Bought 2009 Nehalem Quad Core - what upgrades?

Discussion in 'Mac Pro' started by crispyApple, Oct 12, 2012.

  1. crispyApple macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Nov 23, 2011
    #1
    Hi,

    I am a total newbie to the Mac Pro. Have had MBPs for years now. Wanted the flexibility to upgrade and expand the system but did not want to buy a "2012" because of the possible 2013 MP refresh.

    So I just bought a used 2009 Nehalem Quad Core (MB871LL/A) off of eBay for a good price. Comes with 6G of RAM and 1.5TB of disk. I want to upgrade a few things - my budget for upgrades is $500.

    My usage scenarios are the following:
    1. Use Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop and Aperture almost daily.
    2. Always have one instance of Windows 7 in a VM (Fusion) running.
    3. Few times a week, fire up a second VM with Win2003 Server.
    4. Once a month or so use Camtasia to record and render some screencasts.

    With these usage scenarios, what is your recommendation. I could get RAM, SSDs, upgrade the processor (although I am nervous about doing that, as I have no experience here).

    Please advice.

    Thanks,

    SK
     
  2. thekev macrumors 604

    thekev

    Joined:
    Aug 5, 2010
    #2
    I don't see why anyone would do the cpu upgrade anymore unless the price was extremely cheap. When they adjusted pricing, the refurb hex became a much more viable option in terms of cost given what people still ask for the 2009s. $2500~ for a refurb hex with a warranty compared to typically $1500 for a used 2009 + $600 for the cpu. It doesn't make a lot of sense to me. Once ram is at a comfortable level, you should try the machine as it is. You don't have to upgrade the cpu simply because it can be done. Test performance. If you don't feel like you're waiting on the machine, why drop $600 into a cpu?
     
  3. Loa macrumors 65816

    Loa

    Joined:
    May 5, 2003
    Location:
    Québec
    #3
    Hello,

    My advice:
    -Get at *least* 8GB of RAM, ideally more like 16GB. Luckily, the RAM is cheap for the 2009 model. (16GB = 125$)
    -Get a 128GB SSD for the OS and apps and put the rest of your stuff on the 1.5TB disk. Search this forum for the instructions. (SSD ~ 100$)
    -Get another drive for your two VM partitions, just to keep things clean and separate. (Depends on your needs, but a 500GB ~ 75$)

    Those 300$ will go a long way in getting better performance.

    As for the CPU, don't touch it. If you have a slow quad, the hexcore is a decent performance upgrade, but at 600$ and the risk involved, it's above your budget in any case.

    Loa

    P.S. I'm assuming that you already have a back-up strategy in place... Otherwise, it's the first thing you have to do.
     
  4. crispyApple thread starter macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Nov 23, 2011
    #4
    True. $600 is a bit much to spend and also as I said, I am not comfortable doing that upgrade (at least not right now).

    Thanks,

    SK

    ----------

    Great suggestions Loa. I am planning to get 16 or 24 GB of OWC RAM. And maybe a 240GB SSD for system+apps. That is a good idea about separating the VMs on to their dedicated hard drive.

    And for backup, I use an external drive using Time Machine.

    Thanks again for the help!

    SK
     
  5. mlyon macrumors member

    Joined:
    Mar 19, 2009
    #5
    If I were you I would upgrade the RAM and the video card first. You can get 24GB from OWC for around $250. Be sure to get the 1333 MHz modules in case you upgrade the processor in the future. The Radeon 5770 is a lot more powerful video card than the GT120 and you can get one from Apple, Macconnection, MacMall, for around $250 as well. The card will help you a bunch in Aperture and Photoshop. JMHO.
     
  6. crispyApple thread starter macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Nov 23, 2011
    #6
    I did not know I could use the 1333MHz memory on the 2009 MP. Will I need to upgrade the firmware or will it work fine and be recognized by the system as 1066MHz memory?

    Thanks,

    SK
     
  7. DPUser macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Jan 17, 2012
    #7
    I did the upgrade. My "2010" Hex cost me $1175 for the Mac and $600 for the CPU. As far as risk... whatever. It is about as simple a task as one can imagine, and my Geekbench 32 bit score went from 8500 to 13800. I actually enjoyed doing the upgrade. With the MacPros' slide-out CPU daughterboard, access was not an issue.

    I also traded the seller the OEM video card and $150 for a 5770. So my 2009 is a 2010 in every way except the serial number.

    But if you don't need the speed, do the SSD and RAM upgrade thing.

    ----------

    I understand it will work, but run as 1066.
     
  8. thekev macrumors 604

    thekev

    Joined:
    Aug 5, 2010
    #8
    Photoshop really doesn't lean hard on the graphics card at all, even if you set it it leverage things as much as possible. It's been tested many times. If you use any of the OpenCL functions, the card obviously needs to support OpenCL, but it's not worth dumping a lot of money into a gpu for photoshop when it's the least important component. It's used for redrawing, iris blur, liquify, lighting effects filters, and maybe a couple other things. From CS4 on everyone on here has obsessed over gpus when 2D OpenGL drawing really isn't that big of a deal for any modern gpu that supports the appropriate protocols. The sticking points are that certain functions have minimum vram requirements, but I wouldn't bother with that at the moment.
     
  9. crispyApple thread starter macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Nov 23, 2011
    #9
    Thanks for letting me know the CPU upgrade is easy. Just saw a video over on YouTube and it indeed looks fairly easy to do. However, I am going to wait on that one because of budget constraints. Also with this MP, I will be moving from roughly 4000 odd (my current 2009 MBP) Geekbench to 8500....so already double!

    Having said that, a 6-core processor upgrade might be in my future or I will wait and see what the purported 2013 MPs bring to the scene. In the meanwhile, this machine will give me experience with the MP platform and a nice bump from current laptop.

    Thanks again!

    SK
     
  10. AlexMaximus macrumors 6502

    AlexMaximus

    Joined:
    Aug 15, 2006
    Location:
    A400M Base
    #10
    A small note to the SSD option..

    Hi,

    In terms of SSD, I want to throw in one exceptional possibility for your boot drive on the OSX side. The MP 2009 has a limited SATA2 interface when you use a standard SSD drive. It would be still fast, however you can double the speed with the OWC Accelsior SSD card. This way you can make sure you have SATA3 and using the faster PCIe Bus with a RAD0 SSD solution.
    Interesting enough, since this card is on the market, the market of used 2008 & 2009 MacPros has been wiped clean (here in Germany) because of this possibility. Who needs a MP 2012, if you can use this SATA3 PCIe card as a boot volume?

    Make sure you check this option if you consider an SSD:

    http://eshop.macsales.com/shop/SSD/PCIe/OWC/Mercury_Accelsior/RAID

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qNpPsPjkEPo

    Good luck with your new MP, and a great welcome to the worlds best Mac Forum!
     
  11. crispyApple thread starter macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Nov 23, 2011
    #11
    Hi Alex - thank you very much, I was not even aware of this. So this gives me another thing to think about. I found a very nice video comparing speed differences on YouTube, while I was watching the video you linked to:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CTT5tfylS3c&feature=youtube_gdata_player

    Another newbie question. So if I use the Accelsior for the boot/system/applications, and have all my files/data on regular HD, will I still see a significant boost? I know I will see great boot and application startup times......but if my Photoshop or other files are on the regular HD (my data drive) will that not become a speed bottleneck as their read and write times are slower?

    Thanks,

    SK
     
  12. AlexMaximus macrumors 6502

    AlexMaximus

    Joined:
    Aug 15, 2006
    Location:
    A400M Base
    #12
    You will Not Run Out of options on the MP....


    I think in terms of speed bottleneck you would be absolutely fine. The internal data transport between disks on the SATA bus is fast. Everything beyond that would cost you significant more money. However in some cases it still might be of interest at a later upgrade cycle. Here are some examples and options I find interesting:

    1. Use a faster Data HD, such as the WD VelociRaptor. A very fast Sata HD Drive with SCSI Speed Level. Its expensive and would provide a small speed bump.

    http://www.amazon.com/Velociraptor-...d=1350170356&sr=8-1&keywords=velociraptor+1tb

    2. Now the Tuning Version of the above would be the Cache solution with an aditional Cache controller + a small SSD booster. Read about this one here:

    http://www.barefeats.com/hard148.html#sister

    3. A simple Raid0 solution with apple's standard raid controller card and two Veloci's would work. Or you go for a third Party raid card solution. Cheap and interesting is this one:

    http://www.stardom.com.tw/pro_drive_feature.html

    If you use this one with the seagate momentus XT Hybrid drive, you would have a good solution too.
     
  13. crispyApple thread starter macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Nov 23, 2011
    #13
    Oh boy, even more upgrade options :) Thank you so much! So the only thing I am sure of now to do immediately is the RAM upgrade. The Accelsior PCI-e card seems like the next thing I would love to, but I wish the prices were lower on it. Everything else, I will have to weigh in and see how to prioritize as all options suggested in this thread are great.

    Thanks again everyone for the help!

    SK
     
  14. Loa macrumors 65816

    Loa

    Joined:
    May 5, 2003
    Location:
    Québec
    #14
    Hello,

    My advice concerning faster mechanical HDs like the velociraptors: they're nowhere near as fast as SSDs. They used to be kings of the hill, now they're old tech when compared to SSDs.

    As for the Accelsior, if you want SATA3 on the cheap, read this thread.

    Loa
     
  15. crispyApple thread starter macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Nov 23, 2011
    #15
    Thank you Loa, I will check out that thread.
     

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