I own a 2008 Mac Pro.  It runs a ATI Radeon 3870 video card I installed sometime after I purchased the machine.  I felt the video card was getting a bit long in the tooth, so when Apple released the Radeon 5770 and 5870 video cards, I thought salvation had arrived.  Much to my chagrin, as you know if you read my previous blog post, I found consumer hell instead.  The 5770 card sold to me by Apple appears to be defective, and because I dared use it in anything but a mid-2010 Mac Pro that was “required” (even though Apple sold me the card and continues to tacitly approval the sale of them to other Mac Pro owners), Apple is refusing to do anything about it.

That has, of course made me start looking at whether, for the first time in the almost ten years since I switched to the Mac, third-party video products….monitors, specifically….might be a better solution than anything offered by Apple.  My first foray into that arena happened this week when I ordered an Atlona DP-400 dual-link mini-display port adapter to see if it would allow me to hook up the Mac Pro to the 24 inch Apple Cinema Display I already own.  The Atlona unit is USB powered, and while that eliminates a power brick, it costs me a USB port.   I had not realized that was going to be the case, and if I did try to run that set-up permanently, I would have a problem to solve because all the rear USB ports on my Mac Pro are already occupied.  Nevertheless, I disconnected two of the three devices there so I could test out the Mac Pro, the Atlona DP-400, and the 24 inch Apple Cinema Display.  However, the display chords were really cut to a length that permits them to be used with a MacBook Pro sitting on a desk and not with a Mac Pro sitting under one.   To address that issue, I bought a Kanex min-display/USB six foot cable extension from OWC, up the Atlona unit using the Kanex cables, strung them to the 24 inch display, and powered up the Mac Pro.  The display powered up as you might expect, but the keyboard and mouse (which were on the same USB port into the display) did not work.  When I connected the keyboard and mouse chord directly to the Kanex extension (thereby bypassing the monitor), they did work but later they stopped working at all. I tried another USB extension chord in place of the Kanex and still had trouble getting the mouse to work and never did tie down what the problem was before I simply ran out of time.  However, the whole experience made me skeptical that running a 24 inch Apple Cinema Display (or the more expensive 27 inch display) would not be problematic on my Mac Pro.  More and more, moving its operations to a third party monitor if and when I had to do so was looking like the thing to do.  I say “when I had to do so” because I am currently running a 23 inch aluminum Apple Cinema Display on the Mac Pro and it’s working just fine.

Apple has always limited consumer choice to some degree, but my feeling is that Apple is taking it to an extreme and the effect will be felt in the company’s bottom line, even if it isn’t felt immediately.  I certainly am questioning staying with Apple more and more, but the scales haven’t tipped yet and I’m still a Mac guy willing to spend money to stay that way.  But how long it will be before I decide that it’s not worth it any more may come a lot sooner than I had hoped.  I had once though that day would come not at all.

Caveat: I played around again with the Kanex and Atlona units and did get them to work, though I could never get a good USB input through the Kanex cable.  I got a good USB input through an auxiliary cable; so, if I need to get this set-up to work, I would use the Kanex cable for the video input and a seperate USB cable for USB.