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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  • Guspaz - Friday, August 19, 2005 - link

    In the list of stores, you have "The Future Shop".

    Future Shop, a Canadian retailer similar to Best Buy (actually bought out by Best Buy a while ago), has no "the" in the name. It is simply "Future Shop".
  • karioskasra - Friday, August 19, 2005 - link

    ATi's got to make the news headlines somehow. Now if cards were hot swappable then I could see a market for this, but currently if you use a PC and you buy this card, you might as well save the money for a session with your shrink.

    Why is this posted in the PC section again? Why would any PC user want this card?
  • phisrow - Friday, August 19, 2005 - link

    This sort of card isn't going to impress the gamers; but it is exactly the sort of thing that probably makes Matrox, and their ilk, really nervous. It looks like, in the next few years, pure 2d desktops won't really exist anymore, except among people who really don't care. So everyone will need a decent GPU. Also, except for hardcore cheapskates and/or the "LCDs are t37 suxx0r" crowd, a good chunk of the computer using population will being using big DVI connected panels within the next few years.

    This is pretty much the perfect card for such an application. Especially now that pretty much anything will do for all but gamers and specialized workstation tasks, the upgrade that people will want will be high resolution panels. Is this expensive by the standards of 9600s? Certainly. Is it quite cheap compared to the few other cards that can drive huge displays? Certainly.
  • a2daj - Friday, August 19, 2005 - link

    Did any of you bother reading the article? How many ATI or NVIDIA consumer PC offerings out there can drive an Apple 30" cinema display at the native resolution? That display reguires a dual-link DVI connector. I don't know of any other consumer level PC video card which has one. That's the main PC target.
  • Kazairl11 - Sunday, August 21, 2005 - link

    "That display reguires a dual-link DVI connector. I don't know of any other consumer level PC video card which has one."

    Monarch Computer has the AGP XFX GeForce 6800 128 MB DDR/8x-AGP/TV-Out/Dual-DVI (Retail Box) for $163. That makes $200 for a 9600 Pro look pretty sick.

    http://www.monarchcomputer.com/Merchant2/merchant....">XFX GeForce 6800 at Monarch Computer

  • PrinceGaz - Sunday, August 21, 2005 - link

    Dual-link DVI is different from the card having two DVI sockets.

    A dual-link DVI socket has double the bandwidth of a standard single-link DVI socket (330MHz vs 165MHz). That allows it to drive a display at a very high resolution with a normal refresh-rate.

    That XFX card has two standard single-link DVI sockets and therefore cannot be used at such high resolutions with the DVI digital connection as the 9600Pro in this review.
  • MCSim - Friday, August 19, 2005 - link

    I bet that NVIDIA is releasing FX 5700 Ultra Mac/PC edition very soon. =)
  • Avalon - Friday, August 19, 2005 - link

    Should have done this with a newer GPU. No point in this thing being PC compatible for $200.
  • ViRGE - Friday, August 19, 2005 - link

    Humm, I find it interesting that ATI is finally releasing a cross-platform card so close to the Apple transition to x86. Considering OpenFirmware is being dropped, the Mac side of this card will have to be completely redone for the new x86 Macs, so a card like this wouldn't have much of a shelf life I would think.
  • beorntheold - Friday, August 19, 2005 - link

    Don't ATI have anything better to do I wonder? Like saving their PC market for example?

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