4-core vs. 8-core 09 MP

c2g

macrumors newbie
Original poster
Jan 20, 2010
21
0
I've been trying to purchase an 8-core '09 MP for a few months now. My IT dept, citing budget concerns, keeps coming back to me trying to trim cost. Now they're actually suggesting going from our original base purchase of an 8-core to a 4-core to save even more $.

Waiting for the new (more expensive) MP release it out of the question, but please... can anyone point me to a good link explaining why it wouldn't be a good idea to go backwards at this point? I've found some comparisons, but mostly using CS3 in their benchmarks. I'm assuming CS4 (PShop, Premiere, AE) takes better advantage of multiple cores now, and it would seem logical that FCP would do so, given the obvious connection between hardware/software development. So if anyone can point me to a good, recent comparison link to help justify the purchase of the octo, I would really appreciate it! Thanks.
 

alent1234

macrumors 603
Jun 19, 2009
5,654
122
this will depend on your OS and the version of the software you use. if you use old versions of software that aren't optimized for parallel operations, you're just wasting your employer's money
 

AZREOSpecialist

macrumors 68020
Mar 15, 2009
2,104
881
You should verify that the software you plan on using heavily even makes use of 8 cores. Most software, including CS4 (Photoshop, Illustrator, Dreamweaver) do not effectively utilize more than 2-4 cores. I don't know about Premier, FCP, etc.
 

rickvanr

macrumors 68040
Apr 10, 2002
3,256
11
Brockville
All depends on what applications you're running.

If it were my money, I get the quickest 4-core MP.

That said, I received an 8-core MP as a replacement from Apple and it kicks serious balls.

Barefeats is a great resource for benchmarks

Nehalem 4-core versus 8-core:
What's the Real World Difference?
http://www.barefeats.com/nehal08.html

Pro Apps on the Nehalem Mac Pro:
How many cores do you need?
How much memory is best?
http://www.barefeats.com/nehal04.html
 

gotzero

macrumors 68040
Jan 6, 2007
3,220
0
Mid-Atlantic, US
It is useful to think beyond single tasks. If you want to do virtualization, or run intensive apps in the background, the advantage of 8 cores gets huge.
 

AZREOSpecialist

macrumors 68020
Mar 15, 2009
2,104
881
I suppose if you want to run a virtualized Windows environment while doing serious work in Photoshop, transcoding a bunch of audio files, and running a web or mail server in the background an 8-core may be the way to go. However, with my Quad and 16 GB of RAM, I can run a virtualized Windows environment and do all of my other work, including Photoshop, without any hit to performance. But then again, I'm not doing any transcoding or rendering either.
 

mif

macrumors regular
Feb 16, 2010
170
23
home
I purchased a 2,93 gHz 8-core and it rocks with my naive ray-tracer and dances with my 3d virtual human. No regrets.

Happy with audio-decoding fix too. Many thanks to Apple and this forum.

mif from Finland.
 

Transporteur

macrumors 68030
Nov 30, 2008
2,729
3
UK
It all depends on your applications and the way you use them.
If you're mainly using FCP and the Adobe suite, go Quad. None of these applications gain any speed from more than 4 cores. Some Adobe filters can use 4 cores, not more.
FCP too runs better on higher clocked processors and can't take any advantage of an 8 core model.

Rendering though is significantly faster on an 8 core. Compressor and Premiere actually can make use of all cores but unless you're rendering the whole day, the Quad will be better for your tasks.

There is no doubt that future software will run better and better with more cores, I doubt that we see that in the next Adobe generation though.
 

c2g

macrumors newbie
Original poster
Jan 20, 2010
21
0
this will depend on your OS and the version of the software you use. if you use old versions of software that aren't optimized for parallel operations, you're just wasting your employer's money
This will be my machine until 2013, so I have to plan ahead. When it's deployed I will be using PShop, Premiere, AE CS4. Going to transition from Premiere to FCP (never used it before). Purchasing the latest version of FCS, so I'll be using the other apps from that when needed. Otherwise, I'll be the only Mac in an all-Windows environment. I'll need to communicate with everyone else on Office 2007 as well as run some proprietary Win apps via Parallels.
 

nanofrog

macrumors G4
May 6, 2008
11,718
2
This will be my machine until 2013, so I have to plan ahead. When it's deployed I will be using PShop, Premiere, AE CS4. Going to transition from Premiere to FCP (never used it before). Purchasing the latest version of FCS, so I'll be using the other apps from that when needed. Otherwise, I'll be the only Mac in an all-Windows environment. I'll need to communicate with everyone else on Office 2007 as well as run some proprietary Win apps via Parallels.
Professional software doesn't get new versions annually like consumer software typically does, as it's far more complicated.

Current versions of the applications you've listed have implemented their multi-threading via their own tools. Now with SL, it includes things like Grand Central Dispatch and OpenCL, which will likely force Adobe to re-write a substantial chunk of code to make it compliant with the new underpinnings in OS X. That will take time (and resource management = experienced people, not just money), and I'm not sure they'll have it ready by 2013. I can't help but think it's going to be a major undertaking for software developers with existing products.

Then take into account that Apple and Adobe don't have the best working relationship (could cause Adobe to drag their heels).
 

c2g

macrumors newbie
Original poster
Jan 20, 2010
21
0
Then take into account that Apple and Adobe don't have the best working relationship (could cause Adobe to drag their heels).
Adobe aside, assuming I can effectively transition to Final Cut Studio, would you say going 8-core is worth the extra $800?
 

nanofrog

macrumors G4
May 6, 2008
11,718
2
Adobe aside, assuming I can effectively transition to Final Cut Studio, would you say going 8-core is worth the extra $800?
How heavy are you into multi-tasking?

The software you've listed doesn't have the ability to utilize any more than 4 cores, and most of the time it will only be 2 cores IMO (it will depend on the libraries loaded as I understand it).

If you're running Virtual Machines, then it would be a good idea to use an Octad.

But if you're not able to multi-task or run VM's, then put the funds into a faster clock speed or upgrades (solve the system bottlenecks such as RAM and HDD throughput = some sort of RAID). The latter would give you more bang for you're companies buck, as it helps no matter the clock or core count.
 

c2g

macrumors newbie
Original poster
Jan 20, 2010
21
0
How heavy are you into multi-tasking?

The software you've listed doesn't have the ability to utilize any more than 4 cores, and most of the time it will only be 2 cores IMO (it will depend on the libraries loaded as I understand it).

If you're running Virtual Machines, then it would be a good idea to use an Octad.

But if you're not able to multi-task or run VM's, then put the funds into a faster clock speed or upgrades (solve the system bottlenecks such as RAM and HDD throughput = some sort of RAID). The latter would give you more bang for you're companies buck, as it helps no matter the clock or core count.
That gives me a different perspective to think about. Thanks for the input!
 

alent1234

macrumors 603
Jun 19, 2009
5,654
122
Professional software doesn't get new versions annually like consumer software typically does, as it's far more complicated.

Current versions of the applications you've listed have implemented their multi-threading via their own tools. Now with SL, it includes things like Grand Central Dispatch and OpenCL, which will likely force Adobe to re-write a substantial chunk of code to make it compliant with the new underpinnings in OS X. That will take time (and resource management = experienced people, not just money), and I'm not sure they'll have it ready by 2013. I can't help but think it's going to be a major undertaking for software developers with existing products.

Then take into account that Apple and Adobe don't have the best working relationship (could cause Adobe to drag their heels).
don't know about Apple's software, but a lot of professional apps including Adobe have rent a software agreements. you pay support annually and get "free" upgrades to any new version as they come out. we do this with Veritas Netbackup
 

PeterQVenkman

macrumors 68020
Mar 4, 2005
2,023
0
Adobe aside, assuming I can effectively transition to Final Cut Studio, would you say going 8-core is worth the extra $800?
Final Cut Studio is not going to utilize the 8 cores the way we dream about. If you are running a program like Maya or Cinema 4d that will eat up any core it can get it's hands on, the 8 core advantage is massive.

Otherwise just get an iMac 27 inch core i7, or spend extra to get the slower Mac Pro single socket 4 core. If you max out Apple's single socket MacPro, I believe you are paying way too much for the power you're getting. Apple doesn't offer the options many people want in this area.
 

CCK

macrumors member
Feb 14, 2010
96
0
KY
One thing to consider also is the amount of ram you think that you'll need, as the 4 core only has 4 slots verses 8 in the 8 core.

If 6 Gbs is good enough for starters, then you'd be okay right from the start with the 8 core, but you'd have to drop another $200 in the quad, as the 3 Gbs is not acceptable IMO. Then you'd have to trash that ram if you wanted to increase it, or just add another 2 Gbs to max it out at 8. Going with the 4 & 8 Gb modules gets pretty expensive, so figure that into the cost.
 

telequest

macrumors regular
Feb 1, 2010
182
41
NJ
One thing to consider also is the amount of ram you think that you'll need, as the 4 core only has 4 slots verses 8 in the 8 core.

If 6 Gbs is good enough for starters, then you'd be okay right from the start with the 8 core, but you'd have to drop another $200 in the quad, as the 3 Gbs is not acceptable IMO. Then you'd have to trash that ram if you wanted to increase it, or just add another 2 Gbs to max it out at 8. Going with the 4 & 8 Gb modules gets pretty expensive, so figure that into the cost.
The 4GB modules for the 2009s from Crucial right now are $230 each, vs. $75 each for the 2GB units - about a 50% premium per GB for the higher capacity. I don't see any 8GB units at Crucial.

Interesting: The OWC 2GB modules are $70, just $5 cheaper than Crucial. But OWC's 4GB modules are only $160 ($70 cheaper than Crucial), showing only a small per-GB premium for their larger units.

But no matter how you look at it, a mere 4 RAM slots for the 2009 Quads is a real weakness. Limits how much you can add and forces you to pay a premium per GB for the RAM you do add - at least if you go with a better supplier (I've had iffy results from OWC's RAM).
 

nanofrog

macrumors G4
May 6, 2008
11,718
2
That gives me a different perspective to think about. Thanks for the input!
:cool: NP. :)

don't know about Apple's software, but a lot of professional apps including Adobe have rent a software agreements. you pay support annually and get "free" upgrades to any new version as they come out. we do this with Veritas Netbackup
I'm quite familiar with this, as the software I use takes the same approach (National Instruments). But it's also rather expensive software (can exceed $10k per user, depending on the specifics; particularly the add-ons). So keeping up with the annual fee makes much more sense financially IMO.
 

DoFoT9

macrumors P6
Jun 11, 2007
17,508
27
Singapore
How heavy are you into multi-tasking?

The software you've listed doesn't have the ability to utilize any more than 4 cores, and most of the time it will only be 2 cores IMO (it will depend on the libraries loaded as I understand it).
hmmm. odd. whenever i have used Compressor to export videos it has used >2 cores from what i can remember. infact it completely maxed out all 8 threads on my iMac i7.

If you're running Virtual Machines, then it would be a good idea to use an Octad.
use the saved money for more RAM if that is the case!
 

nanofrog

macrumors G4
May 6, 2008
11,718
2
hmmm. odd. whenever i have used Compressor to export videos it has used >2 cores from what i can remember. infact it completely maxed out all 8 threads on my iMac i7.
Compressor can, but I'm left with the impression most of the time spent would be in other applications (content development), not compression (i.e. can be run at night in a batch - keeps the system working without forcing a DP system if it's not really necessary).

Ultimately, it comes down to the specific usage, and each user has to spend time figuring this out. The system cost difference is increasing between SP and DP systems (I consider add-ons as part of this, such as RAM, RAID,... to be included in the price). Given budgets are essentially always an issue, striking a balance between cost/performance is critical (and it may not be easy to figure out). Otherwise, bottlenecks can make a system drag, and wasted funds could have been used to solve such issues (i.e. bought more cores than needed, but sacrificed RAM,... to get them).
 

CCK

macrumors member
Feb 14, 2010
96
0
KY
But no matter how you look at it, a mere 4 RAM slots for the 2009 Quads is a real weakness. Limits how much you can add and forces you to pay a premium per GB for the RAM you do add - at least if you go with a better supplier (I've had iffy results from OWC's RAM).
To me the real issue is that you have to decide what route you are going to take with ram from day one. If the different modules were compatible, this wouldn't be a problem (if you could put a 4 Gb in the 4th slot)

I think it is interesting to see that a large % of people have a $2500 budget for a comp. This makes the ram choice difficult.
 

c2g

macrumors newbie
Original poster
Jan 20, 2010
21
0
We were probably looking at 8-12 GB of RAM for the 8-core config. Now I'm thinking if we drop to the 4-core and increase the RAM for the same price, this might be a better option?

Note - I won't use any 3D animation apps or do any gaming with this machine.

Another Note - Most of the time, I'll be using the machine for my daily duties as a webmaster - coding, image manip., all tasks that are carried out quite well by the rest of my department on cheap, base model Dells. When I do get a video project, I store everything locally and back it all up on external HDs. When I'm finished I completely remove everything from my machine. Considering this, they RAID option was the first thing to get shaved from the config to save $.

Thanks again for everyone's help.
 

c2g

macrumors newbie
Original poster
Jan 20, 2010
21
0
Just realized this quick comparison:

Base model 8-core with only upgrade being 16 GB RAM = $3799.
Base model 4-core with only upgrade being 16 GB RAM = $4349.

May not take advantage of 8 cores right now, but if I can't get more RAM with the 4-core, it doesn't seem to be a viable option.
 

telequest

macrumors regular
Feb 1, 2010
182
41
NJ
Just realized this quick comparison:

Base model 8-core with only upgrade being 16 GB RAM = $3799.
Base model 4-core with only upgrade being 16 GB RAM = $4349.

May not take advantage of 8 cores right now, but if I can't get more RAM with the 4-core, it doesn't seem to be a viable option.
Apple's pricing on RAM is insane. Get the minimum from Apple and upgrade with modules from Crucial (or OWC if you're willing to take a chance). But it's true that the smaller number of slots on the Quad force you to spend more bucks per gig on 4GB modules to reach 16GB (4x4GB) than on much-cheaper 2GB modules (8x2GB) possible on the 8-core, thus erasing some of the price difference between the base 2009 Mac Pros.
 

nanofrog

macrumors G4
May 6, 2008
11,718
2
Apple's pricing on RAM is insane. Get the minimum from Apple and upgrade with modules from Crucial (or OWC if you're willing to take a chance). But it's true that the smaller number of slots on the Quad force you to spend more bucks per gig on 4GB modules to reach 16GB (4x4GB) than on much-cheaper 2GB modules (8x2GB) possible on the 8-core, thus erasing some of the price difference between the base 2009 Mac Pros.
There is a notable difference in clock speed though, and it will certainly be reflected in single threaded performance, and even multi-threaded performance, given the applications the OP's previously listed (2 - 4 cores for most of it; Compressor is an exception; it can use all that's available).