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BARE FEATS LAB - real world Mac speed tests

BizonBOX 2 GPU Expander for
Mac Pro Cylinder

Posted July 19th, 2016 by rob-ART morgan, mad scientist

One of the frustrations of 'late 2013' Mac Pro cylinder owners is the inability to run CUDA capable applications -- since the dual AMD FirePro GPUs do not support CUDA. Bizon is offering a solution: the BizonBOX 2. Using an ASUS GeForce GTX 980 Ti STRIX, we gave it a test flight connected to the our 8-core Mac Pro "turbo tube."

cMP 980 Ti OC = 'mid 2010' Mac Pro with ASUS GTX 980 Ti STRIX in x16 slot 2
nMP 980 Ti OC BB = 'late 2013' Mac Pro connected via Thunderbolt 2 cable to BizonBOX 2 with ASUS GTX 980 Ti STRIX
nMP D700s = 'late 2013' Mac Pro with dual FirePro D700s

Octane Render (Benchmark Scene)
This is a "GPU only" standalone renderer that can process scenes created in and exported from Maya, ArchiCAD, Cinema 4D, etc. -- and does so in a fraction of the time it takes with a CPU based renderer. However, it only works with CUDA capable NVIDIA graphics cards. The DEMO comes with a scene called octane_benchmark.ocs. For our test we selected RenderTarget PT (Path Tracing). The render time is tracked and displayed in total seconds. (LOWEST time in seconds = FASTEST)

The makers of Octane Render now offer a standardized benchmark to make it easier to compare your CUDA GPU to others. (HIGHEST score = FASTEST)

DaVinci Resolve Noise Reduction Playback
Using the full version, when you playback a project while applying Noise Reduction on the fly, the GPU(s) are stressed. We used the popular Candle project. Though the target speed is 25 FPS, we set the maximum playback framerate to 500 fps to force fastest possible playback speed. (HIGHEST number in average Frames per Second = FASTEST)

Blender Blenchmark
This is an open source 3D renderer. With Compute Device set either OpenCL or CUDA, Blender is forced to use one or more GPU for rendering the test scene. We used the single BMW scene provided by Blenchmark. (LOWEST time in seconds = FASTEST)

Certain pro apps (like Octane Render) require a GPU that supports CUDA. Before we connected the BizonBOX 2 with an NVIDIA GPU, the 'late 2013' Mac Pro was not able to run Octane Render or any other "CUDA only" app.

On the other hand, apps like DaVinci Resolve and Blender support both CUDA and OpenCL which makes room for AMD GPUs (like the FirePro D700) that only support OpenCL. However, as in the case of DaVinci Resolve it took dual D700s to equal the performance of one GeForce GTX 980 Ti. And in the case of Blender, even with both D700s rendering, they took longer than one GeForce GTX 980 Ti.

Note that we included results for the GTX 980 Ti running in the 2010 Mac Pro tower. Even with the slower bandwidth of Thunderbolt 2 compared to the x16 PCIe slot, the BizonBOX 2 provided comparable performance in 3 out of 4 cases.

Professional Mac Pro users want OPTIONS. BizonBOX 2 provides an important GPU option -- especially if your Mac Pro cylinder only has the lower end D300 and D500 GPUs.

Next we tried some OpenGL, GPU intensive games with the BizonBOX 2 connected to the LG UltraWide display using a DisplayPort on the GeForce GTX 980 Ti.

Tomb Raider
We ran the built-in benchmark set to "HIGH" preset. (
HIGHEST average frames per second = FASTEST)

Diablo III
Our character in the Shattered Crown campaign searches for the Chancelor's Alther beneath the Cemetery of the Forsaken. Settings were 3440x1440, Quality: HIGH, V-Sync: OFF, Anti-Aliasing: OFF. (
HIGHEST average frames per second = FASTEST)

Left 4 Dead 2 (Steam)
Settings were 3440x1440, Fullscreen, no AA, Anisotropic 8X, Vsync Disabled, Shader Detail Very High, Effect Detail and Model/Texture Detail both High, Multicore Rendering Enabled. TimeDemo console command was used to playback a game session. (
HIGHEST average frames per second = FASTEST)

Valley OpenGL Extensions Demo
Using the built-in benchmark, we fly through forest-covered valley surrounded by vast mountains rendering 64 million meters of extremely detailed terrain down to every leaf and flower petal. Valley features advanced visual technologies: dynamic sky, volumetric clouds, sun shafts, DOF, ambient occlusion. We selected Extreme preset but turned off Anti-Aliasing and set resolution to 3440x1440. (
HIGHEST average frames per second = FASTEST)

Though the reason for BizonBOX 2 is to connect an NVIDIA GPU with CUDA support to the Mac Pro cylinder, you can also see the advantage of using a high-end NVIDIA GPU to run OpenGL based games and game simulators. Considering our Mac Pro had the high end FirePro D700s, the difference will be even more dramatic if your Mac Pro has the D300s or D500s.

The factory AMD FirePro D700 running on a PCIe bus suffered by comparison even though the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980 Ti was handicapped by the limited bandwidth of Thunderbolt 2. Yet another justification for the BizonBOX 2 GPU Expander.

NOTE: The BizonBOX 2 does not support Windows on the 'late 2013' Mac Pro cylinder but DOES support Windows on the MacBook Pro 'late 2013' and newer.

The BizonBOX 2 does work with the iMac 5K with the following restrictions:

iMac 5K Late–2014, Mid–2015
OS X: With DaVinci app there is no FPS increase (GTX 970). No external display output. Able to work as a CUDA accelerator (Adobe Premiere: up to 6X performance boost).
Windows: full support with external monitor, up to 5X performance acceleration in games, tested with NVIDIA GTX 970

iMac 5K Late–2015 (AMD Radeon R9 configurations only)
OS X: No external display output. Able to work as a CUDA accelerator (Adobe Premiere: up to 6X performance boost).
Windows: graphics card detection issues (error 12).

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copyright 2016 Rob Art Morgan
"BARE facts on Macintosh speed FEATS"