Getting a Mac Pro as a gaming rig?

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by Gary King, May 9, 2013.

  1. Gary King, May 9, 2013
    Last edited: May 9, 2013

    macrumors 6502

    Jun 14, 2004
    First, some quick background. I bought my first Mac in 2005. It was a Mac Mini. I bought a MacBook Pro in 2006. I bought an iMac in 2010, which is where I am now.

    I've found that I've been gaming more and more in Windows 7 via Boot Camp on my iMac. My computer does a decent job for video game graphics—I really don't need to pay a lot of money to be able to play games on the ultra setting to get 100 FPS, for instance—but for recent games, I'd be lucky to get 50 FPS on the absolutely lowest settings.

    So, I was thinking, should my next computer be a Mac Pro, which although is more expensive than an iMac, should theoretically last me longer and be more customizable, where I can install my own graphics as I please, etc.? I'm not really a computer hardware expert or anything; I can install RAM and hard drives no problem, but have never installed a graphics card, although I imagine I could pick it up by watching YouTube videos if necessary.

    Speaking of which, can any graphics card be installed in a Mac Pro, or does it have to be Mac-specific, and is it difficult to do? Can the Mac Pro only handle certain graphics cards, and will others be too powerful for it? Will the generic Boot Camp drivers that Apple provides for graphics cards be sufficient? Is the Mac Pro primarily for power users who need an incredibly powerful Mac at work, for instance, or is it also relatively often used for personal purposes?

    So, thoughts on getting a Mac Pro for day-to-day use of course, but also for gaming purposes so that hopefully I wouldn't have to buy yet another computer any time soon after that?
  2. macrumors newbie


    May 2, 2013
    I will be the first, of many, to say don't waste your money on Mac Pro for gaming. If you know how to install HDDs and RAM you are halfway to the point where you can build your own computer. Go over to NewEgg, ask lots of questions and save yourself $1,000 buy building your own computer.

    You can either piece it together part by part or buy a kit that, typically, has the Case, MOBO and powersupply.

    I have been wanting to build a new system using this case: Lian-Li-PC-V700A

    Here it is in "action"

    As for your other question, "can any graphics card be installed in a Mac Pro" This one is tricky, more and more GPUs are becoming available with varying degrees of compatibility, but you should still just go with a PC and not worry about it.
  3. macrumors 6502

    Nov 7, 2009
    I agree with JC, build your own computer as you'll save a lot of money and it is more upgradable than a MacPro (the graphics aren't as easy to upgrade as you'd expect).

    If you're looking to use it as a replacement machine (with OS X support) check out as there is a good list of compatible hardware there. They even have thunderbolt working. For gaming you don't need a mac anyway. If you want it to look like a Mac then JC's case is good. Alternatively buy a dead MacPro or G5 (I bought my G5 for £26) and strip it out. It requires more work but I really enjoyed building mine. There's something satisfying about building your own computer.
  4. macrumors member

    May 21, 2008
    Fort Worth, TX
    I'll echo the previous posters' sentiments. I purchased a Mac Pro1, 1 back in 2006 with the notion that it would last considerably longer than either the all-in-one or laptop configurations due to it's upgradability. Back then flashing PC video cards to run in Macs was in it's infancy, and to make matters worse Apple's graphics card options were anemic and expensive. Today, the landscape has only changed in that flashing a PC card to work in a Mac is not such an experiment, and 3rd party manufacturers are releasing some Mac versions of their recent cards; though, they are still more expensive than their PC counterparts. Thus, the idea that the Mac Pro was highly more upgradeable than the iMac, Mac Mini, or laptop configurations has become somewhat of a skewed notion.

    Today's Mac Pro model hasn't been upgraded in a long time (not many consider the speed bump in the last revision as much of an upgrade). Apple's attention has been elsewhere, so if you're looking for a computer that is upgradeable, allows you to play recent games at respectable frame rates and game settings, and you're a little tech savvy or willing to learn something new, then your best option is to build your own computer, and install a couple of drives with which you can install both Mac OS X (Hackintosh) and Windows to satisfy your gaming interests. The hardware you build will be considerably better performing, well-suited, and more inexpensive for your needs than today's Mac Pro.
  5. macrumors 65816


    Sep 1, 2010
    IF i won the lottery, id consider having a custom machined case made to resemble what a uni-body macpro should look like, putting the best of the best PC components in it, and then hackintosh it and duel boot..

    Probably cost me lest than trying to buy a gaming spec mac pro.
  6. Gary King, May 9, 2013
    Last edited: May 9, 2013

    thread starter macrumors 6502

    Jun 14, 2004
    Okay thanks. Here's my new idea, then.

    When my current iMac is no longer able to play modern games well (which seems to be within the next year or two), then I figure I'll buy a Mac Mini for my Mac needs (should be around US$750), then a PC computer for gaming (around $1,000). So roughly I'll spend $2,000 including any extra stuff I might need.

    I figure I could then use a KVM switch with a Logitech Unifying Receiver for my mouse and keyboard, so I can easily switch between the two computers and use the same mouse, keyboard, and monitor for both computers. And my Mac Mini will always be on, but I'll just turn the Windows computer on when I want to play some games, since I imagine it'd be a much louder computer than either a Mac Mini or an iMac.

    Recently, I've encountered driver problems myself with Boot Camp and Windows 7, so I can definitely appreciate the fact that Windows 7 works better on a Windows-dedicated computer, where it "belongs".

    My only concern is that downgrading from an iMac to a Mac Mini might make me really notice the difference between the two. I've got 16 GB of RAM right now; I suspect I can install that, or even 32 GB of RAM in the near future in a Mini soon. However, the 5400 RPM HD is really worrying, and there's no option for a 7200 RPM one; the SSD looks promising but it's quite expensive.
  7. macrumors 68020


    Dec 3, 2001
    Get the stock Mac Mini config with the 1Tb 5400rpm drive and up the CPU to the 2.6Ghz (or whatever it is by then, it's £80 more for that now and they had the 2.6Ghz BTO system on the refurb store a month or 2 back for £649).

    Add your own SSD. It only needs a lowerflex cable, no need for a complete disassembly like some tutorials show:
  8. macrumors newbie

    Feb 14, 2013
    Build your own PC. It is way easier than what people think...

    Go to -- It's going to be an easy way for you to 1) Check to make sure you didn't forget any parts 2) Find the best prices 3) See what others have done.

    You could also just post whatever your configuration on a forum to make sure everything's good and what not.

    Then when you have all the components just put a youtube DIY tutorial and follow it step-by-step.

    It is going to save you quite a bit of money, (thousands compared to the mac pro) and you get to build it yourself !
  9. thread starter macrumors 6502

    Jun 14, 2004
    Thanks. The SSD replacement looks daunting so I'll have to think about that. I'll probably build my own PC, though.

    Also, after looking at KVMs, it looks like most (at least the $20 ones) only support VGA output. The ones that support Mini DisplayPort are $100. I might be forced to get those ones, but hopefully the graphical improvement is worth it.
  10. macrumors 6502a

    Sep 17, 2007
    I agree with the Mac Mini + gaming PC route. Getting an SSD for both is definitely worth it. Nothing makes a brand new Mac/PC feel more like a 5 year old computer, the day you get it, by having a spinning HD in there.

    I took a ghetto route when I had my Mac and gaming PC at the same desk. I used a monitor that accepted 2 video inputs so that covered the video part. For the keyboard/mouse, I used a cheap 2-port USB hub and had 2 wires going to it, one from the Mac and the other from the PC. I'd manually switch them out whenever I wanted to use one or the other. It only took a few seconds to switch from the Mac to the PC and vice-versa but not nearly as slick as just pressing a single button on a KVM.

    edit: on 2nd thought, why do you need a new Mac if you're planning on building a new gaming PC? Your current iMac isn't old at all and is more than enough for typical computing tasks. Do you really need a new Mac?
  11. thread starter macrumors 6502

    Jun 14, 2004
    Good question on the new Mac thing. Well, I've got an iMac mid-2010 21". The problem with this is that, as far as I can tell, it can't accept video from another source. Here is the list of iMacs that support "Target Display Mode". Notice the iMac mid-2010 27" supports it, but not the 21".

    Unless, of course, someone is able to let me know if an alternative way I can achieve this? One thing I was thinking of is using another monitor as my primary monitor?

    Also, regarding KVMs, this one looks like what I would be looking for.
  12. macrumors newbie

    Jun 5, 2012
    Wait for the update

    Back when it was launched, buying a MacPro as a high end gaming rig was more than good sense, it was the machine that pretty much killed the high end gaming rig market. The MacPro was cheaper than my Voodoo Omen, had almost the same spec but was far far better finished. Instead of being a kit computer with some custom parts, the MacPro was a smooth machine with everything fitting nicely and beautifully integrated. Like buying a Mercedes instead of a custom hotrod.

    The only slight difference was that the Omen is water cooled and overclocked. And both are far more hassle than they are worth. I detuned the machine a few years back to make it more reliable. The water cooling is unacceptably noisy and despite claims by Voodoo was not factory sealed. If Bootcamp had existed when I ordered the MacPro I would have bought the Mac and run windows on it.

    The problem with the MacPro is that it has not been undated in years and is way behind the curve for gaming. So I would not consider one. I might consider the updated MacPro but only if it was available when I wanted to buy and only if the spec was competitive.

    My current plan is to retire my Voodoo later this year and build a rig round the new intel chip and boards coming out round that time. There should be a new rampage board and the nVidia Titan cards should be available in quantity. For $6000 you can build a rig that is faster than the third fastest supercomputer in the world back in 2003 and run the machine off a standard US 20 amp service. For $4000 you can build a machine that is faster than anything the games designers likely had when they wrote the games. Given that you are talking of a MacPro, I guess you are thinking of that type of money.

    There are boards like overclockers where people suggest builds and people critique them.
  13. macrumors 65816

    Lil Chillbil

    Jan 30, 2012
    Take my situation, I was looking into the mac pro for gaming. and for my price range of $1000, the mac pro was offering me an x1900xt dual core 2 duo processors. an ssd and 1 1tb drive

    the pc range was offering me a fully expandable windows 8 machine that I could replace everything in it without wondering if it was compable with it. this next year I am putting in a 680 a new power supply 1 more data drive. and a 6-core i7 ivy bridge with hyper threading. and I still won't be maxed out
  14. macrumors 65816


    Feb 7, 2013
    Not a very good idea.

    Even though you can use Bootcamp, games are often optimized for Windows.

    Your cost of parts is also much higher. The exact same GPU is like 200 more when compatible with the Mac Pro.

    If you're purely thinking about gaming go Windows.
  15. thread starter macrumors 6502

    Jun 14, 2004
    Okay thanks. My biggest concern is using a KVM to switch between something like a Mac Mini and a Windows PC. I need to probably move away from my wireless Apple keyboard and get a wired one, or a RF one, such as what Logitech offers.
  16. macrumors 6502a


    Apr 3, 2010
    Central CA
    I've lusted after a Mac Pro too, but economically (now) it doesn't make sense. Maybe if/when it gets upgraded?

    For now (a la the "ghetto" arrangement noted above) I have a Mac Mini *and* an Asus G73SW laptop on my desk. Both are connected to my monitor (Dell 23" Ultrasharp) using different connectors (my Mini uses the Displayport and my Asus uses an HDMI-to-DVI connector).

    I have the keyboard typically hooked up to the Mini since I do my computing with my Mac, and my gaming with the laptop. It is a cinch to use M$ Remote Desktop Connection to my laptop...I run Spaces with 6 desktops, and devote Desktop #3 to that.

    When I want to game, I switch the display over to the DVI connector, and simply unplug the keyboard & mouse from the Mini, and plug into the laptop (I use a $10 USB 4-port dongle, with the keyboard and mouse plugged into that, so I only have to plug and unplug one thing).

    I used a Hackintosh a while back, and it was a slight pain to do the upgrades. I was able to get the Asus fairly cheap, and it is quite powerful. I shelled out extra $$$ to get Windows 7 Pro, so I could use RDC, and have a stand-alone install disk for later virtualization.

  17. macrumors 68020

    Nov 16, 2006
    The mac pro with a gtx 680 isnt too bad of a gaming machine if you really only want one machine. Will probably end up costing you more than two separate systems tho.
  18. thread starter macrumors 6502

    Jun 14, 2004
    Yeah I pplan on having a similar setup. However, I'll use a KVM rather than switching the USB keyboard/mouse and monitor manually. Any reason why you don't use a KVM yourself, or you just never bothered to get one?

    Yeah I think it'll be quite costly to get a Mac Pro when a PC equivalent could perhaps be 1/3 the price, considering that I'll be keeping my current iMac as my primary work computer while the PC will just be for gaming.
  19. macrumors 6502a


    Apr 3, 2010
    Central CA
    I have used a KVM before. Two reasons why I don't now:
    1) they want a ton of money for DVI or better inputs. With VGA, it was easy to get a cheap ($40) KVM. When I looked last, I couldn't find anything under $120 (I may reconsider when I upgrade and get Thunderbolt...)

    2) By the time you route the cables for two machines, I had more cables than I would for just this set up (i.e., two sets of cables from each computer to the KVM, then another set from the KVM to the Monitor & keyboard/mouse...blechhhh).

    When I had 4 computers hooked up (years ago) it made sense, but with only two, it didn't seem worth it. Instead of flicking a switch, I just plug and unplug the USB dongle. Pretty much the same diff...
  20. thread starter macrumors 6502

    Jun 14, 2004
    Do you switch between the computers often? I will probably switch between the two computers about once a day (so I'll physically hit the switch twice a day, once to get to Windows for a few hours, then once to get back to Mac when I'm done) so I figure it'd be more convenient to use a KVM.
  21. macrumors 65816


    Sep 6, 2009
    The sound card of the Mac Pro is good. If you'll be using the MP for gaming and hook it up with good speakers you might also enjoy the audio.
  22. macrumors 6502a


    Apr 3, 2010
    Central CA
    I should mention first that, with the gaming laptop on the desk, and within 6 inches of the Mac mini, switching a usb cable from one to the other is trivial, and that if I had to physically get on my hands and knees to switch from a mini to a desktop, I would give up and get a KVM pretty quickly.

    What I do is this...I run both on at the same time. During the day, for the most part, I run the Mac mini with six virtual desktops via Spaces. I devote one virtual desktop to M$ Remote Desktop Client (RDC), and log on to my Windoze PC that way. So, I merrily surf and itune etc. on my Mac, and switch to do work (M$ Office tasks) on the PC (like right now...I'm doing Access and Excel work with Office 2013 right now on a virtual desktop).

    When I decide I want to game, I unplug the USB dongle (it has 4 ports--I connect my keyboard, mouse, and gaming control pad to it) and plug into the PC (as a said, the laptop is 6 inches from the mini, so plugging and unplugging from the mini is easy. I actually have mini hooked up to the USB expansion ports on my Dell Ultrasharp monitor, so I plug into my monitor, and switch to the PC--save reaching around to the back of the mini).

    Then (if you are still with me) I switch my monitor from the DisplayPort (the connection to the mini) to the DVI port (my connection to the laptop) by pressing the monitor's menu takes a total of 5 button presses to switch...that may be a lot for today's kids, but I can handle it. To switch back, I just reverse the process. I wind up switching 2 or 3 times a day, at most (since using RDC enables me to use the computer to run office apps. Most games will *not* run like this).

    Like I said, this is easy because the laptop and mini are so close. If I had to get on my hands and knees with a tower that was under the desk, I would get the KVM.

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