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BARE FEATS - real world Mac speed tests

"BARE facts on Mac speed FEATS"

Radeon HD 3870 Mac & PC Edition

Originally posted June 13th, 2008, by rob-ART morgan, mad scientist

A collective howl went up in the Mac Pro User community when the optional GeForce 8800 GT performed Core Image intensive tasks slower than the stock Radeon HD 2600 XT. "I paid $300 to go slower?" The release of Mac OS X 10.5.3 did improve the GeForce 8800's performance but only to bring it up even to the Core Image performance of the Radeon 2600.

But on June 12th, ATI announced their Core Image "savior": The Radeon HD 3870 Mac & PC Edition. It is compatible with ALL models of Mac Pro and costs only $219. In this initial report, we demonstrate the Core Image performance compared to the alternatives on both the "Harpertown" and "Clovertown" versions of the Mac Pro.

Our "Combo" is the achieved by adding the render times for the RAM Preview of the Atom Strand, Directions, Plywood, and Rotation 3D HD Motion templates.

Harper = Mac Pro 3.2GHz "Harpertown" (early 2008)
Clover = Mac Pro 3.0GHz "Clovertown" (2007)
8800 = nVIDIA GeForce 8800 GT (Apple CTO option or kit; different ROM code for "early 2008" versus "2006/2007" Mac Pro)
3870 = ATI Radeon HD 3870 Mac & PC Edition (Retail upgrade kit)
2600 = ATI Radeon HD 2600 XT (Standard card for "early 2008" Mac Pro)
1900 = ATI Radeon X1900 XT (Apple CTO 2006 Mac Pro)

Both systems booted from the identical model of 500G Seagate 7K SATA drive running Mac OS X 10.5.3.

In our Core Image intensive tests, the ATI Radeon HD 3870 Mac & PC Edition provided 21% to 41% gains in performance over the GeForce 8800 GT. Though we have yet to discover GPU intensive benchmarks for FCP, Aperture and Color, we are confident the same gains will be seen in the use of those apps for Core Image intensive functions.

As for OpenGL 3D performance, we'd love to benchmark Maya and other pro 3D apps. But until we can convince AutoDesk to give us a copy, we'll continue to test and report on 3D Games (which use many of the same 3D dynamics) to infer pro 3D app peformance. Take a look at our Mac 3D Game results of the Radeon HD 3870.

Based on both kinds of tests, we rate the Radeon HD 3870 Mac & PC Edition as the best overall graphics card for all models of Mac Pro (thanks to the inclusion of both 32-bit and 64-bit EFI driver in ROM). And at $219, it's a bargain (available "late June" at your favorite ATI reseller).


Bare Feats tests the Radeon HD 3870 Mac & PC Edition using various Mac editions of 3D Games.

Bare Feats tests the Radeon HD 3870 Mac & PC Edition using "PC only" 3D Games running under Vista 64 bit Ultimate (in a Boot Camp partition).

Apple Online Store

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Also check with Small Dog Electronics and Power Max. (Power Max takes trade-ins.)


The Radeon HD 3870 Mac & PC Edition ($219 MSRP) will be available "late June" direct from ATI's Online Store or from Other World Computing or from Small Dog Electronics. Unlike the GeForce 8800 GT, one card is compatible with ALL models of Mac Pro (2006 - 2008).

You can order the GeForce 8800 GT kit for whatever Mac Pro you own by going to the Apple Store USA and clicking on the "Displays" link in the left column. You'll see two versions of the GeForce 8800 GT listed: The "early 2008" and "1st Generation" models. The price for both is $279.

The Radeon HD 2600 XT kit will work on the older Mac Pros as well as the new one (thanks to having both a 32-bit and 64-bit EFI driver in the ROM). Search on "MB198Z/A" when you visit Apple Store USA ($129).

Apple charges and arm and a leg for CTO memory options. We suggested ordering your Mac Pro with minimal memory and getting 8GB or 16GB of matched FB-DIMMs that meet Apple's specs and use Apple approved heat sinks from ....

Other World Computing

Trans International

MaxUpgrades makes max_flow, a kit to keep your Mac Pro memory running even cooler.

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2008 Rob Art Morgan
"BARE facts on Macintosh speed FEATS"
Email , the webmaster