End of the line for discrete graphics cards on Macs?

Discussion in 'Mac Pro' started by Demigod Mac, Jul 11, 2013.

  1. Demigod Mac macrumors 6502a

    Apr 25, 2008
    For now we can slap in a GeForce Titan in non 6,1 Mac Pros if we want... but what happens 5-10+ years from now when many old Mac Pro models are phased out and most active production Macs have irreplaceable graphics chips and the only way to install a discrete card is via a Thunderbolt expansion chassis (which is way slower than a PCIe slot)? Is this enough to keep the market alive or will nVidia and AMD stop producing drivers that support discrete graphics cards?

    Really hoping Apple eventually modifies the new Mac Pro design in future models to allow for a PCIe card or two, perhaps a slot in the center of the core? Not holding my breath, though.
  2. mBox, Jul 11, 2013
    Last edited: Jul 11, 2013

    mBox macrumors 68020

    Jun 26, 2002
    Live in the now :)

    I go back as far as Motorola/386 chips.

    Things change my friend, go with the flow.
  3. Tesselator macrumors 601


    Jan 9, 2008
    ^^ I agree. Go with the flow!

    In 5 to 10 years PCIe will not exist for any kind of main-stream new technology device. There might still be some systems which support it out of a matter consideration of legacy devices but it'll be all gone by then.

    I dunno the time-line but we are going to move first toward external cabled devices and then eventually to wireless proximity connected devices. Basically you will set your GPU on a surface and it will both be used by the main system and shared with any connected devices. Yes, like a GTX 780 on your iPhone or Galaxy Note! ;)

    What the transitions will look like and how long they will take are the only questions at this point. For home, small office, and boutique/studio computing the tower systems we're using now are pretty much already history - as intended by those capable and in a position to "shape" our future.
  4. Macsonic macrumors 65816


    Sep 6, 2009
    No one can foretell on the fate of graphic cards. There's also the PC market to be considered by the card makers. And the PC market is still large globally.
  5. Stetrain macrumors 68040

    Feb 6, 2009
    I think there will be a lot of improvements to external connection tech over the next 5-10 years. People want a lot of power in a notebook form factor these days, and that means developing technology like Thunderbolt.

    Thunderbolt was originally designed to be a super high bandwidth fiber optic based connection (look up videos about Intel Lightpeak). The first few versions are lagging behind PCI-E but I wouldn't be surprised to see that change over the next few years.
  6. tuxon86 macrumors 65816

    May 22, 2012
    Until TB gets more traction in the rest of the IT world I don't see it replacing PCIe soon. As it goes TB may end up being a new Firewire... A new niche market only connection.

    This is especially true for storage where TB really lag behind already usable and proven SAS for which you can get up to 24 drives enclosure. The biggest raid box I can find for TB is the overpriced Pegasus-6.

    Now don't get me wrong, I think TB is a good connector for the iMac since it permits daisychaining of devices thus resulting for a better installation and less cluter. But for high performance, i'll take internal PCIe and SAS over TB anytime.
  7. mBox macrumors 68020

    Jun 26, 2002
  8. Stetrain macrumors 68040

    Feb 6, 2009
    Maybe it won't be Thunderbolt, but in 10 years I'm sure there will be some kind of successful high-speed external interconnect.
  9. tuxon86 macrumors 65816

    May 22, 2012
    Oh yeah...


    10 years is an eternity in IT world...

    But then, why even bother with TB if you know that it isn't the right tool at the right price presently. There may well be a new tech in 10 years that will surpass PCIe and SAS but I bet TB won't be it. As it has been said many time by many poster around the net, TB is a solution looking for a problem.
  10. deconstruct60 macrumors 604

    Mar 10, 2009
    Still large now, but the "box with slots" market isn't exactly a growth market.


    legacy PC form factors ( laptops plus desktops ) is shrinking for the last 5 quarters. If the trend doesn't reverse in 4-5 years it isn't going to be large ( relative to personal computer usage of the then current form factors ) anymore.

    If the discrete graphics card market begins to be dominated by "replacement" cards ( new cards for stagnant infrastructure chassis) then the vastly smaller Mac discrete graphics card market would evaporate whether Apple shipped a box with slots or not.

    In short, the overall legacy PC market is in no shape to "save" discrete cards either.
  11. akm3 macrumors 68020

    Nov 15, 2007
    What can I do with my AGP graphics slot?! My Radeon died. :(


    Oh wow, I was trying to be facetious, but I googled and you can still buy them from Best Buy.

  12. Commy1 macrumors 6502a


    Feb 25, 2013
    It's already happened my friend, the next Mac Pro AKA the 'The Most Powerful Thermos In the World", is already at that point. I suspect, as with most things in the new Macs these days, everything will be glued, soldered or integrated together.
  13. deconstruct60 macrumors 604

    Mar 10, 2009
    The Mac Pro 2013 model does have replaceable graphics. The primary issue is whether there are enough folks who rapidly replace the graphics to make it a viable economic incentive to Apple to turn that on. If 90% of MP 2013 owners were up for replacing their custom GPU card in 2-3 years would Apple really pass that up?

    Thunder is not "way slower" than a PCIe slot. It is slower than a x16 slot but not particularly slower ( even more so with TB v2 ) than a x4 slot. In the current Mac Pro there are just as many x4 slots as x16. For a x1 PCIe slot TB ( both v1 and v2 ) is substantially faster.

    In so far as the drivers for desktop and mobile graphics are about the same that will continue. The GT680MX and GT675MX used in the iMac are really just substantially underclocked desktop graphics. The drivers aren't going to be that hugely different.

    The bigger blocker is that the older Mac Pros are off in a different world as far as EFI graphics tech goes. That isn't really a Mac or Apple thing. Older tech will fade from new graphics drivers regardless of what Apple does.

    Shouldn't. It is extremely unlikely they would destroy the effectiveness of their thermal solution just to put in card cage. The graphics card in the current design are removable so not really buying much in that wanton destruction.

    If cards can back it would be back into a new rectangular box. If "box with slots" suddenly became a 10-20% year-over-year product growth category in the next 4-10 years Apple probably would jump back into the market. The fact that it is been largely stagnant for 3-4 years points to that being highly unlikely.
  14. ActionableMango macrumors G3


    Sep 21, 2010
    The Mac Pro has been really blessed lately with so many graphics cards options becoming available. From AMD to Nvidia, from low end to high end, different memory capacities, different cooler methods, different manufacturers, and even choices across generations of chips.

    This richness of choice is coming to a complete halt and fans of the iTube don't seem to mind at all. They have much faith in Thunderbolt but I am very skeptical.
  15. rGiskard macrumors 68000


    Aug 9, 2012
    You will do as Apple intended: throw out your 3-4 year old $4000 Mac Pro and buy a new one. And you will like it!

    Brought to you by the Simple Answers To Simple Questions Department.
  16. voyagerd macrumors 65816


    Jun 30, 2002
    Rancho Cordova, CA
  17. rGiskard, Jul 11, 2013
    Last edited: Jul 11, 2013

    rGiskard macrumors 68000


    Aug 9, 2012
    Yes, the graphics cards are replaceable, as in, if they break, Apple can pull the bad card and install a new one. To my knowledge Apple Stores do not service parts that require the application of new thermal paste, but supposing they do it will cost a nice chunk of cash for labor. There is absolutely ZERO chance of Apple letting users upgrade a part that requires cleaning off old thermal grease and applying new, or even installing a part with it pre-applied.

    Will other companies manufacture video card upgrades? Consider how long it took them to introduce a handful of video cards for the Mac Pro tower - and that was with standard PC cards that simply required drivers and an EFI ROM. So now these companies are going to reverse engineer proprietary video cards for the iTrash market, for clueless users to install onto the iTrash's heatsink/thermal core? Please.

    If Apple wanted to leave the door open for possible future video card upgrades, they would have designed a Mac Pro with standard PCIe 3.0 slots. Instead they removed the PCIe and SATA connectors, designed everything around proprietary connectors that expressly prevent upgrading, and declared it innovative.

    It's innovative in the same way that selling printers at a loss and raping consumers on ink cartridges is innovative.
  18. deconstruct60 macrumors 604

    Mar 10, 2009
    It could be a service that 90% of the owners take to the shop to do every 2-3 years. If folks would pay for the service and the parts would Apple pass that up?

    The issue is that isn't 90% and most do not want to pay for the service.

    But if large enough pool of Mac Pro users ( with a track record of paying) never ask for the service, Apple is never going to deliver it.

    Again that isn't necessary. You are trying to duplicate the current mainstream model. That really isn't an option since these card would require tolerances and integration standards (e.g., have to use the internal thermal solution) that the mainstream model has no concept of.
  19. brand macrumors 601


    Oct 3, 2006
    Since the GPU on the new Mac Pro in not integrated it would be considered discrete. The Retina MacBook Pro has a discrete GPU and an integrated GPU. Just because the GPU is not a standard PCIe form factor card as you know today does not mean that it is not discrete.
  20. rGiskard macrumors 68000


    Aug 9, 2012
    The whole point of the design is to PREVENT users from upgrading their graphics cards. There is no other compelling reason for Apple to spend extra on proprietary components that limit a product's lifespan.

    No company, much less Apple, is going to offer an upgrade service to make complex upgrades to old products so buyers can avoid purchase new products. Apple wouldn't even offer significant video card upgrades for Mac Pro towers with simple PCIe slots, and demand was insanely huge.

    You want to know how much Apple cares about upgrades? 2009 Mac Pros ALL have an SMC bug that causes the PCIe/PSU fans to spin up to midrange speeds with any video card upgrade, even the OEM Apple video cards sold at the Apple Store! A bug that would probably take an Apple engineer a hour or two to fix. So now Apple will suddenly offer a worldwide service for performing complex upgrades to old hardware expressly designed to limit upgradability?

    If Apple wanted to offer video card upgrades for a new Mac Pro, they would have designed it so Joe Sixpack could visit an Apple Store with $600 in his pocket and walk out with a video card he could install within five minutes without any tools. You want to know what such a design would look like? Check it out here.

    The "mainstream model" is a standard for good reasons: it enables users to upgrade video cards on any tower with PCIe graphics. It's a valuable feature because it enables the buyer to prolong the usefulness of an expensive computer. It's innovative in that it promotes GPU innovation among competitors offering video card upgrades.

    You seem thinking of the video card design of the iTrash as being somehow innovative, or better than the "mainstream". It's not, at least not in the way you're thinking. Apple's "innovation" is in forcing users to buy new workstations instead of upgrading components. The unified thermal core has no benefit to the user except for enabling a tinier Mac Pro. There are numerous video card models with silent coolers that fit in a standard PCIe slot, so the iTrash isn't breaking any sound barriers.

    From the looks of it, the iTrash will have a substantially lower BOM than the Mac Pro tower. My guess is that it's profit margins will break new records for Apple, and so will shortness of buyers' upgrade cycles. Or maybe they'll just give up and use Windows. ;)
  21. Demigod Mac thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Apr 25, 2008
    I fear that's what I'll have to resort to, depending on how much the new Pros cost (those FirePros are not cheap). A powerful workstation PC + a Macbook Air, possibly.

    I intend to get as much mileage out of my 5,1 hexacore as possible. Thankfully, I don't see this machine growing long in the tooth anytime soon (it's still super fast, reliable, responsive and positively wipes the floor with 90% of computers out there), so maybe an elegant Mac Pro 6,1 solution will present itself at some point, from Apple, OWC or some other innovative manufacturer.
  22. goMac macrumors 603

    Apr 15, 2004

    The Mac Pro GPUs are not PCIe, but they are still discrete.

    We're still yet to see if there will be upgrade options. But if there are, the big change will be that you'd probably have to buy from Apple.

    The FirePro won't be the standard card.
  23. cgk.emu macrumors 6502

    May 16, 2012
    I'm trying to go with the flow, but I do fear for graphics in the Mac Pro from here on out...


    Yep, unfortunately. I have a 4,1 and my next workstation will be a Windows based machine so I can, ya know, actually upgrade it.

    That said, I fully plan on upgrading the CPU and graphics in my Pro down the road. Running the standard 2.66 quad and 5870 now...
  24. phoenixsan macrumors 65816


    Oct 19, 2012
    Can be an end.....

    if Apple stays in course with almost or no upgradeable computers. But that will be a loss. I am not a fan of integrated graphics, Intel or not. Not so a fan of laptop GPUs in desktop machines.

    A wide range of areas of expertise require discrete graphics. No for trend, whim o brag purposes.

  25. rabidz7 macrumors 65816


    Jun 24, 2012
    Why didn't they just use a G4 cube form factor, the cube had 3 RAM slots, AGP and PCI slots, an upgradeable CPU? What is the point of this iTrash! To make it 1cm smaller? Or is it to make sure no one can upgrade anything. And also, on every OEM computer I buy I make sure to replace the thermal paste with something other than the factory applied Elmer's glue.

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