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February 29, 2012

New NVIDIA drivers for Mac OS X Lion: results are in!

On Monday, the graphics card maker NVIDIA released new video drivers for Mac OS X Lion. These drivers enable Mac support for NVIDIA's newest GTX 500 cards, and also improve support for Hackintoshes that have two graphics cards.

You can download the drivers from here. They require Mac OS X Lion 10.7.3, though they will probably work with a faked system version. While these drivers were only designed for a few specific graphics cards, they should really work with just about any NVIDIA card. Interestingly, these drivers have a lower product number than the old NVIDIA Quadro drivers for Mac OS X, which will likely cause some confusion.

For those unfamiliar with the state of the graphics card compatibility on Hackintoshes, here's a quick recap on the situation with NVIDIA's new GTX 500 cards: Apple added some preliminary support for the 500 series in Mac OS X Lion, but the only way to enable graphics support was with some advanced kext editing. And even more kext editing was required if you wanted to optimize the cards for better power efficiency and performance.

Luckily, kext editing should no longer be necessary with these new NVIDIA drivers. If you're running Mac OS X Lion on a Hackintosh with a 500 series card, it's recommended that you update your drivers immediately.

The NVIDIA GTX 580 and GTX 590 are now fully supported, including setups with two graphics cards (of course, SLI still doesn't work, so double-card setups are still impractical for Mac OS X). There has yet to be confirmation for any other GTX 500 cards.

According to testimonials on tonymacx86, the GTX 580 and 590 are averaging about 35-50 FPS on Cinebench, a benchmarking app that tests OpenGL performance. These results are rather underwhelming, considering that the older GTX 460 scores almost identical results. Clearly, the GTX 500 series is still not fully optimized for Mac OS X; if you're looking to score a high-performance graphics card for your Hackintosh, you may as well buy an AMD Radeon 6870.

If your Hackintosh uses a GTX 400 series card, GTX 200 series card, or other older generation NVIDIA card, installing these new drivers is probably unnecessary. So far, the drivers don't seem to offer any noticeable improvements in performance for Hackintoshes that already had their graphics cards working beforehand. The only exception is if Youtube, Chrome, or Safari keeps crashing on your Hackintosh; these drivers should fix that problem.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the graphics card market, AMD's newest Radeon 6900 series of graphics cards still lack full support for Mac OS X. Netkas has made a lot of progress with the Radeon 6950 and 6970, but support for advanced features like OpenGL remains iffy.

SOURCE: NVIDIA | netkas | tonymacx86