No GPU upgrades coming for nMP, proof is in the firmware

Discussion in 'Mac Pro' started by MacVidCards, Apr 29, 2015.

  1. MacVidCards Suspended

    Nov 17, 2008
    Hollywood, CA
    I don't know why I never connected these dots before.

    So simple once you open your mind up.

    Thanks to bax2003

    In this post:

    He connected the dots we should have connected more than a year ago.

    Right at launch the nMP needed a firmware update. Inside the update was the full boot rom for the 6,1. And it contains 6 roms, 2 each for each of the 3 GPU options.,8126.0.html

    What does that mean?

    It means that Apple never had any intention of offering anything for 6,1 beyond those 3 choices.

    If they wanted to leave the door open for changing GPUs in the future, THEY WOULDN'T HAVE INCLUDED THE GPU FIRMWARE IN THE MACHINE BOOT ROM.

    So, even if someone made a R9 290X in that same form (2 of them actually, an "A" and a "B") they wouldn't ever show boot screens. They would operate like a R9 290X in a cMP, only appearing at desktop.

    I don't know why nobody thought of this before, if they meant for new GPUs to be added, they would have left the EEPROM chips on the cards themselves, instead of in the master boot rom.

    In other words, for a new GPU to work in a nMP, Apple would have to issue a firmware update with EFI and BIOS written for new GPUs.

    And when 7,1 MP comes out, I think you can be 100% certain that it's rom isn't going to flash onto a 6,1. The only way it could would be if there were no big changes to the machine as a whole. And I think there would be a howl of discontent if that happens.

    I also think it unlikely that they will keep all of the same connections.

    So for those of you hoping that there will be something else to plug into 6,1 other than D300, D500, and D700, it's officially time to give up.
  2. AidenShaw macrumors P6


    Feb 8, 2003
    The Peninsula
    I'll bet on 2018. Apple seems to think that a 5-year update cycle for "pro" systems is good enough.

    It will probably have a single USB-C port.
  3. Demigod Mac macrumors 6502a

    Apr 25, 2008
    Pains me to see them going down the disposable computer route for the professional gear.

    Curious though... how well is the nMP selling? And if they're selling below expectations would Apple use that as an excuse to make an exit from the professional market instead of realizing "Oops, we totally misunderstood what professionals need in a computer"?

    Their only graceful path forward would be to make a bigger, upgradeable "Mac Pro Plus" kind of machine and have the nMP form factor become the middle tier machine.
  4. AidenShaw, Apr 29, 2015
    Last edited: Apr 29, 2015

    AidenShaw macrumors P6


    Feb 8, 2003
    The Peninsula
    The "Mac Mini Pro" that the 6,1 has always been....

    BTW, HP is telling me that I'll soon be able to do 36 physical cores and 1536 GiB of RAM on my ProLiants. The 64GiB DDR4 DIMMs are coming.

    Think about it - an HP system has 24 DIMMs, and each one equals the max supported RAM on the MP 6,1....

    It's like comparing a Dreamliner to Kitty Hawk. Apple should be embarrassed to use the word "Pro" on any of their products.
  5. MacVidCards thread starter Suspended

    Nov 17, 2008
    Hollywood, CA
    I take no joy in it.

    I remember walking into the production office on "Pirates of Silicon Valley"

    In the air was a sense of dread and slow decline for Apple. Everyone in the Art Department had a Mac of some sort. I looked at it as my responsibility to make Apple look as good as possible in hopes that they would survive. The scene with BillGates offering Apple a survival loan via a giant screen image of Gates towering over Jobs was a sign of how weak Apple had become.

    And here we are. They have not only survived but dwarfed all other companies. I just don't understand why there isn't space in their giant universe for serious machines. I guess I knew we were in trouble when Tim Cook did and interview and said he could run most of his life from his iPhone or iPad. He was obviously never going to "get it" and instead want to make the Mac Pro into a large iPhone.

    I love my rMBP. But there is just no rational way that a 6,1 is intended to be a serious computer with legs. It is designed to have a short life and get replaced.

    And I know that my loyal anti-fan club will accuse me of scare tactics, etc. Read the two links in the first post. There is no other way to interpret this info.

    Any and every GPU upgrade will require a new boot rom be released and flashed. And that just isn't going to happen. An EEPROM chip is $0.70 for me, I'm sure Apple gets them a lot cheaper. If they had wanted to make GPUs upgradeable they would have blown a dollar and had them on the cards.

    Most Chevrolets are reasonable, yet boring cars. To give the line relevance they make a Corvette. Obviously if you can make a Corvette, you can make a decent sedan. Apple has created a 4 Cylinder "Corvette" with zoomy racing stripes.

    And I think it is really sad.

    I'll keep working on eGPUs but they will never have more than 4 PCIE lanes, due to the limitations in TB2.

    What is really going to be sad is the day the 7,1 gets announced. Whatever GPUs are in it will obviously be a step up. Already a nMP can't show boot screens on a SST 4K or 5K display. (And I'll tell you a funny story, today I saw boot screens on a 4K SST display using a Apple could in a heartbeat if they gave a damn. They don't.)

    So the 7,1 will be announced with TB3 and DDR4 and GTX980Ms and then the fire sale will begin. All of the 6,1s are going to hit EBay at once since there will be no place to go with them.

    Consider a 1,1 Mac Pro. How long would they have remained viable if they had been stuck with the X1900XT and 7300GT they shipped with? Most would have been recycled by now. Instead, a new GPU and they are running Yosemite like they were born for it. There will be no such reprieve for 6,1. It has D300s in its blood, and it's firmware. When the OS tosses them aside, the 6,1 will hit the recycling yard. Wonder what Aluminum will be going for then?
  6. Mattstrete macrumors member

    Nov 14, 2011

    You have had an anti-nMP agenda since it was released. I put it to you that this is because you run a business selling video cards to be installed in the "classic" mac pro.

    How exactly does this information about the nMP's firmware "prove" that it will never be possible to upgrade the nMP's video cards? If a firmware update was already necessary in connection with the D300, D500 and D700, then why can't another update be rolled out if and when new cards are made available? i.e., if I were to buy an upgraded set of cards, FROM APPLE, Apple would make available to me updated firmware? Does your concern arise from the fact that you won't be able to offer the upgraded cards because you won't yourself be able to offer the new firmware?

    You say "any and every GPU upgrade will require a new boot rom be released and flashed. And that just isn't going to happen." WHY? You yourself have pointed out that this is precisely what already happened soon after the release of the nMP.
  7. MacVidCards thread starter Suspended

    Nov 17, 2008
    Hollywood, CA

    I'm sorry that you can understand what I wrote.

    I don't know how to make it any simpler.

    The nMP got a boot rom update because it had bugs in it. it had to include the GPU firmware because the GPU firmware is an integral part of the machine's firmware. If there was a bad WiFi bug and it required a firmware upgrade, the firmware upgrade would again have all of the GPUs in it, just as it would have the chipset firmware etc.

    You should read up on how computers work, it may make this easier to understand.

    And by the way, currently I am the only person on the planet to post working screenshots from external GPUs running displays on nMP. I have no doubt that I will be able to sell eGPUs for nMP.

    Just trying to help you understand what the future holds. nMP is done with GPUs except those attached externally. I'll stand by that.
  8. nigelbb macrumors 65816

    Dec 22, 2012
    What evidence do you have that Apple can't or won't do exactly that? By definition they cannot have the firmware for future as yet unknown GPUs.
  9. HumpYourWayUp macrumors regular


    Jun 14, 2007
    This sounds valid! I noticed that as well....

    On the other hand: I would prefer Apple thinking about a GPU upgrade option for nMP's instead of making gold watches for 10.000 bucks!!!
  10. CaptainChunk macrumors 68020


    Apr 16, 2008
    Phoenix, AZ
    Ugh. This doesn't really come as a shock to me...

    Ever since the nMP was officially announced, it seemed pretty clear to me that they built what is essentially a really expensive FCP X machine and called it a day. It's funny how OpenCL support in DaVinci and Adobe suite got shoehorned in only after those developers realized that they were gonna lose a substantial user base comprised of nMP owners stuck with AMD GPUs.

    If you look at Apple's history in workstation computers, they practically never offered in-house graphics card upgrades for PowerMacs and cMPs outside of the original factory options. Sometimes, we got lucky and a 3rd-party card manufacturer released one. On the cMP alone:

    1,1 and 2,1: NVIDIA GeForce GT 7300 256MB (baseline), ATI Radeon X1900 XT (optional) 512MB, NVIDIA Quadro FX 4500 512MB (optional). Later, they offered an EFI32-compatible 8800 GT as an upgrade.

    3,1: ATI Radeon HD 2600 XT 256MB (baseline), NVIDIA GeForce 8800 GT 512MB (optional), NVIDIA Quadro FX 5600 1.5GB (optional).

    4,1: NVIDIA GeForce GT 120 512MB (baseline), AMD Radeon HD 4870 512MB (optional).

    5,1: AMD Radeon HD 5770 1GB (baseline), AMD Radeon HD 5870 1GB (optional).

    Unless I'm missing one, these are all the "official" 3rd-party cards we got during the cMP's 2006-2012 span:

    ATI Radeon HD 3870 512MB (worked in all Mac Pros)
    EVGA NVIDIA GeForce GTX 285 1GB (3,1 and later)
    PNY NVIDIA Quadro FX 4800 1.5GB (3,1 and later)
    PNY NVIDIA Quadro 4000 2GB (3,1 and later)
    PNY NVIDIA Quadro K5000 4GB (3,1 and later)
    EVGA NVIDIA GeForce 680 2GB (3,1 and later)
    Sapphire AMD Radeon HD 7950 3GB (3,1 and later)

    That's right, 7 cards, with 3 of them being expensive workstation cards. There could have been a lot more cards operating at full speed without hacking if Apple didn't intentionally cripple us in firmware. And now that Apple has moved to proprietary cards and system-level graphics firmware, what makes you think they actually care about releasing appropriate upgrades? They didn't care with the cMP (as evidenced above) and they certainly don't care now.

    These are the things that make me reluctant to buy desktop Macs anymore.
  11. kennyman macrumors 6502

    May 4, 2011
    I have said this a couple of times now. Seriously, nMP 2013 is a joke if you are truly looking for a Mac for CPU and GPU raw power for rendering and so on. You are better off with the cMP.

    You can buy a 2010 5,1 dual cpu cMP for USD 1600
    You an upgrade to dual X5690 for another USD 450
    You can upgrade to 1 TB SSD including SSD adapter for 700 USD
    You can buy dual 7970 video card for USD 380

    And you will be right on par with the top notch nMP in terms of CPU and GPU power for working. You can also add more powerful video cards depending on what you want.

    Now, I have nothing against people who have nMP. I use both nMP and cMP. However the nMP is definitely not on my shopping list, I just have to use one at work for other stuffs. But I still prefer my cMP, it has personality:p

    I am not even sure whether the nMP will hold its resale value after 2-3 years, as the cMP will be more affordable and still GPUs, SSDs, WIFI upgradable in the coming years.
  12. Demigod Mac macrumors 6502a

    Apr 25, 2008
    This pretty much sums it all up.

    On this precedent, it's possible (though unlikely) if nMP 7,1 had say, D800, D900, D1000 they'd sell those upgrades for 6,1. Would require them to update the machine's ROM (practically locking out 3rd party upgrades unless say OWC comes up with some very clever hackery). Apple would much rather people just buy a whole new computer, though.
  13. dmylrea macrumors 68020


    Sep 27, 2005
    You really don't converse on the same level as average people, and frequently send people off on "research quests" without giving any direction or providing links. Where, exactly, should people go to "read up" on how computers work? :rolleyes:

    I know how computers work, as I've been in the industry since '86 and had my first computer in '78. Yet, I couldn't tell you how the nMP GPU ROM's work. It's your business...not mine, and I don't really care.

    But, as I was reading your initial post, I had EXACTLY the same thought as Mattstrete...why can't Apple just supply a firmware/GPU ROM update for new video cards like they did originally? Your response to him really did not clearly explain why that is impossible. I understand that firmware updates include GPU ROM's, but I don't understand why Apple can't supply a firmware update with NEW GPU ROM's. Why do we need a new ROM CHIP?
  14. scottsjack macrumors 68000

    Aug 25, 2010
    Exactly. Having reached the conclusion that Apple is only interested in cute, little computers I sold my 2010 MP 3.2 and bought a 2012 mini 2.6. I missed my MP so much I sold the mini and bought a 2012 MP 3.2 and installed a W3690, an Apricorn Velo Duo and 24GB RAM. That gave me a couple more years of fairly fast computing.

    For the money I spent on the used MP plus RAM, CP and PCIe card I could have purchased a pretty nice Z440 that would easily outperform my MP's current configuration. Writing this from the latest Windows 10 build (on a 2012 MBP) I am beginning to think maybe I made a mistake and should have kept the mini as my Apple Toy and got a Z440.
  15. CaptainChunk macrumors 68020


    Apr 16, 2008
    Phoenix, AZ
    And...I'm seriously doubting they actually will. They didn't design the GPU cards to be user serviceable parts. 3rd-party manufacturers aren't gonna want to touch this either (and they haven't for 1.5 years the nMP has been out) because it would require tooling a factory to build cards that only work in one machine and hacking Apple's firmware, which would surely void any warranty a nMP owner might have.

    When (and if) the 7,1 gets released, they'll just want everyone to buy new machines if they want new GPUs. 6,1s will plummet in price on eBay as everyone tries to recoup costs on their needlessly obsolete "workstations".
  16. bax2003 macrumors 6502a


    Dec 25, 2011
    Form factor cannot be changed without using custom comonents.
    I would rather use nMP than cMP which is basically 2009 Machine with ancient X58 chipset.
    - I need Thunderbolt (monitors+blackmagic hardware+fast external storage)
    - 450W vs 980W on 24/7 makes a difference
    - Parts on nMP are expensive....fair enough....tell us service price when your cMP CPU board or backplane board dies
    - On cMP to use (e)SATA 3 or USB 3, you must use 3rd party controllers and pray that next OS wont brake drivers for them
    - Few of us like much smaller footprint
    - I am fine with D300s performance:


  17. edanuff macrumors 6502

    Oct 30, 2008
    I'm still unclear on the logic as well. Not that I think Apple will introduce a GPU upgrade option (although it's not completely out of the question), but if they did, then sure, they'd just have a firmware update. Now, if the point was that Apple will never issue a new firmware option for the nMP because they lost the source code or something, then I'd buy that argument, since they still haven't updated the nMP firmware to show bootscreens for 4K SST displays :mad:
  18. tomscott1988 macrumors 6502a


    Apr 14, 2009
    Well this is where we are…

    I have a 2008 Mac Pro and looking to upgrade. The nMP is well overpriced now its 18 months old and is about as useful in terms of upgradability as an iMac so a machine that could last 5-6 years is now on a 2-3 year cycle and spending £4000 on a machine when I got my 2008 Mac pro in 2009 when the Nehalem came out for £1500 the new ones don't seem good value. In fact the new machines are only just pushing twice the speed in 7 years.

    Ive also looked at buying a 5,1 and upgrading to a 8 core or a the 12 core X chips but spending £2000-2500 on a pre owned 3 year old machine seems stupid too.

    There isn't a good path for us cMP users and its had me looking elsewhere but I just hate windows machines and even then the workstations from HP and Dell seem pretty stale too…
  19. flowrider macrumors 603


    Nov 23, 2012
    What MVC says makes sense to me. No EEPROM chip on the on the GPU means no internal GPU replacements in the future. That's pretty easy to understand.

    When the nMP was announced I was using a cMP (3,1). Upon studying the machine I was extremely disappointed in it's design and apparent lack of expandability. I surveyed the marketplace and found third party vendor Expercom selling brand new 2010 Base DP 5,1 Mac Pros for $2100. I snapped one up, believing these were the last new cMPs available at a reasonable price. My machine has been extensively modified since.

    I have been using Macs since 1986, starting with the Mac Plus. My first really expandable Mac was bought in early 1990s, a Mac IIci. Every Mac I have owned since than was upgradeable and expandable. The nMP was an utter disappointment to me. As has been said it's not a Mac Pro at all. If it's related to anything it's the ill fated G4 Cube. But heck, even that was more expandable than the so called nMP.

    I'm well aware that the world is going to smaller and smaller form factors. And to some extent, I agree with that. My second Mac is an 11" MBA. I use that when I'm on the road.

    While the cMP certainly is obsolete, that obsolesce is due only to the fact that new technologies have superseded the ones that were in place when the machine was designed. The nMP, OTOH, was designed from the GetGo to be obsolete due to the fact that it's components (except for the CPU and RAM) are not upgradeable, and expandability is only available with external components. Unlike the cMP, the nMP is IMO, a throwaway device, a very expensive throwaway device.

    I am extremely disturbed with the road Apple has taken with the nMP, and plan on keeping my 5,1 relevant as long as I can. I'm now in my late 70s, and my cMP may well be my last computer.

  20. netkas macrumors 65816

    Oct 2, 2007
    Let me argue a bit

    right now, there is no eeprom chip on videocards, efi/bios firmware for videocard is in main bios.

    but, if you place a eeprom chip on say gm200 based card, in nMP form factor, then main system efi will read rom from the chip just fine. That's the nature of efi.

    Of course nobody saying such videocard will appear in future, and I really doubt that.
  21. MacVidCards thread starter Suspended

    Nov 17, 2008
    Hollywood, CA
    more food for thought, try going to an Apple Store and buy an Airport card for your 2009 cMP. They won't sell it to you.

    The only way to buy one is to pay them to install it. (Or aftermarket) they don't consider an Airport card a "user serviceable part". So you have to lug the entire machine to them to put in 2 screws and connect the antenas.

    And as we now know, to place a new GPU in 6,1 you would have to remove 2 out of 3 of the main PCBs, AFTER running a firmware update. If they don't trust you to put an airport card in, does anyone truly think they'll hand you a box with new GPUs and say "Good Luck with the firmware flash , hope you don't brick it"? Of course not.

    We expect 7,1 to contain new tech, possibly TB3 or DP 1.3. And both of those things run through those PCBs. Is it likely that Apple is going to task the engineers with keeping new parts compatible with 6,1 so they can be used there too? Does that sound at all like Apple?

    Of course not. TB3 is different tech with a different connector.

    The only chance of Apple producing new GPUs that work in 6,1 is if the 7,1 is a "warm over" like 5,1 was to 4,1. Faster SSD and new GPUs but no other substantive changes. Then, maybe if they create a boot rom that flashes on to 6,1 AND sell GPUs outside of service lines, then maybe for a few thousand dollars you will have an upgrade if you bring it in to the Apple Store and let them do it. But that is a long string of "maybes" and also requires 7,1 to be a rather stagnant product. i don't see it happening.

    Look at all the other Macs which have lost upgradeable parts. The trend is clear and all in one direction. And as I pointed out at the beginning, if Apple had intended for GPUs to differ from the originals, they could have spent $1 extra per machine to include EEPROM chips on both GPUs. It literally would have cost them $1.

    In all honesty, I would guess that 7,1 will have altered connectors if in same form factor. Add or remove some pins so there is no way to intermingle parts.
  22. Morpheo macrumors 65816


    Feb 26, 2014
    To be honest an Apple Store is the last place I'd go to to buy such parts. They can be found easily however, starting with OWC... Back when Macs came with user manuals, even upgrading RAM was to be done by a "specialist", according to said manual... Many people are not comfortable with the idea of opening their computers anyway...
  23. flowrider macrumors 603


    Nov 23, 2012
    That really not the point! If your on this forum, chances are you are comfortable modifying your machine.

    If you're not comfortable with the modification process then get a Mini or an iMac. The biggest desktop Macs have always been modifiable and expandable since the Macintosh II back in March of 1987 (28 years ago) - that is until now!

  24. DonMega macrumors regular

    Jul 8, 2007
    This really is like a Ron Popeil Infomercial. Introducing the Pocket Fisherman and Chop-O-Matic! But wait, there's more!!!
  25. JronMasteR macrumors 6502


    May 4, 2011
    Apple has made their Mac's less and less user serviceable over the past few years.
    Batteries in MB's cannot be replaced anymore by the user, no ram upgrades, custom SSD's etc.
    The nMP is no exception. As MVC said, they don't even sell an airport card to you, so I think is very unlikely that they would sell gpus for the nMP when you have to take apart the hole machine to perform the upgrade.

    You are supposed to expand/upgrade the nMP via Thunderbolt.

    I bought my cMP back in 2013 and I would never trade it for a nMP. Nothing to upgrade on this thing.
    CPU's are not a problem anymore since improvements per year are not huge. But if you look how much faster GPU's get every year or two, not being able to upgrade them is huge drawback.

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