When I first started using Macs alongside my PCs I was quickly reminded of how similar the two platforms had become in terms of their actual hardware.  Honestly, with the exception of the PowerPC CPU and custom chipset/motherboard, the inside of my first G5 looked hardly any different than a very well built PC.  It used a plain old SATA hard drive, a DVD drive, the same DDR memory and even the same GPUs. 

Of course, there were some limitations; I couldn't just throw in the gigabytes of DDR memory that I had laying around. I needed G5 compatible modules that adhered to Apple's strict SPD programming requirements.  But after locating some, I could use them on both Mac and PC platforms, albeit their slower timings made them mostly undesirable for use on any of my PC test beds.  The use of Mac compatible video cards wasn't as multifaceted, however. Although the Mac cards shared the exact same GPUs that I had been used to on the PC side of things, the cards were sometimes physically different and always featured a Mac-only firmware.  You could stick a Mac card in a PC, but it wouldn't POST, not without a firmware reflash; and the same applied in reverse as well. 

It turns out that making a universal Mac and PC video card isn't that tough. It's just that there are some implementation details that had to be worked out before doing so.  One of the biggest problems ended up being Apple's powered ADC connectors that were featured on the previous generation of their Cinema Displays.  The ADC standard calls for video, USB as well as power for the monitor to be sent over a single cable from the video card to the monitor.  Generally speaking, drawing enough power to drive a 23" Cinema Display takes a little more than what can be delivered over a standard AGP slot, especially if the slot is tasked with powering the GPU as well.

Apple's solution to the problem was to outfit ADC enabled cards with a separate connector to feed a 25V line to power any monitors and USB devices connected to them over the ADC port.  The problem is that no PC motherboards feature support for this additional connector and an ADC connector isn't too useful for most PC users.  But with Apple's move to DVI for their latest monitors, suddenly there's a lot more in common between PCs and Macs and their video card requirements. 

NVIDIA's GeForce 6800 Ultra DDL was essentially identical to the PC 6800 Ultra card, but without the need for external power, so the card featured a considerable amount of additional circuitry to pull power from the motherboard instead.  But other than that difference, the Mac card looked like just any other dual-DVI PC graphics card, except it would only work in G5s. 

So, when ATI set out to make a retail 256MB upgrade product, they figured the requirements had conspired in favor of bringing a Mac and PC compatible card to the market; thus, the ATI Radeon 9600 Pro Mac & PC Edition was born. 


The Card
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  • Fulie - Saturday, December 10, 2005 - link

    I just stumbled on to this write up and trying to get information on blending systems has been a major pain. I have a pc that is used for viewing images at high res. and an unused 23" older mac lcd (clear surround with a seperate power source and ADC TO DVI connector) display that I would like to use with this pc. I don't need game speeds but use dvd video on occasion. From the specs. It sounds like it will work, any ideas? Reply
  • sprockkets - Saturday, August 20, 2005 - link

    the pinout of the card looks agp 2x and not 4x/8x

    Reply
  • PrinceGaz - Friday, August 19, 2005 - link

    Just a minor amendment. On page 2 you mention that "The actual GPU isn't any different than what we've had on the Mac and PC side for a while; it still runs at 400MHz like the OEM Radeon 9600XT and 9650".

    The GPU of a 9600XT is clocked at 500MHz, not 400MHz. It is the 9600Pro which has a GPU clocked at 400MHz. Which is what you would expect as the card you reviewed is a 9600Pro.
    Reply
  • a2daj - Tuesday, August 23, 2005 - link

    The Apple OEM Radeon 9600 XTs were clocked at the same speed most PC manufacturers clocked their retail Radeon 9600 Pros. The OEM 9600 Pros were clocked even slower when they were first introduced. Reply
  • tooki - Friday, August 19, 2005 - link

    1. This is not the first cross-platform card. Most 3Dfx cards were cross-platform.
    2. The Power Mac G5 does not use a SATA optical drive, it's standard parallel ATA.
    3. ADC's high power requirements are because of ADC's ability to drive a 17" CRT display, not because of large LCDs.
    Reply
  • stratusgd - Saturday, August 20, 2005 - link

    Actually, all G5 systems that Apple sells come with SATA drives, not PATA. Go look at Apple's website. Reply
  • SDA - Saturday, August 20, 2005 - link

    The poster you are replying to is referring to optical drives, not hard drives. Optical drives are drives that read or write optical media such as CDs and DVDs. Reply
  • a2daj - Friday, August 19, 2005 - link

    "1. This is not the first cross-platform card. Most 3Dfx cards were cross-platform."

    A Mac specific firmware had to be on the 3dfx cards starting with the Voodoo3s. The Voodoo3s were unsupported but you can flash them to run in a Mac. You had to reflash them to run in a PC. The Voodoo 4s and 5s had Mac specific firmware. They had to be flashed to run in PCs. You couldn't take a PC version and put it in a Mac and get it to run without flashing it.

    The Voodoo1s and 2s were just pass through cards which only did 3D so they didn't need Mac firmware to handle the 2D 16 bit Mac OS issues (5551 (Mac) vs 565 (PC))
    Reply
  • lancediamond - Friday, August 19, 2005 - link

    Not entirely clear if you could do that unless I missed it - if so, that'd be sort of cool maybe? Reply
  • a2daj - Friday, August 19, 2005 - link

    Yes. That's the target PC audience. Reply

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