Buying a Used Mac Pro

Discussion in 'Mac Pro' started by mechengr, Jul 24, 2011.

  1. mechengr, Jul 24, 2011
    Last edited: Jul 24, 2011

    mechengr macrumors newbie

    Jul 24, 2011
    Help me out here guys. I've been a PC user all my life (built my first machine from scrap parts when I was eight years old). Don't get me wrong, I've drooled over Mac's for years, but aside from my white MacBook, all of my machines I've hand built and take pride in.

    Well, I'm tired of Windows. I'm tired of all of the little things going wrong, and I'm tired of things just not "working." I'm ready for a serious Mac Pro with hardware interface acceleration, an interface that wasn't designed by monkeys, and hardware performance worth writing home about. Except, I'm a graduate student in mechanical engineering. Money is tight and there's no way I can plunk down thousands of dollars for a new 8-core Mac Pro, so my only option is to go used.

    After searching for a while, I found someone selling their used 8-Core Mac Pro (3 GHz) with 8GB of memory. They want a little over a grand for it, although I am hoping I might be able to talk them down.

    Is this a good deal or should I be looking for something else? I use my machines for engineering models, so compute performance is something that I would like to have, although this machine will also be my daily machine.

    Do you guys have any recommendations, both on this machine and on anything else? I am speaking strictly about Mac Pro's, I'm not interested in iMacs, Mac Book Pro's, or other machines. Thanks!

    Edit: I should mention my current PC is an i7 920 (2.66GHz with 6GB of DDR3 RAM).
  2. bamf macrumors 6502

    Feb 14, 2008
    You need to make sure this is the 2008 (3,1) model and not the earlier version. I've got the 2008 8 core 3.0 and it's great, but the earlier model only has 32 bit EFI which could cause you issues down the road with upgrades.
  3. mechengr thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jul 24, 2011
    He forwarded me the output from the System Profiler and it apparently is a MacPro2,1 model, so it's probably running the 32-bit EFI.

    For someone with my requirements for hardware, I take it the MacPro3,1 is probably the "baseline" for what I should be considering as a worthy investment, right?
  4. bamf macrumors 6502

    Feb 14, 2008
    I would say the 2008 is your baseline.

    Now I've got the 2008 Mac Pro, and I also have an i7-920 (like you). The 2008 and the 920 perform roughly the same in Geekbench (assuming you over clock the 920). So what you are really getting with a Mac Pro is stability running OS X.

    If you are looking for faster performance, you may want to look at a 2009 or 2010 model. Also, the RAM is significantly cheaper on the 2009 forward models.

    If you buy the 2008, you will likely have to buy a 3rd party warranty (if you want one). So factor that in as well.

    Best bang for your buck would be the 2010 hex core. You can buy one, or buy a quad 2010 and swap out the processors. You said budget is an issue, so maybe that is an option - maybe not.

    I'm happy with my 2008 though. I bought it from eBay 3 weeks ago. If you put an SSD in it, it will fly.
  5. j-banana macrumors newbie

    Jul 24, 2011
    I would rather have the 3,1 quad than 2,1 8 core if bith are being sold at the same price.
  6. mechengr thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jul 24, 2011
    Nope, no overclocking. I've given up overclocking a long time ago. Everything I run is stock speed, or factory overclocked (i.e. turbo boost). I pay for the extra GHz, and so far, Intel has been happy to take my money, haha. :)

    Are they the same in serial performance, or parallel? I mean, the parallel performance of a system with 4 physical cores should be lower than that with 8 physical cores, assuming the cores perform similarly and the software can take advantage of highly parallel execution. Is the 920 faster in parallel with 4 cores than the 5400-series Xeon with 8 cores?

    Not planning to upgrade myself, unless I bought a new Apple, which I simply cannot afford. Are the new machines not using FB-DIMM's? Why are they cheaper?

    Okay, so I found another machine that is darn near exactly what I am looking for, except that it's not from the Nehalem series. I mean, I realize the other one wasn't either, but regardless.

    It's a MacPro3,1 with 2x 3.2 GHz Quad Core Harpertown Xeon chips, comes with 8 GB of factory RAM, nVidia GeForce 8800. Refurbished and comes with a 90-day warranty. Except the seller wants about double what the other machine would have cost (~$2300).

    Do you have any thoughts on this machine? It's starting to get "up there" in price, where the lower end brand new Mac Pro's start to come into the equation. Especially with the education discount, an entry level new Mac Pro is in the same ball park.
  7. bamf macrumors 6502

    Feb 14, 2008
    I got a 3,1 with 2 x 3.0 GHz quad core, 4GB RAM, and a 30 day seller warranty for $1295 (shipped) on Ebay. I then added a Squaretrade warranty for less than $200 for 2 years, and 8GB more RAM from Amazon for I think another $200 (4GB would have cost about half that). All in, I'm at about $1700 ($1600 if I'd have taken the same RAM amount as you).

    I had given myself a budget of about $1700 or so, so I was happy with the purchase and upgrades I got.

    I think you might be able to do a little better than $2300 if you keep looking - particularly since I've got a 2 year warranty on my machine for the prices above.
  8. JeepGuy macrumors regular

    Sep 24, 2008
    If you are already considering around 2000, I would just buy the 2010 2.8 quad referb for $2199 from apple, ram is cheaper, and you have the potential to later upgrade the cpu to a hex core, but hey that's just me.
  9. mechengr thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jul 24, 2011
    Wow! I didn't even see this machine in the store last time I checked. This is probably the machine I'm going to go with. Problem solved!

    Another $200 gets me 16 GB of memory from Newegg, too.

    Edit: Darn, I thought it was an eight core machine.. so the hunt continues. I would like to have at least eight cores in this machine.
  10. mechengr, Jul 26, 2011
    Last edited: Jul 26, 2011

    mechengr thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jul 24, 2011
  11. CaptainChunk macrumors 68020


    Apr 16, 2008
    Phoenix, AZ
    I think you should probably sit down and determine whether you really need an 8-core machine. Only certain applications (high-end audio, video editing, encoding, scientific computation software, etc.) can take advantage of multiprocessing at that scale and you could be wasting money on cores you never use.

    Like mentioned before, the 2008 (3,1) machines would be the absolute baseline for what you'd want to look for, and even then, the 2009/10 machines are much safer bets in terms of warranty coverage and future expandability.

    RAM for 2006-08 machines is expensive. They use fully-buffered DDR2 DIMMs with special heatsinks that command a price premium over the inexpensive ECC DDR3 DIMMs used by 2009-10 models. We're talking around $250 for a 8GB (2x4GB) kit, versus half the money for the same thing in DDR3 form.

Share This Page