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Reader Feedback on Mac ATI 5870 graphics card
Posted: Dec. 17th, 2011
Last Updated: Dec 24th


This page is a catch-all of reader replies to this request for mac 5870 feedback in Dec. 15th, 2011 news page:
"If you've used a Mac ATI 5870 card (either apple sold or flashed) for some time (6 months or more), let me know your experience (pros, cons, any issues seen w/OS x or specific apps, would you choose it again, etc) via news at xlr8yourmac. (Thanks to Bill, Dave C., Davor, Kevin and Stefan for their replies today.)
    Usage: Photographer with some small video jobs (weddings, etc) - didn't mention other usage so assuming not a gamer. Mac Pro w/recently purchased (used) Apple 27in LED Cinema Display (MDP) model running 10.6.8 with a possible upgrade later to Lion.
    I had also mentioned the lower cost 5770 (and flashed 6870) and suggested waiting to see if anything new will appear at MW 2012, but impatient to use the MDP LED display and seems focused on the 5870. (I still can't believe that deal on a used (9 month old) 27in LED Cinema MDP display with an apple wireless keyboard and magic trackpad thrown in for $440. I thought it was a scam.)
"

Mac ATI 5870 Owner Reports: (Later added first)

(added Dec 24th)
"I ordered a 2010 Mac Pro when they first started taking orders w/ the 5870 - specs are:
  • 2.8GHz Quad-Core
  • 12GB Ram (From OWC)
  • 240GB OWC SSD - split 50/50 partitions for OS X Lion & Windows 7 64-bit
  • 1TB HD (Shipped with system, storage)
  • 2x2TB WD Green drives, mirrored & partitioned for storage, time machine, and backup
  • Blu-Ray ROM drive from OWC as secondary optical drive
  • Cheap 1080p Asus 23" monitor

I use it mainly for Blu-Ray/DVDs and for playing games (Purchased for StarCraft II, and have also happily played Fallout: New Vegas, Deus Ex: Human Revolution, Assassin's Creed: Revelations, Portal 2, and some other less stressful games).

All games play well @ 1080P, although with Starcraft I need to turn the Antialiasing down or off for some levels (with tons of units/stuff going on) or play gets kinda choppy. Fallout & Deus Ex were played in Windows - Apple's drivers are a bit behind the official AMD drivers, and I think that was a bit of an issue with Fallout, but that game had so many issues you can't be sure. Everything else gets played in OS X - less rebooting that way - and Portal 2 played smooth as butter (60 fps consistently) at 1080P w/ a DVD encode going on in the background.

System is under my desk now, but it used to sit next to me - even when slamming the CPU & video card as hard as possible (as mentioned above, Portal 2 w/ an encode going on in the background), this system is very quiet. Helps having the SSD boot drive, but the encodes are getting written to the HD's, so even they aren't that loud. I'm sure the video card's fans spin up running Portal 2 and Starcraft at 1080P, but I sure can't hear them. It's silent now that it's under the desk - only noise it makes is when the DVD/Blu-Ray drives are spinning.

That's basically what I've got - A++, would buy again!
Cheers, Jared"


(added Dec 19th, from Dec 17th email)
"I just thought I'd write a few lines regarding the Radeon 5870-GPU. I swapped my GeForce 8800 in a 2008 MacPro for the Radeon 5870 1GB Apple OEM-product and mostly it's work terrific.

Performance
In the given usage - photos and video editing - I don't think this GPU will offer THAT much extras over a 5770 currently. If you look at games the power of the 5870 will outrun the 5770 by a long shot but not that many apps are accelerated in that manner today sadly. This can / will of course change over time with more OpenGL / OpenCL aware applications.

If the person is running with very large screen sizes a fast GPU is of course to prefer. I haven't noticed any performance issues with general usage with my 27" + 22" setup (a total of 5.45 million pixels to redraw so).
(Farther down is rez listing of displays.)
Then again performance in applications like Photoshop, After Effects, Final Cut Pro 7 and so forth seem very similar to my station at work that uses the older 4870-card - given with somewhat smaller screens.

Connectivity
The Apple OEM board has 2 mini display ports and 1 (Dual-Link) DVI-port. I have no issues running:

  • 2x DVI displays with one mini display port to DVI converter (the other using 5870 DVI port)
    (IF MDP adapted DVI display is very high rez (over 2.5MP) then a Dual-Link DVI to MDP adapter is reqd. Dual-Link not reqd for typical 24in (i.e. 1920x1200).)
  • 1x DVI display and 1x Display Port display with one mini display port to DVI converter and one mini display port to display port converter
  • 1x DVI or Display Port display and 1x DVI -> HMDI display

The above in both MacOSx 10.6 and 10.7 as well as Windows 7.

What doesn't work for me is getting the card to work with three displays at the same time. Theoretically it should work with 1 display port display and 2 DVI / HDMI displays but it doesn't. It could be that my mini display to display port converter screws that one up, not sure.

(The question on using 3 displays come up before and is one of the many Q&A's at the Apple store 5870 page. The card has 2 MDP and one Dual-Link DVI port. (And as usual, not everything that should work always does.)
For anyone that was not aware, Dual-Link DVI supports higher rez DVI displays and is reqd for higher than 2.75 MP. In widescreen that's 2,098 x 1,311 max for single link DVI. Not an issue for typical 24in/1920x1080 or less DVI Displays or any display if using the on-card (dual-link) DVI Port, but just a reminder for anyone that wants to use a MDP to DVI adapter with a very high rez DVI display. (Having already used on card's native (dual-link) DVI port.) Here's a clip from the Digital Visual Interface wiki.

"The DVI specification mandates a maximum pixel clock frequency of 165 MHz when running in single-link mode. With a single-link DVI, the highest supported standard resolution is 2.75 megapixels (including blanking interval) at 60 Hz refresh. For practical purposes, this allows a (single link) maximum screen resolution at 60 Hz of 1,915 x 1,436 pixels (standard 4:3 ratio), 1,854 x 1,483 pixels (5:4 ratio), or 2,098 x 1,311 (widescreen 16:10 ratio).

To support display devices requiring higher video bandwidth, there is provision for a dual DVI link. A dual link doubles the number of TMDS pairs, effectively doubling video bandwidth at a given pixel clock frequency. The DVI specification mandates how the dual link may be used. All display modes that use a pixel clock below 165 MHz, and have at most 24 bits per pixel, are required to use single-link mode. All modes that require more than 24 bits per pixel, and/or 165 MHz pixel clock frequency must use dual-link mode. In modes where each pixel uses 24 bits of color data per pixel or less and dual-link mode is in use, the transmitter stripes pixel data across both links; each sequential video pixel is transmitted on alternate links. In modes with color depth greater than 24 bits per pixel, the second link carries the least significant bits of each pixel...."

Again, a Dual-Link DVI link is required to use very High-Rez DVI displays (i.e. those typically over 24in/1920x1200 models). The 5870 has ONE Dual-Link DVI port and two MDP ports.
Of course you do not need any adapters if you're only using one DVI display and/or MDP displays.
(The 5870's (and 5770) DVI port is spec'd as Dual-Link and native MDP has high rez Display support. Stating the obvious here but I think someone was confused on that based on a recent mail.)

The confusion (*I think*) has been over using Hi-Rez DVI Displays (that require Dual-Link) via MDP adapters. Over the years some (including some readers here in the past) have had various issues with MDP to Dual-Link DVI adapters (including Apple's) - dual-link adapters cost much more than std (single link) ones of course. Apple's lists for $99 and again for some have not been problem free in the past. But again, not everything that should work always does.-Mike)

Any setup of the above works fine though and I've just swapped from 2x22" (1680x1050) DVI displays to 1x27" (2560x1440) and 1x22" (1680x1050).
(If the 27in/2560x1440 display is DVI, then assuming it's using the onboard 5870's (dual link) DVI port. If using it via one of the MDP ports, a Dual-Link DVI (to MDP) adapter would be reqd.)

I've used the board extensively for over a year now with no real issues. For some reason at the moment I can't put the computer to sleep. I'm thinking it might have to do with my new display port display (Dell U2711) cause things where working fine with my 2x22" monitors.

Calibration with a Spyder has gone well also.

The DVI -> HDMI test was with a 10 meter cable to my home cinema system so it does pass the "long cables" test with honors.
If you have any specific questions feel free to ask.
Regards, Erik L."

Thanks for the notes on long HDMI run for home cinema. (Not to stir up another old topic from the past, but protected content playback (via digital interface) typically requires an HDCP compliant display. Usually not a display issue anymore (for years) but IIRC some older Apple displays were not. I had an old (first model IIRC) Dell 24in LCD that wasn't - had to use VGA (analog) for the few times I played DVDs on it.)


(from Dec 16th email, updated Dec 18th)
I've been using the ATI 5870 for over a year now. The only problem I've had is sometimes (maybe 2 or 3 in the last year) my MacPro will boot with the screen flashing a distorted desktop. Rebooting solves the problem. I'm playing WOW with settings on Ultra, getting 30 FPS. I think I set something to cap the frame rate when I was having network issues.
(he later wrote)
I'm running OS x 10.6.8, I also have OS x 10.7.2 but don't run it as I'm still using Quicken 2007.
I found the setting in WOW for capping the FPS and turned it off.
I tried running WOW under OS x 10.7.2 and got the same FPS as under OS x 10.6.8.

  • Ironforge 60-70 fps
  • Ogrimmar/Stormwind 30 fps

-Jack
Here are the specs for my system:

Hardware Overview:

  • Model Name: Mac Pro
  • Model Identifier: MacPro3,1
  • Processor Name: Quad-Core Intel xeon
  • Processor Speed: 2.8 GHz
  • Number Of Processors: 2
  • Total Number Of Cores: 8
  • L2 Cache (per processor): 12 MB
  • Memory: 6 GB
  • Bus Speed: 1.6 GHz
  • Boot ROM Version: MP31.006C.B05
  • SMC Version (system): 1.25f4

    ATI Radeon HD 5870:

  • Chipset Model: ATI Radeon HD 5870
  • Type: GPU
  • Bus: PCIe
  • Slot: Slot-1
  • PCIe Lane Width: x16
  • VRAM (Total): 1024 MB
  • Vendor: ATI (0x1002)
  • Device ID: 0x6898
  • Revision ID: 0x0000
  • ROM Revision: 113-C0780C-194
  • EFI Driver Version: 01.00.436

    Displays:
    DELL E248WFP:

  • Resolution: 1920 x 1200 @ 60 Hz
  • Pixel Depth: 32-Bit Color (ARGB8888)
  • Display Serial Number: RN07182N0CDU
  • Main Display: Yes
  • Mirror: Off
  • Online: Yes
  • Rotation: Supported

  • (from Dec 16th email)
    "I've owned the ATI Radeon 5870 card (Apple OEM version) for a while now. I originally bought it to upgrade a 2008 Mac Pro 2.8Ghz octo-core tower. I am into Mac gaming a fair bit, so I've used it with several of the titles available via Steam including Civilization 5, Left for Dead 1 and 2, and my favorite, Team Fortress 2.

    I ran it using it via DVI connection to a Hannspree 28" LCD monitor at a native resolution of 1920x1200, and OS x Snow Leopard initially, and soon after that, Lion.

    Under both Snow Leopard and Lion, I had no issues with this setup. It was a good card all the way around, really. All of the games I played ran at the native 1920x1200 resolution and still managed to keep up sufficient frame-rates so they didn't feel choppy or sluggish. (I'm not really a benchmark/frame-rate junkie like some people, so I couldn't tell you exact numbers -- but I know the overall gaming experience felt perfectly playable to me, which is all I really ask of my system.)

    A couple months ago, I purchased a 6870 1GB card for Windows and re-flashed it for Mac, and swapped the 5870 for it. The 6870 also is working great for me under Lion but in general use, not perceptibly faster than the 5870. I believe in Boot Camp when I go to Windows 7 (mainly to play CoD MW3), I might be gaining some advantage in being able to use higher detail settings in the game than it would have been able to handle with the 5870 ... but that's just conjecture, as I never compared the two cards side by side to see for sure?

    (FYI: I'd mentioned this in older news item posts about 6870s in Macs earlier this year. The 6870 has a bit lower power usage, and a bit lower performance hardware than the 5870. But I doubt most users would even notice in typical use. Here's a few examples:
      Core Clock:
    •   6870: 900MHz
    •   5870: 850Mhz

      Memory Clock: (same Mem type/bus width)
    •   6870: 1050MHz
    •   5870: 1200MHz

      Stream Processing Units:
    •   6870: 1120
    •   5870: 1600

      Texture Units:
    •   6870: 56
    •   5870: 80

    Just a sample of some hardware differences, complete specs are at AMD (ATI) pages on the 5870 and 6870. Again those are ref specs, assuming Apple spec'd the same clock rates. And as far as windows, not sure about real-world deltas - googling should find some windows benchmark/comparisons. The last video card I used w/Windows (Win 7/64bit) was Nvidia GTx-285s - a single in 09 Mac Pro (reviewed here when first released in June 2009) and Dual GTx-285's (SLI mode) in a homebrew years ago. Personally, if I had a 5870 I wouldn't trade it for a 6870. And the 5870 typically costs more than a 6870.-Mike)

    My main reason for going to the flashed 6870 from the Apple 5870 was to free up the 5870 to upgrade my other Mac Pro, a 2006 model which still has an 8800GT in it right now....
    - Tom"


    (from Dec 15th email)
    "I have the 5870 and it does a great job. It is smooth with Final Cut Pro x and the Adobe Creative Suite. I have the 5870 in a 2008 Mac Pro (3,1) 2.8GHz 8-core machine.
    The card really speeds up the processing of Final Cut Pro x. It was a little more expensive than a 5770, but it has twice as many cores. It is cheaper going with the 5770, but I do not regret the purchase.
    I upgraded to 10.7.2, but I also run 10.5 and 10.6 on other drives without issue with the 5870.
    Sincerely, Bill"

    IIRC, OS x 10.6.4 (or later) reqd for full (3D) driver support. (10.6.4 might also require the Leopard Graphics update, but think that's included in later OS releases.) And IIRC, MDP audio requires a 2010 Mac Pro or a 2009 with the 'unofficial' 2009->2010 EFI update from Netkas mentioned earlier this year.


    (from Dec 15th email)
    "I am using original Apple Radeon HD 5870 since March in Mac Pro 2,1 8-core 3.0GHz, running OS x Lion on SSD. I am driving an Apple Cinema 30" and a 42" Philips full-HD TV with it.

    The card has been flawless: super-fast, 100% stable, reasonably silent - just buy it, it's the best you can get!

    I also wrote a review for our Croatian Mac forum, maybe you can Google Translate-it if you need more info:
    http://www.jabucnjak.hr/clanci/hardver/radeon-5870-opencl-i-kako-je-sve-to-pocelo.html
    Best, Davor"


    (from Dec 15th email)
    "I have a MacPro 3,1 (late 2008, 3.2ghz 8 core). Running 10.6.8. I've only had the 5870 (from Apple store) for about a month now but so far it's been more or less smooth sailing. It replaced my Nvidia 8800. I don't really game, but use Final Cut Pro 7 and occasionally FCPx (which is why I got the card). I should note that I really can't stand FCPx but it's the future I guess so I'm stuck.

    Once in a blue moon I'll get a strange "flash/glitch" on my 2 monitors, but it's only a split second, and only happens maybe once a day. It doesn't affect anything, but it's the only this that's changed. Honestly I don't even notice it, but it's the only "bug" that appeared since I got the card. Again, it's insanely rare.

    I'm using 1 DVI port and one Mini DP to DVI adaptor.

    I do play the occasional game of portal, and it looks a lot nicer now at 1920x1200 with all the settings cranked up.
    -Kevin"


    (from Dec 15th email)
    "I used a Sapphire 5870 OC edition ( www.legitreviews.com/article/1120/1/ ) with Snow Leopard for several months without problems. I bought it used, paid less than 1/4 of what the Apple Store charges for their 5870. I flashed it with the "Ukari" ROM that is easy to download from numerous sites.
    It ran great with Snow Leopard and didn't give me any problems when I upgraded to Lion, but after only 2-3 days with Lion I got hit by a power fluctuation that my APC didn't filter out and it totaled the video card (I've since replaced it with a 6870). My advice to your readers who upgrade their MacPro video card is to keep the original; I moved mine to slot 4. That way if there are any issues that develop you simply have to switch your monitor cable over to the OEM card.
    -David C."


    Unfortunately this report didn't list info on the 3 DVI displays he has/wants to use. (But assuming they are all higher rez than 1920x1200 based on the comment about expensive adapters for MDP port. Assuming he means Dual Link adapters. On-card DVI port is Dual-Link, but low-cost ($20) MDP to DVI adapters are *not* dual-link DVI ones. Single link adapters should be fine for 1920x1200 rez displays (i.e. typical 24in LCDs, etc) but to use higher rez DVI displays via the MDP ports will require expensive Dual-Link DVI-MDP adapters.)

    (from Dec 15th email)
    "I'm using a 5870 for 5-6 months, it's really a fast gfx card.
    It works nice together with OSx and Bootcamp (Win7),
    I played Call of Duty MW3 highest gfx level smoothly.

    Maybe the one and only bad thing is, I tried to plug 3 DVI-monitors in it, but it won't work.
    After reading the manual I understand that need 2 aktiv (dual-link?-Mike) mini display port to dvi adapter for 119 euros each!!!
    Ok, now i use double monitors :-(
    Kind regards
    Stefan"

    What are your DVI Displays resolution? From the comment on the expensive MDP to DVI Adapters, I assume they are all very high res? (Higher than typical 24in/1920x1200 - the on-card DVI port is dual-link, but if the other 2 DVI displays are higher rez also then you'd need dual-link DVI adapters to run them off the MDP ports.)
    Dual-Link DVI to MDP adapters are only reqd to use very high rez (over 2.75MP) DVI displays via MDP. Dual-Link DVI to MDP adapters are many times more expensive than single link ones. (Apple's MDP to Dual-Link DVI adapter lists for $99 and some have had issues with it in the past (MBP owners here). The Low-cost ($20 or so) Single Link adapters should work fine for more common 24in and under (typically 1920x1200 or less) DVI displays.






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