BARE FEATS - real world Mac speed tests

SHOOTOUT: Five Graphics Cards on One G5/2.7

Originally Posted May 5th, 2005, by rob-ART morgan, mad scientist
Revamped on June 3rd adding the 9600 XT
and testing all 5 cards on the G5/2.7 Power Mac

The new April 2005 "speed bump" of G5 Power Macs was received with a collective yawn by the Mac aficionados. But the inclusion of the Radeon 9650 with dual-link DVI port peaked everyone's interest. "Is it just a Radeon 9600 XT with more memory and dual-link added? Or is it something special?"

As you know, dual-link is a magic word because it means you can run Apple's gigapixel 30" Cinema display. We decided to compare the 9650 to other dual-link video cards for the Power Mac such as the Radeon X800 XT and GeForce 6800 Ultra. We were able to use the new G5/2.7GHz Power Mac with a 30" Cinema display as our test "mule" courtesy of ProMax. Here's what we learned:

Legend of Graphs:
GeF 6800 UL = nVidia GeForce 6800 Ultra (256MB, Dual Dual-Link DVI)
Rad X800 XT = ATI Radeon X800 XT (256MB, Dual-Link DVI + ADC)
Rad 9800 SE = ATI Radeon 9800 Pro Mac Special Edition (256MB, DVI + ADC)
Rad 9600 XT = ATI Radeon 9600 XT (128MB, DVI + ADC)
Rad 9650 = ATI Radeon 9650 (256MB, Dual Link DVI + DVI)
All five cards tested on a G5/2.7GHz Power Mac

That's 3D OpenGL Games. There are two "professional" applications that rely heavily on the graphics card. The first is Motion. It not only uses up to 4GB of system memory but hands of OpenGL effects to the graphics card's processor and memory. We just got our copy of Motion 2 this week so we rendered the RAM Preview of "Fire - Mortise 2," the template that is sensitive to what graphics card you use.

As you can see, the variance between these five cards is minimal but if you compare them to something like the GeForceFX 5200, you'll see a big gap in render time. By the way, we were able to get our copy of Motion 1 working. We discovered that Motion 1 renders our test template 20% faster than Motion 2. Ruh roh.

How about some results from a true Tiger Core Image application like iMaginator? Your wish is our command:

The iMaginator "Test One" referred to above was created by Daniel Kottmair for MacWelt.com, a German Mac site. He combines various effects and then times how long it takes to playback 200 frames of the resulting morph. As you can see, Core Image "aware" apps "like" fast core and memory clock speeds and mucho pipelines. Memory capacity isn't the issue here. The Radeon 9650 has as much as the Radeon X800 XT and GeForce 6800 Ultra, but they are four times faster.

CONCLUSION
If you expect the Radeon 9650 (standard equipment on the G5/2.7GHz Power Mac and $50 option on the other G5s) to perform OpenGL and Core Image "miracles" just because it has 256MB of DDR and dual-link circuitry, you will be very disappointed.

If you must have dual-link, I recommend the ATI Radeon X800 XT as the best alternative, even though it's not offered direct from Apple. It's much faster than the Radeon 9650, supports the 30" Cinema on its DVI port, and takes up only one slot.

The GeForce 6800 Ultra is a full length, double wide monster. It was faster running some 3D games but slower running the Motion 2 and iMaginator. Unless you have two 30" Cinema displays and don't mind giving up one of your PCI-X slots, you should consider the Radeon X800 XT instead.

Notice we added results for the Radeon 9800 Pro Mac Special Edition. If you can't afford the X800 XT or 6800 Ultra and don't need a 30" Cinema display, then you might consider a Radeon 9800 Pro Mac Special Edition in place of the Radeon 9650. It's almost $300 less than the Radeon X800 XT or GeForce 6800 Ultra.

The Radeon 9650 does support the 30" Cinema display with its one Dual-Link DVI port and has 256MB of DDR memory, but it is actually clocked slower (and runs slower) than the Radeon 9600 XT with 128MB of DDR and a normal DVI port.

CORE CLOCK SPEEDS
Out of curiosity, we used ATIccelerator II to check the actual core and memory clock speed of the ATI Radeon cards. Here's what we learned:

Core Clock Speed Memory Clock Speed
Radeon 9600 XT 401MHz 311MHz
Radeon 9650 401MHz 270MHz
Radeon 9800 Pro 2X/4X 378MHz 338MHz
Radeon 9800 Pro 8X 351MHz 324MHz
Radeon 9800 Pro SE 378MHz 338MHz
Radeon 9800 XT 412MHz 365MHz
Radeon X800 XT 473MHz 500MHz
GeForce 6800 Ultra 400MHz* 550Mhz*

(* Since ATIccelerator II can't check the GeForce,
the 6800 Ultra numbers are based on information from nVidia.)

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.

WHERE TO BUY NEW MACS
ProMax
provided our test machine, the G5/2.7GHz Power Mac. If you are looking for a turn-key digital video development system, they are an excellent source. They also sell high-end storage systems rated for HD video capture/playback.

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.

Some of you have asked which G5 Power Mac models are most desirable. Whether you buy a new, refurbished or used G5 Power Mac, be sure to get model with 8 memory slots, 100/133MHz PCI-X slots, and 600W Power Supply. The table below gives the model number, etc., of these desirable G5s.

Model Number
clock speed
processors
intro date
M9031LL/A
1.8GHz
single
June 2003
M9032LL/A
2.0GHz
dual
June 2003
M9393LL/A
1.8GHz
dual
November 2003
M9455LL/A
2.0GHz
dual
June 2004
M9457LL/A
2.5GHz
dual
June 2004
M9748LL/A
2.3GHz
dual
April 2005
M9749LL/A
2.7GHz
dual
April 2005

All other models have only 4 memory slots, 33MHz PCI slots, 450W Power Supply, and slower frontside bus speeds. If you can't find the 2003 and 2004 models at Small Dog's site, or Power Max's site, go to Froogle.com and search on the model number.

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