are Mac Pros really expandable/upgradeable?

Discussion in 'Mac Pro' started by Virgil-TB2, Nov 2, 2007.

  1. Virgil-TB2 macrumors 65816


    Aug 3, 2007
    I am on the verge of getting a Mac Pro for the first time (whenever the next revision hits), and although I know a lot about Macs and have used them for years this will be my first Pro and I am having doubts about the upgradeable nature of the thing.

    One of the key points of the Pro and it's predecessors is that it has actual slots like a "regular" (Windows/Linux) computer and therefore is upgradeable, but after a bit of research I can't see that there is really anything to upgrade it with.

    In my current G4 tower, there are two cards in it (other than the graphics card). One is a SCSI card from Adaptec and the other is a Modem. Now I know as a given that these cards cannot be moved over to the Pro for a variety of reasons, but my intention was to re-buy cards with similar functionality. The problem is I can't see that they even exist.

    There are no PCIe modems on the market at all that I can see, and I have yet to discover a SCSI card that mentions being able to run on the Mac Pro. Furthermore, I don't know where the heck I could locate an internal SCSI drive anyway, even temporarily just to suck the data off of it. :(

    There are solutions. For instance Apple sells a "Modem in a Dongle" kind of doo-hicky that will hang off the back of the Pro and I can probably buy some kind of HD enclosure for my old SCSI and ATA disks so I can read them into the disks on the Pro.

    My point though is that there is no internal solution for either. What's the point of purchasing a machine that has slots if no one manufactures cards for it? How dumb is it to have a multi-thousand dollar behemoth with 2 or 3 empty slots inside and then be forced to hang a stupid plastic modem dongle off the back in the dust under your desk? :confused:

    All that is available that I have been able to find is that RAID card that Apple makes and a similar one from a third party that *might* work. Maybe I am just not finding the goods, but the Pro has been out for a long time now. You would think that whatever basic cards were being manufactured would either already be available by now or at least be announced.

    I will buy it anyway just for the horsepower, but this seems extrordinarily dumb IMO. Isn't it a bit ironic that one of the biggest sales features of the Pro is it's expandability, yet there is virtually nothing but graphics cards to put in the thing? If I had a greater selection of video cards, memory and other specs, it would almost be better to purchase an iMac. :eek:
  2. wentwj macrumors regular

    Sep 6, 2006
    I'm no expert on the subject (also in the same boat with getting my first pro when the next rev hits).

    The problem with the items you mentioned, but the items themselves. SCSI seems to have gone out of favor and the Mac Pro now runs SATA. I'm not even sure if it has a SCSI port (doubt it). SCSI as an interface just isn't used often anymore.

    And the Mac Pro does have a PCI-e slot, but modems are also quickly falling out of style, and so yes you'll have difficulty finding a PCI-e modem card. This really has nothing to do with the Mac Pro. You'd run into the exact same issues if you built a top of the line PC.

    The only difference between the slots on the Mac Pro and a standard PC is you need mac drivers for it to run in OS X.

    The problem isn't the mac pro, the problem is you want you're older technology to work internally in the newer one. That's just not likely to happen, wether it's a Mac Pro or a PC.
  3. Kosh66 macrumors 6502

    Jul 15, 2004
    Modem... you're kidding right? Everyone has broadband nowadays. If you need a modem there aren't any internal ones as USB is the common interface for the rare case where you need a modem. USB 2.0 can more than handle a modem's throughput, there is no sense wasting a PCIe slot on that.

    As for SCSI cards, there are SCSI PCIe cards for the Mac Pro. ATTO says their UL5D and Celerity PCI Express cards will work in the Mac Pro.

    As the previous poster said, though, SCSI is considered older technology and expensive. Firewire 800, Apple's replacement for SCSI hasn't seem to caught on as much as eSATA. SATA and eSATA are newer technology, probably just as fast and cheaper. When you want fast HDs, internal or external, people recommend SATA and eSATA. You'll probably find a dozen eSATA PCIe cards for the Mac Pro.
  4. hugodrax macrumors 6502a

    Jul 15, 2007
    Plenty of FW800 enclosures,etc.. for reasonable prices. You can buy empty cases and stick your own drives for 150 or less. I would recommend going FW800 not esata for external drives.
  5. kresh macrumors 6502a


    I agree with the OP, what good are the slots? It's not like you can go out and buy the latest and greatest Sound Card or Physics card and plop it into the Mac Pro.

    So what card would you put in the slots? I can't think of or find a single one.
  6. bigbossbmb macrumors 68000


    Jul 1, 2004
    Cards for extra external connections (eSata, FW, and USB)

    extra video cards (7300) for more displays

    capture cards for video and audio production
  7. lcseds macrumors 6502a

    Jun 20, 2006
    NC, USA
    Ahhhh, no. You're broadband spoiled, and that's a good thing if you got it. But....If you were to look at a USA map, with an overlay map of broadband availability, you'd be in for an education. There are soooooo many rural areas that do not have enough population density for either cable or DSL. And don't talk to me about satellite service. Good lord, I paid a ton for that and sometimes pulled the plug and used a modem because it was FASTER. Cellular Broadband? If my frickin' cell phone doesn't work in these areas, neither will broadband. I also go camping in my RV and many campgrounds have phone connections only, not broadband. Modems do still have a purpose. They suck, but they have a purpose.
  8. fernmeister macrumors regular

    Aug 19, 2007
  9. Virgil-TB2 thread starter macrumors 65816


    Aug 3, 2007
    Hey thanks for all the feedback. :)

    I guess I was not very clear though. The only reason I wanted the SCSI was so I could temporarily mount all my old SCSI stuff and transfer the data to the new SATA drives in the Pro. Adaptec made many many fantastic cards for the Mac in the past and I just think it's lame that I can't put any one of them in the Pro and have it work. The modem is also just because I receive faxes on the G4 and I want to do the same on the Pro.

    The second part of my post seems to have struck a bit of a chord also (at least with some), which is that if you don't need more than the four internal drives, and you are only driving one monitor, then there still aren't any cards you can buy for the Pro. :eek:

    I'll toss in a third example. ;)

    Every PC I ever had (about five or ten all told), had a WinTV card in it. I totally love watching TV on the computer while I write. Yet again, here is a product that is simply not available for the Pro. Back in the day Hauppage made a Mac compatible version on a card and a couple of other companies tried it as well if I remember correctly. All I can get for the Pro however, is yet another plastic dongle that hangs off the back.

    I am beginning to think the whole situation is hilariously ironic (if it wasn't so frustrating). Because Apple has eschewed the "box PC" for so long, there are no remaining Mac peripherals makers who make cards for Mac. So one of the fanciest high end "boxes" you can get is the MacPro, but there is virtually nothing you can install in the slots.

    On the other hand (also ironic), is the fact that Apple has basically been proven right with their idea that you don't need an upgradeable box at all! If the Mac Pro had better hardware RAID and lots of SATA ports on the front and back it wouldn't need the few slots it has. :p

    Even though there are still folks pushing for that Apple mid-range box or "X-tower" in addition to the Pro, there would be nothing to put in it either.
  10. Sun Baked macrumors G5

    Sun Baked

    May 19, 2002
    Apple sells the USB modem, don't know what the chipset used is -- or getting around the Apple tax would be a lot easier.

    Atto also committed to leopard on the Mac Pro ... so that may narrow your choice a bit unless you can see others stepping up also.

    Atto Leopard Support Announcement

    But a lot of people are making use of those slots for graphics cards, and sticking in a hi-power card in slot 2 takes up a lot of space.

    GPUs and eSATA seem to be the popular upgrades on the Mac Pro.
  11. Kosh66 macrumors 6502

    Jul 15, 2004
    The extra info is helpful. Do you still have the G4 around? If so, either use an ethernet cable between the two and turn sharing on on the G4, or use a Firewire cable and Firewire Target Disk Mode, and copy the data over that way. No need to install the SCSI stuff on the Mac Pro.

    You also probably hit on the one reason for a modem, for faxes.

    The reason alot of stuff is external, though, is probably because not all computers have PCIe slots. Most Macs don't and even PCs, like the Gateway One, don't have PCIe slots. Laptops don't have PCIe slots. So therefore why would 3rd party vendors create something that can't be used by most computers.
  12. robbieduncan Moderator emeritus


    Jul 24, 2002
    A simple Google search for mac pcie scsi turns up cards like this one. OK, it's not cheap bit it's a PCIe SCSI Card with Mac drivers.
  13. deathshrub macrumors 6502

    Oct 30, 2007
    Christmas Island
    Obviously this is NOT true. Not everybody has broadband. And even if you do have broadband, you can use the modem as a fax modem.

    Regarding GPU expandability.. In a year or two Windows Fista (I mean Vista) will support EFI graphics cards, so at that time you probably will be able to take any EFI graphics card on the market and stick it in your mac pro and have it work with OS X, as long as there are drivers written for it.
  14. seclusion macrumors regular


    Jul 15, 2007
    I really like that I can have 5 HD's in my MacPro.
    I purchased a DVD drive to HD expansion and slipped my 250 gig OS drive up where a second DVD drive could be. Now I have 4 Sata 2 16 meg 320 gig drives both running Raid 0 (software).
    So my Pro Daw Running Logic Studio has 2 HD's raid 0 for Audio files and 2 HD's running all my sample libraries. And best of all I have a 500 gig drive FW 800 hooked up for backup!
    So as I take my time doing a totally fresh install of Leopard, I'm reinstalling all my plugs so I have a totally clean install!
    Best part of that install is, I left my Tiger drive installed, Pulled my Audio drives for now and swapped another 320 gig drive for the Leopard install.
    Once I get everything up I'll pull the Tiger drive out and replace with the Leopard drive and be back up.
    Only problem is a couple of my plugs do not work in Leopard... So I'll wait a bit!
  15. toru173 macrumors regular

    Apr 5, 2007
    NO WAY! SCSI is one of the highest performing disk drive technologies, and is moving to be one of the most flexable. Apple dumped it because it was expensive, not underperforming.

    As per the modem - no-one makes PCIe modems, very few people still make PCI modems. Everything is USB these days.
  16. pagansoul macrumors 65816


    Aug 10, 2006
    I also like watching TV while I'm on my Mac Pro. I have a TVMax (Miglia) which is/was also a part of the Elgato group of products. I can watch, tape, edit TV/VHS/DVD etc...I have cable so I also have that hooked up. You can also go by antenna. It works like a Tevo for your computer. I have all 4 bays covered with 500GB drives. 1. Main HD with Applications 2. I rip some of my DVD collection to play on my pod 3. Photo collection and Boot Camp 4. iTunes (about 300GB contains my entire collection in LossLess). I have an external 500GB for back up of Main Drive, another for music (I also have the CDs), my pictures are backed up on the original DVDs and the ripped movies are a reduced size so I can fit 4 on a DVD. I currently have 5BG ram and can't imagine using 16, but who knows. I tend to get a new computer every 3 years but I know this one will last longer, unless I can't resist the styling of a new Mac.
  17. Cromulent macrumors 603


    Oct 2, 2006
    The Land of Hope and Glory
    Exactly. SCSI is still huge in the enterprise segment. Especially with servers.
  18. Transeau macrumors 6502a


    Jan 18, 2005
    Alta Loma, CA
    To be completely accurate, SAS is the new standard for top end SCSI, which is pin compatible with SATA. SAS Controllers are 100% backwards compatible with SATA. And the SATA protocol is a small subset of the SAS protocol. In terms of raw throughput, SATA and SAS are both 3Gbps. But the advanced features of the SAS protocol allows for much faster transactions, as well as better failure / recovery support. Many enterprise class server are now shipping with SATA drives, when data throughput is not a major issue. As a matter of fact, when in a RAID-5 or RAID-50 array, the throughput is strictly based on the controller's processor. So a 10 Drive RAID-50 array is going to be the same speed weather it's SATA or SAS. With failure times fairly close, why spend an extra $150 per drive? You could keep 2 or 3 SATA spares on hand for the price of a single SAS drive.
  19. contoursvt macrumors 6502a

    Jul 22, 2005
    Except that SAS drives come with higher spindle rates (15K) and better command queuing. Those two things can make a huge impact on a server's performance so its not about pure throughput. Almost never is a server reading data sequentially and random read will mean that in neither case is the total throughput close to that of the interface, but the SAS solution (or SCSI for that fact) will be higher because it can get those random bits of data faster.

  20. MikeL macrumors 6502

    Jan 22, 2003
    Bloomington, MN
    Instead of complaining that you can't find cards for using obsolete technologies with a computer that has yet to be released, why not look for solutions?

    There's no difficulty in getting your data off the SCSI drives. Network your computers. This is 2007, and it's super easy to do.

    As for the modem, well, the market just doesn't support it. Sorry. Such is life. Time moves on.

    Don't blame Apple. They can provide all the expandability that iMac/laptop/mini customers need via USB and FW. The MP is aimed at pros--there are plenty of uses for the slots when someone wants to make use of them for modern applications. Is it Apple's fault that you haven't purchased a new computer in the better part of a decade? I don't want hardware that's bogged down with legacy support.
  21. contoursvt macrumors 6502a

    Jul 22, 2005
    What mike is trying to say is that Apple doesnt give a rats behind about legacy. You will have to spend a fortune on a new SCSI card when the old one is fine and you'll definitly have to buy a new USB modem.

    Apple's pro machine is the first pro workstation I've seen on the market without PCI-X which still have a huge amount of professional and server grade gear that will go into it...probably more so than PCI-E but its ommited. If there was a slot, then you'd be able to use your SCSI card at least.
  22. synth3tik macrumors 68040


    Oct 11, 2006
    Minneapolis, MN
    I got a mac pro for the expansion slots. I used them all with my old G4, but with the Mac Pro they are PCI-e slots and I have yet to use any of them. For me an audio break out box would be $750 and then another $350 for the PCI-e card, where as a firewire interface is $800 all together.

    Basically I would say get it for the power and not the expandability (outside of RAM)
  23. Sun Baked macrumors G5

    Sun Baked

    May 19, 2002
    Apple not caring about legacy tech...

    Not really Apple, but they did make it quite hard for developers to keep up -- the Mac OS X card drivers seem to hit the **** can legacy bin far faster than the Windows cards.

    If it isn't an OS update killing cards, it is Apple jumping to a new slot without legacy slot backup.

    Then again you cannot blame Apple for adopting new slot technology, since they are historically behind their PC counterparts anyways -- until now with the Intel chipsets.

    Until Apple releases a consumer tower, we might not see a flood of upgrade options coming back to market. :(
  24. toru173 macrumors regular

    Apr 5, 2007
    To the OP:

    I just had a look at the Magma page and they have external enclosures that support PCI from a PCIe bus and are Mac OSX compatible. Perhaps this is a possible solution?

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