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QUESTION: Can You Upgrade A G4 Power Mac
To Go As Fast As A G5 Power Mac?
PAGE TWO -- 3D Graphics

Originally posted September 22nd, 2005, by rob-ART morgan, mad scientist

Counting "home brew" versions, there are as many as 10 graphics card options for the owners of G4 Power Mac "QuickSilvers" and "Digital Audios." At some point we will add more of them to this article, but this first edition will feature the two new commercially available cards from ATI, the Radeon 9600 Pro PC and Mac Edition and the Radeon 9800 Pro Mac Edition. "Will a QuickSilver with a Radeon 9800 Pro and CPU upgrade run 3D Graphics intensive applications as fast as a G5 Power Mac with the same graphics card?"

The Radeon 9600 Pro PC and Mac edition (4X AGP) is unique among replacement cards for the G4 Power Macs in that it supports Dual-Link in one of its two DVI ports. If you are blessed to own a 30" Cinema display, with the new 9600, you can run it on your G4 Power Mac. The 9600 also sports 256MB of DDR RAM, which, though added with Tiger's Core Image apps in mind, can't hurt when running texture rich 3D graphics at high resolutions.

Since the new 256MB replacement for the 2X/4X AGP Radeon 9800 Pro Mac Edition isn't ready at this writing, we tested the QuickSilver with the older 128MB version. We'll be retesting with the 256MB version as soon as its available (sometime in October). In the case of the G5, we used the 128MB 8X AGP version of the 9800 Pro originally offered as a built-to-order option for the G5/2.0GHz Power Mac (but tweaked it to run at the same core and memory clock speeds of the 2X/4X version.)

As you can see from the results, both the Radeon 9600 and 9800 are a signficant improvement over the stock Radeon 7500. But the QuickSilver is no match for the superior bandwidth of the G5 when it comes to 3D graphics.

As for optimizing the 3D graphics performance of your QuickSilver or Digital Audio G4 Power Mac, the Radeon 9800 Pro looks like the "sweet spot." (We actually tested "faster," more expensive cards including a "home brew" GeForce 6800 GT and Radeon FireGL/X800 XT. They were no faster than the Radeon 9800 Pro in any test we ran.)

One question we get often is, "Should I upgrade the CPU first or the graphics card?" It depends on what you do with your G4 Power Mac. If you only run conventional applications like we tested on PAGE ONE, then the CPU should be the first thing to upgrade (other than memory and hard drive).

But if you plan to run advanced 3D graphic intensive apps such as those highlighted on this page or plan to run advanced OpenGL and Core Image apps like Motion and iMaginator, then you'll want to upgrade both CPU and GPU. Though adding a faster graphics card made our stock QuickSilver run 3D apps faster, combining it with the faster CPU took it to a new level.

Take another look at the UT2004 Botmatch (BridgeOfFate) graph. Notice the Radeon 9800 Pro was no faster than the Radeon 9600 Pro. That's because the Botmatch, which similates real game play, shows how CPU bound that game is. But again, you definitely want a CPU *AND* GPU upgrade to elevate the quality of game play.



Anandtech's review of the Radeon 9600 Pro PC and Mac Edition

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For your Mac Pro, you have the following 16X PCI Express (PCIe) options:
The GeForce 7300 GT (16X, 256MB, dual-link DVI + single-link DVI port) is the default. We recommend the Radeon X1900 XT (16X, 512MB, two dual-link DVI ports) as a CTO option. It's much faster than the GeForce 7300 GT and just as fast as the expensive Quadro FX 4500. According to Alias/Autodesk, the X1900 XT is the only graphics card without limitations when using Maya 8.5. To custom order your Mac Pro with the Radeon X1900 XT, go to the Apple Store and click on the Mac Pro graphic.

If you didn't order the Radeon X1900 XT with your Mac Pro, you can order the Radeon X1900 XT as an aftermarket kit for your Mac Pro, go to the Apple Store and click on DISPLAYS in the left margin or do a search on "X1900."

NOTE: Mac Pro PCIe graphics cards will not work in Power Mac G5s with PCIe slots -- and vice versa. Nor will Windows PC PCIe graphics cards work in the Mac Pro.

Graphics Card Options for the Dual-Core or Quad-Core G5 with 16X PCI Express slot:
The best option for your Dual-Core or Quad-Core G5 with PCIe slots is the ATI Radeon X1900 G5 Mac Edition released in November 2006. You can buy it directly from ATI's Online Store for $299 (with "trade up" allowance).

It's also sold by Small Dog Electronics and Other World Computing.

The following cards only work on a G5 Power Mac with 8X AGP slot:
The "G5 only" Radeon X800 XT Mac Edition (8X AGP, 256MB, ADC + Dual-Link DVI port) is available from ATI Online Store, Apple's Online Store,, Other World Computing, and Small Dog Electronics. (The MSRP is $299)

Apple's Online Store is no longer selling the GeForce 6800 GT or Ultra, which had Dual-Dual-Link DVI ports (for two 30" Cinemas).

The "G5 only" Radeon 9800 Pro Mac Special Edition (8X AGP, 256MB, ADC + DVI port) is no longer made by ATI.

The following cards work on both the G5 Power Mac (8X AGP) and G4 Power Macs with 2X or 4X AGP:
Other World Computing has the new ATI Radeon 9800 Pro Mac (2X/4X AGP, 256MB, DVI + VGA ports) graphics card in stock for $259. ATI has it on their Online Store for $249. The SKU number is 100-435058, in case you want to make sure you are getting the right card.

ATI Online Store, and Other World Computing have the Radeon 9600 Pro PC and Mac Edition (4X AGP, 256MB, DVI + Dual-Link DVI port) as well. It's compatible with late model G4 Power Macs and all G5 Power Macs with AGP slots. Priced at $199 MSRP it is the lowest priced AGP graphics card with Dual-Link DVI support.

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2005 Rob Art Morgan
"BARE facts on Macintosh speed FEATS"
Email , the webmaster and mad scientist