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Old Mar 26, 2013, 11:47 AM   #1
flintandtinder
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3.1 Mac Pro or iMac or Hackintosh

Hi all,

I'm slowly starting to get annoyed with my 2008 17" 2.6 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo Macbook Pro. Even though I have maxed out the memory at 6GB 667 MHz RAM and installed a 48GB Wintec SSD into the ExpressCard slot, when using Adobe CS5.5, the system seems to chug along somewhat. I have also maxed out the HD and would like more internal space rather than having to rely on external drives.

So I think I need to upgrade, but I'd like to do it for as little as possible.

Currently, I've been looking at 2nd hand Mac Pros (3.1 onwards), but have concerns over their longevity considering they are currently the bare minimum system requirement for Mountain Lion (I'm on 10.7.5 but would like to upgrade).

Whilst I have had an iMac in the past and loved it, I'm not keen on the current models (I'd like a DVD drive and at least the option to upgrade the RAM). I'm not adverse to an older iMac, but which models would be a significant improvement on my current setup or on the 3.1 Mac Pro?

My last option is to build myself a Hackintosh. Obviously I know the legal issues of doing this and whilst I have never built a computer before, I'm fairly confident I could do it.

As I'm not buying new, the issue of the Hackintosh having no support isn't really an issue. Taking a 2nd hand Mac and hour away to my nearest Apple store and paying through the nose for repairs, isn't really appealing either.

Currently I'm at a bit of a loss of what to do and would value the input of others.

Will the 3.1. Mac Pros age well?
How do 2009, 2010 and 2011 model iMac compare to the 3.1 Mac Pros?
For 800 what would be better, a new Hackintosh (CustoMac Mini Deluxe) or a 2008 or 2009 Mac Pro?

Any other thoughts would be welcome too.

Thanks.
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Old Mar 26, 2013, 12:08 PM   #2
Rocco83
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I'm running the 27" mid 2011 iMac with the 3.1GHz quad-core i5, and 32GB of RAM. I haven't come across anything that gives my system even the littlest hiccup. I do a lot with Flash and CS6 Suite with no problems. Same with Final Cut Pro. I've had Final Cut Pro running, HandBrake running, 3 or 4 other apps open in the background, and playing Borderlands 2 in the background on another monitor without any performance loss for any app. I've been tossing around the idea of putting an SSD just for increased boot speed, but I really have yet to find a need.

I cannot speak for a Hackintosh or the Mac Pro, but I myself would not hesitate to buy another iMac. I was able to pick mine up brand new off the refurb section of Apple's website when they were pushing out a new line. It was around $1500 at that time I think. Most likely you could find one cheaper. I've never had even a slight issue with this one. Couldn't recommend a computer more highly.
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Old Mar 26, 2013, 12:23 PM   #3
flintandtinder
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Thanks Rocco.

Yeah, I did love my old iMac too. Powerful, but then also easy to transport through the house. I did wonder whether the i5 processors would be powerful enough though? But you've put my mind at ease there somewhat.

The only thing that puts me off is the difficulty in upgrading the HD. Ideally I'd like any iMac I'd buy to use a SSD, but finding a 2nd hand model with one already installed is rare, and doing the job by oneself looking unnecessarily complicated (suction cups?).

Whereas with the Mac Pro or Hackintosh...
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Old Mar 26, 2013, 02:29 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by flintandtinder View Post
Thanks Rocco.

Yeah, I did love my old iMac too. Powerful, but then also easy to transport through the house. I did wonder whether the i5 processors would be powerful enough though? But you've put my mind at ease there somewhat.

The only thing that puts me off is the difficulty in upgrading the HD. Ideally I'd like any iMac I'd buy to use a SSD, but finding a 2nd hand model with one already installed is rare, and doing the job by oneself looking unnecessarily complicated (suction cups?).

Whereas with the Mac Pro or Hackintosh...
Don't forget that you can run an SSD as an external through Thunderbolt, which will give you all the speed of an internal SSD with the option to easily add or upgrade in the future without disassembling the iMac. This is how I run my 2012 27" iMac and how I did it on my 2011 21.5" iMac as well.

On the flip side, I did just build a Hackintosh this weekend and it was pretty dang easy. I went fort he Gigabyte UP5-TH (dual Thunderbolt), 3.5 i7 Ivy Bridge, and 16GB RAM. I had a case, PSU and blu-ray drive already, so cost about $660 for those three parts. OC'd the CPU to 4.2 and the RAM from 1600MHz to 1800MHz and that thing just stomps the iMac 3.4 i7. However, its a little flakey as expected and I haven't gone testing out everything like sleep, wifi, etc. But, I am on the fence now of should I keep it since its faster than the new iMac or should I return it (just picked up an open box 15" rMPB 2.7 i7, 16GB and 512 SSD for $2100).
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Old Mar 26, 2013, 04:02 PM   #5
Rocco83
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Quote:
Originally Posted by flintandtinder View Post
Thanks Rocco.

Yeah, I did love my old iMac too. Powerful, but then also easy to transport through the house. I did wonder whether the i5 processors would be powerful enough though? But you've put my mind at ease there somewhat.

The only thing that puts me off is the difficulty in upgrading the HD. Ideally I'd like any iMac I'd buy to use a SSD, but finding a 2nd hand model with one already installed is rare, and doing the job by oneself looking unnecessarily complicated (suction cups?).

Whereas with the Mac Pro or Hackintosh...
The External route as martinm0 suggested is an easy workaround. I have however installed an SSD in my Aunt's iMac following the OWC guide and it really couldn't have been easier. I will most likely throw one in my iMac when I'm done with AppleCare to try to get a little extra life out of it. Hopefully by then something newer and sexier will be out to upgrade to.
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Old Mar 27, 2013, 07:57 AM   #6
flintandtinder
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Thanks Guys, that's an interesting idea, but from what I gather, aren't thunderbolt drives stupidly expensive? Also have they released empty thunderbolt enclosures for respectable prices yet?

Regardless I'm not sure I like the idea of running my operating system on a drive that can be easily disconnected.

I've also looked into adding an SSD into a 2010 or 2011 iMac and it doesn't look particularly simple.

So, it seems all my options have pitfalls in some way or another:

1) 2010 - 2011 iMac
+
Good processor speeds (i5, i7 quad-core)
Comes with another screen
Reasonably modern, so should run later OS for a while
Might still get Applecare
-
Not easy to add an additional SSD
Aside from memory no other upgrade options
Screen is glossy which is crap for design work
Don't need keyboard or mouse

2) 2008 - 2009 Mac Pro
+
Probably more powerful than I need for a few years at least
Easily upgradable
-
Is the memory slow and outdated?
Will it support 10.9 or OS XI?
Would need to buy another screen
No warranty

3) Hackintosh
+
Decent spec for same price as older macs
Can build to my exact spec
-
Not an Apple
Would need to buy another screen
Not strictly legal
Would need to build it
Software updates look somewhat painful
No warranty

Ideally I'd like to spend maybe 1000 on an upgrade so all are achievable. I just don't know what to do!

Why Apple don't realise an upgradeable mid tower model is beyond me.
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Old Mar 27, 2013, 09:29 AM   #7
Fishrrman
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How about a 2012 i7 Mini with the 2.6ghz upgrade?
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Old Mar 27, 2013, 09:37 AM   #8
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If you can try to get a 2011 iMac still with AppleCare would be great for your needs. If you need expandability, more storage a 2009 or 2010 Mac Pro would be better. For the 2008 Mac Pro the ram is expensive.
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Old Mar 27, 2013, 09:44 AM   #9
flintandtinder
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I did consider the Mac Mini, but I have a couple of potential issues with it:

1) I'd rather have a separate SSD drive and HDD rather than a combined hybrid. Plus I'd like to pick what apps sit where.

2) I'd need to run 2 monitors from it. Is this even possible with the mac mini? If so, presumably it would use up both the HDMI and thuunderbolt port. Whilst I might not use the thunderbolt port until prices for peripherals start gettimng reasonable, I'd still like to have the option.

3) I'd also like to have an optical drive built in.

4) My only experience of Mac Minis have been bad. Admittedly these new ones look quite powerful compared to my Mum's old 2009 model though.
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Old Mar 27, 2013, 09:59 AM   #10
utekineir
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I recently sold my 3.1 octo mp. It was replaced with a base 15 rmbp and ivy i7 mini, both are fantastic for their respective roles.

The 3.1 mp was a great computer, best I've ever owned, absolutely fantastic longevity the last 5 years, but at this point the consumer machines have matched it in performance at a literal fraction of the power consumption.

I sold the mp a month or two back(with upgrades) for nearly double what a refurb i7 2012 mini cost.

The only downside was losing the pcie and drive bays.

Unless you can get an outright steal on a mac pro or need the expandability i'd rule it out, they're only going to depreciate further with the eventual release of a new model.
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Old Mar 27, 2013, 10:01 AM   #11
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The other thing is I do sometimes play games on my Mac. Without a GPU, how well do the Mac Minis perform in this aspect? I've read they can't even play full screen HD movies...
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Old Mar 27, 2013, 10:05 AM   #12
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It plays diablo 3 decent enough (reduced settings) but that isn't saying much. The rmbp with the 650m on the other hand looks like it will handle bioshock infinite at good settings just fine.

If you like games you want a dedicated gpu, my point was more that the current crop of base model i7 consumer machines matches up with the 5 year old mp rather than a push for the mini in particular.

I doubt any modern computer has issues with 1080p at this point.
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Old Mar 27, 2013, 12:16 PM   #13
alainking
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So I have both a Mac Pro 3.1 and a 27" iMac (base model). Here are my thoughts and observations.

Bought the iMac brand new, extended warranty and upgraded Ram, first to 12, later to 20GB. Awesome machine and that screen is amazing. I use it for any work where the screen is important. I have also bootcamped it for the sole purpose of playing some games.

At the beginning of this year I picked up a 3.1 Mac Pro for a steal (approx 750 pounds) which had 16 gb of RAM, dual 3GHz quad CPU, wifi but a 320 gb HDD.

I have since upgraded drives so that runs 9.5TB of HDD.

The Mac Pro kills the iMac on handbrake - same build with same settings - twice as fast - comes down to the fact that there are 8 cores running. Both running Mountain Lion.

Logic is also great on the Mac Pro, really nice to have the power and multiple drives to share load. I will get an SSD one day for the iMac (Thunderbolt or once warranty is up).

I run 2 LCD screens on the Mac Pro and that works fine - nice amount of space for working. I connected each of them to iMac but I could not bare the glaring difference between them and the iMac screen.

I come from a Windows environment (and still do at work) and thought about going the hackingtosh route but the only comment I can make about the systems I have got is that neither of them have given me any issues.

Hope this helps with your decision.
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Old Mar 27, 2013, 12:26 PM   #14
utekineir
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So I have both a Mac Pro 3.1 and a 27" iMac (base model).

The Mac Pro kills the iMac on handbrake - same build with same settings - twice as fast - comes down to the fact that there are 8 cores running. Both running Mountain Lion.

Which generation iMac?

my 2 machines with the 2.3 quad i7 (2012 ivy bridge) are each just as fast if not slightly faster on encodes than my 3.1 octo mp was.
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Old Mar 27, 2013, 12:46 PM   #15
flintandtinder
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Hi all,

Even though I might have been leaning towards the Mac Pro or Hackintosh for their ease of upgrade, I've - on somewhat of a whim - just won an auction for an iMac on ebay. Specs are:

Mid 2011 21.5"
Quad core i7 @ 2.8GHz
8 GB RAM 1333 DRR3
AMD Radeon HD 6750M 512 MB
1 TB 7200 HDD

for 715

I'd been tracking all the different models for a while and this seemed like a bit of a bargain (plus my gf has the exact same model she bought for 1500 just over a year ago).

When I totalled up a similar spec hackintosh, parts came to nigh on 800 and I'd have to have purchased another screen on top of that as well.

Given my reservations about the age of the Mac Pros I was looking at, I think perhaps all in all I've made the right decision.

Well I hope so anyway...

Thank you so much for all your input. Wish me luck on installing the SSD!
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Old Mar 27, 2013, 12:50 PM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by flintandtinder View Post
Hi all,

Even though I might have been leaning towards the Mac Pro or Hackintosh for their ease of upgrade, I've - on somewhat of a whim - just won an auction for an iMac on ebay. Specs are:

Mid 2011 21.5"
Quad core i7 @ 2.8GHz
8 GB RAM 1333 DRR3
AMD Radeon HD 6750M 512 MB
1 TB 7200 HDD

for 715

I'd been tracking all the different models for a while and this seemed like a bit of a bargain (plus my gf has the exact same model she bought for 1500 just over a year ago).

When I totalled up a similar spec hackintosh, parts came to nigh on 800 and I'd have to have purchased another screen on top of that as well.

Given my reservations about the age of the Mac Pros I was looking at, I think perhaps all in all I've made the right decision.

Well I hope so anyway...

Thank you so much for all your input. Wish me luck on installing the SSD!
Congrats on winning the auction and on your new machine. Hope this meets your needs and tasks.
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Old Mar 27, 2013, 11:21 PM   #17
alainking
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Originally Posted by utekineir View Post
Which generation iMac?

my 2 machines with the 2.3 quad i7 (2012 ivy bridge) are each just as fast if not slightly faster on encodes than my 3.1 octo mp was.
Sorry about that 2011 i5 2.7 quad.
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