PC graphics card in the Mac Pro

I was unlucky enough to buy an ATI X1900XT graphics card as a BTO option for my Mac Pro. I've been burned by ATI many times before but there was no alternative this time as the FX4500 cost $2000.

And again it turned out as a bad decision.

The card works ok under OS X, but under Linux it's a pain. The drivers are much better than they were a year ago but Nuke for example is constantly crashing whenever I go into the 3d view. And than there's the noise. Under OS X it's nice and quiet, on Linux it's loud and annoying. Couldn't figure out a way to silence it. I was ready to throw the card away and order a FX4500 when I had a idea: why not try a regular PC graphics card in the Mac Pro? All the forums were stating that this is not going to work, the screen is going to stay black because the cards don't have the EFI ROM. I didn't care and took a XFX 8800GTS 320MB from my PC and put it into the Mac Pro...

The display stayed black for the first 30 seconds. I had the machine set up to automatically boot the Ubuntu Gutsy partition I set up earlier, so as soon as Grub took over, I was able to read it on my Apple Cinema Display! Now you have to make sure, that you remove the "splash" keyword from the end of the boot parameters and boot. Everything was working just fine, X started up in the native 1920x1200 resolution and I could enable the restricted Nvidia drivers.

And what a difference this Nvidia card is! It's quiet and the drivers are amazingly quick and stable.

If you are willing to dump OS X and run Linux only on your Mac Pro, than just get a cheap consumer Nvidia and you have the best possible bang for buck. Just make sure you set up refit to boot automatically from your Linux partition.

Let me know how it worked out for you!

Posted byvfxdude at 1:59 PM  


Sindhudweep said... January 30, 2008 at 6:01 PM  

I tried doing the same with an 8600gts , which worked fine with the vesa drivers.

I did not work however when i tried to use the nvidia proprietary drivers.

Also I'd like to mention that i left the 6 pin molex connector unplugged since i couldn't find an extra power source. How did you power your 8800gts in your mac pro?

I have an early 2008 mac pro.

Anonymous said... March 21, 2008 at 7:51 PM  

Have you tried ATI's new Linux drivers?


I see they have them for you're 1900 XT as well as the MacPros shipping with the ATI Radeon HD 2600 XT 256MB. I heard a rumore that ATI was going to be releasing source so I'd prefer to support them over nVidia. I.e. they seem to be more GNU/Linux friendly now. Do you have any thoughts on this?

Anonymous said... May 26, 2008 at 12:48 PM  

Yeah...! How did you power up your graphics card? I've got an XFX 8800 GTS card but I can't think of a way to power up the card.

Anonymous said... August 19, 2008 at 5:17 PM  

Why the flying crap would you pay such an extortionate amount for a mac pro and then only use linux instead of OSX, the only thing that differentiates Mac's from PC's in the first place. Spend the same amount of money on a PC and then you can install ubuntu on a machine that would be far more powerful than a Mac of equivalent price.

Sindhudweep said... August 21, 2008 at 12:14 PM  

When I purchased my MacPro it was the cheapest 8 core machine I could find that was already pre assembled. I purchased the majority of my ram elsewhere (ie not from apple). Another plus of purchasing a machine instead of building your own from newegg is the time savings which can be significant.

I use linux because fork performance is really terrible in OSX, and I can't live without MythTV. I'm too lazy to compile and get MythTV working in OSX.

vfxdude said... August 21, 2008 at 12:38 PM  

I have to second Sindhudweep. The Mac Pro was the cheapest 8-core 3.0 GHz at that time. The other reason is: the build quality is simply superb on these machines, there's absolutely no other case that is this well designed internally. Very easy access to memory and hard disks. And did I say it's almost absolutely quiet?

I also have to say that most workstations I had before this were self-built. Been doing that for the past 20 years. But if price-performance remains this good in the future, my next box will be a Mac Pro as well.

Anonymous said... November 28, 2008 at 4:43 PM  

Yes... I did the same. Quadcore and run linux on it.

Fedora can install the ati drivers and run glx gears at 10,000+ fps.

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