Best OSX workstation in 2015?

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by fierarul, Oct 31, 2015.

  1. fierarul, Oct 31, 2015
    Last edited: Oct 31, 2015

    fierarul macrumors member

    Jun 18, 2010

    I am compiling massive multi-gigabyte codebases for work and I would need a new workstation to speed things up.

    What would you say is the best work Mac this year?

    The current MacBook Pro I have is quite old (2008 Core 2 Duo!) and while filled with RAM, a 1TB Samsung SSD and an OptiBay it's probably time to retire it.

    My guess is that the latest blade flash drives are massively faster than the SATA-1 I'm using and the faster CPUs will certainly help too. I don't care about the GPU except if it would future-proof the machine.

    A laptop is preferable but I work from the office mostly (75% of the time) so a desktop would also do (and I use the old laptop while away).

    I believe compilations are not multithreaded so in theory a fast dual core is still acceptable.

    What I do want is the fastest IO possible. So I believe this means I have to buy the 512GB or 1TB SSD option as the 256GB seems to be slower.

    What bothers me about the current 15" MBPs is that while they do have the latest IO blades, they are still using an old CPU.

    The iMac seems to have the fastest CPU. Does it also have the same disk speed as the MBPs?

    Does the 21" iMac have the same fast flash drive as the 27" iMac? Does the 21" iMac throttle the CPU more due to different temperature constraints?

    So, what would you guys suggest?
  2. aloshka macrumors 65816

    Aug 30, 2009
    Which do you feel more comfortable in? And how long do you sit behind the computer? If more than 6/7 hours a day, I'd recommend a desktop or a TB display for the rmbp.

    If that's the case you need really good single-core performance. The clock speeds on the rMBP 15 and iMac 5k are the higher of the others.

    This used to be true but with the way the new controllers work this is less and less true. There may be at most 1% variant from what I've seen on benchmarks online. So any of the sizes will suffice.

    Yes, the rMB 15s" use haswell, but they have a slightly different custom variation of it called crystalwell which is basically the same haswell cpu but better iGPU. I think Apple is skipping broadwell and going directly to skylake with the rMBP 15" so it might be a while before the mobile quad core skylakes come out. Understand there are very few vendors, if any, that offer the HQ processors yet. I think Dell XPS 15 announced but won't ship until late December or maybe even next year. That being said, performance is still top notch.

    Any of the iMacs you choose to buy you'll have to do CTO because any of the models they actually sell all come with either a 5400 RPM drive (thought they were joking when I heard the announcement) or a fusion drive which is basically a slow HDD with a small little SSD. If you need IO performance, get neither and opt for the actual flash drives.

    All your choices except for mac pro will throttle under high load. So I wouldn't worry too much about it unless you can shell out for a Mac Pro.

    This one is tough to answer because I'd even throw a rMBP 13" into the mix for you to decide. Namely, don't agonize about these decisions for too long or you'll be deciding forever and always waiting for the next best thing.

    If laptop is preferable, then I'd just recommend a TB display + maxed out rMBP 15 " (my current set up) if you can afford it. Otherwise tTB display + max out rMBP 13".. and finally the last option would be iMac 5K maxed out (except mem) being the cheaper of all the solutions. Either of these will give you ability to work at the desk but also ability to work around the house and travel, etc.
  3. old-wiz macrumors G3

    Mar 26, 2008
    West Suburban Boston Ma
    Just remember that the latest Mac laptops are not meant for user-updating; some have soldered in RAM and CPU and if you need more than the installed "disk" space you'll need external drives.
  4. fierarul thread starter macrumors member

    Jun 18, 2010
    I've been using only laptops since the iBook days so I would prefer a laptop. It's actually only the past year that I've been standing still enough to consider a desktop, but I still happen to be offsite for a week or more.

    I do know that nowadays Mac laptops are basically sealed. It is a shame because I've done countless upgrades to my old MacBook Pro -- which is why I could use it for so long!

    A CTO could take a while to ship here so the best standard configuration seems to be the 15" rMBP with the discrete GPU. I think this is the best choice for me.

    I'm still undecided about the extra 3 year warranty -- it seems pretty expensive here (~16% of the purchase price). Is it recommended for these new systems?

    I've never bought extra warranty until now but I did exchange on Apple's dime logic boards due to the NVidia chips failing years later.
  5. aloshka macrumors 65816

    Aug 30, 2009
    They also sell the maxed out rMBP 15" in the store. I've used desktops forever but finally starting to lean towards laptops myself. The freedom is nice.

    For the extra warranty you have a year to purchase. If you plan on keeping the laptop for more than a year, definitely purchase it. Well worth it.

    Upgradability, yeah definitely no longer possible with any of the laptops. I myself was always a PC builder my entire life, but somehow never miss "upgrading" really. Just max out when you buy and there isn't much you can upgrade anyway.
  6. fierarul thread starter macrumors member

    Jun 18, 2010
    Outside the US they don't generally hold non-standard configs in store. I would have to wait some time for it (like, max 30 days).

    Upgradability has 2 big advantages:

    * price. It allows you to purchase something when it becomes cheaper, or when you have the money.

    * technological potential. I don't believe SSDs were on my radar when I bought the previous MBP, but the SATA connector allowed me later on to add an Intel SSD and basically skip a laptop refresh.

    As I retire my current MBP, it's actually a much better machine than it was when I purchased it and than it could have been at the time.

    Thank you for your feedback! I will go next week in store and order a rMBP 15" with dGPU.
  7. aloshka macrumors 65816

    Aug 30, 2009
    Nowadays that's not really true. Any new technology that's truly worth upgrading either requires, most of the time, a new motherboard assuming you max out everything when you buy except for memory. You can buy cheaper memory pretty much anywhere except from Apple. Everything else is very debatable on value.

    I guess I'm coming from a place that I upgrade every few years and never wait 3-4 years to upgrade. Mostly because apple stuff retains it's value and selling the old and buying the new even every year only costs me like 500 bucks. So I get new everything instead of just a single new upgrade. But that's me, my work, life and hobbies are all around the computer; going cheap on it just doesn't make sense.

    But good choice, really. It's a very nice laptop.
  8. fierarul thread starter macrumors member

    Jun 18, 2010
    Well, it took me a while but I am now typing this from the new laptop which I got a week or so ago.

    The display is very nice but it does painfully show how one of my main tools is not retina ready. All the icons are pixelated.

    For normal usage it is basically quiet but it does seem to be sensitive to load. As soon as all the CPU cores are busy compiling the fans kick in. The pitch of these new fans is higher than the old MBPs and I hope to get used to them. Otherwise I might have to look again into throttling and fan control :)
  9. aloshka macrumors 65816

    Aug 30, 2009
    You have 14 days to return it. Return it. If that stuff bugs you, fan control isn't that good (try smcfancontrol, still works with new laptops btw), it wont' get better.

    Just not worth it. it's been a while and I'm on a PC right now and love it. I use my rMBP only to remote RDP in which puts no load on the laptop...RDP is pixelized too, but doesn't bother me.
  10. phrehdd macrumors 68040


    Oct 25, 2008
    Get either an older Mac Pro or a new one and add RAM. Use a fair portion of the RAM as a RAM drive. Use this space as a work/scratch space. It is faster than the SSD. The only caveat is that any data within must be stored elsewhere as a RAM drive is volatile and will disappear when the system is shut down.

    Years ago, (DOS days) I set up a RAM drive for a programmer to compile code. Let's just say that what took a break of a meal and coffee was a matter of 6 seconds with the RAM drive. (Naturally, drives back then were far slower but then again, so was RAM).
  11. MRrainer macrumors 6502a

    Aug 8, 2008
    Zurich, Switzerland
    The only "upgradeable" Mac that Apple still sells is the MacPro.
    With some effort, you can even upgrade the CPU.
    Though the RAM is limited to 64GB (OWC sells a 128GB upgrade) and it's ECC, so not cheap (and will never be).

    From various posts here in the forum, I would have avoided the GPU MBP - it only adds excess-heat and doesn't improve your compile-time.
  12. fierarul thread starter macrumors member

    Jun 18, 2010
    (Happy New Year everyone!)

    True, the dedicated GPU isn't necessary but it can be disabled with gfxCardStatus. I assume it uses no power while disabled, so no extra heat.

    I picked the dGPU just to be certain future OSX versions won't drop the machine due to the Intel GPU and have it there in case I ever get to run some code on the GPU (like machine learning).

    The Mac Pro does sound like the most powerful machine, but an old machine would be more hassle (no official warranty for one).

    I'm also not entirely stationary so a laptop is more convenient.

    I'm still debating if I should return it or not.

    But in the mean time, I did figure out what the problem was: Intel's CPU Turbo Boost!

    With Turbo Boost enabled (the default), a small clean build would take 30 seconds. The fans would get noticeably loud, up to 4200 rpm from the baseline of 2150rpm and run for about a minute after the build is done. The CPU temperature reaches 99 degrees C from the baseline of about 50 degrees C.

    With Turbo Boost disabled (using Turbo Boost Switcher), the same clean build would take 40 seconds but the fans would stay quiet the whole time (2150rpm). The CPU temperature reaches 72 degrees C.

    So in this simple case I would gain 10 seconds of build time for 1 minute of noise. Which doesn't seem like a good trade off.

    I'm also very surprised Turbo Boost works like this and needs extra cooling for such short loads. I assumed the whole thing of this feature was that if the thermals of the CPU allowed it, and not all the cores were busy, they would seamlessly ramp up the frequency. It doesn't feel seamless to me.
  13. aloshka macrumors 65816

    Aug 30, 2009
    It just sucks that you even have to think about any of this in the first place. A computer should be a tool that you do your work on and you don't even notice. Just sayin..

    Spend more time with it. Just keep the return date in mind. If you are happy about it (emotionally) then choose it. I noticed that a lot of times it's the emotional side that makes us choose. Just my opinion though.

    By the way, Happy New Year!!!
  14. maflynn Moderator


    Staff Member

    May 3, 2009
    Give what you wrote in October, and I know you already selected the MBP, I do think the iMac is a better tool for the job

    The 27" iMac is a Skylake based computer and from what I've read runs much cooler then the old 5k iMac. Throttling is much less an issue with the new 5k iMac. I've only read about this, as I've not pushed my 5k iMac very hard.

    That's one of the downsides of the MBP, and if you're pushing the computer hard like that, you'll be getting fan noise quite a bit.

    Unless the app requires the dGPU, I ran into issues on an app or two when I switched to the iGPU in my 2012 rMBP, though I forget what now. Also remember if you're running windows via bootcamp, it will only use the dGPU (but from what you post, it appears you'll be living in OS X).

    Happy new year :)
  15. aloshka macrumors 65816

    Aug 30, 2009
    First, Happy New Year to you too!!

    I had the skylake imac 5k and got to admit I returned it. It felt slow. I know that sounds weird, maybe I'm crazy, but just little things like scrolling, etc felt slow. The rest of it was insanely fast though, so to each their own.
  16. maflynn Moderator


    Staff Member

    May 3, 2009
    Odd, I've not noticed that on my 5k iMac (the M395 model with the 2TB Fusion drive). I'm coming from a 2012 rMBP which I loved, but I'm incredibly impressed with the my iMac. It runs about 10 to 20 (celsius) degrees cooler then my rMBP ever did. I'm usually in the 35c range on my iMac but the MBP is the high 40s and mid 50c range.
  17. aloshka macrumors 65816

    Aug 30, 2009
    By all means it's an incredible machine. And the next step up is mac pro, but you don't get the nice 5k monitor. As for macs are concerned, I'd recommend the 5k imac for everyone.... or PC for everyone else. I'm enjoying a Dell T5810 xeon 3.5 v3 (newer than mac pro by at least a year if not more). 64 gb of memory for 800 bucks. Can't beat that : ]

    And I get my Mac fix with an rMBP 13"
  18. maflynn Moderator


    Staff Member

    May 3, 2009
    I was seriously eyeing the XPS 8900 coupled with a 4k 27" monitor. The Dell 5k monitor was over 2k by itself, which would have driven the total cost over 3k - I couldn't afford or justify spending that much money for my computing needs.

    I like what the iMac provides, and while its less upgradeable then the XPS, I do think it gives me more options, i.e., I can run OS X or Windows, where as the Dell, is only Windows. I also felt completely moving away from the OS X platform would be a mistake. My portable computer is a Surface Pro 3, so having the iMac gives me access to the things I want in OS X, and I have a nice windows machine to fall back on when I need it :)
  19. aloshka macrumors 65816

    Aug 30, 2009
    Don't get me wrong, I LOVE OS X. Truth be told as well, I never really valued upgradability. Because if you want a new processor you have to change MB, etc, and I already max out everything I can when I buy anyway. New video card/drives, sure, but Apple most of the time has top of the line stuff anyway (when they release, except they get obsolete very quickly). Except, I'm disappointed in iMac as the rMBP 15" has a better SSD drive. I'm surprised with Skylake they didnt' do TB3 or a better SSD--at least the same as the rMBP.

    I don't know, apple has been disappointing lately. Very buggy. Everything is buggy.
  20. MRrainer macrumors 6502a

    Aug 8, 2008
    Zurich, Switzerland
    From what I've read, the innards of the MBP and its design don't fit together 100%.
    It would probably have profited from one or two millimeters in added thickness - or less power.
    But for various reasons, that did not happen.
    So, to keep it from frying the battery or sensitive parts of the human body of its user, it runs the fans on maximum for a good while.

    I'm thinking of getting an Apple notebook for work, too (only occasional use) - but currently, almost all of them are either "EOL" or due for an update.

    The current 15" MBPs don't even have Broadwell - they're "stuck" on Haswell.
    I don't really care about the performance (it's negligible except for the Core M CPUs on the 12") - it's the thermal characteristics of the CPUs that matter to me.
  21. fierarul thread starter macrumors member

    Jun 18, 2010
    And I hadn't even started pushing the computer hard -- this is a 30 second build on a small codebase.

    I don't expect a silent machine on super large builds. But I would prefer it quiet while I'm working on smaller stuff.

    It's easy to think about performance but complicated to compare thermal characteristics. This is one of those things Apple should provide out of the box.

    All this fiddling did tarnish the new-machine experience. I most certainly am keeping the return date in mind.

    If I do return it, I'm not certain what I could get instead. I obviously prefer Apple gear and OSX but what I do need is something UNIX-compatible -- any machine running Linux would do. I might keep it just so I don't have to dig through all the actual options and find the quality ones.
  22. pjfan macrumors regular

    May 24, 2009
    Columbus OH
    If going with a Mac, I believe your QUIET options are:
    Quietest -> quiet - rMacBook, new MacPro, iMac

    I believe your power options are:
    27" iMac, MacPro, rMBP 15" (extremely close, thanks to no MP updates)

    Try a stand, such as mstand, for your MacBook Pro. Propping it up will keep airflow moving, and my old rMBP would run with less fan noise it seemed. Otherwise, start considering a totally different configuration with a dedicated mobile device and desktop in order to achieve silence or near silence. It's worth noting that the decision to turn turboboost off suggests that either you get a better thermal rated rMBP option where it's affectivrly 'under clocked' at normal operations (therefore runs quieter and fast), or go the opposite direction of silent mobile computing.

    I suspect you would consider the latter crazy. Hope you find happiness!
  23. BornAgainMac macrumors 603


    Feb 4, 2004
    Florida Resident
    Since you are use to keeping your Mac for a long time, I recommend the Mac Pro. The cost isn't that bad considering you are able to keep a laptop around for almost a decade. A desktop could probably keep you happy until the year 2031.
  24. maflynn Moderator


    Staff Member

    May 3, 2009
    I think spending over 3k for 3 year old technology is not the best use of money imo.
  25. fierarul thread starter macrumors member

    Jun 18, 2010
    It wasn't intentional to keep the laptop this much, but it is an interesting experiment. Obviously the machine is upgraded: 6GB RAM, 1TB Samsung SSD + 1TB normal storage (in the Optibay) and I have access to other machines.

    Since compilations are basically single-threaded the 2.4Ghz Core 2 Duo seems to be quite respectable against the current offering when paired with the rest of the upgrades (particularly the SSD).

    Maybe I didn't explain this properly, but I'm not looking for absolute silence per-se.

    The new machine is faster and louder compared to the old one, for a normal day's work. It is super-silent when you have nothing running, but for the smallest load it seems to be hyper-sensitive and ramp-up the fans, producing jet-engine-like noise which is distracting.

    In this aspect, it seems a regression compared to the old MBP.

    Is there some resource classifying the Apple laptop thermals (and/or noise)?

    I assume by opposite direction you mean loud mobile computing? :)

Share This Page