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Mac Pros: Graphics Options to Expand

Graphics Options to Expand for Mac Pro Customers – Professional Market Needs More Middle Ground

Architosh has received word of a new graphics option underway for Mac Procustomers aimed at the middle ground and somewhat oriented towards professional graphics applications like 3D, CAD and visualization. Mac Pro customers have traditionally been limited to just three graphics cards in design-build configurations with one of those cards — the NVIDIA Quadro FX 5600 card — taking up the extreme highend of the market.

The Mac Pro customer segment could really benefit from some competition at the middle point and new options will be coming to the market this year (and relatively soon). Today the Mac Pro customer — at the middle segment with demanding needs — cannot comparatively shop and is offered no choice.

This singular fact, of a dearth of graphics options for middle-ground pro customers, has been the single highest reason cited in Architosh’smarket research for the unacceptance of Mac adoption for numerous professionals in engineering, science, mCAD and other similar fields where Mac software packages do exist but more “flexible” GPU workstation options are highly available.

Differentiating the Middle

In recent conversations with Chris Bentley of AMD’s Mac ATI division it has been noted that the middle-ground cards for the Mac Pro are generally the highest performing gaming cards. These cards often utilize the most advanced GPU (graphics processing unit) of a particular manufacturer. In the case of NVIDIA, both the Quadro FX 5600 card and the GeForce 8800 GT card utilize the same G80 GPU. This results in similar performance for a large array of professional Mac applications but at very different price points.

What a large portion of Mac Pro customers want is a “choice” at the middle position. It is beneficial at two levels to have such a choice. Firstly it gives the potential Mac Pro customer a sense that there are equal options in building out a Mac Pro for a workstation compared to a Dell or HP unit. Secondly, with a choice at the middle between two fundamentally different architectures it gives the Mac Pro buyer the ability to test and find out which mid-level card works best for theirapps.

Differentiating the middle is not an easy thing within the engineering, CAD and 3D software market. Many if not most CAD applications do not fully address all the potential benefits of OpenGL hardware acceleration. As Chris Bentley noted in this previous interview, it is some of Apple’s pro apps in the motion graphics and video market that are pushing the real boundaries of OpenGL.

Because ATI’s cards do differ in performance on certain applications compared to similar NVIDIA cards, having more choice at the middle will allow pro customers to benefit from an optimum “match-up” withtheir apps. Architosh expects to be testing more options for the mid-level GPU slot in the near future.

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Machine Design Product Review: NVIDIA Quadro FX 5600

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