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Old Oct 1, 2012, 12:27 PM   #1
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Mac Pro Upgrade vs new iMac

I am a photographer and have a Mac Pro (Early 2008) 2x 2.8 Quad Core which is struggling with new Lightroom and all so full I have filled up to internal so I have temporarily gone onto external hard drives to edit from. So Lightroom is accessing photos from an external FW800 hard drive and is understandably complaining. I use Lightroom most of the time but most programs are slower than before.

So dilemma is either upgrading the Mac Pro or buying a Thunderbolt iMac.

I have had a look around and found this very nifty setup for putting is SSD Drives into the space of the spare DVD drive slot, which is ingenious.
A big 500gb SSD and maxing out the Ram should give the MacPro the boost it needs (I currently have 10gb of a potential 16gb RAM) (After a complete operating reinstall aswell).

My only worry though is that I would need to read and write from external hard drives and this would still be pretty slow. (I have a load of eSata/Firewire external HDs that I currently access through FW 800).... Ultimately I guess a Thunderbolt input would be best. But after a search it seems to me that I can't upgrade my Mac Pro with this as my Early 2008 Mac Pro is Xeon. Is this true? If so, would a PCIe card eSata for the MacPro be a decent alternative (or even USB 3)?

Maybe I would have to work out a system where I store everything that I work on temporarily on the SSD to see a real speed difference in Lightroom editing. Or get 1 SSD and put another big HD inside for Lightroom to access photos from.

Or do you think the whole upgrade approach is a bit of a waste of money? (I think the above upgrade is about 600-700)

The alternative is selling the MacPro and getting a new iMac that is Thunderbolt ready with a SSD inside and investing in Thunderbolt external hard drives when the prices come down. And just go down the more conventional route of getting a new iMac every few years rather than trying to stick to the MacPro route which my techy skills are usually stretched by!

A few pages I have looked at have suggested the Mac Mini route, but that seems a slippery slope as I often need Photoshop and Lightroom open, my heart says a jump from an Mac Mini would not be a good long term solution.

Thanks for having a look at this, this is not a money is no object problem, but I do want a solution that lasts at least a year.
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Old Oct 1, 2012, 01:40 PM   #2
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I'm also a photographer, and have recently gone through the process of deciding what to do about the same Mac Pro that you have.... the 2008 Octocore.

My solution was to buy another Mac Pro off of the refurbished store... the one feature it needed to have was fast memory. The 2008s have a memory bus that moves RAM around at 800 MHz. The Mac Pros on the refurbished store in Canada are listed at either 1066 or 1333 MHz. I got one with 1333.

To be honest, I don't know how much difference that will make, but...they were very similarly priced and I like to keep as much of my photo in RAM as possible.

So, here is my thinking about the iMacs and the Mac Pros. Thunderbolt won't really get you any more HDD speed... not much anyway, as I understand it. The bottleneck is not moving data over the cable - if you have FW800 - but with the speed the HDD can actually read and write the data.

You don't say how big the drives are inside your Mac Pro. As I understand it you can easily put 5 x 2TB drives inside. More with a bit of hacking. A 2008 Mac Pro won't accept a Thunderbolt card, but it will accept eSATA PCI cards, if I recall correctly. An eSATA PCI card will allow you to connect external HDDs that can read/write at the same speed as the internal HDDs. Basically, you are adding internal drives on the outside of the box... if that makes sense.

Are your HDDs fast or slow? Different drives are set to spin their platters at different speeds. Laptop (and generally cheaper) drives spin at 5400rpm, the Mac Pros generally come with drives that spin at 7200rpm - and you can get drives that spin at 10,000rpm. The faster the spin, the faster the drive can read/write data. If you have stocked your Mac Pro with 5400rpm drives then simply swapping them out for 7200rpm drives should make a noticeable improvement. The old drives can be kept for archiving or backup drives.

That Mac Pro can take up to 32GB of RAM, so there is an upgrade path there. The problem is, RAM for these Mac Pros is expensive. There is an easy way to tell if your system is RAM starved though. When you are editing a photo... make it one of your larger ones, because you want to test against the extreme condition ... open the activity monitor and look at the System Memory tab. Excessive 'Page Outs' here indicates you are RAM starved. No 'Pages Outs' or with amounts that are small indicate that you have adequate RAM. Do some searches on these forums for more guidance, using the "Page Out" search term.

One thing that a new iMac or Mini will have that your 2008 doesn't have is a warranty. For me that was the deciding factor for retiring my 2008. I wanted a system that I would not have to pay to repair for another 3 years. Repairs on these systems tend to be expensive. Since my retired 2008 still works fine, it is still worth a fair bit on the secondary market. I'm hoping to get about 25% back on what I paid for my 'new' refurbished 2010 Mac Pro. Your 2008, with 10GB of RAM and perhaps a couple of HDDs thrown in, will also be worth some money that will help subsidize whichever route you take.

The other advantage of swapping in a 'new' refurbished Mac Pro is that you can swap over your non-boot drives easily. Since the 'new' Mac Pro came with Mountain Lion, I just left it in place... but I moved my photo drives over in about 5 minutes. As well, the boxes are nearly identical. So all of the peripherals just plugged in. Easy Peasy.

This is my story, and it may not necessarily apply to your situation... but I hope it helps.
My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we'll change the world. - Jack Layton
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Old Oct 1, 2012, 02:12 PM   #3
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As soon as the new iMacs are released I am making the switch from Mac Pro. Since universal audio has a thunderbolt solution for the DSP processing there is nothing else holding me to the Mac Pro. I will just grab a promise r4 raid for storage and call it a day. At least till the new Mac Pro is released. Then I will most likely switch back. I am a glutton for punishment.
Yada, yada, yada.
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Old Oct 1, 2012, 02:56 PM   #4
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Thank you so much...

Originally Posted by snberk103 View Post
Thunderbolt won't really get you any more HDD speed... not much anyway, as I understand it.
As I understand it too. Plan A would be to use HDs inside or outside with an eSata connection as you suggested. I can still back up using FW 800 overnight once the editing is done.

Originally Posted by snberk103 View Post
Are your HDDs fast or slow?
I do have 7200rpm drives but need a reshuffle so that these Internal HDs are the ones that I am editing from not the External HDs connected through FW... if the MacPro route sticks that is.

(I hadn't thought about a new Mac Pro as option though but faster RAM and a processor boost is needed alongside this ideally - that is what is pushing me towards a new machine of some type essentially).

In the UK though where the apples are pricier. A refurb Mac Pro 2.66 12 Core from 2010 is 3,299.00. ($5330)
But then you do get free delivery!

Originally Posted by snberk103 View Post
That Mac Pro can take up to 32GB of RAM, so there is an upgrade path there. The problem is, RAM for these Mac Pros is expensive.
And iMacs can be maxed out on RAM for much less it seems...

Thank you for the RAM test, I will give it a go.

Originally Posted by snberk103 View Post
but I hope it helps.
Hugely. Thank you.


Originally Posted by Flood123 View Post
As soon as the new iMacs are released I am making the switch from Mac Pro.
As are lots of people... My hunch is that they will hold their value more as there is a bigger market for them too.

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Old Jan 10, 2013, 02:07 AM   #5
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My Take on iMac - just an over sized MacBook Air with little options.
Before I did the MP - Apple Techs at the store steered me well.

And why would anyone not be able to shop for used MP's in the US from across the Pond for far less?

It has to be a heck of a lot easier than my attempt from the US trying to access a Swedish site to purchase a unit for my Girlfriend there.

Even if you had to switch out power supplies to comply with 220 vs 110v.
MP3.1,8GB,4TB, MBPro13 5.5, iPad1 64G, iPhone 3gs, iTouch, PB15 1.6, ATv, Rxv3900.
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Old Jan 10, 2013, 08:13 PM   #6
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Just sold my Mac Pro s x 2.8 GHz 8 core Xeon. Same as yours.

I got $1050 for it and I'm putting that towards a iMac 27" The iMacs are so good these days that you no longer need a Mac Pro for photography work. In the past, people bought Mac Pros for their power, expandability and because they needed to use non-glossy, color accurate displays for photo editing.

The refurb Mac Pro that snberk103 suggested is also a good idea. And I would recommend this as well IF and it's a BIG IF you already have specialty display monitors you use for your photo editing. If not, get the iMac
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