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BARE FEATS - real world Mac speed tests

"BARE facts on Mac speed FEATS"
Rob-ART, Main Mad Scientist (aka Dr. Frankenstein)
Bet-TAY, Special Features Edtior (aka Frau Blucher)

SHOOTOUT: GeForce 8800 GT
versus three other GPUS
for the "2008" Mac Pro

Originally posted February 14th, 2008, by rob-ART morgan, mad scientist
Updated March 3rd, 2008, with Quadro FX 5600 results

We now have our GeForce 8800 GT kit in the lab along with a Quadro FX 5600 loaned to use by AppleMacanix. So here's the 3D Game "Shoot 'em up" for all the cards compatible with the "early 2008" Mac Pro 3.2GHz 8-core monster.

Working with a WoW programmer, we devised a test that stresses the GPU and produces repeatable results. We placed our warrior in the Firetree realm. He started at the totem pole at the entrance to Village Narache, ran East to the two large trees on a nearby hill, turned around, and returned to the totem pole. By using an addon called "Titan Performance," we were able to capture average frame rate for the running sequence. (Test was run in Full Screen mode and best settings.)

We used the SantaDuck Toolkit to benchmark with UT2004. Though a Botmatch simulates actual game play, it is very CPU intensive. However, the Flyby benchmark is primarily GPU -- especiallly at max settings and high resolution. We used the Inferno map.

It 'represents' for the games based on the Doom 3 engine. We use a demo file in our benchmarking that we downloaded from Overclockers in Australia. High Quality was selected (including 8X anisotropy).

We ran the newest UB version. We set everything to the highest quality except lens flare. FSAA was set to OFF.

We had trouble getting version 1.42 to run its nettimedemo so we tested version 1.3 instead using "id_demo001." We had the MP mode turned on along with Dynamic Shadows.

Holding the Command key down at launch allows you to set the resolution to various sizes not available inside Doom 3's interactive settings. We had Dynamic Shadows enabled.

FX 5600 = nVIDIA Quadro FX 5600 (1536MB of GDDR2 - Apple CTO)
G8800 GT = nVIDIA GeForce GT (512MB of GDDR3 - Apple CTO)
R1900 XT = ATI Radeon X1900 XT (512MB of GDDR3 - Apple CTO 2006 Mac Pro)
R2600 XT = ATI Radeon HD 2600 XT (256MB of GDDR3 - Standard card for "early 2008" Mac Pro

In the case of each 3D accelerated game, we ran at High or Highest Quality settings at 1920x1200. All Macs were running Leopard 10.5.1 with the Leopard Graphics Update 1.0 installed.

As a 3D accelerated GPU, the GeForce 8800 GT looks like a great addition to the "early 2008" Mac Pro. It's significantly faster than the two Radeon options and at $200 CTO, it's a no-brainer.

The advantage should also apply to pro 3D apps that use 3D OpenGL code for animation.

However, it's a different story with "pro apps" that use Core Image effects. For that info, we refer you to our expanded page with Motion 3 and iMaginator test results.

Two of my "remote mad scientists" reported either slowness or errors when they used the DVI-2 port on the GeForce 8800 GT. Hopefully this and the Core Image performance will be addressed with a future driver or firmware update.

LEGACY 8800?
As you probably know by now, a collective groan was uttered by many of the 2006/2007 Mac Pro owners when they learned that the GeForce 8800 GT kit for the 2008 Mac Pro was NOT compatible with the older Mac Pros.
As of April 15th, 2008, Apple started shipping the "legacy" version of the GeForce 8800 GT in a kit form for 2006/2007 Mac Pro owners. When you visit the Apple Store USA, click on "Displays" in the left column and look for the Geforce 8800 GT labeled "1st Generation." Let me remind you that our testing has shown this to be a strong 3D OpenGL gaming card but a weak Pro App card (Motion, Aperture, FCP). We believe a Mac OS X compatible Radeon HD 3870 would perform better for Pro Apps. We are urging ATI/AMD to release such a card and will alert you if and when that happens.

Some reports have come in that the Radeon X1900 XT does not work on their "2008" Mac Pro. We have had no problems running it in our 2008 Mac Pro 3.2GHz. We asked ATI about this issue. They suggest performing the firmware update on the Radeon X1900 XT while it is installed in a 2006 or 2007 Mac Pro. Then moving it to the 2008 Mac Pro.

NOTE: We can NOT get the Radeon X1900 XT to boot Vista 64 from our Boot Camp partition. We are forced to use the Radeon HD 2600 XT (or GeForce 8800 GT) for that purpose.

We are not ignoring the Quadro FX 5600 (which is not available in kit form -- and we could not afford if it was). It is a pricey ($2850) CTO option that is not significantly faster than the GeForce 8800 GT for 90% of graphics intensive applications.

However, the Quadro FX 5600 does feature more video memory than the GeForce 8800 GT (1.5GB vs 512MB). And, according to one Maya guru, the extra memory (and superior memory management code) of the Quadro workstation cards becomes useful for frame buffering in apps like Maya. This is especially true for redraw of multiple views of the same complex 3D model.

This has been enhanced further by Quadro FX 5600's new integrated memory allocation which allows the card to dynamically allocate on-board RAM to whatever task is at hand rather than have specific hard wired allocations. So rather than say a maximum of 40% of total on-board RAM dedicated to the texture buffer the card can ramp up and down from 80% sharing with the immediate needs of the other buffers.

As of February 29th, we have a Quadro FX 5600 in the lab, thanks to our friends at AppleMacanix. Just for fun, we will test it using our 3D Game suite and add it to the graphs above on March 3rd.

SPECIAL THANKS TO REMOTE MAD SCIENTISTS who provided us with early GeForce 8800 GT results. The numbers above now reflect our own testing.
Thanks to Eric W. for his UT2004, Halo, Quake 4, and Doom 3 results.
Thanks to David McNett for his Prey and Motion results..
Thanks to Chris Rhoads of SarahRhoadsPhoto.com for his World of Warcraft results.


Bare Feats' reveals a weakness in the GeForce 8800 GT with the results from 15 Motion 3 template RAM Previews.

Bare Feats' CPU crunch tests on the 3.2GHz Harpertown Mac Pro versus others.

Bare Feats' advice on which Mac Pro graphics card to buy.

Bare Feats' memory speed and heat tests on the 3.2GHz Harpertown Mac Pro.

Bare Feats' power usage and noise level testing on the 3.2GHz Harpertown Mac Pro vs the 3.0GHz Clovertown Mac Pro.

Apple Online Store

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.

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


You can order the GeForce 8800 GT kit from the Apple Store USA -- search on "MB137Z/A" to find it. The price is $349. If you are very unhappy about it not working on your 2006/2007 Mac Pro, then sign our petition asking Apple to create a version that will. We also suggest you give feedback to the Mac Pro management at Apple.

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 ($149).

The Radeon X1900 XT kit is still available for the 2006/2007 Mac Pro. It goes for $399 (eek!). Search on "MA631Z/B" at the Apple Store USA. Don't confuse it with the RAdeon X1900 GT "G5 Edition" (model TL142LL/A) being sold for $349 -- unless you have a G5 tower with PCIe slots.

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. They also have a kit called "MaxConnect" which enables you to use the lower optical bay to add four more internal hard drives for a total of eight.

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