As a 3D accelerated GPU, the GeForce 8800 GT looks like a great addition to the 'early 2008' Mac Pro. It's significantly faster than the two Radeon options and at $200 CTO, it's a no-brainer.
The advantage should also apply to pro 3D apps that use 3D OpenGL code for animation.
However, it's a different story with 'pro apps' that use Core Image effects. For that info, we refer you to our expanded page with Motion 3 and iMaginator test results.
PROBLEMS WITH DVI-2 PORT
Two of my 'remote mad scientists' reported either slowness or errors when they used the DVI-2 port on the GeForce 8800 GT. Hopefully this and the Core Image performance will be addressed with a future driver or firmware update.
As you probably know by now, a collective groan was uttered by many of the 2006/2007 Mac Pro owners when they learned that the GeForce 8800 GT kit for the 2008 Mac Pro was NOT compatible with the older Mac Pros. As of April 15th, 2008, Apple started shipping the 'legacy' version of the GeForce 8800 GT in a kit form for 2006/2007 Mac Pro owners. When you visit the Apple Store USA, click on 'Displays' in the left column and look for the Geforce 8800 GT labeled '1st Generation.' Let me remind you that our testing has shown this to be a strong 3D OpenGL gaming card but a weak Pro App card (Motion, Aperture, FCP). We believe a Mac OS X compatible Radeon HD 3870 would perform better for Pro Apps. We are urging ATI/AMD to release such a card and will alert you if and when that happens.
MAKING THE RADEON X1900 XT WORK
Some reports have come in that the Radeon X1900 XT does not work on their '2008' Mac Pro. We have had no problems running it in our 2008 Mac Pro 3.2GHz. We asked ATI about this issue. They suggest performing the firmware update on the Radeon X1900 XT while it is installed in a 2006 or 2007 Mac Pro. Then moving it to the 2008 Mac Pro.
NOTE: We can NOT get the Radeon X1900 XT to boot Vista 64 from our Boot Camp partition. We are forced to use the Radeon HD 2600 XT (or GeForce 8800 GT) for that purpose.
THE ELEPHANT IN THE CORNER
We are not ignoring the Quadro FX 5600 (which is not available in kit form -- and we could not afford if it was). It is a pricey ($2850) CTO option that is not significantly faster than the GeForce 8800 GT for 90% of graphics intensive applications.
However, the Quadro FX 5600 does feature more video memory than the GeForce 8800 GT (1.5GB vs 512MB). And, according to one Maya guru, the extra memory (and superior memory management code) of the Quadro workstation cards becomes useful for frame buffering in apps like Maya. This is especially true for redraw of multiple views of the same complex 3D model.
This has been enhanced further by Quadro FX 5600's new integrated memory allocation which allows the card to dynamically allocate on-board RAM to whatever task is at hand rather than have specific hard wired allocations. So rather than say a maximum of 40% of total on-board RAM dedicated to the texture buffer the card can ramp up and down from 80% sharing with the immediate needs of the other buffers.
As of February 29th, we have a Quadro FX 5600 in the lab, thanks to our friends at AppleMacanix. Just for fun, we will test it using our 3D Game suite and add it to the graphs above on March 3rd.
SPECIAL THANKS TO REMOTE MAD SCIENTISTS who provided us with early GeForce 8800 GT results. The numbers above now reflect our own testing.
Thanks toEric W. for his UT2004, Halo, Quake 4, and Doom 3 results.
Thanks to David McNett for his Prey and Motion results..
Thanks to Chris Rhoads of SarahRhoadsPhoto.com for his World of Warcraft results.
Bare Feats' reveals a weakness in the GeForce 8800 GT with the results from 15 Motion 3 template RAM Previews.
Bare Feats' CPU crunch tests on the 3.2GHz Harpertown Mac Pro versus others.
Bare Feats' advice on which Mac Pro graphics card to buy.
Bare Feats' memory speed and heat tests on the 3.2GHz Harpertown Mac Pro.
Bare Feats' power usage and noise level testing on the 3.2GHz Harpertown Mac Pro vs the 3.0GHz Clovertown Mac Pro.