Advice wanted for my next Mac Pro

Discussion in 'Mac Pro' started by Neeznoodle, Jun 2, 2015.

  1. Neeznoodle macrumors member

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    Jul 7, 2014
    #1
    I have a 2008 Mac Pro that has been my trusty sidekick for seven years. It is finally starting to show its age and doing strange things, despite my upgrading to an SSD drive for the OS and all new memory.

    At this point I think it is time for me to consider upgrading to a newer model, but I'm unsure what to consider. I am not a professional anything. I use my system mainly to build websites, and the most powerful software that I use is Photoshop Elements. I often have multiple browsers open at the same time, all with multiple tabs open.

    I am pretty sure that I do not need a 12 core processor, and wonder if I even need 6 cores, that a 4 core processor might be just fine for my needs.

    What I mainly want to know is what model year (i.e. 2009 vs 2010 vs 2011), processor, and memory I should consider based on my usage. Thank you in advance for any input.
     
  2. sirio76 macrumors regular

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    Mar 28, 2013
    #2
    IMO you should consider an iMac. Your workflow will not benefit from many core, better to go for a machine with only a few fast core(so a 4core iMac or a 4-6core nMP).
     
  3. Neeznoodle thread starter macrumors member

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    #3
    No, I don't want an iMac. I use all four of the hard drive bays and don't want to be without them.
     
  4. iamMacPerson macrumors 68030

    iamMacPerson

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    #4
    I'm not really good with GPUs, so I'll let someone who knows more about them then I do guide you on that one.

    Your best bet would be to get a quad core (single CPU) 2009 Mac Pro if you wanna retain the 4 HDD bays. These machines are dropping quick in price and can be had on a good day for $400-$600 on eBay, sometimes even cheaper. Craigslist would be the best place to look if you don't mind dealing with people on there. I actually found my 4,1 at the recycler for $40 stripped and was able to trick it out the way I wanted it.

    The 2009's (4,1) and 2010/2012 models (5,1) are practically identical to the point where you can use a firmware upgrader to install the 5,1 firmware on the 4,1. This allows you to use the newer Westmere CPUs which are 6-core. For these machines, the best processor you can get is a 3.46GHz Hex Core CPU. The W3690 and X5690 are identical speed wise (3.46GHz) however the X5690 is mainly meant for dual CPU setups so the extra QPI link would really just be a waste in this set up. The W3690 are about $200 used on eBay. You cannot go wrong with this machine.
     
  5. Maury macrumors 6502

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    Mar 25, 2008
    #5
    I recently upgraded my original 2006 MP to the R2D2 base model. It is a very good computer, but I cannot recommend buying it.

    First off, you have a problem with having lots of drive bays. The new MP has no drive bays. That means you'll be connecting them via USB. That is the same as if you get a iMac. Except that on the MP, you'll HAVE to use up one of your USB ports for a drive, on the iMac with a 3TB drive in it, not so much.

    What's worse, though, is that there is no way to put one of the drives inside the MP, which means you can't do Fusion Drive. And what's worse than that, sometimes the USB drives are slow to respond, so if you reboot and can't log in for a while.

    Next off, the graphics. While the MP has dual GPUs, for most everything you can only use one. Not a single program I have used has used both. So you're paying for something you won't use.

    My old MP blew its GPU every couple of years (IMHO, all PCI GPUs are cooled like trash). I would just swap out the GPU for the original barely accelerated one and wait for FedEx to bring a new one. This is not possible in the new MP, the GPUs are not removable. WHEN it blows, you're computer goes to the factory. Just like the iMac.

    The only reason I got one was that I already had the 30" screen, and the iMac at that time had a 27" normal DPI. The retina iMac blows my screen out of the water. If I could do it over, I'd get the top-end iMac, and I suggest the same to you.
     
  6. shaunp macrumors 65816

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    Nov 5, 2010
    #6
    I have a nMP (6-core, D700's, 512GB SSD and 64GB Crucial RAM), connected to a Promise Pegasus 2 R4. It's a very nice machine that I use as my VM lab, for photo editing in Lightroom and for my every day 'stuff'. I push it quite hard and it always remains quiet. 6-core is probably the right balance between performance and price, but it's not significantly faster than an iMac in most situations (VMware uses the extra cores) and sometimes the iMac will be faster. It's just handles heavy workloads a lot better and doesn't sound like an aircraft taking off when it's been pushed.

    Would I buy the same machine again now? No. It's a first generation machine and too much has changed since it's release with regards to 4K/5K monitors, Thunderbolt and USB. It can support one 5K monitor on 2 thunderbolt ports, which effectively uses 4 of the 6 thunderbolt 2 ports - they are grouped together in 3 pairs - leaving 2 free for storage. Or I can have 2 x 4K monitors plus some storage unless you want to create a bottle neck in the I/O. The next release, assuming Apple implement the combined Thunderbolt 3, USB 3.1 and USB-C announced by Intel today, will support a 5K monitor on a single port. You might not use all this bandwidth now, but if you intend on keeping this machine for a few years you may be left wanting with the current nMP in a couple of years. This is my own opinion and I could be wrong, I'm just basing it on how I use my machine and how I've seen it perform when handling a lot of I/O.

    For what you are doing, I don't think the nMP is worth it - the minimum spec is £2400, and then you need a monitor and storage. The iMac would best suit your needs and the retina screen is brilliant for editing photos, reading text, etc. It's really nice. As for the storage, Apple have shifted away from internal storage, USB and Thunderbolt will cover you there. I've been very happy with my Promise array - it has capacity and reasonable enough I/O to handle VM workloads. The combination of that and the internal SSD also works very well with Lightroom.

    Also if you do buy an iMac and then later down the line decide you don't like it, it will be easier to sell than a nMP as more people want them. the nMP is more of a niche product.
     
  7. shaunp macrumors 65816

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    #7

    Use thunderbolt rather than USB for your storage. It's a lot quicker. Yes it's more expensive, but if you are buying a nMP then don't skimp on the storage. A single USB drive isn't going to cut it, especially if it's a portable one. You don't need to go buy a thunderbolt array that supports 4 or more disks, Startech make some good enclosures (http://www.amazon.co.uk/StarTech-Ex...3282770&sr=8-2&keywords=thunderbolt+enclosure)

    Just add your own drives.
     
  8. Maury macrumors 6502

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    Mar 25, 2008
    #8
    USB3 is far faster than the drives, and test after test demonstrates there's no advantage for the average user, even with SSDs. You need to have large SSD arrays before you even come close.

    In any event, TB doesn't address the problem of lacking Fusion, which I believe for the vast majority of users, including the OP I, is a better solution to almost any problem. Unless the OP has merged or striped the drives, chances are the boot drive is on the ssd, the user drive is on another, and then lots of little-used file on the rest. Moving the first two to Fusion and putting the other two into an external USB3 cage will almost certainly give average performance far higher than putting the four in an external TB.
     
  9. Neeznoodle thread starter macrumors member

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    Jul 7, 2014
    #9
    I appreciate all the responses but think this is getting a bit derailed, so I apologize for not being more clear. I do not want the newest Mac Pro, the round one. What I'm considering is a 2009, 2010, or 2011 used model. And I truly do not want an iMac.
     
  10. sigmadog macrumors 6502a

    sigmadog

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    Feb 11, 2009
    Location:
    near Spokane, WA
    #10
    The choice is actually between a 2009, 2010, or 2012 model, I believe.

    I just last weekend replaced my trusty 2008 8-core with an ebay-purchased 2009 that was upgraded to a 5,1 and loaded with 12-cores.

    I had the same question as you regarding the value of a 2009, 2010, or 2012. Apart from the things that can be upgraded (cpu, gpu, RAM, drives, etc.), the differences between the models appear negligible. The only real difference being the age of the device itself. In the end I went with the 2009 because I have heard very little in the way of problems with this chassis, and there was a noticeable cost differential between it and the newer models.

    Also, because I don't have the time or desire to do cpu upgrades myself, I did a fair amount of looking around and in the end I bought from a reputable ebay seller (located here in the US and with over 2000 interactions and 100% favorable rating), who did the processor upgrade himself. He cleaned and tested the system and was very responsive to my questions. He made a little money, and I got a super-charged system that was ready to go. The only downtime I had was the time it took to swap out my hard drives and my preferred gpu (about 20 minutes).

    So my advice is - it doesn't matter which year you go with if you are careful and do a little research ahead of time, and if buying on ebay, do so from a reputable seller. Ask questions, and know as much about what you want ahead of time. The 2009, 2010, and 2012 models are built on the same chassis as far as I can tell*.

    *Just going on my limited knowledge. I'm sure there are subtle differences, but they don't appear to be significant.
     
  11. Neeznoodle thread starter macrumors member

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    Jul 7, 2014
    #11
    I am 99.99% sure I know what seller you bought from, and that's who I am going to buy my Mac from. I've already made purchases from him and know him to be very reputable.

    Your post was helpful and sounds a lot like you thought about the same things I'm thinking about.

    I'm tempted to go with a 2009 but am worried that it might fail quickly because it is only one year newer than the one I have now. Is this a concern if I buy from someone like the seller you used vs. buying a used one that hasn't been upgraded?
     
  12. sigmadog macrumors 6502a

    sigmadog

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    Feb 11, 2009
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    near Spokane, WA
    #12
    I had the exact same concern. I'm not sure there's a perfect answer as any hardware can potentially fail. My 3,1 still runs fine, to be honest. I just felt the time to upgrade had come.

    Unless there is a hidden mechanical flaw, a failure is most likely going to be due to stressing the system with heavy loads. Obviously there's no guarantees, but I wanted to know how this system was tested. Like I said, the seller was very responsive to my questions like the following:

    His answer (bold added by me):
    Considering your planned use, I would expect a good 2009 to last you quite a while. As for myself, I am a graphic designer/illustrator specializing in print media. With my type of work, I don't expect I will be pushing this system very hard. So, barring a catastrophe, it will probably be very reliable for a long time.

    Any used purchase is a gamble, but I get the impression this seller (macmotive) knows how important positive feedback is to his business, so he came across as very honest and straight.

    In the end, you have to weigh all the data and make a best guess based on your needs and gut feelings. In my case, I looked at my sturdy 3,1 and all the other older computers I hear about on these forums that still run great, and I went with the 2009 for the price point (if it lasts 5 years, that's under $600/year investment) because the odds are that it will do just fine for my work.

    Oops! Forgot to answer your last question:
    If the upgrades are done carefully by someone who knows what they're doing, I don't think there's any increased danger of the system going down. People have been doing these upgrades for years, and the instances of failure seem quite small (judging by threads in these forums, at least).
     
  13. Neeznoodle, Jun 2, 2015
    Last edited: Jun 2, 2015

    Neeznoodle thread starter macrumors member

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    Jul 7, 2014
    #13
    Well, I'm glad I allowed myself a .01% chance of being wrong regarding who you bought from because I was! ;) I'm going with iBuildMacs on eBay who is also very reputable (I've already bought from him and he has been incredibly helpful with all my questions) and his stats match that of the seller you bought from.

    Thank you for all your advice. It has been very helpful!

    Now, I just need to figure out if I should go with a 3.33GHz Quad-Core Intel Xeon "Nehalem" (4-Cores; 8-Threads) or 3.33GHz 6-Core Intel Xeon "Westmere" (6-Cores; 12-Threads). For my purposes I suspect that the quad core will work well. I already know that 12 cores will be overkill for me, so at least that part is decided.
     
  14. iamMacPerson macrumors 68030

    iamMacPerson

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    #14
    Depends on how much of a price difference there is. If its less then $250 then I'd say its worth it to get the 6-cores. More is always better in terms of processing power! :)
     
  15. Neeznoodle thread starter macrumors member

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    Jul 7, 2014
    #15
    I don't know if I need a lot of processing power if the main program that I'll be using is Photoshop Elements. Here are the CPU choices that I have for a 2009 MP and how much it would cost to upgrade to each one:

    3.33GHz Quad-Core Intel Xeon "Nehalem" (4-Cores; 8-Threads) (no additional cost)
    2.66GHz 6-Core Intel Xeon "Westmere" (6-Cores; 12-Threads) (no additional cost)
    2.93GHz 6-Core Intel Xeon "Westmere" (6-Cores; 12-Threads) [Add $200]
    3.33GHz 6-Core Intel Xeon "Westmere" (6-Cores; 12-Threads) [Add $350]
    3.46GHz 6-Core Intel Xeon "Westmere" (6-Cores; 12-Threads) [Add $450]

    Thoughts? Benefits of one vs. the other for the two base CPUs?

    My current 2008 MP has 2 x 2.8 GHz Quad-Core Intel Xeon. How much of a difference will any of the above be (or not be) from my 2008?

    Or, should I start watching the CPU usage on my 2008 MP and base an upgrade on how much CPU I currently use? I've honestly not paid any attention to this and when I checked it just now I've got approximately 80% of my CPU idle.
     
  16. sigmadog macrumors 6502a

    sigmadog

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    #16
    I came real close to buying from iBuildMacs. I'm sure I would have been happy with his stuff as well. The guy I bought from had just a couple extras that sealed the deal.
     
  17. iamMacPerson macrumors 68030

    iamMacPerson

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    #17
    I'd pass at that cost. You can buy the CPU separately and install it yourself for $200-$250. I don't deal much with Photoshop personally but it really depends on if the program will take advantage of all 6 cores with the 2.66GHz CPU and wether or not it will work faster with more, slower cores, or less, faster cores.
     
  18. sigmadog macrumors 6502a

    sigmadog

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    #18
    Some of my applications only use one-core (Adobe CS6 print apps), so I shot for the fastest processor I could get, which was the Xeon 3.46GHz.

    But I do occasionally create 3D renders for my illustration work, and I'm hoping to have time to start doing some animation/video on a personal hobby basis, so for that I wanted as many cores as possible.

    I don't know how many cores your web development work requires, but I think you'll like a faster processor (at least 3.33 or above).

    My thinking on buying was, "Hey, it's old-tech, so I may as well get the most and the fastest I can afford, because who knows what I might do with it down the road."
     
  19. carylee2002 macrumors member

    carylee2002

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    Jul 27, 2008
    #19
    You may not need to upgrade you cMP...but instead just upgrade your video card and use Adobe CC for photoshop and go that route using only the single app subscription.
     
  20. iamMacPerson macrumors 68030

    iamMacPerson

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    #20
    Well its a 3,1 which are getting kinda long in the tooth. It's up to the OP but I'd consider upgrading to a 4,1 or 5,1 just for the speed increase and longevity.
     
  21. nigelbb, Jun 2, 2015
    Last edited: Jun 2, 2015

    nigelbb macrumors 6502a

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    #21
    You need to examine what in your current 2008 system is slowing you down. Compared to a 2.8GHz 3,1 the fastest possible 5,1 hex core 3.46GHz is about 2x performance in single stream CPU plus it has 2 extra cores. However if the bottleneck in your system is the graphics card then getting a hex core won't help things,
     
  22. ixxx69 macrumors 6502a

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    United States
    #22
    You don't even need 4 cores - 2 cores would be fine. Seriously, a recent (as in 2012 or newer) Mac Mini would be faster (for your usage) than anything you're considering.

    You are upgrading from an ancient computer to a very old computer.

    Are you absolutely sure that the lack of internal drive bays is a deal breaker? If it is, that's of course up to you, but sometimes we get an idea in our head and hold on to it long past it really making sense to. Good luck!
     
  23. iamMacPerson macrumors 68030

    iamMacPerson

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    #23
    Its a Mac Pro. Sure, age wise it might 'old' but a decently upgraded one keep up with the nMP on Geekbench and are cheaper then nMPs. This isn't the PC world or, heck, even the Macintosh portable world where within 3-5 years your computer is a dinosaur. Very little progress is being made in the way of desktop CPUs and RAM performance, really where its at is the the GPU world which is still going quite well on the third party market for the oMP. The GPU also isn't interchangeable in the Mini, its soldered to the board. The 2012 is stuck with HD 4000 graphics and a decent 2014 runs a minimum of $700 and nothing can be upgraded save for the HDD. You can get a 2009 Mac Pro for less, which stock whoops that Mac mini's butt!

    With some hacking the original Mac Pros from 2006 can still run Yosemite. Can't say that for any other Mac from that generation because they all used 32-bit processors. Mac Pros of any generation are still great computers, just for some users they may run in to compatibility issues with newer upgrades or just want a faster machine.

    PS: I would like to add that I own both a 4,1->5,1 (2009) Mac Pro and a 2013 Mac Pro. I can see the pluses and minuses for each machine. My primary computer is my nMP but I can see why lots of people still love the cheese grater: its really expandable and easily upgradeable! I love mine too and I will continue to hold onto it. If the OP wants a nMP for expandability or whatever, I do not blame them. These machines are king of the Mac world in respect to upgradeability.
     
  24. nigelbb, Jun 3, 2015
    Last edited: Jun 3, 2015

    nigelbb macrumors 6502a

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    #24
    If your Mac Pro 3,1 2008 system is starting to do strange things it's more likely to be software than anything else or possibly a failing graphics card. You don't detail these 'strange things' - what troubles you?

    If you have an SSD plugged into a drive sled then an Apricom Velocity PCIe card or similar will give an extra boost to performance as any modern SSD will be throttled by the SATA-II bus of the drive sled.

    You mention 'all new memory'. Not sure why you would need 'new' memory but used 32GB (8x4GB) of 667 FB-DIMMs cost peanuts to max out the 3,1. This RAM is only 4% slower when benchmarked versus the expensive 800MHz parts & you will see no difference in real life.

    You don't tell us what graphics card you have but if you still have the stock AMD Radeon 2600 then you could upgrade to a much faster card that will deliver great OpenCL performance for Photoshop. A used GTX570 is the best bang for the buck.
     
  25. h9826790 macrumors 604

    h9826790

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    #25
    If you can't benefit from having more cores. Then I guess the best performance to cost ratio choice will be a the single CPU 4,1, then upgrade the CPU by yourself to the X5677 (3.46GHz, same as W3690 and X5690, but only Quad core).

    Other upgrade consideration will be, 4Gx3 RAM (or 8Gx3 depends on your workflow and the OS).

    If your current graphic card is good enough, then no need to upgrade. You can just move it to the "new" machine. Otherwise, you may consider to get some good cheap PC graphic card and then flash it by yourself.

    Anyway, the most important factor which keep the cost at minimum is to do that by yourself. The upgrade is super easy. I never install any CPU that require heatsink until I upgrade my 4,1 (the last CPU I installed was the 486DX), and I can finish it in 20min easily. All you need is just some reading (or watching on youtube), that may save you 50% of your cost.
     

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