How long-term would a video card upgrade for my Mac Pro be?
September 24, 2011 7:21 AM   Subscribe

If I upgrade the video card in my Mac Pro to allow me to upgrade Final Cut Pro X, can I be confident that I will be able to continue using the software with this computer for the foreseeable future?

I was one of those people who managed to buy Final Cut Pro X and Motion 5 despite the fact that the video cards of my Macs weren't OpenCL (a 2008 MacBook and 2007 Mac Pro - I didn't realise it was a problem at the time). However, now the first upgrades have come out when I try to upgrade I'm told "Your computer's video card does not meet the minimum system requirements". This appears to have been a mistake of Apple's by allowing me to buy the software in the first place, but now it's done. I know about the workaround of downloading to a compatible Mac and copying the application file, but that's not relevant here as I don't have a currently compatible Mac. There's no hope for the MacBook, but I can upgrade the Mac Pro (2 x 3GHz Dual-Core Xeon with 11GB of 667 MHz RAM) to an ATI Radeon HD 5770 1GB Graphics card - which does have OpenCL and ought theoretically to allow me to upgrade FCP and Motion. Without any critique of Apple as a company, FCPX as professional video editing software or indeed any snark whatsoever:

1. If I buy and install the 5770, with how much confidence can I be sure that it will be recognised as compatible and that I will be able to upgrade the software?

2. Will this mean that I can be confident to follow the upgrade path of this major release of FCPX without needing to buy a new Mac (which I really can't afford)? I'm not necessarily keen on upgrading to Lion on this Mac right now, but that's a separate issue.
posted by Grangousier to Computers & Internet (6 answers total)
1) If the 5770 has Mac drivers, it's going to work. I am also semi-broke but I would be confident in buying in this case. I base this on my experience with CUDA programming and hardware, which is essentially the same as OpenCL. After a certain generation of cards, anything that says it'll support OpenCL will do so, at least ATI and NVIDIA can be counted on. ATI drivers are quite strong on Mac OS X. It's going to be OK.

2) I can't imagine that a recent-ish Xeon is going to be outdated in terms of the ability to run Final Cut Pro X or its descendants in any reasonable timeframe. There just aren't that many hardware revolutions in sight; Most of the fundamental changes are going on in mobile devices. Desktop stuff is going to be stable for a while. Worst case, you'll be looking at something on the scale of upgrading to an OpenCL 2.0 card in 3 years for $100. As a hypothetical worst case. Given what we know today.
posted by krilli at 7:50 AM on September 24, 2011

Even though Apple say that the newer mac 5770 is not compatible with the 2007 mac pro and may cause issues I would be confident that it nevertheless should work ok - looking around on forums and enthusiast sites everything I can find suggests that provided you get an apple branded / mac compatible verion of the 5770 it should work ok.
posted by Another Fine Product From The Nonsense Factory at 7:54 AM on September 24, 2011

As a further hint that the card is compatible with the machine, OWC/MacSales indicate that it is indeed compatible:
posted by krilli at 8:28 AM on September 24, 2011

With that much RAM (and you can add more) you'll be fine for quite a while. If you really want to make things snappy, add an SSD for your boot volume.

I would put the card in and save yourself lots of money.
posted by rockindata at 8:57 AM on September 24, 2011

If you can't get a working OpenCL setup, maybe you can ask for a refund? Apple was handing out refunds for FCP X at some point over the whole upgrade debacle.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:45 AM on September 24, 2011

For completion's sake: it all ended happily - got the card - goodness, it's quiet compared to the old one! - and installed the new FCPX. So I'm happy, but poorer, obviously. Thanks, everyone!
posted by Grangousier at 2:47 PM on October 24, 2011

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