Mac Pro tradeoffs: Processor speed, graphics card, RAM

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by SwitchingSoon, Aug 10, 2006.

  1. SwitchingSoon macrumors regular

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    Apr 14, 2004
    Location:
    Saint Louis, MO
    #1
    Hey guys,

    I plan on ordering a mac pro within the next few days (hopefully tomorrow). I'll be using it a lot in college; one of my majors will be film.

    I got my parents to agree to pay $1000 of this (they won't be spending a cent on my education :( AND they get my present computer) ....I'll be forking the rest over with some of my summer job earnings/ schol. money.

    Anyhoo, using this money optimally is extremely important to me. I want to spend at max hopefully around $3000. At min, $2500ish.

    This will be my first mac. Two years ago I posted here regularly and ordered a dual processor powermac. The shipping time was horrendous; it was pushed back multiple times. Eventually I cancelled and got a pretty decent PC ($1350).

    Now I'm back in the fold. Now that macs run windows, wasting money on a pc would be utterly idiotic.

    I was wondering what YOU think, in your experience with macs (and film, if possible), would be the best way to spend the money. What tradeoffs should I make in RAM, video cards, processor speed and the like?

    Remember, I have the EDU discount.

    Right now, I'm leaning towards a baseline model +3.0 ghz. That comes off at around $3k.
     
  2. dex22 macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Jun 17, 2003
    Location:
    Round Rock, TX
    #2
    As a filmmaker, here's my take:

    You won't want, need, or benefit from the extra $$$ spent on 3.0 - 2.66 is only 0.34 slower. The $800 that frees up should be put into memory and two large HDs. These should be bought after-market - not from Apple.

    The stock video card is entirely competent for HD work. 3D acceleration doesn't help here.

    If you end up with a 2.66 quad machine with 4GB and two extra 300 or 350GB drives, that would serve video editing better than a quad 3.0 with 1GB and 250GB.
     
  3. Makosuke macrumors 603

    Joined:
    Aug 15, 2001
    Location:
    The Cool Part of CA, USA
    #3
    I agree; spending the $800 on a 10% or so speed increase is a vast waste of money unless you absolutely need every drop of power and money is no object. That money would be FAR better spent toward any other component.

    Which components are most valuable to you depends 100% on what you're doing with it.

    If you're doing photo editing mainly, then RAM. Period. Get as much as you can possibly afford, and I'd probably get it from Datamem.com instead of Apple to save money. If you're doing 3D, then a better graphics card. If video, RAM and mass storeage, like the poster above said. On the off chance your work was 100% processor bound (say, video encoding), only then would the 3GHz model be worth looking at... and even then, for $800, I'd wait 10% longer and buy a 23" monitor or a giant stack of anime DVDs or just save it for an upgrade later or something. That's a lot of money, especially for a student.

    If I was in your specific situation, what I'd do is get the 2.66 model with absolutely everything at base level, and probably AppleCare (though that can always be bought later). Then I'd add another gig of RAM aftermarket and either a Raptor or a 500 gig drive, depending on whether speed or capacity was more important, and later, when the X1900 is shipping (it's $450 with edu discount from Apple), I'd buy one and bump the 7300 down to one of the other slots or eBay it.

    Now, if you're not gaming or doing anything 3D intensive, the X1900 is a waste, and buying it later is more expensive than BTO'ing it, but that way I'd get it in my hands sooner and could add the card once it's actually shipping.
     
  4. bloosqr macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Mar 2, 2004
    #4
    counting your dollars

    What I would recommend is getting whatever is non-upgradable (on my g5 the bluetooth was a required feature that you had to buy w/ the system as you could not upgrade it afterwards (except w/ usb))) ... getting a reasonable drive.. but anything anything else, particularly the ram and any other storage (i.e. for the 2nd,3rd,4th drives) that you may need if you are already or want to do film (better yet.. wait until you start filling up the original drive and then buy those drives) ...

    So buy cheap, perhaps get a reasonable graphics card (depending on your interests)... put the least amount of ram you can, snag the rest of the ram from crucial (i think they are reconfiguring the mac pro right now but it'll be up soon)..

    I would also recommend buying 1 of the same size drive as your system drive (which should also be the smallest yet reasonable sized drive for the price you can find on apples site (i.e. maybe a 300 gig drive?)) via the net (and it should be cheap i.e. $100 or something for a 300 gig drive etc).. when you get the system.. install that drive, wipe your system drive and reinstall using raid 1. Its not perfect backup but its much better than nothing and its only $100.

    when you start needing real storage (i.e. beyond the 300 gigs on your system drive) then buy 2 3rd party drives to fill slots 3 and 4 on your machine and mirror them, who knows maybe when you need them the 750 gig drives will be $100 each and so will only add 200 to the cost in the future...

    as you need it, you can upgrade the ram in the future... snag 2 1 gig sdrams via crucial now... (or whatever you think is reasonable)
     
  5. SwitchingSoon thread starter macrumors regular

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    Apr 14, 2004
    Location:
    Saint Louis, MO
    #5
    Thank you for your replies.

    I will not get the 3 ghz model any longer. I wasn't sure of the benefits....you guys convinced me.

    I'll now most likely invest in RAM and hard drives. Maybe a video card later down the road.

    edit: thanks for the third reply.

    I'm looking at datamem. The ram is not much cheaper than having Apple install it.
     
  6. SwitchingSoon thread starter macrumors regular

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    #6
    Would this computer be able to last me 4 years?

    I'm worried about the processor, which I can't update again.
     
  7. MIDI_EVIL macrumors 65816

    MIDI_EVIL

    Joined:
    Jan 23, 2006
    Location:
    UK
    #7
    Yes, i would say it would pretty much last you four years, it is a Quad system which can accept plenty of RAM.

    Also, i think you can upgrade the processor.

    Rich.
     
  8. twoodcc macrumors P6

    twoodcc

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    #8
    yeah, i think it'll easily last 4 years. it is a quad by the way :eek: ;)
     
  9. SwitchingSoon thread starter macrumors regular

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    Apr 14, 2004
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    Saint Louis, MO
    #9
    I'm ordering tonight!

    Let me clarify on a previous statement.....

    I'm worried about not being able to update the processor from a 2.6 to 3.0....

    That's why I was originally leaning towards the baseline 3.0 ghz.

    Anyhoo, I'll probably order some RAM and the 2.6 model tonight. Maybe a video card/hard drive if I can eke out the funds.

    edit://nm, i guess you can update the processor too...
     
  10. Lord Blackadder macrumors G5

    Lord Blackadder

    Joined:
    May 7, 2004
    Location:
    Sod off
    #10
    Good luck with your first Mac!

    People have covered most of the bases already, but to repeat:

    - I'd go with the 2.66GHz, the 3.0 is a lot more expensive.

    - Upgrading the video card is good if you plan on semi-serious gaming or doing 3D modeling. Otherwise the base 7300GT will probably sufficient.

    - Don't buy hard drives or RAM from Apple, their markup is infamous. Get them from Newegg or OWC or others.

    - The second optical drive option is $100...I'd go for it.

    - Get the Bluetooth and Airport Extreme options if you have even a small inlking you may use them...they arecheap and a pain to get installed later.

    The CPUs are socketed and any other current or future Intel chip using the same socket type should pop right in.
     
  11. roland.g macrumors 603

    roland.g

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    #11
    I have a 6 1/2 year old 1st generation G4 450mhz single processor that I am finally upgrading. If that tells you something. You will get a lot out of this. For sure the 2.66. Make sure you get a video card that supports two screens, not sure which one that is, unless you just want to do that later. Like the others said forget the HD's, you can get those third party for cheap, Western Digital is a good bet from newegg, owc, or dealmac. As for the RAM, I put 768 in my tower when I got it, which was a lot for the year 2000. I would get some RAM now from Apple for two reasons. You really can't get it much cheaper at the moment. And two, crucial and the others are having issues supplying FB-DIMMS with heatsinks and it may be a little while till you can add some reliable RAM at a good price. $2,878 pre-discount gets you a Quad 2.66 with 2GB RAM, the 250 stock drive, stock video which can drive two displays, and the bluetooth/airport which is a must on a BTO.
     
  12. Sun Baked macrumors G5

    Sun Baked

    Joined:
    May 19, 2002
    #12
    OWC has finned heatsinked FB-DIMMs, but with a price to match the constrained supply.

    All depends on whether you can wait or need the RAM now.
     
  13. SwitchingSoon thread starter macrumors regular

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    Saint Louis, MO
    #13
    Thanks for making it clearer.

    I'm configuring right now.

    I will not get bluetooth and Airport extreme because it extends shipping times 2-4 weeks! I move in on the 24th; that's simply not feasible :-(

    As for the video card; you're probably right. I plan on doing some 3d later on, but right now that's overkill.

    Good idea on the optical drive. $90? I'll probably go for that. That extends shipping time to 3-5 days.

    edit:///thanks for the other replies.

    Living without a computer for a while (by extending the shipping time several weeks)...especially when it is my first mac is not something I'm interested in doing. I still have to figure out how to do everything.
     
  14. SwitchingSoon thread starter macrumors regular

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    #15
    Also, is it possible to buy a superdrive?

    I need my computer before we leave....So I'm not sure if I want to even risk "3-5" days.
     
  15. dex22 macrumors regular

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    Location:
    Round Rock, TX
    #16
    You can certainly buy SATA superdrives on the aftermarket, for a lot cheaper than Apple sells them.
     
  16. THX1139 macrumors 68000

    THX1139

    Joined:
    Mar 4, 2006
    #17
    You're going to hate me for saying this, but you don't need the Macpro for college. You will probably won't be working film resolution for a few years, if at all. Maybe for your final project senior year, but they will have systems at the school you can use. What I'd do is get a MacbookPro instead. This way you have plenty of power to render video, especially for any class projects, and you'll be able to take it with you wherever you go. If you are going to be living in a dorm room, you aren't going to want the ball and chain that comes with owning such a heavy desktop.

    Seriously though, I recommend you evaluate exactly what type of work your going to be doing, and then buy accordingly. Don't get seduced by the Macpro unless you can justify the purchase.
     
  17. SwitchingSoon thread starter macrumors regular

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    Apr 14, 2004
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    Saint Louis, MO
    #18
    Oh my god. and I'm just about to submit my final order. don't confuse me....

    ehhhhhhh.....what's a few more hours configuring?

    Edit: yeah....i'm definitely going mac pro :)

    macbook pro won't last me 4 years....plus I don't like using the layout of the keyboard/mouse on laptops.
     
  18. SwitchingSoon thread starter macrumors regular

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    #19
  19. nsknike macrumors regular

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    Nov 2, 2005
    #20
    It looks like the right ram to me, I wouldn't buy it because I said that though, wait for someone more informed than me to answer. But if it is the right ram, man its cheaper than everywhere else.
     
  20. SwitchingSoon thread starter macrumors regular

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    Saint Louis, MO
    #21

    Oh man. I'm so tired. I just hit the order button.

    i don't even know if it's the right RAM....

    i guess I got tired of staring at my screen.
     
  21. SwitchingSoon thread starter macrumors regular

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    #22
    Bump.

    Will someone PLEASE confirm this is the right RAM?
     
  22. dex22 macrumors regular

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    Round Rock, TX
    #23
    Yes, this is the right RAM.

    I'll just note that the picture shows a sample which does not have a heatsink - ony a heat spreader. The heatsinks on the Apple memory have fins that about triple the surface area. I'm sure they'll work fine, though.
     
  23. Makosuke macrumors 603

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    The Cool Part of CA, USA
    #24
    It'll work fine, but it'll probably make the fans run louder than RAM with a big 'ol heatsink--that's what the extra large heatsink is for--to keep the fan speed low and quiet.

    If the noise doesn't bother you, you're good. If it ends up being annoying, sell that and buy some RAM from OWC (or maybe DMS--not sure about their heatsinks, but it's a lot cheaper) later, when you can afford it.
     
  24. SwitchingSoon thread starter macrumors regular

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