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New Mac Pro Graphics Cards… In Older Mac Pros

Friday, March 13th, 2009 | Author:

Our back room gurus tested the NVIDIA GeForce GT 120 and the ATI Radeon HD 4870 graphics cards from the early 2009 Mac Pro in the 800MHz and 667MHz Mac Pro models with varying success. The quick results are: GT120 functions, in both ports, in 800MHz Mac Pro.

Mac Pro ’800MHz Memory Bus Models:
4870 – Works A-OK via its DVI port. No-go via the miniDisplay Port.

GT120 – Works like a champ with both DisplayPort and DVI Port.

Mac Pro ’667MHZ Memory Bus Models:
No go with either of Video Cards from the new Mac Pros.

We’ll have more details later, but there’s a preliminary first look summary. If you have an 800MHz Mac Pro now – the GT120 ought to become a nice option all around… And the 4870 maybe too for those wanting that super video performance while not needing it to support two displays.

Update note 3/17/09 should note that testing was done under OS X 10.5.6 and was done with a Mini DisplayPort straight into a new display.UPDATE 8/27/10 We tested the Radeon 5870 and 5770 graphics cards with all model year (2006-2010) Mac Pros…see the results at this revealing post!

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    1. Daniel says:

      Has anyone gotten an nVidia GT120 to work on a Mac Pro 1,1? I cant find any conclusive “yes, and here’s how” or “no, you have a 5 year old computer gtfo”.

    2. johnny says:

      i understand, please provide a link here, i guessing it would be a new post. thank you for the reply.

    3. johnny says:

      so the new mac pro’s are out!! will the

      ATI Radeon HD 5770 Graphics Upgrade Kit for Mac Pro
      ATI Radeon HD 5870 Graphics Upgrade Kit for Mac Pro

      work with older machines?

      • OWC Michael says:

        Hello Johnny,

        At this point, we haven’t received the new Mac Pro in order to test them. We’ll post when we find out.

    4. Erik J. Barzeski says:

      My second X1900 XT is on its last legs, and I called the local store and was told that the GT 120 would work in my Mac Pro (2006, dual 3.0 GHz 667 MHz).

      I’m skeptical but I asked the guy four times and he seems confident.

      • Mike says:

        I had two of them die on me too rather quickly so I got them to replace it with the 8800GT free of charge. I am not running a PC XFX 285GTX and the 8800GT in my 2006 MacPro 1,1

    5. johnny says:

      please do something similar for the new mac pros coming out this august!!! i’m very curious.

    6. Chris says:

      Yeah Im looking into, Is it possible to use the GT120 in the MacPro1,1 with 667MHZ memory bus myself. I have not found an answer anywhere yet. maybe one will crop up from you knowledgeable dudes on here. Im glad i found this. Otherwise I would like a decent card that works in the 1,1 MacPro that supports Open CL/cuda and the likes.

      Im sick of my out of date old 7300 GT.

    7. I have the following machine and Video Card running 10.6.3

      Hardware Overview:
      Model Name: Mac Pro
      Model Identifier: MacPro1,1
      Processor Name: Dual-Core Intel Xeon
      Processor Speed: 2.66 GHz
      Number Of Processors: 2
      Total Number Of Cores: 4
      L2 Cache (per processor): 4 MB
      Memory: 13 GB
      Memory Speed: 667 MHz
      Bus Speed: 1.33 GHz
      Boot ROM Version: MP11.005D.B00
      SMC Version (system): 1.7f10
      Serial Number (system):
      Hardware UUID:

      Video Card:
      Name: ATY,Alopias
      Type: display
      Driver Installed: Yes
      Bus: PCI
      Slot: Slot-1
      Vendor ID: 0×1002
      Device ID: 0×7249
      Subsystem Vendor ID: 0×1002
      Subsystem ID: 0×7249
      Revision ID: 0×0000
      Link Width: x16
      Link Speed: 2.5 GT/s

      —- END —-

      I want to add a third monitor to the machine and can’t see to find a card that will work. Is it possible to use the GT120 in the MacPro1,1 with 667MHZ memory? Any help or input would be greatly appreciated. The X1900 has been running fine. Just would like to add on a 3rd monitor.

    8. Ram says:

      I have an 2008 Mac Pro with the stock ATI Radeon 2600 video card (out of warranty). After a year the video does not appear for minutes from a cold boot up…planned obsolescence? Tried another display with same results. As with others I am concerned about using a non approved Apple card, the nVidia GT 120, in the 2008 Mac Pro. Is Apple moving to approved this card? I’d ask Apple but they want $ to even ask the question.

      This is my first Mac, probably my last!

    9. cmadore says:

      my message was horrible
      what i meant was i purchased the GeForce 120 i had no luck would not show display
      so i brought it back i was able to find a g-force 8800 gt put the card in and no display i put the broken gt 8800 and i get a gray apple display then the card freaks out
      what should i do

    10. cmadore says:

      I’m having a serious issue
      i bought the NVIDIA GeForce GT 120 Graphics Upgrade Kit for the Mac Pro
      this is the Mac Pro i have
      Quad-core processing
      Two 2.0GHz, Dual-Core Intel Xeon 5100 series processors
      Intel Core microarchitecture
      4MB of shared L2 cache per processor (8MB total)
      128-bit SSE3 vector engine
      64-bit data paths and registers
      Energy efficiency optimization
      I had a NVida GForce 8800gt
      i replaced it with another NVIDA GFORCE 800 GT and i can not get it to display an image what can i do? need help …

      I was replaceing a card that was giving me issue
      the Nvidia Gforce

    11. Michael Dodd says:

      Getting Mixed signals about both cards. Some people are reporting on Apple’s website that the Radeon 4870 works on 2007, 2006 Macs with Snow Leopard. Can anyone verify this? Some people are saying that the Nvidia Works too.

    12. marc says:

      While searching for about the same answers as above, I noted someone offering (since Oct. 30 2009) a free PC ATI video card flashing tool which works from a Mac Pro (no need to do it in a PC) and flashes the following cards :

      Powercolor without cover
      Powercolor with cover
      Sapphire New Edition
      Sapphire Vapor-X

      XFX ZDFC
      Sapphire 512 MB

      Link is

    13. John says:

      Installed a new retail Apple Nvidia GT 120 in a 2008 Mac Pro Dual Quad 3.2 GHz and it works fine with 10.6.2. It’s running a 30″ Apple display (about 3.5 years old now) and it’s doing okay. I’m using the dual-link DVI port. The stock 8800 GT had the “dancing pixels” issue. Forcing the display to sleep and then waking it up cleared up the pixel issue. The GT 120 did the same thing on its first boot. During the last day and several reboots later, no dancing pixels. Fingers-crossed. Nvidia GT 120 does appear slower than Nvidia 8800 GT.

    14. Marshall says:

      The fan noise on the 3870 was horrendous on my 2008 Mac Pro due to the single slot design, so I put on a passive cooler which fits the MB dual slot and it runs cool and silent with no fan.

    15. Mario says:

      Vee dee,
      I also have a a mac pro 1,1 667 mhz 8GB RAM. I am running Snow Leopard. I purchased a AMD Radeon 4870 from the apple store and installed it without any hacks or driver updates other than normal apple updates. It runs perfectly with both my mini Displayport running a 24 inch cinima display and I also tested the DVI port as well and that also worked. I googled before making this purchased and found that many people are reporting success with this card. Hope this is helpful.

    16. Stuart says:

      I bought the 3870 mac & pc edition… 667mhz first gen mac pro.. card worked fine initially… fan on it ran constantly, and card cooked itself in under 30 days. It’s currently being RMA’d while I decide if i want my money back, an exchange, or an upgrade to the 4870. In my opinion this card should have had a dual slot cooler, exhausting heat out the back. The 1 slot design works against the case cooling design, and ends up recirculating hot air onto the GPU in an endless cycle. While the 4870 reportedly works, paying apple $400+ for a $180 card to put in a 2 year old computer doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense…

    17. William Gallagher says:

      Tremendous to see all this information: you’ve just stopped me buying the wrong card. Which is nice, but I’ve already bought two wrong ones.

      I’m trying to add a third monitor to my first generation 667Mhz Mac Pro; if I read the comments correctly, is the conclusion that the ATI Radeon HD 3870 is the right card?

      I do see that most people here are talking about single or twin monitors; would I be wasting my time trying to run a third?

      Thanks for any help,

    18. johnny again says:

      hey guys, im running gt120 on mac pro 2008 + snow leopard. everything works like a charm including mini DP. however i noticed that when i put mac pro to sleep i get a little white horizontal line (random places at different times ) on the screen. and also when i wake the computer i get a white line in the bottom right. apple replaced my gt120 but no luck same problem. so i was wondering if anyone else had this with gt120 (in 2008 mac pro) and ACD 20″ please let me know. (ive tried on dvi and also with the miniDP->dvi adapter) please let me know

    19. Vee dee says:

      My latest adventures with my frankenpro…

      I have a mac pro 1,1 667 mhz 12GB RAM. 10.6.1.
      x 1900 will not work in it but no matter since that has to go back to work.
      My 9600 card ( I belive. nVidia renames
      this to gt120 if I flash up). It’s only got 256 RAM.

      Has anyone with mac pro 1,1 + Snow leopard gotten an AMD 48xx or nVidia GT200 family card working?
      If so can you tell me which card, and if any of the various repackages from bestbuy ( like the asus OEM’d 280 ) will work. And if there is a firmware flash I need to be pointed too.

      Thanks so much, it’s so nice to see such good info exchange in a thread.

    20. Johnny A says:

      hey guys, im running gt120 on mac pro 2008 + snow leopard. everything works like a charm including mini DP. however i noticed that when computer going to sleep i get a little white horizontal line (random places at different times ) on the screen. and also when i wake the computer i get a white line in the bottom right. apple replaced my gt120 but no luck same problem. so i was wondering if anyone else had this with gt120 and ACD 20″ please let me know. (ive tried on dvi and also with the miniDP->dvi adapter) please let me know

    21. Jared Digby says:

      Quote (Originally by BareFeats)—
      One advantage of the Radeon HD 4870 over the GTX 285 is that, though it isn’t officially supported by Apple in the 2006-2007 Mac Pro, we can testify that it works fine in all models of Mac Pro (OS X 10.5.7 or later) based on our own experience of testing it in all models. It also costs about $100 less than the GTX 285.
      —End Quote—

    22. Jared Digby says:

      Please Try the 4870 and 667 MHz Mac Pro with 10.5.7 or higher.

    23. Rick says:

      I just ordered a 4780 (with 1 GB VRAM!) from a vendor on eBay to replace the 8800 GT in my Mac Pro 2.1 (3.0 GHz, 12GB RAM w/Snow Leo). I’ve got my fingers & toes crossed that “everything is everything”, & there’s no problem.

    24. Jared Digby says:

      Try the 4870 and 667 MHz Mac Pro with 10.5.7 or higher.

    25. y says:

      gt120 is working 100% with my mac pro 2008. however i recently noticed when i wake the computer form sleep mode, i get a white horizontal line on the bottom right of the display then everything is fine. is that something i should be worried about? im using a cinema display 20″ please let me know, if anyone is having this problem

    26. Cory says:

      Hey guys, yeah I bought the card from B and H Photo, but it was the same price, I just know they ship it super fast. Also the mini display port works great, good resolution no problems. Just make sure you get the right converter to VGA.

    27. X says:

      Has anyone tried mixing graphics brands? As in, would a 4870 work alongside a GT120? I know that long ago it was stated that it wouldn’t work. But I was wondering if that was still the case, particularly with the release of Snow Leopard.

    28. Nando says:

      So Cory, did you buy the ATI 4870 directly from Apple? I pretty much have the same configuration as yours (except running 2.66 GHz and only 2 GB memory) and have been in the market for a new card after my Nvidia 7300GT card just died three days ago (well, I can use my display only in Safe boot mode and STILL see the light yellow checkerboard pattern across my screen).
      I am considering purchasing ATI Radeon HD 3870 Mac/PC edition. Any suggestions?

    29. Kevin says:

      Hey Cory,

      Does the Mini Display port on your 4780 work as well?

    30. Cory says:

      Okay so I ended up getting the ATI 4870, and it works fine in my 2007 mac pro no problems at all even with really complex maya scenes.

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