Adobe Premiere Pro CS6 includes a new technology called Mercury Playback Engine. The engine can use GPU processing on nVidia cards using CUDA architecture to accelerate renders. When perusing the list for compatible cards for Mac Pros, there’s only 3 cards listed. These cards are now a few years old, overpriced and are nowhere near as powerful as nVidia’s current cards. But it’s NOT TRUE that these are the only cards you can use in a Mac Pro. You can get other cards, but you need to do a bit of work and understand the differences:
– These 3 cards (GeForce GTX285, Quadro 4000, and Quadro FX 4800) will be recognized by OS X 10.7 or 10.8 and will have the correct drivers to run them. Other cards will require new drivers from nVidia. If you need to reinstall the OS or boot your computer from an OS X disc, it will kernel panic if it doesn’t have an Apple-blessed card in the computer. So if you buy a new card, keep your old one.
– You can’t use a PC card in a Mac to drive a monitor. It needs to be flashed for Mac specifically. User macvidcards on eBay is one of the only sources I know of. I’ve ordered a few cards from him and they’ve all worked great. A few things you need to know about his cards:
- In the pictures, you may see 4 ports on a card. On the GTX570, theres 2 DVI, 1 Displayport and 1 HDMI. With the Apple flash, you can only have 2 ports activated. Therefore, macvidcards sells 2 different versions of the GTX570: one with dual DVI outputs activated, and one with 1 DVI and 1 Displayport activated. Know what you’re buying beforehand. If you don’t have a 27″ Apple Display with miniDisplayPort, then get the dual DVI version as both of those DVI ports are dual link. If you need dual link on the Displayport port, you may need an active adapter.
- Because there’s only 1 Displayport port on the GTX570, you cannot run two 27″ Apple Displays off this card. I’ve only had one client where this was an issue, so we bought 27″ NEC displays with DVI instead of the Apple displays.
- nVidia re-brands their cards. So you might not get the exact card in the picture from macvidcards, but under the plastic, it’s all the same.
- The GTX570 is currently the fastest CUDA card you can buy for the Mac Pro that doesn’t require more power than the Mac Pro enclosure provides. If you buy a GTX580, or a 600-series card, you will need to either modify the current power supply, or use an external power supply. If you’re putting these cards in an external PCIe expansion box such as those by Cubix, you don’t have to worry about power.
- The listings will say the cards are “used”. In most cases they’re brand new cards, flashed by macvidcards, then placed in a generic box to be shipped to you. They’re listed as “used” because macvidcards modified them.
– nVidia has a few different card classes: GeForce, Tesla and Quadro. Personally, I don’t know the differences between them as it relates to performance in Premiere Pro and Resolve. The GeForce is the lowest cost line designed for gaming with excellent CUDA processing power, so most Premiere Pro and Resolve users will lean towards the GeForce cards. The GTX570 I own is a GeForce.
– Almost all of the nVidia cards take up 2 PCIe slots, except for the Quadro 4000, which is a huge plus for this card even though it’s old.
I hope this post clears up any confusion about the current CUDA cards available for CS6. I met someone this week that was excited about his “new” Quadro 4000 card and I felt bad that he didn’t know he could buy a more powerful card for a third of the price.
So I’m getting a LOT of feedback on this post. I’m also noticing in different forums a general confusion about GPU cards. I think I need to put together a GPU article…