I needed a new graphics card for my Mac Pro. Well, I didn’t need one per-se as much as I would have liked one. So like all good clueless Apple fanboys I went to the Apple Store website and did a little search. Whereupon you find that if you’re willing to drop £377 you can get an ATI Radeon HD5870. The other option was a £203 5770 or £779 Nvidia Quadro 4000
If you look around on the internet you’ll find that this is about the going rate for the Mac versions, but you might also find something else interesting. It seems that you no longer need a Mac specific graphics card to power a monitor from your Mac Pro a generic old PC graphics card will work just fine.
The only way to test this was to nip down to PC World and buy an off the shelf card, so I did. Step forwards the ASUS EAH6450, which I paid the princely sum of £40
Look here’s a picture:
I put it in the Mac and do you know what? It worked*. No hacks, no cracks, nothing more complex than lining up the pins and the slot and giving it a firm, but respectful shove. You could have blown me down with a feather. Actually you’d have needed much more force than that and I barely raised an eyebrow, but still I was intrigued.
So intrigued in fact that I immediately got on the bat phone to the press representatives of Apple, ATI and Nvidia. I say bat phone, but really it was email – the actual details make this story seem so much more mundane.
I explained what I had found and that I was researching a feature about upgrades and this sort of information would be gold for readers who might immediately rush out and buy their products based on this new information. With that in mind could they explain this shift or, even better, prove a list of compatible products.
Apple gave their customary response of silence with a side order of nothing.
Nvidia were incredibly helpful, but their final official word was
“We do not support uncertified solutions. So all Apple qualified graphics cards are fine. All other are unsupported hacks.”
AMD ATi have been helpful, but still no answer and I get the impression that none will be forthcomming.
Why no one, especially the graphics card companies themselves wants to highlight or talk about this is beyond me. With Apple it’s just par for the course I suppose. However, someone somewhere has flicked a switch or written some drivers and, it seems that non-Apple graphics cards will now work in a Mac Pro.
Of course, I can only say for certain that this one card I have tested works, but it reports as an 6xxx series monitor in About this Mac so I think it fair to assume that any card in the 6xxx family will work.
*You don’t get the boot screen the login window just appears. Why? EFI BIOS other acronyms.