Web Designer looking to convert from PC to Mac, Graphics Questions.

Discussion in 'Mac Pro' started by AdiosVista, Sep 10, 2008.

  1. AdiosVista macrumors 6502

    Sep 10, 2008

    I do a lot of freelance web design and with a few large projects in sight, I decided to upgrade my work machine. I shopped for all the parts and pieced it together myself (it's a smoking machine, I'm happy with the hardware) but unfortunately, installing Vista has given me nothing but headaches for three weeks now. I do also own a MacBook Pro and after the "fun" I have endured with my Vista experience, I'm interested in leaving Windows once and going all Apple (other than mandatory Windows testing).

    My question is regarding the MacBook's graphics capabilities. Please do bear with me as I am fairly new to Mac but eager to learn. From the research I've done, it basically sounded like Mac's have nailed down top performance when it comes to CPUs and memory, but they seem to be behind the curve when it comes to graphics. What I mean by that is I have not seen the ability to use modern technologies like SLI or Cross-Fire and the motherboard only comes with one PCI Express 2.0 slot while most every new motherboards today come with two. From what I could tell, it seemed like there was also a very limited number of video cards that are compatible with the Mac Pro, for example, I couldn't go buy a GX2 or 4870 and drop it into my Mac. If I'm wrong, please do correct me.

    Gaming is actually of importance to me. It is related to the specific type of clients I deal with and to be honest, I enjoy a good hour of Bioshock, CoD4, or TF2 from time to time. That being said, is it possible to run the most recent games on a Mac Pro with excellent quality? I've seen the YouTube videos of Crysis and whatnot but I was disappointed to find most of these examples used very low settings and resolutions. If it is possible to play games, what would be the best approach: Parallels, Boot Camp, or other? I know Boot Camp would obviously perform faster since it would require only one os running instead of two but are there also other differences between what graphics these two options can handle? I also noticed that most of the YouTube videos I saw of people gaming on Macs were using Boot Camp. Is that because of better resource usage like I mentioned or does Boot Camp also support more drivers or have other advantages? I believe I read somewhere that Windows on a Mac cannot run Direct X versions newer than 8, is that true?

    Any insight would be very much appreciated. The summarize my concerns: what are the limitations of the Mac Pro's graphic capabilities and is it possible to play modern games at high specs? Thanks in advance.
  2. JNB macrumors 604


    Oct 7, 2004
    In a Hell predominately of my own making
    I can't speak to a set of specifics, but in general Boot Camp will always outperform any virtualization, as you are running a Windows OS on Apple hardware. There's no Mac OS "in between" at that point. Drivers for hardware (particularly GPU's) may be a challenge, but to run one OS with the most combined capabilities, a Mac Pro running BC is it.

    My preferred setup is to run the primary Win OS in BC and then virtualize it as well under VMWare Fusion, so there's the dual, simultaneous capability with one copy of Windows and one activation. Boot into Windows when I need "all of it," launch it under Fusion when I just need a quicker, lighter touch (which is still amazingly powerful). All other OS's (Win Server 2K3, Linux, etc.) are just virtualized.
  3. rockinrocker macrumors 65816


    Aug 21, 2006
    yeah, this seems like the best way to do it. gaming sucks under virtualization. it's not just low frame rates 'n junk, but alot of games won't even run IME.
  4. AdiosVista thread starter macrumors 6502

    Sep 10, 2008
    Thank you for the quick response.

    Makes sense regarding virtualization versus Boot Camp and when to run each. My question then would be what are the differences between running Boot Camp on a Mac compared to simply running Windows on a pc? Are they identical at the point, or are there still limitations using Boot Camp? In BC, can I install everything from Steam games to Crysis and Bioshock?

    My other main concern about what hardware will actually work with a Mac Pro remains. If anyone has information on compatible video cards or what my options are there, that would be great. GPUs come out so frequently; I would hate to be tied to one card that will quickly be outdated.
  5. rockinrocker macrumors 65816


    Aug 21, 2006
    as fas as i know, everything's the same, for better or worse.

    somebody more knowledgeable then me would have to comment on that, but it does seem that it's tougher to get the latest and greatest for gamer cards on macs.
  6. CaptainChunk macrumors 68020


    Apr 16, 2008
    Phoenix, AZ
    Apple is always about a product generation behind the PC market in gaming graphics. The fastest "official" gaming card available for the Mac Pro is the GeForce 8800 GT. Not a bad card by any stretch (it plays current games at acceptable frame rates), but certainly not bleeding edge. Mac Pros use graphics cards with Mac-specific EFI ROMs instead of BIOS, which makes it difficult and often times impossible to use PC cards in OS X. Plus, Mac-specific graphics cards have always carried a hefty price premium over PC counterparts. Some people have been able to hack certain models of PC-based NVIDIA and ATI cards with EMI ROMs to function in OS X.

    HOWEVER, if you do Boot Camp with a Windows install, there's another option. Some have thrown a second (faster) PC graphics card into the second x16 slot for specific use in Windows. Besides, Windows still has a HUGE advantage in game developer support. Sadly, a lot of Mac games (with a few exceptions) are sucky ports of Windows games (Aspyr, anyone?) anyway.
  7. UltraNEO* macrumors 601


    Jun 16, 2007
    On the MacPro, you can at least install a the latest PC card of your choice but be warned it won't be of any uses to the Mac side, there's a chance the cooler fan will be whirling around at full-speed when your runing the system as a Mac..

    However, with the fantastic cooling capabilities the MacPro has, you could always swap out the default heat sink for something passive. Your PC gaming experience will be as if your on a real PC! If not better!

Share This Page