Upgrading the GPU in your pre-2013 Mac Pro: Is it worth it?

“As computer components get faster and more powerful, you may find yourself wondering if your once top-of-the-line Mac Pro can be king again with a little help from a hardware component upgrade,” Anthony Casella writes for iMore.

“I decided to take an early 2009 Mac Pro and see if a GPU upgrade could bring this once beastly computer back to being on top once more,” Casella writes. “My inspiration came from NVIDIA’s announcement for Mac support for their latest and greatest GPU lineup. The 10xx series, with the uber powerful Titan Xp as its flagship, is the fastest gaming GPU on the market today.”

“Although the Mac Pro has 2 old but venerable 2.26GHz Quad-Core Intel Xeon 5500 series processors, I figured that even if they weren’t powerful enough to keep the 1080 ti fed with data, the 8 cores could make up for some of the performance deficiencies,” Casella writes. “More on that later.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: An intersting test. We won’t tip the outcome, but you might be able to guess what happened.


  1. Well, I’ve got a 2009 2 CPU Mac Pro running at 2.66GHz. His machine is slower, and he only has 12GB RAM, which I found, early on, it way too low. He’s likely running into RAM shortages.

    But, I just bought, from a Mac vendor on eBay, a 2012 2 CPU Westmore model running at 3.47GHz with 64GB RAM. This runs 10.12 directly, and will run this year’s yograde, and maybe next year’s as well. It’s MUCH faster than my 2009 model.

    I posted at the end of the article.

    1. I also posted my experiences, though I went with a single hexacore Westmere and a 970 GPU.

      IMHO this is a great upgrade if you want to keep your expandability…

  2. Absolutely not. If you need maximum GPU power, you are further ahead to upgrade the 2010-2012 Mac Pro.

    Use the 2013 Mac Pro as a home server, photo editing computer, etc. Which is what it was from the beginning — a very expensive home desktop computer optimized for dual displays instead of maximum flexibility and futureproofing.

    1. Well an edit function here would help.

      YES – an upgrade to a 2010-2012 Mac Pro makes sense if you need ultimate GPU power for your work. It will tide you over until Apple gets its thumb removed from its derriere and shows us an all new workstation.

      As Mel says above, you are better off replacing a pre-2010 Mac Pro.

      If you are an amateur, do whatever you want. Apple’s current one-size-fits-all sealed boxes on sale now are all amateur hour gear that costs more and runs slower than the equivalent PCs. Sad but true.

      1. You can flash the EFI on a 2009 Mac Pro to make it, for all practical purposes, a 2010 Mac Pro. Then you can upgrade the CPUs. Then you can upgrade the GPUs.

        You’re still suck with old, slow RAM. You’re still stuck with old, slow PCIe slots. You’re still stuck with old, slow SATA HDD slots.

        Throw in a PCIe based SSD and max out the RAM and most of those apparent bottlenecks all but go away.

        But, if you’re bottleneck is either the CPUs or the GPUs then you’re set with a much less expensive machine (about $400 or less person-to-person or less than $800 refurbished from a dealer with a 90 day warrantee).

  3. You can buy an H-P workstation with a 2GB NVIDIA GPU, 32GB Ram and an Xeon Quad Core for less than a maxed out Mac mini running a dual core CPU with Vampire Video.
    It is Hackintosh time.

    Hackintosh or New Macintosh Pro. It is your call Tim.
    I am not buying another sealed up throwaway box.

  4. Sorry but guy doesn’t seem to know what he’s doing.
    says he can’t get enough power for example…


    250 w card.
    I have 980 ti installed which also needs 250W working flawlessly on a Cheese Grater

    here’s how I did it:

    Card has one 6 pin and one 8 pin connector.

    Here is where power comes from:

    PCI slot : 75 W

    from the two PCI extra power connectors each 75 W I connected BOTH outlets via dual to single 8 pin for the card. = 150 W

    Total = 225W

    Then I connected another wire form the SATA drive (there are several drive bays in the Mac) to the 6 pin (via SATA to 6 pin) which will put me over the 250 W needed.

    (I’ve not installed a 1080 but the article so I don’t know what the specific issues i.e Drivers are but the power consumption seems ok if he got the extra juice from either the SATA or the OPTICAL drive bays)

    As for SPEED:
    He says “the other components being so weak make this a moot point. ” maybe I don’t know the exact specs for his Mac but…

    For the GTX 980 ti:
    Barefeats.com Jan 2016
    (this are not clear cut tests but the games stress the GPU)

    Cheese Grater 2010 MP 6 Core with 980 ti Card VS highest end Cylinder D700 8 Core.
    (note the new cylinder has more cores than the Cheeser)

    Tomb Raider :
    Cheese Grater with 980 ti : 96 fps
    D700 : 49 fps

    Diablo III :
    CGMP 980 ti : 181 fps
    D700 : 73 fps
    iMac 5K 75 fps

    181 vs 73 means near THREE times the GPU performance.

    I even took out the 4 core processor in the Cheese Grater and put in a newer 6 Core.
    (note I’m just a guy on the internet, I got two Cheese Graters upgraded and to work but do your own research before following my methods fiddling with your machines… 🙂 )

    1. There are also kits out there (or you can rig something up yourself) to get power from the second optical drive slot. Often that is an easier, more elegant solution.

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