BARE FEATS - real world Mac speed tests

REVIEW: ATI's New Retail Radeon 9600 Pro
Dual-Link Card for Mac (and PC)

Originally posted August 19th, 2005, by rob-ART morgan, mad scientist
Updated August 22nd, 2005, with Radeon 9600 XT results

ATI has shifted its mid-range retail (aftermarket) Mac graphics card strategy as of today. They are discontinuing the two existing mid-range cards:
The Radeon 9800 Pro Mac Special Edition (8X AGP, 256MB, ADC + DVI ports) MSRP $299
The Radeon 9800 Pro Mac Edition (2X/4X AGP, 128MB, DVI + VGA ports) MSRP $249

The two NEW mid-range selections will be:
The Radeon 9800 Pro Mac (2X/4X AGP, 256MB, DVI + VGA port) MSRP $299
The Radeon 9600 Pro PC and Mac Edition (4X AGP, 256MB, DVI + Dual-Link DVI) MSRP $199

We had a chance to test the Radeon 9600 Pro PC and Mac Edition this week. Without further ado, here's what we learned...

LEGEND
GeFX 5200 = GeForceFX 5200 (8X, 256MB, 128 bit, converted PC card)
Rad9600 XT = Radeon 9600 XT (8X, 128MB, Apple OEM)
Rad9600 Pro = Radeon 9600 Pro PC and Mac Edition (4X, 256MB, ATI Retail)
Rad9800 4X = Radeon 9800 Pro Mac Edition (2X/4X, 128MB, discontinued)
Rad9800 8X = Radoen 9800 Pro Mac Special Edition (8X, 256MB, discontinued)
GeF6800 GT = GeForce 6800 GT (8X, 256MB, Apple OEM)
GeF6800 UT = GeForce 6800 Ultra (8X, 256MB, Apple OEM discontinued)
RadX800 XT = Radeon X800 XT (8X, 256MB, ATI Retail)
RadX850 XT = Radeon X850 XT (8X, 256MB, Apple OEM)
Fastest result is in
RED, NEW Radeon 9600 Pro is in WHITE.

ATI's STRATEGIES
According to ATI, they are aiming the 9600 Pro PC and Mac card at content producers who use video memory hungry apps like Apple's Motion 2 but don't require strong 3D performance. Since the new 9600 Pro comes with one Dual-Link DVI port, buyers can drive a 30" Cinema Display without being required to buy ATI's top-end retail card, Radeon X800 XT. Moreover, G4 Power Mac users with 4X AGP slots can now choose a fully supported 256MB graphics card.

The Radeon 9600 Pro is called the "PC and Mac Edition" because it has both PC and Mac ROM code. It's the first graphics card that's compatible with both. Now mid-range Windows PC users can drive the Dual-Link 30" Cinema LCD display without buying an expensive workstation card like the nVidia Quadro or ATI FireGL.

For those G5 Power Mac users with a GeForceFX 5200, Radeon 9600 xx, or Radeon 9800 xx who want more 3D speed, ATI offers the retail Radeon X800 XT -- whose MSRP will be lowered by $100 to $399.

That makes three price points for Mac users seeking aftermarket AGP graphics cards: $199, $299, and $399.

ANALYSIS AND COMMENTS
As you can see from the Motion 2 graph, the gap between the mid-range cards (9600 Pro and 9800 Pro) and high-end cards (X800 XT, GeForce 6800 GT) isn't necessarily that large. That would seem to reinforce ATI's strategy. But if our Core Image test (iMaginator) is indicative, those users may feel the Radeon 9600 doesn't have enough "horsepower." The Radeon 9800 Pro or X800 XT may be more to their liking.

If you run any 3D accelerated apps at highest settings, the gap between mid-range and high-end cards much more pronounced. "Extreme 3D" users will crave a Radeon X800 XT or GeForce 6800 GT over the mid-range cards, assuming they can handle the price. (The test graphs were produced on our G5/2.5GHz Power Mac with 8GB of memory.)

In case you missed this point: The 9800 Pro no longer comes with 8X AGP rating. Though the replacement 9800 Pro is rated at 4X AGP, it will still work in the G5's 8X slot. However, even though the older Radeon 9800 Pro 2X/4X yielded results slightly slower than the Radeon 9800 Pro Special Edition 8X (see the graphs above), that could be as much to with the memory difference (128MB vs 256MB) as the AGP rating. In the past, we have proven that an 8X card is no faster than a 4X card when all other specs are equal. I doubt the AGP bus is being saturated beyond the capability of a 4X rating -- so ATI's decision to go with 4X doesn't really penalize the G5 user.

If you feel otherwise, the 8X "Mac Special Edition" will probably be continue to be sold while supplies last. And there's always the 8X X800 XT.

Owners of Macs with 2X AGP slots (like the "Sawtooth" Power Mac and Cube) are "orphaned" by these latest changes. Since none of the current ATI offerings are compatible, their only upgrade option is either to find a used Radeon 9800 Pro Mac Edition 2X/4X AGP on eBay or to flash a 4X Windows PC card with the Mac ROM, taping over leads 3 and 11 to enable it to run in 2X slots.

Speaking of "2X" Macs, you might take a look at our article where the Radeon 9800 Pro Mac Edition (2X/4X, 128MB) card is compared to lesser 2X cards on a Dual G4/1.4GHz Power Mac and a Dual G4/1.4GHz Cube.

For those with ADC displays, purchasing either of the new cards requires them to also purchase a $99 DVI to ADC converter. Yet, with the demise of the ADC display, there's little reason for ATI to perpetuate the ADC connector.

Note to those with Radeon X850 XT: ATI will be posting new drivers for the 9600 Pro PC and Mac Edition that includes an updated ATI Displays utility (Version 4.5.3) compatible with the Radeon X850 XT, allowing those owners to access Versavision and 3D Advanced Features (Anti-Aliasing, Anisotropic Shading, etc.).

ACCELERATE YOUR GPU
You can use ATIccelerator II to raise a Radeon X800 XT's core frequency to 500MHz and the memory frequency to 550MHz, thereby simulating the X850 XT. There is also an application called Graphiccelerator which can be used to overclock a GeForce 6800 GT to 400MHz core frequency and 550MHz memory frequency, thereby matching the performance of the 6800 Ultra. Use these utilities at your own risk since overclocking can potentially ruin your graphics card. Start with slight speed bumps (3 to 5%). Watch for screen anomalies and erratic behavior.

RELATED ARTICLES

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

When ordering products from Apple Store USA, please click THIS TEXT LINK or any Apple display ad as your "portal" to the online store. In so doing, you help to support Bare Feats. (DON'T LIVE in the USA? See links for Apple online stores in other countries.)

WHERE TO BUY REFURBISHED or CLOSEOUT MACS (12 month warranty)
For refurbished, reconditioned, open box (as well as new) iMacs, check with Small Dog and Power Max. Also look for the "SPECIAL DEALS" link on Apple's online store.

WHERE TO BUY VARIOUS GRAPHICS CARDS FOR YOUR POWER MAC and MAC PRO

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, Buy.com, 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, Buy.com 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