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Breathes New Life Into My 2009 Mac Pro (4,1)
on April 9, 2013
I have a dual-quad 2.26ghz Mac Pro and was using it with the 4870 card from Apple. It's a great box, even as it's approaching 4 years since I bought it, but the video capabilities of the 4870 were showing their age BADLY.
Like many Mac Pro users, we're on pins and needles waiting for Apple's newest system. Since it looks like it's going to be a while still, I wanted to bump the older system up and move the new card to the new Mac Pro when it comes.
My impressions of the 7950:
The card is a very nice looking white, full-length card, but is slightly shorter than the 4870 card it replaced. Packaging is on a par with what you'd expect with a commercial product. It came with a well-written users manual, a PC driver disc, a Mac OS X disc, two power cables (the card draws too much power to be powered only from the PCIe bus) and some random bits of paper.
Installation was very easy. Be sure to read the manual, because it will ask you to install the driver software FIRST. It's very simple, launch the correct installer for your OS (either Lion or Mountain Lion), reboot the system. After reboot, I shut the system down, removed the power cable from the back of the system, cracked the case, removed both power cables from my 4870, removed the card retention device, slide out the old card, blow out any dust, install the new card, replace the card retention device, reattach the internal power cables (or if you're upgrading from the stock card, install the supplied power cables in the sockets inside the system and attach them to the card, making sure they're firmly attached and click into place). After that, close the case, reattach the main power cable and power the system up.
The system worked without any changes or reconfiguration. I noticed immediately that showing the open windows and desktop in Expose were greatly faster than before. I brought up some OpenGL apps and they were spectacular. I was able to go to the highest detail level on games like SecondLife and everything was very snappy.
I've not noticed any increase in background noise moving from the 4870 to the 7950, but I also have 50+ year old ears.
I'm very happy with the 7950 card and consider it money well spent breathing new life into an aging system.
Update: (Aug 1, '13)
Now that we've all learned of Apple's plans for the Mac Pro, I'll be keeping this card where it is and use it for Final Cut Pro rendering and experimenting with OpenCL. I don't regret this purchase in the slightest, since it's make my 2009 Mac Pro extremely usable again.
Update: Dec, 2013
I've noticed that i was having many more kernel panics that were related to the video driver chain after I'd upgraded to Mountain Lion, once i went to mavericks, the crashes went away, but then I'd noticed sluggishness related to video. After 10.9.1 came out, all of the stability issues remained gone and performance was once again what it was before. I highly recommend upgrading to Mavericks.