Apple Store demo units, with mixed results

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macrumors regular
Original poster
Jan 16, 2014
136
50
Staten Island, NY
I've been dropping in on my local Apple Store for weeks, hoping to get my hands on a Mac Pro to do some benchmarks.

They finally got a demo unit a few days ago... trouble is, they are running the OLD versions of programs like Final Cut Pro, Motion and Compressor. What a waste!

Apple made it clear how Final Cut Pro was fine tuned specifically to use the Mac Pro's dual GPUs bringing mega performance increases to people who work with video.

So, you would think they would install the latest FCPX on the demo unit? Without support for the new GPUs, the computer barely outpaced the MacBook or iMacs, when I loaded one of their sample projects and did an export.

I mentioned this to some of the people in the store and assumed they would update the software in a day or two... still nothing. They might as well leave it in the box.
 

wildmac

macrumors 65816
Jun 13, 2003
1,167
1
I tested the current version of Photoshop a few days ago.. but I had to wait about 15 minutes to do so, because the only nMP on display was being used as a day-care center by someone waiting for their old MB to be fixed.

Then I was almost kicked off of it by an Apple guy who wanted to use it to teach an iPhoto class.. >.> Told him no, I was here to look at this system. "Oh, really, the new Mac Pro?.." sigh...
 

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macrumors regular
Original poster
Jan 16, 2014
136
50
Staten Island, NY
I just sent this to the Tim Cook email address:

Hi Person Who Reads Tim's eMail,

I've been itching to get my hands on the Mac Pro so I could see for myself how quickly it can render video.

My local Apple Store (Staten Island, NY) finally has a store display... but the software on the unit is outdated, thereby rendering the Mac Pro useless for real world testing.

Final Cut Pro 10.1 was specifically fine tuned to use the dual GPUs inside the new Mac Pro, but because they are not running the newer version, it renders video no faster than the consumer models in the store.

I've pointed this out several times, but they said they have no control of when they are allowed to install updates.

Frankly, they should've left it in the box until they get permission from their Mommy.

[/venting off]
I don't expect a reply, but I just needed to vent.
 

ybz90

macrumors 6502a
Jul 10, 2009
609
2
Tim reads his own emails. Really...
Totally untrue. Occasionally, he may take a look, but generally, if it reaches him, it was forwarded by an aide. I've sent many emails in the past to Tim Cook and Steve Jobs, and it's always a reply or personalized phone call from a very high level CS representative/manager. Those are the guys who get the emails (likely from aides who filter through them).
 

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macrumors regular
Original poster
Jan 16, 2014
136
50
Staten Island, NY
I'm curious to see what kind of snarky response you get back. :p
What I'm hoping for is for them to wake up and take some action. I'm sure there are a lot of Apple Stores with the same kinds of problems. I realize the retail stores cater to the consumer audience, but if they are going to put out the Pro line, they need to train their people to properly configure them.

The first day, I assumed they just put it out in a hurry, but by the third day, there simply was no excuse.

When you think of it, until more software is re-tooled to take advantage of the dual GPUs, the only programs they could possibly use to demonstrate the speed of the Pro are sitting right under their noses... All they had to do is go to the App Store and click "Update All" and FCPX, Motion and Compressor would've been updated in under 5 minutes.

Without updating those programs, exporting video from Final Cut Pro was almost the same speed as the consumer models...

My "Standard Test" for benchmarking in the store is to grab one of the sample projects, then drag a lower thirds across the entire timeline (so it is forced to re-render everything), then export two files, one master, and one in Apple Devices 1080p. The lag I had before I could even hit the share button was painfully slow.
 

Merlin65

macrumors member
Jan 1, 2014
50
0
Totally untrue. Occasionally, he may take a look, but generally, if it reaches him, it was forwarded by an aide. I've sent many emails in the past to Tim Cook and Steve Jobs, and it's always a reply or personalized phone call from a very high level CS representative/manager. Those are the guys who get the emails (likely from aides who filter through them).
If you get a reply signed Tim does that mean it is from Tim Cook or an aide?
 

ybz90

macrumors 6502a
Jul 10, 2009
609
2
If you get a reply signed Tim does that mean it is from Tim Cook or an aide?
Unclear, as Tim Cook doesn't have the track record Steve Jobs did. The majority of the time, you'll be ignored; if not, chances are someone else will contact you instead.

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The first day, I assumed they just put it out in a hurry, but by the third day, there simply was no excuse.
I think you're being dramatic and unreasonable. Three days is really not that much more than than day 1 to make system-wide changes across all of their hundreds of stores. They have more important things to do than update the software, like running the damn stores. Employees at some stores will think of it, some won't. Eventually, I'm sure a directive will come down from above, but again, retail upper management has better things to do in the interim as well in light of product launches. If in a few weeks, they're still not upgraded, then you might have more cause to be upset.

Besides, I don't think most people who are considering buying a nMP goes in store and tests one out to make their decisions. Most single-unit buyers can just look up benchmarks on somewhere like Anandtech. What kind of benchmarks did you personally have to do that you couldn't just find online?

Having a nMP there is mostly for people who don't plan to get one to "ooh and ahh". And the majority of sales go to bulk buyers, as in enterprise and research, and these customers definitely don't walk into physical Apple stores to make their purchasing decisions.
 

ckeck

macrumors 6502a
Jul 29, 2005
708
59
Texas
I think you're being dramatic and unreasonable. Three days is really not that much more than than day 1 to make system-wide changes across all of their hundreds of stores.
Yeah, thousands of different retail stores never change their setup and layout, signage, etc in sync/unison multiple times per year over night before a big change or launch.

Of all the companies, Apple is probably one of the most capable, if they wanted to. We see it multiple times per year with the iPhone/iPad launches as well. How in the heck did they coordinate THAT? :cool:
 

Anim

macrumors 6502a
Dec 16, 2011
614
22
Macclesfield, UK
trouble is, they are running the OLD versions of programs like Final Cut Pro, Motion and Compressor. What a waste!
Yeah, thats very un-apple like. Usually they would have a strict guideline on how to present their new baby seen as these machines are like gold dust.

I would speak to the manager of the store and ask him, politely, why they installed old software on the new Mac Pro as it could just be human error.
 

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macrumors regular
Original poster
Jan 16, 2014
136
50
Staten Island, NY
I think you're being dramatic and unreasonable. Three days is really not that much more than than day 1 to make system-wide changes across all of their hundreds of stores. They have more important things to do than update the software, like running the damn stores. Employees at some stores will think of it, some won't. Eventually, I'm sure a directive will come down from above, but again, retail upper management has better things to do in the interim as well in light of product launches. If in a few weeks, they're still not upgraded, then you might have more cause to be upset.

Besides, I don't think most people who are considering buying a nMP goes in store and tests one out to make their decisions. Most single-unit buyers can just look up benchmarks on somewhere like Anandtech. ...
The key here is that the newer versions of those programs were specifically timed to be released just before the Mac Pro, because without those updates, the performance would be flat. So the software had to be from a backup of an entirely different (and older) model, because the version that would've installed the day the computer was unpacked would've been current.

I've seen benchmarks, but most of them are not tangible to me. X MB/s vs Y MB/s makes it seem like a commodity.

What kind of benchmarks did you personally have to do that you couldn't just find online?
How it "felt", when I loaded a real video clip, added something, changed something and then exported it.

The result?

When I added a lower thirds title, then dragged it across the entire timeline, it actually felt SLOWER than my MacBook Pro 17" 2011. It dragged funny... then when I reached for the share button to export it... it was grayed out as I waited quite a bit before it popped up.

For the record, I already have a 6 core, D700, 32 GB, 1TB rig on order since right after they went on sale. That's about a $6000 setup. I'm just looking for confirmation that this configuration is worth that price by taking a test drive.

What I ended up with was a clear example of bad planning. They should've made it a point to install those updated programs, or simply not put them on the tables until they did.

Instead of "Holy Crap that was fast!", they had me, and likely other buyers wondering why they bothered putting it out.

Suffice it to say, in the Dock there was the App Store with a red 6... All it would take is for the manager to click UPDATE ALL, and they would have a killer demo computer. Is it that complicated for them to do that?

I've asked them 3 times to do it. They're still waiting for Apple to tell them to do it. Do they actually need to be told?

That's why I wrote Corporate. They may not even know how the stores are demonstrating it. When I called them, they suggested I go into Manhattan, where they would be likely to have it properly configured.

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Yeah, thats very un-apple like. Usually they would have a strict guideline on how to present their new baby seen as these machines are like gold dust.

I would speak to the manager of the store and ask him, politely, why they installed old software on the new Mac Pro as it could just be human error.
I asked 3 times so far. They passed the buck and said they would talk to their audio / visual manager, who would likely be waiting for Apple to tell them what to do.

They did have a few high end games installed (which I didn't bother to load). This makes me think they restored a backup from a consumer model.
 

drewsof07

macrumors 68000
Oct 30, 2006
1,998
415
Ohio
I believe they use the same image for most of the machines in stores (if not all) and have deep freeze that restores them nightly. Pushing this image out probably explains the hold up. Sure, they could run the software updates, but it would revert to the default config. They were probably more interested in getting the hardware out than anything else.

But I would agree, it makes a bad impression when a demo product underperforms when it is capable of so much more.

Wouldn't make me want it any less though. :D
 

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macrumors regular
Original poster
Jan 16, 2014
136
50
Staten Island, NY
Update...

They are still using the old software. I called another store, they were using the older software too, except unlike the first store, they were aware of why it was a bad idea and actually said they felt putting it out without the updates was potentially counter productive.

She made a point to say she was glad that I at least knew the sluggish response was because of the software, because she felt that some people who were not aware the older software didn't use the dual GPUs would think that was the actual speed, and decide against purchasing.

She felt they should've kept them in the boxes until they rolled out the newer versions.

I know some people feel savvy buyers are happy with just online benchmarks and don't need to "test drive" one in person, but if that was the only type of buyer, they wouldn't even put demo computers in the stores.

For those like me, who already ordered one based upon benchmarks and reviews, the floor models are just a way to confirm that it was the right choice for our workflow.
 

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macrumors regular
Original poster
Jan 16, 2014
136
50
Staten Island, NY
* Update # 2*

I just called one of the "Flagship" stores on 5th Avenue in NYC... they are also using the older software.

Once again, I spoke to a savvy tech guy who knew how wrong it was, but he confirmed that individual stores and store managers have no power to install software updates.

The bottom line is there are no retail stores in the country that can demonstrate the actual speed of the new Mac Pro. You can look at them, but don't expect them to work any faster than the consumer models.

Considering how Apple used to meticulously coordinate new product roll-outs in the past, I'm so surprised at how poorly they handled this.
 

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macrumors regular
Original poster
Jan 16, 2014
136
50
Staten Island, NY
After discovering that every Apple Store is running the old software, here's my follow-up to Apple Corporate.

Hello again Person Who Reads Tim's Email,

As a quick follow up to my last email, I have discovered today that the problem I had trying to test the new Mac Pro in my local Apple Store is actually a nationwide problem. Even flagship stores like 5th Avenue in NYC are affected.

To recap, when I went to the Apple Store to test the Mac Pro, I noticed they were still running outdated versions of Final Cut Pro X, Motion, Compressor, etc.

Because of the older software's lack of dual GPU support, the performance using Final Cut Pro was no better than the lower priced Macs in the store. In some cases, it was slower.

The people in the store were great, as always, and they agreed that putting the Mac Pro out without the newer versions was potentially counter productive, because some people might actually think the sluggish results were what they would expect if they bought one.

If you ask me, until they are prepared to demonstrate the awesome power of programs that use dual GPUs, they should keep them in the box or put out a dummy mock up made of Legos.

It's like demonstrating a Corvette, but not putting gas in the tank.

[/rant off]

P.S., I already ordered a 6-core, 32 GB, 1 TB with dual D700s, which will cost about $6000... I'm just looking to confirm that it's worth the price before it arrives.
 

TjeuV

macrumors 6502
Dec 14, 2011
306
4
Belgium
Yeah try updating your last rant instead of replying to your own posts.

So what you expect is that they roll out their updating system just like that because you think it's not been done fast enough? I agree that it would've been better if the demos were displayed with the new software from the beginning ... but it's not, so deal with it and don't act like a spoiled kid.

It's really not that easy to just hit a button and every mac in every store gets its updates. Have some patience while waiting for your wonderful new mac pro.
 

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macrumors regular
Original poster
Jan 16, 2014
136
50
Staten Island, NY
I agree. I am potentially overreacting... and clearly venting, however it's also something I find out of character for Apple, and therefore interesting.

The idea that Apple, which prides itself on presenting new technology in the best possible light, and made it a point to release those software updates a week or so before releasing the computer so that users could experience the GPU boost from day one... then shows the computer to the public without the very thing that makes it shine is just strange. They had a MacBook right next to it that was more responsive.

When Steve Jobs was told the first iMac had to ship with CD-ROMs loading with a tray like every other computer, instead of a slot, he cried. He was a bit extreme at times, perhaps he would've also obsessed with the lighting so the thing shined on the tables, but he would at least make sure the thing ran at least as good as the models half the price.
 

ybz90

macrumors 6502a
Jul 10, 2009
609
2
Yeah, thousands of different retail stores never change their setup and layout, signage, etc in sync/unison multiple times per year over night before a big change or launch.

Of all the companies, Apple is probably one of the most capable, if they wanted to. We see it multiple times per year with the iPhone/iPad launches as well. How in the heck did they coordinate THAT? :cool:
Are you just trolling me? That's exactly my point -- they do all of those things, a truly impressive feat, and thus, it requires much organization and planning. Updating the system image for the nMPs to feature updated software is WAY low on the priority list, as it should be. They could have thought of it, but they didn't, or just didn't bother getting it done on time because they didn't care enough with everything else that's needed to be done, which is perfectly reasonable. It's just not that important; the OP's case is literally one in a million.

As for the OP, my point stands. He thinks there is "no excuse" for not having updated software within "three days". That's just absurd and frankly, a tiny bit self-centered.

----------

After discovering that every Apple Store is running the old software, here's my follow-up to Apple Corporate.
I'm going to quote myself again for you and the other guy I responded to. I'm sorry you aren't able to test the nMP for your uses, hopefully someone else can help you out. I could run some tests for you on mine, but in all likelihood, you're probably not looking to get the particular model I got so I don't suppose it'd be representative anyway.

That said, what did you expect? Just think objectively -- this is low priority and it's not unreasonable. I'm sure eventually they'll be updated but nMP display units aren't meant really for your use case, they're there...

... mostly for people who don't plan to get one to "ooh and ahh". And the majority of sales go to bulk buyers, as in enterprise and research, and these customers definitely don't walk into physical Apple stores to make their purchasing decisions.
 

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macrumors regular
Original poster
Jan 16, 2014
136
50
Staten Island, NY
Just to be clear, it's not about them taking 3 days... it's more like a month.

To clarify dates. Final Cut Pro X 10.1 came out 12/18, a week before the first delivery of nMPs, therefore Apple's disk image files for that model were made before that, on the older 2012 model, or they would've automatically had the updated version.

They delivered the first batch of Mac Pros a week later, including demo units at some of their larger "Flagship" stores, such as 5th Ave NYC, Grand Central NYC, San Francisco, etc. All of these top stores have been displaying demo units with the non-GPU aware software since about december 23rd, so it's not just 3 days.

I spoke to the professional sales department in the 5th Avenue NYC location and they were

I agree that most nMP buyers are not walking into stores. On my 4 visits, I saw perhaps 10 people who even took the time to look at it. Of them, half went straight into FCPX, the rest into Aperture (which also was an older version, but not GPU enhanced).

I spoke to two of the people who were tinkering with FCPX, and neither noticed the older version was running. Both had similar "Hater" attitudes towards the newer model. It was a mixture of "my old one is better" and "that's it?".

This is what set me off. I took the time to explain to them that I noticed the older version, but they didn't. As far as they knew, the new Mac Pro was a dog at editing video, or at the very least, not what it was hyped to be.

As far as it being a logistically difficult thing to update all the Mac Pros to the latest version, I originally thought it was just my local store neglecting to hit the update.. or unwilling to click it without explicit permission from Apple. What I learned from my talks with the 5th Avenue store was that Apple essentially has a single disk image on a central server for each model. Every night every demo computer re-loads a copy of that image, so they are exactly the same when they start the next day.

Once they update the original image in Cupertino, all the store servers are pushed that image and within 24 hours, every demo computer in the country has those updates.

As a software developer, I am assuming they have a much bigger deployment waiting to go out, perhaps with 4K sample videos and screens, and because they neglected to snap an image before working on the bigger update, they are not pushing the current (unfinished) update.

Oh well..

As for real world benchmarks... Like the BruceX test, here's something you can try to compare with that does not involve any particular video footage:

1. Load FCPX and create a new project at 1080p, 30p

2. Drop "Pages" from the Generator and change the duration to 8 minutes. On my computer the background render for this is 2:30.

3. After the render, drop "Clouds" at the beginning, from the Titles and change it's duration to 8 minutes too. This takes 6:30 to background render on my computer.

4. After the render, add a "Romantic" filter to the "Pages" clip. On my computer, the render is 7:58.

5. A share of this to a Master File takes 2:45, and produces an 8.25 GB ProRes MOV.

6. Loading it into Compressor, with the output set to the "Apple Devices HD (Best Quality) takes 3:45 seconds. Oddly, when I disabled the additional instance, it's 30 seconds faster... possibly because of the cache.

To optimize speed, I exported from/to an internal SSD.

My previous benchmarks were based upon comparing renders of sample footage (with added titles to force re-renders) using the MacBook Retina that sat next to the Mac Pro in the store. In those tests, there was no definitive advantage to the Mac Pro.

Assuming Apple has not updated the demo units, I will do this test on their quad-core, 16 GB, D300 demo and the MacBook next to it. Eventually, I will run this on the same unit when they finally update it.... or on my Hex-Core, 32 GB, D700 whichever comes first.

To be honest, my hope is the updated version crushes these times... To justify the purchase price.

[/long-winded response off]
 

Rogifan

macrumors Core
Nov 14, 2011
20,646
22,277
I agree. I am potentially overreacting... and clearly venting, however it's also something I find out of character for Apple, and therefore interesting.

The idea that Apple, which prides itself on presenting new technology in the best possible light, and made it a point to release those software updates a week or so before releasing the computer so that users could experience the GPU boost from day one... then shows the computer to the public without the very thing that makes it shine is just strange. They had a MacBook right next to it that was more responsive.

When Steve Jobs was told the first iMac had to ship with CD-ROMs loading with a tray like every other computer, instead of a slot, he cried. He was a bit extreme at times, perhaps he would've also obsessed with the lighting so the thing shined on the tables, but he would at least make sure the thing ran at least as good as the models half the price.
I hate it when people play the lame Steve would/wouldn't have card. There were plenty of mistakes and rant-able things that happened on his watch.
 

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macrumors regular
Original poster
Jan 16, 2014
136
50
Staten Island, NY
I hate it when people play the lame Steve would/wouldn't have card. There were plenty of mistakes and rant-able things that happened on his watch.
Me too.

What I am now discovering is that the verdict is still out when it comes to when it comes to rendering real world video on the Mac Pro. Apple sent Larry Jordan, one of the most respected Final Cut Pro bloggers a fully loaded 12 core unit for him to review. The results are truly eye opening.

In a nutshell, depending on the type of video (length, content, duration, compression settings), his iMac outpaced the 12 core Mac Pro in at least 9 instances and was only marginally faster for most of them, in spite of the fact at his iMac wasn't even using an ssd... It registered 155 MB/s. Clearly it's not sensitive to disk speed when it comes to optimization.

http://www.larryjordan.biz/mac-pro-video-compression/

Today I hope to run the test I described above on the Mac Pro in the store... There is still time for me to change my order. Heck, maybe I'll buy 6 loaded minis and cluster them.:D
 

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macrumors regular
Original poster
Jan 16, 2014
136
50
Staten Island, NY
I just returned from the Apple store with the results of my formal benchmarks.

If nothing else, it demonstrates what to expect when you run software that does not take advantage of the dual GPU.

As a baseline, I ran the exact same tests on my MacBook Pro 17" Late 2011. The Mac Pro was a stock quad core with D300s.

While the Mac Pro did the main file rendering slightly faster, the final export then compression (using Compressor 4) was where it literally choked.

Using the MacBook Pro 2011, time 3:15

The Mac Pro took nearly 1 hour.

(Technically it took about 45 minutes to get to about half way, but I didn't have time to wait for it to finish, so I just added another 15 minutes, because Compressor has a habit of slowly getting to 50%, then suddenly speeding up).