Advice: Get an older Mac Pro?

Discussion in 'Mac Pro' started by cmm, Dec 21, 2011.

  1. cmm, Dec 21, 2011
    Last edited: Dec 21, 2011

    cmm macrumors 6502a

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    #1
    Hi, I'm considering purchasing a 2006 Mac Pro for mainly two reasons:

    1) I need lots of storage space and am tired of plugging in various external enclosures and looking for the HDD with the right content on it. I was going to build a Linux system as a file server, but I'm having second thoughts.

    2) Multiple monitors (I have three 24" IPS screens that I'd love to use, but at least two is necessary)

    Given the fact that I don't really want to build and maintain a Linux box to hold all the data, and 10.7 now has version control, it seems getting an old Mac Pro may be a very good idea.

    I don't do anything particularly intensive on my home machines, though sometimes I'll compile code locally (if I need the cpu power, I have access to proper servers).

    I don't play any games. I could envision ripping blurays occasionally, but I haven't ripped a movie in years.

    This Mac Pro has 12GB of RAM, which should make a difference in speed for most of the things I do. I'd throw in an SSD into one of the optical bays and add 4 3TB SATA drives controlled via a PCI card for SATA6gb/s.

    I use my laptop whenever I go out, which I'd access the Mac Pro files via the Internet. I'd like to be able to play a video on a Mac Pro and output it to my TV, preferably via HDMI. I'd not actively use the Mac Pro during the time I'm watching something on my TV, but normal tasks in the background may be running.

    Is the 2006 Mac Pro too slow to consider a useful everyday machine for me? I'm really not sure, but a computer from 2006 does not seem like the best idea...

    Am I wrong?

    BTW, can I upgrade the mobo, CPU and graphics card in a 2006 Mac Pro? Or is that not possible? I'd want to continue using OS X 10.7.
     
  2. gullySn0wCat macrumors 6502

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    #2
    It sounds sufficient for what you would like to use it for. You can always upgrade the CPUs, and it has plenty of RAM (that is the most expensive upgrade for 2006-8 Mac Pros.)

    I guess what it comes down to is price. I wouldn't want to spend more than ~$800 for a 2006 Mac Pro.
     
  3. cmm thread starter macrumors 6502a

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    #3
    You can't upgrade the mobo+CPU, though, right?

    What CPU upgrades are available?
     
  4. gullySn0wCat macrumors 6502

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    #4
    No Mobo upgrades, it's not worth it on a Mac Pro anyway.

    You can upgrade the CPUs to a pair of X5355s or X5365s for a total of 8 cores, which would give you a pretty fast machine:cool:
     
  5. cmm thread starter macrumors 6502a

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    #5
    Okay, thanks. How would it compare to the current i7s found in most consumer PCs, including the Macbook Pro? Is it comparable or just fast in comparison to the 1,1 Mac Pro CPU?
     
  6. YosemiteSam macrumors member

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    #6
    I could certainly be wrong, but I thought that the earliest Mac Pro that you could fully use with 10.7 was the early 2008 Mac Pro (3,1). I do know that the 2008 machine, with the 8800GT card (or newer/better, of course), was the earliest OpenCL combo available.

    Not sure of which upgrades are available to 2006 Mac Pro owners. I do see that the 2006 Mac Pro only allows the 32-bit kernel, and EFI32.

    For a full model comparison, look here:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mac_Pro

    Good luck!
     
  7. thekev macrumors 604

    thekev

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    #7
    It does depend on what you are doing. When you add up the price of all the upgrades to an old machine, it can stop being cost effective pretty fast. You can check the benchmarks and all if you like, but there's quite a difference. At that time quad core cpus were really not the norm. The 2006 version used two dual core chips, giving you a quad core machine, but it's still slower in absolute cpu power than a base mini would be today. I like the mac pros, but you don't buy an old computer for cpu power. Note that there are factors beyond just cpu factor, but the cpus in that machine are quite a bit slower per core than newer machines. If you plan on doing an upgrade to 8 cores, make sure you can use them. I wouldn't buy an earlier one than a 2009 or so. You can upgrade one of those to a 6 core, and it's possible to find a 2009 for $1000-1200 if you're patient enough.
     
  8. cmm thread starter macrumors 6502a

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    #8
    I see, okay, thanks. It's not that I am looking for a machine that has lots of cpu power, I just want to make sure I don't see the pinwheel constantly. And I want a machine to last me several years... I hate buying new computers and all that comes with it.

    Why would you get a Mac Pro before 2009? Because they aren't 32 bit? Too slow?

    If I get a 2006 Mac Pro, would I be able to play movies on my TV via DVI or something? Since HDMI is not an option...


    Where do you recommend looking for 2009 Mac Pros? eBay? Somewhere else? Does the 2009 Mac Pro give you an HDMI port? Is there a drawback to the 2009 Mac Pros that I should be aware of?
     
  9. gullySn0wCat macrumors 6502

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    #9
    You are very wrong, Lion works fine on the 2006 Mac Pro. The 8800GT is the only card that will not work with pre-2008 Macs. Any ATI card will work fine.

    @OP

    With upgraded CPUs you will get around 9000, which is comparable to this year's i5 iMac (but with double the cores obviously.)
     
  10. cmm thread starter macrumors 6502a

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    #10
    Do you know why thekev says not to get a Mac Pro earlier than 2009? What is special about the 2009 Mac Pro's, i.e., what do they have that the 2006 and 2008 Mac Pro's do not?
     
  11. toxic macrumors 68000

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    #11
    most Nvidia cards won't work, actually.

    if you want your "new" computer to last several years, buying an already obsolete one isn't the best solution.
     
  12. gullySn0wCat macrumors 6502

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    #12
    Mac Pros prior to 2008 boot into a 32bit kernel. This is only relevant in very specific situations because OSX's userland is 64bit anyway.
     
  13. cmm thread starter macrumors 6502a

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    #13
    I agree but I don't want to spend more than $1500. Have I overlooked another option?
     
  14. thekev macrumors 604

    thekev

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    #14
    Computer parts all fail at some point. On an old computer if something breaks, the cost of repair may very well not be worth it. One of the problems I see with the 2006 mac pros is that asking prices are often too high for the age/relative speed of the machine. I'm not saying it's a bad machine or anything, but it seems like the lower volume nature of the mac pros and pricing of new ones has kept the used pricing somewhat artificially inflated.

    The spinning wheel is affected by more than cpu power. Quite often it can be related to hard drive access, but you can usually hear that if you listen closely. It typically relates to virtual memory paging, spotlight, or general application launch. Just waiting on cpu bound processes generally won't cause the spinning wheel unless there's an underlying problem.

    The cpu isn't what typically causes spinning wheels. It's usually other hardware. It can be hard drive access (including spotlight issues), poorly written code, bad drivers, bad peripheral firmware, etc. Basically you can experience choppiness if the cpu is too slow, but you are unlikely to experience the spinning wheel from it.

    There is no guarantee that 32 bit kernels will retain support past Lion or so. Some users have seen things like logic board failure on these, and the 7300GT gpus have been known to fail. My point is that repairs/servicing can be costly even on an older machine. If you are going to pull the trigger on one, you will want to find it at a good price so that if something does require repair, it doesn't completely kill the value of buying an older machine.

    If you wait a bit longer we'll soon see if Apple updates with the Sandy Bridge E cpus.
     
  15. YosemiteSam macrumors member

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    #15
    This is what I was trying to say, in case it wasn't clear. This would matter to some, and not even be relevant for others.

    Additionally, the point of mentioning the 2008 model and the 8800GT card was that any older computer, and any lower card (ATI or nVidia) would not be able to take advantage of OpenCL (which again, will matter greatly to some and not at all to others).

    ----------

    I recently bought an eight core 2008 (with several decent upgrades) from MacOfAllTrades.com for $1500. Great experience so far.

    It looks like there's a 2008 there (only a quad-core) right now for $899. Since you don't need much processing power, sounds like an incredibly cost-efficient purchase for you, especially since you'd then have some slightly better future-proofing options than the 2006 machines (better PCIe lanes, EFI64, 64-bit capable kernel, etc.). Plus, you'd still have $600 for additional upgrades.

    Sorry in advance for the back-to-back posts.
     
  16. Neodym macrumors 65816

    Neodym

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    #16
    Ummm - what do you mean? My 2006 MP 1,1 has the OpenCL framework loaded (12.3.6) and it is even running in 64bit. I can imagine that certain older (lower) graphic cards do not support OpenCL, but why should the MP 1,1 from 2006 not support it?
     
  17. gullySn0wCat macrumors 6502

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    #17
    The 1,1 Mac Pro doesn't support Nvidia cards OOB because they have 64bit EFI. ATI cards have both. ATI FTW!
     
  18. YosemiteSam macrumors member

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    #18
    In the spec lists I've looked at, no pre-2008 original mac configuration is OpenCL compatible, nor is the 2008 model with the "base" video card (HD 2600 XT). The 8800 GT (and all mac pro card options from Apple from that point forward) are compatible.

    After reading your post, I looked at some other charts/specs, and it seems that the pre-2008 Mac Pro OpenCL incompatibility was due solely to the cards that came factory-shipped in the computer from Apple. If a pre-2008 Mac later underwent a video card upgrade (as I assume in your case), it seems it would indeed be OpenCL compatible.

    My mistake- I drew a poor conclusion from the comparison charts I was viewing. Hope I didn't cause extra confusion.
     
  19. gnurf macrumors member

    gnurf

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    #19
    You might be worrying too much :)

    First, Versions is an opt-in thing for NSDocument style files and bundles. Second, it doesn't make sense for all types of data anyway. Mainly text and plists. Very few Apple programs use it. Third, the different versions only store the changes from the previous one, so they're not all that big.

    On the other hand: Every save creates a version, plus the hourly autosave (unless configured to another interval). The data is only allowed to by manipulated by its own creating program if you want to get on the Mac App Store, so external tools won't be found there. And most developers haven't made any fancy facilities available to handle the different versions, only using the one-at-a-time methods built into Lion.

    The amount of space used for the programs currently using Versions on my system is measured in the low megabytes, but if you're *really* paranoid I have made a tool to scrub files ;)

    I wouldn't recommend against a newer Mac Pro just because of Lion, if it's within your budget and the sort of computer you need. Lion has some minor glitches, but nothing data-destroying that I've seen yet. Just weird little quirks which Apple are aware of (I use the bug reporter more than Xcode some weeks :p ).
     
  20. monokakata macrumors 68000

    monokakata

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    #20
    I'm running a 2006 1,1 with an ATI 5770 and a bunch of drives, with Lion, and it's acceptable. A 5770 gives you 3 screens (I think . . . I've never tried more than two).

    I have a small number of weird little problems that don't bother me much -- some days they rise above the level of simple annoyance.

    My 1,1 doesn't have built-in Bluetooth and connecting with the Magic Mouse is often iffy, but I've come to think that it's a mouse problem (far less serious with a different MM).

    Waking from sleep was a serious issue when I was running my Dell U2711 with a miniDSP - DSP cable (and also with a mDSP-DSP adaptor). I got on top of it by switching to DVI and disabling DDC/CI . . . I'll reconnect my second screen soon (it will have to be DSP) and see what happens.

    Then there's the windtunnel fan ramp-up, about 30-40 seconds worth, when waking from sleep (but only sometimes). It can go 2-3 days without freaking, then do it.

    I'm with the posters who say go for it if you can get it cheap. Even the early ones have a lot going for them. Quiet is really important to me, and the 1,1 is amazingly quiet (except for those times it revs up briefly). Over the years I've built several PCs that I hoped would be quiet, but nothing approached the 1,1 (or the later models). Not even close.
     
  21. cmm, Dec 22, 2011
    Last edited: Dec 22, 2011

    cmm thread starter macrumors 6502a

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    #21
    Thanks for the input.

    Is it just ms, or is $900 a lot for a five year old computer? This is really holding me back... I was trying to justify it with a mobo/CPU upgrade but only the CPU can be upgraded, which will still be several years old.

    What does it mean that there is no OpenCL support? How does this affect the user and the future? Can you upgrade the video card for OpenCL support (it's not clear to me)?
     
  22. MacinJosh macrumors 6502a

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    #22
    I'm perfectly happy with my MP 1,1. It's the 3GHz Quad model and SSD. It's plenty fast but I need a faster video card (have the stock 7300gt). It'll be fine for me for a few more years. I paid less than 400 USD for it :D (sans the SSD). It's worth much more.
     
  23. YosemiteSam macrumors member

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    #23
    The $900 at macofalltrades would actually be for a 3 year old computer (well, coming up on 4 years old). But, on the other hand, it's only 2 Mac Pro model versions old, and it was a great year for bang-for-the-buck, according to many posters on these forums. In *almost* every way, its hardware configuration (EFI64, 64-bit kernel, etc.) actually matches that of the current Mac Pros (meaning it will probably be supported longer into future Apple operating system releases, since it will have the hardware to "keep up"). While the 2008 Mac Pro isn't as fast as the current models, it's generally accurate to say that if something came out and didn't run on the 2008 Mac Pro due to compatibility reasons, it pretty much wouldn't run on the current Mac Pros either. That's why I say it's a better bet than the 2006 ones for "future-proofing". Should be supported for many years more.

    In the 2008 (and I'm sure in the 2006 as well) you can indeed upgrade the video card- I believe a 5770 is the latest Apple-supported simply-drop-it-in-and-carry-on card, but others would definitely know better than me. For your stated uses, though, don't worry at all about OpenCL. You can ignore it. While it matters to some, I fear I've brought more confusion/problems than helpful information by bringing it up in the first place.

    Good luck, whatever you decide.
     
  24. rocknblogger, Dec 22, 2011
    Last edited: Dec 22, 2011

    rocknblogger macrumors 68020

    rocknblogger

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    #24
    I was reading all the comments and I tried like hell to stay out of it but I have to get this in.

    First of all I love my Mac and would never consider using anything else for work.

    Yes $900 for a computer that's five years old is too much. I don't care if it's a Mac or not a five year old computer is old and every day that goes by it keeps getting older.

    I sounds to me like you want to use it as a media PC as well as file storage. Why not build your own Windows 7 PC?

    You can hand pick every single part and build it to your own specs and it will last you years if you do it right. I built mine about three years ago for about $1300 and with minor upgrades here and there I can see having this PC for at least another five years.

    I know what I'm saying is not going to be popular but I've had zero problems with Windows7. It's been rock solid and I access a lot of my files via my network.

    Building your own gives you control over everything and even if you want to upgrade the MOBO in a few years it's relatively inexpensive.

    I would be willing to help you spec it out if you want :)

    Good luck no matter what you choose.
     
  25. wordoflife macrumors 604

    wordoflife

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    #25
    I wouldn't buy a used Mac Pro as it wouldn't be covered under Apple Care.
     

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