REVIEW: 7950 Mac Edition vs Apple 5870 vs MSI 7970 (Pics)

Discussion in 'Mac Pro' started by 100Daily, Mar 21, 2013.

  1. 100Daily, Mar 21, 2013
    Last edited: Mar 22, 2013

    100Daily macrumors member

    Mar 15, 2013
    Here is my review of the Sapphire 7950 Mac Edition, MSI 7970 Afterburner, and the OEM Apple 5870. A little background info for you. I am a Certified Apple Technician and video card hobbyist. I am the rare Mac Gamer, and I prefer to use Apple hardware. Before 10.8.3 was running a 5870 and 5770 dual setup. Thanks to some generous return policies I decided to rack up my credit card and see what I could learn. And learn I did.


    Here is my system:

    Setting up the card was like any other, but as you can see there is NO built in plastic support piece for the card like the OEM Apple cards have :( I will talk more about that later.


    Now on with the gaming benchmarks. I am not a professional reviewer, so don’t expect some Anandtech type review. I tested in OSX and in Boot Camp, Windows 7. I included both numbers below.

    First some Bench Marks:
    StarCraft 2 – HOTS
    2560 x 1600, all graphics maxed out
    GPU usage was 90+ percent
    5870 (OSX) – 50fps
    7950 (OSX) – 65fps
    7970 (OSX) – 78fps
    7970 (Win7) – 102fps
    7950 (Win7) – Would not work with either BIOS :(

    Since a lot of people are interested in stress testing, I put these cards through the paces using FurMark in OSX and Windows. The windows version provide many more options to test with, but unfortunately the 7950 Mac was NOT compatible using either BIOS. But I included some OSX tests as well:

    Fur Mark OSX
    Basic “Windowed” test, 8x AA
    7970 (Mac OSX) – 43fps
    7950 (Mac OSX) – 35fps

    Fur Mark PC
    1080P Burn In Test (OxMSAA)
    7970 (Win 7)
    Min 47, Max 60, Avg 47
    Burn In Score 4305

    Finally, a lot of people were concerned that the 7970 was drawing too much power. When FurMarking above, I took some power readings from the computer. Here is what the wattage draw was on the ENTIRE SYSTEM:

    Max Power Usage – Fur Mark
    -Measured with Kill-A-Watt during stress testing.
    7970 (Win 7) – 466w
    7970 (Mac OS) – 380w
    7950 (OSX) – 339w
    5870 (OSX) – 339w

    Through meticulous isolation of various components I was able to determine that, in my system, at around 380w of total usage means my GPU is using about 225w. It's a lot of math that was detailed in a separate thread, but I feel it’s pretty accurate. That said, after further Windows stress testing I was able to actually push the system to use 466w! I am pretty sure the 7970 was using more than Apple recommends at that point. However, the machine was stable with all cards. I never had any issues after hours of testing.

    Furthermore, I continually measured the temperature of the logic board with an infrared laser, and it was at a consistent 85 degrees. There was no sign the board was struggling carrying that current and was not heating up at all. I felt safe running that power through the system.

    I feel like Steve Jobs, but there was one more thing… When I unboxed the 7950 Mac Addition I was greeted by this image:


    The image states that the MAC ADDITION must be directly connected to the power supply. It gives an image that has nothing to do with a Mac Pro. Obviously there is no way to do this on a 2010 Mac Pro. Furthermore, when you read the manual it REPEADEDLY STATES you “must connect the video card directly to your power supply”. Does it give you a cable to connect to your power supply? NO. It just gives you the 2 standard 6-pin cables. WTF? :mad: How is this power solution "Made for Mac Pro"?

    So after ALL THAT, I think I am returning my 7950 Mac Edition for these reasons:
    1 – To switch to Windows, you must switch the BIOS switch or the card doesn’t work at all. And even if you switch the switch, the PC won’t recognize the card. Radeon drivers will have nothing to do with this card in Boot Camp with either BIOS. On the 7970 card, it worked either way flawlessly. The Apple cards work great in Boot Camp. Just not the 7950 Mac Edition :(

    2 – The 7970 is just plain faster than the Mac 7950 in synthetic benchmarks, and in real life gaming.

    3 – The 7970 is significantly less money.

    4 – Neither card was really “designed” for the Mac Pro IMO. The 7950 just feels like a PC card. You know how the Apple 5870 and 5770 had that plastic piece extending out the back for support in the machine? That made sense. It was OEM, and it worked perfectly with the Mac Pro. This Sapphire card is not fitted for the Mac Pro any more than any other PC card. And the Sapphire officially requires a sloppy installation directly to the power supply. If you are really going to go through all of that why not just do the 7970? The only downside to the 7970 is that it's a power hog, but “officially” so is the 7950.

    Misc notes:
    *When you try and install the software from the CD in OSX with 10.8.3 installed it just says “you already have the latest drivers”.

    *With the Apple EFI BIOS enabled, the boot screen shows. And in “About my Mac” it shows “7950”. If you have the PC BIOS on, the mac just sees it as a “7xxx” card with no Apple logo at boot (makes sense). The 7970 also shows up as a “7xxx” card in OSX.

    *If you have an official EFI card installed and a standard PC BIOS card installed, the Mac automatically reverts to the EFI card for the boot screen. I thought that was kind of cool. If I switched to the PC BIOS, my 5770 would take over with the Apple logo. For that reason I still have the mac logo at startup with my 7970 installed.

    Thats it, thanks for reading along. At this point I think I am going to return the 7950 Mac Edition for the above reasons, but welcome any feedback. I wanted to love it, but its just not for me. Hopefully this helped the fellow Mac community. :apple: :D

    ***CORRECTION TO ORIGINAL REVIEW*** The 7950 Mac Addition's EFI BIOS is compatible with the PC side. The problem I was having was with the pre-exsisting Radeon software was not allowing the older Sapphire 7950 Mac drivers to install properly. The newer Windows drivers were basically overwriting Sapphires older drivers. To avoid this start with no Radeon Drivers in Windows and use the vendor supplied disc.
  2. MacVidCards Suspended

    Nov 17, 2008
    Hollywood, CA
    Thanks for writing this.

    I am curious if you tried the Windows drivers that came on the disc in the box?

    Also, did you try the 10.7.5 drivers?

    Obviously you would need a running 10.7.5 install. I have found 10.7.5 drivers to be non-working.

    How do you have both 5770 and 7970 powered at same time?

    It looks like you have an external supply plugged in, obviously it wasn't used while load testing, yes?
  3. applegeek897 macrumors regular

    Aug 23, 2011
    Thanks for that, it was a load of help.

    I just have a few questions about the 7970, does it work out the box and did you have to run an external power supply?

  4. 100Daily, Mar 21, 2013
    Last edited: Mar 21, 2013

    100Daily thread starter macrumors member

    Mar 15, 2013
    Awesome, glad I could help guys! Let me answer the questions:

    I did try the windows drivers that came on the disk. They did not work. Well technically it "worked" strangely when the Mac Bios was on, but the Radeon software would not recognize the card. With the PC bios, Windows didn't even see the card at all.

    I didn't try the 10.7.5 drivers. Sorry, but that is too much work.

    Yes, I had both the 5770 and 7970 powered at the same time.

    No, I am not using an external power supply. I split one 6 pin, with voltage going to the 5770 and the other going to the lower power 6 pin on the 7970. I then took the other 6-pin straight from the board and used the supplied 6 to 8 pin adaptor.

    At this point I concede the 7970 is capable of drawing more than 225w when REALLY pushed, but as pointed out the system has been very stable. Even when stress testing the crap out of it. No thermal issues. The traces on the logic board also remained cool.
  5. ssls6 macrumors 6502a


    Feb 7, 2013
    Have you measured total power usage of the 5770+7970 combo versus just the 7970 alone? How many watts are used just for the ability of having a boot screen? Another member has commented on extracting the 7950 rom and putting it in a 7970 (modded for full speed). Did you consider that?
  6. 100Daily thread starter macrumors member

    Mar 15, 2013
    I did do some measurements. Here is what I have. Idle power usage is just after booting, sitting at the desktop. I used Starcraft as my bench as it taxes over 90% of the GPU. FurMark does push the system more, but this should give you an idea:

    Total Mac Pro Power Usage w/ Only Genuine Apple 5770
    Idle Power Usage - 106w
    In Game (Starcraft II) - 189w
    Peak Wattage - 214w

    Total Mac Pro Power Usage w/ Genuine Apple ATI 5870 + OEM 5770
    Idle Power Usage - 137w
    In Game (Starcraft II) - 245w
    Peak Wattage - 281w

    Total Mac Pro Power Usage w/ Sapphire 7950 + OEM 5770
    Idle Power Usage - 145w
    In Game (Starcraft II) - 255w
    Peak Wattage - 280w

    Total Mac Pro Power Usage w/ MSI R7970 Over Clocked to 1010 mhz + OEM 5770
    Idle Power Usage - 150w
    In Game (Starcraft II) - 245w
    Peak Wattage - 311w

    I have no comment on modding any ROM.


    I also thought it was interesting that the 5870 and 7950 used the same amount of peak power.
  7. ssls6 macrumors 6502a


    Feb 7, 2013
    Do you have power data on the 5870 or 7970 alone? Does having the 5770 still in the machine cost you extra watts?
  8. 100Daily, Mar 21, 2013
    Last edited: Mar 21, 2013

    100Daily thread starter macrumors member

    Mar 15, 2013
    You have the numbers for just the 5770 (106w at idle). All of the other numbers INCLUDE the 5770 and another card. So if you subtract off the 5770 Solo system off from any of the combo card systems, it would give you the numbers you are looking for.

    I don't have any data on just the 5770 by itself. It was the baseline. But if you look at the other cards they were only adding 30-40w at idle. So the 5770 would probably be less than that.
  9. kgapp, Mar 21, 2013
    Last edited: Mar 21, 2013

    kgapp macrumors regular

    Jan 6, 2004
    Chicago, IL
    No boot camp?

    If the new sapphire 7950 doesn't work properly in boot camp this is going to be a seriously disappointing product. Certainly this can't be working as intended. Can it? Did you install the windows driver disc that comes packed with the card?

    Mine is arriving tomorrow and I sure hope this isn't the case. is it possible that you received a faulty card?

    MacVidCards and barefeats seem to have also received their 7950's. Can either of them confirm no boot camp support?
  10. ssls6 macrumors 6502a


    Feb 7, 2013
    Based on your numbers then, it looks like 18-20W penalty for using two cards. I've never had two cards in my mac pro. Do you only have the 7970 hooked to your monitor? Is the bios info stored in the 5770 transferred to the 7970 during boot? Sorry if my questions sound stupid.
  11. 100Daily thread starter macrumors member

    Mar 15, 2013
    I would think it would work, but I could not get it to work. I did use the official disc that came with it. Like I said before, the monitor turned on but the Radeon software would not recognize it. Since I didn't have driver support I didn't try and benchmark anything, but it did drive a 30" Cinema Display. Perhaps the PC bios on my card had an issue. I spent 30 minutes trying everything I knew to do, and couldn't get it. I guess we will wait to hear what others report.

    I have dual 30" Cinema Displays. Each display is going to its own video card. What happens is, whatever video card has the EFI bios basically "takes over" during booting. So whatever screen is hooked up with the Mac EFI BIOS will show the Apple logo. I hope that makes sense.
  12. ssls6 macrumors 6502a


    Feb 7, 2013
    Yeah, makes sense. I didn't catch you were using two monitors at the start. Now I get it.

    It's a shame you had so much trouble with the 7950. I have only one monitor and want a efi bios compatible card (boot screen and all). I don't boot windows but I do boot clones.
  13. CrisisDog macrumors newbie

    Mar 21, 2013
    Did you try any other games?

    I have a GTX 670 (PC version, works other than no EFI boot screen). I've never benchmarked actual FPS, but it's the first card where Borderlands on the Mac actually feels smooth. My 5870 jerked around and just was not a good experience.

    I've gone on to play Borderlands 2, which is even a smoother experience, but I have issues with flashing textures under the GTX 670. The 5870 does not have this issue, but again it's not a smooth experience, you can visually notice the jumps in frame rate. Was wondering if this new 7950 experienced similar flashing texture issues.

    I've also had a run or two with EVE Online. I have to keep the model textures set to medium; if they're set to high they get discolored. I also notice some sort of huge checkerboard pattern in the darker shadows, but again no issues with the 5870. I doubt you play EVE, but thought I'd throw that in there...

  14. MacVidCards Suspended

    Nov 17, 2008
    Hollywood, CA
    Mac 7950 works A-OK in Windows !!! Don't worry.

    I have a feeling that Sapphire has done themselves a disservice by not explaining that BIOS switch a little better. They may have assumed more technical knowledge in their audience than most Mac enthusiasts actually have.

    Macs use EFI. There is a BIOS for this which contains EFI. Mac EFI ALSO CONTAINS a PC BIOS. They ALL do except the X1900XT.

    New PC's can use UEFI to boot faster. Newer video cards are including a UEFI to make this work. UEFI also contains a PC BIOS.

    UEFI and EFI are different things. EFI is for when the card is used in a Mac Pro. Even if you were running FORTRAN or Martian DOS you should leave the switch in EFI postiton as long as it physically resides in a Mac Pro.

    WHEN YOU MOVE IT INTO A PC THAT HAS UEFI, then you move that switch. If it is a standard BIOS PC (almost all of them back to 1980 or so) then it doesn't make ANY DIFFERENCE WHATSOEVER where that switch is.

    In an EFI Mac, you put it on EFI.

    In a UEFI PC, you put it in UEFI position.

    In a standard BIOS PC, it can be in either position.

    If the 5770 was in while booted into Windows, or if the Windows install was used to 5770 and 7970, that would be enough to confuse Windows about that 7950. XP & Vista would be confused. Windows 7 is a little better, but only 8 really deals well with new cards replacing existing cards.

    I just Booted my Mac into a Windows 7 Bootcamp install that had ZERO (0) ATI/AMD drivers installed. It was only used to test Nvidia cards in the past. I got to a blurry Windows desktop and inserted the driver's disk that came in the box. Simple, easy to follow instructions came up, I clicked the obvious buttons and the drivers installed. I rebooted and Catalyst Control Center was happy to configure my Eyefinity setup. (3 displays)

    In short, any issues the OP had were due to poor use of switch or standard Window Driver Clunkiness. For this you can blame Bill Gates or Steve Ballmer or even my aunt who works for MS, but you can't blame Sapphire or the 7950. Operator Error.
  15. DanielCoffey macrumors 65816


    Nov 15, 2010
    Edinburgh, UK
    Thanks for the review and subsequent comments from both 100Daily and MacVidCards.

    Can I ask... were either of you able to confirm if the 7950 Mac Edn. operated at PCI 2.0 in Bootcamp (Win7) or not?
  16. AlexMaximus macrumors 6502a


    Aug 15, 2006
    A400M Base
    How is the Noise Level of the 7950 Mac Edition

    Thank you to all for this interesting article. I would have two short questions:


    Working in a noise sensitive production environment, how does the Sapphire card compare to Apples OEM ATI 5850 or 5770???
    I am looking for a card that is low on the noise level on standard load. What is your experiance?


    We have the MP 4,1 2009 octo with 2.29 GHz. With the Sapphire card in place, would I experiance an advantage that may compensate the somewhat weak CPUs ???
  17. 100Daily, Mar 22, 2013
    Last edited: Mar 22, 2013

    100Daily thread starter macrumors member

    Mar 15, 2013
    So many assumptions you just made about how I set it up. I was aware of everything you just posted, I don't "lack technical knowledge". What a dick response. Not, "why did you flip the BIOS switch"? You just start in with assumptions...

    I am glad you got yours to work. For the record I didn't just start flipping the switch when I went over to boot camp. That would be stupid, nor did I say that was my thinking. I tried leaving it in EFI mode, but it didn't work. After trying multiple things as a last resort I tried flipping the bios switch to see if I could get it to work. That didn't work either.

    The only difference is that I had Radeon drivers already installed. Windows only let's you repair, not uninstall the radeon drivers. The Apple cards had no trouble with the pre-exaisting Radeon drivers. I tried to repair the drivers, that didn't work. So I then tried to reinstall using the disc that came with the card. Still didn't work.

    Was my error was not starting with a clean install with no drivers like you? Was that in the manual somewhere? Do you think i am the only consumer who will make that "error"? You started with a clean install. How many customers will be starting clean when upgrading a video card? What I did was more representative of someone upgrading a new card then what you did. Either way, I am glad you discovered that and I hope my article and your response help others in the future.

    It feels like someone with a business interest making assumptions and insulting customers when the product they want to sell doesn't work right. Hopefully that is not it. I could give a ***** which card sets up the easiest and performs the best. I just shared my experience. It is what it is.
  18. 100Daily thread starter macrumors member

    Mar 15, 2013
    I did not, sorry.:)


    1 - the 7950 is comparable in noise to the 5870 I would say. The 7970 got pretty loud.

    2 - it would certainly help GPU applications, which may help free up the rest of the system.

    I hope that helps.
  19. J-MI macrumors member

    Dec 7, 2012
    Hi 100Daily.

    Is it possible for you to upload the bios and the drivers somewhere?
  20. lixuelai macrumors 6502a

    Oct 29, 2008
    Windows has no issues switching cards without a reinstall of the driver if the new card is supported by the existing driver. Has been this way since unified drivers came about. The issue here is that the Sapphire card is likely not recognized by the AMD drivers and Sapphire probably modified an older version of the AMD drivers to work with their new card. Installing an older driver over a newer one can cause problems. I am sure AMD will update their current driver for this card. You can probably do it yourself as the only changes should be in some INF file.

    p.s. About the BIOS switch nearly all the news releases about this card has described the switch as for selecting Mac vs PC. So go blame those news releases about misleading people (well not totally misleading but apparently not "pro" enough).
  21. 100Daily, Mar 22, 2013
    Last edited: Mar 22, 2013

    100Daily thread starter macrumors member

    Mar 15, 2013
    That makes sense, and that is a problem for anyone currently using Radeon software in Bootcamp. They will probably experience the same problem that I did.

    Unfortunately, that will mean some users will be fumbling through some INF file changes or will have to start fresh again with Windows if they are currently running Radeon software and want this card to work in Bootcamp.

    Meanwhile, the MSI 7970 is more Bootcamp compatible, faster, and cheaper.
  22. steph00 macrumors newbie

    Mar 22, 2013
    thanks a lot for the very welcome feedback 100daily !

    I have a hd7950 mac in the mail so I am a bit worried of the issue as I am using win7 as much as osx.
    My macpro currently runs a GT120 and I never installed a radeon in it so I hope it will be fine. I'll post feedback as soon as I receive it.
  23. 100Daily thread starter macrumors member

    Mar 15, 2013
    Sounds like you should be fine. Glad I could help. :apple:
  24. JavaTheHut macrumors 6502


    Aug 15, 2010
    Thanks for the post - ignore the arrogant detractors.
  25. alphaod macrumors Core


    Feb 9, 2008
    I tried this card in Windows. First boot it said I needed to install the drivers (something about the ones installed not responding or working) so I installed updates from AMD and after a reboot everything was fine.

    My previous card was the Apple 5870 and I had been doing regular updates. I never bother will video drivers on any CD because to me odds are they are out of date by the time they are shipped.

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