Buying a MAC PRO - Please help me decide on specs!

Discussion in 'Mac Pro' started by Ivo10, May 30, 2009.

  1. Ivo10 macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Aug 23, 2008
    #1
    Hey everyone,

    The time has come for me to join the mac pro family! It will have multiple uses, and the following are some of the heaviest: Audio Recording (Logic, Pro Tools, Reason), HD Video Editing (Final Cut), and Image Editing (Photoshop).

    I was hoping you guys could help me with a few questions:

    1. Where to buy? Can someone mention a few of the pros and cons of buying online at Apple.com, going to an Apple store, or a non-Apple store? Price differences? Warranty options? Delivery? Customization?

    2. Processor - I've decided on 8-core, though I'm not sure whether to go with the 2.26, 2.66, or 2.93 configuration. Right now I'm leaning towards 2.66, as I hear that it's difficult to see much of a difference between 2.66 and 2.93 in practical application. Thoughts? Maybe I should think ahead when Snow Leopard comes and the processing power of 2.93 will be more apparent? Of course money is a big factor here...

    3. Memory - RAM is cheaper when not bought from Apple and I can always add this on later. I'm thinking of going with the minimum configuration here of 6 GB. How much more would you recommend I get?

    4. Hard Drives - Would you recommend to get 3rd party hard drives? I can imagine them being cheaper, but more reliable?

    5. Graphics - Really no clue here. This will not be a gaming machine, though it'd be nice to have the ability to throw a couple games on there. To run two screens, I only need one NVIDIA GeForce GT120, right? Will better graphics cards improve my HD rendering time?

    6. Display - A large HD display is nice. Any advantage to buying an Apple display? (since there's others with similar specs that cost less $).


    Thanks for your time!
     
  2. Loa macrumors 65816

    Loa

    Joined:
    May 5, 2003
    Location:
    Québec
    #2
    Hello,

    I can only correctly reply to your last query: the display. Apple Displays command a higher price because they're made from different technologies than your regular, run-of-the-mill 300$ 24inch display, for example.

    Do a Google search on IPS LCD panels, and you'll be able to judge if it's worth the money for you. Consider this: Apple's 24inch LED display is, by far, the cheapest of its category.

    If you're serious at all about doing Photoshop work, you should consider it.

    Loa
     
  3. chrismacguy macrumors 68000

    Joined:
    Feb 13, 2009
    Location:
    United Kingdom
    #3
    1. For purchasing, buy direct from Apple if possible, as independents aren't going to have much if any price difference.

    2. I would go for the 2.66Ghz 8-core. It gives you the best of both worlds, both for single-core multitasking and multicore apps, at a semi-sane price.

    3. Go for the minimum from Apple, and then move to 3 2GB chips, to replace 1 of the 1GB chips, moving to 11GB RAM quite cheaply, giving you plenty of growing room, especially as Final Cut can be a memory hog, as is CS4.

    4. Apple HDs are just rebrands on 3rd party drives anyway. I usually go with whatever is cheapest, but its entirely up to you.

    5. The Nvidia can run 2 screens, but you'll need adapters. For 2 Apple 24" LED Displays, however, you'll need 2 as each has a single Mini Display-Port connector and One Dual-Link DVI connector.

    6. There isn't that much of an advantage to getting an Apple display. The nice thing is that they match, and tend to be using slightly better panels than the competition, but if the price difference is over $200, go with the cheap ones.
     
  4. kalex macrumors 65816

    Joined:
    Oct 1, 2007
    #4
    I'll answer few of these.

    I just actually got Mac pro Quad. If you order from apple then you will be paying tax on your price. Going to the store gives you advantage of bring it home with you and playing with it right away. If you order online you can customize it but you will have to wait for shipping. There are couple of options with saving money. you can order refurbished model from apple website. It offers good savings and same warranty applies as buying it new.
    another option which i choose was, I bought mine on eBay from a good seller and I was able to use live.com cash back to get $200 of the price. I also got $50 of eBay bucks (not sure what they are, but it also brings down the price), plus my credit card gave me back 2%. I bought a base Quad model without any custom options, although eBay seller that I bought it from does offer customizing. I bought it on Wed. evening and had it at my house on Friday of the same week. It came in brand new and everything has been awesome so far. I restored my previous mac pro files, got windows up and running and I can say that even with 3GB of RAM it seems to run faster and smoother than my Mac Pro 1,1 2.66 box

    I'm going to order 8GB upgrade from OWC and I also ended up getting XFX Radeon 4870 1GB card that I flashed to work with Mac. I paid $200 for it after rebate including 2 power cables that I needed which is savings of $150 then buying Apple's version. Plus i also get 2 DVI connectors instead of the retarded Mini Display port.

    I would suggest you upgrade your video card to either ATI 3870, ATI4870 as it will be better video card than GT120. These cards also work with Pro apps that you are planning to use so you will see a performance boost as well. Plus these cards are much better for games as well. You also might want to order it with GT120 and upgrade it when Nvidia releases Mac version of GTX285/295 which suppose to be really excellent and powerful cards as well.

    As for the screens, I use to have 2 23" ACDs when I had my Mac Pro. They are really nice in terms of color qulality for my photography work. But that is as far as it goes. Apple seems to sacrifice usability over form. ACDs are limited in input options, my ACDs had 1 DVI port each. I ended up getting 2 HP 2475Ws and they are amazing. Full Adobe Gamut, plethora of inputs (DVI, HDMI, Display Port, 6 USB ports each). No regrets at all and I got them brand new with full 3 year warranty for $500 each which is a lot less than Apple's current 24" Glossy ACD with 1 meter cable :)

    Processors - I would recommend you go for the middle of the field with 2 2.66. there is not much difference between 2.66 and 2.93 that is worth the price jump. Also Google for results of tests that people did and you might even consider getting 2.26 instead of 2.66. As new processors are released and as time goes on you will probably be able to get 2.93s at decent price and upgrade your Mac yourself.

    Hopefully this helps and if you have any questions let us know.


    Alex
     
  5. Shake 'n' Bake macrumors 68020

    Shake 'n' Bake

    Joined:
    Mar 2, 2009
    Location:
    Albany
    #5
    2.66 GHz sounds good, and I think you can swap the processors later if you want.

    Get RAM and HDD upgrades 3rd party. It is always cheaper.

    For a display, check this out. It is cheaper and larger than the Apple. (If you do a search, you could find it even cheaper!)
     
  6. chrismacguy macrumors 68000

    Joined:
    Feb 13, 2009
    Location:
    United Kingdom
    #6
    Shake 'n' Bake, you can swap processors, but its difficult, and can be painful, literally. You may even be able to go to 16 actual cores (not virtual) if they are pin compatible (CNet made an 8-core out of a 4-core before the 8-cores came out by swapping processors).
     
  7. Shake 'n' Bake macrumors 68020

    Shake 'n' Bake

    Joined:
    Mar 2, 2009
    Location:
    Albany
    #7
    Here's that article.
     
  8. snouter macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    May 26, 2009
    #8
    true, but also...

    • may get more options third party, for instance, there are new 2.8 8 core Harpertowns still out there for $2250
    • buying third party on new stuff won't afford any price breaks though you could save hundreds avoiding sales tax and using ground shipping
     
  9. Shake 'n' Bake macrumors 68020

    Shake 'n' Bake

    Joined:
    Mar 2, 2009
    Location:
    Albany
    #9
    With an Apple computer, 3rd party is the way to go. Apple charges huge prices for RAM. You can get it for a lot less than Apple sells it for.
     
  10. Dr.Pants macrumors 65816

    Dr.Pants

    Joined:
    Jan 8, 2009
    #10
    Processor I would go with the 2.66 Octo, using the savings (for a 2.93) for HDDs and RAM - it would yeild a more rounded machine instead of a number-cruncher. :)

    Memory Buy third-party for an upgrade. Personally, I would try and keep things in trios for the benefits of DDR3, but that's just me. And you may want to play with 6 GB and see how is works out, but like ChrisMacGuy said, your programs are memory hogs.

    Hard Drives Third-party hard drives are the bomb - you can save a few dollars/pounds/hundreds of yen with third party. Buy enterprise HDDs, they (usually) last longer and are supposed to have a lower failure rate then standard consumer versions.

    Graphics A better graphics accelerator will not increase the render time, unfortunately. However, when you are interfacing with the program, a better graphics card helps. I would go with either a flashed 4870 (word on the street is that ATI has better mac drivers for professional programs, but that is hearsay on my part) or the nVidia-200 card coming out soon, as I tend to disagree with Apple about MiniDisplayPort. If you do go the nVidia 200 route, get the GT120 just as a holdover. It is up to the task (Probably more powerful then my 7800GT), but it probably would become a bottleneck in the system.

    Display Yes, read up on Anandtech's "The LCD Thread". If you absolutely need color accuracy, and are wishing to save money, get an IPS or *VA monitor. They display the full colour gamut of a digital signel - TN panels (that have similar specifications) cannot display the full gamut. They dither (display one colour and then another at a very high rate) which makes colour accuracy unusable. The NEC LCD2690WUXi-BK is a good 25.5" monitor for money/quality - for great quality, however, Eizo/LaCie are hard to beat.
     
  11. nanofrog macrumors G4

    Joined:
    May 6, 2008
    #11
    This makes the most sense. Better to save the cash on the fastest processor and place it towards other areas that give greater improvements to the system. ;)

    Well put. :D

    Both are ideal for 3rd party vendors. More choice, no sales tax, and usually cheaper, even with shipping. :eek: Rather hard to ignore. :p

    Flashing is a good way to save some cash, but may not be for everyone. You're idea of using the base GT120 as a hold-over is a really good one. :D Personally, I don't care for the Mini DisplayPort.

    I like Eizo's and have owned them before. Unfortunately, they've gotten too expensive lately. :( I found that NEC has a better pricing structure, and chose the 2490WUXi.

    But if it's not needed, save the cash. The HP2475 is nice according to reviews, and still uses an IPS panel. But it usually requires calibration out of the box. A few good VA based monitors exist as well. Need/budget analysis territory. :p
     
  12. Dr.Pants macrumors 65816

    Dr.Pants

    Joined:
    Jan 8, 2009
    #12
    If you cannot afford a calibrator (sometimes the added $300 is out of the price range), you can also grab a colour profile off of the web. I can't afford a calibrator, so the colour-profile for my DS-263N is a godsend. Oddly enough, its from the one batch that had a special polarizor in it, making it virtually identical to the NEC version with the same panel. I crapped my pants when I didn't see a white glow at extreme angles. :D

    And speaking of batches, I think that there was some issues with the first batch of LP2475s to come off the line - the colours would go whacky. I'll check on [H]ardforum for the particular problem later, but if I remember, it was an easy fix. And I think HP also solved this problem right off the bat with its later production runs.

    It probably will be my next monitor, as well :D Although not until next year... It is really sucking to be a student right now. That and Final Cut is unforgiving in price:(
     
  13. lannister80 macrumors 6502

    lannister80

    Joined:
    Apr 7, 2009
    Location:
    Chicagoland
    #13
    Can you tell me where you downloaded the custom color profile file for your monitor? I have a pair of Acer X193W+ that I would love to get a "pro" color profile for. Thanks!
     
  14. Dr.Pants macrumors 65816

    Dr.Pants

    Joined:
    Jan 8, 2009
    #14
    :mad: Now I seem incapable of finding the site where I got it from. I'll try and find it tomorrow; however, I wouldn't hold my breath on the X193W+. TN panels generally don't get touched by a calibrator; even then, the people that post their profiles on the web are a small percentage:( Generally it is harder to find a profile on the internet for OSX then Windows. And even then, the color still will not be as good as the calibrator there is a variance between monitors.

    But don't despair! TN panels sometimes get their profiles posted (the case with my Acer AL2216W). Even then, the "pro" touch is for people who really, really have to keep things accurate. I cannot personally tell the difference between my eyesight-calibrated profile and the one I downloaded, save when I'm switching between the two in the ColourSync utility.
     
  15. Ivo10 thread starter macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Aug 23, 2008
    #15
    Thanks for the great responses everyone! So based on the advice, this is where I stand right now:

    1. Apple Store Online

    2. Processor - 8-core, 2.66

    3. Memory - Min. configuration + 3rd party RAM

    4. Hard Drives - Min. configuration + 3rd party Hard Drives

    5. Graphics - I've decided I'm going to get 2 displays - Can I power 2 monitors with the ATI Radeon HD 4870? What kind of adapter do I need?

    6. Display - Still not sure on this one. From what I've gathered IPS is the best kind.

    Can anyone make any more specific recommendations? (or does Apple make the best ones?). I'm looking for something that is fully HD compliant as I plan to add a Blu-ray drive whenever Apple integrates Blu-ray into their OS.



    Bonus question: I know the new Mac Pros no longer have FireWire 400, but my HD camera is still 400. Do the 800>400 adapters work well? Any problems?
     
  16. Tallest Skil macrumors P6

    Tallest Skil

    Joined:
    Aug 13, 2006
    Location:
    1 Geostationary Tower Plaza
    #16
    Absolutely. You need a Mini DisplayPort-DVI or -VGA adapter, depending on the second display. You can't get two Apple displays with only one GPU.

    Is playing the movies the only thing you want to do? You can always install a BD or HD DVD drive, run AnyDVD HD in Windows, and rip your films like I do for my HD DVDs.

    I have a BD-RE/HD DVD-ROM drive installed, and everything is recognized and possible to do in OS X, save playability of movies.

    Nope, there's no conversion to be done; the pins just get moved around. The adapters are $5 or so, and they're just little dongles.
     
  17. blackhand1001 macrumors 68030

    blackhand1001

    Joined:
    Jan 6, 2009
    #17
    It is certainly not the cheapest of its catergory. I can name atleast 5 displays cheaper than it that are in the same league. HP LP2475w, 2408WFP, 2707WFP, 2007FP, 2007WFP, 2209WA. You could even get a A-TW IPS from lacie for only 50 dollars more. http://www.lacie.com/us/products/product.htm?pid=10787


    To OP:
    If your doing video editing, I'd recommend a S-PVA screen though. They handle video much better than IPS and have much higher Contrast ratios. They also seem to handle MPEG Compression noise alot better than IPS. The only cards that are gonna make rendering faster are really workstation cards like the Quadro or FireGL which apple doesn't have many options in.
     
  18. Ivo10 thread starter macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Aug 23, 2008
    #18
    So if I want 2 Apple 24" displays, I need 2 NVIDIA cards, correct? Can I do this with 2 ATI cards as well, or does it have to be NVIDIA?


    Thanks for pointing this out, I didn't realize the extent to which Blu-Ray is already functional in a Mac, so maybe I'll be putting in the drive sooner than I thought.


    Sweeeet.
     
  19. Tallest Skil macrumors P6

    Tallest Skil

    Joined:
    Aug 13, 2006
    Location:
    1 Geostationary Tower Plaza
    #19
    Mmm... yes, but if you want to run dual 4870s, you will be using all of your PCIe slots and one ODD bay, probably the bottom one. Not to say it hasn't been done, but then you still have the problem of the length of two LED Cinema Display cords.

    The guys... CinemaView, I think, who are coming out with Mini DisplayPort displays claim to be making a DVI-Mini DisplayPort adapter (opposite of what Apple makes).

    Any such adapter would require its own power supply, but if it is even possible, that is a single-card alternative.
     
  20. dr. shdw macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Aug 27, 2008
    #20
    None of those are LED backlit..also there are different grades of IPS screens..

    And also..

    http://www.barefeats.com/nehal10.html

    Clearly nVidia came out with Quadro cards..a while ago for the Mac Pro 2009.
     
  21. Ivo10 thread starter macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Aug 23, 2008
    #21
    So this definitely easier to set up with 2x NVIDIA GeForce GT 120? If I go with those, do I still need an adapter of some sort?
     
  22. Dr.Pants macrumors 65816

    Dr.Pants

    Joined:
    Jan 8, 2009
    #22
    No. The purpose of getting two GT120s is to get two DVI-out ports, so one does not have to buy an adapter.

    You're right. The best help we can give is with a price range :) Although the Egg is horrible for monitors - 8 dead pixel return policy :eek:
     
  23. blackhand1001 macrumors 68030

    blackhand1001

    Joined:
    Jan 6, 2009
    #23
    LED and CCFL have almost no differnce in performance and the only leds that have color as good as high end CCFL are RGB led, not the WLED used in the ACD. And the lifespan of CCFL is still pretty long. Much longer than a bad display standard like mini displayport is going to last.
     
  24. dr. shdw macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Aug 27, 2008
    #24
    More so a bleeding backlight..
     
  25. JesterJJZ macrumors 68020

    JesterJJZ

    Joined:
    Jul 21, 2004
    #25
    A larger display is only better if it also has a higher resolution. That just blows up 1920x1200 even bigger. For a computer monitor I prefer my pixel density tighter over having a larger display.
     

Share This Page