the 5,1 is mostly tech-geeking with minimal benefit in real-world applications.

    (Guilty as charged) :)
     
  17. h9826790 macrumors 604

    h9826790

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    #17
    Max at 56G (16Gx3 + 8G).

    For best performance in gaming (assuming RAM size is not a limiting factor), should use 3 identical RAM stick.

    However, TBH, I don't think that even make 1FPS difference.
     
  18. SoyCapitanSoyCapitan macrumors 68040

    SoyCapitanSoyCapitan

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    #18
  19. h9826790 macrumors 604

    h9826790

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    #19
    No, I mean as long as RAM size is not a limiting factor, optimise for triple channel can hardly make 1FPS difference.
     
  20. SoyCapitanSoyCapitan macrumors 68040

    SoyCapitanSoyCapitan

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    #20
    That's true too. All these tiny tricks, firmwares, and single percent optimisations are for people with money to burn.
     
  21. LMR80 thread starter macrumors member

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    Jul 1, 2016
    #21
    Haha, I understand.
    Thanks for the post.
    --- Post Merged, Jul 3, 2016 ---
    Yeah, I presumed it would be negligible.
    How much ram can games generally utilise these days anyhow?

    Thanks
    --- Post Merged, Jul 3, 2016 ---
    Interesting on those ram tests.
    I knew lots of ram isn't required yet for gaming but I didn't realise the differences were that small.

    Cheers.
     
  22. fuchsdh macrumors 6502a

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    Jun 19, 2014
    #22
    The machine in my sig runs well playing Dota 2, BioShock Infinite, StarCraft II, modded Minecraft w/shaders and the like that I run it through... if you want a Nvidia solution as people have said the 970 is a decent pick for perf/efficiency/cost. I've been gaming at >1080p<1440p resolutions on my 4K Dell display because it's best for my desktop real estate, and I can still get good frame rates doing so.
     
  23. LMR80 thread starter macrumors member

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    Jul 1, 2016
    #23
    Interesting, thanks for the post.
    I checked out the 7950 a few months ago and it seems like a decent card.
    I would be interested to see what sort of performance the 1070 puts out when the drivers come out also.
     
  24. Inutopia macrumors 6502

    Inutopia

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    #24
    Get a 970, you'll be good for all current games at 1440p.
     
  25. n8mac macrumors 6502

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    Jun 25, 2006
    Location:
    Ohio
    #25
    I have a Mac Pro 5,1 also (2.8 quad). Looking to game but with a budget of up to $200. The main game I want highly recommends 4gb of ram and runs 15% faster on nvidia vs equivalent amd card. Screen res is 1920x1080. Recommends? Is this doable?
     

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