ATI Radeon HD 5770 and the 1st Gen.(2006) Mac Pro

In 2006 I decided to finally leave the world of Windows and the PC and embarked on a whole new adventure: I purchased my first Mac and dove head first into Apple’s streamlined and simple OS. I purchased a 1st generation Mac Pro with its new Intel Processor inside. It’s a decision that I have not regretted at all. I was glad to be rid of the frequent blue screens of death, buggy programs, unexpected shutdowns, viruses, crashes, frozen screens, and a slew of other PC related problems. I’m a very competent and tech-savvy computer user, A+ trained and having attended several Microsoft Certified training programs so diagnosing and fixing these issues wasn’t a problem. I was just plain tired of periodically doing so.

There were several things that I did miss when I made the switch however: computer games were more prodigious on the PC (I miss my Flight Simulator), running several Windows-only software, and the ease of which I could swap out hardware. Boot camp solved the software issue to an extent. Machine virtualization is still far from perfect. As far as gaming goes, Macs will never best the PC as a solid gaming rig but companies at least are starting to ship more titles for the Mac OS (thanks to Steam and Blizzard among others). I do all of my gaming on the Xbox or PS3 so that’s a moot point now. The hardware issue isn’t so bad. Since I purchased my Mac Pro, I have upgraded my monitor (sporting two LED LG monitors), added more RAM, installed three additional internal hard drives and two external drives and installed another DVD-ROM unit (with Lightscribe – which I don’t use at all). The video card is the only piece of hardware that proved to be frustratingly challenging (don’t get me started on the sound card).

Not only are video cards for the Mac expensive, but you have to get the right and precise one. Gone are the days when I could simply walk in to Best Buy (or go to a computer show) and simply look up the specs and get a video card. All I had to do was choose between ATI or Nvidia, between AGP, PCI, PCIe, or SLI cards (depending on my rig) and finally factor in the cost. I usually walked out with a great, affordable card with NO issues whatsoever once installed. Those were the good ol’ days.

Now I have only VERY limited choices if I wanted to upgrade my Mac Pro. As per Apple’s own site, these are my choices:

  • NVIDIA GeForce 7300 GT
  • ATI Radeon X1900 XT
  • NVIDIA Quadro FX 4500 (part number 630-7532 or 630-7895)
  • NVIDIA GeForce 8800 GT (part number 630-9492), offered as an upgrade kit.
    Note: The NVIDIA GeForce 8800 GT card requires at least Mac OS X v10.5.2 with the Leopard Graphics Update 1.0 or the computer may not start up properly.

That’s pretty much it. It’s a paltry selection indeed. When my original card started to die, I went ahead and purchased the upgrade option. Going directly to an Apple store was not in the cards for me. I was going to blow $300 or more for that piece of hardware. Instead I went online and was able to shave off a couple of pennies but it was still costly. Now I needed to do another upgrade but the choices that were left were very poor and outdated. These cards were beginning to show their age. I do a lot of video and photo editing and wanted the latest and greatest technology.

I went online and did my research. I searched through countless forums and read what other users were experiencing. I finally was able to find a card that most in the Mac community were happy with: the ATI Radeon HD 5770 video card. I even saw that many 1st gen. Mac Pro users were pretty happy with it. I was highly dubious of these accounts but many swore on this choice, stating how great the card was. I went online and found one on Amazon. I instantly purchased it for $246.99 (a whopping $2.01 cheaper than Apple). Still pricey but did I really have a choice? Interestingly enough, the PC version of the same card is $100 cheaper – so not right. If you’re adventurous enough, you can get the PC version and flash the card so it would work on the Mac but who wants to go through all that trouble? One wrong misstep and you can tragically ruin the card. Also, the cable isn’t included in the PC version.

The Apple logo made it all official for me!
The card and power cord were excellently packaged. I was just surprised how large this card is!

I got the card this afternoon and installed it immediately. It was a simple affair really. The only great concern I had was not being able to slide it in effortlessly into the slot. For a moment I thought that I would have to return the card. All I had to do was angle it correctly while inserting and it went in snugly. Upon power up, nothing happened. Both monitors were in power mode! I realized my very dumb mistake: I forgot to attach the included power cord to the card and motherboard. Removing the cables again and opening it up (this monster is heavy!) solved the problem.

Trouble spot here! Thinking it would simply slide in straight down, I encountered this problem.
To get the card in just right, you have to insert the side with the ports first and then angle it just right so that the long end slides right in.

So far everything’s working fine! The immediate thing I noticed is how quiet the card is! My previous card made such a loud noise due to the fan. This is whisper quiet – worth the price alone on this! I have DVI monitors so attaching one to the DVI port was not a problem. I had to rely on an adapter for the second one. Upon booting up, my secondary monitor went up with the grey apple logo in the center. The primary monitor was in sleep mode. Crap! I thought that there was something wrong with the connection so I switched mini display ports. The monitor came on. When I rebooted the machine, I experienced the same problem. It was then that I realized that this is just normal. I will always have the black screen on my primary monitor (the one with the adapter) upon boot up. Many users wrote about this in the forums so I guess this is normal for the card.

Please note that the card is a "double wide" with the video-out ports taking up one slot and the other taken up for the fan exhaust.

For those of you on the fence whether or not to get the 5770 card for your ver. 1,1 Mac, go ahead and do so. Just make sure that you’re running the latest version of your OS. I can’t confirm how it will perform on Snow Leopard (or even Leopard) but on Lion with version 10.7.2, it’s running smoothly.

Upgrading the video card on this venerable workhorse breathed new life into it. With this last hardware upgrade, I’m confident that I can throw everything at it and still produce stunning results for years to come.

19 thoughts on “ATI Radeon HD 5770 and the 1st Gen.(2006) Mac Pro

  1. Ach! I’m in the same predicament of needing to find a new graphics card for a first generation Mac Pro. I don’t understand your paragraph on primary monitor, secondary monitor, and black screen with your ATI Radeon HD 5770. I have one monitor: 2560×1600 pixels. Both the Dual Link DVI port and the Mini DisplayPorts should be able to drive 2560×1600. Yet is there no way I can see pre-boot information on my monitor with this graphics card? That would be make the Mac no fun, since I very frequently make choices among different boot volumes.

    Apple has posted a warning concerning one particular limitation of the HD 5770 on older Mac Pros: I think this is no problem.

    Are you 100% sure that your color profiles are working correctly while running OS Lion on the HD 5770 equipped early Mac Pro? I can explain the expected problem in detail.

    1. Hey Dennis, sorry for the late reply but I just noticed this comment. When I boot up, for a few seconds the screen is black but then the grey Apple logo appears. It’s perfectly normal and it doesn’t affect my computer usage at all. As far as my color profiles on my monitors, I believe they’re loaded and working correctly but I could be wrong. Unfortunately, this is an area that I’m not too knowledgeable in.

  2. You can flash the bios on some older ATI cards such as the 9800 Pro PC version and get it to work on a Mac. I wonder if this is possible with newer models such as the HD6870.

    1. I know about flashing the cards but this isn’t something that I’m whole comfortable with. Also, there was some sort of cable that needed to be purchased to connect directly to the Mac board after flashing the video card. That cable I heard was expensive. Don’t know why as it’s simply a power cable.

  3. Nando: “When I boot up, for a few seconds the screen is black but then the grey Apple logo appears. It’s perfectly normal and it doesn’t affect my computer usage at all.”

    I think the screen should be white, not black, most of the time before the grey Apple logo appears. The question is, will this graphics card let you see the preboot information for the old Mac Pro 1,1? For example, when you boot holding down the Alt key you should be shown the boot options. If you have two volumes with separate operating systems, are you offered the choice between the two? (If not, what is for me the greatest advantage of Mac OS is lost.)

  4. If I can’t install the Radeon HD 5770 (without losing pre-boot functionality) in my Mac Pro 1,1 I’ll have to spend about $5000 on a new Mac Pro (costs more in Europe).
    So Nando, what happens when your start up your computer while holding down the Alt key?

  5. there is absolutely no problem with this card, combined with holding ALTat the beginning of boot-process. Everything works as expected.
    Have had spickles on black screens, mostly in Windows though. Just marked the lower dvi frequency at digital screen options in Catalyst and spickles seem to have vanished.
    It’s the perfect upgrade. Lot of money though, but since it’s so quiet and fast it’s well worth it!

  6. SmokinX, are you using the HD5770 card in a MacPro 1,1? I found a video pro in Tucson with that card in that computer and he reported: “I did a test and it will not display a pre-boot. So I think if that’s what you need it to do, then you’ll need to look for a different card.” What’s what here?

    1. Hello Dennis, my apologies in responding to you so many months after your initial question. I simply missed your March comment!

      SmokinX is absolutely correct, there’s nothing wrong with this card at all. I have boot camp and switching from Windows to the Mac OS posses no problems at all. Yup, it’s expensive but it’s worth it.

  7. I noticed one person elsewhere say the 5770 upgrade for his Mac Pro 1,1 went fine for nearly all usage – but in FCPX the videos didn’t show up. Have you tried to use this with FCPX specifically?

      1. First time I’ve heard about this, Jacques. Like I said, I definitely have no issue with it and I’m totally happy with it. I can understand your apprehension however as these cards are definitely not cheap!

    1. Hello Jacques, yes, I’ve used FCP on my Mac with this card and to date have suffered no issue. I’ve also used a demo version of Adobe Premiere CS6 and not a single glitch whatsoever on that editor as well.

      1. Nando, since your and SmokinX’s pre-boot reports disagree with the Tuscon guy’s report there must be subtle differences among MacPro 1,1’s. Mine has firmware MP11.005C.B08 and 1.7f10, which all MacPro 1,1’s should now have.
        If the HD5770 card does present the pre-boot problem in mine, a solution might be to keep the old NVIDIA 7300GT — single slot, no power cable — graphics card in the MacPro and switch the monitor cable after pre-boot.
        Incidentally, if you startup with Command+S pressed do you get to “single user mode”: white text on black screen?

  8. Hello everyone, I’ve purchased the Ati Radeon 5770 and put in Slot 1 but for some reason it shows up as “ATI Radeon HD 5000” when I click on Apple Icon > About this Mac > More Info > System Report > Graphic Displays. I’m running on 10.7.5 (Mac Pro is from Early 2008). When I click on Software Update, I’m up to date with all software. Please note that I put the card in AFTER all my software was updated and I have yet to find anywhere for a Mac Driver for 5770. Apparently, it’s suppose to update the driver when it does it’s other updates but the card was put inside after all OS was updated. I’m stuck.

    Please advise

  9. I have the 2006 Mac Pro 10.6.8 and im running it off the standard graphics card and it is crazy slow! My main question is what card is the best for my mac model and what type would actually work. Im so confused on what card to get, but right now my best bet is the 5770. Please let me know if this card would be compatable with my computer. Thanks

    1. Hello Alex, I’m no Mac expert (and I left my PC building days behind) but this particular card has been working for me without a single problem. I searched for many days in various forums and then took the plunge crossing my figures as these cards are expensive! It worked for me and I have a 2006 first gen. Mac Pro. To be honest, I’m holding out for a major (crossing fingers) Mac Pro refresh come this fall from Apple. Hold off buying that card if you can and let’s see what the Cupertino kids whip up.

  10. I also have some other questions, how did you get your 2006 Mac Pro to 10.7.2 Also when I try and upgrade it to Mountain Lion on the app store it says something like “Your computer is not capable for this software” or something like that. Also, where did you get your graphics card (The ATI Raedeon that you have in your computer). Cheers/Users/ahneill8/Desktop/Screen shot 2013-04-29 at 8.24.50 PM.png

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