Good (used) video card for a 733ghz Mac
May 10, 2005 10:18 AM   Subscribe

My 733ghz G4 mac with a GeForce2 MX videocard no longer seems like the top-of-the-line powerhouse it was back in '01, but I'd like to squeeze another year or two out of it by upgrading the video card (I've already added a bunch more RAM). I don't expect to run Doom 3, but I'd love to have better performance when using Final Cut Pro or playing No One Lives Forever 2. Since I'm hoping to upgrade to a new computer in a year or two, I don't want to spend a lot of money on a video card now. Ideally, I'd spend less than $50 on eBay and buy a used one--after all, a two-year-old card is still many several generations ahead of the one I've got! Alas, I know nothing about graphics cards and I'm overwhelmed by all the possibilities. What do I need to know, and what older cards would you good folks recommend?
posted by yankeefog to Computers & Internet (8 answers total)
"Many several generations" should be "several generations," of course. Looks like I need to upgrade my brain's spelling card while I'm at it.
posted by yankeefog at 10:24 AM on May 10, 2005

By "a bunch more" RAM, you mean at least 512-1GB in total, right? If not, there's still performance gains to be had there.

Beware when buying graphics cards for Macs. They tend to have different firmware, so a cheap PC one might not do the trick. And don't stray from GeForce or ATI whatever you do.
posted by wackybrit at 10:30 AM on May 10, 2005

Hi, I worked on NOLF2 for Mac. You can buy a new video card but you'd still have a rough time running NOLF2 with a slower CPU. Certainly a Radeon 9x00 (where x is probably a 0, 2, or 7) would improve the performance, but there are still going to be main memory bandwidth issues. I'd imagine the same thing would be true of FCP. Still, if you can't upgrade for a while, I'm sure you could get one of those Radeons and be better off than where you are now.
posted by thethirdman at 10:42 AM on May 10, 2005

Check low end mac. When I wanted to upgrade the video for my G4/400 I looked up my machine and they had a long article with great recommendations for video cards. (I bought a radeon 8500 mac edition form ebay ~6 months ago for around $90) They are a great resource for questions like this.
posted by lovejones at 10:47 AM on May 10, 2005

If you want to get Tiger and take advantage of the speed of Quartz 2D Extreme (not to be confused with Jaguar/Panther's Quartz Extreme), a decent older card to get is a GeForce FX 5200 Ultra. ATI's Radeon 9600 on up are better, but may run you more money. Remember that any card you get must be made for a Mac -- PC graphics cards won't work unless you use a complicated hack.
posted by zsazsa at 10:53 AM on May 10, 2005

Wackybrit: Yup, I've got 1.2 gigabyte RAM.

TheThirdMan: First off, kudos to you and your coworkers on a fantastic game. It actually runs decently on my 733 G4, although I have to turn down a lot of the effects. I'm hoping for a graphics card that will (for example) let me turn on the environmental effects and see snow in the Siberia levels at the beginning and still get a decent frame rate. Is that unrealistic?

Thanks, all, for the tips--keep 'em coming!
posted by yankeefog at 3:22 PM on May 10, 2005

You can do alot with that machine - and possibly offload some of the work to a video card that supports open GL in hardware (128mbs ram).

But the one killer software item in there is FCP. I might play an FCP expert in real life.

FCP 4 strains it. FCP 5 is going to kill that machine. So does Motion. You could put a better video card...but scratch that...the FCP 5 studio requires :

Macintosh computer with a PowerPC G4 (867MHz or faster) or G5 processor; HD features require 1GHz or faster single or dual processor; authoring of HD DVDs requires a PowerPC G5 processor.

FCP5 specs

What would I do, if that had to be my production system?

I'd use FCP4 as primarily a cutting machine (or even FCP 3). I'd only add dissolves at the very end of my workflow.
posted by filmgeek at 4:49 PM on May 10, 2005

Filmgeek, thanks for the help. One note: the requirements you list are for FCP Studio, which includes Motion 2, which has pretty high demands. The tech specs for Final Cut Pro 5 itself indicate that it'll work with my system (as long as I don't want to edit HD).

Based on the advice and resources you guys have provided, it looks like I'll probably get a GeForce FX 5200, although if I get a good bargain on a Radeon 9200 on eBay, I might get that instead.
posted by yankeefog at 4:02 AM on May 11, 2005

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