Best Mac Pro GPUs versus
2012 Retina MacBook Pro
running (wink) OpenGL Benchmarks
Originally posted Tuesday, July 24th, 2012, by rob-ART morgan, mad scientist
Updated July 30th, with iMac 3.4GHz results
The frustration of Mac Pro owners for the lack of new and better GPUs has given rise to a movement to buy "Windows only" GPUs and flash them with "OS X compatible" code. MacVidCards sent us some samples to try. We decided to show how these "alternative" GPUs compare to conventional OS X compatible GPUs when running OpenGL based games and benchmarks.
We were also curious how the 2012 Retina MacBook Pro stacked up against the best Mac Pro GPUs. We chose 1440x900 resolution since that's the factory default for the Retina MacBook Pro. And we tested at 2560x1440 resolution, the native resolution for the Apple 27" LED backlit Cinema and Thunderbolt display.
Unigine Heaven Benchmark 3.0 - We just recently started using this cross-platform DirectX and OpenGL tester. (Download the Basic version to test your Mac.) SETTINGS: Default which includes Medium Shaders, High Textures, Trilinear Filter, Anti-aliasing OFF, 4x Anisotropy, Occlusion enabled, Refraction enabled, Volumetric enabled, Tessellation disabled. HIGHEST number equals fastest time in frames per second.
Blizzard Starcraft II - SETTINGS: Ultra Textures and Extreme Graphics Quality preset. Using Control+Option+F, we turned on Frames-Per-Second display and recorded the median framerate during a Twilight Fortress Replay of a MultiPlayer session. HIGHEST number equals fastest time in frames per second.
Feral Interactive Dirt 2 - SETTINGS include multisampling OFF, graphics_detail level ULTRA, shadows enabled, tessellation TRUE, dynamic_ambient_occ enabled, vehicles characterQuality="4." We ran the built-in benchmark where Travis Pastrana races seven copies of himself. HIGHEST number equals fastest time in frames per second.
Laminar Research X-Plane 10 - Run from Terminal app using this command line: ./X-Plane.app/Contents/MacOS/X-Plane --no_fbo_minify --fps_test=3001 --load_smo=Output/replays/p3.rep --pref:_prefs_found=1 --pref:_is_full_ALL=1 --pref:_x_res_full_ALL=1440 --pref:_y_res_full_ALL=900 --pref:_bpp_full_ALL=32. Our test was a replay of an F4 Phantom jet flight. HIGHEST number equals fastest time in frames per second.
Run from Terminal app using this command line: ./X-Plane.app/Contents/MacOS/X-Plane --no_fbo_minify --fps_test=3003 --load_smo=Output/replays/p3.rep --pref:_prefs_found=1 --pref:_is_full_ALL=1 --pref:_x_res_full_ALL=2560 --pref:_y_res_full_ALL=1440 --pref:_bpp_full_ALL=32. HIGHEST number equals fastest time in frames per second.
MP G580 = 'mid 2010' Mac Pro 3.33GHz Hex-Core, NVIDIA GeForce GTX 580 GPU **
MP G570 = 'mid 2010' Mac Pro 3.33GHz Hex-Core, NVIDIA GeForce GTX 570 GPU **
MP R5870 = 'mid 2010' Mac Pro 3.33GHz Hex-Core, AMD Radeon HD 5870 GPU
iMac R6970 = 'mid 2011' iMac 3.4GHz Quad-Core i7, AMD Radeon HD 6970M GPU
MP G285 = 'mid 2010' Mac Pro 3.33GHz Hex-Core, NVIDIA GeForce GTX 285 GPU
MP R5770 = 'mid 2010' Mac Pro 3.33GHz Hex-Core, AMD Radeon HD 5770 GPU
RMBP G650 = 'mid 2012' Retina MacBook Pro 2.7GHz Quad-Core i7, NVIDIA GeForce GT 650M GPU
MBP R6770 = 'late 2011' MacBook Pro 2.5GHz Quad-Core i7, Radeon HD 6770M GPU
External 27" LED backlit Cinema or Thunderbolt display used for 2560x1440 runs. When 1440x900 wasn't available, 1344x1008 was used.
**NOTE: GeForce GTX 570 and GTX 580 provided courtesy of MacVidCards eBay Store.
The GTX 580 was the most fun GPU to test. It's a beast requiring three power inputs. Yet it was one of the quietest -- and fastest in six out of eight tests shown above. The GTX 570 was more sane with dual power inputs. It beats the top "Apple blessed" GPU, the Radeon HD 5870, in 4 out of 8 tests. But that means the 5870 beat it in 4 out of 8 tests. However, the GTX 570 gets the edge since it's faster in three out of four tests at the 2560x1440 resolution.
There are other apps to consider when choosing your ultimate GPU. For example, the GTX 570 beats the Radeon HD 5870 by a mile when rendering a ray-traced 3D animation in Adobe After Effects CS6. Then again, the 5870 nine times faster than the GTX 570 in rendering the OpenCL Iris Blur effect in Adobe Photoshop CS6. But then again, the GTX 570 beats the 5780 when rendering blur effects in Adobe Premiere Pro CS6. But then again, the Radeon HD 5870 is officially supported by Apple.
How does the Retina MacBook Pro fit in the mix? Its GeForce GT 650M GPU gets smoked in every case except X-Plane. It's the fastest laptop GPU that Apple has ever offered but it isn't on par with top Mac Pro GPUs.
Even if you are replacing a defective GPU in an older Mac Pro, you may want to consider some of these alternative GPUs to those sold on the Apple online store. They can be purchased from special sources like MacVidCards eBay Store -- who supplied our test samples. Another source for replacement GPUs is the AppleMacanix eBay store.