3D graphic student - Which Mac?

Discussion in 'MacBook Pro' started by Ry., May 16, 2013.

  1. Ry. macrumors member

    Oct 6, 2011
    Hi guys, quick question.

    Im going into my final year of university to do 3D graphics an animation and I need a computer. My budget is around £1500 maximum, preferably a lot less as ill need cash for a flat etc..

    Anyways. Which mac will suit me best?

    A 15" classic mbp, the retina, an imac or could i get away with using a 13" cmbp?

    The programs I will be using are maya, photoshop, after effects..

    Which mac would you recommen to a student? Ill get 15% any order with student discount it that helps.

    Thanks :)
  2. B... macrumors 68000


    Mar 7, 2013
    Either base iMac or base 15" MBP. You might get away with a 13", but maybe not. The quad core and discrete GPU might be necessary.

    Not sure how much they cost in Europe, but in the US the base iMac is $1300 and the base MacBook Pro 15" is $1799. The Retina is out of your budget.

    The thing you need to decide is if you need to have a machine you can use on the go.
  3. Badrottie Suspended


    May 8, 2011
    Los Angeles
  4. Mr MM macrumors 65816

    Mr MM

    Jun 29, 2011
    none. if you want a notebook get an alienware m17x, m18x or the clevo/sager np9150 or np9170. In those you throw a 3740qm and a 7970m or 8790m and you are much better off given the opencl and opengl performance of amd vs the shambles that is nvidia, which will matter a lot when you are doing your CAD work and some other stuff.

    there are I think 3-4 resellers of clevo equipment in the UK, mysn, pcspcecialist and some others that I cant remember of the bat


    that is a link with some benchies that we are gathering for pro software in mobile hardware. The only outlier in that is the k5000m that is on prema notebook, that notebook however comes with a dual 330w psu because it uses a desktop i7 lga 2011 cpu (server grade).

    In other words the poor very poor 650m which is 3x slower than the 680m and 7970m aint gonna make it
  5. thekev macrumors 604


    Aug 5, 2010
    I would post this question on cgsociety as well prior to making your decision, as you'll get more relevant advice.

    That isn't always practical for a student. This forum is full of weird advice. The OP really needs to figure out what works well for other students and allows them to complete their projects in an efficient manner.

    There is always an assumption that students need the beefiest hardware due to the subject, and I don't totally agree. Even the 5000m will have its limits. If your scene is getting too heavy, the school may have desktop workstations available. I would suggest the OP find out about that and see if the school has any recommendations. I think the alienware is a really bad idea. Also are you out of your mind on AMD compared to NVidia? NVidia Quadros have always been the favored gpus over AMD's firepro offerings on Windows, mostly for driver stability. AMD doesn't have some of those issues on OSX.
  6. joshhedge macrumors regular

    Sep 23, 2012
    I trust you're getting the 15% student discount? The choice comes down to portability vs power. If you need to take the computer places, get the 15inch MBP, if you don't, get a nicely spec'd iMac.
  7. Mr MM macrumors 65816

    Mr MM

    Jun 29, 2011
    its not an assumption, a np9150 will run around 1350 for a great config. i7 3740qm + 95% NTSC gamut matte screen + 16gb of ram (you can go for 32gb) + 7970m + 1tb HDD, and if s/he wants s/he can put a SSD in there for scratch disk

    Nvidia quadros before kepler were favored. after kepler its a very very very different story

    aside that did you actually took a look at those benchies that I put in the link? did you see how owned nvidia hardware is? how do you think a measly 650m will run it?

    in the end, you can get a much more powerful notebook that will do the job or you can get the mbp 15 that will accomplish something in much more time
  8. thekev macrumors 604


    Aug 5, 2010
    You linked OpenCL benchmarks. Those are by far the least important thing for the applications listed, as it's not specifically used in many of them. Luxrender is gpu based. The OP mentioned After Effects and Maya. Maya's primary renderer is mental ray. It is 100% cpu based. Vray is another popular one. It primarily uses CUDA. After Effects uses CUDA in the case of its raytracer, if you wish to make use of it. The real reason I suggested NVidia was because historically they have been much more stable in these programs. Some cards do experience strange bugs and viewport rendering errors, and if it's an unsupported card, you won't get any help. I mention this for Windows as OSX requirements are less stringent due to a much smaller pool of overall hardware options.

    Regarding NVidia, I wasn't so much concerned with benchmarks. I was concerned that AMD's OpenGL Windows drivers can be problematic, especially on gaming cards. Some of them do have issues. The link just compares computation speeds in a piece of software the OP will probably never use. What matters in terms of gpus is primarily viewport performance. If you are animating something, it's nice to be able to play back something light in real time without having to playblast it every time.

    Anyway I have nothing against Windows notebooks. I merely suggested avoiding some of the gaming hardware unless someone else has tested something similar in the same usage case. I also agree they can sometimes offer more value. Regarding displays, don't get fooled by manufacturer specs. They like to quote based on gamut, but you need to find a thorough review for a complete picture. Uniformity, viewing angles, stability, and shadow detail make a significant difference. Apple has never (in my opinion) offered the absolute best displays on the market, but the rMBP is decent. The cMBP displays aren't very good at all.

    Edit: I would agree some of those would outperform the macbook pro, but I've already explained why it's important to research them properly.
  9. Mr MM macrumors 65816

    Mr MM

    Jun 29, 2011
    they would outperform the mbp in every single possible way.

    aside that CS is moving away from cuda
  10. Sneakz macrumors 65816


    Jul 17, 2008
    Toronto, Ontario, Canada
    I too am going to go ahead and suggest a Windows notebook or a desktop. I've done some 3D in the past and spent very little time in an OS X environment despite using a Mac Pro. I guess you could be okay with an iMac with a 675MX or something also.
  11. thekev macrumors 604


    Aug 5, 2010
    You're still ignoring my driver comments, and Adobe says a lot of things. Right now Premiere and After Effects use CUDA for specific things, and NVidia has a much better track record within maya. Trying to project where OpenCL might be an advantage in the future isn't very meaningful to the uses listed here if the OP needs to buy a machine today. The Mac isn't so much of a standard in that area. It's probably skewed considerably in favor of windows, given that a couple major 3d apps aren't available on OSX at all. If budget is making the OP look at a 13 mbp, I would say he might be better off with Windows options like you suggested. I don't have anything against them. It's 90% the same once you're in an app. I mainly disagree on alienware and anything with AMD Radeon drivers as opposed to firepro m unless you can verify that they run acceptably within that application. Driver tuning makes an enormous difference in some of those opengl animation apps. If he uses mudbox, it's somewhat vram dependent. When determining what to spend, it's also important to look at what resources the school offers.

    I still think this forum isn't the best place to look for advice in that area.
  12. cube macrumors G5

    May 10, 2004
    There are other forward looking considerations:

    - With VS2012, it is possible to program with C++ AMP, which is implemented using DirectCompute. It is easier to program in C++ AMP than in OpenCL or with DirectCompute. C++ AMP is also being implemented in Clang using OpenCL, but I guess that is not very mainstream.

    - AMD is going to start producing CPUs with hUMA, which is better than the current GPGPU approaches.
  13. Mr MM macrumors 65816

    Mr MM

    Jun 29, 2011
    show me driver problems on non beta drivers
  14. thekev macrumors 604


    Aug 5, 2010
    This is anecdotal, but it's pretty typical of AMD cards.


    The OpenGL in these apps is nothing like gaming, and if you have problems, you have 0 support options. They'll ask what card you're using. When you tell them, they'll simply reply that it's unsupported. Most of these developers do support the AMD gaming cards on OSX unless CUDA is specifically required. Mari would be an example of that, although I've never personally used it. The Clevo might be a strong choice, although I don't know that much about the brand. Lenovo's W530 could be a good choice. A decent configuration can be specced out around $1500-1600 with a Quadro K2000M. With Alienware you would get a 650m in that price range anyway.

    I don't hate everything AMD. I just wouldn't use their gaming cards for such applications. The Firepro cards are a different story. I realize they're comparing some extremely expensive cards there. The real point was that the wrong hardware can really lag things. I say that even when I don't think Windows machines are a bad idea there, especially compared to the consideration of a 13 mbp. Integrated graphics will feel fine when modeling a light object, but they will bog down very quickly, probably under a million polygons unsmoothed.
  15. Mr MM macrumors 65816

    Mr MM

    Jun 29, 2011
    its a 5870, gladly you know its annedoctal.

    the k2000 is based on the 650m with ECC buffered ram

    what is unfortunate is that AMD didnt launch the firepro m9000 or something like that. there is a great difference in power regarding the m6000 and the 7850m, which is based on the 7770
  16. thekev macrumors 604


    Aug 5, 2010
    They tend to be adjusted drivers too. It's unfortunate that it uses DDR3 rather than DDR5. IIRC the K3000M uses DDR5.

    Indeed. I do like the firepro cards as long as CUDA isn't a requirement. I'm still curious if this would be supplemented by hardware at the school. I get your point regarding the lack of updates in the workstation gpus. As I mentioned I would just be sure the gpu plays friendly with maya if you're purchasing a computer with one that isn't officially supported. It's not like the gpu can be returned or switched. I focus on maya as it's a very finicky program compared to the others. Photoshop occasionally has bugs that are specific to whatever gpu hardware, but it's not highly gpu dependent. After Effects is also somewhat lenient outside of specific functionality that requires CUDA. I really wish OpenCL was more prevalent in these areas. GPGPU has received a lot of buzz for years at this point, but its adoption has remained fairly slow.
  17. fpsBeaTt Suspended


    Apr 18, 2010
    27" iMac, 15" Retina MacBook Pro (or 17" if and when they introduce it), or Mac Pro when it's refreshed @ dub dub.
  18. sev macrumors member

    Oct 30, 2008
    Southeast UK + Italy

    Autodek website has a tool allowing you to analyse what system is compatible for the program of choice.

    For maya it will run on all of the macs which have been recommended by all the posters here, however the graphics hardware will let you down depending on how heavily you use the render and texture engines while you're modelling.

    Personally speaking if you really must have have a laptop, I'd go with a dell precision of you intend to throw around high count point clouds and meshes, otherwise a mbp will be fine.

    The dell precision range has the quadro chipset, which for what you want is worth its weight in gold. DOn't bother with alienware, its not that they aren't any good, but they are game machines.

    The difference in gaming graphics cards and pro cards is all in the detail, but you can flash a game card to think its a pro card or unlock its pro potential.

    The gaming cards by nature are generally more powerful in many respects, as they are designed to move a texture around a screen quickly and frame rates as well.

    What a regular gpu won't do, which a pro gpu will is throw a 2 million cloudpoint model or multi assembly dataset with over 1000 components around around with four view panes open and to within 0.001mm accuracy.

    As a student you won't need that level of accuracy - especially not for maya, what you'll be doing is pretty much within the scope of any of the machines mentioned above. If you're using maya and aftereffects I suppose you'll be doing freeform organic modelling and then compositing - you shouldn't have any problem, lets face it, the mbp will run final cut quite happily so aftereffects should be no problem, and as for the modelling providing you're not intent on modelling everything with textures in realtime then again you shouldn't have a problem.

    If you have your heart set on a mac, then what you will get is a great user experience and also a semi investment as the depreciation will be a lot less than for an equivalent PC - oh and you will also be very very cool to go with it.

    I sometimes model in alias within mac OS X on my macbook pro and I love the experience, sure it doesn't 'feel' as snappy as windows but it's enjoyable. By contrast I boot into my windows partition to use Catia, which is very tedious!

    I would imagine that maya may have some caveats with the mac but if alias is anything to go by it'll be over renderers and display modes rather than performance throttling per se.

    I hope this helps. :)
  19. Ry. thread starter macrumors member

    Oct 6, 2011
    Great advice, thank you all for the comments.

    I should have mentione that we have a mac lab full of 27" imacs, roughly 24 in total. Our university, or atleast our department is very 'mac' if you catch my drift, although that's probably due to the sound design modules take up the majority of time in the lab, and mac's seem to be best for pro tools/logic.

    I would probably prefer the retina over an imac, purely down to the fact I could take it into classes, but the sheer power by the pound you get with an imac, coupled with the large display seems a lot more value for money. I would probably have bought the base 27" by now if it came with 1GB vram, im put off the 512mb, which is a pity. Also, from what I hear on the retina, a large portion of that gpu is in ise constantly just to power that display.

    Maybe Apple will bump up the vram on the base 27" this year, but unfortunately I cant afford to wait for Apple to give us what we should really have gotten with the refresh in the first place. The higher end 27" is just out my budget unfortunately.

    The best I can hope for is Apple release a new 15" retina in june/july at a slightly reduced price and i'll throw my student loan at them and use it to its potential.

    Even better scenario would be a vram bump on the 21" imac in june/july with haswell, as its Cheaper than the retina with similar power without that huge resolution to power.

    I suppose I, like many of you are sitting, waiting on Apple to give us what we want. Fingers crossed :)
  20. KUguardgrl13 macrumors 68020


    May 16, 2013
    Kansas, USA
    Sounds like you're certainly learning toward the iMac if possible. If you don't want retina, you might consider a "regular" 15 MacBook Pro. You get a much larger hard drive for less money and you don't lose power and other things to the display. One of my art major friends got the 15" back in 2009 and has been very happy with it. Her medium is painting, but she's done a fair amount of graphic design as well. Check with your professors and see what they recommend. As with many art & design depts, they prefer Apple to others. If your going to be working on the school machines as well, it's probably much better to have something similar for your personal machine. I definitely like having my 13" MBP for lectures, although the iMacs are pretty. Even as a history major I'd choose Mac over Windows. Certainly worth the investment when you're in college and can't afford constant repairs! Definitely get AppleCare! Also worth the extra cost, especially with what you'll be doing.
  21. GermanyChris macrumors 601


    Jul 3, 2011
    I'm with the used mac pro guy especially if you have a display, keyboard etc.
  22. AtillaMullQueen, Jun 13, 2013
    Last edited: Jun 13, 2013

    AtillaMullQueen macrumors newbie


    Jun 12, 2013
    It's more complicated than "which Mac"

    Ok homie, it's like this...

    If you have been using Maya for any amount of time then you know that it's a memory hog and also needs a big graphics card to run at its best...

    You need to build your system around your most intense app & according to your post, Maya is it. The smallest graphics card that is certified for Maya is the S2000. It's tiny but it passed. The largest card that is currently offered by Apple is a 2 gig in the desktops but it's certified for Maya. It's a little small for my needs especially at work. Your needs are probably different though..;)

    Maya also needs at least 8 gigs of ram to run at half speed and 16 is recommended but 32 is best...

    Fastest CPU you can afford...

    1080p display minimum...

    There is something that needs to be understood when speaking of 3D modeling, painting & animation. It does not matter what name is on the machine because you don't buy a computer without designing it for this type of software. I'm sure you know that but if you want to succeed in this game my homie, get past the brand name & concentrate on your software running at its peak...;)

    I use 5 different 3D modeling apps at work including Maya. It's all about performance with them and your required workflow. Let me know if you need any pointers, bro...:)

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