The AMD FirePro D series in the 2013 Mac Pro. What is it exactly?

Please note that this procedure does not work with the AMD Catalyst 15.x drivers. You can find an updated guide here: Installing AMD Radeon drivers on a 2013 Mac Pro (updated for version 15.x)

Apple has fitted the 2013 Mac Pro with AMD Firepro graphics. You can choose between the FirePro D300, D500 and D700 in a dual-configuration. After searching around on the AMD website, I couldn’t find any reference at all. So it must be some kind of OEM solution. After receiving my Mac Pro with the FirePro D700, it was time to investigate.

I use a computer for both work and private needs. I require something powerful, small and usable. I prefer Mac OS X for most of my work, but I also like to play video games. Instead of buying a Mac Mini and a game machine, I decided to go for 1 system; the 2013 Mac Pro. Being a Mac Pro user for almost 5 years, there was almost no doubt in buying it.

This model is outfitted with dual AMD FirePro graphics cards. My Mac is outfitted with the high-end version, the FirePro D700 with 6 GB VRAM. I’ve made a dual boot between OS X 10.9 and Windows 8.1. The graphics drivers it came with, are the AMD FirePro drivers. Since these only include CrossFire profiles for professional software, I expected it to lack the game profiles you usually have in the Catalyst drivers. So I forced CrossFire to include games without a profile. As expected, it improved the performance on some games. Unfortunately it also caused performance issues with older games. For example, it had performance issues on Left 4 Dead 2 (an older game) while CrossFire was turned on.

My first step was to look for newer drivers. So I looked on the FirePro Control Panel into the Hardware section. The card was labelled as the “AMD FirePro D700 (FireGL V). Unfortunately I couldn’t select this on the AMD Drivers page (it showed FireGL V, but only with 4-digit numbers behind it). Luckily AMD has a detection tool that will recignize the graphics card, and download the appropriate drivers for it. After running the tool, it detected the card as “AMD Radeon R9 2xx”. That had to be wrong. But I let it download the Catalyst drivers and ran the installation. If it didn’t work, I could just reinstall the original drivers again.

I was appalled to see that the driver installation actually succeeded (the screen was flickering a couple of times, so the Catalyst driver was actually being loaded). After a reboot I went to device manager. It then showed the FirePro D700 cards as “AMD Radeon 7900 Series”.

Radeon 7900 Series

 

 

The Catalyst Control Center was not installed. Instead the FirePro Control Center was still there. The hardware section showed the same AMD Radeon HD 7900 series.

FirePro Control Center

My next step was trying some games. I could easily run all my games without issues and CrossFire Enabled. I could even run CoD Ghosts on these graphics settings:

CoD Ghosts settings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

These settings where suggested by the “AMD Gaming Evolved” application for the Radeon 7900 series in a dual-crossFire configuration. Configuring this in the game went well, so that means that the FirePro D700 with the Catalyst drivers would in fact be a Radeon 7900 (maybe 7970??) with twice the amount of VRAM. Would this indicate that the FirePro (Dxx series) are Radeon re-branded cards with some more RAM and higher clock speeds? I’m wondering where the much higher price ($450 vs. $1500) comes from.

In any case, if you have a Mac Pro 2013 model and would like to play video games on it for some reason, install Windows and the latest Catalyst drivers on it. Do note that if you run your professional applications on Windows, you’d better install a 2nd version alongside it. The FirePro drivers are still optimized for professional software, and the Catalyst drivers for games.

2 thoughts on “The AMD FirePro D series in the 2013 Mac Pro. What is it exactly?

  1. You chose a Mac with a non-Radeon/non-gaming workstation GPU for gaming. Honestly you would be better off just buying or building a mid range gaming PC just to save you the hassles that are sure to result from this choice.

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