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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  • Cuser - Friday, August 19, 2005 - link

    I don't see the use for a video card that is cross-platform compatible, except in the corporate environment....yet it seems like this would be a good direction for future cards...which, now that I think of it, will be a moot point being that Mac is going x86...

    A side note though...
    Wow, there is a "gamer" base for the Macs? With framerates like 44 fps from their highest performing systems, I feel for them! Come on over the the x86 side, we'll take good care of you...
  • IceT - Friday, August 19, 2005 - link

    I also don't understand why ATi is launching such product @ this time...It seems (my opinion) that they are bringing us backward, unless you can provide me with some rationale.
  • sirfergy - Friday, August 19, 2005 - link

    The dual link functionality is why. Only other card for mac was the 6800 and that was very expensive.
  • Doormat - Friday, August 19, 2005 - link

    If someone can afford a 30" Cinema display to utilize the dual link capability, they can splurge on a 6800DDL over this card.
  • a2daj - Friday, August 19, 2005 - link

    Unless they have a G4 and want to use the 30" in it. Then the 6800 wouldn't be compatible. Only the new Mac Radoen 9600 Pro.
  • MrFantastic - Friday, August 19, 2005 - link

    "As a card, the Radeon 9600 Pro Mac & PC Edition is an excellent offering."


    It may as well NOT support PC's since no pc owner in their right mind should choose this '£200' oldie over something like a 9800pro/6600gt/800gt
  • a2daj - Friday, August 19, 2005 - link

    And how many of those "9800pro/6600gt/800gt" cards offer a dual-link DVI connector to run the 30" cinema display?
  • Scott66 - Friday, August 19, 2005 - link

    There are many mac users looking for an upgrade in video cards to take advantage of the new graphic abilities in the new Tiger OS software. (similar to what Vista is now announcing and will be included in subsequent beta versions). A 9600 card is just what the Mac doctor ordered. So I guess ATi is looking to provide a similar card for Window users who just want to get all the graphic features Vista can provide but not interested in gaming. If they keep the price low it will be a good seller
  • vijay333 - Friday, August 19, 2005 - link

    yes! I've always wanted to buy graphics cards 3-4 years after everyone else has had a chance to stress test them...

    funny thing is that I just upgraded from my 9600 Pro to a 6800GT :)
  • Questar - Friday, August 19, 2005 - link

    Wow, a review of a three year old GPU.
    My guess is that Anand had to give ATI a good suck in order to get 520 parts before launch.

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