Graphics Card Upgrade for Mac Pro 3,1 (2008)

Discussion in 'Mac Pro' started by timd.mackey, Oct 29, 2016.

  1. timd.mackey, Oct 29, 2016
    Last edited: Oct 29, 2016

    timd.mackey macrumors newbie

    Jun 8, 2010
    I recently inherited a Mac Pro 3,1 (2008) with a 30" Cinema Display from work :). Up until now I've been using a 17" Macbook Pro 2009 as my primary computer, but it died a few weeks ago and I don't plan on purchasing a new computer for the time being. Since the Mac Pro still runs well I decided I might as well make a few upgrades to it and get as much life out of it as I can.

    The specs that I got the computer with are:

    CPU: 2 x 3GHz Quad-Core Intel Xeon
    Memory: 20GB 800MHz DDR2
    GPU: NVIDIA GeForce GT 512MB
    Storage: 512GB Samsung 850 EVO SSD for main drive, lots of internal and external spinning disks

    In the mail already is a WIFI ac / Bluetooth 4.0 Card, USB 3.0 PCIe card, Blu-ray Drive, and PCIe SATA3 adapter for the main SSD.

    Aside from the basic day-to-day stuff like internet browsing and watching movies, I plan on doing web programming, using Adobe Creative Suite (Photoshop, Illustrator, Lightroom, and InDesign mainly), and using Final Cut Pro X and Motion if the computer can handle those programs. I also have Windows 10 installed on Bootcamp, so being able to play newer games would be a plus (I'm not much of a gamer, but I do play occasionally).

    What I'm wondering is, how much benefit will I get from upgrading the graphics card? Will the slow memory and older CPU be a bottleneck that negates any performance boost of a GPU upgrade? With Final Cut in particular, I'm hoping that I'll get a big performance boost since so much of the app is GPU accelerated, (also hopefully I'd benefit in Creative Suite from OpenCL) but I'm not sure if this is a correct assumption. FWIW, I don't expect to be working with anything higher than 1080p footage in FCPX.

    I've looked at a number of different Nvidia and AMD cards, and I'm currently considering the AMD RX 4xx series, probably the RX 470 since I'm a bit concerned about the extra power requirements on the RX 480 running off of the internal PSU. From all reports I've read, the 470 seems to be working fine in macOS with a couple modifications (I'm fine with having no boot screen). The RX 460 is also another (cheaper) option.

    I realize that this machine is super old, so I don't want to over-invest in it. On the other hand, I think I'm likely to upgrade to a Mac Pro 5,1 somewhere down the line, so I figure I can always reuse the GPU that I buy. Or, I could probably use it as an eGPU if I got a different/newer Mac. With what I've spent so far, $175 USD for the RX 470 would put me around $350 all-in, which I don't consider too bad. I'm sure I could find a more powerful used Mac if I spent a bit more, but I'm liking the flexibility that a tower affords.

    Thanks for any suggestions!
  2. CapnDavey macrumors 6502


    Apr 11, 2015
    good start so far another video card option is a GTX680 most evga and many others are easy to flash. and you can find the 2 gig cards for around 100 dollars just my 2 cents they work great in final cut even for 4K.
  3. dblairw macrumors newbie


    Aug 29, 2004
    Timd - I have a MacPro 3,1 (2008) which is my workhorse Mac with very similar specs: 2X 3.0GHz Xeon Quad-core CPU's, 32GB RAM, upgraded Sonnet 5Gbps USB3.0 , multiple SSD's running OSX 10.10 Yosemite and OSX 10.8 Mountain Lion. I upgraded the GPU to an AMD Radeon HD 7950 with 3GB VRAM.

    I'm not doing a ton of heavy lifting at ultra resolutions with my MacPro; that said, I'm super pleased with the Radeon 7950. It handles 4K video streams smoothly and lets all the detail shine through. Full boot screen capability which was a must-have for me. The 7950 can be found at reputable web sellers for ~ $USD 200 or less. Definitely an option worth considering.
  4. timd.mackey thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jun 8, 2010
    Thanks for the suggestions! Dblairw, what type of work do you use your Mac for? I wasn't sure if the video streams you were talking about were just watching videos or editing videos.

    EDIT: I just noticed below this thread that there are a bunch of posts on this same topic, I'm going to take a look at those. I'm not sure why they didn't show up when I searched the forum before posting this thread...:confused:
  5. dcpmark macrumors 6502a

    Oct 20, 2009
    Did you get the Mac version, or PC and flash it? I can't find a Mac one for even close to $200 that isn't used. Plenty of cheap PC versions, it seems. Are there different versions? Sapphire??
  6. orph, Oct 30, 2016
    Last edited: Oct 30, 2016

    orph macrumors 65816

    Dec 12, 2005
    hay the RX 470 is the best GPU to get at the mo new, it's a lot faster than the GTX680.
    the RX460 is also a valid option.

    but both require you to run OSX10.12

    the GTX670 is a nice cheep option works native on osx10.8+ (i think) it's almost as fast as the 680. more options are the GTX660/680/760/770 from nvidia (there all the cards that are cheaper and work with native drivers in osx) but they all cost more than the 670 (the GTX760 is slower too, slightly).

    Id look at the RX 460/470 first the the GTX670 on ebay or gumtree/Craigslist

    you will have to use the hack to install osx10.12 on a 3.1 tho
  7. h9826790 macrumors G4


    Apr 3, 2014
    Hong Kong
    Only Sapphire offer the HD7950 Mac Edition card, no other brand. If you want a brand new one, it will cost more then $500 now.

    However, you can easily by a 2nd hand 7950 or R9 280 (effectively the same card) and flash it by yourself with just $100.
  8. cube macrumors G5

    May 10, 2004
    Is it running with all cores?
  9. Moogintroll macrumors member

    Jun 15, 2004
    Dublin, Ireland
    Ok, so say I wanted to flash an R9 280 (or maybe a 280x) can I use any manufacturer's cards or do I need to look out for a specific port configuration?
  10. h9826790 macrumors G4


    Apr 3, 2014
    Hong Kong
    Any card with reference port layout is a better choice. However, it doesn't mean that the card use the same framebuffer as the reference card. So, still has a chance that have non working port after flash.

    Anyway, 3,1 and 280(x) is NOT a good combination, there is a power management bug which can significantly lower the GPU performance.
  11. timd.mackey thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jun 8, 2010
    I've seen this power bug mentioned a couple times before, what cards are affected by this?
  12. ActionableMango macrumors G3


    Sep 21, 2010
    Wasn't that resolved? I thought there was some simple fix for that.
  13. h9826790 macrumors G4


    Apr 3, 2014
    Hong Kong
    It's fixed in 10.11? I didn't have a 3,1, but from it seems the bug exist in both 10.9 and 10.10.

    Anyway, yes, there is a simple work around by deleting the AppleIntelCPUPowerManagement.kext.
  14. daigorogr macrumors newbie

    Apr 19, 2017
    Please can you or anyone else here, be more specific about "the hack" or provide a link...?
    I'm interested to try it on mine (3.1) with the RX460 gpu.

    Thanks in advance :)
  15. OS6-OSX macrumors 6502a


    Jun 13, 2004
  16. Ben888 macrumors newbie

    Jul 23, 2017
    Newberg, Oregon
    I have used "the hack" (Sierra Patcher/High Sierra patcher) to install Mac OS 10.13 High Sierra on my 3,1 Mac Pro. It works well, I haven't had any significant issues with it.
    It will help me get a few more years of life out of the old dog.

  17. Ben888 macrumors newbie

    Jul 23, 2017
    Newberg, Oregon
    Also, if you don't need a boot screen and want more power, Nvidia's web drivers allow you to use the 10 series Pascal GPUs. I have a friend with the 8 core version of my 3,1 who is running a 1050ti and getting very good performance. I only needed basic firepower, since I don't play a lot of games and don't need them to be super pretty as long as the frame rates are decent so I got a GT 1030 for $75 new. Seems to do the trick and it has such a low power draw that I can keep the 8800 GT in it for when I need the boot screen without worrying about overtaxing the power supply, I have had no issues with this setup, and the card works decently in Windows under Boot Camp as well.

Share This Page