Gaming Performance

As I mentioned earlier, under OS X games have to specifically be written to use both GPUs in the new Mac Pro. Under Windows however it's just a matter of enabling CrossFire X. I ran the new Mac Pro with dual FirePro D700s through a few of Ryan's 2014 GPU test suite games. The key comparison here is AMD's Radeon R9 280X CF. I've put all of the relevent information about the differences between the GPUs in the table below:

Mac Pro (Late 2013) GPU Comparison
  AMD Radeon R9 280X AMD FirePro D700
SPs 2048 2048
GPU Clock (base) 850MHz 650MHz
GPU Clock (boost) 1000MHz 850MHz
Single Precision GFLOPS 4096 GFLOPS 3481 GFLOPS
Texture Units 128 128
ROPs 32 32
Transistor Count 4.3 Billion 4.3 Billion
Memory Interface 384-bit GDDR5 384-bit GDDR5
Memory Datarate 6000MHz 5480MHz
Peak GPU Memory Bandwidth 288 GB/s 264 GB/s
GPU Memory 3GB 6GB

Depending on thermal conditions the 280X can be as little as 17% faster than the D700 or as much as 30% faster, assuming it's not memory bandwidth limited. In the case of a memory bandwidth limited scenario the gap can shrink to 9%.

All of the results below are using the latest Radeon WHQL drivers at the time of publication (13-12_win7_win8_64_dd_ccc_whql.exe) running 64-bit Windows 8.1. Keep in mind that the comparison cards are all run on our 2014 GPU testbed, which is a 6-core Ivy Bridge E (i7-4960X) running at 4.2GHz. In other words, the other cards will have a definite CPU performance advantage (20 - 30% depending on the number of active cores).

You'll notice that I didn't run anything at 4K for these tests. Remember CrossFire at 4K is still broken on everything but the latest GCN 1.1 hardware from AMD.

Battlefield 3 - 2560x1440 - Ultra Quality + 4x MSAA

Battlefield 3 starts out telling the story I expected to see. A pair of 280Xes ends up being 16% faster than the dual FirePro D700 setup in the Mac Pro. You really start to get an idea of where the Mac Pro's high-end GPU configuration really lands.

Bioshock Infinite - 2560x1440 - Ultra Quality + DDoF

Bioshock ends up at the extreme end of what we'd expect to see between the 280X and D700. I tossed in a score from Bioshock under OS X, which obviously doesn't have CF working and ends up at less than half of the performance of the D700. If you're going to do any heavy 3D gaming, you'll want to do it under Windows still.

Company of Heroes 2 - 2560x1440 - Maximum Quality + Med. AA

Not all games will scale well across multiple GPUs: Company of Heroes 2 is one of them. There's no performance uplift from having two 280Xes and thus the D700 performs like a slower single GPU R9 280X.

Company of Heroes 2 - Min. Frame Rate - 2560x1440 - Maximum Quality + Med. AA

Metro: Last Light - 2560x1440 - High Quality

Metro is the one outlier in our test suite. Although CrossFire is clearly working under Windows, under Metro the D700 behaves as if it wasn't. I'm not sure what's going on here, but this does serve as a reminder that relying on multi-GPU setups to increase performance does come with a handful of these weird cases - particularly if you're using non-standard GPU configurations.

GPU Choices 4K Support & The 4K Experience
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  • madwolfa - Tuesday, December 31, 2013 - link

    Happy New Year! Reply
  • mwildtech - Tuesday, December 31, 2013 - link

    Tahiti's roasting on an open fire... Whew!! Reply
  • mwildtech - Tuesday, December 31, 2013 - link

    To be fair this was running Furmark and is not a realistic load on the gpu's. I would be interested in seeing the CPU and GPU temps while gaming in something like BF4. Anyway you guys could test it? Great review as always! Reply
  • wildpalms - Friday, January 03, 2014 - link

    Gaming is not possible on the new Mac pro, at least not with any suitable level of performance. The GPU's are workstation class....and will crunch through rendering and other video type operations. Gaming will be lousy on these GPU's, as these are NOT the typical gaming type GPU's you may be used to. Reply
  • Haravikk - Monday, January 13, 2014 - link

    That's not completely fair; the D700's are what, 7970 (R9 280?) equivalents, and they will work with CrossFireX under Windows, so they should run pretty well. Granted you're absolutely right that they're not gaming GPUs so you shouldn't expect them to beat a decent gaming rig, but they'll do in a pinch. Besides, mwildtech was asking what kind of temperature the Mac Pro would reach while running games, not whether it'll be any good at doing so. Reply
  • newrigel - Wednesday, March 01, 2017 - link

    And the unified core will keep cool better than any water-based system and it won't leak and burn your computer up ha ha ha ha ha ha Reply
  • eutectic - Tuesday, December 31, 2013 - link

    Can I volunteer a Lightroom license for testing? I think export is much, much better threaded in v5; it'd be nice to see that benchmarked. Reply
  • knweiss - Thursday, January 02, 2014 - link

    +1 Reply
  • piroroadkill - Tuesday, December 31, 2013 - link

    463W at the wall with a 450W DC power supply...

    Throttling to 2GHz, almost boiling GPU temps. Yeah, I think this machine could have done with being a bit larger to extend the mass of that heatsink, and include a PSU that won't be pushed to an unhealthy percentage of its maximum all the time.
    Reply
  • mwildtech - Tuesday, December 31, 2013 - link

    To be fair they was with Furmark and Prime 95 at the same time. Not a realistic load, Tahiti's running Furmark in a desktop in CFX can see similar temps with a AMD reference model. Also, 463w at the wall with 85% efficiency is only 393w being used by the workstation, seems within the safe limits. Reply

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