Advice on upgrades (Mac Pro 4,1)

Discussion in 'Mac Pro' started by tallchris, Jan 25, 2012.

  1. tallchris macrumors member

    Joined:
    Dec 11, 2010
    #1
    Would like some advice about upgrading a Mac Pro 4,1. I've been asked to see what can be done to improve one of our mac pro.

    The Specs

    4,1 early 2009
    Processor: Quad-Core Intel Xeon 2.66Ghz
    GPU: Nvidia Geforce GT 120 (VRAM: 512mb)
    RAM: 3GB.

    I'm more used to using imac/mbp so am unfamiliar with what can be done to a mac pro, the most glaringly obvious thing to upgrade is the RAM, but what about the other bits?

    It's used for design, and our budget is about £500 (about $750ish).
    What about trading it in? mac2sell seems to think it is worth around £600-50 + £500 (of Budgeted for upgrades) = £1100 worth trying to get a lower end imac or high end mac mini.

    Your thoughtsare greatly appreciated :)
     
  2. highdefw macrumors 6502

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    Apr 19, 2009
    #2
    definitely the ram. 2x 4GB stick will do. SSD will definitely give it a boost as well. Check OWC!
     
  3. tallchris thread starter macrumors member

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    Dec 11, 2010
    #3
    It needs to have a fairly big HD 6-700GB so I'm not sure if an SSD would be within budget, Unless you mean get a small one and load OS and apps on it, then use a big one for files etc?
     
  4. The-Pro macrumors 65816

    Joined:
    Dec 2, 2010
    Location:
    Germany
    #4
    NONONONO, dont trade it in. Its a more powerful machine than a low end iMac or high end mini by far. Mac Pros are serious workstations that will live longer than iMacs or minis.

    If you say design, what kind of programs are used? Illustrator? 3D rendering applications(maya, octane, formZ etc)??? This we need to know to give you the correct advice.

    First like you said, upgrade RAM. 2x4GB sticks are around 50 quid. that would give you 10GB (2x1GB, 2x4GB). From there monitor the RAM usage, in activity monitor, if page outs are high then purchase more RAM.Then an SSD would be very advantageous. something like a 60 or 80GB for roughly 100 quid. OS and applications go onto the SSD, you can fit it into the spare optical drive bay, that way you don't have to buy an adapter to fit it into s drive bay. All your data go on the HDD thats all ready installed (640GB I presume)
    A graphics card upgrade is only to be considered depending on the programs used. Some 3D programs use the GPU so then a upgrade could benefit.
    CPU upgrade is probably not needed. Although again depending on the programs it might.
     
  5. jasonvp macrumors 6502a

    jasonvp

    Joined:
    Jun 29, 2007
    Location:
    Northern VA
    #5
    I'd bump the RAM first, but by 3 sticks, not 2. The Nehalem chip in your Mac Pro is optimized for RAM in 3s even though it has an even number of slots. Three 4G sticks won't cost much at all. If you could swing it, 3 8G sticks would be even better. :)

    A smallish SSD to load the OS and apps on will always help boot times and app load times. But for the money, you have to ask yourself: is the small bump in overall performance worth it? How many times do you reboot your machine? How often do you load completely new apps that aren't already cached? Things to think about.

    What's this Pro's primary function (ie, what apps specifically?)

    jas
     
  6. tallchris thread starter macrumors member

    Joined:
    Dec 11, 2010
    #6
    Thanks for the advice so far, I was curious about the RAM 'cos I know for upgrading macbooks and mbps they are better if all the slots are the same size, for a mac pro this is the same and it works better over 3 slots not 4?

    It's rarely shut-down (crap for the environment I know), so i'm not sure the SSD would help that much, and if the RAM was upgraded then apps would still load fairly quickly, cos they'd be in 'inactive ram' (?).

    My boss keeps asking about upgrading the processor, but I wonder if it is worth it as...

    The app used are just Adobe suite, photoshop etc.

    No 3d designing, no video or audio.
     
  7. Loa macrumors 65816

    Loa

    Joined:
    May 5, 2003
    Location:
    Québec
    #7
    Hello,

    That's only really true in theory. In practice, you're always better off with more RAM (4 chips) than triple channel (3 chips) on a Mac Pro. Only very rare apps (none of those you listed) can take marginally significant advantage of the triple channel memory.

    If you have enough RAM for your needs, then nothing else will help more than a CPU upgrade. The upgrade to a hex-core 3.33 (Intel's W3680 CPU) is currently the best bang for the buck for a 2009-2010 MP. 25% more performance in raw clock speed, and 2 additional cores for apps that can use it. Nothing else will come close to such a performance upgrade.

    Loa
     
  8. tallchris thread starter macrumors member

    Joined:
    Dec 11, 2010
    #8
    Okay cheers, I think I'm going to just suggest RAM then and see how it performs and if it's still not enough then let's think about CPU.

    Is it difficult to install a new CPU btw?

    When I rang apple they said I couldn't add a new CPU or install an SSD, though the guy was kind of cagey about whether that was because apple doesn't sell them for a 2009 anymore (and want to encourage people to buy new ones) or because it isn't possible.
     
  9. Loa macrumors 65816

    Loa

    Joined:
    May 5, 2003
    Location:
    Québec
    #9
    Hello,

    See this thread. Not exactly easy as in "just drop it in", but if you're handy with basic tools, it should be ok.

    The info on the first post is for a 2010, but it's basically the same thing with a 2009, except that you need to do a firmware upgrade first. The info is in the thread.

    You can, no worries. If that 2009 is still on warranty, the CPU upgrade will void it unless you can revert to the original CPU before sending it in.

    Loa
     
  10. tallchris thread starter macrumors member

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    Dec 11, 2010
  11. wonderspark macrumors 68040

    wonderspark

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    Feb 4, 2010
    Location:
    Oregon
    #11
    I found the CPU to be one of the most simple things I've ever done on a Mac Pro. Took my time and made the swap to 3.33 6-core in 30 relaxing minutes.

    SSD may "feel" like a big improvement but nothing beats the CPU and RAM swap. I wouldn't waste money on an SSD right now.
     
  12. Inconsequential macrumors 68000

    Joined:
    Sep 12, 2007
    #12

    Having done many CPU upgrades, over clocks and hardware purchases over the years I can safely say: Utter rubbish.

    Upgrading my machines to SSDs was the single biggest boost I have EVER had.


    However, I do agree with the idea of a 3.33 W3680, I am thinking of that myself.


    I'd do the following:

    1. 3x4GB from OWC
    2. SSD
    3. W3680.
    4. 5870
     
  13. Loa macrumors 65816

    Loa

    Joined:
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    Location:
    Québec
    #13
    Hello,

    Read wonderspark's remark carefully: it "feels" fast (I agree wholeheartedly). That's probably what you experienced (as did I with my SSD: first days with it were: OMFG!). But unless your main app requires a huge lot of random write/read, the SSD won't help much in terms of real performance gain.

    The OP's main apps won't benefit significantly from a SSD, period.

    On the other hand, going above 3GB of RAM will be significant, and on top of that, going from quad 2.66 to a hex 3.33 will be a raw 25% increase, minimum. No SSD can do that for the OP's apps.

    Loa
     
  14. derbothaus macrumors 601

    derbothaus

    Joined:
    Jul 17, 2010
    #14
    So you'd waste it on underproduced, overpriced HDD's instead? How do you quantify waste anyway? I save probably 30 mins to an hour each day using SSD vs. HDD. But I am always in and out of various OS's.
     
  15. Inconsequential, Jan 25, 2012
    Last edited: Jan 25, 2012

    Inconsequential macrumors 68000

    Joined:
    Sep 12, 2007
    #15

    Apps opening in a tenth of the time, Finder windows opening quicker, everything that involves accessing the HD is quicker. Just because it's small amounts of time being saved does not, over the period of the machine, add up to a small difference.

    I don't know what your expecting when it comes from SSDs but 500MB/sec read/writes and near instant access times is not going to improve significantly anytime soon!

    Anything that doesn't hammer your CPU will not see a benefit from changing from 4 to 6 cores.

    Why would adding two more cores on a CPU that spends 95% of its life at idle is going to change anything?

    A W3580 is around 70-80% faster than a W3520 IF you max all cores. Then about 25% if your lucky single thread performance. But if 4 cores aren't fully loaded, 6 cores won't make anywhere NEAR 25% difference!

    Memory would certainly be a decent speedup, I agree 100% that he upgrades, 12GB minimum I'd say!

    But an SSD is NOT a waste of money.
     
  16. jasonvp macrumors 6502a

    jasonvp

    Joined:
    Jun 29, 2007
    Location:
    Northern VA
    #16
    Upon first boot, the SSD is going to be eons faster than a standard drive.
    Upon first loading your apps, the SSD is going to be faster assuming the app loading is a lot of random reads (vs one long, contiguous one).

    Once the apps are loaded and cached, subsequent starting of those apps, assuming you do that, isn't going to be as dramatic. Why? Because the OS is just sucking it in through memory cache, which is infinitely faster than the SSD.

    If you find yourself loading a bunch of apps, quitting them, loading them, quitting them, etc, then yes, an SSD will help. You won't give the OS enough breathing room to cache that stuff well and it'll need to reference the filesystem. But if it's one or two big-ass apps that you load when you boot, and you leave them running all the time, then the difference isn't going to be much at all.

    And yes, I have an SSD in my Mac Pro and my MacBook Pro. I'm definitely pro SSD, but they don't offer the performance/$ that people are sometimes led to believe. If the OP is doing design work that pummels the CPUs, then more and faster cores (assuming a well-threaded app) and gobs more RAM will be a much bigger help to him than an SSD. Remember he's only got about $750 to spend on this overhaul.

    jas
     
  17. Inconsequential, Jan 25, 2012
    Last edited: Jan 25, 2012

    Inconsequential macrumors 68000

    Joined:
    Sep 12, 2007
    #17
    I never restart my Mac's either, and I have 16GB of ram. I still see the benefits. Be it installing updates, extracting ZIPs, using apps that Cache, funnily enough, like Photoshop ;)

    I do however agree that memory is number 1.

    That is, from OWC (1333MHz memory is only a few more $ than 1066MHz sticks - so slightly future proofed and the W3680 can use 1333MHz memory:

    $99 for 12GB
    $132 for 16GB
    $329.99 for 24GB.

    Given that triple to dual channel difference is negligible, lets pick the 16GB kit.

    So that leaves $600 to spend.

    You can pick up a W3680 for $600, sell the old CPU for $200 and then buy a 120GB SSD for $189.99.

    Job done.

    Infact, I have the 16GB and a 300GB SSD and I'm trying to find a decent priced W3680!

    Edit: Just noticed your in the UK. So am I!

    Memory from OWC: ~£95 imported from OWC if your lucky (I've done the same thing)
    W3520 is around £450-500 http://www.scan.co.uk/products/inte...-333ghz-64gt-s-qpi-25x-core-ratio-130w-retail
    120GB SSD is around £150
     
  18. derbothaus macrumors 601

    derbothaus

    Joined:
    Jul 17, 2010
    #18
    Who runs just one app? I use easily 20+ each day. Need them at various times. When I think I am done I may not be and have to re-launch. Etc. In a perfect world I guess I would open up my 1 app and never need the SSD. I guess the same could be said for floppy disc purists. We don't need much of the crap we buy. An HDD would suffice, sure. But I can't go back, time is money and my fingers are fast.
     
  19. Loa macrumors 65816

    Loa

    Joined:
    May 5, 2003
    Location:
    Québec
    #19
    Hello,

    For those who believe in the ubiquitous powers of the SSD:
    -Do this test by booting your computer with a SSD, and report your time.
    -Do the same test by booting your computer with a regular HD, and report your time.
    Add the time it takes to open and save the file if you want.

    You won't see a significant difference, just like I did when I installed my first SSD in 2010.

    Getting a CPU that's 25% faster in clock speed will mean a roughly 25% performance increase in PS if you have enough RAM. It's that simple.

    Loa
     
  20. rickvanr macrumors 68040

    rickvanr

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    Location:
    Brockville
    #20
    I went from 2 x 1TB WD blacks to an Intel SSD 80GB. Didn't notice a speed increase.

    I'd add more RAM, or add an SSD in RAID, that would give you a serious boost.
     
  21. Inconsequential macrumors 68000

    Joined:
    Sep 12, 2007
    #21
    http://eshop.macsales.com/Video/SSD/Performance_Test

    How is this not significantly faster? :confused:

    if I could be bothered I could video my MP booting off my 300GB Velociraptor (Fastest HD you can buy) and my 300GB Intel.

    Put it this way:

    My SSD can boot and launch every single app before the Velociraptor has reached the desktop.

    How is that not faster?!

    And as for another test, I asked my friends to test my MBP, booting off the HDD and then the SSD. And they *all* preferred the SSD because, and I quote "Things just happen quicker".





    Anyway, this debate is for another day.


    We all agree that the RAM needs upgrading first.


    So thats £100 for 16GB from OWC.


    Leaves us with £400, which you won't get a W3580 for...
     
  22. wonderspark macrumors 68040

    wonderspark

    Joined:
    Feb 4, 2010
    Location:
    Oregon
    #22
    Well, I open all my apps and leave them open. Not a problem with 32GB of RAM. Paid $440 for the RAM from OWC.

    Bought the 6-core CPU for $585, and sold the old one for a few hundred... I forget now. It ran that Photoshop test in 11-something seconds, faster than others with SSDs.

    I already have a 5870. Think it was pretty expensive, maybe about $500?

    The question was about what can this guy do to upgrade his 4,1 Mac Pro. I have one, and my suggestions were based on what I did. I have no SSDs, but if this machine lasts long enough to see SSD prices beat HDD on a cost/size/performance basis, I'll change my tune.

    When I had only internal 3x1TB and later 3x2TB HDDs in a single stripe as my data drive, I had sustained read/write of 330MB/sec each. Let's say he only needs 3TB of space. He could buy 3x1TB disks for $150 each right here and be doing about the same as SSD speeds. If he spends over $700 on a 512GB Crucial M4 SSD, he has only 1/6 the drive space, and speeds of 415MB/sec read, 260MB/sec write. How is that better bang-for-buck? It's not, but you have to look beyond the excitement of snappy boot times and program launches to see the reality of actual working performance. I can't get by on a measly 512GB of space, and yes, I open multiple programs at once. Premiere, After Effects, Photoshop, Illustrator, Encore, iTunes, Firefox and Geektool running all at once. No swap file use and tiny if any page outs.

    My RAID takes the economy of scale to even greater heights, but admittedly this is out of the OP's budget. My disk read/write speeds are 715MB/sec and 816MB/sec respectively with the cache disabled (reads go up to 3,633MB/sec with cache on) and I have 12TB of space with those spinning disks in a RAID6, in which two disks can fail without data loss, and I'm still editing video. Total cost for that was $2300, but how much does 12TB of SSDs cost? More than $2300? I think so. What about when you include redundancy with a parity RAID? Now you're talking serious money.

    I stand by my assertion that a large chunk of RAM is #1, faster CPU with 6-cores is #2, and if he needs more disk space, you get more for your money with HDD over SSD. I'll keep saying that until the benefit ratio changes.
     
  23. wonderspark macrumors 68040

    wonderspark

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    #23
    Not looking to start fights with you guys. People have unique needs, and mine differ from you with SSDs. If I only needed a small bit of drive space, and there was some arbitrary requirement to open and close apps all the time, or shut down and reboot all the time... you guys would be right and I'd have to get SSDs. I want one myself, and think about getting one for my boot drive now and then. I still have the 640GB HDD that came with my Mac in use, and it's cloned to a 1TB external (somewhat wasteful, but it's the smallest thing I have.) I'm currently only using 300GB of that 640GB, so I'd need at least a 512GB SSD, and I just don't think it's worth $700.
     
  24. derbothaus macrumors 601

    derbothaus

    Joined:
    Jul 17, 2010
    #24
    No fights, man.
    I only use the SSD for boot, Home account is on Velociraptor 600GB.
    But you can't argue with these results. You absolutely feel the 4K boosts and they are immense.
    WD Velociraptor 600GB vs. Samsung 830 256GB. The higher numbers are for the SSD.
     

    Attached Files:

  25. wonderspark macrumors 68040

    wonderspark

    Joined:
    Feb 4, 2010
    Location:
    Oregon
    #25
    It looks like CrystalDiskMark is Windows only, and I don't have it installed. :(

    I agree 4k uncached random read/write will be faster on SSD, but one could simply create a RAMdisk and get results like this, which I ran 60 seconds ago:

    Results 2940.01
    System Info
    Xbench Version 1.3
    System Version 10.6.8 (10K549)
    Physical RAM 32768 MB
    Model MacPro5,1
    Drive Type Apple read/write
    Disk Test 2940.01
    Sequential 1783.91
    Uncached Write 1354.97 831.93 MB/sec [4K blocks]
    Uncached Write 3963.84 2242.74 MB/sec [256K blocks]
    Uncached Read 932.47 272.89 MB/sec [4K blocks]
    Uncached Read 5570.04 2799.46 MB/sec [256K blocks]
    Random 8353.94
    Uncached Write 3676.99 389.25 MB/sec [4K blocks]
    Uncached Write 8707.73 2787.67 MB/sec [256K blocks]
    Uncached Read 36320.13 257.38 MB/sec [4K blocks]
    Uncached Read 15508.54 2877.72 MB/sec [256K blocks]

    1.78GB RAMdisk such as this makes a nice scratch disk for Photoshop and the like.

    That said, when a 500GB or so SSD can be had for about $300, I'll buy one.
     

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