Monday, December 6, 2010

Graphics Card Support and Mac OS X

The issue with graphics cards in OS X is that there are what is called a "Reference Design" which is based on what ATI/AMD or NVIDIA provides to manufactures for a baseline hardware design. Then there is what cards manufacturers ship, either a "Reference Design" or their own unique spin on that hardware. They do this unique spin to set their card part from the "Reference Design" cards. That is fine in Windows, but can create problems in OS X. Apple typically uses a "Reference Design" or very close to one in their graphics cards.

So where am I going with this. Apple ships and supports a limited set of ATI/AMD "Reference Design" cards in OS X, they do not provide support for all models or any major variations from the "Reference Design". The reason being that the ATI/AMD architecture requires specific model driver support. For example in 10.6 Apple only supports some 46xx and 48xx cards, there is no OOB support for the 45xx cards. So that is why you see patches and/or modifications for Apple's drivers to support some of these other cards.

The ATI/AMD 5xxx cards are finally easier to install. This has more to do with the GraphicsEnabler technology used within Hackintoshing, Kabyl's boot loader and ATY_Init. Even then you are limited to what cards are supported Out Of BOX (OOB) by Apple. For example the following are the only desktop ATI 5xxx cards Apple supports OOB:

ATI Radeon HD 5800 Series:        Device ID 0x6898
ATI Radeon HD 5800 Series:        Device ID 0x6899
ATI Radeon HD 5700 Series:        Device ID 0x68B8
ATI Radeon HD 5600 Series:        Device ID 0x68D8
ATI Radeon HD 5500 Series:        Device ID 0x68D9

If your card's device id is not in this list, then you need to add your device ID to ATI5000Controller.kext and possibly ATIRadeonX3000.kext. This is great workaround but will be needed to be done after each and any Apple software update that touches the ATI drivers. Ouch.

NVIDIA cards use a different architecture and allows for a more generic driver than can support more models and variations. The new 4xx cards are based on a new architecture nicknamed "Fermi" and require new drivers.  Check out this article on Tony's blog for our solutions for NVIDIA 4xx cards.

So until Apple ships support for more cards or allows AMD and NVIDIA to ship generic drivers, graphics card support is a challenge.


nonen said...

Thanks for this great article. Do you know if the Sapphire 5770 (vapor-X) matches one of these Device IDs? Is there an easy way to check?

The sapphire is listed in the Graphics Card DB on the wiki, but there's no mention of if it's "supported OOB by Apple".

Thanks for an incredible site and resource. Your work is hugely appreciated!

Anonymous said...

I wish I had known about the reference design/manufacturer design issue earlier. Still, I'm sure people will find this information useful.

longtom said...

Saphire 5770 Vapor-X is supported OOB (0x68B8)

Lnx2Mac said...

As usual, great article !

Jakub Kusiewicz said...

Sapphire 5770 VAPORX even work in 64bit mode :)

Anonymous said...

So I know this is gonna sound noobish as hell, but this mean with a new update from Apple, a HD 5770 will work as soon as I update it to 10.6.5

Odinian said...

Anonymous: I have a 5770 and it works now. I'm running 10.6.4

Anonymous said...

@Odinian: Alrighty, so If I do a Combo Update with iBoot+Multibeast I should be right 'eh? I assume thats how your install occured?

Anonymous said...

So does the sapphire 5570 have this device ID? will it work tryin to install multibeast/iboot on it?

Anonymous said...

I just ordered a "GIGABYTE GV-R567OC-1GI Rev2.0 Radeon HD 5670 1GB" before I read this. I wonder if the video card bios could be modified to the reference id, via hex editor?
Thanks for the insight.

Anonymous said...

Someone have a working solution for the HD5830???? Do not get it working with QE/CI.

Anonymous said...

Hi. Does it support ATI Mobility Radeon 5650?

Oscar said...

How can I get a Sapphire 5670 to work?

Anonymous said...


after completing the installation as written in your tutorial
I start with the Multibeast installed and apparently does not support my monitor resolution Multibeast
fan video card starts to run very fast and makes a loud sound

As I can change the resolution settings multibeast or if another problem please let me know ...thanks.

Core i3-540 3.06
Gigabyte ga-p55-usb3 Rev 2.0 - F8
Seagate 80gb SATA
RAM 4GB KingStone
XFX ATI Radeon HD 5670

Anonymous said...

Please help with ati mobility 5650 1 Gb (Core i5 460m). Nice laptop: Hp dv6 3123er !!!

laptop video card repair said...

Thanks for sharing the useful information with us.

saquibweb said...

I did tried it but its not working. My Graphic Card is ATI Radeon HD 5500 Series but Device ID is different 0x68DA.

I tried it five times with fresh installation but no progress same 1024x768 res.

My system configuration is
Intel Core2Duo 2.4 Ghz.

I take following steps
1 - Install Fresh IATKOS S3 V2, with 32Bit and in Graphics enabler I select ATI_init.
2 - Update it to 10.6.6 using Combo update from apple
3 - Copy Kabyl's boot file in root
4 - Place my ROM image with name 1002_68da_14622154.rom in /Extras
5 - added device id (0X68da) in ATI5000Controller.kext and in ATIRadeonX3000.kext at next try.

But it's not working.

Please help me is there any way to make it work.

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