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New Mac Pro Graphics Cards… In Older Mac Pros

Our back room gurus tested the NVIDIA GeForce GT 120 and the ATI Radeon HD 4870 graphics cards from the early 2009 Mac Pro in the 800MHz and 667MHz Mac Pro models with varying success. The quick results are: GT120 functions, in both ports, in 800MHz Mac Pro.

Mac Pro ‘800MHz Memory Bus Models:
4870 – Works A-OK via its DVI port. No-go via the miniDisplay Port.

GT120 – Works like a champ with both DisplayPort and DVI Port.

Mac Pro ‘667MHZ Memory Bus Models:
No go with either of Video Cards from the new Mac Pros.

We’ll have more details later, but there’s a preliminary first look summary. If you have an 800MHz Mac Pro now – the GT120 ought to become a nice option all around… And the 4870 maybe too for those wanting that super video performance while not needing it to support two displays.

Update note 3/17/09 should note that testing was done under OS X 10.5.6 and was done with a Mini DisplayPort straight into a new display.UPDATE 8/27/10 We tested the Radeon 5870 and 5770 graphics cards with all model year (2006-2010) Mac Pros…see the results at this revealing post!

OWC Larry
the authorOWC Larry
OWC Founder & CEO
Larry O'Connor is the founder and Chief Executive Officer of Illinois-based Other World Computing (OWC®). Starting as a one-man business in 1988, O'Connor has provided the leadership and vision to establish OWC as the leading provider of technology products and services today.
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  • Very helpful discussion. Thanks. My Apple/ATI Radeon 5770 goes from my 2007 Mac Pro 1,1 to my recently acquired 2009 Mac Pro 4,1. My OEM Apple/NVIDIA GeForce 7300 GT comes out of storage and back into my Mac Pro 1,1, as it gets repurposed to a Backup Server and then, the OEM NVIDIA GeForce GT 120, from my ’09 Mac Pro 4,1, goes into storage. My 2009 Mac Pro 4,1 with the Apple/ATI Radeon 5770 upgrade card is now my current workstation and a big upgrade for me.

  • Has anyone gotten an nVidia GT120 to work on a Mac Pro 1,1? I cant find any conclusive “yes, and here’s how” or “no, you have a 5 year old computer gtfo”.

  • so the new mac pro’s are out!! will the

    ATI Radeon HD 5770 Graphics Upgrade Kit for Mac Pro
    ATI Radeon HD 5870 Graphics Upgrade Kit for Mac Pro

    work with older machines?

    • Hello Johnny,

      At this point, we haven’t received the new Mac Pro in order to test them. We’ll post when we find out.

  • My second X1900 XT is on its last legs, and I called the local store and was told that the GT 120 would work in my Mac Pro (2006, dual 3.0 GHz 667 MHz).

    I’m skeptical but I asked the guy four times and he seems confident.

    • I had two of them die on me too rather quickly so I got them to replace it with the 8800GT free of charge. I am not running a PC XFX 285GTX and the 8800GT in my 2006 MacPro 1,1

  • Yeah Im looking into, Is it possible to use the GT120 in the MacPro1,1 with 667MHZ memory bus myself. I have not found an answer anywhere yet. maybe one will crop up from you knowledgeable dudes on here. Im glad i found this. Otherwise I would like a decent card that works in the 1,1 MacPro that supports Open CL/cuda and the likes.

    Im sick of my out of date old 7300 GT.

  • I have the following machine and Video Card running 10.6.3

    Hardware Overview:
    Model Name: Mac Pro
    Model Identifier: MacPro1,1
    Processor Name: Dual-Core Intel Xeon
    Processor Speed: 2.66 GHz
    Number Of Processors: 2
    Total Number Of Cores: 4
    L2 Cache (per processor): 4 MB
    Memory: 13 GB
    Memory Speed: 667 MHz
    Bus Speed: 1.33 GHz
    Boot ROM Version: MP11.005D.B00
    SMC Version (system): 1.7f10
    Serial Number (system):
    Hardware UUID:

    Video Card:
    Name: ATY,Alopias
    Type: display
    Driver Installed: Yes
    Bus: PCI
    Slot: Slot-1
    Vendor ID: 0x1002
    Device ID: 0x7249
    Subsystem Vendor ID: 0x1002
    Subsystem ID: 0x7249
    Revision ID: 0x0000
    Link Width: x16
    Link Speed: 2.5 GT/s

    —- END —-

    I want to add a third monitor to the machine and can’t see to find a card that will work. Is it possible to use the GT120 in the MacPro1,1 with 667MHZ memory? Any help or input would be greatly appreciated. The X1900 has been running fine. Just would like to add on a 3rd monitor.

  • I have an 2008 Mac Pro with the stock ATI Radeon 2600 video card (out of warranty). After a year the video does not appear for minutes from a cold boot up…planned obsolescence? Tried another display with same results. As with others I am concerned about using a non approved Apple card, the nVidia GT 120, in the 2008 Mac Pro. Is Apple moving to approved this card? I’d ask Apple but they want $ to even ask the question.

    This is my first Mac, probably my last!

  • my message was horrible
    what i meant was i purchased the GeForce 120 i had no luck would not show display
    so i brought it back i was able to find a g-force 8800 gt put the card in and no display i put the broken gt 8800 and i get a gray apple display then the card freaks out
    what should i do

  • I’m having a serious issue
    i bought the NVIDIA GeForce GT 120 Graphics Upgrade Kit for the Mac Pro
    this is the Mac Pro i have
    Quad-core processing
    Two 2.0GHz, Dual-Core Intel Xeon 5100 series processors
    Intel Core microarchitecture
    4MB of shared L2 cache per processor (8MB total)
    128-bit SSE3 vector engine
    64-bit data paths and registers
    Energy efficiency optimization
    I had a NVida GForce 8800gt
    i replaced it with another NVIDA GFORCE 800 GT and i can not get it to display an image what can i do? need help …

    I was replaceing a card that was giving me issue
    the Nvidia Gforce

  • Getting Mixed signals about both cards. Some people are reporting on Apple’s website that the Radeon 4870 works on 2007, 2006 Macs with Snow Leopard. Can anyone verify this? Some people are saying that the Nvidia Works too.

  • While searching for about the same answers as above, I noted someone offering (since Oct. 30 2009) a free PC ATI video card flashing tool which works from a Mac Pro (no need to do it in a PC) and flashes the following cards :

    Powercolor without cover
    Powercolor with cover
    Sapphire New Edition
    Sapphire Vapor-X

    Sapphire 512 MB

    Link is

  • Installed a new retail Apple Nvidia GT 120 in a 2008 Mac Pro Dual Quad 3.2 GHz and it works fine with 10.6.2. It’s running a 30″ Apple display (about 3.5 years old now) and it’s doing okay. I’m using the dual-link DVI port. The stock 8800 GT had the “dancing pixels” issue. Forcing the display to sleep and then waking it up cleared up the pixel issue. The GT 120 did the same thing on its first boot. During the last day and several reboots later, no dancing pixels. Fingers-crossed. Nvidia GT 120 does appear slower than Nvidia 8800 GT.

  • The fan noise on the 3870 was horrendous on my 2008 Mac Pro due to the single slot design, so I put on a passive cooler which fits the MB dual slot and it runs cool and silent with no fan.

  • Vee dee,
    I also have a a mac pro 1,1 667 mhz 8GB RAM. I am running Snow Leopard. I purchased a AMD Radeon 4870 from the apple store and installed it without any hacks or driver updates other than normal apple updates. It runs perfectly with both my mini Displayport running a 24 inch cinima display and I also tested the DVI port as well and that also worked. I googled before making this purchased and found that many people are reporting success with this card. Hope this is helpful.

  • I bought the 3870 mac & pc edition… 667mhz first gen mac pro.. card worked fine initially… fan on it ran constantly, and card cooked itself in under 30 days. It’s currently being RMA’d while I decide if i want my money back, an exchange, or an upgrade to the 4870. In my opinion this card should have had a dual slot cooler, exhausting heat out the back. The 1 slot design works against the case cooling design, and ends up recirculating hot air onto the GPU in an endless cycle. While the 4870 reportedly works, paying apple $400+ for a $180 card to put in a 2 year old computer doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense…

  • Tremendous to see all this information: you’ve just stopped me buying the wrong card. Which is nice, but I’ve already bought two wrong ones.

    I’m trying to add a third monitor to my first generation 667Mhz Mac Pro; if I read the comments correctly, is the conclusion that the ATI Radeon HD 3870 is the right card?

    I do see that most people here are talking about single or twin monitors; would I be wasting my time trying to run a third?

    Thanks for any help,

  • hey guys, im running gt120 on mac pro 2008 + snow leopard. everything works like a charm including mini DP. however i noticed that when i put mac pro to sleep i get a little white horizontal line (random places at different times ) on the screen. and also when i wake the computer i get a white line in the bottom right. apple replaced my gt120 but no luck same problem. so i was wondering if anyone else had this with gt120 (in 2008 mac pro) and ACD 20″ please let me know. (ive tried on dvi and also with the miniDP->dvi adapter) please let me know

  • My latest adventures with my frankenpro…

    I have a mac pro 1,1 667 mhz 12GB RAM. 10.6.1.
    x 1900 will not work in it but no matter since that has to go back to work.
    My 9600 card ( I belive. nVidia renames
    this to gt120 if I flash up). It’s only got 256 RAM.

    Has anyone with mac pro 1,1 + Snow leopard gotten an AMD 48xx or nVidia GT200 family card working?
    If so can you tell me which card, and if any of the various repackages from bestbuy ( like the asus OEM’d 280 ) will work. And if there is a firmware flash I need to be pointed too.

    Thanks so much, it’s so nice to see such good info exchange in a thread.

  • hey guys, im running gt120 on mac pro 2008 + snow leopard. everything works like a charm including mini DP. however i noticed that when computer going to sleep i get a little white horizontal line (random places at different times ) on the screen. and also when i wake the computer i get a white line in the bottom right. apple replaced my gt120 but no luck same problem. so i was wondering if anyone else had this with gt120 and ACD 20″ please let me know. (ive tried on dvi and also with the miniDP->dvi adapter) please let me know

  • Quote (Originally by BareFeats)—
    One advantage of the Radeon HD 4870 over the GTX 285 is that, though it isn’t officially supported by Apple in the 2006-2007 Mac Pro, we can testify that it works fine in all models of Mac Pro (OS X 10.5.7 or later) based on our own experience of testing it in all models. It also costs about $100 less than the GTX 285.
    —End Quote—

  • I just ordered a 4780 (with 1 GB VRAM!) from a vendor on eBay to replace the 8800 GT in my Mac Pro 2.1 (3.0 GHz, 12GB RAM w/Snow Leo). I’ve got my fingers & toes crossed that “everything is everything”, & there’s no problem.

  • gt120 is working 100% with my mac pro 2008. however i recently noticed when i wake the computer form sleep mode, i get a white horizontal line on the bottom right of the display then everything is fine. is that something i should be worried about? im using a cinema display 20″ please let me know, if anyone is having this problem

  • Hey guys, yeah I bought the card from B and H Photo, but it was the same price, I just know they ship it super fast. Also the mini display port works great, good resolution no problems. Just make sure you get the right converter to VGA.

  • Has anyone tried mixing graphics brands? As in, would a 4870 work alongside a GT120? I know that long ago it was stated that it wouldn’t work. But I was wondering if that was still the case, particularly with the release of Snow Leopard.

  • So Cory, did you buy the ATI 4870 directly from Apple? I pretty much have the same configuration as yours (except running 2.66 GHz and only 2 GB memory) and have been in the market for a new card after my Nvidia 7300GT card just died three days ago (well, I can use my display only in Safe boot mode and STILL see the light yellow checkerboard pattern across my screen).
    I am considering purchasing ATI Radeon HD 3870 Mac/PC edition. Any suggestions?

  • Okay so I ended up getting the ATI 4870, and it works fine in my 2007 mac pro no problems at all even with really complex maya scenes.