Buying Advice for 2009 Mac Pro

Discussion in 'Mac Pro' started by barry.pearson, Jan 26, 2016.

  1. barry.pearson macrumors member

    barry.pearson

    Joined:
    Jan 26, 2016
    Location:
    England
    #1
    Thank you for viewing this thread, this message is a little long so skip to the end for a condensed version.

    Hey, first time poster and long time lurker. I've been looking at purchasing a used 2009 Mac Pro (4,1) to replace my 2012 Mac Mini (i7). While I love my Mac Mini I've ran into an issue when using a new monitor I purchased, when running it in 3440x1440 resolution I get a lot of strange artefacts. Something which is common with this Mac Mini.

    Currently my Mac Mini is a quad-core i7-3616QM 2.3GHz with 16GB 1600MHz memory and the original 1TB HDD. The closest Mac Mini sold today is a dual-core i7-4578 3.0GHz with 16GB memory and costs £1,119/~$1,590. I would hate to pay out this much money on something I feel is inferior to what I currently have.

    So looking around the usual places I've seen that I could get around £650/~$920 for my current Mini if I'm lucky. For that price I've seen a number of 2009 Mac Pros, often quad-core Xeon 2.66GHz processors with 12GB 1066MHz memory, 1-3TB HDD (often paired with a 250GB SSD) and often either a Radeon HD 7750 1GB or what I believe is the original NVIDIA GT120 256MB graphics card.

    Would these machines perform better than my current Mac Mini? I don't mind spending money on them in the future to add more memory etc. I believe that I could add a hexa-core processor and faster memory with a firmware update in the future? I don't have much experience with Mac Pros (in-fact the last "Pro" desktop Mac I used with a Power Mac G4 around 15 years ago) and don't know how the Xeon actually performs. I typically use my Mac Mini for:
    1. General day-to-day browsing, checking emails, downloading photos from my camera and listening to music.
    2. Light Adobe CC use in Photoshop CC, Premiere CC and After Effects CC.
    3. Capturing video footage using a USB 2.0 capture device from old analog devices (VHS etc.)
    4. Playing the occasional game in Windows (currently through Boot Camp on my Mac Mini), typically these games are Windows Store apps such as Minion Rush, although I do occasionally play a bit of Civilisation: Beyond Earth.
    Currently my Mac Mini handles these tasks without an issue, and the only reason I'm even considering the change is because the screen artefacts are starting to annoy me too much. I'd just hate to swap out my Mac Mini for another machine and find it performs poorly.

    Conclusion

    I'm looking to replace my Mac Mini 2012 (quad-core i7 with 16GB memory) with a 2009 Mac Pro (quad-core Xeon) and was wondering if I would notice any performance decrease for web use, Adobe CC use and booting into Windows 10 for casual game titles such as Civilisation and Windows store apps.

    If I'm lucky I should be able to get around £650/~$920 for my Mac Mini, and for a similar price can pick up a used Mac Pro 4,1. I wouldn't mind upgrading the Mac Pro in the future as my Mac Mini has gone as far as it could ever go (other than a SSD/HDD upgrade).

    Does anyone thing this a wise upgrade choice? Do you have any other suggestions?

    Again I know this message is rather long, especially for my first post, but I would really appreciate any thoughts you all might have.
     
  2. r6mile macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Feb 3, 2010
    Location:
    London, UK
    #2
    Sorry if this is obvious, but have you tried going to the Apple Store to see if they can fix it? I imagine the Mac Mini is beyond warranty/Apple care, but in the UK under consumer law, "consumers may choose to have defective goods or goods which do not conform with the contract sale either repaired or replaced free of charge" for six years from the date of purchase. More details here - http://www.apple.com/uk/legal/statutory-warranty/

    Worth a try, especially considering that your concerns about the Mac Mini do not relate to performance, but a genuine issue with the product.
    --- Post Merged, Jan 26, 2016 ---
    I should add, if you do go to the Apple Store make sure you cite 'consumer law' if they say this is an out of warranty repair.
     
  3. barry.pearson thread starter macrumors member

    barry.pearson

    Joined:
    Jan 26, 2016
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    England
    #3
    I have been to the apple store and they told me that the Mac Mini wasn't designed to drive a 3440x1440 display. Looking online they seem to have done something to the 2012 Mac Minis with the update to Yosemite a few years ago as both the 2011 and 2014 Mac Minis can drive this display without the artefacts I am seeing.

    If I'm using two 1920x1080 monitors the artefacts don't appear, however I really appreciate not having the join between the monitors on the 3440x1440 monitor.
     
  4. r6mile macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Feb 3, 2010
    Location:
    London, UK
    #4
    Fair enough. That's quite strange though.

    According to Geekbench, your Mac Mini's i7 is quite a bit faster than the 2.66 quad-core Xeon - 2986 single core, and 11639 multi-core for the Mac Mini, compared to 2073 and 8034 for the Xeon. The original GT120 graphics card is inferior to Intel's HD4000 graphics, but the 7750 is significantly faster (1649 in passmark, compared to 452 for the HD4000).

    Given the slower CPU, I would therefore expect expect a slightly performance decrease in day-to-day usage, but games should run significantly better. Happy to be contradicted though.

    I have recently acquired a 3,1 Mac Pro, with the eight-core 2.8, a Radeon 5750 card (very similar in performance to the 7750), and 28GB of 800Mhz DDR2 RAM. I have also put in a Samsung 850 EVO SSD through a PCIe card. Performance-wise this is not radically different from the machine you are looking to buy - I am happy to try and see how it runs Civ:BE.
     
  5. pastrychef macrumors 601

    pastrychef

    Joined:
    Sep 15, 2006
    Location:
    New York City, NY
    #5
    I think that the performance of a stock quad core 2.66Ghz Mac Pro will be very similar to what you currently have. However, with CPU and GPU upgrades, you can expect fairly significant increases in performance. I'd highly recommend switching to the use of SSDs ASAP. This alone will make the machine feel a lot faster.
     
  6. wilx macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Mar 9, 2009
    #6
    At the risk of turning this into a classifieds section, I'm going to be selling my 2009 MP fairly soon, for £850:

    2 x 2.66ghz quad-core
    28GB RAM
    ATI Radeon HD 5770 1024 MB

    With the RAM upgrade (music production needs a lot) and upgraded graphics card, it's had no problem with huge music production sessions and motion graphics projects.

    Although I won't be selling it with any SSDs, I second Pastrychef's endorsement of them.
     
  7. bokkow macrumors regular

    bokkow

    Joined:
    May 3, 2012
    Location:
    The Netherlands
    #7
    I made the same switch (Mac Mini 2012 QC 2.6GHz > MP 5.1 HQ 3.33GHz) and didn't really lose money in the process. The 2012 Mini's with QC are quite sought-after and can therefore go for more than the price you paid for it new! I was able to sell the mini at €1000,- (after a week of bidding) and bought a stock MP 5.1 QC 2.8GHz at €700,-. Some upgrades later (CPU, RAM, GPU, SSD) I spend around €1000~1100,- with a bit of bargaining and got a lot beefier machine that can also play the occasional game (Metal Gear Solid Phantom Pain) and even drive 4K without a hiccup.

    TLDR: With the right upgrades after buying the MP you will have an overall faster machine at a similar price to what your mini is worth. The initial step to sell a perfectly fine fast mini was the hardest part, after that I did not look back anymore.
     
  8. troy14 macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Mar 25, 2008
    Location:
    Las Vegas (Summerlin), NV
    #8
    I used to be a Mini guy, and then I bought my 2009 Mac Pro. It's a lot bigger, and sometimes noisier, but man.. a lot better!

    You can upgrade the GPU (I put a GTX 980 SC in mine), CPUs if you desire, add HDs, SSDs, and PCI cards. It's amazing to have such a machine be able to run all the latest and greatest OS X stuff, and then have the freedom to do any upgrade you wish. Something you just can't do with the Mini.
     
  9. barry.pearson thread starter macrumors member

    barry.pearson

    Joined:
    Jan 26, 2016
    Location:
    England
    #9
    @r6mile I'd been looking at various bench marks but there's only so much a benchmark score can tell you. I've used plenty of 'prosumer' devices which ultimately have felt sluggish.

    @pastrychef I am looking to update it over time, my Mac Mini was limited to just the RAM and the SSD/HDD updates. I will likely look at the Xeon 6-core and firmware update in the future.

    @wilx Thanks for the offer. As much as I'd like a dual processor Mac Pro it's just out of my price range.

    @bokkow Yeah I was surprised at how well my Mac Mini had held it's price. I'm not 100% sure but I think I only paid £629 for it when new. I'm not planning on driving 4K, my current monitor is 3440x1440 and it's perfect as far as I'm concerned. Gaming wise, MGSV: Phantom Pain will be left to my Xbox. It's only titles like Civilisation and some mobile style games for the kids that will be played.

    @troy14 Yeah I think I will be like a kid in a toy shop. So many upgrades... so little money :p

    I decided to take the plunge and just got a Mac Pro 4,1 quad-core Xeon 2.66GHz, 12GB RAM, 250GB SSD, 1TB HDD and a Radeon HD 7950 3GB as well as trackpad and wired apple keyboard. It should arrive Thursday so I'll have a play around with it then.

    Thanks for all your messages, one more question is how loud is the Mac Pro compared to a traditional desktop PC? I love the Mac as I can barely hear it, even when on land.
     
  10. fastlanephil macrumors 6502a

    fastlanephil

    Joined:
    Nov 17, 2007
    #10
    I also sold my 2.6 i7 4-core Mac Mini along with my 2011 iMac and bought a 2009 5.1 3.46 12-core Mac Pro for audio work. Weak Bluetooth(2.0) has been my only issue which I have pretty much fixed with an external BT antenna.
     
  11. barry.pearson thread starter macrumors member

    barry.pearson

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    England
    #11
    @fastlanephil Yes the bluetooth is a concern as I do use handoff quite a lot. I'm too lazy to get my phone out to reply to text messages and the sort :p
     
  12. bokkow macrumors regular

    bokkow

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    The Netherlands
    #12
  13. barry.pearson thread starter macrumors member

    barry.pearson

    Joined:
    Jan 26, 2016
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    England
    #13
    @bokkow I'll certainly have a look at that. It's not a major concern but I often work from home and if my phone is on charge in the bedroom it's nice to receive text messages and phone calls through my Mac Pro.
     
  14. barry.pearson thread starter macrumors member

    barry.pearson

    Joined:
    Jan 26, 2016
    Location:
    England
    #14
    Received my Mac Pro yesterday, unfortunately Mr UPS dropped it right in front of me and has damaged the leg. Daaaaaaaamn you UPS!

    [​IMG]

    So quickly does anyone know how I can perhaps bend the leg back into shape so that it doesn't lean? A case replacement is around £390 from the places I've contracted, so that's not really an option.

    I will say that although the Xeon, although scoring lower than my Mac Mini in benchmarks, seems a little quicker. A simple test I did on both machines was to render a 5 minute 1080P video with various effects and transformations applied in Adobe Premiere. The 2012 Mac Mini Core i7 took 4 minutes and 20 seconds while the 2009 Mac Pro Xeon came in at 3 minutes 8 seconds (both were near fresh installs of Mac OS X 10.11.3). So other than the damaged leg I'm really happy with the purchase, it's much quieter than I expected too.

    Secondly I actually got a little more for the Mac Mini than I was expecting and have a little more money to spend on the Mac Pro, I was wondering what would you guys think would be a priority upgrade between:
    • WiFi/Bluetooth card upgrade (I work from Ethernet so the WiFi isn't a priority but I did use handoff regularly)
    • USB 3.0 card (I use USB 3.0 hard drives for backups, while I've not noticed the difference backing up I did when restoring the machine from one)
    • Larger SSD for apps (the current one is 240GB with two 1TB HDD)
    Or is there anything else you guys can think of? The full specs of the machine are:
    • 2009 Mac Pro 4,1
    • 2.66GHz quad-core Xeon
    • 12GB 1066MHz memory
    • AMD Radeon 7950 3GB graphics
    • 240GB SSD primary (connected to SATA)
    • 2x 1TB HDD (connected to SATA)
     
  15. r6mile macrumors 6502

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    Feb 3, 2010
    Location:
    London, UK
    #15
  16. h9826790 macrumors 604

    h9826790

    Joined:
    Apr 3, 2014
    Location:
    Hong Kong
    #16
    According to your description.

    It seems a bigger SSD will help the most. IMO, 240G SSD is really a bit small for OSX + Apps + the current project / user data + scratch.

    WiFi card is the next upgrade. Because you will use hands off etc.

    USB 3.0 is the last one, even though it can speed up a lot. By considering Time Machine do everything in the background (you can't feel the speed difference). Also, it seems that you won't deal with large files transfer via USB everyday. I put this into the last option.

    Apart from that, more RAM surely can help to do video work in 10.11. My system can regularly use all my 32G RAM (around 22G for working, and the other 10G as cache). OSX use RAM quite well since 10.9, the more you get, the more it can use to speed up the system. Of course, if your Mac never use swap, then it means your RAM size is OK. And more RAM will give you some benefit, but won't give you any significant speed increment. I assume your Mac has 3x4G RAM, so the cheapest way to upgrade the RAM is to get the 4th stick. A more expensive but better option is to replace all of them by 3x8G RAM (1333MHz), that will give you max speed after the firmware + CPU upgrade.

    The next one which sure you can benefit from it is the CPU, the W3680 is a very balanced choice between speed and cost. You can still look for X5680, X5690, and W3690. All these 3 are little bit better than the W3680, and you may get any of them if you find a good deal. HOWEVER, you need to flash your 4,1 to 5,1 BEFORE you install the CPU, otherwise, your Mac won't boot at all.

    The PCIe SATA 3 card may be useful as well when you use your SSD as scratch disk. It won't give you any noticeable speed up for OS operation / application loading, etc. But it can speed up your work when the SSD is using as scratch / swap.
     
  17. flehman macrumors regular

    flehman

    Joined:
    Feb 21, 2015
    #17
    Mac Minis are nice but they, like all Apple computers, have an Achilles heel in their GPUs. Apple has always kneecapped the graphics on their machines, either for planned obsolescence, ignorance, or just benign neglect. The Mac Pro you now have can be upgraded significantly, whereas the Mac Mini cannot. The current specs of your Mac Pro may be similar to the Mini, but once you load it up with a modern GPU, a 3.33 or 3.46 hexacore CPU, and a bucketload of ram, it will leave the Mini for dead on most if not all tasks. Happy hunting.
     
  18. nigelbb macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Dec 22, 2012
    #18
    There is no way to bend it back into shape. You will need to claim off UPS for the damage in transit.

    I sadly did the same to one of my Mac Pros while moving house. They are damn heavy when fully loaded with disks & I only dropped mine from a height of about a foot when it slipped through my fingers. UPS must have dropped it considerably harder if it was inside packaging & still sustained that damage.
     
  19. bokkow macrumors regular

    bokkow

    Joined:
    May 3, 2012
    Location:
    The Netherlands
    #19
    My upgrade suggestions:

    1) USB3.0 card (RocketU 4 x 5Gbps) (€85,-)
    2) CPU upgrade (X5680/X5690) (€150,-)
    3) WiFi AC BT4.0 (€125,-)
    4) PCI-e 256GB SSD (PM951 AHCI) (€175-200,-)
    5) RAM 4x8GB 1333MHz (€150,-)

    And in that particular sequence considering the current configuration (the GPU is still very capable, keep it for the time being).
     
  20. barry.pearson thread starter macrumors member

    barry.pearson

    Joined:
    Jan 26, 2016
    Location:
    England
    #20
    @r6mile I was looking at the PCIe SSD cards, however I wasn't too sure if the investment in the PCIe card plus a new (larger) SSD would be the most cost efficient upgrade right now. The current SSD on SATA does seem much quicker than my Mac Mini's slower (5,200?) HDD.
    As for the Mac Mini I got a total of £690 for the Mac Mini, an Apple Wired Keyboard and a new Apple Mighty Mouse I had boxed from an old iMac. Everything was boxed and included original cables etc. Mac still has warranty until the end of the year too. I sold it on Gumtree so no eBay fees which made it a sweeter deal.

    @h9826790 Yeah looking now, after restoring my apps from my Mac Mini and installing Parallels I'm down to 70GB already. I have looked at the replacement WiFi/Bluetooth cards and I was surprised to see just how expensive they were, often £70+, although I don't use WiFi for internet access I think I will be upgrading it however.

    @flehman My Mac Mini has certainly served me well over the last 3 years, it's only the issues with the monitor that made me "upgrade". I've been curious about the firmware update to the 5,1 as I've heard that with a compatible processor I can use faster RAM. For some reason when writing earlier I completely forgot about memory upgrades, which is usually the first thing I do when getting a new computer.
    As for a processor upgrade I think that will be something to come later down the line, as for now it appears to be exceeding what I got from my Mac Mini.

    @nigelbb I have already logged a claim with UPS and they want to take the computer back to "assess" the damage. I'm worried about letting them have it again. If the damage was caused when it was dropped at my front door then again I don't think it was dropped from more than about a 40cm/~1.3ft. It wasn't dropped as if he lost his grip, he sort of "rolled" the box by dropping it down on one corner and then leaning the next corner down so it was stood up. Felt gutted when I saw it :( For now I've had to place some books behind the foot to hold it up straight.
     
  21. DPUser macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Jan 17, 2012
    #21
    As I reported three and a half years ago when I bought my "gimped" 4,1 (bent leg, purchased at a discount) I have affectionately named the machine "Stephen", not as in "Jobs", but rather, "Hawking."

    The hex CPU upgrade will almost double the power of your new machine. Highly recommended.

    The RAM will only run at 1333 if you also upgrade the CPU. Reports are you won't be able to tell the difference though. My 1066 RAM magically converted itself to 1333… a lot of RAM is sold as 1066 but is actually 1333.
     
  22. Bytehoven macrumors regular

    Bytehoven

    Joined:
    Dec 1, 2015
    Location:
    Up Shellpot Creek
    #22
    Congrats on your new rig.

    Wow, the cMP must have been very poorly packed or the OEM foam inserts damaged to allow so much damage... in any case I'd be trying to get back some $$$ from UPS.

    Good luck with whatever you decide to do.
     
  23. nigelbb macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Dec 22, 2012
    #23
    When I bent the foot on my Mac Pro it slid through my fingers in a similar way from no more than about a foot. I think that it was catching it on the tilted corner that did the damage as all the weight was concentrated on a small area.
     
  24. phillyboy82 macrumors regular

    phillyboy82

    Joined:
    Oct 27, 2015
    Location:
    Not from Philly
    #24
    It was a stupid design decision to make those feet out of aluminum, which is damn near next to copper in how malleable it is. I am working on a claim with an Amazon seller for the same reason, though mine was double-boxed with styrofoam bubbles between the two boxes and the feet STILL got bent during transit.

    OWC sells a box made for the Mac Pro that keeps the feet isolated from the sides of the box. Granted, if a corner gets dinged in on the box you are probably screwed, but it seems more solid than what other people have had theirs shipped in.
    --- Post Merged, Feb 2, 2016 ---
    Next time you should just flat refuse shipment if he did it in FRONT of you. That is inexcusable of UPS.
     
  25. barry.pearson thread starter macrumors member

    barry.pearson

    Joined:
    Jan 26, 2016
    Location:
    England
    #25
    Just a question as I couldn't find any information online about: Can I buy and install 1333MHz memory in the Mac Pro now (4,1 firmware) and use it as 1066MHz until I do the firmware update and purchase a compatible CPU? The information I've found online doesn't make it clear if I can only use the faster memory at the slower speed, only that it will work after the upgrades. Just don't fancy buying the extra memory now, to need to repurchase should I upgrade the CPU later on.

    @Bytehoven The cMP looked pretty well packaged, it was inside a large box with packing peanuts, then another box with the machine inside wrapped in a massive amount of bubble wrap and some small empty boxes to act as cushions. I think I was extremely unlucky that the inner and outer boxes hand touched on one side and I guess that was where the damaged occurred when dropped.

    @nigelbb Yeah I think that was where the damage came from. I don't know 100% but I did see him drop it down on the corner and it's damaged so I may be putting one and one together and getting three. I don't know.

    @phillyboy82 You're absolutely right, I was a little dumb struck and since he didn't require a signature he just left right away. After a LOT of communication with UPS they are unlikely to pay me any compensation at all, offering the seller up to the cost of postage instead. They then said I should contact the seller to settle the cost of the damage as the contract between UPS was with them, not me.
    For that they want to take the machine away for 8-10 business days and need to do something called a 'burst test' and 'edge crush test' as I don't know what strength the box is. They've said if this wasn't done prior to being shipped then it's not covered. They're doing everything they can to push blame onto the seller. At this point I've set the machine up, propped up the corner with a small wooden block so it doesn't have a habit of rocking back and forth as I move around and placed it (mostly) under my desk. It just annoys me that they were paid to deliver an item to me and they damaged it (potentially right in front of me) and they are saying that they're not a fault. Oh well, next time I'll just drive and pick it up instead.
     

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