Want to Upgrade Your Mac Pro Video Card? Here’s What You Need to Know.

One of the unfortunate things about technology is that it can become old, out-dated, or even obsolete relatively quickly.  Especially these days when new stuff is always coming out.  Even Apple’s top of the line computer – the Mac Pro will eventually succumb to this problem.  So how can you keep your Mac Pro (or any computer) from becoming an antique?  Well, you can upgrade it.

The problem with Mac computers is that Apple is very picky about the hardware it supports with its operating system (OS X).  So because of that, you need to be very careful with the parts you select when you plan on upgrading your Mac.  In the past, I’ve shown you how to install a hard drive on a Mac Pro.  I’ve also discussed how to pick the right RAM.  Now I’m going to tell you which video card upgrades will work in your Mac Pro.

The two latest video cards which most Mac Pro users will want to upgrade to are the ATI Radeon 5870 and the 5770.  So which of these video cards will work for you?  Thankfully, a lot of the hard work and testing has been done already, so you can simply buy the right one for you and pop it into your machine.  Here’s the breakdown (from OWC).

2006-2007 Mac Pro:

  • Unfortunately, the 5870 is NOT compatible with these Mac Pro models.
  • However, the 5770 is compatible, but only the DVI connection will function.  Unfortunately, this means you will not be able to take advantage of the Mini DisplayPort.

2008 Mac Pro:

  • Good news here: both the 5870 and 5770 cards work with both the DVI and Mini DisplayPort connections in any combination of two displays.  Which means, you can have two displays with Mini DisplayPort connections or one with a DVI connection and one with a Mini DisplayPort connection.
  • However, if you add a third display it will override the DVI connection, causing it to deactivate.

2009-2010 Mac Pro:

  • Again, good news here: both the 5870 and 5770 cards work and all three display connectors can be used at the same time, which of course means, you can have three displays.

I just ordered an ATI Radeon 5770, so I will keep everyone posted once I get that in and installed into my Mac Pro.  It will be replacing my current video card which is a Nvidia GeForce 8800 GT (512MB).  So definitely will be a nice upgrade.

If you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment or post it in the forums.

About the author

— Jeff Weisbein

Jeff is the founder & CEO of BestTechie. He has over 10 years of experience working with technology and building businesses. He loves to travel and listen to music.

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  1. I’ve got an old 2007 Mac Pro and it’s good to hear the 5770 works with it.  I’ve read of people flashing the PC versions of ATI cards to run on Macs; is that possible with my system?

  2. Jeff,
    I’m just now doing the research in order to make exactly the upgrade you made back in March… from the originalGeForce 8800 GT to an ATI 5770. Please tell how this is working for you. I’m a PhotoiShop power user, manipulating large files on my Apple 30″ display. I do lots of transformations that I adjust ’til they are just right. Does the ATI help with this kind of stuff? Any problems?

  3. Hi Jerry, the upgrade went smoothly and the card has been working perfectly.  No issues to report and it’s definitely a very nice upgrade.  I would recommend it.

  4. Hey Mark, unfortunately this article only applies to the Mac Pro (desktop), not the MacBook Pro (laptop).  So no, this information does not apply to your MacBook Pro.

  5. Hi Jeff, I’ve just managed to get hold of a 2007 Quad Core Mac Pro, with a Quadro FX 4500. I’m intending to use this machine for gaming, and so the Quadro doesn’t really provide the goods that I’m after. Will the 5770 be a good choice for me? I’ve noticed that the card is described on Apple’s website as ideal for ‘visual creative, scientific and technical applications’, and that threw me off a little bit. Would that include gaming? 
    Many thanks

  6. I just got a macpro 3.1 2.8ghz octo core.. but it has a 2600XT in it and tbh I feel its to week.. I have 2x 9800gx2 and two 5870 all 4 cards are fxf black edition.. will anny of them work or even sli/x-fire work?

  7. Just wanted to let you know that your information is a bit off concerning the Mac Pro 1,1 and 2,1 (2006 and 2007 models). I have both of these Mac pros and purchased the 5770 from Apple to upgrade the Mac Pro 1,1 and it worked great, in fact all 3 video ports work just fine and even supports the Eyefinity across all three monitors just fine in windows. I then went to order a second video card for the Mac Pro 2,1 so this time i got the 5870 and it also worked fine including all 3 video ports. I was curious so I swapped the 5770 from the Mac Pro 1,1 with the 5870 and it also worked just fine. I am not sure where you got the info that only the DVI port would work or that the 5870 does not work at all but they indeed work great.

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