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2006-2013 Mac Pro and alternatives

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Ric Ford

MacInTouch


It will be interesting to see whether Apple continues with Intel or moves to AMD for the Mac Pro processors. If Intel, the timing doesn’t appear to align very well with their server processors, which are rumored to have a platform change in 2020. AMD’s Zen 2 is supposed to be out next year.

I’m hoping that the more modular system fits my needs better; with the type of software development I do, I can use a fair number of cores and quite a lot of memory for running multiple VMs, and I would love some high-performance SSDs (at a more reasonable cost than Apple’s current pricing), but I care very little about graphics performance. Bundling high-cost GPUs into the current Mac Pro is a lot of why I didn’t consider it at all for my last Mac purchase.
 


Now that "Mojave" has been introduced, it is my understanding that my Mac Pro 2009 4,1 (firmware updated to a Mac Pro 2010 5,1) will run it provided my GPU card is "Metal"-capable. I'm guessing the Apple Radeon 5870 card I'm using is not Metal-capable.

Can folks suggest online sources of information where I can find cards that are Metal-capable?
 


Update to my previous post:

I have been researching various video cards to give my Mac Pro 2009 4,1 (firmware updated to a Mac Pro 2010 5,1) Metal compatibility so I can possibly upgrade the OS software when Mojave is released.

Many of the cards I'm looking at have one 6-pin power connector and one 8-pin power connector. Several have two 8-pin connectors. My current card, an Apple Radeon 5870 has two 6-pin connectors and they are cabled directly to the two 6-pin connectors on the motherboard.

I am assuming that the 5870 card is not Metal compatible. Please correct me if I am wrong!

I have read that the two 6-pin connectors on the motherboard supply 75W of power each and that an 8--pin connector (which the 2009 Mac Pro doesn't have) supplies 150W of power.

I only have one optical drive installed, so there is an SATA connector in the lower bay that isn't being used. Anyone have any idea how much power is available through it?

I have read a tutorial on how to tap into all the wires exiting the power supply, thereby giving me two 8-pin power connectors. It doesn't look that difficult, just a bit intense, and I would like to find an alternative to doing that.

All my drive bays are full as are all the PCI slots. Any other place I can tap into power?
 


Now that "Mojave" has been introduced, it is my understanding that my Mac Pro 2009 4,1 (firmware updated to a Mac Pro 2010 5,1) will run it provided my GPU card is "Metal"-capable. I'm guessing the Apple Radeon 5870 card I'm using is not Metal-capable.

Can folks suggest online sources of information where I can find cards that are Metal-capable?
It doesn't look as though the 5870 is compatible. According to the Radeon Compatibility Guide over on tonymacx86.com (referenced earlier this week in the WWDC 2018 forum threads, starting here)
What about El Capitan and Metal support?
As of today, there have been no significant driver changes in El Capitan compared to Yosemite.

Metal is supported starting with HD 7xxx series. Older cards are still supported, just without Metal.
I can't help on the power question you raised; I stay away from that stuff.
 


Hi Ladd;

A few years ago I changed the GPU in my Mac Pro 5,1 (2012). The one I got is the AMD Radeon HD 7950 3072 MB. It does support Metal. The GPU supports both booting up and selection of boot up drive.

Hope this helps.
 


A few years ago I changed the GPU in my Mac Pro 5,1 (2012). The one I got is the AMD Radeon HD 7950 3072 MB. It does support Metal. The GPU supports both booting up and selection of boot up drive. Hope this helps.
Does this GPU have a Mac and PC version (does it require flashing?)
 



In regards to power supplied to PCIe cards, am I correct in thinking that the 2009 Mac Pro PCIe slot itself will provide 75W and each of the two 6-pin connections on the motherboard will also supply 75W (150W for both) with a total of 250W?
 


Now that "Mojave" has been introduced, it is my understanding that my Mac Pro 2009 4,1 (firmware updated to a Mac Pro 2010 5,1) will run it provided my GPU card is "Metal"-capable. I'm guessing the Apple Radeon 5870 card I'm using is not Metal-capable.
While Apple doesn't have a definitive list of officially compatible cards, it is likely that their "short list" of approved external GPU cards have a reasonable shot of making the list over some random card with minimal Metal capability:
Use an external graphics processor with your Mac

Your Thunderbolt 3-equipped Mac running macOS High Sierra 10.13.4 can access additional graphics performance by connecting to an external graphics processor (also known as an eGPU).
Those cards don't work in recovery mode or BootCamp/Windows (how Apple works around that issue for Mac Pro 5,1 is up in the air. A card-specific solution or something a bit more general?), but it wouldn't be surprising to extend the work they are already doing there. (e.g., cards folks are using for eGPUs in 2018 could conceivably be moved into a future Mac Pro in 2019-2022 as a second card.)

Apple could add another card to that list that spans "old" and future Mac Pros. So being on macOS 10.14 won't require adaptors and various other re-jigger augments to get to a working solution.

There is a trade-off, if narrow to the scope only to Metal, of possibly losing functionality in the pre-macOS boot context (FileVault, Recovery, etc.). Some folks don't think those are important. As to third-party cards that don't use the output ports in the same way Apple uses them, then there other trade-offs there as well. (Driving a second screen wouldn't run into those trade-offs because the Mac would just pick the one that worked. )

I don't think the reference RX 470 would require anything more than the 6 pins. (It's not overclocked out of the box.) But the newer stuff on the list pushes more into 8-pin solutions (and are more expensive).

The Pro WX 7100 probably works relatively seamlessly too, but it isn't cheap. If Apple augmented the boot firmware on one of those, and it could be a simple drop-in solution.
 



Yes, there was a so-called "Mac Edition."
Apple says Mojave will work in 5,1s with "recommended Metal-capable graphics cards."

In response to Joe and others, my strong advice to myself and everyone else thinking ahead is to hold off until they announce which cards they recommend!

Graphics cards are expensive, and many applications like music don't use high-performance graphics. It makes no sense to waste money on a card that isn't guaranteed to work.

I learn slowly, but after at least six expensive audio cards became obsolete way before their time (serially, and in the $ thousands), expensive audio cards became against my religion.
 


In response to Joe and others, my strong advice to myself and everyone else thinking ahead is to hold off until they announce which cards they recommend!
... It makes no sense to waste money on a card that isn't guaranteed to work.
I’m starting to realize that’s true, especially since I checked out that last card — it’s considerably slower than my current 5770. I’d gain Metal and lose money and speed, and we still don’t know exactly what Apple will demand in 10.14. I’d be tempted to move to a newer Pro but I suspect the 5,1 and 2013-18 line will be obsoleted at around the same time! (And I'd like to be able to replace the internal SSD. Really, who designed those things?)
 


And while we're on the topic of Mac Pro (2013) and graphics cards, I just got an LG 38" Ultrawide and discovered that I need to use DisplayPort and not HDMI if I want native resolution and 60Hz. Using the HDMI port, I got 50% resolution at 30Hz.
 


Product Wanted: One cable to power the new video card in my 2009 Mac Pro

Specs: Two mini male 6-pin PCIe connectors to one standard male 8-pin PCIe connector

This cable will it into the two female power connectors on the motherboard and provide power 75W each to the the GPU via the standard 8-pin connector on the other end of the cable (150W total).

I can find these in China (AliExpress.com) for a reasonable cost but the four to six weeks wait to receive it is more than I would prefer. Couldn't find one on Amazon, eBay or via Google search.

Any tips on where I could find one of these cables in the U.S. would be appreciated. If you have one sitting unused in a box, I'ld love to purchase it from you! :-)
 



It seems like the reverse is more readily available, but maybe you could use this 6-pin splitter with a 6-8 adapter.
Yup, that might work. It depends if there is a difference between Amazon's "PCIE 6 Pin male to Dual 6 Pin male PCIE" and the mini 6-pin connectors on the Mac Pro 2009 motherboard.

In other words, is this a "PCIE 6 Pin male to Dual mini 6 Pin male PCIE"?

A bit on the expensive side and it would give me 52" of cable when I only need 8-9". :-)

I'll look to see if I can find the same setup with shorter cables.
 


I found an example of "regular" 6-pin PCIE vs "mini" 6-pin PCIE on Amazon:
CNCT Mini-pcie 6pin Mac-pro G5 to Pci-express 6-pin Video Card Power Cable for MAC Pro

This cable would be used if one wished to draw power from the Mac Pro 2009 motherboard and connect to a 6-pin video card power input. Note the different sizes (photo showing the size difference is here).

So I think the connectors on the cable Ric suggested will be too large to fit the connectors on the motherboard.
 


learn slowly, but after at least six expensive audio cards became obsolete way before their time (serially, and in the $ thousands), expensive audio cards became against my religion.
Sorry, I meant to write expensive computer cards are against my religion, not just audio cards!

That extends to expensive peripherals that are only for upward compatibility, for example PCI (or NuBus) expansion chassis. Those invariably turn out to be short-lived investments.
 


Ric Ford

MacInTouch
is this a "PCIE 6 Pin male to Dual mini 6 Pin male PCIE"?
Sorry, I missed the "mini" part. So, in this (previously unknown to me) "PCIe" power connector world, there are two different kinds of 8-pin connectors (8 and 6+2), two different kinds of 6-pin connectors ("mini" and regular), and all the associated variations in Y-cables, male vs. female, etc. Plus, of course, all the other kinds of power connectors - SATA, molex, etc. - which can also be adapted to the "PCIe" world.

I'm out of my areas of expertise here, so I'll defer to others for this project.
 




The two suppliers that I found on eBay both delivered the cables to me in less than two weeks (11 days), even though they both shipped from China.
18AWG Dual mini 6Pin male to 8Pin male PCI-E Y Splitter Power cable for Mac Pro
16AWG Dual Mini 6pin to 8Pin PCI-e For Mac Pro Video Card Power Cable GTX1080
Good to hear that their shipping times were considerably faster than their estimates on eBay. Unfortunately for me, I took them at their word and figured that if I was going to wait a month for delivery, I could order them from China myself and save 50%. Perhaps I'll get lucky and also get two-week delivery.
 


Another option is to connect the two full size male 6 pin connectors from the mother board (I previously had a GTX680 which required two 6 pin connectors) to the following cable to get an 8 pin connector. I did this when I upgraded my Mac Pro to an rx580 card. So far all seems well.
https://www.ebay.com/itm/NEW-DUAL-6-PIN-to-8-PIN-PCI-Express-GRAPHICS-VIDEO-CARD-POWER-CABLE-ADAPTER/142387165642?hash=item2126efb9ca:g:LXwAAOSwjL5ZHfSS:sc:USPSFirstClass!19707!US!-1
Perhaps you know something I don't; it was my understanding that the 6-pin connectors on the Mac Pro 2009 motherboard were mini connectors, not standard connectors as appears to be the case with the product you posted. If I am incorrect about the 2009 connectors , the mini 6-pin connector cable I ordered won't fit.
 


Perhaps you know something I don't; it was my understanding that the 6-pin connectors on the Mac Pro 2009 motherboard were mini connectors, not standard connectors as appears to be the case with the product you posted. If I am incorrect about the 2009 connectors , the mini 6-pin connector cable I ordered won't fit.
I believe he originally had two mini 6-pin male (for the motherboard) to regular 6-pin male (for the video card) cables and used the cable that he posted about to connect the regular ends of both to an 8-pin connector that goes to the video card. The pictures show the 6-pin ends to be female
 


I believe he originally had two mini 6-pin male (for the motherboard) to regular 6-pin male (for the video card) cables and used the cable that he posted about to connect the regular ends of both to an 8-pin connector that goes to the video card. The pictures show the 6-pin ends to be female
That's a combination I hadn't thought of, and other being a bit clunky and having lots of extra cabling, would work fine. Thanks for clarifying for me.
 


And while we're on the topic of Mac Pro (2013) and graphics cards, I just got an LG 38" Ultrawide and discovered that I need to use DisplayPort and not HDMI if I want native resolution and 60Hz. Using the HDMI port, I got 50% resolution at 30Hz.
Check that DisplayPort 1.2 is enabled as the standard in the LG.
 


And while we're on the topic of Mac Pro (2013) and graphics cards, I just got an LG 38" Ultrawide and discovered that I need to use DisplayPort and not HDMI if I want native resolution and 60Hz. Using the HDMI port, I got 50% resolution at 30Hz.
According to Apple's spec page, the built-in HDMI port is HDMI 1.4.

According to Wikipedia, the maximum resolution HDMI 1.4 supports at 60Hz is 1440p (2560x1440). 4K (3840x2160) is supported at 30Hz only.

Some higher refresh rates are "Possible by using Y′CBCR with 4:2:2 or 4:2:0 subsampling", but I doubt Apple would (or should) support that. Chroma subsampling is a trick that reduces the color bandwidth in order to either reduce storage sizes or higher resolution. This might be fine for watching movies, but would clearly be inappropriate for a computer display, since it tends to fuzz-out small print.

Your LG 38" Ultrawide has a resolution of 3840x1600 (you didn't say which model, but both have this resolution). The Wikipedia page doesn't mention this resolution, but attempting to calculate its bandwidth based on CVT-R2, I think we end up with 3840 * 1680 (1600 pixels plus 80 pixels horizontal blanking) * 60Hz * 10 bits-per-pixel * 3 channels = ~11.6Gbit/s. This is above HDMI 1.4's maximum bandwidth of 8.16Gbit/s, but below HDMI 2.0's maximum (14.4 Gbit/s).

In other words, this resolution will require HDMI 2.0. Which your Mac Pro can not put out. But it is less than the maximum bandwidth of DisplayPort 1.2 (17.28 Gbit/s), which your Mac Pro does support (via Thunderbolt 2).

I recommend you get a Mini Display Port to DisplayPort cable that can support DisplayPort 1.2's bandwidth. Use that cable instead of HDMI to connect your display and you should be good to go.
 


According to Apple's spec page, the built-in HDMI port is HDMI 1.4.

According to Wikipedia, the maximum resolution HDMI 1.4 supports at 60Hz is 1440p (2560x1440). 4K (3840x2160) is supported at 30Hz only.

Some higher refresh rates are "Possible by using Y′CBCR with 4:2:2 or 4:2:0 subsampling", but I doubt Apple would (or should) support that. Chroma subsampling is a trick that reduces the color bandwidth in order to either reduce storage sizes or higher resolution. This might be fine for watching movies, but would clearly be inappropriate for a computer display, since it tends to fuzz-out small print.

Your LG 38" Ultrawide has a resolution of 3840x1600 (you didn't say which model, but both have this resolution). The Wikipedia page doesn't mention this resolution, but attempting to calculate its bandwidth based on CVT-R2, I think we end up with 3840 * 1680 (1600 pixels plus 80 pixels horizontal blanking) * 60Hz * 10 bits-per-pixel * 3 channels = ~11.6Gbit/s. This is above HDMI 1.4's maximum bandwidth of 8.16Gbit/s, but below HDMI 2.0's maximum (14.4 Gbit/s).

In other words, this resolution will require HDMI 2.0. Which your Mac Pro can not put out. But it is less than the maximum bandwidth of DisplayPort 1.2 (17.28 Gbit/s), which your Mac Pro does support (via Thunderbolt 2).

I recommend you get a Mini Display Port to DisplayPort cable that can support DisplayPort 1.2's bandwidth. Use that cable instead of HDMI to connect your display and you should be good to go.
Exactly what I did, and I was sharing the knowledge so that others would know. Thanks for the additional details.
 


I am considering installing a USB 3 PCIe card in my Mac Pro 2009 (4,1 firmware updated to 5,1) and would like suggestions as to which cards to consider. I have two Sonnet cards already installed for other functions, and would like suggestions as to other brands/models of cards I should consider.

I note that USB-C cards are also available. I'm wondering if going direct to this mode will offer any advantages over USB 3.x. (I'm guessing that C-to-3.x adapters are available, but I haven't looked.)
 


I picked up a Rosewill RC-509 and put it into my Mac Pro 2009. It seems to work well, though I don't have any USB-C peripherals as of yet, but the normal USB 3 port works just fine.
 


I picked up a Rosewill RC-509 and put it into my Mac Pro 2009. It seems to work well, though I don't have any USB-C peripherals as of yet, but the normal USB 3 port works just fine.
One person on Amazon said the card didn't work in their Mac Pro 2008, so it's good to hear that it does work in a 2009.

Update: I now realize that, as happens many times with Amazon reviews/questions, there are multiple Rosewill cards being sold on the page, and as such, the reviews/questions are for multiple, non-specified cards. So the "didn't work in my Mac Pro 2008, could be for any card being sold, not necessarily the RC-509.

As the RC-509 is on sale at NewEgg for $19, I might just pick it up anyways.
 


I picked up a Rosewill RC-509 and put it into my Mac Pro 2009. It seems to work well, though I don't have any USB-C peripherals as of yet, but the normal USB 3 port works just fine.
Any problems putting your Mac Pro to sleep with the Rosewill card installed?
 



If you hurry, the RC-509 is on sale at Newegg for $9.99 with the promo code 705MQTYS70
Dang! I wonder if that was there when I was looking at the Newegg listing a couple of days ago! It's in tiny type and I had to look for it now even though I was expecting it.

I ended up buying a new one from B&H for $20. It will be delivered today.
 


I got a Sedna 4-port model for my 2008 Mac Pro. I used a USB 3 card reader many times and also transferred about six terabytes of data to an external Mobius Pro 2-Bay USB-C RAID Hard Drive Enclosure for use on my new iMac Pro. (The Mobius comes with a USB-C to USB-C cable for the iMac and a USB-C to USB-A cable for the Mac Pro/Sedna card.) They all worked flawlessly, but I got my new Mac only a few months after installing the USB 3 card so didn't push it with much else.
 


If you hurry, the RC-509 is on sale at Newegg for $9.99 with the promo code 705MQTYS70
I just checked Newegg, and it looks like it's the (open-box) Rosewill RC-508 (Renesas uPD720201 chipset) that gets the promo code, and not the RC-509 (with its Asmedia ASM1142 chipset).

I have yet to find a card with the Renesas (neé NEC) USB chipset that isn't problematic in some way or another, the latest problem being an external drive dock (Kingwin PD-257U3) that won't stay mounted on my Mac Pro 2008 (but will, just fine, on the built-in USB 3.0 port(s) of a Mac Pro 2013).

Obviously the problem could be the dock itself, or the PCIe bus (or the lack of sufficient power therethrough) on the 2008...
 


For several years, I have used an Orico PFU3-4P USB 3.0 4-Port PCI Express to USB 3.0 Host Controller Adapter card that I got from Amazon. Quick, stable, no issues with sleep with my 2010 Mac Pro. To connect to Mac Pro motherboard, I also purchased NSI LK-13814 15-pin SATA Male To 4-pin Molex Female Power Adapter Cable, and used the power from one of the 4 drive slots. I don't know if current Orico cards support Macs.
 


You might be able to find a used Sonnet or CalDigit or NewerTech card on eBay. I have a first-gen CalDigit card in my 2010 Mac Pro. It works with Snow Leopard through Sierra, with the exception of El Cap. There was a Yosemite driver available for download, which has since disappeared. It seems to work fine, so I am not sure why it vanished from the site. I discovered the hard way that it causes perpetual kernel panics at startup with El Capitan.

I also found a Sonnett combo USB 3/FireWire 800 card on eBay. That one works without additional drivers.
 


I got an Inateck KT4004 [4 Ports PCI-E to USB 3.0 Express Card for Mac Pro (Early 2008 to 2012 Late Version)] from Amazon a few years ago and have been using it in our Mac Pro 2008 on Mountain Lion through ElCapitan with no drivers needed. No problem with our big iron going to sleep.
 


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