Continue to update oMP 3,1 with 5870, etc?

Discussion in 'Mac Pro' started by Ph.D., Jul 8, 2014.

  1. Ph.D., Jul 8, 2014
    Last edited: Jul 8, 2014

    Ph.D. macrumors 6502

    Jul 8, 2014
    Dear members,

    I have a "late 2008" (3,1) eight-core 2.8GHz Mac Pro. Of course, it is showing a bit of age now, but it has been very reliable and is still a strong computer. At present, it is equipped with:

    * 5770 graphics card (not too bad).
    * 12 GB memory (it's been fine).
    * 1 TB solid state memory configured in software RAID 0 via two of the normal drive bays (2x 500G disks). A third hard drive is used as backup via time-machine. (SATA-II has its limits even with RAID.)

    I can afford a new Mac Pro if I wanted, but I don't do video (which seems to be the new pro's real forte). Photoshop, writing, occasional games and general stuff is the majority of my use. It seems like the $6,000 I'd probably spend on a new Mac Pro is overkill. An iMac would probably be an acceptable alternative, though I'd wind up with a fully-loaded one costing close to $4,000, and something about that doesn't sit quite right with me.

    Instead, I'm considering the following:

    * Swapping the 5770 with a 5870. This would likely gain 50-100% in speed for the occasional game I play, albeit at an abysmal cost/benefit ratio. I understand that I could get something faster and with more memory flashed, etc., but from what I see on Netkas, I'd rather not mess around with this very much. I definitely don't want to add a secondary power source or push the existing one, by the way.
    * Adding a 1TB SSD, e.g. an 840 Evo via an Apricorn Velocity X2. This will be 50-100% faster than my software Raid disk.

    Between the two, I'd be out about $1,000. I think they ought to extend the life of the machine by maybe 18 months (not that it's a need, just a want). So, my questions:

    * Am I foolish to trade my 5770 for an expensive yet obsolete 5870 for that extra 50-100% performance? I note that, aside from the difference in memory (quite a bit), it's not that much slower than a Sapphire 5970, which is now also discontinued, and has already reported trouble working on 3,1's. New genuine Apple 5870's are hard to find now, but they are the fastest Apple-blessed "enthusiast" cards, and I have one on tap.
    * The SSD-on-a-card seems a no-brainer; bootable on a 3,1, etc. I guess there are better solutions coming down the road, but this ought to be a welcome addition.

    Of course, the counter-argument is that it's time-enough to let the above machine go and move on. It's in great shape, I even have the original box, etc., and so I could put its value plus the above cash towards something new. Well, a third of something new, anyway. :)

  2. NOTNlCE macrumors 6502a


    Oct 11, 2013
    DMV Area
    I think the most noticeable will be the PCIe SSDs. I'm sure your RAID is much faster than any spinner, but the PCIe SSD has made a world of a difference on my machine, let alone having them in RAID. I have a Solo x1 with an 840 SSD and a 1TB Black as a Fusion Drive, and I will never go back.
  3. Killerbob macrumors 6502a

    Jan 25, 2008
    Having been down that exact road myself, I opted for;

    - A 960GB Accelsior card
    - 32GB RAM
    - A flashed PC EVGA GtX680 SuperClocked videocard

    What a difference that made on the oMP3,1...
  4. Korican100 macrumors 6502a


    Oct 9, 2012
    where did you get your gtx680 flashed?
  5. Killerbob macrumors 6502a

    Jan 25, 2008
    I picked up the software from these forums, and did it myself. Takes 10 min., and any fool can do it. Hard to do wrong actually.

    Means you have a boot screen (grey w. Apple logo), before the graphics driver takes over. No effect really on performance.
  6. guochenyesa macrumors newbie

    Jul 13, 2014
    you are right,before the graphics driver takes over. No effect really on performance. thanks[​IMG]
  7. NOTNlCE macrumors 6502a


    Oct 11, 2013
    DMV Area
    I think we all need to know which version of OS X the OP is running - for example, if for whatever reason he is stuck on Snow Leopard or Lion, the GTX 680 will not work, as it does not have drivers.
  8. Ph.D. thread starter macrumors 6502

    Jul 8, 2014
    Hello and thank you for the responses.

    I'm using Mavericks, and would expect to update that to Yosemite sometime after it becomes available.

    The problem I see with alternate (PC-based) graphics cards is that the ones that seemed easy to flash (7950's, or the GTX 680 that was discussed, for example) are discontinued. The newer generations seem to be more problematic (i.e., because Nvidia and AMD are not producing mac-compatible versions from which to start with). Also, the independent work on flashing newer cards seems to be focused on the highest-end cards that may require additional power supply support, etc.

    If there was a simple, obvious choice that had 2x6-pin supplies (or equivalently-low power demands), native mini-displayport ports that work out of the box (not regular display ports - I am already using a long extension cable and don't want to add another adapter), guaranteed to work with Yosemite (one hopes), does not require flashing except to obtain the boot-screen, etc., I'd go that route.

    My take on the whole alternate card scene is that it is currently rather chaotic and uncertain. It's probably the biggest weakness in keeping oMP's going in the future, at least unless "real" manufacturers (Sapphire, etc.) step up and produce new products that are compatible out of the box. This seems unlikely.

    Fast storage via PCIe and even USB-3 seems to be relatively easy for 3,1's and later at least, but the lack of solid graphics card options going forward feels very discouraging.
  9. Boomhowler macrumors 6502

    Feb 23, 2008
    For your work I would suggest that you don't buy a PCIe SSD. The 2.5" drives have fewer problems and are actually faster for some work. The Accelsior I have has worked great but with some hiccups when using boot camp for example. The Samsung/Sandisk 2.5" SSDs I have are slower in peak data-rate but as quick (and sometimes quicker) for small files and OS-stuff and if you really need the maximum bandwidth you can use a Raid0 as you are already doing.

    For the same money as a PCI drive you can get ~50% more storage in a 2.5" drive. Choose any "pro" Samsung drive or a Sandisk Extreme II which is a very durable drive that will last longer than your Mac Pro :)

    I use a non-flashed 680 that works awesomely with my Mavericks Mac Pro 3.1. Just a "normal" Zotac 4GB 680 card with two 6-pin power plugs.
  10. Ph.D. thread starter macrumors 6502

    Jul 8, 2014
    By "PCIe" I meant "PCI-Express," the slot format for the 3,1 machines. Indeed, I was imagining going with a standard 2.5" SSD such as the Samsung 840 EVO or better, on a card such as the Apricorn X2. This would be much faster than a SSD in the normal drive bays, even in RAID-0.

    Unfortunately, PC 680's are obsolete and seem to be no longer available except used. The Mac-edition one is still available, but at a crazy price. It's irritating, but despite being a "Mac" version, it uses display port instead of mini-display-port.
  11. flowrider macrumors 603


    Nov 23, 2012

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