RED’s Jarred Land: NVIDIA Driver Update Makes Older Mac Pros Fast Again

Image: Jarred Land, RED

By James DeRuvo (doddleNEWS)

How many of you bought the late-2013 Mac Pro, originally announced in June 2013 and released that December, and only now has been updated. In the meantime, Apple did something unprecedented and told a handful of journalists about their modular Mac Pro plans. Well, if you were one of those who kept your powder dry, NVIDIA is rewarding your patience with a new driver update that RED’s Jarred Land says could turn that old ‘cheese grater’ Mac Pro into the fastest Mac around.

“And just like that … Nvidia just released Mac drivers for all of its new cards, and instantly the old 2010 twelve-core Mac Pro Tower becomes the fastest, best Mac that you can no longer buy.” – Jarred Land, Facebook

Glad to hear that Land has found this out, and we talked about it back in 2015. But to be fair, a lot has happened since then and Land’s old 2010 MacPro isn’t your typical retail model. Providing a laundry list of special gear he’s put into his tower, Land showed how he upgraded “ole Bessie:” An NVIDIA GTX 1080-Ti card, an Internal RED Rocket-X GPU Accelerator, a StarTech USB-C 2.1 card, 40TB Internal Raid, and a beefy 128GB of Ram. All that gear makes Land’s classic rig a hot rod ready for the digital quarter mile. But still, its Xenon processors are seven years old, yet Land says it can blow any brand new Mac out of the water.

Not surprising if you consider that processor development has kind of peaked the last few years, with Intel and AMD focusing instead on building chips with multiple cores to handle the heavy duty processing power of gaming and video editing, rather than crashing past the current GHz plateau. With the GTX1080-Ti and RED’s Rocket X GPU, Land is able to have the more modern gear shoulder a lot of the heavy lifting with greater graphics processor power, and let the Xenon chips do what they do best, handle the computations for the rest of the Mac Pro.

“After my post last night I have had lots of emails and messages from people excited about reviving their cheese grater 2009-2012 old Mac Pros asking me for the model numbers of the bits and pieces that I used for my refresh.” – Land

Land’s Facebook post sent shockwaves among the REDheads and others who are itching for every ounce of processor power they can squeeze out of their Macs, and those who were left wanting more not only by Apple’s ‘Trash Can Mac,’ but the tease of a coming Modular Mac that Cupertino promises will overcome many of its flaws, and won’t be out until 2018 or evern 2019.

Instead of reaching for the carrot on the stick and buying a 5K iMac, they want to go the Jared Land method and blow the dust off their old Mac Towers. One even bragged that they hacked the boot EFI on his old 2006 model to support OS X’s latest 64-bit architecture. And that was the beauty of those old ‘cheese graters:’ They were highly upgradable, even going back to the G5 models released in 2003. Now being able to breathe new life into the Intel versions, and make them hot rods again, is instantly appealing.

First of all, if you don’t have an old Intel ‘Cheese Grater’ Mac Pro, you can always buy used or refurbished. OWC sells them, and a 2008 model starts at $299, while newer and beefier models can run up to $3500-plus. And we’ve heard local Mac stores do very well refurbishing and selling them. Don’t be surprised if the prices spike as enterprising editors, filmmakers and video professionals start buying available stock.

Image: Jarred Land, RED

Land goes on to tell us all we really need is an SSD ($540 for 1TB) & some next generation RAM from OWC (up to $550 to max it out), NVIDIA’s video card ( and the cables ) and a USB-C card.  That should get anyone needed started. He even provided links on Amazon to make it easier:

First comes the NVIDIA Titan-X ($699), or if you’re on a budget, the GTX 1080-ti. These higher end graphics cards can cost almost as much as a PC all by themselves, but Land says that running the 1080-ti gives you  a huge advantage when using CUDA. While the The Titan-X gives you an extra GB of memory and a few more CUDA cores, it’s also twice as much and harder to find. So going with the lower-end CUDA gives you the most bang for the buck.

Eyeboot PCIE Mini 6Piun to 8Pin Video Card Power Cables ($19.99) are necessary, since you can’t just plug and play here, as the GTX 1080i is going to need some extra power.

“You also need some power cables since the Mac Pro towers only have dual mini 6 pin to normal 6 pin VGA power cables,” Land says, meaning that power cable adapters will be required. “Eyeboot cables plug right in to the motherboard and is super clean and gives you an 8-pin on the other side.

Once installed, you can get latest Mac drivers from NVIDIA and before you take your card out, power down, swap out the video card and reboot. The drivers will read the new card and you’re ready to roll.

You’ll also need a Startech USB-C 3.1 Gen 2 card ($50). Land says that even though it claims Windows support only, there’s no need for drivers for OS X, which natively supports it.

“Adding USB-C to your tower is really, really great if you already have the new MacBook pro and have adapted a lot of your stuff over to USB-C, which the trash can can’t even pretend to accommodate,” Land says. “In my tests, transfer speeds average out between 800-900MB/s.” 

Grand total? About $2300. Land says you can stop there, if you want. But if you have your hands on their RED Rocket-X GPU Accelerator, it can give you some extra graphics punch. Land says it will require you’re having to sacrifice your DVD drive’s SATA power cable to run it, and you’ll have to get this CHIBI 8-Inch SATA 15-Pin to 6-Pin PCI Express Card Power Adapter Cable to power it. That’s another $20, and the Rocket-X will set you back another $7K.

So, clearly, going the speed shop method isn’t going to save you any money if you want to beef your old Mac Pro Tower like Land does. But you don’t have to go all-in, either. You can stop with just the video card upgrade and the USB-C and you’re back in business. But Land is a speed shop kinda guy. At some point it isn’t about the value of what you’re upgrading, it’s about what you’re going to end up with… a hot rod.

Land isn’t the first filmmaker to go backwards in order to move forward; check out Daniel Pasco’s 2009 CG Mac upgrade here. He’s vowed to ditch his 5K iMac for his film and VR projects and never look back.

About James DeRuvo 801 Articles
Editor in Chief at doddleNEWS. James has been a writer and editor at doddleNEWS for nearly a decade. As a producer/director/writer James won a Telly Award in 2005 for his Short Film "Searching for Inspiration. James is a recovering talk show producer from KABC in Los Angeles, and a weekly guest on the Digital Production Buzz with Larry Jordan.

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