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Ask Max: Upgrading Mac Pro Video Capabilities

Asked on 10/14/2008:

I am looking at getting a new 8 core Mac Pro for CG graphics production. We could really use a Quadro graphics solution but are a bit put off by the price point. Is it possible to get a system now with the relatively inexpensive 8800 and upgrade the video card to a Quadro FX4500 or FX5600 a couple months down the line? Can the Mac versions of the cards be found separately from a system?


One of the wonderful advantages of the new Mac Pro is the ability to reconfigure the system over time. Drives can be easily added, optical drives can be added, and video cards can be upgraded or added. The NVIDIA GeForce 8800 GT video card can be moved to PCIe slot #2 down the road to make room for the NVIDIA Quadro FX 5600. The only concern with adding extra video cards in a Mac Pro is that the PCIe bus supports 300 Watts. The 8800 draws 110 watts, combine that with the 175 wattdraw of the FX5600, and your video cards will eat up most of the PCIe bus's power.

Currently the aftermarket FX4500 or FX5600 cards are not Mac compatible. There is much discussion about flashing a PC Nvidia card with Mac compatible EFI ROM but that is a little risky. You can also get the service part version of the card (PN 661-4461) but at an inflated price, apposed to buying it in a Mac Pro. If you don't think you will need the better graphics card for six months, then waiting for a Mac FX5600 upgrade card to be produced may work for you. There are no guarantees that such a card will ever be produced but it may be worth the risk to wait and see. If you know that you must have this card in a few months, then you should just "bite the bullet" and order it in a Mac Pro now.

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