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Radeon 9800 XT (on a G5/2.5)
versus Others

Originally posted September 16th, 2004, by rob-ART morgan, mad scientist

We discovered in our previous tests with Motion that the RAM PREVIEW is a good test of the effect of the graphics card. Since Motion is the harbinger of things to come for pro apps on the Mac, we decided to add it to our suite of real world tests for graphics card speed.

In this article, we are pleased to give you results for the Radeon 9800 XT running on the G5/2.5GHz MP Power Mac graciously provided by ProMax. We compare it to the Radeon 9800 Pro Mac Special Edition and the Radeon 9600 XT. We included the G5/2.0GHz MP with various cards for reference.

TEST 1: MOTION RAM PREVIEW RENDER
The idea for this test came from my friends at CryWolf. I shared the idea with Adam Filipowicz who added it to his Motion Benchmark webpages. This graph shows the results of how long it takes to render a RAM PREVIEW of the "Fire - Mortise 2" template. (The MARK:RAM Preview:Play Range -- Command+R -- actually renders the template so it's ready for real time playback).

TEST 2: UNREAL TOURNAMENT 2003 FLYBY
With the help of the AppleScript created by MacBidouille, we ran (and averaged) the Antalus and Asbestos FLYBY tests at highest quality settings at 1920x1200 (the native resolution of the 23" Apple Cinema Display).

TEST 3: QUAKE3 ARENA DEMO FOUR
I know Quake3 is considered "old" compared to the latest 3D games, but it's still a good gauge of OpenGL performance of graphics cards, especially when we run at highest quality settings and 1920x1200 (the native resolution of the 23" Apple Cinema Display).

GRAPH LEGEND
Graphics Cards
GeF 6800 = nVidia GeForce 6800 Ultra DDL (8X, 512MB)
9800 XT = Radeon 9800 XT OEM (8X, 256MB
9600 XT = Radeon 9600 XT OEM (8X, 128MB)
9800 SE = Radeon 9800 Pro Mac Special Edition (8X, 256MB)
9800 Pro = Radeon 9800 Pro OEM (8X, 128MB)
9600 Pro = Radeon 9600 Pro OEM (8X, 64MB)
GeFX 5200 = nVidia GeForce FX 5200 (8X, 64MB)

CPUs
G5/2.5MP = G5/2.5GHz MP Power Mac
G5/2.0MP = G5/2.0GHz MP Power Mac

CONCLUSIONS
Faster graphics cards with more video memory aren't just for gamers anymore. Motion is showing the way with its use of the crunching power and memory capacity of the graphics processing unit (GPU).

As anticipated, the performance difference is slight between the Radeon 9800 XT (CTO option on G5 Power Macs) and the Radeon 9800 Pro SE (retail option for G5 Power Macs). The implication is that if you bought your G5 with a 9600 XT or lesser card, you can "up your game" with the Radeon 9800 Pro SE, since the 9800 XT isn't available as an aftermarket option (at this time).

An interesting advantage of the 9800 Pro SE over the XT is the fact that its heatsink doesn't encroach on the PCI-X slot next to it.

You'll notice that the G5/2.0GHz MP with the 9800 SE beats the G5/2.5GHz MP with the 9600 XT -- at least in the three tests we featured. Food for thought.

Of course, the GeForce 6800 Ultra DDL card should blow away both 9800s. We hope to have those numbers within two weeks. Then we'll know if it's worth the $599 for the aftermarket kit ( or $450-$500 if you order it with your new G5).

I want to emphasize to those of you buying G5/1.8s and G5/2.0s that you should order your Power Mac with at least the Radeon 9600 XT ($50 option), if you want reasonable performance with Apps tested above. Take another look above at the numbers we got for the GeForceFX 5200 in the Motion graph. And, if you can afford it, the 9800 XT or SE would be even better.

RELATED TEST RESULTS
GeForce 6800 Ultra DDL versus the Radeon 9800 XT and others
and
Special MOTION speed test page

SOURCES OF TEST PRODUCTS
My friends at ProMax are experts on turnkey pro video editing systems. They allowed me to test their Apple G5/2.5GHz MP Power Mac with three graphics cards (9600 XT, 9800 Pro SE, and 9800 XT) at their labs in Irvine, California.

The G5/2.0GHz MP Power Mac was tested in our lab.

WHERE TO BUY FAST GRAPHICS CARDS

The Apple Online Store offers the 9600 XT ($50), 9800 XT ($300-$350), GeForce 6800 GT ($350-$400), and GeForce 6800 Ultra ($450-500) as "configure-to-order" (CTO) options when purchasing a new G5 Power Mac.

If you already own a G5 Power Mac and want to upgrade to the 9600 XT or 9800 XT, you can't. They aren't available as kits from Apple (yet). And they aren't in retail channels (yet). Apple's Online Store does, however, sell aftermarket kits for the Radeon 9800 Pro "Mac Special Edition" ($399), GeForce 6800 GT ($499), and the GeForce 6800 Ultra DDL ($599).

There are various resellers carrying 8X (G5 only) Radeon 9800 Pro Mac Special Edition. Buy.com has it at a good price ($309 after subtracting the $10 off coupon) plus free shipping. Check also with Other World Computing and Small Dog Electronics.

If you own a G4 Power Mac with a 2X or 4X AGP slot, your best option is the Radeon 9800 Pro Mac Edition (128MB). The lowest price I've seen is $264 at Buy.com (after subtracting the $10 off coupon) with free shipping. Check also with Other World Computing or Small Dog Electronics or the Apple Online Store.

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10 off 150 Tech Stores exp 5/31
Buy.com iconhas the Radeon 9800 Pro Mac Special Edition. It qualifies for the $10 off coupon and free shipping.

2004 Rob Art Morgan
"BARE facts on Macintosh speed FEATS"
Email , the webmaster and mad scientist