Mac Musings

The Aperture 1.1 Update Fiasco: Stock Power Mac G5 Dual and Quad Video No Longer Supported

Daniel Knight - 2006.05.18, updated

Apple makes great computers, a great operating system, some pretty great software, and some pretty serious blunders.

One of their latest "greats" is Aperture 1.1, which takes a powerful (albeit sluggish) program and really improves performance. Aperture 1.0 had some fairly steep requirements: a 1.8 GHz or faster G5, OS X 10.4.6 or later, at least 1 GB of system RAM, a 1280 x 854 or higher resolution display, 5 GB of hard drive space, and one of over a dozen supported graphics cards.

Aperture 1.1 adds Core Duo support, but Apple no longer recommends the Nvidia 6600 and 6600 LE graphics cards - and that has a lot of Power Mac G5 Dual and Quad owners up in arms.

I didn't think much of it at first, because I don't use Aperture or pay close attention to which video cards come with which Power Macs and what's available on the replacement market. But now I understand the problem.

Instant Obsolescence

If you'd bought a Power Mac G5 Dual or Quad from Apple with Aperture 1.0, at least 1 GB of RAM, and the stock video card, you'd have a recommended configuration - but not with the 1.1 update.

The normal configuration of Apple's three current Power Mac models includes Nvidia GeForce 6600 graphics, the original version of Aperture supported it, but with the update it's no longer recommended.

Oh, and did I mention that Apple doesn't sell PCI Express video cards separately, nor are they being sold separately by other vendors, so these G5 Dual and G5 Quad owners have no way to obtain a recommended card other than buying a new Power Mac?

Very simply put, there's something wrong with that picture, and Aperture users are up in arms and complaining to Apple.

I don't know the ins and outs of how Aperture works and how much work it offloads to the graphics processor on the video card. I'd assume most of the heavy lifting is done by the dual-core G5 CPUs in the latest Power Macs. So it shouldn't be necessary to have a better video card than the one that ships with the computer - and the slower Aperture 1.0 worked decently with GeForce 6600 graphics. [Doing follow-up research, it appears that the video card does make a big difference.]

The Simple Solution

As I see it, Apple has two options here. And considering these users are running Apple's current high-end workstations, I think they had better pick one or the other quickly to avoid alienating the end of the market that buys the models that give Apple the best profit.

Apple already sells the Nvidia GeForce 7800 GT and Quadro FX 4500 PCIe graphics cards as build-to-order options for the current Power Macs. All they have to do is offer them for sale separately. And if they really want to save face, offer a $50-200 credit for returning their 6600 and 6600 LE cards - and the inconvenience Apple has caused.

The second option is to improve the GeForce 6600 drivers so Aperture 1.1 can run better on the current Power Mac's stock video card. And perhaps issue a statement explaining why the GeForce 6600 cards are no longer recommended.

In the best of all possible worlds, Apple would improve Nvidia 6600 support, sell the more powerful PCIe video cards separately, and offer a trade-up or "we screwed up" credit.

The ball is in Apple's court. They've blundered seriously on this one, and now they have the chance to redeem themselves by doing right by their biggest spending customers.