Mac Pro Tower Upgrade:
GeForce GTX 980 GPU versus others
running OpenGL apps
Posted Friday, November 14th, 2014 by rob-ART morgan, mad scientist
Updated February 6th, 2015, with more OpenGL tests
Many of you have decided to stick with your Mac Pro tower and are 'hungry' for ways to 'pump it up.' One of our favorite upgrades is a faster GPU. We are excited about the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980 because it requires less power than the other top GPU options yet promises equal or better performance. Below are four OpenGL tests to ponder.
GTX 980 = modified NVDIA GeForce GTX 980 GPU (4GB, 1215MHz)
R9 290X = modified AMD Radeon R9 290X GPU (4GB, 1000MHz)
GTX 780 = modified NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780 GPU (3GB, 900MHz)
GTX 680 = NVIDIA GeForce GTX 680 GPU Mac Edition (2GB, 1058MHz)
HD 7970 = modified AMD Radeon HD 7950 GPU (3GB, 925MHz)
HD 7950 = AMD Radeon HD 7950 GPU Mac Edition (3GB, 800MHz)
GTX 570 = modified NVIDIA GeForce GTX 570 GPU (2.5GB, 1464MHz)
HD 5870 = AMD Radeon HD 5870 GPU Mac Edition (1GB, 850MHz)
HD 4870 = AMD Radeon HD 4870 GPU Mac Edition (512MB, 750MHz)
The 'test mule' was a 'Mid 2010' Mac Pro 3.33GHz 6-Core Xeon Tower running OS X 10.10.1 Yosemite.
Left 4 Dead 2 (on Steam)
We use the console command "timedemo" to playback a short game session. Settings were 2560x1440, Fullscreen, 4X AA, Anisotropic 8X, Vsync Disabled, Shader Detail Very High, Effect Detail and Model/Texture Detail both High, Multicore Rendering Enabled. (LONGER graph bar means FASTEST in Frames per Second.)
Using the HIGH preset at 2560x1440, we ran the built-in benchmark. (LONGER graph bar means FASTEST in FRAMES per SECOND.)
We ran at 2560x1440, Vsync Disabled, Highest Quality with Anti-Aliasing Disabled. (LONGER graph bar means FASTEST in Frames per Second.)
Batman Arkham City GOTY
Using the built-in benchmark, we checked all the boxes on the startup dialog but V-Sync and FXAA. Detail Level was set to High. (LONGER graph bar means FASTEST in Frames per Second.)
GPUtest - FurMark
This is a very intensive OpenGL benchmark that uses fur rendering algorithms to measure the performance of the graphics card. Fur rendering is especially adapted to overheat the GPU and that's why FurMark is also a perfect stability and stress test tool for the graphics card. We ran the test at 2560x1440 Windowed with anti-aliasing disabled. (LONGER graph bar means FASTEST in Frames per Second.)
This OpenGL benchmark by Unigine "flies" through forest-covered valley surrounded by vast mountains. It amazes with its scale from a birdŐs-eye view of 64 million meters of extremely detailed terrain down to every leaf and flower petal. It features advanced visual technologies: dynamic sky, volumetric clouds, sun shafts, DOF, ambient occlusion. (It is cross platform. For Windows users it is a test of DirectX.)
Valley provides three presets to help standardize comparison testing: Basic, Extreme, and Extreme HD. We used Extreme preset: 1600x900 windowed resolution with 8x Anti-aliasing, Ultra Quality for Shaders and Textures, and with Occlusion, Refraction, and Volumetric Shadows enabled. (LONGER graph bar means FASTEST in Frames per Second.)
This is a cross-platform graphics benchmark. We used the "T-Rex chasing the Motocross rider" test. The off-screen test runs at 1920x1080. (LONGER graph bar means FASTEST in Frames per Second.)
The NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980 was fast but not the fastest in all tests. It is certainly faster than the 'blessed' Mac Editions of the GeForce GTX 680 and Radeon HD 7950.
Just as important is power draw. At 165 watts, the GeForce GTX 980 has no need for auxiliary power no matter how hard it was stressed. On the other hand, the GeForce GTX 780 and Radeon R9 290X can draw so much power when stressed that the Mac Pro tower shuts down. (This happened when running FurMark OpenGL benchmark.) The only way to guard against shutdowns with those two GPUs is to employ an auxiliary power source for at least one of the GPU's power connectors.
The GeForce GTX 980 was modified by MacVidCards to present a normal startup screen. We used NVIDIA's web driver for the Quadro K5000 for Mac. An unmodified GTX 980 will boot under OS X Yosemite if you don't care about a boot screen.
The Radeon R9 290X was modified by MacVidCards to run in PCIe 2.0 mode. It boots with Apple's factory AMD drivers but there is no startup screen.
The GeForce GTX 780 was modified by MacVidCards to present a normal boot startup screen. We used NVIDIA's web driver for the Quadro K5000 for Mac.
The GeForce GTX 980 will likely become a top choice by Mac Pro tower owners who want a fast, power efficient GPU.
Check out our second GTX 980 page with test results for DaVinci Resolve, LuxMark, and Octane Render. It includes results for 9 other Mac Pro tower GPUs.
Comments? Suggestions? Feel free to email me,
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