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Old Jun 14, 2013, 05:27 PM   #1
VirtualRain
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Mac Pro Buying Cycles - and why this is the right year

There's naturally a lot of anxiety and disappointment from many here about the new 2013 Mac Pro and particularly in the lack of internal expansion. I even share some of it, having been an active tweaker of my own 2009 Mac Pro.

However, I think people will get over the lack of expansion (some taking longer than others). I mean at some point sound cards went exclusively external and no one complained about cables or boxes. The same will happen for media storage arrays too - in fact many of us already use a NAS or external storage. I think the only legitimate complaint about upgradability lies with the GPUs and I understand the complaints from those that need the latest and greatest GPU every year, but that's not me.

Anyway, the point of this thread, is not to justify or complain about the lack of internal expansion in the 2013 Mac Pro... rather, it's to share my reasoning as to why this is an optimal buying cycle.

They key building blocks of any computer are the CPU, GPU, Memory, Storage, and display. And every year, there are incremental improvements in these building blocks, and their interconnects (PCIe bus, memory architecture, SATA, etc.). Some of these incremental updates Apple is a key force behind, others they simply adopt, and some they ignore completely.

Once every 3-5 years, both at Apple, and in the PC world in general, there's an alignment of the planets where a bunch of new technology comes together that really creates a new generation of computer.

For me, the last time this happened was around 2009 when Intel launched their Nehalem platform which was a truly new computing architecture with brand new memory architecture and multi-core CPUs. At the same time, SSDs were just coming to market along with LED displays (BTW, the display is perhaps the most important aspect of any computer to me).

Since then there's been a series of incremental improvements in CPUs, GPUs, Memory, SSDs and displays. For example, since I purchased my Mac Pro in 2009, SSD storage has continued to get more affordable and performance has improved, SATA3 is now the standard for storage, USB 3 has become mainstream, and TB has emerged.

When you look at the upgrades I've made to my 2009 Mac Pro, not surprisingly, it's been more SSD storage (with a SATA3 card), upgraded RAM, and added a USB 3 card.

In my mind, the 2013 Mac Pro, is another alignment of the planets where a bunch of new technology is coming together at once... A new generation of multi-core CPUs, Thunderbolt 2, PCIe based storage, 4K displays, and dual GPUs in an environment where GPU compute seems to be on the verge of taking off.

There is no doubt in my mind, that this is the right year to buy a completely new computer.

Sure, I'll need a USB 3 enclosure for my spinning HDs but those are a dime a dozen these days.

And what about all those incremental upgrades that are bound to happen over the next few years? I'm sure I'll feel the emotional draw to the latest PCIe SSDs that do 2GB/s, TB 3 or 4, the next two generations of GPUs, etc. These are all going to be upgrades I wish I had, but ones I certainly won't need. The technology in the new Mac Pro is bleeding edge enough that it will be at least a few years before anything comes along that I absolutely must have that can't be added via TB2... and at that point, the planets will probably start to align again around the next buying cycle.

So I think if you've got a 2010 Mac Pro or older, this is the year to buy. Buy as much SSD in the new Mac Pro as you can afford, whatever RAM and GPU power you need, and then get a USB 3 enclosure for your drives and don't look back.
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Old Jun 14, 2013, 05:31 PM   #2
AppleMark
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There are currently no MacPro's for sale in the UK or EU. So if somebody needs one, they will buy one.

It's a no brainer.
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Old Jun 14, 2013, 05:34 PM   #3
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Absolutely

I am just glad we are all out of limbo for the next three years and a ROADMAP has been laid out. Even the Hackintosh community should be thrilled. So now they know what to build and what will be supported. I am sure they would like to know the chip, but I am sure they can figure it out exactly/maybe.

But yeah I am glad the roadmap is laid out cause now we can move forward.

DAMN!

Instead of LIMBO, and it was Mac Pro LIMBO for a year!!!
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Old Jun 14, 2013, 05:34 PM   #4
cube
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It doesn't have DDR4. This is not the year.
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Old Jun 14, 2013, 05:59 PM   #5
Mattww
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I've also got an 09 machine and was really hoping the rumours of the lack of internal expansion would prove to be false so was obviously quite disappointed watching the keynote.

This has been a great computer and over the last 4 years I've added RAM, swopped the video card and added additional internal high capacity hard disks, an SSD and an eSATA card.

I did similar upgrades with my G5 before and even more with my G4 before that.

It takes a little time to accept such a major change of thinking.

Reading your post and others I am beginning to accept this may be the way things are done in the future but I think the first generation still has some issues to overcome.

I think you are correct that if the GPUs are fixed that is probably the largest problem as these seem to always date faster than most other components. It also doesn't look like Thunderbolt 2 is yet at the point for an external GPU to give the performance of an internal PCI-E 3.0 socket. This may hopefully changed with future versions of Thunderbolt of course.

The other issue is with storage. the PCI flash memory is ideal for the OS and a few applications but capacities will be relatively small and it will be expensive for now at least.

When the Fusion drive was announced I naturally assumed this would appear on the Mac Pro as well as it appeared to give the the best of both worlds.

I have tried external Firewire 800 RAID and NAS type storage and while OK for some use the performance was disappointing as was the noise. Backing up became more problematic as well because of the volume size.

Instead I returned to single drives and aded an eSATA card - it is so much easier to just clone each 3 or 4TB disk and have the option to just swop a disk out.

USB 3 and Thunderbolt are both quick connections but until drives ship with these as native connections so you can avoid the conversion from SATA I'm doubtful it will be as quick and convenient.
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Old Jun 14, 2013, 06:16 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cube View Post
It doesn't have DDR4. This is not the year.
Due to Intel's massive on-die cache sizes, memory sub-system performance is has less impact on overall performance so the move to DDR4 is unlikely to be worth waiting for IMHO.
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Old Jun 15, 2013, 04:44 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by VirtualRain View Post
Due to Intel's massive on-die cache sizes, memory sub-system performance is has less impact on overall performance so the move to DDR4 is unlikely to be worth waiting for IMHO.
The point is that not everything changes this year. When you need a computer, you buy it.
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Old Jun 15, 2013, 04:58 AM   #8
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Also a 2009 model owner here. I purchased the highest specced model at the time, dual CPU quad-core 2.93Ghz, 8 cores total. With a firmware update, some new RAM from OWC, and some new CPU's it would literally be the same as a 2012 model Mac Pro. I didn't do the CPU upgrade but the others I did. I too upgraded my hard drives first to SSD, and then on to a PCIE Card with SATA III in RAID for 1GB/sec speeds. I also finally added a GeForce 660Ti recently which is nice..

For me, this IS the year for an upgrade. I have been wanting to upgrade for some time. The new pro has everything I need and nothing I don't. I don't need tons of storage. I have 24TB of LaCie Quadra RAID (2 x 12TB) connected to a Mac Mini visa USB3 which serves all our media, and is my backup location for monthly backups of my Pro. The system works really well. I just keep my current project files on my Mac Pro, along with my PERSONAL music collection (vs the ENTIRE family library on the mini).

I'm super excited by the new Pro. Certainly won't be hiding down under my desk this time (damn custom-built desk with a spot just for the tower cost me $$$$!!).

Scott
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