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Stupid Mac graphics card options
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Luca
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Join Date: May 2004
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2004-06-04, 04:20

Man oh man. Of all the Mac components available, graphics cards are by far the WORST. You can buy hard drives, RAM, optical drives, speakers, monitors, and input devices from generic PC outlets like NewEgg. Processors are less available but there is plenty of competition from OWC, GigaDesigns, Sonnet, and PowerLogix, making super-fast G4 upgrades for Sawtooth and Quicksilver machines somewhat affordable. But graphics cards are just sucking it up on the Mac platform. The only company that sells retail cards is ATI, and they seem to enjoy screwing Mac users. Recently they announced the 256 MB Radeon 9800, the 128 MB Radeon 9000, and the 128 MB Radeon 7000 PCI.

The latest releases are simply insulting. ATI is MONTHS late with their so-called "new" cards. Meanwhile, they don't release a single new GPU. All they did was add more VRAM to their existing cards. It took them that many months to solder some larger RAM chips to their existing cards? What's wrong? Why isn't there an actual IMPROVED lineup, such as a 9800XT 256MB on the super high end, the current 9800 Pro for the middle to high end, a 9600 Pro 128 MB in the middle, and both PCI and AGP versions of a 128 MB 9200 for the low end? Keep the same prices as the PC versions or even hike them up a bit, just not the unreasonable amount that they have been.

This is just stupid. Especially ridiculous is the 128 MB Radeon 7000. That card is so slow (between an original Radeon and a Rage 128) that even 32 MB was more than enough to keep it efficient. To sell it for $129 five or six years after its release is just... mind-boggling. The 9000 isn't a bad card but at this point it's very low-end (I mean look, the $799 eMac and $1099 iBook both use the similar 9200), and it shouldn't be taking the place of a middle-of-the-road card. The 9600 is perfect for filling that role. The only thing that isn't heinously bad is the 9800. It's a bit more expensive than the PC version, but otherwise it's basically the same.

nVidia doesn't sell Mac cards as retail, so they're usually only available on eBay. Meanwhile, there's enough demand for good Mac graphics cards that a lot of people are making some extra cash on the side by flashing PC cards to work in Macs. GeForce 3s, Radeon 8500s, and Radeon 7000s are the most common, and they're available for good prices.

I think there's enough demand that a small company might be able to make a lot of money selling Mac-compatible video cards. Not just Mac-compatible ones, but cards specifically designed for Mac users. They could have ADC ports on all AGP cards, and outfit their physically smaller cards with a removable bracket to work in Cubes. However, I am not sure of all the issues surrounding this. Obviously there's enough demand, given the great number of flashed PC cards that are selling on eBay, but is it even possible? Will there be licensing issues with obtaining Mac-compatible ROMs, or even obtaining permission to use ATI's or nVidia's GPUs? How would a small company overcome the initial cost of setting up a video card shop? And would ANYONE be on their side? Apple would certainly not like cheaper and more flexible video cards available, and neither would ATI.

Anyway, rant over. My flashed GeForce 3 rocks the hizzy . They are not expensive, about $75 for a VGA-only one (mine was about $100 but it has DVI, which I wanted in case I get an LCD later on), but beware because they will cause some nasty flickering in any AGP 2x Mac. You need an AGP 4x slot (Digital Audio, Quicksilver, MDD).
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ZO
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Join Date: May 2004
Location: Paris, FR
 
2004-06-04, 05:38

I totally understand...

I have here a 733MHz with a 32mb GeForce 2 MX card... and a 22inch Cinema Display....

I really want to get a new card... but that also supports the ACD.

The offers *ARE* insulting...

What options do I have for connecting a flashed card to the ACD? And how the hell do I find out what model I have?

I *think* its a Digital Audio...

PS What sites do you consult for a "how-to" to flash nVidia cards?

I'm having deja-vu and amnesia at the same time. I think I've forgotten this before.
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EDS66
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Join Date: May 2004
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2004-06-04, 11:17

Quote:
Originally Posted by ZO
I totally understand...

I have here a 733MHz with a 32mb GeForce 2 MX card... and a 22inch Cinema Display....

I really want to get a new card... but that also supports the ACD.

The offers *ARE* insulting...

What options do I have for connecting a flashed card to the ACD? And how the hell do I find out what model I have?

I *think* its a Digital Audio...

PS What sites do you consult for a "how-to" to flash nVidia cards?
www.macsales.com (OWC) has Radeon 9000s (128MB) for $159.00. Not a bad deal, I guess.

The card comes with both the ADC and DVI connectors.
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Luca
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2004-06-04, 12:02

Because no PC card has an ADC port, you have to get a Mac card. Also, most of ATI's retail cards don't come with ADC, the 9000 being an exception. Here's what you can get to upgrade from your GeForce 2MX:

GeForce 3, 4MX, or 4Ti
Radeon 7500 (not much of an upgrade), 9000

That's not much. Plus, the Mac editions of the GeForce 3 and Radeon 7500 are both expensive and rare. I think that out of those, the GeForce 4 Titanium is your best bet. That is really an awesome video card and it's not THAT much more expensive than the 9000. Mac Edition 9000s are not that cheap on eBay (hopefully the price comes down now that the $160 128MB version is out), so I think it's worth it to go to about $200 for the GeForce 4 Titanium. GeForce 4MXs aren't very good and they're also rare and somewhat expensive.

If you don't limit yourself to needing ADC, then there are many more options available. Flashed cards are usually okay and pretty cheap. Certain ATI retail cards are available in Mac versions but have no ADC, such as the Radeon 8500 and the Radeon 9800. In addition, the quite rare Radeon 9700 Pro that was available with the Mirrored Drive Door PowerMacs will only work in an MDD, and nothing else. Otherwise it would be a great option at under $300 for a very fast 128 MB card, but it's just not the case.

P.S. You can theoretically get a flashed card that has DVI and use the DVI port to connect a DVI to ADC adapter, but it's not worth it. If you're going to spend an extra $100 to connect your monitor, you may as well drop that extra $100 on a nice video card instead. Given that the GeForce 2MX sells for $120-$180 on eBay these days, you can upgrade to the 4 Titanium for fairly cheap.
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tink
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Join Date: Jul 2004
 
2004-07-07, 16:18

Any suggestions for upgrading a G5 from the stock 9600 ATI 64 MB for under $300, or am I still playing that fun old waiting game.....?

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stoo
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2004-07-07, 18:09

Quote:
Because no PC card has an ADC port, you have to get a Mac card.
Jings, the ADC to DVI adpater is expensive ($100) for what it does.
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wyvern
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2004-07-07, 18:24

Heh. Just picked up a Radeon 7000 (AGP 8x, for some reason... like this card even needs AGP 2x!) for $30 for my headless FreeBSD box for those times when I need local access. Anything more than $50 is highway robbery, even for the Mac version.
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Luca
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2004-07-07, 20:27

So far, there aren't a whole lot of G5-compatible video cards (not that there are many G4-compatible video cards either ). In order of how fast they are...

1) GeForce FX5200 64 MB (shipped with old G5s)
2) GeForce FX5200 Ultra 64 MB (shipping with new G5s)
3) Radeon 9600 Pro 64 MB (shipped with old G5s)
4) Radeon 9600XT 128 MB (shipping with new G5s)
5) Radeon 9800 Pro 128 MB (shipped with old G5s)
6) Radeon 9800 Pro special edition 256 MB (available as a retail card)
7) Radeon 9800XT 256 MB (shipping with new G5s)
8) GeForce 6800 Ultra 256 MB (shipping with new G5s)

Normally, the Radeon 9800 SE is the slowest version of the 9800, and generally loathed among PC guys. They'd rather have the 9600XT. But in this case, the "special edition" merely refers to the 256 MB version available as a retail card to G5 owners. If you want to buy a brand new card through retail channels, that is your only option, and it's an expensive one. However, if you're looking for one under $300, there's a slight chance of an older, 128 MB Radeon 9800 Pro surfacing somewhere for maybe a little under $300, and there's also the 128 MB 9600XT that is shipping with the new machines. You might be able to find one or two of those on eBay, eventually, but don't expect them to be available for a very low price. My advice would be to either bite the bullet and go for a higher end card that might just exceed your price range, or wait a while and THEN look on eBay. Prices may go down a bit in the next few months as more video cards from the newer G5s get put up for sale.

Oh yeah, and the Radeon 7000 is basically a gussied-up Rage 128. Total crap, but at least it's cheap.
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Barto
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2004-07-07, 21:34

The 7000 is a rebranded Radeon VE, not a Rage 128. It's crap, but it's not that crap.
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Luca
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2004-07-08, 05:35

Quote:
Originally Posted by Barto
The 7000 is a rebranded Radeon VE, not a Rage 128. It's crap, but it's not that crap.
Yeah... yeah, I know that technically the 7000 is in the Radeon family, not the Rage family, but it seems like it's so slow that it ends up being about halfway between the Rage 128 and the original Radeon (aka 7200).

Meh, we know that it sucks. I guess if you're going to use it for PCI Extreme on a beige or blue G3, it's a relatively cheap buy.
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darkerknight
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2004-07-08, 07:20

So... in case I were to get me a used PowerMac G4 AGP, which Grafic card would you recommend? And where could I buy those (from Europe... I have to move out of this No Man's Land...)? I'm currently considering to keep my Lombard for outdorr usage and to get a PowerMac to work at home, where I get most of my stuff done.

Thanks for any recommendation!
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tink
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2004-07-08, 11:13

Cool (or not so cool since there's not many options)!
Thanks for sorting out the breakdown of available cards for the G5's!

I'll wait for a while to see what trickles down. I was looking forward to the Radeon 9600XT 128 MB. It's sounds like a nice card but I chose to jump on a couple of 2Ghz rev1. referbs. from the apple store. For $1999 the price is nice and the card will work for now.

I hope Apple tweaks things so that PC cards can work in Macs. That would go a long way! So far standardizing on things like, usb, ATA, SATA, DDR has been extremely beneficial for Apple and their customers (especially usb).

I really do think they loose potential switchers because of the lack of cards which perpetuates the lack of card support with a smaller install base.

I'm sure Apple looses some Mac user as well because of this......
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LewsTherin
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Join Date: May 2004
 
2004-07-08, 14:55

Apple should just use standard VGA compliant video cards. This capability was part of the CHRP specification and is utilized in the only CHRP motherboard still available, the Pegasos. The Open Firmware on it can load the VGA Bios to provide frame buffer support until the OS drivers take over, and there is no good reason Apple could not or should not do the same.
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Luca
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2004-07-08, 15:23

I don't think Apple loses a lot of switchers because of the lack of choices in video cards. It's pretty far down the list of things that potential Mac buyers run into that discourage them. I think popular opinion and marketing by the PC side are the largest factors, and the high price is also up there.

Anyway, it's just as much up to the video card companies as it is up to Apple to get PC video cards to work in Macs. The reason some cards flash so easily while others are extremely difficult to get working is because the easily flashed cards already have Mac drivers written for them. There are only so many Mac video card drivers. And those drivers are intended to work with the exact hardware that was present in the Mac version of the card. So the Radeon 8500 I got recently should be an easy flash, since it's mechanically identical to the Mac version. However, some other cards are not the same. The ones by third parties can be different enough to not work at all, or to work but with some limitations.

Basically, ATI and nVidia have to start writing Mac drivers for all their video cards. They also have to start supplying ROMs for both PC and Mac on their cards, along with a utility to let you flash them back and forth. Believe it or not, this has actually ALREADY HAPPENED in the past! 3dfx, which made the Voodoo line of cards, stopped selling separate Mac or PC specific cards somewhere around the Voodoo 3 or Voodoo 4. They just sold them by default as PC, but also gave the customer tools to flash the card for use in a Mac. Unfortunately, 3dfx is now kaput, nVidia doesn't even make any retail cards, and ATI seems to think that flashing a video cards is a capital crime (although technically it is illegal since it involves some kind of improper use of ROMs).

I think what you're thinking of is perhaps a way for Apple to modify the OS, or maybe the actual mechanics of their motherboards, to make PC graphics cards actually work natively without any flashing business. I don't know if that is physically possible, though.

EDIT: Wouldn't using standard VGA compliant graphics drivers be really slow? Is that anything like using VGA mode in Windows? If so, then they'd still have to write drivers for basically every PC video card out there, in order to get hardware acceleration.

Last edited by Luca : 2004-07-08 at 23:38.
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tink
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Join Date: Jul 2004
 
2004-07-08, 15:56

Quote:
Originally Posted by Luca
I don't think Apple loses a lot of switchers because of the lack of choices in video cards. It's pretty far down the list of things that potential Mac buyers run into that discourage them.
I was thinking more along the lines of the high end Power Mac purchasers, especially those involved with 3D.

I always thought that the ROM size was differnt and most of the cards made for the PC have a smaller hardware cache for the ROM making it difficult to flash.

I also thought Apple was responsible for much of the Driver writing...(?)
Also why wouldn't ATI release more cards if the hardware was identical since most of the driver work would already be done and should be able to be reused between cards with only specific code added for the individual card?

So can I flash on of these puppies "they're compatible with AGP 8X"
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LewsTherin
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Join Date: May 2004
 
2004-07-08, 18:47

Quote:
Originally Posted by Luca
1.)Anyway, it's just as much up to the video card companies as it is up to Apple to get PC video cards to work in Macs....
There are only so many Mac video card drivers. And those drivers are intended to work with the exact hardware that was present in the Mac version of the card.

2.)Basically, ATI and NVIDIA have to start writing Mac drivers for all their video cards. They also have to start supplying ROMs for both PC and Mac on their cards, along with a utility to let you flash them back and forth.

3.)I think what you're thinking of is perhaps a way for Apple to modify the OS, or maybe the actual mechanics of their motherboards, to make PC graphics cards actually work natively without any flashing business. I don't know if that is physically possible, though.

4.)EDIT: Wouldn't using standard VGA compliant graphics drivers be really slow? Is that anything like using VGA mode in Windows? If so, then they'd still have to write drivers for basically every PC video card out there, in order to get hardware acceleration.
I think that there are some things you don't understand about expansion cards in general and video cards specifically. I'll try to address some of the points you made.

1. I disagree. Apple is the odd man out. They should make their computers work with the video cards that 95% of the market uses, in the same way they use the same RAM, hard disks, I/O, etc. The drivers only work with the Apple supplied cards because Apple writes them that way. The OS matches the driver to the card by comparing the name properties, vender-id, class-id., etc. that is contained in the open firmware code contained in the Apple supplied cards. Apple writes the drivers with all this information in mind. ATI does the same with their Mac retail cards, because they want you to buy from them, rather than from one of the card cloners.

2. I agree that ATI and NVIDIA should write their own Mac drivers. ATI does, but only for their retail cards. The drivers should be written to work with all the cards in the family line, in the same way you don't need a specific driver for every manufacturer that makes an ATI cloned video card in the PC world. In this way, the drivers would work even on a card that has no Mac firmware on it. While there would be no video displayed at boot time, once the OS matched and loaded the drivers, then the video could be initialized. But as it currently stands, I don't believe the open firmware will continue the boot process if it does not detect an open firmware compatible video card.

3. Neither the OS nor the mechanics of the motherboard would need to be altered. Except for differences such as the ADC, the cards function electronically in the same way. What does need to happen is the open firmware needs to be modified to load the onboard VGA bios. Then it would be able to recognize PC video cards as such and display video until the OS drivers are loaded and take over. This is possible because it has already been done by another PowerPC motherboard manufacturer that also uses open firmware. This was a feature of the CHRP standard which Apple helped to draft but then never conformed to.

4. The VGA bios provides a simple frame buffer until the high level OS drivers are loaded. Hardware acceleration is not needed at this point.

Last edited by LewsTherin : 2004-07-09 at 00:25.
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Barto
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Join Date: May 2004
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2004-07-08, 22:53

Getting standard ATi and nVidia based cards working on Macs is ATi and nVidia's problem. Seriously here. The reason ATi based cards don't - even though ATi write their own Mac drivers - is because ATi bean counters like to know exactly how many Mac users buy their cards. Graphics card drivers uniformly suck. ATi and nVidia have never been standards oriented, and probably never will. It really pisses me off.

- Barto

The sky was deep black; Jesus still loved me. I started down the alley, wailing in a ragged bass.
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CoolFox
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2004-07-10, 15:08

Well, hold on there....

What really pisses ME off is how the PC world is going over to PCI express [the serial version of PCI] while AGP 8x has so much life left! The nVidia 6800 does not even come CLOSE to topping out the 8x bus, so why the change of standard?

The big problem for us mac users is, since we still use AGP 8x, the price of manufacuring the older standard is likely to go up, as once again, Macs aren't using the "standard". Remember when Macs used to use NuBus and the PC world was using PCI? Our NuBus expansion cards prices went WAY up, since it was not mainsteam.

Now, ATi is way to busy making there PCI express cards to bother with making an X800 card for its fellow Mac users. This is what we call a big market hole.
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Barto
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2004-07-10, 21:47

Yes the world could stick with AGP 8X for a while, but really that's just stupid. Technology moves on and there are plenty of advantages in PCI-Express.

Hardly ANY computers, maybe 0.001%, have PCI-Express. To claim Macs aren't the mainstream because they use AGP is insane, maybe in a few years time BUT BY THEN Apple WILL HAVE adopted PCI-Express. But even then I doubt graphics cards would be cross platform: explanation

The sky was deep black; Jesus still loved me. I started down the alley, wailing in a ragged bass.
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CoolFox
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2004-07-11, 00:04

EH? Motherboards and graphics cards with PCI express are already on the market you know... but you do hava point, 8x AGP is still the "standard" for modern motherboards, since the majority of us are not going to go out and buy a new motherboard just because Intel throws money at a new tech. [remember the Rambus incident... LMAO, those poor bastards]

But still, ATi is sure thowing their R&D into PCI-e, and they don't appear to be bothering with an X800 for the mac, and that pisses me off to no extent.
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Luca
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2004-07-11, 03:05

Just as an update, I successfully flashed my Radeon 8500 today. It's basically just as good as my GeForce 3. I couldn't tell the difference in any of my games. The only difference is that it SHOULD support dual monitors, and probably (hopefully?) S-video out as well. Also, it doesn't suffer from the horizontal lines problem.

Now I'm going to get the official ATI drivers and also try messing around with the clock speed a bit to see if I can improve performance at all. I'll end up selling one of the two at least... in fact, there's a good chance I'll sell both and get a GeForce 4 Titanium since that one seems like the best bang for the buck today.
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tink
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2004-07-12, 14:15

Quote:
Originally Posted by CoolFox
But still, ATi is sure throwing their R&D into PCI-e, and they don't appear to be bothering with an X800 for the mac, and that pisses me off to no extent.
Well hopefully they will come out with a Mac version of the X800. I thought this card was going to be only available as PCI-e but as I linked above the card is available for AGP 8x (PC only so far ).
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Luca
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2004-07-12, 14:55

BTW, I bought a Radeon 9800 and I'm selling all my other graphics cards now.

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709
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2004-07-12, 14:59

'Lucbot'....that's got a nice ring to it, don't you think?
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Luca
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2004-07-12, 15:21

LOL. I'm keeping this computer for a long time though. I'll NEVER get what it's worth if I sell it, ever, so I may as well wait until it's not worth anything before I replace it.

You could call me the murbot of upgrades though. I am constantly buying new stuff... video cards, hard drives, etc. The only original components in this Quicksilver of mine are the motherboard, power supply, case, and one of the two RAM modules. The rest (optical drive, video card, processor, hard drives, one stick of RAM, speakers, monitor, keyboard/mouse) are all third-party.
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rotor
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2005-06-27, 12:22

I recently upgraded my PM G4 Gigabit Ethernet with a 9000 PRO AGP card, and found out that my machine performed better with the Old Ati Rage 128 Pro. Especially when it came to Open GL performance.

When upgrading to OS X 10.4 the differences got bigger!

I was pretty surprised, though Iam able to understand that benchmarking does not tell all the tales about a cards performance. Anyway, I find it strange that a relatively new card doesnt support new core technology in a OS upgrade.

And since I got a machine with 2xAGP, I am fu**ed?
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darshu
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2005-06-27, 13:45

Quote:
Originally Posted by CoolFox
Well, hold on there....

What really pisses ME off is how the PC world is going over to PCI express [the serial version of PCI] while AGP 8x has so much life left! The nVidia 6800 does not even come CLOSE to topping out the 8x bus, so why the change of standard?
No, please don't discourage the PC world from getting rid of old technologies and replacing them with new! Apple did the same thing when they made the iMac USB only --- where were all the USB peripherals? Certainly ADB and RS-422 Serial ports could be used for a while still! (And AT keyboard/PS/2, IEEE 1284 Parallel port, RS-232 serial port, standard "game port", and whatever other junk PCs _still_ have to this very day)

Be glad that the PC world is actually trying to push a little bit of advancement of technology for once. AGP has various messy issues with it, can generally only support one device, is (more) expensive to manufacture (than PCI express), does not supply enough power for many modern graphics cards to run, provides fast transfer only in one direction (reading from the video card is dirt slow.... i.e. regular PCI speed at best. Having fast communication in both directions will open up even more possibilities to core image/core video type things as well as use of the GPU as a [somewhat more] general purpose processor).
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709
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2005-06-27, 13:50



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onlyafterdark
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2005-06-27, 15:37

Ya there have been a few of these popping up around here lately. Maybe they are coming to promote their new movie.
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Luca
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2005-06-27, 15:41

Quote:
Originally Posted by rotor
I recently upgraded my PM G4 Gigabit Ethernet with a 9000 PRO AGP card, and found out that my machine performed better with the Old Ati Rage 128 Pro. Especially when it came to Open GL performance.

When upgrading to OS X 10.4 the differences got bigger!

I was pretty surprised, though Iam able to understand that benchmarking does not tell all the tales about a cards performance.
You've answered your own question. Obviously you've run XBench on both and got a slightly higher score with the Rage 128. Such is life. XBench doesn't really give you a good indication of anything... the OpenGL tests are more indicative of processor performance than GPU performance. The only semi-consistent tests (that mean anything) are the CPU and Disk tests.

Ignore XBench entirely. It's almost worthless. Does OS X feel any faster with the Radeon 9000? Because it should. In fact, the difference should be tremendous when using things like Expos and Dashboard.

Quote:
Originally Posted by rotor
Anyway, I find it strange that a relatively new card doesnt support new core technology in a OS upgrade.
Naw, the Radeon 9000 isn't new at all. It came out in July 2002, and is essentially the same as the Radeon 8500, a card that came out a year earlier. So this video card is going on four years old. At the time, the Radeon 8500 was the fastest, most advanced video card on the market, and was the first ATI card to use the R200 core.

The Radeon 9000, on the other hand, was released as an affordable, midrange card, and that was three years ago. At the same time, ATI also had the Radeon 9700 out, which was the very earliest video card compatible with Pixel Shader 2.0 (and thus, the earliest card that now supports Core Image). The Radeon 9700 cost something like $400 at the time too... and nVidia didn't even have a single card (not even an expensive one) with Pixel Shader 2.0.

Quote:
Originally Posted by rotor
And since I got a machine with 2xAGP, I am fu**ed?
Not really, unless you wanted to get a Radeon 9600 Pro. Anything above a Radeon 9000 is probably going to be overkill for your machine, but if you want you can still upgrade to a retail Radeon 9800 (compatible with AGP 2x/4x) or a GeForce 4 Titanium.

Last edited by Luca : 2005-06-27 at 15:43.
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