About to purchase nMP, last minute thoughts on specs

Discussion in 'Mac Pro' started by TimothyB, Jun 17, 2014.

  1. TimothyB, Jun 17, 2014
    Last edited: Jun 17, 2014

    TimothyB macrumors 6502a

    Jun 20, 2008
    Yes, another thread about specs. It can vary wildly depending on the the needs of an individual and their budget, but then you have to consider what cannot be upgraded later and choose to spend a bit more upfront. Needless to say, It's been a tough decision.

    I've read just about every thread and review, so there might not be much to add to my post. Though, it may come in handy to others.

    What will I use a Mac Pro for?
    Mostly 3D Modeling, Rendering and Illustration, plus 3D Printing. This involves ZBrush, Modo, HDR Light Studio, Substance Designer/Painter, Adobe Creative Cloud Software.

    Current Machine:
    Early 2013 rMBP 15" with a 2.7GHz i7, 16GB Memory and 512GB SSD Storage. Usually docked with a Dell 30" display. Cons with this system as a primary workstation: Noise (Multithreaded ZBrush Issues), heat dissipation (Rendering) and Ram/GPU limitations.

    nMP Spec Decisions:

    512GB vs 1TB:
    I can likely live with 512GB, but should I pass up on 1TB for peace of mind? It can't be upgraded later (as of now) and I'm likely to install Windows using Bootcamp, so the extra storage would be handy.

    Question: Is it a better practice to install Windows on an external thunderbolt drive with bootcamp? The $500 it would take to upgrade to 1TB could easily be used for a fast external drive.​

    6-Core vs 8 Core:
    I've settled on going with the 6 core. 8 cores is tempting for rendering, but not essential. My main goal is to have an edge with rendering over 4 core systems, plus no heat issues and quiet. A rMBP and iMac can't do this.

    Question: For 3D modeling and Rendering, would it be better to downgrade some specs to afford the 8-core? With the 8 core, you'd immediately see the benefit in rendering, while the difference between D500s and D700s and less storage and memory, not so much. Then again, extra 3D viewport performance with a D700 may be more important than shaving time off a render or animation.​

    Another consideration, it seems the CPU can be upgraded down the road, even with turn-key services through OWC. Might as well max out other areas that currently can't be upgraded (Storage and GPUs).

    It seems to be a no brainer to upgrade your ram to 64GB from B&H with Crucial memory for around $636. $500 would only get you 32GB from Apple.

    D500s vs D700s:
    D500s would likely meet my needs in 3D software, but can't be upgraded and could struggle with performance later. D700s are generally recommended by default to be on the safe side, and a bargain, so that's what I'll go with.

    Final Specs and Questions Recap:
    nMP | 6-core | 12GB Memory (Upgrade to 64GB) | 1TB Storage | D700

    1: To repeat, would it be better to go with 512GB instead of 1TB to use the $500 savings towards an external drive for such things as Windows using Bootcamp, or just stick with 1TB?

    2: For rendering and modeling, would an 8-core/D500 combo be desirable over a 6-core/D700 combo? In that respect, which similarly priced configurations below would you prefer to have right now, disregarding what can and cannot be upgraded later?
    • 8-cores | D500s | 12GB memory | 512gb storage ($5,699 + $318 32GB (2x16) Ram Upgrade = $6017)
    • 6-cores | D700s | 12GB memory | 1TB storage ($5,299 + $636 64GB (4x16) Ram Upgrade = $5935)

    I'm guessing with the above specs and price limit, most would go with the 6-core.
  2. hualon macrumors 6502

    Feb 5, 2008
    First, I have to applaud you for your well-presented post. Excellent use of bold, colors, bullets, etc. That made your post a lot easier to read than others (including mine!).

    I would absolutely go with the 1TB (and I did!). I am constantly fighting to keep my SSD storage available on my rMBP with 500GB. I have a 200GB Windows 7 VM (that I use a LOT) but the other 200GB that I have filled with applications and who-knows-what. It's a constant struggle. Get the 1TB!

    I'd rather go with the 6-core option you specified but my use-case is a little different. How well do your rendering applications use the GPUs? I'm no expert here but I didn't see a tremendous performance increase going from d500 to d700 versus the difference in going from d300 to d500.
  3. MacProCard macrumors 6502

    Jun 3, 2014
    I went with basically the same specs. 6-core, 32gb Ram, 1TB, D700s. I ordered both the CAN and the 64gb Crucial memory from B&H same day. Saved a nice little bit on taxes. I had to go with the 32gb of ram because they didn't have the 12 or 16 in stock. I figured I can sell it on craigslist easily. I do wish the Crucial sticks were black(like Apple's) instead of green though.

    Very glad I went with the 1TB SSD. I too quickly exceeded my late 2013 rMPB with 512gb. I do split the 1TB into 2 machines. One is 256gb encrypted Windows 8.1 partition and the remainder is an encrypted OS X. I use TB external SSDs for extra storage and love it. Easily one of my favorite features besides the size.

    I do wonder if I should have went with the 8-core but have decided I'll upgrade to a 10-12 core once the prices drop if needed. I figure the performance gain will be worth the pain of taking it apart.

    One thing maybe to note is that I run dual TB displays with no problems. Great dual support in Win 8.1 as well.

    Congrats and good luck.
  4. TimothyB thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Jun 20, 2008
    Thank you and I'm glad the formatting helped the post.

    You make a strong case for the 1TB and bring up what I'd fear happening with the 512GB, especially with a Windows installation.

    Modo's render engine is CPU based and I don't plan to switch to a GPU based render engine, such Octane, which requires Nvidia's Cuda.

    As for GPU performance, OpenGL with AMD on Mac isn't very optimized, especially in Modo. So going all out for D700s may help this a bit until better drivers are released. Also, since the Mac Pro launch, Modo had terrible framerate issues under Mavericks until the release of 10.9.3. Users were able to get by after discovering a workaround, changing the wireframe opacity to 100% and disabling the work-plane grid. Even then, currently it's still very limited in high polygon scenes compared to say Maya.

    As for a 6 core and 8 core, the 8 core would start to shine with longer renders jobs. When I consider that, it's likely to be started late and go through the night. If the 8 core finishes faster, it won't matter much if I'm sleeping or away from the computer. For short renders, 25% difference over a 6 core isn't going to be a game changer. The 6-core will already be a nice improvement over rMBP i7 render times.

    I'm also contemplating if I should keep the rMBP for use when the nMP is rendering or for an occasional network render. In the past, I had issues network rendering with an i7 920 PC. It's possible two macs will have more success. Also, I wonder if a thunderbolt bridge between the rMBP and nMP would share the files faster during a network render. I'd only put such a workload on the rMBP if there was a tight deadline. A rMBP 15" and maxed out 6-core nMP may be a more versatile combo than just a maxed out 8-core nMP.

    So a 6-core, 1TB storage, D700s with upgraded ram to 64gb seems like a the most ideal route.
  5. handsome pete macrumors 68000

    Aug 15, 2008
    I'm leaning towards the same configuration myself, and do the same kind of work. The choice between the 6 and 8 was also my sticking point, but I'm slowly coming to the conclusion that the extra 2 cores isn't worth the price to me at this point. And I can always upgrade down the road.
  6. TimothyB thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Jun 20, 2008
    Another vote for 1TB, plus I agree about just upgrading the 6-core when it's really needed and after prices drop.

    Dang, until you mentioned it, it never occurred to me the ram upgrade would throw off the all black look.

    If you don't mind me asking, how much are you planning to sell the 32GB set for?

    I also have a question about bootcamp, assuming that's what you used for Windows 8.1. With the two partitions and in Windows, can it see the Mac partition, and is there any read/write limitations between the two?
  7. MacProCard macrumors 6502

    Jun 3, 2014
    Yeah. Those green sticks aren't my favorite. At least I don't have to see them. lol

    Haven't given it much thought on price. I'll see what they're running on ebay...I have a HD7970 card and Corsair Extreme 32gb ram to sell as well. Probably put them all out there next week. PM me if you're interested.

    I did use bootcamp. I do believe Windows can see the Mac's so long as it's not encrypted. With that said, I encrypt everything. So unless you plan on doing it as well, I'm probably not the one to ask.

    I can say both operating systems fly and very stable with 64gb of ram.
  8. austinpike macrumors 6502

    Oct 5, 2008
    Going against most of the advice here but for my money with 3D rendering, cores above all else. Do the video cards really do that much for you? Personally I went 12-core and downgraded to D300s, but it wasn't my $$$ and I don't use OpenGL much. (and future processor upgrades would be met with a blank look by our IT staff.) I'd just try to be sure the GPU is going to make that much difference for you. I'd also ask if 64GB vs 32Gb of RAM is really going to do much for you.

    I'd also skip the 1TB, put Windows on an external Thunderbolt. But then I prefer not to partition/muck up my internal drive. Easier to upgrade or reformat/recover if things go south. The internal drive is removable with 1 screw, I would expect there to be aftermarket options before too long. The modules on the OWC Mercury Accelsior PCI card look like the same form factor.

    That said, if the choice is between an 8-core or 6-core+rMBP, I'd go with the second option. Always nice to have a second capable workstation available.

    > is there any read/write limitations between the two?
    you can see and read the drives/partitions from either OS but can't write either direction without third party software.
  9. MacProCard macrumors 6502

    Jun 3, 2014
    Not flaming. But I think the 64gb is a must. Especially on a 8,12-core machine.

    I don't follow the whole mucking up the internal partition either. Nothing gets "mucked" up and everything can easily be put back to normal. It's more practical to have the Win partition inside the box where it can't be easily displaced IMO.

    I like the comparison between the 8-core vrs 6-core+rMBP. That does put things in perspective.
  10. austinpike macrumors 6502

    Oct 5, 2008
    If you are trying to do real-time video previews, then sure, as much RAM as you can get. If that's not the case, and your files/scenes/apps fit well within 32GB, then 64GB isn't going to make things any faster. If OP is feeling limited by 16GB, is that due to a particular app, having all apps open at the same time, file size, or...? Just asking the question.
  11. TimothyB thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Jun 20, 2008
    Strong new points have been made.

    The recent big question:
    How much of a difference will 64GB/D700s make vs 32GB/D500s in daily use if the latter can fund 8-cores for rendering?

    As much as I'd enjoy faster rendering, I'd prefer a safety net with the 64GB/D700s config. If I chose to increase my budget $1500 for 8-cores with those specs, I'd rather drop back to 6-cores and keep the rMBP, as others have pointed out.

    512gb/512GB External vs 1TB with Windows seems to generate strong opinions and may come down to preference. I think I'll go with the 1TB solution, as that reduces complexity. Plus, I wouldn't use exactly half for Windows, so what's left of the 1TB gives more breathing room on the Mac side compared to only 512GB.

    How much space is actually available on a 1TB Mac Pro after formatting and OS?

    Thanks, it would of been awesome if their numbers also included an 8-core with D500s to directly compare with a 6-core with D-700s, but their comparison does paint a good picture.
  12. Riwam macrumors 6502a


    Jan 7, 2014
    Basel, Switzerland

    I might not be typical at all but anyway here my experience.
    I just can resist to install new applications which seem interesting even if I finally don't use them. I agree it is not reasonable.
    I chose a 1 TB inner drive.
    More or less 1/4 is taken by the OS and a lot of Applications. Therefore it would be entirely full if I had chosen the stock size of 265 GB.
    In such a case I would be forced to delete applications in order to install new ones or transfer part of them to an external drive reducing their speed, since I do not have any TB external drive for lack of money to buy them at their present prices.
    My size of my inner drive leaves therefore free about 3/4 free for other uses.
    I can therefore put several VM inside and if any application creates large files, I do not need to care about it.
    Of course people using speedy TB connections are in an entirely different situation but I could not afford them and my external drives are all USB3.
  13. MacProCard macrumors 6502

    Jun 3, 2014
    I disagree. Windows is a ball hog. I noticed a huge difference going from 16 to 32 on my old gaming rig. Not so sure about OS X. I do real-time video previews as well with 30-60gb projects so it was a no brainer for me.
  14. MacProCard macrumors 6502

    Jun 3, 2014
    I have Office (W, P, X, O), Creative Cloud (Ae, Dw, Fw, Ps, Pr, Adobe Pro), FCP X, Compressor, and Motion on my OS X partition and only use 32gb for applications.
  15. TimothyB thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Jun 20, 2008
    I do believe 32GBs would fit within in my current needs, but why not prepare for the future. A typical load on the system would be Illustrator, Photoshop, ZBrush and Modo, plus internet browsers, utilities and other system software.

    The big concern I have is when ZBrush goes 64bit as no longer constrained by 32bit ram limits. ZBrush doesn't use the GPU memory, but your system memory and cpu to display millions of polygons. Having that extra 32GB cushion would be a great asset to ZBrush, hopefully reducing scratch disk use and not effect other software. ZBrush already tends to run out of memory when I prepare a piece for 3D printing using dynamesh to merge meshes and create a hollow shell. I don't like losing mesh/polypaint detail in that step before it's decimated later. Really hope ZBrush 5 is announced soon.
  16. VirtualRain macrumors 603


    Aug 1, 2008
    Vancouver, BC
    The difference in price between 32GB and 64GB really is peanuts compared to the overall budget... but I would NOT sacrifice any other part of the system in order to get more RAM now. The RAM is easily upgraded later, nothing else is.
  17. austinpike macrumors 6502

    Oct 5, 2008
    because $$$? If you start with the base config at 12GB, throw out one stick, add 32GB then you're at 40GB. If that turns out to not be enough, toss the 8GB and add another 32GB. You aren't out anything as you can't buy the machine with less than 12GB. Assuming the point is to max your performance within a certain budget, then spending $ on things you don't necessarily need now isn't entirely logical. (same applies to the internal drive - the $500 bump to 1TB is just overpriced imho and could be used for external storage.) If future-proofing is most important then get the D700s as everything else can theoretically be upgraded.
  18. TimothyB thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Jun 20, 2008
    I'll consider your suggestions. Though, I admittedly haven't read up much about the Mac Pro's ram compatibility, success rate of mixing sticks and what configurations offer the most performance for dual channel or even quad channel.

    UDIMM and RDIMM:
    After researching, the 40GB configuration may not work. The 4GB sticks from Apple are likely Unregistered Dimms, while 16GB sticks are Registered Dimms. According to Apple, you can't mix these types of memory. So all 3 4GB sticks would have to be removed.

    Ordering two 16GB sticks right now is tempting if there's no compromise with ordering the 2nd set later for 64GB. If each pair are matched and run in dual channel, is that max performance? Or do all four have to be matched to run in quad channel that I hear about?

    You are right about the 512GB to 1TB being a lot of money for what it is, and not absolutely necessary right now. The amount I'd save is sinking in. Saving $500 on storage and $318 on ram could go along way with purchasing software upgrades and new software.
  19. fuchsdh macrumors 65816


    Jun 19, 2014
    Given that it seems increasingly likely that you'll be able to upgrade everything in the Mac Pro if you have the stomach for it, I'd say grabbing the smaller flash storage now isn't as horrible a proposition. I'm personally working off a 256GB Samsung SSD in my Mac Pro and still have 108 GB (my photo library is local, but my scratch disks, screencapture files, VMs and music are on my DAS RAID or internal drives.) So at least if you're somewhat like me you can always plunk down the coin to OWC in a year or two and expand your capacity to 1TB.

    The cores question is a hard one, and it's one I'm thinking about a lot to as I'm going to be upgrading from a 2x2.8GHz Quad Core model. It feels backwards to go from eight cores to 6, even though I'll be more than doubling my RAM and according to Geekbench scores I'll still be seeing >25% speed increases in multithreaded and far more in single-core. I'd say real-time performance is more important and thus go with RAM and video cards; like others mentioned if you leave a render going overnight, it's done whenever and the speed is essentially meaningless at that point (conversely, if time is of the essence due to some deadline I'm not sure the speed increases are going to be so much that your bacon would have been saved had you only opted for 8 cores.)

    I've personally decided to wait for the next rev of Pros, but if I had to buy today my personal taste is 6C/256GB/64GB (through 3rd party) and D700s. However my workload is generally all about the RAM (After Effects) so devaluing processors and boot drive space is sort of to be expected.
  20. VirtualRain macrumors 603


    Aug 1, 2008
    Vancouver, BC
    I disagree. I benchmarked the internal 1TB SSD at over 1200MB/s. There is no way I'm aware of to add 500GB externally for $500 that performs at that level. The SSD upgrades Apple offers in the nMP are a steal if you consider the performance and you can never have enough fast SSD storage IMHO. :)

    There's a lot of talk of SSD players that previously OEMed technology (like OWC) from firms like SandForce potentially disappearing. The market has consolidated to the point where owning your own intellectual property is key to being competitive (owning the whole tech stack or at least key parts of it). SandForce was one of the last/only firms that licensed their technology and with Seagate's recent acquisition, there is speculation that they may keep it proprietary going forward in order to have their own competitive SSD product line. So there may never be an OWC SSD for the nMP or any other brand unless one of the top tier players (Intel, Toshiba, Crucial/Micron, SanDisk) wants to get in on this niche market (compounded by the fact the nMP uses a PCIe SSD interface unique to Apple).

    The bottom line is that the Apple/Samsung blades shipping in the various nMP models might be the only choices for... well... ever. :eek:
  21. TimothyB thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Jun 20, 2008
    You raise a strong point I failed to bring up. An external Thunderbolt 512GB SSD costs around $500, the same to upgrade Apple's 512GB to 1TB. Plus, the external will probably exhibit half the performance or less compared to Apple's 1TB, which I hear is faster than the 512GB option. The only benefit to the external is is that you save money until you need it, if ever. Then again, I do want to run Windows, especially as a backup option if software on OSX ever develops a problem, and I'd want it to have the same read and write performance.

    It would be disappointing if 3rd party storage upgrades never happen.
  22. austinpike macrumors 6502

    Oct 5, 2008
    You can "roll your own" 1TB for $600
    Crucial M550 1TB - $492
    Seagate GoFlex Thunderbolt adapter - $86

    The SSD pops right on the dock, no enclosure needed (or you can get a matching enclosure on eBay.) Not a pretty solution, but that dock is really handy when you have a small pile of SSDs lying around for various projects, or transporting files between office/home. Granted I had not considered the internal performance difference but at a certain point, is it really noticeable?

    If the comments about no OEMs for the internal drives are accurate, then yeah, that's a bummer.
  23. MacProCard macrumors 6502

    Jun 3, 2014
    I using 2 of those adapters ssd combinations for extra space for my windows partition. Works great.

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