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View Full Version : The age old question: Best Mac video card?



themaxx
10-10-2003, 11:55 PM
I know these questions must get asked over and over again and that everyone has a different opinion, so please forgive me, but I'm about to get a dual G5 system and I'm trying to decide which video card to get. I've been scouring the web but I'm not finding the information I'm looking for so I'm hoping someone here can answer a couple of questions for me.

1. What's the best video card for running Lightwave under Mac OS X with an Apple Cinema Display?

2. Is it worth the extra cash to get the 9800 Pro Radeon card over the stock card?

3. Are there significant differences between the build-to-order 9800 pro card available from Apple versus the retail version? If so, which is better?

4. What professional cards are available that work well with LW? Are they worth it for a serious hobbyist with pro aspirations like myself?

Thanks in advance!

tumblemonster
10-11-2003, 12:26 AM
I'm almost convinced that none of the available graphics cards for the mac make any difference in lightwave one way or the other. Every card for the mac is a games card. Supposedly this is going to change with Panther, so lets hope!

-tm

Jimzip
10-11-2003, 12:31 AM
Also, you might want to take a look at the following thread. Maybe voice your support. It's always nice to have more than two choices for video cards!

Link:
http://vbulletin.newtek.com/showthread.php?threadid=11609


Jimzip :D

Ge4-ce
10-11-2003, 04:34 AM
Ok.. There is one thing that I do not get!
If I compare the geforce FX 5900 ultra (wich is a gaming card) against the quadro FX (wich is an expensive workstation card) then I can't really see the difference. I do see differences: the quadro is 'programmable and renders shaders realtime or something like that' but what I do not understand is that: the Quadro FX 3000 only draws up to 100 milion triangles per second while the Geforce FX does 338 milion vertices per second.. I mean a vertice is like an edge of a polygon right? How do I translate that? Imagine I only use triples, I can build over a 110 milion triples with the Geforce FX wich is MORE than the Quadro FX.. Who can explain to me 'why' to buy a quadro FX (when it comes to the Mac) when I'm only interested in SPEED..

Any thoughts?

GeForce FX 5900 Ultra
Graphics Core:256-bit
Memory Interface:256-bit
Memory Bandwidth:27.2GB/sec
Fill Rate:3.6 billion texels/sec.
Vertices/sec. 338 million !!!!!!
Memory Data Rate:850MHz
Pixels per Clock (peak):8
Textures per Pixel:16*
RAMDACs 400MHz


Quadro FX 3000 & 3000G
Memory Size 256MB
Memory Interface 256-bit
Graphics Memory Bandwidth 27.2GB/sec.
proe-02 41.6
ugs-03 44.4
3dsmax-02 26.1
up to 100 milion lit and textured triangles/sec.

fxgeek
10-11-2003, 08:06 AM
A lot of the time the only difference in the so called "workstation" versions of graphics cards like the nvidia and ati boards are the amount of texture ram they have. Unless you are doing alot of high end real time visualisation you won't notice that mmuch difference, unless you use something like a wildcat board.

The graphics card issue has been blown way out of proportion on the mac. PC trolls have been using it as a reasonb why the Mac isn't a "Pro" platform but it's all bull. Especially if you're only considering using the Quadro boards. The cards use the same chip.

There is alot of high end film work been done using softimage and maya on sgi o2 workstations, who's graphics cards were only equivilent to the old RAGE series from ATI, but no one ever questioned SGI's position as a serious platform.

The 9800 Pro Raedon card is more than powerful enough for production needs.

Ge4-ce
10-11-2003, 09:03 AM
So the 9800 radeon from ATI is a really good card, and so is the 5900 from nVidia. and when I hear this, I will not spend any extra cash on a quadro or a Firegl. But I would like to spend extra cash if I would know for example that a certain card would be capable to draw more polygons in realtime! because when it comes down to animation, timing is very important! and now I have to wait for the previewrender everytime I do some animation.. Wich is thus very time-consuming.. You spoke about 3D labs.. Do they make faster cards?

mlinde
10-11-2003, 10:00 AM
Originally posted by fxgeek
The 9800 Pro Raedon card is more than powerful enough for production needs.

I've got a question for you. Do you ever do textured/shaded/light previews (not renderings, but pressing "play" in layout)? For a simple scene this is no big deal. As the polygon count nears 50k (and that's not a big number) the FPS drops through the floor unless you are satisfied with bounding box previews. The Radeon 9800 isn't going to change that.

If you get your hands on a machine with a Quadro or FireGl or Wildcat, that changes, from what I understand. So how can you say these cards don't improve 3D on the Mac? Have you ever used one on a PC? I modeled on a Dell workstation once with a Wildcat card in it, and it performed significantly different from my Mac with it's GeForce card, IMHO. Pro cards (for those with the polygon counts and budgets) make a big difference.

How would you like to work somewhere like Zoic (the folks who do the Enterprise TV show) and try to animate a multi-million polygon version of a spaceship, and do all of your pre-vis in bounding box? Pro cards are exactly that -- cards for professionals who push the software and hardware to its limits. At this point, there aren't many shops that do that kind of work with Macs in 3D, because the real-time previs is a big deal in a tight deadline production schedule.

Ge4-ce
10-11-2003, 10:11 AM
mLinde, What card would you now suggest (discardless if it's available too mac)

Your description points out exactly what I'm looking for! High level realtime layout performance.. with for example 790 000 polycount trees and plants...

Would you go with firegl, Quadro or Wildcat? What is the difference in wildcat 4 or Wildcat VP? Cause to me, the VP seems faster?

fxgeek
10-11-2003, 01:56 PM
Originally posted by mlinde
I've got a question for you. Do you ever do textured/shaded/light previews (not renderings, but pressing "play" in layout)? For a simple scene this is no big deal. As the polygon count nears 50k (and that's not a big number) the FPS drops through the floor unless you are satisfied with bounding box previews. The Radeon 9800 isn't going to change that.

If you get your hands on a machine with a Quadro or FireGl or Wildcat, that changes, from what I understand. So how can you say these cards don't improve 3D on the Mac? Have you ever used one on a PC? I modeled on a Dell workstation once with a Wildcat card in it, and it performed significantly different from my Mac with it's GeForce card, IMHO. Pro cards (for those with the polygon counts and budgets) make a big difference.

How would you like to work somewhere like Zoic (the folks who do the Enterprise TV show) and try to animate a multi-million polygon version of a spaceship, and do all of your pre-vis in bounding box? Pro cards are exactly that -- cards for professionals who push the software and hardware to its limits. At this point, there aren't many shops that do that kind of work with Macs in 3D, because the real-time previs is a big deal in a tight deadline production schedule.

Firstly, the WildCat cards are upwards of $2K so of course they're going to be better. I have a Wildcat board in my PC in work. I have been using one for the last two years, so I know what Im talking about. We also use SGI Octanes and Macs. What Im saying is there is not that much difference between the Pro and non pro versions of various cards. As for Lightwave not playing more than 50K in realtime, then I suggest you get a faster mac.

Most people don't do their pre-vis with full res models. As a professional working with commercials and films for a long time I have never used full res models for pre vis. That's the whole point of pre-vis.

Im not going to start another flame war on this. I think there have been far too many on these forums already. Dont you?

People seem to forget that films like the first Toy Story and Star Wars were made on hardware far inferior to the current crop of Mac's yet people argue that you can't do Professional Work on Mac's. Proper production techniques are far more valuable than the most expensive hardware money can buy, just for the sake of it.

mlinde
10-11-2003, 07:08 PM
Originally posted by fxgeek
Firstly, the WildCat cards are upwards of $2K so of course they're going to be better...
fxgeek, check your prices. A Wildcat VP870 is $399, about the price of an ATI 9800 or an nVidia GeForce Ti. It has 128 MB of texture memory. The VP880 has 256 MB of texture memory and is $499. Your prices were accurate a few years ago, but today's cards are WAY below 1k, often competitive in price to the "high-end" gaming cards.

Secondly, my Mac is a Quicksilver G4, 2x800, with 1.12 GB of RAM, dual 120 GB 7200 RPM drives with 8MB cache for sustained read/writes, supported with a 21" monitor on a GeForce 4 Ti (128MB). This isn't some dinosaur. The last crop of G4 machines weren't twice as fast, and I wouldn't buy a first generation Mac (G5) again for half the price. My 7100/66 taught me that.

Third, I'm not saying you need to previs with full res on all your models. But if real-time playback drops from 30+ to 15+ when going from 20 - 40K of polygons (in motion) and then to 4 FPS with 160K of polygons, that's not a big number. I talk to guys who are regularly working with over a million polygons in a scene. They aren't working with Radeons or GeForce cards, but they are working in Lightwave.

Fourth, movies like Toy Story and Star Wars were made with SGI workstations. These machines STILL compete with modern hardware in performance across the board.

I'm not starting a Mac/PC flame war. I'm saying that the video hardware (which is not made by Microsoft, Intel, AMD, Apple, Motorola, or IBM) available currently for a Windows or Linux workstation is higher end.

Ge-4ce, if you have an unlimited budget, the best card for the Mac is the ATI Radeon 9800 (apparently). If you have an unlimited budget, I think the best card for the PC is the Wildcat VP990 Pro, which is still only $899.

fxgeek, 3Dlabs is reportedly in discussion with Apple about bringing either Oxygen or Wildcat cards to the Macintosh platform. I think this is a good idea, because (at the very least) it will make ATI bring the FireGL cards to the mac to be competitive in the high end.

It's not about PCs being better than Macs. It's about what tools get your work done, and what tools get your work done faster. The availability of a Wildcat card would help me get work done faster on my Macintosh. That is a fact, whether people like it or not.

Ge4-ce
10-12-2003, 04:07 AM
Yes mlinde, I follow you.. I'm planning to buy the next revision G5 in january. (hopefully Dual G5 2.5 Ghz or more) but now I'm looking for what card to put in it. Indeed if by that time 3D labs ported their cards, I would go with the 889$ card you suggested. Because If you DO work and want to view 50K or more polygon models, in realtime (even in wireframe is good enough) I get MORE work done! I also can organise my scenes like that that I do my previews with low poly models, and I do that at this moment! But I'm working on a powerbook 1 Ghz now, so I don't have much of a choice. For my next desktop, (the G5) I want some extra luxioury.. ;)

and I rather invest some more to get more..

fxgeek
10-12-2003, 06:34 AM
All Im saying is that you can do high end work even with the cards that are there. Im know Im banging my head against a brick wall on this, and you can keep arguing if you want, but a question was asked and Im attempting to answer it based on my experience using Pro Cards on the PC and using the existing cards on the Mac, and using SGI machines.

We use a Wildcat 6110 on one of our PC's and a Quadro GL on one of the others, and a 9600Pro on the Mac.

There is not that significant a difference in performance between the 9600 and the Quadro GL cards. The Wildcat is better for 3D but is not great for 2D performance.

The Realtime performance of the SGI machines (Octane 1) is not nearlly as good as either.

Now, in fairness I am using mostly Maya, so maybee that is why I am not experiencing the dramatic differences you describe.

That is my experience. If yours is different I respect that. If I sounded militant, it is only because Im sick of people saying that you cant do Pro 3d work on the mac. Because you can. And many are, and making a good living from it. My comment about SGI machines also stands. Technically they are not as good (the newer Feul and Octane 2 machines obviously are) and you are right, they are holding their own - people still use them. Myself included.

I hope that 3D labs bring the Wildcat boards to the Mac. I really do and I will be one of the first customers for one. Im not saying that these cards are bad. But I think alot of people will may be disapointed by high expectations that have been bandied about on this and other forums.

Again that is my experience.

Ge4-ce
10-12-2003, 06:53 AM
Oh FXgeek, I do believe you! I did professional 3D work with a G4 450 with an ATI rage Pro 16 MB! And it worked out just fine. And you can do pro work with a current gaming card. There is no argument about that.

But we're looking for things even better than a normal card.. (wich would do fine, but...) I look at it as if I would drive 100 miles to work every day. A ford would bring me to work just as easy as a Mercedes,.. only the Mercedes has more luxory on board, it 'drives' better..

So even if a 3D labs card would give me a slight 10 to 20% performance gain, for me it's worth it! To be honest, I always regret when not buying the fastest thing out there.. I know myself, and when I would settle with a 1.8 Ghz G5, The first thing I would think is "Why didn't I bought the Dual G5!!" So I want to avoid that,.. When I buy that Dual 2.x in January with the best graphics money can buy, I always can say: This is the best I can afford and there was nothing better that I would like to have..

mlinde
10-12-2003, 10:58 AM
Originally posted by Ge4-ce
When I buy that Dual 2.x in January with the best graphics money can buy
Just be careful with that baseline. I've been bitten badly with this idea. I was the first kid on the block to drop $325 for a Nexus 128 way back when. It was touted to be a "kick-***" card for Lightwave and 3D. Reality was, to say the least, disappointing. My $300 Nexus wasn't one frame faster for Lightwave than my friend's Rage Orion (which only cost him $160). I spend an extra $140 on marketing hype, when it could have been better placed.

Talk to people who do work similar to yours. See if you can test things on the machine you are considering, configured the way you are planning to buy. Then test on something a little further down the price scale. You'll be surprised what you can get for a little less. Even in the 3DLabs cards, for $300 you get a great card. Is it worth it to spend the additional $600 for their best? Only if that card gives you the performance increases you want and need.

Ge4-ce
10-12-2003, 11:46 AM
Well problem is.. I cannot compare systems in my direct envirement because they all use PC's.. And I want a Mac.. :rolleyes: and When you talk to manufacturers, their card is offcourse the best!.. So I do rely a bit on what is told on these (and other) forums and benchmarks posted by a lot of people..

And you're right about the "best money can buy".. that's not a reference, but Sometimes, (often, even very often,) more money has it's consequences! in the positive way.. My mother always tells me a story: she bought a washing machine from 'MIELE' (don't know if that brand is worldwide know) and it costed about 1100 $ at that time (25 years ago) everyone said she was nuts because you could also buy one for 500 $ that did your lowndrey as good as the Miele! yes,.. except that hers lasted for 20 years!!! with at least 1 operation/day! and the others allready had their third machine! so they spended 1500$ wich is more :)