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Old Dec 28, 2012, 05:35 PM   #1
macstatic
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Finally got a Mac Pro -newbie questions!

I've just bought a quad core 2.8GHz Mac Pro 5.1 and am already considering which upgrades and setup to do. Excuse my ignorance, but here are a few newbie questions:

Memory
It came with 8GB of RAM. I'll be using it mainly for photography (Photoshop and Lightroom) but later also some light video editing and music recording. From what I've read I need at least 12 or 16GB for serious photography use.
I hear that I need to get "matched pairs" which I assume means two memory sticks that go well together. But can I add another matched pair later which will work properly with the first matched pair (same brand/model/memory size), or do I need to get 4 matched memory sticks at once if I ever plan to populate all 4 memory slots?
(I'm thinking 16GB (2x 8GB) might be enough for now, but who knows if I need 32GB (4x 8GB) at some stage).
Also, should I be concerned about using all 4 memory slots instead of just 3 (people say this is the ultimate RAM setup) or is the speed increase nothing to be concerned about in real life although it makes a difference on paper?
Finally, does it make much of a difference which brand I go for? OWC, Crucial, Kingston etc....
In any case I suppose I should get the faster 1333MHz types (instead of 1066MHz) in case I upgrade the processor to a 6-core Westmere, right?

Hard drive setup
The Mac came with 1x 1TB WD black hard drive. My initial plan is to expand with 3 additional hard drives and one (or two SSDs):
- 2x 1TB hast hard drives in RAID 0 (file storage/user area)
- 1x 3TB hard drive for Time Machine backup
- 1x 3TB hard drive for Carbon Copy Cloner bootable additional backup
- 1x SSD for boot (MacOSX) and applications -not sure which size yet
- 1x SSD (if necessary, some say it isn't with enough memory) as a Photoshop scratch disk -also not sure of size yet.

Obviously I'll skip the dedicated scratch disk if it doesn't make much sense, to save some cash. Comments on my drive setup suggestion above?

SSD
OWC (obviously) and DigLloyd's Mac Performance Guide give the OWC SSDs high praises. Apparently, besides running blazingly fast they have better file management/"garbage collection" features etc. Am I really better off with an OWC drive than anything else or are there other brands/models worth considering which are just as reliable, fast and doesn't degrade as time goes by (apparently the OWC drives work better in that respect according to DigLloyd if I've understood correctly).
The reason I ask is because I don't live in the States and would rather avoid any shipping/warranty/import duty hassles by purchasing locally instead.
Without any SATA-III support, would buying a SATA-III SSD (as opposed to SATA-II) be a waste of money, or is performance so much better with 6G that I should instead consider in getting a SATA-III PCIe card for use with a 6G SSD, or alternatively something like a Velocity Solo X2 PCIe card (which would also allow me to attach a second SSD in case I do need a dedicated, separate SSD for Photoshop's scratch disk)?

Thanks for any comments to the above

Last edited by macstatic; Dec 28, 2012 at 05:44 PM.
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Old Dec 28, 2012, 05:38 PM   #2
MisterKeeks
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As for the SSD, the OWC stuff about data collection is pointless because other drives can use TRIM enabler. Yes, the Sandforce controller in OWC drives (and some others) takes care of it, so it is more convenient, but not really needed.
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Old Dec 28, 2012, 06:20 PM   #3
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Yeah, sandforce controllers fast file handling and garbage collection look good on paper and some benchmark tests but they can get you into trouble with heavy daily use. I've killed a number of them in the lab, exposing them to real world data traffic patterns but at more stress you will be putting your drives under. There are other name brand drives that have been more reliable, intel comes to mind. I'm sure there are others.. and the landscape is changing daily. Most SSDs have significant infant mortality, so I'd recommend buying from a place where returns and exchanges are most convenient.

SATA III may help you reading files, but writing.. ehh.

I'm not a big photography user so I can't really help you with the optimum machine setup.
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Old Dec 28, 2012, 06:34 PM   #4
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Don't buy SSDs from a company that is just assembling other people's stuff together.

The NAND Flash all comes from a few producers in the world: Intel (and their manufacturing partner, Micron), Samsung, Toshiba are the biggest.

Next, there's the controllers. Sandforce has had their big issues in the past. Indilinx (OCZ) has had theirs too. Almost everyone out there is using a 3rd party controller, 3rd party NAND, and then just slapping their name on it. If the do ANY work at all on the firmware, they are still a go-between to the real engineers at the controller manufacturer.

Intel and Samsung use their own controllers in their SSDs along with their own NAND Flash. They are truly adding value along the whole stack.

I personally think Samsung is the best of the consumer grade right now. You can get the 830 series very cheap now that the 840 is out, and they have some great endurance that has been seen by the user community.

Or you can save a few dollars, buy a no-name (even Crucial and OWC are no-name) and learn the hard way.
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Old Dec 28, 2012, 09:16 PM   #5
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Intel is using SandForce controllers (albeit with custom Intel-exclusive in-house-developed firmware) on their 520 and 330 series drives. Just sayin'... I own four 330's and they have been rock solid.
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Old Dec 28, 2012, 09:33 PM   #6
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I would enable Trim on all drives, regardless of the controller.

Apple has TRIM enabled on all their SSD's (most seem to be either Samsung or Toshiba).

I guess if you're NOT moving large data around then you can disable Trim.

Speaking from experience, I have Samsung 830's and Intel 320's and have Trim enabled on all of them and it's been rock solid.
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Old Dec 29, 2012, 05:49 AM   #7
macstatic
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The Samsung 830 drives do indeed seem to have a good track record from what I read but there are two concerns: firmware isn't upgradeable via OSX and it is deemed "not the fastest SSD around". Are these things to be concerned about? I do want performance of course but not at the expense of reliability.

Intel drives using Sandforce controllers: lots of sites and forums talk about high failure rates with Sandforce, but perhaps this relates mostly to older drives, not newer ones?

DigLloyd mentions a few things you should look for in an SSD which makes sense, but I have my doubts that OWC are the only SSDs worth getting and everything else is crap (which all non-OWC product tests on his site seem to conclude with). Unfortunately I don't have enough knowledge about these things to determine what is fact or not. And after all, DigLloyd's site is sponsored by OWC so I'm taking it all in with a little grain of salt

Last edited by macstatic; Dec 29, 2012 at 05:58 AM.
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Old Dec 29, 2012, 06:10 AM   #8
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As much as I like OWC and I am sure their SSD's are good, I would not get them. They are pricey and you can get the same performance from other brands.

If you are looking for the latest/greatest/reliable SSD, go with the Samsung 840 Pro. They are the best right now. Samsung builds their own parts.

Intel is excellent, I have the 320's and they are rock solid. They use their own custom firmware with the SandForce.

I would stay away from the OCZ's, SanDisk, etc. There have been reports of beachballing with said drives and Mac's.

As far as Samsungs not having firmware upgradability, that's ok, because Samsung rarely updates their firmware. It just works out of the box. They have their own controller and NAND so they do a lot of in house R&D before shipment.

My 830 256GB has been rock solid for almost a year. I have Trim enabled.

The 840 Pro looks mighty tasty.

One thing to remember is, real world performance is much more important than pesky MB's, tech specs and charts. That's the most important part. This is also what separates Mac Pro users from PC users who are trying to squeeze out the most capability out of the machine by overclocking, etc.

If you like tinkering with computers, PC's are better. I like working on them without worrying about it. I don't mind the extra 20-50MB that I won't get with a certain SSD. I care about quality and reliability as I don't want it to break down at 4AM in the morning when I'm working.

Take it for what it is, but so far the Crucial M4 and Samsung 830/840 Pro are some of the favorites around here.
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Old Dec 31, 2012, 02:04 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SDAVE View Post
If you like tinkering with computers, PC's are better. I like working on them without worrying about it. I don't mind the extra 20-50MB that I won't get with a certain SSD. I care about quality and reliability as I don't want it to break down at 4AM in the morning when I'm working.
I totally agree!
I'll probably go for the Samsung 830 as it's been tried and tested. The 840 is from what I've read of lesser quality but more or less the same performance as the 830 while the 840 Pro is faster, but hasn't gotten the track record of the 830 yet (and I don't want to be a beta-tester).
128GB should probably be enough for a boot disk (OSX and the apps) I think.

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Old Dec 31, 2012, 04:58 AM   #10
SDAVE
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840 should be good enough, honestly. Anandtech has a review on it, check it out. It uses TLC vs. MLC NAND, but at this stage, it seems that these drives will last years before dying. By then I'm sure you'll upgrade to a bigger SSD

840 250GB $139.99

840 500GB $314.00

840 Pro 512GB $456.99

Note the last 2 come with free games. Might be able to sell it for $20.
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Old Dec 31, 2012, 08:39 AM   #11
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I have many Sandforce drives and I have only ever had one bad one (probably around 6-7?). I've used OCZ, Corsair, and Sandisk drives. Take my experience as anecdotal though as I know others have had issues.

One thing to remember, is that most of the SSD's made in the last few years are going to be fast. Whether you go with a Samsung, Intel, Indilinx/Marvel controller, they will all feel lightning fast in your computer. If you want to have the fastest SSD on the block, then you are probably best with something like a Samsung 840 Pro, but truthfully you probably wouldn't notice a difference in day to day use compared to a Sandforce or Samsung 830. Oh sure, you can crank up Black Magic or any other hard drive benchmarking tool and feel awesome about how fast THEORETICALLY your drive is, but in the end at some point in time you become the bottleneck (you can only do so much at any given time). The other thing to, is that Mac Pro's only have SATA II connectors on board so your drives will be limited to 300MB/s anyway.
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Old Dec 31, 2012, 02:41 PM   #12
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I have many Sandforce drives and I have only ever had one bad one (probably around 6-7?). I've used OCZ, Corsair, and Sandisk drives. Take my experience as anecdotal though as I know others have had issues.

One thing to remember, is that most of the SSD's made in the last few years are going to be fast. Whether you go with a Samsung, Intel, Indilinx/Marvel controller, they will all feel lightning fast in your computer. If you want to have the fastest SSD on the block, then you are probably best with something like a Samsung 840 Pro, but truthfully you probably wouldn't notice a difference in day to day use compared to a Sandforce or Samsung 830. Oh sure, you can crank up Black Magic or any other hard drive benchmarking tool and feel awesome about how fast THEORETICALLY your drive is, but in the end at some point in time you become the bottleneck (you can only do so much at any given time). The other thing to, is that Mac Pro's only have SATA II connectors on board so your drives will be limited to 300MB/s anyway.
Very true. Any SSD is a huge leap from an HDD, especially older smaller platter ones.

As far as MP's with SATAII limitations, many people here get PCIe cards which give them SATAIII, so using SSD's to the maximum advantage in older Mac Pro's is definitely not a problem. However, even SATAII speeds maxed out are pretty fantastic.

Every nerd out there loves doing benchmarks to get the most possible, and don't get me wrong that's great, but in the real world, where real WORK is concerned, the measily extra FPS or MB/s don't count.
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Old Dec 31, 2012, 03:21 PM   #13
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As far as MP's with SATAII limitations, many people here get PCIe cards which give them SATAIII, so using SSD's to the maximum advantage in older Mac Pro's is definitely not a problem. However, even SATAII speeds maxed out are pretty fantastic.
Agreed. My point is simply if you are going to use the stock sleds, the Mac Pro will max out at SATAII speeds so having the fastest possible SSD really won't make a difference (unless you use a PCIe card).

Quote:
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Every nerd out there loves doing benchmarks to get the most possible, and don't get me wrong that's great, but in the real world, where real WORK is concerned, the measily extra FPS or MB/s don't count.
That's exactly my point as well. Benchmarks are always theoretical. They mean so very little in real world experience past a certain point. In the end all you are doing is trying to impress a bunch of faceless geeks on an internet forum. Whoopidity doo in my book.
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Old Jan 1, 2013, 02:53 PM   #14
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I'm beyond my nerd phase and am sure SATA-II will be good enough for my use
I'll get myself a dual-SSD sled along with the SSD itself and place it in the lower optical drive bay. That should be easy and quick to do

If I decide I need a second, separate SSD (for Photoshop scratch, Adobe Bridge cache, Lightroom cache etc.) I figure that dual-SSD sled will come in handy. With 4 mechanical hard drives I'd need one more SATA port so in that case I could get something like the Apricorn Velocity Solo X2. I don't know how yet how it rates to other solutions, but on paper at least it sounds like a good deal. I suppose there are also PCIe cards having multiple internal and external SATA-III ports but they're probably a lot more expensive.

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Old Jan 4, 2013, 07:00 AM   #15
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The Samsung 830 drives do indeed seem to have a good track record from what I read but there are two concerns: firmware isn't upgradeable via OSX and it is deemed "not the fastest SSD around". Are these things to be concerned about? I do want performance of course but not at the expense of reliability.

Intel drives using Sandforce controllers: lots of sites and forums talk about high failure rates with Sandforce, but perhaps this relates mostly to older drives, not newer ones?

DigLloyd mentions a few things you should look for in an SSD which makes sense, but I have my doubts that OWC are the only SSDs worth getting and everything else is crap (which all non-OWC product tests on his site seem to conclude with). Unfortunately I don't have enough knowledge about these things to determine what is fact or not. And after all, DigLloyd's site is sponsored by OWC so I'm taking it all in with a little grain of salt
The newer SSDs available out there esp. that run on Intel+Sandforce. They do seem to peform without any glitches. Infact the performace is very competitive
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Old Jan 11, 2013, 05:45 PM   #16
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Wohoooooo!
I've been running my 128GB Samsung 830 SSD for a few days now and boy is this a huge step up from regular hard drives! I don't imagine I can ever go back to an SSD-less computer now
Been running without TRIM but will download the TRIM enabler now and see how that goes.
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Old Jan 11, 2013, 05:50 PM   #17
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Wohoooooo!
I've been running my 128GB Samsung 830 SSD for a few days now and boy is this a huge step up from regular hard drives! I don't imagine I can ever go back to an SSD-less computer now
Been running without TRIM but will download the TRIM enabler now and see how that goes.
Congrats. I rank the 830 right up there with my favorite SSDs ever (with the M4). When it comes to 400 vs 500MB/s, you won't notice, but reliability makes you rest a little easier. Speaking of reliability, you won't notice anything different with TRIM on, but ideally, your drive will last longer and stay faster over time.
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Old Jan 12, 2013, 03:12 PM   #18
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Thanks
I enabled TRIM yesterday and haven't experienced any issues (or change in performance as far as I've noticed). The SSD came with "SSD Magician" software (Windows only) -is there any maintenance I need to do?

With this rather pleasant experience I'm now considering getting a second SSD for use as a Photoshop, Bridge etc. cache/scratch disk, but I imagine I'd need a heavy duty SSD of some sort so as not to "kill" it prematurely. What do you recommend I look into buying for reliability and the ability to handle so many write cycles?
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