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You are here: MacNN Forums > Hardware - Troubleshooting and Discussion > Mac Desktops > Worth upgrading to 8800 graphics?

Worth upgrading to 8800 graphics?
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Jun 1, 2008, 03:58 PM
 
HI

I'm looking at buying a new Mac Pro. It would either be a current generation 2.8 / 8 Core, or a similar previous generation refurb.

I've searched this forum and the web, but I can't find anything to sway my decision about whether or not to upgrade the basic graphics card. I won't be gaming and, as far as I understand, PS and video editing won't see any real improvements with an upgrade. However, I'd like to start using Motion and may investigate Aperture or similar.

Is it worth the upgrade? Would it help future-proof the machine?

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Jun 1, 2008, 05:24 PM
 
The 8800 is in theory a much better card. That it currently can't show that is mostly a driver thing. You can buy one and hope they improve (they did in 10.5.3, or so I understand) but I really think that the 8800 is mostly for gaming.
     
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Jun 1, 2008, 07:13 PM
 
Yes, I'd go with it if you're going to do any Motion/Aperture work.

The benchmarks from launch aren't great, but I assume Apple will fix their issues (driver, framework, or application) and unleash the performance G92 is known for.
     
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Jun 2, 2008, 01:00 AM
 
I would not recommend it. its still has a few Kinks in its firmware, at least for the 1st generation.
I would personally wait
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drissa  (op)
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Jun 2, 2008, 06:59 AM
 
Thanks. I didn't realise there were issues. I guess I could upgrade later if needs be.
     
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Jun 2, 2008, 08:37 AM
 
Get the 8800 for games.
Get the 2600 for Aperture, Motion, OpenGL.

The new drivers in 10.5.3 have helped the 8800 as you can see here, but it is still far from beating the 2600 on pretty much everything as it in principle should.
     
drissa  (op)
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Jun 2, 2008, 09:17 AM
 
Thanks Simon. Bad news for gamers; good news for me, who will save some money.
     
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Jun 2, 2008, 10:58 AM
 
If you know you won't be playing many games, but you will be running pro apps like Aperture or Motion, the 2600 is the cheaper and better option right now. If Apple manages to get the 8800 drivers up to snuff you can still upgrade later on. If they don't at least you won't have wasted money. And quite possibly the upcoming Radeon HD 3870 could turn out to be the better choice overall.
     
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Jun 3, 2008, 12:01 AM
 
Do we know the Radeon HD 3870 is Mac Pro bound?
     
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Jun 3, 2008, 01:26 AM
 
     
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Jun 3, 2008, 02:41 PM
 
Has Apple ever offered two similar high-end cards for the PowerMac/Mac Pro?
Why put the effort into releasing the 3870 for the Mac Pro when the 8800GT is faster and cheaper?

Put the effort into decent drivers/app support for the already released 8800GT.
     
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Jun 3, 2008, 03:43 PM
 
The 3870 is one notch lower than the 8800 GT, so it's more like filling the void between it and the 2600 XT - or upgrading the base model card. I rather suspect that this indicates newer ATi cards in future revisions of the MBP and iMac, and that the driver support is already mostly there. I know that if you install 10.5.3 betas on a hackintosh with a 3650, the GPU works straight out of the box.

As for history... Both the 7800 GT and X1900 XT have been supported by Apple in the past - they're similar enough, performancewise. I won't swear that they actually shipped on the same model, but still.
     
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Jun 4, 2008, 01:06 AM
 
Originally Posted by P View Post
The 3870 is one notch lower than the 8800 GT, so it's more like filling the void between it and the 2600 XT - or upgrading the base model card. I rather suspect that this indicates newer ATi cards in future revisions of the MBP and iMac, and that the driver support is already mostly there. I know that if you install 10.5.3 betas on a hackintosh with a 3650, the GPU works straight out of the box.
The PC 3870 retails for $145-$160, the PC 8800GT retails for $130-165... why would the relative price difference for the Apple blessed versions be any different.

Originally Posted by P View Post
As for history... Both the 7800 GT and X1900 XT have been supported by Apple in the past - they're similar enough, performancewise. I won't swear that they actually shipped on the same model, but still.
I think you're right; the G5s had 7800GT, then the Mac Pros came out with X1900XT instead of 8800GTS/X, and the X1900XT was backported to the G5s. It only made sense then because, IIRC, the 7800GT was only available BTO, not retail.
     
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Jun 4, 2008, 02:06 AM
 
Apple's apps (Aperture, Motion) and OpenGL apps will run a whole better on the 3870 and yet it will not be more expensive than the 8800. So there is certainly more than enough incentive for Apple to do it.

And one thing is for sure. If Apple' strategy were to be just improve the 8800 drivers, they wouldn't be designing Apple Store graphics that mention the 3870 with an exact set of specs. It is quite clear that it is/was Apple's intention to bring the 3870 to the current MP alongside the 2600, 8800, and the FX5600.
     
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Jun 10, 2008, 12:59 AM
 
after the last update, all of those problems seem to have been resolved.
im not sure if its luck or its a firmware update.
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Jun 12, 2008, 06:46 PM
 
Yes it was announced today that the HD 3780 coming to the Mac, with PC and Mac versions available. I thinking, but not sure , isn't this a first?
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Jun 12, 2008, 07:26 PM
 
You mean one version for both? Then no. Can't find the announcement you're talking about, though.
     
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Jun 12, 2008, 08:07 PM
 
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Jun 13, 2008, 04:07 AM
 
Originally Posted by Simon View Post
Apple's apps (Aperture, Motion) and OpenGL apps will run a whole better on the 3870 and yet it will not be more expensive than the 8800. So there is certainly more than enough incentive for Apple to do it.

And one thing is for sure. If Apple' strategy were to be just improve the 8800 drivers, they wouldn't be designing Apple Store graphics that mention the 3870 with an exact set of specs. It is quite clear that it is/was Apple's intention to bring the 3870 to the current MP alongside the 2600, 8800, and the FX5600.
ATi delivers as expected. The Radeon HD 3870 for both Mac Pro generations
     
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Jun 13, 2008, 11:33 AM
 
ATI just came out with the Radeon HD 3870. Early tests are at
Review of the ATI Radeon HD 3870 Mac & PC Edition

The card is new so we do not yet know about noise, etc. but I suggest evaluating that card as well as the 8800 GT and HD 2600XT. If you are considering Aperture you want one of those 3 cards. Mine is the 2600XT, but today I would buy the new HD 3870.

-Allen Wicks
     
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Jun 13, 2008, 01:07 PM
 
If you do Aperture you want the HD 3870. Ditto for Motion.
     
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Jun 13, 2008, 02:02 PM
 
I wonder if Apple will offer it BTO... should be a $70 option, but I have a feeling they'd mark it up.
     
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Jun 14, 2008, 04:37 AM
 
Agreed. $70 is the difference in MSR.

Assuming Apple brings it out as BTO, they will be buying at a different price anyway. And then of course there's marketing and margins. My guess would be around $99 for the BTO 3870. That would fit it pretty pretty nicely between the stock 2600 and the $150 8800 BTO option.
     
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Jun 14, 2008, 03:47 PM
 
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Jun 15, 2008, 04:55 PM
 
Originally Posted by mkerr64 View Post
after the last update, all of those problems seem to have been resolved.
im not sure if its luck or its a firmware update.
So the 8800's reported performance issues are resolved in Mac OS X 10.5.3?
     
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Jun 15, 2008, 05:04 PM
 
Originally Posted by Moose View Post
So the 8800's reported performance issues are resolved in Mac OS X 10.5.3?
Read the thread and you will find the answers or at least links to the answers.
     
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Jun 17, 2008, 02:41 AM
 
First of all, I don't think the driver is responsible for 8800 GT losing to 2600 in those benchmarks. Thing is NVIDIA employs universal driver model, meaning the same driver works for wide selection of cards (and of course it's NVIDIA's driver, not Apple's). If you look closely at iMovie benchmark you will see that slower 8800 GS in iMac substantially outperforms its faster counterpart in Mac Pro. Same driver, different Macs, different card firmware. Either this is a firmware bug (not likely, IMO) or software bug (perhaps some of Apple libraries use special code path for 8800 GT but newer 8800 GS won't get detected so it goes by general code 'non-buggy' path).

If you check gaming benchmarks you will see that 8800 GT performs just like it should - fastest of the Mac breed in every game. This rules out driver and firmware issues, in case of general bugs card would underperform in any application, not just pro. So my bet it's an Apple software / framework bug.

Please note future card potential too. As we know Snow Leopard will introduce GP GPU library OpenCL, and it almost certain that hardware requirements will be the same as for CUDA library. NVIDIA 8x00 series are CUDA compatible. Reasonable powerful card as 8800 GT will give a hefty boost in calculations. I can't make guesses on ATI parts here, but perhaps newly announced 3870 (which is slower than 8800 GT) will comply to OpenCL as well.
     
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Jun 17, 2008, 04:17 AM
 
Originally Posted by ViktorCode View Post
... but perhaps newly announced 3870 (which is slower than 8800 GT) will comply to OpenCL as well.
The 3870 is slower than the 8800? Under Windows, maybe. For games, probably. But what about getting work done on OS X? Every benchmark done with OS X shows that people doing Aperture, Motion, OpenGL will get better performance even from the much cheaper 2600 than from the 8800. And this is even true after the updates in 10.5.3. And since we know the 3870 outperforms the 2600 clearly, this indicates for work the 3870 will be the better (and cheaper) choice than the 8800.

Under Windows this is entirely different. And for gamers the 8800 is a must. Things might also change in the future due to driver/firmware updates. But right now the benchmarks are crystal clear. And while we all expected the 8800 would be the clear winner, it has not delivered accordingly so far.
     
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Jun 17, 2008, 07:03 AM
 
The 3870 is slower than the 8800?
It is, and it's not only in Windows. If you look into game performance under OS X you will see that in general 8800 GT outperforms HD 3870. Please note that games in Mac OS are using the same OpenGL implementation as any other app. That's why I think the bug is hidden in Apple software, some framework that is shared among pro apps, and OpenGL has nothing to do with that.

I haven't seen CUDA performance results in Mac OS X (NVIDIA provides beta SDK), but most likely those results are identical with the ones obtained under Windows, because software interacts with GPU directly, without employing additional API, such as OpenGL (i.e. less chance to introduce a bug). In future OpenCL (don't confuse with OpenGL) will provide the same shader power to the wider range of applications, and that's why I implied that 8800 GT is more preferable as a future investment. But, if you need your pro apps to work faster right now, and you don't believe that Apple will resolve that slow performance bug any time soon, go 2600 XT / HD 3870 route. Also, if money is a concern then HD 3870 is a much smarter choice too.

At the moment 8800 GT remains the top performer for Mac platform still... with large chunk of its performance wasted in pro apps.
     
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Jun 17, 2008, 09:24 AM
 
For games it is the top performer. For professional use it has clearly underdelivered. Even after 10.5.3.

When enjoying these graphs keep in mind the 8800 costs $150 more than the 2600.



Originally Posted by BareFeats
The good news is that the Core Image performance of the GeForce 8800 GS and GT are significantly improved with the Mac OS X 10.5.3 update. The bad news? In most cases, the performance only improved enough to become roughly equal that of the "base" Radeon HD 2600 Pro or XT.
If you want an optional graphics card that significantly improves the Core Image performance of Apple's consumer and pro apps above that of the "base" Radeon 2600, then you're going to be very interested in the test results for the soon-to-ship Radeon HD 3870 -- which we will be posting in a few days.
In short, if you're a pro user and you need more than a 2600, get a 3870 instead of an 8800.
     
   
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