Desperate, Tired of trying to figure out how to configure a Mac Pro, PLEASE HELP

Discussion in 'Mac Pro' started by paulgl, Feb 7, 2008.

  1. paulgl macrumors newbie

    Jan 26, 2008

    I want to spend around 3 k max. I am a photographer wanting to build a Mac Pro. All I want to do is photoshop, period. I am not a full-time professional photographer. I'm actually graduating from med school in 3 months and will be a very busy resident. But, I want a fast computer for photoshop, I already have a Dell 2407 widescreen. Why mac pro? because of resale value, ability to upgrade, and because i already have a great monitor.

    I am sick of reading about computers. What do I do? I seem to come upon something new/different every day.

    Processor: Do I need a 4-core, or is 8-core needed? How many ghz are necessary?

    RAM: at least this seems easy, buy a 3rd party 2gb pair x 4.

    Hard-Drives: I have NO IDEA.

    a--an OS on a fast 10k drive w/small total gb, like 160 gb. Then do RAID 0 on 2 other drives, like maybe 2 250 gb's? Then have 1 large drive for backup.

    can I just use a few drives and not do any raid or anything? Like maybe 3 750 gb drives?

    c--if i do go w/raid, which one? RAID 0-fast, but susceptible to large data loss? RAID-1-just for good data copying...RAID 5 or RAID 10--don't even really know what these are....Also, for RAID, do you need to get SoftRaid from another vendor?
    d--refurbs...if you buy one, there's no wireless card, so if i buy one then it has to be installed...wouldn't that cost money??

    I still have student discount access, which saves me a little money but NOT on refurbs.

    Please help, I want simple, non-complicated, and fast!!! I don't really care too much about tons of backups, I'm okay w/just putting stuff on old usb external drives i already own. i know it'll be slow, but it's backups, so i don't care. Just tell me what to do pretty please, that's all!!

  2. imte macrumors newbie

    Oct 19, 2007
    Hey, I'm not a big photoshop expert but my advice would be to go with the standard processor, 2x 2.8ghz, I'd say you'd get away with 4 gigs of ram but if you can afford 8 why not? (Although don't buy the ram from apple) As for the hard drives that's really up to you and how much space you think you'd need, 3 x 750 gigs seems a bit like overkill to me but it's up to you. I wouldn't worry about the Raid Card or anything else, but maybe upgrade the graphics card to the 8800GT because it's a lot more powerful than the ATI card.

    Hope this helps in some way.

  3. GotPro macrumors 6502

    Jan 29, 2007
    See Below

  4. Reach macrumors 6502a

    Sep 7, 2006
    Get a 4-core. Really, Photoshop doesn't need 8 cores. So downgrade the CPU and get more RAM, how much depends on what you can afford/want of course, but 8gb from OWC for example ain't that expensive considering it'll serve you very well for a long time.

    As for HD's, get a couple 750gb Seagate Barracudas or something, this too totally depends on how much you really want to store, and what kind of shoots you do. For the occasional job you'd be fine with one 500gb in addition to the 320gb that ships with the machine or something.
  5. caeneal macrumors member

    Aug 20, 2007
    I'm not much of an expert on things photoshoppy, but it sounds to me like you should get the stock system, add in some extra ram from OWC.

    Since you don't seem comfortable with raid setups, I'd just get a couple 500 or 750GB cheap drives and use one to work in and one for time-machine. Once you learn what your needs and desires really are, you'll be able to upgrade or change drives easily.

    You don't have to raid your drives. I don't. I use the stock 320 for windows, and then I have two 500GB drives for data and apps, respectively. Finally, I have a 1TB drive for time-machine. I also backup to an external drive every few weeks. Again, since you don't seem comfortable with Raid, I'd avoid it.

    You shouldn't need the 8-core system for light photoshop use, but since you're talking about re-sale value, I'd defer to the stock octo-2.8. I don't think you'd need the nvidia card for photoshop. But if you want it for gaming or 3D stuff, go that way.

    Also, get as much RAM as you can afford. As long as you've got a back-up plan in place, the biggest help to any system will be ram.

    The wireless card should cost around $40 to $75 for your apple store or authorized apple repair shop to put in. You CAN do this yourself, but it doesn't seem like you'd want to try that.
  6. TenFour macrumors member

    Feb 12, 2006

    I agree with the above...

    4 cores is ample (resale value aside) but if you'll be keeping it for 3 or 4 years, octo won't bring much more resale value anyway. We all know how fast computers become obsolete.
    Upgrade RAM to 8 Gig
    Forget RAID, go with 500 Gig HD, backup to external Seagate, or the like.

    That configuration is simple and more than adequate for the purpose you have in mind. I should feel comfortable ordering that configuration and putting your focus back on your work.

    Just my 2 cents.
  7. unclegit macrumors member

    Jan 10, 2008
    I'll be the contrarian and recommend going with the 2.8 Ghz but 8 core instead of 4 core. At this point we are not sure about the upgrade path of the 4 core machines to 8 cores.

    One of Adobe's focuses for the next few releases of photoshop will me making it more thread aware to make better use of multi cores.

    Add 4 or 8gb of memory and an extra 500gb drive 3rd party to the base machine and call it good - I ordered mine through OWC - apple is way overpriced for hard drive upgrades and memory.

    What size of images are you working with - 5D images handle a lot different from my 600mb 4x5 scans :)
  8. GotPro macrumors 6502

    Jan 29, 2007
  9. conancn macrumors member

    Dec 10, 2005
    Processor: Photoshop doesn't support dual processors, so go with 4-core unless you care 1 second delay comparing to 8-core(based on some tech reviews)

    RAM: As much as possible. Remember keep 4 sticks the same size.
    4X1G + 4X2G

    the rest, i don't care much.
  10. unclegit macrumors member

    Jan 10, 2008
    You used to have to match CPU's for multi processor system - not sure if this is still the case.

    For the upgrade price I figure you may as well just get 8 cores - buying the extra chip and heatsink will probably cost more in the long run - it's only a $500 upgrade.

    Twice the processing power more or less for $500 extra on a $2500 purchase why wouldn't you - other than financial constraints.

    FWIW I know that adobe is focusing on using more cores in their next versions as it's pretty clear that is the way the industry is going - so future versions of PShop will take advantage of the extra cores to some extent.
  11. TenFour macrumors member

    Feb 12, 2006
  12. unclegit macrumors member

    Jan 10, 2008
    I'm not sure that's a true statement - there used to be a plugin that enabled multiprocessor support - but it's been native and on by default for a few versions now I believe.
  13. paulgl thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jan 26, 2008
    Damn, you guys are awesome for replying so quickly. Each and every one of you deserves a hot date with a sexy supermodel very soon! Seriously, thanks.

    Stupid questions:
    1--how does time machine work? is it an extra drive..i.e. synonymous with another hard drive? or is it a form of backup?

    2--what is the difference between a systems drive vs. an apps drive? and, a "data" drive i assume is where you save stuff?

    3--if i were to just get the system disk...i.e. an 320 gb 7200 rpm via apple and then throw in another 3rd party drive, how much "space" do I allocate for a scratch disk? any advice on allocation in general?


    fyi... work with a 5d, i've got lots and lots of model images that i never touch because i'm so tired of the lengthy process involved with using my images in photoshop (IBM t42 laptop w/512 mb ram). I can't even use the Kelby tutorial photoshop book or photoshop user magazine because everything takes FOREVER.
  14. Reach macrumors 6502a

    Sep 7, 2006
    Yes, PS will probably try to use more cores more efficiently.

    Which means that it'll maybe use the FOUR cores efficiently by the time you're done with the machine.. How often do you wait for Photoshop (if you have enough RAM)? Not that often really, and going from 4 to 8 cores is NOT going to help you.

    Seriously, these new machines is needed for HD-video etc., not for photography. There is a huge gap in processing-intensity for HD-video and photo, and if I didn't do video I would go with the 4-core. No doubt.

    If you're rich though, DO NOT go with the 8-core 2.8, as that will give you no advantage (basically) over the 4-core, but get the 3.2ghz. You see, the ghz is what matters for Photoshop, not the number of cores.
  15. paulgl thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jan 26, 2008
    More info/opinion from a photographer on in response to my queston.

    1) Processor
    The 4 core will be more than adequate. Photoshop won't really take advantage of 8 cores most of the time. I read a technical discussion by an Adobe programmer on the difficulties of making Photoshop faster, and apparently memory bandwidth is the limiting factor right now. All the new MacPros are 8 core, so if you're buying new, just get the standard 2.8 GHz option. $800 for 200 MHz is terrible. If you're buying used, a 4 core will be plenty.

    I have a quad core windows PC, and it flies. Photomatix is the only photo app that I use that doesn't take advantage. Lighroom and Photoshop love it.

    2) RAM - 8 gigs of FBDIMM isn't cheap, but I would recommend it. Get it 3rd party as you were thinking.

    3) Hard drives - here's where things get interesting. It all depends on how serious you are.

    Let's talk about RAID.

    RAID1 (usually setup with 2 drives) means that the two are literally mirrors of each other. If one fails, the other takes over, and you can replace the dead one with no data loss.

    RAID0 stripes the load across however many drives you set it up with. This means performance increases. However, the potential for data loss also goes up. If you loose one drive, you loose everything. Ouch.

    RAID5 is nice because you can use several disks - at least 3 - and it does both striping and parity. In other words, RAID5 is faster than a single drive, but it can sustain a hard drive failure and keep working. It's hard to do right - and is usually only really an option with a dedicated controller card like the Apple RAID card.

    This card is designed for the 15,000 RPM SAS drives that Apple sells. It's more for people who work on high end uncompressed / ProRes 1080p video editing where hard drive I/O is a big deal. It's not such an issue for you, and the cost would probably be too high for you to justify the benefit.

    Finally, RAID 10 / 0+1 / 1+0 / whatever is typically two RAID0 arrays that mirror each other. You can sustain a drive failure, and get higher speed, but it requires 4 drives, and you loose half your capacity. Not really a good idea IMO.

    Get a lot of big drives, NOT from Apple - that much is certain. 500 gig drives are very cheap - $99 on newegg. 750 gig drives are also cheap - $155.

    I would go for the 750s, because they offer higher platter density, and higher storage density. $/gb is about the same. You can fit 3 tb in your MacPro in other words. I would suggest getting three, and setting it up like this:

    1) One for Mac OS X / applications
    2) Two in RAID1 for your photos.

    Thus, you have redundant storage internally, and you can do backups to external drives as you want. Pull out the factory supplied 250 or 320gb drive, and get a case for it. Bonus. You still have a slot internally for another drive later if you need it.

    If you don't want do deal with RAID, just have two drives

    That should do nicely. Love it! The MacPro is a great computer, and holds tremendous value. It's one of those rare occasions where I can't build a desktop that matches its performance and expansion options for less money than Apple sells it for.
  16. unclegit macrumors member

    Jan 10, 2008
    The memory on the new mac pro's is faster than the last generation - which is why I've been waiting to make the switch - above poster is 100% correct.

    Also if you can afford more memory go for that rather than the hard drives / raid config - photoshop will use memory (if you have enough of it) for it's scratch before resorting to physical disk scratch - so although the main app can only use 3GB ish of ram - more definitely will help if you are working with large files.

    The more you can keep in memory and the less you have to hit physical disk the faster your system will be.

    So in summary - RAM RAM RAM - then worry about the rest of the system ;)
  17. caeneal macrumors member

    Aug 20, 2007
    1) Time machine does require an extra drive. It then automatically backs your system (all the other hard disks) up every hour. It is simple, fairly effective, and dead easy to use.

    2) A lot of people keep a fast drive with nothing but the OS and applications on it. They see performance gains with the drive speed. If you have a large number of images, or a large iTunes collection, then you often need a second drive (a lot use the 150GB Raptor drive for apps and OS, thus they NEED a second drive for data). Thus, a drive with just data is born. Some even keep yet another drive for "scratch" with apps like photoshop.

    3) I don't know much about configuring your scratch disk, but if you put in a larger, faster drive with a 16MB buffer, then what other than scratch would you use the stock drive for?
  18. Rowlander macrumors member

    Aug 25, 2007
    About harddrives:

    Is there any SATA-standard/configuration that´s incompaible, or can I buy it as long as it is any kind of SATA-drive?
  19. paulgl thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jan 26, 2008
    SATA drives...I thought they were all compatible, as long as they're SATA II, yes???

    Okay, all of this info is Great!!! Thanks to all of you.

    So, the 4-core seems to be ample for a photographer. I like the idea of 8-core for resale value, but by the time I sell it it'll be like trying to sell my 5D now, meaning not so much.

    The 2.8 ghz vs 3.0 ghz vs 3.2 ghz....not much differences?? esp for the price?

    Hard drives:

    option 1:
    1 500 gb for app's/OS
    1 750 gb drive for photos
    1 750 gb drive for backup via Mac software
    --if you choose this one, how would you assign the scratch disk?

    option 2:
    1 500 gb for apps/OS
    1 500 gb drive for photos
    1 500 gb drive backup via Mac software
    1 500 gb drive backup via Mac software
    --if you choose this one, how would you assign the scratch disk?

    option 3:
    1 500 gb drive for apps/OS
    2 750 gb drives for photos/backup using RAID 1 via Mac Software
    --if you choose this one, how would you assign the scratch disk?

    option 4:

    1 250 gb drive for apps/OS
    2 1 tb drives for photos/backup using RAID 1 via Mac Software
    --if you choose this one, how would you assign the scratch disk?

  20. FastMan macrumors member

    Jan 9, 2008
    Waiting to hear the knowledgeable replies. But while we're waiting,,, did you consider how you will assign the scratch disk? ;)
  21. jemo07 macrumors regular

    May 6, 2006
    Madrid, Spain

    CS3 will use as many cores as it has available so this is more of a choice if 8 will be better than 4 fro your needs.

    I currently have a 2007 with four cores and CS3 uses them up. Get plenty of memory, you will not regret it. Here is how I have things setup for my needs (very lager TIFF manipulation via actions and scripts for Areal Photos and large Panos :))

    I have 12GB of RAM and contrary to what everyone says, CS3 uses up to 3.5GB of ram for the app then up to 4GB for the plugging (I use those:)) the rest will be used as the scratch space, so this is good! (Well for my needs at least :p).

    Here is how I have it setup for reference:
    I have a RAID 1 (mirror) for my OS and Apps.
    I then have a LaCie chain of drives along with the 3rd drive in the towers.
    Here is how I have that setup. I have 750GB physical drives. On the two LaCie, the 1.5TBs discs are just really the two 500GB disks, So it is setup as a RAID0 each. So I see three drives all 750 GB each. (2xLacie2x750 RAID0 and the Single 750GB drive in the tower) I write the data to a single image of 750GB, then I sue Rsync to mirror off to the other 750GB images.

    I should also mention that one of the LaCie is not connected to my tower and it is actually safeguarded in a secondary (offsite) location! Rsync let's you sync over the network. :D
  22. fandsw macrumors regular

    Oct 24, 2007
    Helena, AL
    My suggestion: Base 2.8g Octo standard config from Apple

    Why Octo? Well, does anyone what CS4 will bring next year? No, but Adobe has committed to making their products more core aware, so choosing 8 vs 4 goes along with the question are you planning on using this machine 1-2 years vs 3-4 years?

    RAM: As much as you can afford, but buy from a 3rd party such as OWC for a 1/3 of the cost of Apple. Suggest 8GB (4x2GB) minimum, more if you can afford it.

    HD: Keep the stock for OS & Apps, then (once again not from Apple) buy a 750HD for data & photos. Buy a 1TB FW800 external for Time Machine. You could buy a third internal for scratch disk, however buying enough RAM so you don't need a scratch disk may be more efficient.

    If all you are doing is Photography and basic stuff, this should suffice for 99% of the people in your shoes out there for quite a few years. If you start doing other things like a lot of video encoding then RAID, multiple HDs, etc. can become useful.
  23. barefeats macrumors 65816


    Jul 6, 2000
    CORES: Photoshop does use all 8 cores for some functions. Example, Radial Blur. Some functions use less. It depends on what functions you use most. The 4 core version should perform fine for most functions.

    MEMORY: I recommend 8GB miniumum (4 x 2GB) with the idea of adding more in the future for a total of 16GB. Why? Assuming you are shooting in RAW with a Nikon D300, the resulting file in CMYK version of each photo is going to be 100MB in size. When we run the Retouch Artist's benchmark of typical pro photographer actions using a 100MB sample, we observed memory usage (using Activity Monitor). The memory usage grew to 8GB (Mac OS X + Photoshop) during the run. That's with History States set to 15 and Levels to 6. We have 16GB in our Mac Pro.

    HARD DRIVES: If you are trying to keep within your $3000 budget, you might start with the 500G boot drive only and add more drives as you make money from your projects.

Share This Page