Building a PowerMac Media Center Part 2: Readying for a Video Card

by Tanner Godarzi Dec 07, 2007

One of the most fundamental blocks in a Media Center is the video card, and a poor choice can cause loss in quality and performance, forcing your Mac to bear too much of the burden. In part 2 of building a Mac Media Center, I’ll discuss which cards from Nvidia and ATi are the best bang for the buck.

The thing with HD playback is that the CPU does a lot of the crunching with only so much being offloaded to the GPU itself. This allows you to splurge more on a faster CPU over a video card. However, not any bargain bin card will suffice since the GPU does play a part in HD playback as well.

The only kind of card you will be able to use is one with an AGP card since the power we need cannot be had in PCI form. That leaves us with offerings from either ATi or Nvidia, but the latter’s support for Macs is either lacking or nonexistent. That puts us in a tough position if you are hunting for an Nvidia card since the company only released select cards for the Mac platform. To get a good bargain and compatibility, an older card is needed. Don’t forget that these PowerMacs are limited by what kind of Bus they use. Today’s graphics cards employ PCI-E, surpassing the speeds of AGP by a massive margin; knowing this, we are limited to what was dominant during the era of AGP.

However, you might run into a few snags. Before AGP 8X, Apple used pins 3 and 11 to run the power through an ADC connector on the card. Once 8x rolled around, these pins were utilized, so if such a card was used in a Mac that supports the full ADC spec, you run into problems. The only thing to do is to disable those pins, which is quite easy if you are using an 8x card in an older 4/2x PowerMac.

However, I would like to apologize as this section was supposed to be reserved for a video card shoot out to test which older cards would be optimal in an older PowerMac, but due to a shipping fiasco, I do not have my other test card. With that said, it will be pushed back until next week or I make some very vague assumptions.


  • This reminds me of the old joke:
    What’s the best way to accelerate a Mac?

    At 9.8 m/s^2.

    simo66 had this to say on Dec 07, 2007 Posts: 78
  • I’m glad you’re still planning to run this segment with the various video cards - I’m very interested, as I’ve got an old AGP 500 MHz machine sitting around.

    For my part, I upgraded the original Rage Pro card with the ATI ‘original radeon’ card - the radeon that was sold retail before they were put in the power macs.  It drives a nice big monitor on DVI and supports quartz extreme, but has a very noisy fan and actually feels a bit slower than the Rage Pro for video playback.

    I’m eager to see what you come up with.

    SpinUp had this to say on Dec 08, 2007 Posts: 1
  • @SpinUp, I will be comparing three setups: a 1.25 GHz Mac Mini with an ATi Radeon 9200, a PowerBook G4 1.5 GHz with an ATi Radeon 9700 and this PowerMac with a hacked nVidia Geforce 6200. NVidia only released the higher end 6 series for the PowerMac G5 so you’ll have to load a Mac compatible firmware. The great thing is, it’s fanless and works great in a G4 Cube. Essentially, it’ll be noiseless which I am very eager to try this out, just have to wait for it to arrive.

    Tanner Godarzi had this to say on Dec 08, 2007 Posts: 70
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