BARE FEATS - real world Mac speed tests

REVIEW: ATI's ATI 9800 Pro Mac Edition
(256MB DDR, 2X/4X AGP)
for G4 and G5 Power Macs

Originally posted November 4th, 2005, by rob-ART morgan, mad scientist

ATI has discontinued the "G5 only" Radeon 9800 Pro Mac Special Edition (8X AGP, 256MB) and the "works on anything" Radeon 9800 Pro Mac Edition (2X/4X AGP, 128MB). They replaced them with an "all for one and one for all" card: the Radeon 9800 Pro Mac (2X/4X AGP, 256MB), compatible with all AGP G4 and G5 Power Macs. It's targeted as a mid range graphics card with enough memory to handle any Core Image and OpenGL task you throw at it.

Since it's been announced, G5 owners have emailed me their concerned about the 2X/4X rating, fearing they will be giving up some speed without an 8X rating. But as you will see below, the new "compromise" 9800 Pro runs just as fast as the old "G5 only" 9800 Pro:

GRAPH LEGEND:
X800 XT 8X 256M = Radeon X800 XT (8X AGP, 256MB, DL-DVI+ADC)
9800 Pro 8X 256M = Radeon 9800 Pro Mac Special Edition (8X AGP, 256MB, DVI+ADC)
9800 Pro 4X 256M = Radeon 9800 Pro Mac (2X/4X AGP, 256MB, DVI + VGA)
9800 Pro 4X 128M = Radeon 9800 Pro Mac Edition (2X/4X AGP, 256MB, DVI + VGA)
9600 Pro 4X 256M = Radeon 9600 Pro PC and Mac Edition (4X AGP, 256MB, DL-DVI + DVI)

ANALYSIS
How can a 2X/4X AGP card run as fast as an 8X AGP card? Because even at 4X, the AGP bus isn't saturated. In reality, the 8X bus is under-utilized. Also, the core clock and core memory speeds are identical to the 8X Mac Special Edition. So if you own a G5 and waited too late to buy the "G5 only" 8X version of the Radeon 9800 Pro Mac Special Edition, you won't be disappointed with the speed of the replacement "works on anything" 2X/4X Radeon 9800 Pro Mac Edition (256MB).

Those of you with G4 Power Macs (including QuickSilver, Digital Audio, and MDD) have a great GPU upgrade option with plenty of video memory.

I included the $399 Radeon X800 XT "high end" and the $199 Radeon 9600 Pro "low-medium" cards in this test session to show why I call the $299 9800 Pro series "mid level."

TWO CAVEATS
There are two things you need to know about the new card, however, before you plop down your $250 (OWC price). First, it requires a power source. It comes with a pass-through power cable with 4 pin Molex connectors. If you are using it on a G4 Power Mac, there should be some spare power drops inside. If you are using it on a G5 Power Mac, you'll need to remove the SuperDrive or Combo DVD/CD optical drive so you can reach its power connector and attach the pass-through power cable for the Radeon 9800 Pro.

ATI warns that this card requires a 300 watt power supply but owners with Sawtooth G4 Power Macs with 200 watt power supplies have not reported any problems running it.

Second caveat: It has one DVI and one VGA port. I wish it had two DVI ports but that would have required a major redesign. You see, this card is, in reality, the old 128MB 9800 Pro with memory added. I complained back when the 128MB card came out that it should have had two DVI ports. I argued that you can always "dumb" a DVI port down to VGA, but you can't turn a VGA magically into a true digital video port.

DESIGNED FOR MID RANGE POWER
I think the Radeon 9800 Pro is a great upgrade for those G4 Power Mac owners who want Core Image and OpenGL acceleration but don't want to pay an "arm and a leg." I've run this card on a everything from a "hopped up" naked G4 Cube (too big to fit with the case on) to the "last great" G4 Power Mac, the dual 1.42GHz "FW800" with L3 cache. It's always been faster than any other retail or OEM graphics card for those systems -- significantly faster. (Stay tuned for test results on various G4 Power Macs.)

For the G5 Power Mac owner, it's much faster than the Radeon 9600, 9600 Pro, 9600 XT, and GeForce FX 5200 -- cards that came as factory default. And it costs hundreds less than the GeForce 6800 GT, Ultra, and Radeon X800 XT kits that Apple sells in their "DISPLAYS" section of the online store.

BIG THANKS TO OWC
This test page was made possible through the generosity of Other World Computing. I couldn't convince ATI Public Relations to send me a test unit. They felt there was no real need since it was "just a memory upgrade" of the 128MB model. But I know (and OWC knows) that you, the consumer, wanted assurance that it is as fast as the 8X version that was discontinued.

You can now order yours with piece of mind and a discount ($250 at OWC).

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