[Audio] iMac '11 vs Mac Pro '11

Discussion in 'Mac Pro' started by Boneheadxan, Dec 12, 2011.

  1. Boneheadxan macrumors regular

    Boneheadxan

    Joined:
    Jul 19, 2009
    #1
    Hellow all,

    I currently run a 2009 8-Core 2.26GHz Nehalem Mac Pro with 8GB RAM. I work mostly with audio, some video and occasional gaming.

    Now, for a secondary setup, I need to pick up another machine. I need this new one to last another 5 years. I've been having some trouble deciding between the iMac and Mac Pro.

    So far, with respect to audio, the 2009 Mac Pro has been more than sufficient. I run huge amount of plugins and track count, also some CPU intensive soft-synths. I feel true multi-thread support is still not present in audio (esp Logic has this stupid 1 core overloading issue). Not everyone has gone 64-bit either, so I haven't seen the need for the highest end fully maxed out Mac Pro, unless I want to make it last for a longer duration.

    I only looked at the iMac, since the geek-bench scores were quite impressive and compares very well with my old machine. Thunderbolt is another advantage. I can wait until Jan for a mac pro update, but that's about it. I either need to pick up a maxed out iMac '11 or a 8-core Westmere Mac Pro by then.

    I use only 1 PCIe device, which can be stuffed into the old machine. And I'm hoping thunderbolt opens up a whole range of possibilities next year.

    All this is considering the fact that the Mac Pro update doesn't show up in time for me and I have to choose between the iMac and Mac Pro. iMac maxed out is definitely cheaper, don't need to buy a display, 3.4GHz etc.

    PCIe is not relevant to me, I'm hoping the multiple drives I need can be sorted using Thunderbolt.



    What advantage would the current Mac Pro (medium range) have over the iMac'11 including it's Thunderbolt potential in terms of expandability and performance?

    Thank you.
     
  2. seisend macrumors 6502a

    seisend

    Joined:
    Feb 20, 2009
    Location:
    Switzerland, ZG
    #2
    Hey there,

    I have the same Mac Pro (see below) as you have. However, I have installed the OS and Logic APP on a SSD. All librarys and audio contents are stored on three 1TB Caviar Black drives in RAID0. I never get any error message and it just flies. It uses multiple cores efficiently. I'm using it in 64bit Mode also.

    If you don't need PCI-E for future. I'd buy the Quad Core iMac.
    I think for Logic, it is more than enough to just go with Quad but with a higher clock speed.

    Just always remember, split your apps and librarys on two seperate HDD's. This mainly will avoid all those annoying error messages.
     
  3. Neodym, Dec 12, 2011
    Last edited: Dec 12, 2011

    Neodym macrumors 68000

    Neodym

    Joined:
    Jul 5, 2002
    #3
    The maximum you get on the iMac is 4 cores (with hyperthreading on the high-end-model). The maximum you can get on a Mac Pro currently is 12 cores (iirc with Hyperthreading on all machines even with a lower core count). Including hyperthreading a Mac Pro can offer up to 3 times the amount of cores an iMac can (24 : 8). Audio and video work often profits massively from a higher core count.

    1:0 for the MP

    Memorywise an iMac is limited to 16GB - any Mac Pro can easily hold up to 32GB and more. From what i've read over the years, the amount of available Ram can be crucial on performance when doing audio/video work.

    2:0 for the MP

    In a Mac Pro you can install all the drives internally (-> fast, low latency), have no cable clutter from external boxes and all is running pretty quiet. Thunderbolt not only still is in its infancy - the few available solutions are expensive (pricewise the top-end iMac together with a Thunderbolt box will probably be in the same ballpark with a MP) and said to be comparably loud. Depending on the location you would place the box it may be a negative point for _audio_ work!

    3:0 for the MP

    Under ongoing load the iMac tends to become noisy due to the fans having to turn up to get rid of the heat - the MacPro stays unimpressed most of the time and if it has to spin up the noise is probably far less disturbing (due to bigger fans and a superior cooling solution in general).

    4:0 for the MP

    Even without considering PCIe i would see the MP superior to the iMac. Of course it depends on your individual situation - if your software does not make use of more then 4/8 cores, you don't need more than 16GB of Ram in your projects and noise wouldn't be an issue, the iMac may be the better choice for you. Though i somehow doubt it...
     
  4. Boneheadxan thread starter macrumors regular

    Boneheadxan

    Joined:
    Jul 19, 2009
    #4
    Ah, I was considering the SSD + HD option as well.

    If I'm getting an iMac, is it advisable to get the SSD + HD from Apple itself, since I don't want to dismantle within the warranty period?

    Any problems with having your VSTi's/AU's and sample libraries on a different HD, since SSD sizes are limited?

    Other than one of my UAD's, I don't see the use for PCIe's at least for the next 3 years.


    Leaning more towards the iMac, unless the new Mac Pros are pushed out within a month or two.

    Might need an extra Firewire, unless I daisy-chain, any Thunderbolt to FW or USB adaptors coming soon?
     
  5. Santabean2000 macrumors 68000

    Santabean2000

    Joined:
    Nov 20, 2007
    #5
    - 1 for the bank balance!

    iMacs have 4 RAM slots, and prices are decreasing all the time. SB can take up to 32 GB (I think). iMac no ECC though, MP has.

    True.

    True again.
     
  6. theSeb macrumors 604

    theSeb

    Joined:
    Aug 10, 2010
    Location:
    Poole, England
    #6
    The 2011 iMac can hold 32 GB of memory (but using expensive 8 GB sticks).

    The rest I pretty much agree with.

    ----------

    Yes, this would be advisable for the hassle free factor. The only problem is that you pay more for upgrades from Apple than you would and the SSD is somewhat slower than the currently available drives from other manufacturers.

    There is the Apple Thunderbolt Display, which is a big adaptor with a monitor. There are some products in the pipeline from the likes of Sonnet as well.
    There is also this coming sooner but would need another adaptor

    http://www.sonnettech.com/product/thunderbolt/index.html
     
  7. Loa macrumors 65816

    Loa

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

    For me, one sentence in your post settled the debate: 5 years. The Mac Pro is designed with expansion and updatability in mind. Not the iMac.

    Also, if you're planning on using a SSD+HD combo (good for you) please check the price for that option in an iMac. You'll be surprised.

    Here's what I'd do: get a used/refurb single processor 2009 Mac Pro. Get the cheapest one you can get, then upgrade the CPU to a 3.33GHz Hex-core (~600$ upgrade), and buy yourself a SSD (you'll save heaps compared to getting one from Apple).

    I'm not sure that the price difference will be all that significant compared to a 3.4GHz iMac quad with SSD+HD directly from Apple.

    Loa
     
  8. Boneheadxan thread starter macrumors regular

    Boneheadxan

    Joined:
    Jul 19, 2009
    #8
    Thank you guys, I agree with most of the points mentioned here.

    @Loa - 5 years, yes, but I might look at the iMac as a more temp solution for now, since I have two projects due in March and can later be dumped on the missus. I don't mind shelling out for a top-line Mac Pro, but would rather do that after they upgrade.

    I know Apple prices are high for HD's/SSD's, but wanted to avoid the hassle, but if they are slower than what's out there, I might as well do it myself.

    I found only 1 Mac Pro in the refurb store, 2009 2.26 model similar to my current one, but it seems to be quite expensive for a refurb and 2009 model, almost what I paid for my brand new one back then. $3370 Worth it?

    How difficult is it to replace the CPU?


    @Seb - The adaptors look promising. Thanks.

    The other factor which worries me is the noisy fan issue that has been mentioned. Although, I don't record, that could be annoying. The rest of the problems I can still deal with.

    How does the Mac Pro Server version differ from the normal one? Also, is one single hexacore 3.33 more efficient than say the dual quad 2.26 from 2009?


    C'mon Apple, please release the new MP's in Jan. :p We're almost reaching the longest update cycle.

    ----------

    Also, does anyone know if I swap the primary HDD into a new Mac Pro, will all my installation, plugins, softwares etc stay intact if I boot from it? Cause, re-installing all of it will be a nightmare.

    Previously, I tried a Time Machine backup and restore, which didn't effectively work for a lot of softwares as I had to re-enter the serial numbers or re-authorise it. :confused:
     
  9. theSeb macrumors 604

    theSeb

    Joined:
    Aug 10, 2010
    Location:
    Poole, England
    #9
    The Mac Pro server just has the server version of OSX, which is not necessary for you.

    The 3.33 Hex is the sweet spot in the line up. Check out geekbench for a comparison. The Hex scored more than the 2009 2.27 dual quad. If I really needed to get a mac pro now, the Hex is the one I would go. Many people go for the cheaper quad and upgrade to a hex themselves to save some money.

    The wise option would be to get an iMac if you really need it and then upgrade to the 2012 pro when it comes out.
     
  10. Loa macrumors 65816

    Loa

    Joined:
    May 5, 2003
    Location:
    Québec
    #10
    Hello,

    I think you have that backwards. The differences in performance between a regular HD and a SSD are huge, but for most tasks, the differences between SSDs are not all that great in real life. Unless you're transferring very big (in the GB order) files very often, you won't detect much of a difference between recent SSDs.

    Anandtech has an article on this exact same topic, look it up. Don't get fooled by benchmarks and save your money for things that matter, like RAM if you don't have plenty already.

    Loa
     
  11. thekev, Dec 13, 2011
    Last edited: Dec 13, 2011

    thekev macrumors 604

    thekev

    Joined:
    Aug 5, 2010
    #11
    Thunderbolt is only one choice for drives, and the current single drive enclosure option really isn't that great. Unless you want it to also work with your laptop without any kind of adapter, it's not that big of an issue. Another thing is that you work with audio, and the thunderbolt enclosure is noisy compared to drives mounted internally. It probably keeps them significantly cooler (maybe 20F cooler), but you will notice the noise. This is basically true with any external drive box. They're all noisy, but some are worse than others.

    Now I will address the 32 bit misunderstanding. Basically being 32 bit means you won't see a single application able to address over 3GB of ram or so (you can call it 4 but it's really more like 3). Seeing as I'm not totally familiar with the software you're using, I can't entirely comment on how much data it generates, but if the data is large enough, drive speed/latency becomes an issue. Basically the problem is always handled, and 64 bit just opens up the potential to handle it in ram.

    I should add, I'm not really trying to push you toward a mac pro here, and the current one is kind of in a bad place given that the 6 core is the best out of the setup and it's truly overpriced for its overall build and configuration. The imac is probably fine, but I'd suggest Applecare on that one. In an imac, any part that breaks down to a hard drive or gpu, means a really expensive repair.
     
  12. Boneheadxan thread starter macrumors regular

    Boneheadxan

    Joined:
    Jul 19, 2009
    #12
    Again, great points inching me towards a Mac Pro. :D

    @theKev - Considering I don't have a machine room, noise could definitely be an issue. But, I also like freezing my room while working, due to some of my external gear which heats up a lot.

    I agree 32-bit addresses about 3.2GB RAM, currently in audio, the greatest advantage of 64-bit is while composing, enables the access of huge sample libraries for sample based instruments. I run Logic (64), Ableton (32) and Reaper (64).

    Yes, I would really like to wait for the next-gen Mac Pro rather than dive in on this one.


    @Loa - I'm guessing at least concerning audio, SSD's might be quite useful while addressing huge sample banks.

    @theSeb - Yep, the current hexa looks like the only option, rather than a refurb.

    I guess the internal drives benefit is worth it as well.

    I know a current hexa would last me a good while, but if I'm spending so much money, I'd rather have the latest gen features at least Thunderbolt as an option, even if I don't use it in the near future.
     
  13. wonderspark macrumors 68030

    wonderspark

    Joined:
    Feb 4, 2010
    Location:
    Oregon
    #13
    I can answer this, as I just did it. It's so easy, I'd trust a child (under supervision) with the job.

    CPU tray slides out and you can take it to the kitchen table. Spend a little time slowly backing off each of the five bolts a bit at a time, and the heatsink lifts off. Flip the lever, lift the lid, pick up old CPU with some latex gloves, and drop in the new one. Close and latch lid, clean bottom of heatsink residue with q-tips and goof-off, and spread new thermal paste with gloved finger onto new CPU. Replace heatsink and slowly turn five bolts a bit each at a time until snug. Slide tray back into Mac Pro, reboot with Cmd-Opt-P-R. And, *poof* new CPU works.

    My old 3.33GHz Quad CPU is nearly sold on eBay which will offset the cost of the new CPU, making it pretty cheap, too!

    It's seriously so easy. And updating 2009 firmware (4,1) to 2010 (5,1) is even easier. Download free app that does it automatically, run it, reboot. *poof* 2010 Mac Pro. Have no fear.
     
  14. thekev macrumors 604

    thekev

    Joined:
    Aug 5, 2010
    #14
    I don't blame you. I'm in favor of waiting or upgrading your current machine if you are comfortable doing so. Many people on here have gone that route. You could be rocking a 12 core :D. Noise is generally an issue with external raid boxes. It's annoying and distracting for me, but for anyone working with audio it could be a more significant issue. I'm waiting right now myself.

    You're correct that the 2009/2010 refurbs are still quite expensive for what you're really buying.
     
  15. Boneheadxan thread starter macrumors regular

    Boneheadxan

    Joined:
    Jul 19, 2009
    #15
    @Wonderspark - That seems fairly simple and you make it sound all magical, haha. :D Thanks.

    @thekev - My current machine works just fine for now. But, as I mentioned the new one is for a secondary new studio. So, I need two machines running and I need the new one setup and running flawlessly before March, else my clients are going to be pissed, seeing me pull things off on a laptop, haha.

    Previously, in 2009 I was glad I jumped for the Nehalem, cause if I had waited, it would have been the longest wait ever, considering it was one of the longest update cycles. I hope it doesn't repeat this time around. Other than the weekly release rumours, any factual news on Intel's update and release schedule? :D
     
  16. Neodym macrumors 68000

    Neodym

    Joined:
    Jul 5, 2002
    #16
    o.Ô I'd be afraid of static charge when using latex gloves working with electronics. With bare hands you can discharge yourself before starting work and should be fine (and can wear a discharge strap to be on the safe side), but wearing rubber (gloves) i'd expect new static charge to (re)build up too fast for my liking...
     
  17. wonderspark macrumors 68030

    wonderspark

    Joined:
    Feb 4, 2010
    Location:
    Oregon
    #17
    Well, I only wore one glove, and held the box with my bare hand. I just didn't want to touch the chip contacts by accident and short two contacts together with the moisture on my fingers.
     

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