GPU options for Mac

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Old 02 February 2013   #1
GPU options for Mac

At work I'm using a Mac Pro (circa 2010 with 12 cores). It has a Radeon 5770 graphics card which is just awful. It's crap now and it was crap four years ago too. It blows my mind that's still the default graphics to this day on the Mac Pro. Anyway, moving onto the point.

In a lot of scenes I'm getting like 1 or 2 FPS so it's time for an upgrade. After looking around for graphics cards that work on a Mac I've come to the conclusion they're all terrible. Based on the reviews the best I could find that's actually available is a Quadro 4000 which wouldn't be much of an improvement, maybe 5 or 6 FPS instead of 1 or 2 FPS (not worth the $1,200).

I saw the press release six months ago for the Quadro K5000 for Mac but it seems to be vapor, nobody has it. Is there another card I'm missing? Is the Quadro K5000 for Mac in the wild and I just missed it? Or is there a way to use non-Mac specific models?
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Old 02 February 2013   #2
Actually as of Lion and then Mountain Lion there appear to be SOME nVIDIA cards for PC working on Macs right OOTB.
It's more a matter of the firmware's boot signature matching and the model being supported within the model list of Apple drivers more so than about anything else.

This might be of interest to get you started:
http://nrsotw.blogspot.com.au/2012/...in-mac-pro.html

You can find makes, firmwares and all around in forums where people discuss their tests.

The K5000 seems to still be MIA after some nVIDIA PR blunder, I know nothing more than that, and I'm not enough of an Apple fun or user to know more than that by hearsay.
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Old 02 February 2013   #3
The main thing I'd ask, is why youre only getting 1-2fps. Is it truly because of the gfx card? In order for the gfx card to be the limiting factor, your scene would probably need something in the region of 20 million polys before the gfx card would cause that slow speed. Are you sure its not a cpu limitation with deforming meshes, character tools, expressions etc? This is a far more common cause of slow editor speeds.
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Old 02 February 2013   #4
Originally Posted by imashination: The main thing I'd ask, is why youre only getting 1-2fps. Is it truly because of the gfx card? In order for the gfx card to be the limiting factor, your scene would probably need something in the region of 20 million polys before the gfx card would cause that slow speed. Are you sure its not a cpu limitation with deforming meshes, character tools, expressions etc? This is a far more common cause of slow editor speeds.


Yes, it's the graphics card. Simply moving around the viewport with static geometry is virtually impossible in most scenes that I work with. I'm not sure where you're getting the number 20 million from because the Radeon 5770 can't handle anything close to that in my experience. Looking at a million shaded polygons makes it chug like crazy.

For a while I thought it was just the application (Cinema 4D) but then when Houdini was purchased for the workstation the viewport performance was just as awful. Maybe newer versions of OS X have better OpenGL performance? I'm on 10.6.8 currently as that's what a site image was made with.

It looks like waiting for the Quadro K5000 will be the best option unless I'm missing something else. Using a non-Mac graphics card could work if it was a sure thing, but it sounds like hit and miss which is something I can't recommend at work (if the machine were mine at home I'd probably try it out).
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Old 02 February 2013   #5
You should probably try an OS upgrade because that sounds kind of ridiculous. What kind of poly count are you using to see 2FPS? Even my MBP laptop with Radeon 6770M gets 41FPS in Cinebench's OpenGL. I'm running 10.8.2 with all my CG apps and there's no problem - just a small Maya viewport 2 glitch that Apple's looking into now.

The Quadro 4000 won't be a lot better for those apps - I wrote a review here: ( http://arstechnica.com/apple/2011/0...mising-start/2/ ). Houdini's GL implementation is pretty slow on all platforms. Everyone needs to copy whatever it is that Autodesk is doing with viewport 2 because it's ridiculously fast with huge scenes and OS X performance is very good.

I'll be reviewing the K5000 Mac edition when it comes out but I have a feeling it's being timed to be released next to the new Mac Pro in spring. I wouldn't recommend a non-EFI vanilla GPU. I tried that in my review above and it was prone to problems - Steam apps wouldn't launch, for example.

Yes, GPU options suck for Macs and the drivers aren't tuned like Linux/Windows, but 1FPS is not normal. I just loaded up 7 million polys in Maya and C4D 14 on my laptop running on an external screen while screencasting:

https://vimeo.com/60002505

Houdini is a dog though - it does choke on that scene badly. You might have more luck with an Nvidia card and Houdini not sure. I don't know what they are doing but it's clear that the OS and apps are capable.

Last edited by cgbeige : 02 February 2013 at 04:08 PM.
 
Old 02 February 2013   #6
Originally Posted by olson: Yes, it's the graphics card. Simply moving around the viewport with static geometry is virtually impossible in most scenes that I work with. I'm not sure where you're getting the number 20 million from because the Radeon 5770 can't handle anything close to that in my experience. Looking at a million shaded polygons makes it chug like crazy.


In terms of raw poly pushing power, ie make a 1 million poly plane and duplicate it; a radeon 5770 on a 3ghz 2010 mac will give 'a few fps' with 16 million polys. Its been a while since I tested one but you could expect it to be workable.

Other stuff to try/keep in mind:
Check the enhanced opengl setting in c4d turning it on or off can give a speed bump depending on the scene. eg if its just textures in the colour channel, it will get faster, but if its images in the bump or environment reflection channel, the extra gpu stress will slow it down. Try mass disabling the editor display of all bump and environment channels in the editor tab of the materials.

Realtime shadows and transparencies are huge fps killers in c4d, only use them for checking things, then disable them when youre finished.

A lot of the limitations can be cpu-bound. If you plumped for the cheaper 1.8 - 2.0 ghz cpu, this will likely be the bottleneck. Yes, even just whilst navigating in scene.

If youre using displacer deformers, disable the editor refresh setting, this causes a huge editor slow down, again, even just whilst navigating, it constantly refreshes the displaced point values in case the shader being used is camera dependent.

Camera based features can slow it down if used en-mass. 'look at camera' tags and mograph target tags can both slow things down.

The quadro 5000 card is going to be a very very expensive option. Personally, Id google which geforce 680 card people have used successfully and just grab one of those. Given that the only real difference between GF and quadro cards is the drivers, and throw in there the fact that apple writes the drivers for both of them on mac instead of nvidia, quadros on macs make no sense whatsoever.

This is the best info on what people had had working that Ive found:
http://forums.macrumors.com/showthr...1385329&page=17
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Old 02 February 2013   #7
Originally Posted by imashination:
The quadro 5000 card is going to be a very very expensive option. Personally, Id google which geforce 680 card people have used successfully and just grab one of those. Given that the only real difference between GF and quadro cards is the drivers, and throw in there the fact that apple writes the drivers for both of them on mac instead of nvidia, quadros on macs make no sense whatsoever.


NVidia's been writing the OSX drivers for several years.
http://www.nvidia.com/object/macosx...f02-driver.html
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Old 02 February 2013   #8
Its a grey situation. Both companies make drivers, with nvidia handling those for actual gfx cards in mac pros and apple handling all of the laptops and imacs with gfx switching. I know you can download them from nvidias website, but its still a bit murky about who actually makes them recently.
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Old 02 February 2013   #9
no, that's not it at all. I deal with engineers at both AMD and Nvidia. Apple makes the single OpenGL layer and AMD and Nvidia write and support the drivers for those cards, regardless of whether they are mobile or desktop. All bug reports go through Apple's bug report system but, depending on whether it's a problem with Apple's GL or the companies driver, the problem is fixed on the respective end.

The only reason that Nvidia puts drivers on their site and AMD doesn't is because of their retail cards, which don't necessarily have driver support in the OS X release. But Apple knows it's a huge pain in the ass to have no video on startup because you upgraded your OS without upgrading a 3rd-party driver, so that's likely to change and fall back into OS X exclusively. They are in the midst of a big GL 4.1 update that will hopefully address this type of thing. It's not just an update they are cleaning up the API a bit so a VESA-like fallback like this is probably in the works.

Last edited by cgbeige : 02 February 2013 at 06:56 PM.
 
Old 02 February 2013   #10
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