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ATI X1900 G5 Edition


Radeon X1900 G5

Marketing...some products just aren’t ready for prime time, but their vendors are in need of revenue, so hapless buyers become the beta testers . Really cool graphics for adolescent males though—but perhaps ATI should spend less on sexual fantasy and more on SQE (software quality engineering).

A friend of mine purchased the $349 ATI Radeon X1900 G5 Edition twin dual-link PCI-Express card for PowerMac G5. He offered it to me free because waking the machine from overnight sleep results in a pull-the-power-plug hard reboot. Who wants to shut everything down every night? That’s the choice. (Sleeping the machine for a few minutes or even an hour or two seems to work fine).

His call to technical support somewhere 10 time zones away should be duly entertaining to Scott Adams (Dilbert) fans, resulting in the time-honored shift-the-blame response to “contact Apple Computer at https://www.apple.com”. Roughly translated, this means “We didn’t test it much since we mainly sell Windoze products, we just wanted to get it out the door quickly at low cost. Besides, good technical support and fixing bugs lowers our margins. That’s why our support link for the X1900 G5 takes you to the Windoze support page and we outsource technical support to indigent mango farmers in Asia! Anyway, it’s not our problem, so don’t call us back or we’ll insist that you reformat all your hard drives!”

My friend, powerless to argue, resolved his cognitive dissonance by concluding that perhaps it was in fact some weirdness with his particular PowerMac G5 Quad. I accepted his offer of the card, being suckered by the allure of a powerful video card for free.

Installing the card is just like working with Windoze on a PC, so if you’re a PC user you’ll find the following process quite comfortable.

First you extract the G5’s top fan module, then squeeze your hand into the space and plug in an auxiliary power cord, which connects to the card. This doesn’t bode well for extra heat inside the G5, which already supplies considerable power to its PCI-Express slots. Next, remove the existing video card and bolt in the X1900 (or install it into another slot). Reboot, and the screen comes up in low resolution mode, with the fan on the card going full blast. Next, install the driver software (which I predict won’t work quite right with the forthcoming Mac OS X 10.5). Reboot, and the fan quiets down to inaudible. Next, go to the ATI web site to discover that there is already a driver update—not a good sign (but remember, they need you for beta testing). Download and install it, then reboot again. PC users should be feeling pretty cozy about now Rearrange the menu bar on the desired screen, set your screen resolution and color profiles, etc.

The X1900 G5 seemed to work fine, but I did not assess its performance. I did note that waking up the machine from sleep mode caused the fan on the card to run at full speed for a short time—and it’s noisy, with a particularly annoying high-pitched whine, easily being heard above the G5 Quad itself—and mine has 8GB memory and five (5) internal hard drives, 3 of which partially block the CPU fans. My friend reports that actually using the video card intensively (say in Aperture) causes the fan to kick in. So when the card is actually being utilized, your ears are also (earplugs not included).

The next morning I woke my PowerMac G5 Quad up from sleep...except it didn’t wake up...the screens went blank and stayed that way. I pulled the power cord, and got out the screwdrivers...

In short, the X1900 G5 misbehaved in exactly the same way in my PowerMac G5 Quad as in my friend’s. If you’d like to purchase this well-tested X1900 G5, contact me via email, and I’ll forward your contact information to my friend.

PS: there is no “uninstall” for the X1900 G5 driver software—just locate the installer log, and it’s a piece of cake to use the unix command line to manually remove the driver files, being careful not to accidentally remove the drivers for your previous video card.

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