Apple on Tuesday quietly added a new build-to-order option for its line of Power Mac G5 desktop computers — the ATI Radeon X850 XT graphics card. The option adds US$400 onto the cost of a Power Mac G5, unless it’s the high-end system clocked at 2.7GHz — that system comes equipped with a slightly different graphics card, so it only costs US$350 to upgrade.
ATI sells the Radeon X800 XT Mac Edition card as a retail option for existing Power Mac G5s for a suggested retail price of US$499. The card first came out in early January, 2005 and is available from retailers for less than the suggested price.
This is the first time the X800 series has been available as an Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) option, however — up until now, users who wanted a high-performance graphics card to ship with their Mac were limited to ATI’s slower Radeon 9800, which is no longer available as a build-to-order option, or an Nvidia GeForce 6800 GT-based card, which remains an option.
Like the retail X800 XT card, the X850 XT features one dual-link Digital Visual Interface (DVI) and one Apple Display Connector (ADC) port, along with 256MB VRAM. This means the card can drive one new Apple Cinema Display, including the 30-inch Cinema HD Display, and one older one that uses the ADC interface.
Users who want to connect two 30-inch Cinema HD Displays will still need to opt for the Nvidia GeForce 6800 GT card. That card occupies two card slots, however, while the Radeon X850 XT only uses one slot.
The X800 and X850 XT models tout identical feature sets — the same pixel and vertex shading functions, anti-aliasing and anisotropic filtering capabilities. The X850 XT made available for the PC features slightly faster RAM and a slightly faster engine clock, so it yields moderately higher performance than the X800 XT for the PC: A pixel fillrate of 8.32 gigapixels per second and a geometry rate of 780 million triangles per second, compared to 8 gigapixels and 750 million triangles. It is unknown as MacCentral posted this article how the Mac version of the X850 XT differs from its PC counterpart.
Updated 10:25 PM 06/28/05: Added VRAM spec and PC-related performance info.