|Review of the ATI Radeon HD 3870 Mac & PC Edition
By: Oliver B. (June 12th, 2008)
(Updated June 13th for questions on fan noise.)
(Later updated with Reader Feedback on the 3870)
The ATI Radeon HD 3870 PC & Mac Edition is expected to be available for sale by the end of June for a suggested retail price of $219. (They didn't make that date, but as of early August, site sponsor OWC now has the Radeon 3870 Mac/PC Edition in stock.) As the name suggests it works fine in Mac Pros as well as PCs. (But is not compatible with PCIe G5 Towers.) The Radeon HD 3870 is ATI's current single-GPU high-end card and their first high-end card available for Macs since the Radeon X1900 XT, which were sold both by ATI (for PowerMac G5s) and Apple (for Mac Pros).
The Radeon 3870 works in both first generation Mac Pros from 2006/2007, as well as the second generation Mac Pros introduced in early 2008. (NOTE: As per the driver installer, the 3870 requires OS X 10.5.2 or later.)
It is a very welcome addition to the rather sparse Mac video card offerings, of which there now are:
(AMD/ATI has a press release on the Radeon HD 3870 Mac/PC edition titled AMD Pushes Mac® Based Visual Computing Beyond HD.)
While the older ATI Radeon X1900XT and the GeForce 7300 GT can still be bought in the AppleStore, I'd recommend against it. They are outclassed by the newer cards and more expensive to boot.
Mac Pro 2006:
Dual dual-core Xeon @ 2.67 GHz, 6GB of RAM; Mac OS X 10.5.3
Mac Pro 2008:
Dual quad-core Xeon @ 2.8 GHz, 8GB of RAM; Mac OS X 10.5.3 and Windows Vista Business (32-bit)
Contents of the review sample box:
- The card (duh)
- CrossFire adapter (No OS X support currently, but usable in Windows - see CrossFire info using 2 cards for increased performance)
- Molex-to-6-pin power apapter (not necessary in Mac Pro)
- Power cable for power connector on Mac Pro motherboard
- DVI-to-VGA adapter
- S-Video to Composite adapter for the built-in S-Video port
- Driver CD for Mac OS X 10.5.2 and later (includes driver ATIRadeonX2000* version 1.5.29)
Windows drivers are available online
Contrary to the reference model (PC only) version of the ATI Radeon HD 3870 this edition comes with a single-slot cooler. GPU and memory clocks remain the same though, at 777 MHz and 2250 MHz respectively. The card needs auxiliary power available from one of two power plugs on the Mac Pro mainboard.
The following photograph shows a comparison to two other cards. The GeForce 8800 GT (left) is about the same size, and also uses a single-slot cooler. The previous generation Radeon X1900 XT (right) is somewhat longer due to its fixing frame. (Note that the cooler on the X1900XT is not the original one, but as the original it's a two-slot cooler). All of these cards need auxiliary power, the power connectors are on the bottom right on each card.
Mac Pro 2008: Mac OS X tests
Quake 4 v.1.4.2: A self-recorded netdemo of me running around and shooting in q4dm3 "The lost fleet".
As expected the Radeon 3870 HD improves on the scores of its predecessors considerably, and is over four times faster than the stock card (Radeon HD 2600 XT) at 1920x1200 with 4xAA. At the lowest tested resolution the difference to the other cards its predecessors is much less pronounced.
NVidia's offering is somewhat ahead at the 1920x1200 resolution both with and without AA, however the 4xAA setting does not work (the card does 2xAA instead).
Prey v1.2b 116: A self-recorded demo of me running around and shooting in dmroadhouse "Roadhouse".
It looks like the Radeon HD 3870 has some trouble with prey and is mostly surpassed by its predecessor - the Radeon X1900XT, which is even faster than the GeForce 8800 GT at the smallest resolution. That's strange given that Prey is based on the same engine as Quake 4.
The GeForce 8800 GT doesn't share this weakness, and contrary to Quake 4 the 4xAA setting seems to work.
Unreal Tournament 2004 v3369.2: Tested with Santa Standard Bench.
As this isn't a very new game any more I only tested at the highest resolution possible for me: at 1920x1200. The Radeon 3870 shines in this benchmark and beats all other cards in both FlyBys and Botmatches.
Quake 3 v1.3.2 UB: Included demo "four".
The old-timer among the games tested was also tested at only 1920x1200 with high-quality custom settings. The Radeon 3870 beats its predecessors soundly. Its direct competitor is so close as to call it even.
Mac Pro 2006: Mac OS X tests
1st generation Mac Pro: The same demos as above were run.
The Radeon HD 3870 worked beautifully in the 1st generation Mac Pro, and beats its predecessors by respectable margins.
Mac Pro 2008: Windows Vista (32-Bit) Tests
Half-Life 2 Episode 2 (current of June 7th): HOC demo 1.
The Radeon HD 3870 was slightly ahead at smaller and medium resolutions, but dipped a little at 1920x1200.
Crysis v1.0 (couldn't apply patches): Included GPU_bench.bat in DirectX 9 with 'Very High' On The Cheap settings.
Easily the most demanding game I own. The GeForce 8800 GT has the lead in this game across all resolutions.
Unreal Tournament 3 v1.2: A 90 second FlyBy in vCTF-Suspense.
The Radeon HD 3870 didn't scale at the small to medium resolutions. It did get closer to the GeForce 8800 GT at the 1920x1200 resolution though.
Quake 4 Multiplayer Demo (v1.4.2+): Included netdemo id_demo.ndmo86.
The Radeon 3870 lags the GeForce 8800 without AA, but pulls ahead at the 2xAA and 4xAA settings.
Unfortunately I don't own any applications that benefit of the GPU, like Apple's Aperture, Apple's Motion or Imaginator. (FYI - Also see other 3870 user feedback below for notes from some Pro Apps users noting better performance than the 8800GT card.-Mike) Instead, I ran Cinebench R10, an iMovie test and XBench's Quartz, OpenGL and a UI Tests.
Mac Pro 2008: Mac OS X application and Benchmark tests
iMovie: I measured how long it took to import the "Sharkwater" (1080p) video into iMovie HD, where the GPU is involved when creating thumbnails. The scores are 200'000 divided by the time, so a longer bar means better performance.
The Radeon HD 3870 was about 20% faster than the GeForce 8800 GT in this test, and somewhat more than the other contenders. (The actual times were 31, 40, 43 and 39 seconds from left to right.)
The CineBench R10 OpenGL benchmark seems to be very light work compared to games. The Radeon HD 3870 had a slight edge.
XBench's (Graphics/UI) Results :
The Radeon HD 3870 lags a little behind the GeForce 8800 GT in most games tested - the notable exception is Mac-UT2004. (FYI - reportedly with OS X 10.5.6, Call of Duty 4 Modern Warfare performance is better with the 3870 than the 8800GT) However, the Radeon HD 3870 is roughly 20% cheaper than the GeForce 8800 GT, so unless you want to play Crysis at high resolutions you could consider saving a few bucks.
For non-gaming use it looks like the Radeon HD 3870 is a winner. Even though I couldn't test with Aperture, Motion or Imaginator, I think that the XBench, iMovie and CineBench results were promising. If you're a pro-App user it looks like this card is for you. (See also reader feedback below from Pro Apps users)
Personally I'm inclined to stay with the GeForce 8800 GT for now, because game performance is important to me. Also I'm quite disappointed that 3D-overrides are no longer included. They provided the very welcome possibility to enable anti-aliasing for older games lacking such a setting in-game, or to force-enable vSync (as I liked to do in UT2004, as it seemed to ignore the in-game setting). To be fair there are no such options for GeForce cards either.
Then again I haven't touched Crysis and UT3 (in Windows) for a while, and even the Radeon X1900 XT was good enough for everything else. I guess I'll see how well the soon-to-be-released Mac version of UT3 is going to run, and decide then.
Notes on Cooling/Fan Noise:
In idle mode, the 3870 fan noise is very unobtrusive, much like the 8800. The 3870 fan did speed up a few times during the 3D benchmarks, at which point in was clearly audible - not nearly as much as the X1900's stock fan though. I did have the Mac Pro's side door open during the tests, and many of the benchmarks didn't have audio, so I think it wouldn't disturb me during gameplay. I can't really say how it would behave with pro apps like Motion of Aperture, but I'd think the fan would stay pretty quiet.
It seems to me that the 3870's fan speeds up earlier than the 8800's, and also slows down again sooner. With the 8800 my experience was that the fan didn't speed up for a long time, until the chip was over 90°C. Then the fan would keep running at increased speed for a while.
Personally I'd have liked if both the 3870 and 8800 had a *proper* dual slot cooler, then fan noise wouldn't ever be an issue. The Zalman VF-1000 (www.xlr8yourmac.com/Graphics/X1900_zalman_vf1000/X1900_zalman_vf1000.html) I'm using on the X1900 for example is pretty much inaudible, even though the X1900 is considerably more power hungry than either the 3870 and 8800.
BTW, the 3870 is based on a 55nm chip, while the 8800 is based on a 65nm chip. As a result, one would probably expect the 8800 to be more power hungry and to dissipate more heat. I didn't measure this, but it can be seen in other reviews. All of them note that the 3870 uses less power when idle, but under load they don't quite agree with one another - it looks like it depends on the type of load. - Some say the 3870 uses more power than the 8800 under load (revisiting-the-power-consumption-of-the-ati-radeon-hd-3800-series (Ars), http://www.anandtech.com/video/showdoc.aspx?i=3151&p=11 - Some say it uses less power than the 8800 under load http://www.techreport.com/articles.x/13603/9, http://www.techspot.com/review/76-asus-radeon-hd-3870/page8.html)
Reader Feedback on the ATI 3870: Later reports first
I welcome other feedback from Mac Edition 3870 owners.
"ATI 3870 + Accelero S1 (install slideshow)
It's an older subject, but I wanted to share my pictures of installing an Accelero S1 Rev 2 silent cooler on my ATI 3870 for my Mac Pro 1st Gen. Photo Slideshow with captions here. (There's also previous articles here in the past from Nvidia 8800GT and ATI X800 owners that used this cooler.)
The card is noticeably faster than the stock nVidia 7300 the Mac Pro came with, but I'm still getting some stuttering when playing YouTube HD video fullscreen on an Apple 23" HD display. If anyone knows any video tweaks to get rid of this problem, please let me know. (streaming (from web) playback? How's performance playing back downloaded (to local drive) QT HD movie trailers? He later replied:-Mike)
Well, it's only YouTube HD, even with plenty of buffer. I just downloaded the Star Trek 1080P trailer and it played as smooth as melted butter. Thought it might be a flash issue. And then, it's only once in a while - some White House weekly addresses are
stutter(y), and others aren't. Thought it might even be a temp issue, but the Accelero keeps it warm but not volcanic. (I suspect more of a network/server load/data streaming issue. (Not the fault of your hardware at least.) Otherwise you'd see it consistently in other similar tasks that didn't rely on a remote data source.-Mike)
The cooler itself works flawlessly - it's been warm to the touch, but not too bad, and I removed all the PCI slot plugs to open it up and improve airflow. I also am using smcFanControl and upped my minimum case fan speed to 650 RPM.
(Mac Pro Specs: 2x 2.66GHz 5150s (soon to be quad-core 5355s!), 8x1GB RAM, 4 hard disks). This thing definitely generates some heat out the back, but I love it.
"I originally purchased the ATI 3870 Mac/PC Edition for my 2008 Mac Pro direct from ATI last July (2008). The fan on that card was so loud, like a hair dryer, and was stuck at that speed all the time, in both OS X and Windows XP (Boot Camp).
I RMA'd it with ATI, and the replacement was (and still is) dead silent when idling. The fan only spins up when playing a game in Windows. I tried it with GRiD and DiRT, and got great performance. Smooth frame rates at 1920x1200, but had to lower the anti-aliasing setting a bit. The fan gets pretty loud when gaming, but that's expected, since the card is under some stress. Temps have been pretty good too, hovering around 75c when gaming, around 50c when idle. I started the following thread detailing my issues with my original 3870 card, and how much better the replacement got. A lot of people have replied in that thread about their experiences with Accelero coolers (Video topics page/Coolers section has articles/guides), so I thought maybe it would be some interest to others. (The thread still has some activity from time to time.)
Also, I believe someone mentioned in the thread above that the fan speed control in the 3870 has a poor implementation, since the fan only uses 2 wires. (3 wire fans have variable speed control/rpm typically, although even with 2 wires they could control the fan speed with voltage variations.-Mike) That could explain why some cards are always loud while others are fine. I think I probably just got lucky with my replacement one.
"In my experience, while performance has been very good, the hardware and support has been - simply put - terrible. Please bear with me, this lengthy but informative tale.
After all the good reviews and hype back in early June of 08, I decided on the ATI over the NVidia 8800 GT for first gen. Mac Pro because I don't use Pro Apps, claims were that ATI drivers were superior to NVidia, and the card was priced right. (Oliver and other early comments originally said the 3870 was better at Pro Apps and non-game apps than the 8800GT, although reportedly COD4 runs faster on the 3870 than the 8800GT. Oliver also said in his original review here he chose the 8800GT over the 3870. (And like many Mac Pro owners, he bought the 8800GT first as it was available months before the Mac 3870 was released).-Mike)
After reading a lot of comparisons, reviews, and opinions, it seemed like the way to go so I pre-ordered it. I had no great problems installing but the documentation was pretty bare bones. Although it recommended removal of bootcamp drivers for the old card (NVidia 7300
GT) and told how to do so, it said nothing about what to do as far as using the 3870 under bootcamp.
Contrary to the great claims of subtle heat-based fan control, the 3870 sounded like someone in the distance using a chainsaw. Every little action from dragging a desktop icon or window, to painting a stroke in Photoshop CS2 caused the fan to rev up, and then subside quickly, and the fan made many times as much noise as any of the Mac Pro fans, which I rarely hear. I put up with that for a while because I could find next to zero documentation on the card at the AMD/ATI web site and I was hopeful for a driver update. (All of us Mac owners (for years) have been disappointed in driver updates (literally none except for what's included in OS X updates - ATI and Nvidia released frequent driver updates for windows but on the Mac, there's literally none except for what apple releases)
In the mean time I was at least getting very good performance in Photoshop and in OS X games even with settings way up; for simpler games, maxed out. When I was finally able to get in touch via email with ATI, I was provided with a link to some completely unsupported "beta" drivers for bootcamp. They installed in a directory named AMD instead of ATI and the system (windows XP w/service pack 2) completely failed to even acknowledge they existed no matter why I tried. (Did you try the standard releases for Windows?) A windows savvy friend helped me download and install some regular PC 3870 drivers which installed in a folder called ATI. The card then exhibited very good performance in "EVE Online" but in windows, the fan was revved all the way up at ALL times.
After only about a month's use, I had to return the 3870 to ATI because it began causing at least 1 kernel panic per day, in OS X. The screen would suddenly fill with random garbage every so often, and then it was about a 50/50 chance of a kernel panic following immediately. Trying to register the card to get warranty service on the ATI web site was ridiculous because there was no selection for the card in any tables, forms, or menus. I had to just slip it in under "ATI Mac Edition".
No matter what questions I asked of ATI tech support, or how specific I was, EVERY question had to be asked TWICE. The first time, the question would always be answered with a stock PC answer, regardless of the fact that I specified I was using the card on a Mac Pro under Leopard 10.5.3. The second answer was unfailingly a pathetic echo of my question back to me as supposed acknowledgment that they understood what I was asking, followed by very little to help. I have heard of similar experiences from others.
After finally obtaining an RMA number, I was required to package JUST the card and pay to have it shipped to them, with no option to get a new card before sending the old one. The new card I received did not create the same fan noise or kernel panic problems and I haven't ever even tried to use bootcamp with it, because any changes in settings under windows XP seemed to exacerbate problems with the card under OS X.
The new 3870 I received has functioned fine from early August 08, to the present. About a week ago the screen once became badly distorted by dancing green pixels of the sort i'd only read about with Apple monitors having loose DVI plugs. Over the past few days my system has
been having some mysterious problems with games and Photoshop crashing, which I thought might have something to do with cooling, as the front fan in the Mac Pro has been making an occasional clicking sound.
Yesterday I had 3 peculiar instances of being unable to wake the computer, or having the display (an HP 2465) suddenly darken and go into sleep mode. Upon removing the Mac Pro side hatch, I discovered the clicking sound to be coming from the ATI 3870 fan instead of the Mac Pro fan. And each time I hear the sound, the fan is slowing, as if there's something caught in it, though upon removing it, I can't find anything to prevent smooth travel.
I also noted some comments about how cool the card runs. (there's some comments on that in the original review above that also linked to off-site articles/comments (from the original review in 2008) such as (this exact quote from the 2008 review above)
And there's some earlier reports on problems here (going back to 8/14/2008 - report below w/screenshot examples). I never had a Mac Pro or 3870 before to test this personally, but this is a one man site flooded with mails on every subject 24/7 and I try but can't cover everything. And there's also articles/posts from 8800GT owners that swapped coolers as well (again I think most readers just bought the 8800GT as it was released first.) I'm truly sorry you had problems (and for the typical standard support replies). And I agree 100% about the lack of driver updates (other than included in OS X at times) and frustrating experience with website support. It's depressing to (still) see the very few retail options for Mac graphics cards (for many years now) as well.-Mike)
Presently my Mac Pro runs hotter than at any time in the past because it currently has 7 GB of RAM (2 x 512, 2 x 1GB, and 2 x 2 GB, all with large Apple compliant aluminum heat sinks) and drives in all 4 bays (250 GB, 500 GB x 2, 1 TB), but even before the last memory and drive additions the ATI 3870 was always quite hot to the touch.
Now it seems I'm going to have to deal with AMD's (I see the ATI website has been folded into AMD) (they merged several years ago) lousy tech support. I still see an absolute bare minimum of information about the 3870 on the site after all these months. I REALLY wish I'd paid for the NVidia 8800 GT because this thing is garbage!
(from 2/18/2009 email)
"Hi Mike. It's been a long time since I wrote to you about my ATI 3870 issues but I thought I'd send a follow-up your way. (He had written earlier on problems (and frustrated over the standard website/support which didn't even recognize his 3870 card as a Mac compat. model) and I forwarded his mail to an ATI/AMD Mac contact.-Mike) With Trevor's help I was able to eventually get a replacement 3870 (it took nearly a month due to various circumstances), however the replacement had the "fan always on at full speed" issue that a few others have had and I absolutely could not tolerate the noise. Since obtaining a replacement was such a hassle in the first place, I decided to deal with it myself by installing a 3rd party cooler knowing there was no way back. I bought an Accelero Twin Turbo, which is essentially an Accelero S1 Rev 2 with special Turbo Module fans already attached. However I didn't realize until I had already installed it that the fan power connector on the 3870 was incompatible with the Twin Turbo fans, so I wasn't able to get them working. Since the unit SHOULD function passively without the fans, the same as the Accelero S1 Rev 2, I tried it out but ended up seeing 100*C+ temps, which of course are dangerously high and lead to crashing. I'm not sure if it was due to the lack of the fans working, an improper install on my part, or an existing fault with the 3870.
As a result I wasn't able to do any gaming for some time while I mulled over the issue. I ended up deciding to buy the 8800GT upgrade for 1st Gen Mac Pros from Apple. And let me tell you, I severely regret not getting it in the first place. This card is QUIET - it's completely silent during idle and I haven't even heard the fan spin up noticeably while playing Call of Duty 5, Fear 2, and Fallout 3 in Windows. Temps seem to stay under 80*C which I believe is normal for this card. Idle about 50*C. I've very satisfied with it and it does indeed perform slightly better (in Windows - I don't have any good Mac games to test).
It's a shame since otherwise the 3870 could be a very decent card. But after having two failed X1900 XTs and now two 3870s over the lifetime of my Mac Pro, I don't think I'll be supporting ATI any further.
(His original mail on problems follows)
I have a 2006 Mac Pro. After my second ATI X1900 XT card failed, I made the decision to replace it with the 3870 Mac & PC Edition rather than deal with another AppleCare replacement and probably have that card fail too.
I've had the 3870 for about a month but the experience has not been good. It seems card comes with inadequate cooling, or else my unit is defective. Fan noise has been normal, however during any demanding game it appears to overheat and freeze the entire system. Symptoms: screen and mouse frozen, keyboard doesn't work, and whatever audio was playing gets stuck on a short endless loop (sounds like a machine gun). Have to hold the power button to shut the machine down.
It doesn't seem to be a software issue. I've experienced identical symptoms while gaming in OS X Leopard (10.5.5) and Windows Vista x64 SP1. It's not always easy to reproduce - I do 25-man raiding in World of Warcraft for hours with no problem, but if I'm playing solo in one of the more graphically demanding zones, like Netherstorm in Outland, it will crash after half an hour or more. In Windows, I played Bioshock for about 20 minutes before it crashed. It definitely seems like it must be overheating. I've searched and not found many reports of others with the same problem. I only found 1 post on Apple's discussion forums.
I have 3 hard drives and 6 sticks of RAM in my Mac Pro, so it gets fairly warm, and I wonder if the card's cooling just can't handle all of it. I'm currently undecided if I want to contact ATI Support (an experience I would love to avoid) or void my warranty by installing an Accelero S1 rev2 cooler, possibly with the Turbo fan module.
I'm beginning to wonder if there's another production/component issue (as with the last build of the X800s where a higher than normal % of samples had problems)
(from 1/18/2009 email)
"I've just returned my new ATI 3670 to MacConnection because of overheating issues. My experience is similar to the feedback posted 8/14/2008 by Maggie M. (below) - I also have the same system. My system would start up and act normally for 45 minutes to an hour. Then, a wave of multicolored artifact blocks would sweep across the screen, and the computer would freeze, requiring a hard reboot. Then, I had dark vertical lines from grey screen to desktop, and soon after reaching the desktop, it would freeze again. Allowing the card to cool down would enable my system to start up and act normal for a short period, and the process would repeat. I hope the replacement board corrects the problem, but my confidence in the card is badly shaken.
Thanks, Rich C."
"I am sure you know how good this card is, but I am blown away, almost literally, by the ATI 3870 graphics card. I just took out the stock (2600) card and the difference is outstanding.
No problems, seems very quiet, goes like stink!
Best wishes, Rob D."
"I hate to say it but I'm having to send my HD3870 back to OWC for replacement. It worked like a champ for a day (mows the 7300GT and 8800GT down in Pro Apps), but upon waking it the next morning the video was askew and redraws would leave black spaces or vertical bars. Thinking it was just a random OS or driver issue, I rebooted. The grey boot screen also had vertical, blocky bars and it never got to the login screen (that I could see). The screen went blue and did not change any further. Just solid blue or blue with orange-ish blocks, I left it a few minutes to be sure. Booting into safe mode got me the login box, but the video was still screwy.
Tried booting from CD, no difference (eliminating the driver as culprit - although, as I said, the grey boot screen was also screwy). Put the original card back in and it worked fine. Tried the 3870 once more to make sure it wasn't a seating problem and used the other power connector this time... but no change.(grey boot screen)
(stuck at blue, boxy screen)
(in safe mode)
The card was awesome while it worked and I really hope this is just a fluke. This is the card I've been waiting for and putting the old card back in was heart breaking.
The machine in question is Mac Pro 1,1 quad core (2 x 2.66 dual core) - original video card was (and is again, until I get a replacement) a GeForce 7300GT.
Thanks, Maggie M.
I haven't had any other infant failure reports to date so hopefully just bad luck (not a repeat of the last production run of X800s).
(added 8/14/2008 from 8/12 email)
"I dropped some change at OWC and received the ATI Radeon HD 3870 yesterday. Installed it in my (1st gen) MacPro 2006 model (removed that 1900XT that I sent pix of way back, with the Accelero X2 cooler swap) and it didn't work. Well, it did but I didn't RTFM nor install the driver. (Original review above from June notes the box contents include a "Driver CD for Mac OS X 10.5.2 and later (includes driver ATIRadeonX2000* version 1.5.29)") You see, it worked. But on ONE display. I needed the driver to have BOTH 24" LCDs seen.
I did not get a chance to boot from Leopard DVD (my DVD is 10.5.3) but I suspect it will
only show Display 1. (Earlier report below noted 10.5 DVDs boot OK w/3870, where the 8800GT Kernel Panics if booted from pre-OS X 10.5.2 discs)
The fan is noticeable, but nothing like the original 1900XT fan. I have that Accelero S1 Rev2 w/o fans to install. It will fit the HD 3870 but will take up the freed slot. (Reader FYI - there's previous article here on Accelero S1 Rev 2 cooler on an 8800GT-Mike)
I wish I had two 30" displays... :)
If you need a Radeon 1900XT or know anyone that needs one...
(he later wrote)
So far, the 3870's worked well with apps and VMWare (I'm running OS X 10.5.4 on one 24" and XP Pro Sp3 on the other 24" screen). Some things I notice in Windows (remaining artifacts when downloads or Avast pop up shows in the right corner) could be VMWare/driver bug. Might be that I am running on ATI but my VM was from a nVidia Dell machine. This dual OS makes one schizo!
Pro Apps User feedback on 3870 vs 8800GT
(added 8/8/2008, updated with later notes)
"Just installed mine yesterday in our 8-core Xeon, 8GB RAM, and it blows away the 8800GT card away for video editing tasks. In fact, I had to disable OpenGL acceleration in After Effects (latest After Effects from CS3, v8.0.2.) and Motion (v3.0.2) in order to have them work properly, but the ATI 3870 works perfectly. I'd had to turn off real-time updating of video scopes with the previous card, or it would drop frames on playback. Works perfectly with the 3870. It's like getting a new machine.
The (2008) Mac Pro was purchased a month ago (July 2008), brand new from Apple. (And we have the hardware raid card as well, with 3 drives in a Raid 5 configuration.)
I had problems with the 8800GT card from Day One. (It was about a month or so, as we had planned to get the new ATI card as soon as we could.)
...on the ATI, everything works as expected (and as it used to on my old G5).
The NVIDIA gave OpenGL errors in After Effects if I enabled OpenGL, and it would not play HDV video in the timeline of Final Cut Pro and at the same time display real-time videoscopes, without dropping frames. (Which the old G5 could handle.) Does NVIDIA simply not have good drivers? Or Apple not know how to work with them? Strange.
I'm running 10.5.4, with no Software Updates outstanding.
Hope that helps!
(He later wrote)
Still loving the new 3870 card... It really makes the 8-core machine feel like it's working at full capacity. I'm having to get a new license for Nuke and can't wait to try that out. (I love Nuke... only problem is that it was originally designed for film work and doesn't handle interlaced video as well as Motion or AE. But it's a killer program and I think it will fly on 8 cores.)
The above was posted before OS X 10.5.5 was released, which has some nvidia driver fixes apparently, although not sure how they affect Pro Apps performance.
(from 8/6/2008 mail - updated 8/8)
"Today I got my ATI Radeon 3870 512MB PCIe card for Mac Pros from OWC. I was the one who had sent you pictures and story about upgrading my Nvidia 8800 GT with the Accelero S1 Rev 2 cooler. Well I had to sell it. The card ran great for games, but I totally locked up my computer. I could not boot off of any CD's or DVD's. I couldn't use My Techtool Pro 4, or Diskwarrior. It wouldn't even let me boot off my OS X 10.5 DVD. Every time I tried to boot off of a disk I would get kernel panic, and it would ask me to restart my computer. (Sounds like the same thing I saw years ago when I got the Nvidia 6800 Ultra for my G5 Tower - it required a later OS X version (w/driver update/support) to boot without a kernel panic. My original G5 restore DVD and others would Kernel Panic on boot with the 6800 card installed, due to a lack of driver support for it. (Although G5 was still under warranty and card bought direct from Apple, I was not able to get them to send me an updated G5 restore Disc.) Apple says the 8800GT requires OS X 10.5.2 (w/Leopard graphics update) or later.-Mike)
I found threads in the message boards at apple's support site that talked about the problem:
1.) Mac Pro not booting from CD's using 'C'
2.) Can't boot from installation disk
Well about the ATI Radeon 3870, it runs perfectly. Doesn't get hot at all, very cool to the touch. Also for what ever reason computer seems more snappy. I don't know why but it does. Stock cooler is very nice on the ears (very quiet) and seems to blow enough air to cool the card. I think due to its 55nm GPU, it's nice and cool. Well I just wanted to pass on the great info about this card.
For anyone looking to upgrade their Mac, I would recommend this over the Nvidia 8800 GT anytime. I guess I am not speaking as a hard core gamer, but I still play my games that are offered for the mac and the 3870 works great! I attached scores (zip file) from both xbench and geekbench (zip file) so you can how the card ran. To my surprise my scores went up in both tests so I am very happy.
(I wrote John to ask if there were any problems seen booting from his restore DVD (or Leopard install DVD) with the 3870 card installed. I had also asked about his Mac Pro series - 2008 or 2006/7 model, although the 3870 card works in both.-Mike)
I have a first generation mac pro 2.66GHz model. When I had the 8800 GT I could not boot off both the restore DVD and also my OSX 10.5 disk I had. With the new 3870 I am able to boot from all disks including the system restore disk as well as the OSX 10.5 disk. Hope all this helps your readers.
Thank you, John W."
Despite the above (no KP's on disc boots), OWC wrote (and added to their 3870 product page) you need OS X 10.5.2 or later for general use (acceleration, full driver support, etc.) - the driver installer mentions this but it was missing from the original ATI product page. (I wrote ATI about that and they are adding it to the requirements list.)