With the new options available in the Mac Pro video card world (at least for 2008 and later model Mac Pros), many people are asking which is the better card, AMD’s Radeon HD 7950 (or its bigger brother, the Radeon HD 7970), or NVIDIA’s GTX 680? The HD 7970 and 7950 are 3GB cards and the GTX 680 comes in 2GB and 4GB varieties.
The answer really depends on the applications you are planning to use. The AMD cards really excel at openCL, which is what Apple is pushing developers toward more and more. If you use Final Cut Pro X extensively, for instance, I would recommend going with the HD7950 or HD7970.
However, for any CUDA enabled app (Adobe Premiere Pro, After Effects, DaVinci Resolve, Octane Render, etc) you would definitely want the NVIDIA card, since AMD doesn’t support CUDA.
For general use, gaming etc, the difference is not so clear cut. We did notice that the GTX 680 4GB ran X-Plane on three 2560×1600 displays really well, while the 7950 struggled to keep up (X-Plane is openGL based, not openCL). In simple openGL benchmarks we found that GTX 680 performed about the same as the HD7970, and faster than the 7950.
The GTX 680 is quieter than the HD7970, and uses less energy. Both the 7950 and 7970 are pretty loud cards, especially the 7970.
Hopefully this helps in making your decision.
If you are considering the 12-core 3.33 GHz upgrade (our most popular), and are wondering if your machine is compatible, or are considering buying a base model and then getting the upgrade done, here are some facts that might clarify things for you.
First, figure out what generation of Mac Pro you have.
– There are two generations of Mac Pros that can be upgraded to 12-core, the 2009 and 2010 models. (The 2012 model is essentially a rebranded 2010, so it can be thought of as identical to the 2010 model here.)
– Both 2009 and 2010 generation have two subvariants. The only difference is the processor tray, which comes in either single CPU or dual CPU varieties. So the four possibilities are:
1. 2009 (Single CPU Socket)
2. 2009 (Dual CPU Socket)
3. 2010 (Single CPU Socket)
4. 2010 (Dual CPU Socket)
– Other than the processor trays, all four of these machines are virtually identical physically, including the main the logic board That’s why you can upgrade the firmware from 2009 to 2010 to take advantage of the newer CPUs.
– We can upgrade any of these four machines to a 12-core 3.33 GHz machine. But, if the machine has a single CPU socket processor tray, you will need to pay for a dual CPU socket processor tray and heatsinks, which runs an extra several hundred dollars. However, if you could find a good deal on a single CPU socket machine, it may be worth considering this route. This method takes a little bit of extra time as we don’t stock the processor tray parts, and would need to special order them for the upgrade. We can send you a more detailed quote for this if you are interested.
So in short, if you are planning to get the upgrade done through us, any 2009 or later Mac Pro will work. But, you will pay more if your machine is a single CPU (4- or 6-core) machine.