New Mac Graphics Card Advice


Hey Guys,

The time has come to finally upgrade my Mac to a brand new system, with as many whistles and bells as I can afford to throw in! :slight_smile:
I’ve put together a basic spec on the apple website but need some advice on certain things. Especially the options around graphics cards. Please feel free to make any other suggestions that you think are needed.

The options for graphics cards are;

  • ATI Radeon HD 5770 1GB
  • Two ATI Radeon HD 5770 1GB [Add $250.00]
  • ATI Radeon HD 5870 1GB [Add $200.00]

Anyone know if two ATI cards would be better than one for Cinema / 3d?
Or are two cards used for two monitors?

Advice would be a appreciated.

Thanks in advance,



I have a 5770 in my 2010 Mac Pro at work, and a 5870 in my 2010 Mac Pro at home. I don’t think I’ve ever noticed a difference. I tend to work on product animation stuff, so one very detailed model, rather than animated characters, which may make a difference.

AFAIK the two cards aren’t ‘wired together’ (crossfire?) and are for separate monitors, but someone with greater knowledge in the area may be more help.

Don’t buy your RAM from Apple, they charge way too much.



Hi Tony,

well, since OS X Mountain Lion we Mac users have the possibility to also install “native PC graphic cards” in Mac Pros. Without any patch or so. Just install the hardware and you are ready to go.

I for example use a Nvidia GTX 580 (MSI Twin Frozr III) in my Mac Pro early 2008 and my graphics now fly much faster than any native Mac graphic card available to buy.
The only thing is, that you don’t have a start up screen with the Apple Logo at the booting anymore. For me, that’s ok :wink: - I think it’s just a question of time, until there’s a patch for this.

Also I have to mention, that I’m not really sure, if Cinema recognizes this card to it’s full potential… But there is a noticeable performance difference than there was with my old card (GTX 285).




This is the first place I read about this. That’s a major reason to upgrade to ML and buy a new Graphics card then. Thanks for bringing this up!



I have a 2010 MP 3.3 and the 5870 - not overly stunned at performance. Felt more like a natural progression than anything amazing. Sorry not much help - more a note to say don’t expect to animate multiple characters or millions of particles - as there’s always the C4D viewport issues with too many items, which brings everything down to a crawl and wireframe.

If Mountain Lion opens up the PC card market for Mac Pros
It would be valuable to have some recommendations as to the next sensible steps up above the ATI 5870.


Hey serge - thanks for the info, I’d heard rumours but nothing concrete. Any Cinebench scores for that machine?

Cheers! C


Hi - just wanted to second a couple things: 1) mism is right, def don’t buy your RAM from Apple, go to OWC or anywhere but Apple. I’ve never had any trouble with the cheapest RAM I can find, although have heard many times that OSXs RAM routines will weed out crappy RAM and won’t load it. And 2) I too recently learned about the Lion/ML drivers, and that the OS upgrade has a lot more to do with gfx card performance than the card itself. I can’t verify this yet as I haven’t had time/balls to upgrade my OS, but I got the info from a developer that deals with gfx performance. I run a 2GB NVIDIA Quadro 4000, and can’t tell that from a 5870 from a 5770, all of which I’ve owned, which is of course a big bummer when it comes to 3D. I run Lion on my laptop and I have to say Apple no longer cares about professionals and has resorted to messing up what wasn’t broken so they can “stay current”, but if it improves my 3D situation, which is 50% of my revenue, I’d really like to know how much improvement we’re talking. Anyone go from 10.6 to 10.7 or .8 and see a significant gfx card bump?


The 5870 seems to be a 5770 but double the card, this makes me think that the card is really performing like 2x 5770s in crossfire mode.

And CINEMA does NOT take advatage of crossfire/sli setups.

As Paul mentioned, no matter the graphics card you will do little to increase the performance of many objects in a scene, the bottle neck here is the CPU, not the GPU.
Also not a Viewport issue per se, this is core to how CINEMA deals with objects, just think about even the small things that could cause overhead…like the visibilty dots…on every frame for every object CINEMA has to determine which of the 3 states the dot is in and then compare that to the parent / root to determine object visibility, add in things like constraints, deformers, generators, etc. and the ability to sift through this data starts slow down. There are certain things that can be cached on the GPU, but not everything. (all these calculations are trying to be done in 1/30th of a second…for thousands of objects).

The GPU will help most with hi-poly counts on single objects and also with how many textures / the preview size of those textures can be displayed.


Yeah…there is no reason for a workstation card w. cinema other than the extra ram.
Also like I said the 5870 would be killer for a game…but if it really is like 2 5770s on one card C4D would only be using 1 of those internal 5770s. AFAIK.
I think wjb would be able to give the best answer.


Also, if looking at a 3rd party card, keep in mind drivers.
At least on the PC side this is a big thing to consider.

For cards, the AMDs are fast…very fast, but you often get stuck with so-so drivers.
Nvidia cards are a little slower, but stable drivers, which means less chances for graphics card related errors.

I have been told that AMD on the mac have fairly solid drivers though.


It’s hard to judge objectively, but I’ve not spotted major differences after upgrading to ML, except the enhanced OpenGL seems a little more ‘enhanced’, transparency works better etc.

Here’s a Cinebench vs OSX graph from my machine, just made for my own reference really but showing that there’s no huge gains/losses either way, with that machine.


Interesting, thanks for posting that chart Chris.


That is fascinating! Where can I read more about that? We have only just started piloting Lion at my office, due to early permissions issues and out reliance on SAN collaboration. But, if ML proves more stable than Lion, and especially if we can run top tier graphics cards, then I will start the push.


In French about pc graphic cards and ML:

And in the Luxology forum

And a link to a Barefeats test about speed inprovements with ML


If Macs can use nVidia now the GTX 580 is likely what you want, more than one if you are doing any GPU rendering.


legend? chris…what is what on that bar chart albeit everything is minor changes :slight_smile:


Score on the left, OSX version on the bottom.


Doh… :banghead:
lol…sorry…yes…thanks for that. :thumbsup:


Hi All,

to the ones, who are interested in a PC card for their Mac Pros.

I did a research some weeks ago, because I read something in some forums and stumbled over this site .
Read that ! It also works for users with just OS X Lion, but they need to do some little work.

Compare to my old card (GTX 285) the performance is stunning !!!
Especially in Adobe products like After Effects or if you have plugins, that uses Cuda like TurbulenceFD those cards play their whole benefit.
Cinebench on the other side, shows me similar results like my old GTX 285, that I actually don’t understand… It’s a little faster, but should fly also here.
Maybe Maxon has to optimize this in a future update…




I think that is maybe to do with he current iteration of CB being based on 11.5. When that was current, I don’t think OSX even fully supported OGL2, so the OGL support in the Mac version of Cinema was probably not set up for anything beyond that. Just a guess though…

Now that we are 2.5 versions later, maybe Maxon will release a new CB based on R14.

Thanks for that link!