Best Mac for Final Cut Pro

Discussion in 'iMac' started by tarsierspectral, Apr 13, 2016.

  1. tarsierspectral macrumors regular

    Aug 13, 2010

    I'm looking to upgrade my iMac to a new machine. Let's say the money is not a concern here. I'm aware of the minimum system requirements for final cut. I want to know if I would be better off with a faster processor with less cores or slightly slower processor with more cores? What's a better option? Also how much RAM is "too much" or unnecessary for Final Cut. How about a graphic card? I just don't want to end up with specs that the Final Cut can't use. Any help is greatly appreciates. I'm aware that I'm asking pretty basic questions but I have no clue.

    Thank you!
  2. redheeler macrumors 603


    Oct 17, 2014
    Final Cut Pro can take advantage of a slower processor with more cores (including the virtual cores hyperthreaded i7s provide), as well as GPU acceleration with a higher-end GPU, but beyond that I'm not a FCP expert. Do you plan to edit in 4K or just 1080p?
  3. tarsierspectral thread starter macrumors regular

    Aug 13, 2010
    For now 1080p and I don't foresee editing in 4K for another 2-3 years
  4. sperdynamite macrumors member

    Sep 21, 2011
    My fully loaded i7 iMac from 2009 can handle 1080p in FCPX with few slowdowns, via spinning drives. A new fully loaded iMac with SSDs would have no problems. I would just buy the best iMac you can afford and run your content from SSDs. Personally when I upgrade it's worth it for me to get the 1TB SSD option, and then run spinning drives as a raid over TB, or even USB3.
  5. joema2 macrumors 65816


    Sep 3, 2013
    I'm a professional video editor and have many Macs but also still use Premiere CC on Windows. FCPX is very efficient and can edit H264 1080p material just fine on an older machine. That said the more CPU and GPU power, the better. While editing is usually fast, some effects are very CPU or GPU intensive. E.g, Neat Video noise reduction, stabilization, flicker removal, etc. is very slow. In general the trend in software development is leverage the GPU more, so a current snapshot in time may not be revealing. E.g, the next version of FCPX will probably use the Metal API which in turn uses the GPU. That is nearly certain because Adobe just announced at NAB Premiere CC will be using Metal to improve performance.

    If money is no object and you just want to avoid wasting it on non-helpful areas, here are my suggestions:

    - If you don't immediately need a machine consider waiting until around 4Q this year. AMD and nVidia are rolling out new GPU technology which will probably be in the next update. However don't hesitate to get a machine now if you need one.

    - If you already have a top-spec 2013 or newer iMac, the 2015 is only modestly faster. If your iMac is 2011 or older, a top-spec 2015 iMac will feel much faster.

    - Definitely get the 4Ghz i7 CPU and the M395X GPU. You can't upgrade those after the fact and they will be useful.

    - Memory: I use 32GB and you probably could get buy with 16GB provided you don't run virtualization like Parallels. You can save some money by getting a minimally-equipped 8GB machine and adding your own ram from OWC which does not invalidate your Apple warranty.

    - Disk: I have had both 3TB Fusion Drive and 1TB SSD iMacs and since most of my video content is on a Thunderbolt array I don't see much performance difference from the system drive. A 1TB SSD is $600 more than a 3TB FD. If your content is external or you want to save $600 and apply it to a better external drive, FD will work. I personally like SSD because it may be slightly more reliable and it is a little faster (real world) for some things. Do not get a little 256GB SSD then use a slow USB 3 bus-powered external drive. This can be a lot slower than just putting everything on a 3TB Fusion Drive.

    - External drives: ideally use a Thunderbolt array, plus you'll need another one to back that up plus the system drive. Just using RAID doesn't eliminate the need for a backup. There are various good storage providers such as G-Tech, OWC, Promise, Caldigit and LaCie.
  6. TRDGT4Writer macrumors regular


    Feb 24, 2014
    If I remember correctly...

    More cores, slower clock speed
    • Pros
      • Applications that support multi-threading will greatly benefit from having a higher number of cores at their disposal
      • Increasing the amount of cores in your CPU is a cost effective way of increasing performance
      • Multi-threading support for applications will continue to improve over time
      • You will be able to run more apps at once without seeing performance drops
      • Great for running multiple virtual machines
    • Cons
      • Lower single threaded performance than a higher clock speed processor
    Fewer cores, higher clock speed
    • Pros
      • Better single threaded performance
      • Lower cost option
    • Cons
      • Fewer cores to split between applications
      • Not as strong multi-threading performance
  7. tarsierspectral thread starter macrumors regular

    Aug 13, 2010
    Thanks for this. I have a late 2012 iMac (32GB RAM, Intel core i7 3.4GHz 4 cores, NVIDIA GeForce GTX 680MX 2048MB, 3TB FD). It performs well most of the time, chokes occasionally on certain tasks (Magic Bullet, Neat Video etc.). I've had it for a while and my work asked if I wanted to upgrade so I'm looking to see what I can get that I would actually feel a difference (maybe I won't with what's out there right now). I also looked at Mac Pro vs iMac and that's where I'm not sure if it's better to go with more cores or faster processor.
    --- Post Merged, Apr 13, 2016 ---
    does Final Cut Pro X support multi-threading?
  8. dgalvan123 macrumors 6502a

    Feb 16, 2008
    I appreciate all the info you provided. I am not a professional video editor, just a dad planning to use my new iMac 5K to edit a lot of HD (1080p, up to 60fps) home video of my kids (using iMovie, not FCP). I chose the 1 TB SSD storage, mainly because I wanted to put my entire Photos library on it to speed up Photo management/editing (and boy is it fast and beautiful to flick through my huge photo library on that 5k screen!). But now I'm wondering if I would be better served by returning the iMac with the 1 TB internal SSD and getting the one with the 3TB Fusion drive? (I think I have 14 days to return and get a refund. . .)

    At issue: There's probably not enough room on that 1 TB SSD to put a significant portion of my HD video on it (only 2-300 GB worth of headroom after my system files, apps, and 500GB Photos library are on it). And I'm not going to spring for a huge Thunderbolt array (which as far as I know are ~$1.5k+?) like you are suggesting for professionals. So that leaves me with exactly what you are NOT suggesting: a USB 3 external hard drive that holds most of the video.

    Do you think I would be better served by returning and getting the 3TB Fusion drive? That shaves ~$500-$600 off the cost of the mac, and I could use that money to buy an external 1 TB Thunderbolt SSD for my Photos library, and keep my home video content on the internal 3TB Fusion. I'm guessing that would be a faster overall option (videos on the internal vs. videos on a USB3 external, and still get the not-quite-as-fast-but-almost Photos library on the SSD experience via the external thunderbolt).

    Am I missing a third better option? (external thunderbolt 3 TB, for example?) I had envisioned keeping this mac for 6+ years, and maybe one day using the empty SATA port inside to install another SSD when it becomes cheaper (as the 1 TB SSD in there already is in the PCIe slot, not the SATA).
  9. joema2 macrumors 65816


    Sep 3, 2013
    You are sort of on the cusp. A 2015 top-spec iMac 27 would definitely feel faster but the 2012 machine you described is OK. If you don't have an immediate need I would suggest waiting until 4Q this year and examine what the upgraded iMacs include. Normally I don't say wait, but the GPU upgrade this year may be substantial.

    If you do not use proxy media you can get a big performance boost by using that feature of FCPX. It is built in and very easy to use.
    --- Post Merged, Apr 13, 2016 ---
    This is a good, well-worded situation. You are the type of customer a 3TB Fusion Drive would have worked well for. Your situation illustrates the problem with people screaming "SSD only". However you already have the 1TB SSD iMac and it works OK.

    There is no simple answer. Your current machine will work well and there are some pretty good USB 3 external drives, just not as fast as the internal 3TB FD.

    The cheapest one with good performance is the 1TB HGST Touro S, which is 7200 rpm (about $60):

    The 4TB Seagate Backup Plus Fast (about $179) is about twice as fast, but internally it is RAID-0 so you'd want to ensure it is backed up:

    Re external SSD, the I/O rate for stills and video is less than often depicted. You can use Activity Monitor or iStat Menus and watch the I/O rate when importing into Photos or Lightroom, and it is more CPU-bound than I/O bound. In general a good-performing rotating drive is sufficient and will be less expensive.

    I think your best configuration would have been a 3TB FD system and a backup drive but you already have the 1TB SSD system, it is running well and it does has some advantages. Eventually even the 3TB FD would run out of space and you would have to use external storage then. I slightly tend to lean toward keeping the SSD iMac, but it is your decision.
  10. tarsierspectral thread starter macrumors regular

    Aug 13, 2010
    Thanks. I think I can wait until 4Q this year but what do you think of MacPro instead of an iMac? There is a choice of more cores and I'm wondering if that's the better way to go than an iMac? What are your thoughts on that?
  11. joema2 macrumors 65816


    Sep 3, 2013
    There are multiple hardware aspects to video editing performance: CPU, GPU, I/O. Contrary to popular perception, much video editing (esp on H264) is CPU-bound not GPU or I/O-bound. The same codec compression that limits I/O rate out of the camera also restrains I/O rate when editing. However if it is ever necessary to transcode to ProRes, then file size and I/O rates will increase by a factor of eight. So I/O can be important but it's not all-important as often depicted.

    It is similar with the GPU. Many tasks are CPU bound and an infinitely fast GPU wouldn't make much difference. That said this is a snapshot in time and software developers are constantly levering the GPU for more tasks. The Metal API now in OSX and likely to be used in the next FCPX update leans heavily on the GPU.

    Re cores vs performance, FCPX is heavily multithreaded and will effectively use all available cores -- at least for some tasks. However the i7 has 8 logical cores with hyperthreading and runs at 4Ghz. The higher core count Xeon in the Mac Pro runs at a slower clock due to heat.

    For H264 editing, rendering and exporting, the Intel Quick Sync feature is very important. Unfortunately the Xeon CPUs used in Mac Pros do not have this. Mac Pros do have more available cores and the D700 GPU is pretty fast but you are talking a very expensive machine -- and you have to buy a monitor separately.

    The current "new" Mac Pro is nearing the end of its design cycle and it cannot easily be upgraded. My suggestions:

    (1) Stay with your 2012 iMac if possible until 4Q this year and assess the new iMac which will probably have a greatly improved GPU. My wife has an 2012 i7 iMac and comparing its 64-bit GeekBench3 numbers to my top-spec 2015 iMac 27 gives:

    2012 single-core: 3632
    2015 single-core: 4553

    2012 multi-core: 14112
    2015 multi-core: 17665

    (2) If you are not using the proxy media feature of FCPX, investigate and use this. It is easy and produces major performance improvements.

    (3) If you cannot stay with your iMac, consider temporarily getting a refurbished pre-2013 Mac Pro. It will be a lot cheaper than a new Mac Pro yet if equipped properly, essentially as fast. You could then sell it with less risk and investment after the updated iMac and Mac Pro are released and you can evaluate them.

    (4) If still uncertain, put some video you are familiar with on a portable drive and find an Apple Store with a Mac Pro and/or 2015 iMac 27 which have FCPX on them. Try editing it in the store and evaluate the performance.
  12. tarsierspectral thread starter macrumors regular

    Aug 13, 2010
    Thank you. This very helpful. I will wait and see what gets introduced to iMac later in a year.
  13. Sirmausalot macrumors 6502a


    Sep 1, 2007
    Yup. What JoMa said is perfect. But do not skimp on either the graphics or the processor. Only the i7 supports hyper threading -- essential for encoding. I just cranked out a 45 minute 4K encode down to 1080P in less than 40 minutes or so. Since there was time pressure, that's key. You can't skimp on the GPU either because you need it (at least in Adobe Premiere) for real time effects. We hope there will be a major graphics boost in the 2016 update come fall, and the CPU will see a minor bump. However, most graphics gains have been about 10%. That said, Apple likes to make significant gains in 1 or 2 areas (like larger color gamut and super fast NVRAM) which works well in marketing material -- but doesn't always mean that much in real life. The MacPro isn't the best buy right now. Hopefully they will update it soon, but is it is tiny, tiny part of their business now and the iMac is suitable for professionals.
  14. dgalvan123 macrumors 6502a

    Feb 16, 2008
    Again, thank you so much for taking the time to respond so thoughtfully. Really appreciate it.

    I think I'll stick with the 1 TB SSD iMac. I feel it's good that I've "maxed out" my PCIe SSD slot on the internal, and could potentially add more internal storage into the (currently empty) SATA bay once my warranty expires. Perhaps by then the price of internal SATA SSDs will come down even further (looks like it's about $600 for 2TB SATA SSD right now, from Samsung or OWC, for a DIY install on the iMac).

    In the mean time, I'm leaning toward either the 4TB Seagate Backup Plus Fast you recommended (which another macrumors forum member independently recommended to me on another thread as well) for $180 for my next external drive, if/when I need it.

    But based on using iMovie last night, I'm not in a big hurry for faster external storage: Your wisdom seems to ring true on the video I/O rate not being a deal breaker for external drives. Last night I tried using iMovie with the library sitting on an external USB3 hard disk. Given the read/write speeds (according to the Black Magic test) were ~90 MBps, I was expecting editing to be maddening jerky and slow. But it was buttery smooth. Now, some of the videos iMovie was accessing were in the Photos library on the internal SSD, so no surprise that those were fast. But the AVCHD videos sitting on the external also had no jerkiness or delays in accessing, skimming, and playing. This surprised me, because when I tried to open and use my Photos library when it was sitting on that same external drive, thumbnails and videos in the library would take seconds to tens-of-seconds to load, making it a frustrating experience to scroll through our 500 GB Photos library. But iMovie gave me zero perceptible delays when skimming or playing videos in the iMovie library sitting on that external drive. I guess iMovie is somehow set up more efficiently than Photos? . . maybe it pre-loads more stuff into RAM. . . I don’t know, but the result is I experienced no slow editing. I’ve yet to export/transcode something sitting on the external. That’s the next thing to test. Anyway, having tried that I am now in no hurry to get faster I/O external storage. With my Photos library on the internal SSD (speed tested at ~1500 MBps R/W speeds) and my iMovie library on the external USB3 hard drive (speed tested at ~90 MBps), this machine runs quite smooth.
  15. Serban Suspended

    Jan 8, 2013
    I think wait for wwdc, if they will update the mac pros with the latest cpu and gpu, you will have a very good and capable mac for the next 4-5 years to edit even 4k with no problems
  16. Starfia macrumors 6502


    Apr 11, 2011
    Some very thorough-looking responses there.

    Shorter and much cruder answer: Final Cut Pro X and the Mac Pro, at the point of its major redesign, seemed almost intentionally tailor-made to work with each other – I remember it was one of their main demos. People on YouTube were posting live playback of clips of HD or 4K streams with over 15 filters on them, that kind of thing. Some iMacs have four cores, but some Mac Pros have many more cores, and yes, FCPX leverages that.
  17. h9826790 macrumors G4


    Apr 3, 2014
    Hong Kong
    I think almost all Mac Pro (even the old one) can edit 4K in FCPX without any trouble (with proper upgrade of course).

    My Mac Pro 4,1 is no where near the top, only single Hex core CPU, dual 7950, 48G RAM, SATA SSD. But still can edit 4K without any trouble.

    If the only purpose is FCPX, the current Mac Pro 6,1 (12 cores, dual D700) surely can do the job very well for years. Of course, is it worth that price now is another problem.
  18. tarsierspectral thread starter macrumors regular

    Aug 13, 2010
    Hi joema2,

    I'm following up on this as you seem to follow what is going on with new developments. Have AMD and nVidia roll out new GPU technology yet? Any ideas if it's still worth waiting for an upgrade?
  19. joema2 macrumors 65816


    Sep 3, 2013
    Both nVidia and AMD have new GPU technology using 14/16 nm fabrication. The Mac community is waiting to see when any of this will appear in an Apple product. It seems plausible the next iMac and Mac Pro update will contain this but we'll have to wait and see. The Intel Skylake CPU in the 2015 iMac 27 has full 8-bit H.265/HEVC encode/decode support, but there isn't much HEVC content right now and the software must utilize these features. E.g, while FCPX has long used Intel's Quick Sync for H.264 encode/decode support, Premiere just started using this recently and only on Windows not Mac.
  20. Bubba Satori Suspended

    Bubba Satori

    Feb 15, 2008
    Nice summation. Should be a sticky.
  21. tarsierspectral thread starter macrumors regular

    Aug 13, 2010
    Thanks. i guess I'll wait and see.

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