Current Mac Pro & Graphics "Upgradeability"

Discussion in 'Mac Pro' started by frick, Jan 29, 2008.

  1. frick macrumors member

    May 16, 2006
    <Before you start reading: I intend to use the Mac Pro for both scientific work as well as a little bit of gaming in bootcamp - and am of the opinion that a $2500+ computer using industry-standard hardware should allow me to do both of these things. If you disagree with this, you should probably ignore this thread -- please do not reply claiming that I am outside of Apple's "intended market" for the Mac Pro, because I'm a big fan of OS X like most everyone else here is and would really prefer to avoid the abomination otherwise known as Vista. The Mac Pro is my only option.>

    So I'm looking to buy a new Mac Pro in anticipation of the start of gradschool in the fall, and I'm wondering what everyone's opinion is on the possibility of upgrading the GPU when the "next" (Nehalem?) Mac Pro is released. After the whole 8800GT/2006 Mac Pro debacle, I'm honestly a little put off -- whether Apple deliberately crippled the 8800GT to prevent it from being used in older boxes or they made the egregious mistake of not testing it in them, the fact remains that Apple has shown very little commitment to keeping the Mac Pro "up to date" with regards to its graphical processing power. This is particularly important to me given that Apple always seems to be in an unfortunate position with regards to when they release Mac Pro updates -- the 8800GT is already 1+ yr old hardware (G92 is essentially the same as G80), and an entirely new architecture will likely be out in the next few months. It is essential to me that I be able to upgrade the graphics hardware at least once in the life of the Mac Pro, as CPU's are having increasingly long lifetimes nowadays and it is more likely the GPU will be the limiting factor in the box, given my intended uses for it.

    I admittedly don't know a lot about the issues surrounding video hardware and Mac Pro compatibility, but after doing a little reading, it looks like the problems with the 8800GT and the old Mac Pro arose from the fact that the old Mac Pro uses a 32-bit EFI interface while the EFI firmware on the 2008 Mac Pro is 64-bit (with the 8800GT being 64-bit as well). I'm assuming that with the upgrade to 64-bit EFI this will not be an issue with new video hardware that is released in the future, as this spec is brand new and therefore should be around for awhile. In addition, the new Mac Pro has added compatibility with the PCIe 2.0 specification, which also was just "released" and which future cards will likely end up using for the next few years. Given these two changes to the new Mac Pro (64-bit EFI and PCIe 2.0), is there any legitimate (i.e., hardware) reason why video cards coming out 1-2 years from now will not be able to run on this machine? Is there any major component of the machine's hardware that is bordering on obsolescence and which, when upgraded, will break compatibility with future video hardware? I don't really see any potential hardware/software issues myself, but I was obviously totally unaware that the "64-bitness" of the EFI firmware on a new card could break compatibility with what was marketed as a 64-bit workstation (2006 Mac Pro). Is there anyone out there with more knowledge than me who could answer this question?
  2. dralbertqnixon macrumors newbie

    Feb 15, 2007
    I've not heard any debacle whatsoever. But:

    Apple has always been extremely half-assed with the graphics in their pro-line. I contemplated buying the Quad G5 and from its release to the announcement of the Intel line and it had maybe one graphic upgrade. It sucks, but there's really nothing one can do about it. It's just how Apple rolls. Search the archives of any Mac site (I used to post on MacAddict) for 2005 and people will be complaining about how Apple upgraded from PCI-X to PCI-E in their G5s. Aside maybe 1 more upgrade, PCI-X was dead.

    Now, I can see things going in one of two ways:

    1. The "ipod effect" way: The pro-line will get more attention (From 3rd parties or Apple themselves) because of the massive penetration Apple is giving other markets.
    2. The "historical" way: Things will stay the same as they always have.

    I own a 2006 pro and I'm almost certain that I'll be able to upgrade my graphics card somewhat in the near future. It's just a matter of waiting for it to happen.

    On another note: Have the 8800GT-equipped Mac Pros even shipped yet? You make it seem people are ready to storm apple - pitchforks and torches in hand over this 8800GT thing.
  3. dralbertqnixon macrumors newbie

    Feb 15, 2007
    Food for thought: People ran the 8800GT in windows only on the 2006 mac pro in like feb. last year with a bit of hacking.

    My post was reflecting apple shipped cards.
  4. jemo07 macrumors regular

    May 6, 2006
    Madrid, Spain
    What? Your no going? :eek::D

    I am waiting fot the 8800 also, but no I am not ready to burn any corporation... just jet! Apple gives voice... give us choice! hehehehe:D
  5. caeneal macrumors member

    Aug 20, 2007
    I think all of this drama about the 8800 not working in the earlier mac pro's is a bit overdone. First of all, the card isn't even shipping yet. It isn't working, therefore, even in the early 2008 mac pros.

    I'd imagine that at some point soon the card will be compatible with earlier mac pros. i'm also willing to bet that if all you want to do is upgrade your graphics card once every two years lifetime of your system, that you'll be able to do so.

    If you're comfortable with a bit of hacking and firmware-flashing, then you should be able to upgrade even more regularly.
  6. dralbertqnixon macrumors newbie

    Feb 15, 2007
    I'm trying to burn my pitchfork, but my 1900xt is too damn slow to render it. You're totally right..."Apple gives us voice...give us choice!" Quite a good slogan.
  7. Sun Baked macrumors G5

    Sun Baked

    May 19, 2002
    If you want a decent card, keep yelling and screaming about the consumer gaming tower.

    Because face it, the current workstations do not have enough volume to keep two HW vendors shipping retail GPU upgrades for them.

    Until Apple releases the gaming machine people dream of, it seems like Preparation H will be needed for your shattered GPU dreams.
  8. OnePumpChump macrumors regular


    Nov 19, 2007
    Cleveland, OH

    Oh wait, you didn't hear, the macpro is for the ultimate gamer, at least according to :apple:.

    It even says that I can rule the world :rolleyes:! Woo hoo!
  9. dralbertqnixon macrumors newbie

    Feb 15, 2007
    #9 my first post in this thread.
  10. dralbertqnixon macrumors newbie

    Feb 15, 2007
    The OP posted a well written coherent post asking about some technical details about a graphics card.

    If you have anything to say about such technical details...say them, otherwise, stop being such a goofball. You accused me of wanting an apple gaming machine based off one post. Read my first post in this thread...its obvious you didn't read it. Otherwise I'd bet you would be ripping me on my apparent reg date on MacAddict. By the way...its 2003.
  11. JesterDev macrumors newbie

    Jan 27, 2008
    To be perfectly honest I am still rather new to macs myself, however I have read threads similar to what caeneal has posted earlier on. If you want to upgrade your graphics card down the line for gaming under bootcamp it does not seem all that hard to accomplish. In theory if the Mac Pro is able to run on Mac hardware as if it was a more traditional "PC" with little to no issues then it should be able to detect a windows based graphics card installed along side your 8800GT. The only matter of any trouble would be to have a second screen, or to switch ports upon booting to windows. (Keep in mind that the Mac Pro only has 1 PCIE 2.0 slot!)

    With this is mind there really is no need to be concerned as to whether or not Apple will keep up with the latest in gaming. That is unless you have issues with buying a new video card and or screen.

    Currently I don't think that you have to worry about the 8800GT becoming obsolete anytime soon even if a newer and better card comes along. From your post you don't seem to be one who craves being on the bleeding edge of technology when it comes to gaming - so you should be fine for at least a few years.

    Just my thoughts.

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