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You are here: MacNN Forums > Hardware - Troubleshooting and Discussion > Mac Desktops > iMac 20": Video Card Upgrade?

iMac 20": Video Card Upgrade?
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selowitch
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Nov 26, 2006, 05:14 PM
 
My Intel 20" iMac (Late 2006) has a PCI Express slot for video. Does that mean that, at least theoretically, I could swap out the video card someday?
     
mduell
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Nov 26, 2006, 06:10 PM
 
No, it doesn't.

It uses the PCI Express bus to connect the graphics chips to the northbridge, but there is no slot.
     
selowitch  (op)
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Nov 26, 2006, 06:39 PM
 
Originally Posted by mduell View Post
No, it doesn't.
Darn. What about the 24" model?
     
ibook_steve
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Nov 26, 2006, 09:00 PM
 
No.
     
mduell
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Nov 26, 2006, 09:02 PM
 
Originally Posted by selowitch View Post
Darn. What about the 24" model?
While the 24" has an MXM slot (which is like a miniature version of PCIe), IIRC Apple has only borrowed the slot size/shape without conforming to the rest of the MXM standard. While it is physically replaceable, you'd need a card that complies with Apple's proprietary standard.
     
Skeptik
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Dec 3, 2006, 02:20 PM
 
So once again Apple forces it's customers to pay the premium for their propriety card. How is it that they can offer this replaceable option on the 24" and not the more popular 20".

The graphics in the 20" is really inadequate for anything remotely intensive. And if you use bootcamp it hardly comes close to the requirements of the PC world - especially games.

If Apple wants to save cash and consistently insert el-cheapo graphics, DVD writers and the like in their uber-design PCs, then please have the courtesy to allow us to replace them for one of our own choosing.
     
P
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Dec 3, 2006, 02:37 PM
 
X1600 is not precisely el-cheapo, and it's still decent to game on today. You should have been here when the iMacs had Geforce 5200 U, that was something to complain about. The X1600 is a rather decent midrange chip: OK today, but not future-proof.

The 24" is a more recent model. The C2D 20"ers were just the old Intel iMacs with a drop in CPU. I think there's fairly good chance that the next generation of the 17"ers and 20"ers will have a new motherboard with MXM support - there is only upside for Apple if they can offer different GPU options in the iMacs and Powerbooks.

I recently built a system around an E6400 (Conroe) and a 7950GT. It is a lot more silent than my old iMac G5, and the only time it really revs is when I game on the highest settings - but then the iMac does that as well. I can even overclock it to 3.2 GHz and have a reasonably quiet computer. Based on this, I think that there's a decent chance that Apple will make an updated iMac with Conroe and MXM-support on the motherboard.

The question of whether Apple was following the MXM standard or not was still open, last I checked. Mark, where did you hear that they aren't?
     
Skeptik
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Dec 3, 2006, 03:15 PM
 
In all the reviews of graphics cards for PCs I researched when the Intel iMac was released, none had the 1600. I had to get hold of a year-old mag to see it was bottom of the pecking order with a warning "Games users are likely to be disappointed". It never appeared in subsequent reviews. If I walk into a Mac shop to see a newly released iMac, I expect to see a contemporary graphics card, not a bottom drawer PC cast-off. And as you say, in a year it will definitely look ancient. We pay a premium for these items do we not? The fact that Apple won't even give us the choice is the rub. IMHO Apple are too obsessed with manipulating customers in their buying choices to care.

For example, there is a demand for a midrange MacPro - between iMac and MacPro. Whenever this is suggested, the argument is ... well that will interfere with sales of the MacPro, so let's not. I thought customer was king, not Apple's neat balance sheet.

I like your idea of building a system, but of course you lose the OSX option. Now if they ported THAT to the PC world, Apple would see if their computers can really compete on a level playing field.
     
mduell
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Dec 3, 2006, 03:46 PM
 
The X1600 debuted with the X1800, so it's now about 2 generations back.

I don't know where I saw the Apple-proprietary-MXM note first, but the wikipedia's MXM page now mentions it. Quanta does the same thing with some of their other systems, and Quanta is the iMac ODM if I recall correctly.

The problem with a "midrange Mac Pro" or "headless iMac" or "super mini" or whatever you want to call it is that there's no profit to be made there; everyone is in that market and the margins are poop. As much as I'd like Apple to get in it, I can see why they don't.
     
Sbtrfuge
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Dec 3, 2006, 04:05 PM
 
Originally Posted by Skeptik View Post
So once again Apple forces it's customers to pay the premium for their propriety card. How is it that they can offer this replaceable option on the 24" and not the more popular 20".

The graphics in the 20" is really inadequate for anything remotely intensive. And if you use bootcamp it hardly comes close to the requirements of the PC world - especially games.

If Apple wants to save cash and consistently insert el-cheapo graphics, DVD writers and the like in their uber-design PCs, then please have the courtesy to allow us to replace them for one of our own choosing.
Sell it and buy a new iMac. You knew what you were getting into when you purchased a machine that's graphics card was soldered onto it's motherboard.
     
P
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Dec 3, 2006, 05:37 PM
 
Wikipedia indeed mentions the MXM in the iMac being non-standard, but it doesn't say so on their reference pages. The official one doesn't mention the iMac and the fan site still says that they don't know, but that there is no reason yet why it shouldn't be. They specifically note that Apple hasn't used the Quanta method.

The iMac motherboard is a year old, and of course the market has moved forward since then, but two generations? It was replaced by the X1650 series, an obvious die-shrink part that came only a month and a half ago, but then what? At the launch, the X1600 was also a recent part (launched in October '05). Now, if you want to complain that Apple were idiots to use ATi and not nVidia - fine - but they did actually pick a recent mid-range part when designing the machine. That it's old now is because the machine is due for a refresh, not because they were skimping.

Skeptik: The last "please give us a headless iMac"-discussion was just a week or so ago, so I won't go there again. Search the forums for extended arguments of why it hasn't happened.

And I didn't mean to suggest that you should build a PC, I just said that I did so, for various other reasons. As for it running OS X...let me get back to you on that.
     
mduell
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Dec 3, 2006, 05:57 PM
 
Originally Posted by P View Post
The iMac motherboard is a year old, and of course the market has moved forward since then, but two generations? It was replaced by the X1650 series, an obvious die-shrink part that came only a month and a half ago, but then what? At the launch, the X1600 was also a recent part (launched in October '05). Now, if you want to complain that Apple were idiots to use ATi and not nVidia - fine - but they did actually pick a recent mid-range part when designing the machine. That it's old now is because the machine is due for a refresh, not because they were skimping.
You're right. The current generation of chips (nVidia 8 series) doesn't have a mid-market chip yet, so the X1600 is only one generation back.
But the X1600 in the iMac is underclocked, so it's more than a generation back in terms of performance.
     
foo2
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Dec 4, 2006, 03:23 PM
 
It's *STILL* not a bad chip. Sure, it's not a high-end gamer card, but for anything but this-generation 3D games, it's fantastic. I came from a GF5200 non-U in my PB12", and this is a _major_ upgrade (in my 20" 1stGen Intel 2.0 iMac). It only walks in Doom3 and Quake 4, but aside from that, it's grand. UT2004 is beautiful. UT2007, OTOH, I'm fully aware won't be so hot.
     
P
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Dec 4, 2006, 06:34 PM
 
I checked up a little more, and it's hard to see how Apple could have done it differently. When the Intel iMacs were released, the 7600 wasn't out yet. A 7800GS would have been too expensive and the 6800GS did not have the non-3D capabilities (like video acceleration) that the Radeon did. You could argue that Apple should have dropped a new motherboard with a 7600GT (or an X1800 GTO or something) at the last refresh, but they pretty much had their hands full with the Mac Pro.

Of course they shouldn't have downclocked it, that goes without saying. I wonder - isn't ATi boards overclockable in software? You can even disable rendering pipes in software. Couldn't Apple make it an option in the Energy Saver control panel to downclock it or not - like they do with the CPU?
     
mduell
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Dec 4, 2006, 07:28 PM
 
Originally Posted by P View Post
Of course they shouldn't have downclocked it, that goes without saying. I wonder - isn't ATi boards overclockable in software? You can even disable rendering pipes in software. Couldn't Apple make it an option in the Energy Saver control panel to downclock it or not - like they do with the CPU?
Yes. There are quite a few posts online regarding people changing the clockrate the MBP's (severely, in the case of the Core Duo) underclocked GPU in Windows.
     
indigoimac
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Dec 5, 2006, 08:56 PM
 
Personally I've been quite satisfied w/ the graphics in my iMac, I don't use it to game(I have a Windows box for that) but regardless the iMac's x1600 is roughly on par w/ nVidia's 6600GT or their 6800(non-ultra, non-gt, just regular) I have the 6800 on my PC which is a 2.6GHz P4, as I said graphics performance is on par in 3d and marginally better in day to day and HD(though I'm sure the differences between the P4 and C2D weigh in here)

I'm still very satisfied w/ my purchase and its performance to cost ratio.
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badnewsblair
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Dec 6, 2006, 10:42 AM
 
I have the first edition of the Intel iMac 20-inch. Ocassionally I game on the PC side with games like Dawn of War and FEAR Combat. While it isn't out of this world performance, it is more than enough to be playable AND quite pretty. I can't say I've had a better computer in my lifetime. Not even my beloved 17-inch Powerbook of old.
[ 15 inch Macbook Pro 2.8 GHz Core 2 Duo ][ 20 inch Intel iMac 2 GB RAM / 256 MB ATI XT 1600 ][ iPhone OG (3GS on Reservation)][ White iPod 5th Gen. 60GB ]
     
jamil5454
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Dec 6, 2006, 02:51 PM
 
I ended up saving for a MacBook, selling my iMac, and using the money to build a kick-ass PC. No regrets so far. I was able to get a 20" widescreen monitor, Core2Duo E6300, 2GB PC2800 RAM, GeForce 8800 GTS, etc for $1500. I wasn't disappointed with the graphics performance of the iMac per se, I was just disappointed that I coudn't run my games at native resolution. Aything other than 1680x1050 looked like crap.
     
macintologist
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Dec 6, 2006, 02:57 PM
 
Originally Posted by jamil5454 View Post
I wasn't disappointed with the graphics performance of the iMac per se, I was just disappointed that I coudn't run my games at native resolution. Aything other than 1680x1050 looked like crap.
That's precisely why I got the 17" model.
     
WizOSX
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Dec 7, 2006, 12:36 AM
 
….....................
Originally Posted by P
Of course they shouldn't have downclocked it, that goes without saying. I wonder - isn't ATi boards overclockable in software? You can even disable rendering pipes in software. Couldn't Apple make it an option in the Energy Saver control panel to downclock it or not - like they do with the CPU?.
Of course, the reason they downclock it is to cut heat. Every review (in Mac and PC mags) think the current form factor of iMac is fantastic--slim, silent. But you can't be slim and silent and use the most up-to-date, fully clocked GPU. As has been said many times on these forums, the iMac is very similar to a notebook with an attached stand and monitor. The GPU used, and its clocking, are not much different than those used in midrange PC notebooks.
     
CharlesS
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Dec 7, 2006, 01:57 AM
 
Precisely, it is a non-portable laptop.

My next machine will be an actually portable laptop, rather than a non-portable one.

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P
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Dec 7, 2006, 04:47 AM
 
Originally Posted by WizOSX View Post
….....................

Of course, the reason they downclock it is to cut heat. Every review (in Mac and PC mags) think the current form factor of iMac is fantastic--slim, silent. But you can't be slim and silent and use the most up-to-date, fully clocked GPU. As has been said many times on these forums, the iMac is very similar to a notebook with an attached stand and monitor. The GPU used, and its clocking, are not much different than those used in midrange PC notebooks.
In my newly built PC, I use a Geforce 7950 GT. Without any hacking, just installing the board, the GPU fan spins up when a game starts and the GPU has to work. When just working in the OS, it's silent. That's what I want in the iMac - the fan can go like a hovercraft when gaming, I don't care, but it should be silent otherwise. One way to achive this in an OS that always has OpenGL running is to clock the GPU up and down in software, and I'd like to see Apple try that.
     
ballzdeep
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Dec 8, 2006, 12:45 PM
 
he's a question about the 'fixed parts' of the imac...

what are the costs associated with fixing them if they break outside of applecare?

like, in a year or whatever if I need to replace the HDD or GPU because they just die on me one day, what would the estimate be to the cost of repair? anyone know?
life is too short to own a crappy computer
     
Big Mac
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Dec 8, 2006, 12:56 PM
 
I think you've misunderstood the way the iMac is built. There is no separate GPU card - the card is built into the chipset of the motherboard. If the GPU needs to be replaced, that means the entire motherboard has to be, and that cost would be substantial. If it's a drive that needs to be replaced, it's the cost of a new drive plus the cost of installing it.

"The natural progress of things is for liberty to yield and government to gain ground." TJ
     
foo2
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Dec 8, 2006, 03:36 PM
 
Originally Posted by Big Mac View Post
I think you've misunderstood the way the iMac is built. There is no separate GPU card - the card is built into the chipset of the motherboard. If the GPU needs to be replaced, that means the entire motherboard has to be, and that cost would be substantial. If it's a drive that needs to be replaced, it's the cost of a new drive plus the cost of installing it.
In all seriousness, how often does this really happen? Apple's got some of the more reliable hardware in the industry (check the 2007 Consumer Reports buying guide - they make it pretty clear).

I think AppleCare, particularly for desktops, is ... if not wasteful, then at least an unnecessary expense for most people.
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selowitch  (op)
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Dec 8, 2006, 04:27 PM
 
Originally Posted by foo2 View Post
I think AppleCare, particularly for desktops, is ... if not wasteful, then at least an unnecessary expense for most people.
Probably true, but if you're paranoid, AppleCare does provide some additional peace-of-mind. It's all a question of priorities: Are you willig to take a small risk in order to save yourself the cost?
     
   
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