Building Your PowerMac Media Center Part 3: The Powerhouse that Is the GeForce

by Tanner Godarzi Dec 21, 2007

Detailed in my previous postings, the video card is one of the core elements in creating a Media Center. Having one that isn’t up to snuff is a downright horror, one that no one should have to experience, from stuttering playback to limited resolutions. However, you don’t need to break the bank to enjoy a high def experience.

The Power Of The GeForce

The PowerMac G4 is limited to older cards using an AGP connection and hindered by the lack of Mac compatible drivers. However, we don’t need a high falutin’ video card that can push all them polygons in the 3 dimensions.

Instead we turn to nVidia’s GeForce 6XXX series. You’re probably wondering how we can get an nVidia GeForce in a PowerMac since the only cards released were made for the PowerMac G5 and eventually PCI-E only. Obviously you can go the ATi route, but cards from this era couldn’t hold a candle to nVidia, at least in our price range. From there you’ll have to get a GeForce hacked. Hacked meaning this video card has been flashed with Mac compatible Firmware, as the 6XXX series (save for the GeForce 6600) is PC only.

But for relatively cheap (100-150 dollar range), you can pick up a hacked nVidia GeForce 6200, which is sufficient for video playback.

Video Playback

I can gloat about this card all I want but there are a few caveats that affect the overall performance of your Media Center. Apple has high specs for HD playback, putting some configs out of a friendly budget territory.

The only hindrance here is the processor. The video card plays back SD content (H.264 compression) at 1280 x 720P as good as the Apple TV can. The same can be said for other HD files such as Diggnation.

The only problem I have experienced is playing Apple HD trailers at 720P (1080P is beyond the scope of this article due to lack of content and hardware constraints). Playback was laggy and the only thing this PowerMac fails at is the needed G5 1.8 GHz processor as this setup has a G4 at the same clock speed. Trailer playback is phenomenal in Frontrow.

Cooling And Other Problems

One thing I despise about modern day video cards is the growing trend of large heatsinks taking up more space as GPUs become faster. Instead of reducing power constraints and heat output, manufacturers focus on cramming as much speed as possible to push more frames than their competitors.

The GeForce 6200 does away with that and is completely fanless and sports a small heatsink. Other versions add a fan but reduce the heatsink size. And yes, the cooling is adequate, the video card’s heatsink faces the internal fan. The airflow can reach the processor heatsink as well.

But there is a problem which I have yet to find a solution for. When booting up to 10.5.1, the startup screen hangs a few seconds after the Apple logo appears and takes a full minute before reaching the login window. It doesn’t appear to be a delayed reaction in adjusting the resolution, but rather the OS hangs at the same point every time it starts up.

If you have a possible fix, please post a comment.


  • are these “flashed” pc cards more desirable to the real mac editions (as regards a sawtooth agp)? btw, i think you meant refer to the 6200 series, & not the 6600 (DOH!).


    muddy had this to say on Dec 26, 2007 Posts: 1
  • @Muddy, these flashed cards are the alternatives some people have to get a more powerful card. The only Mac editions I’ve seen are usually in the ATi Radeon line, as they have far better support Macs than Nvidia.

    The reason I went with a flashed card was price. I figured an ATi 9800 would be the bare minimum for what I needed and I did not want to splurge. I checked what nVidia had to offer and the only cards available were the GeForce 6600 and the GeForce 7300/7600. However, the PC versions of the 6XXX and 7XXX series were either far cheaper than what I needed from an ATi Radeon or offered far greater performance at a similar price point.

    Hence my decision for the flashed GeForce 6200. It’s a PC only card but the Firmware can be flashed to be Mac compatible. Not every card can be flashed and it’s a real shame, the only thing holding back a GeForce 8800 from a Mac Pro is Firmware and Drivers.

    So to answer your question: Often times they are desirable when no Mac version of that card exists. My reference to the 6600 was to show that it was the only card of that series to be Mac compatible with no modding whatsoever.

    Tanner Godarzi had this to say on Dec 27, 2007 Posts: 70
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