First Time Mac buyer looking at MacPro, general questions.

Discussion in 'Mac Pro' started by SoTex, Sep 15, 2010.

  1. SoTex macrumors newbie

    Sep 15, 2010
    My wife and I are in the market for a new home PC. Originally we were looking at PCs as that as what we are both most familiar with, though she has some experience working with a macbook. However, after talking to several people and reading a lot of different blogs online, we are leaning more towards buying a Mac Pro. Allow me to explain my reasoning, She is an avid amateur photographer and in the past couple of years has edged closer and closer to what I would call a "semi-professional" status. She now does several weddings a year along with engagements, graduations, school pictures and things along those lines in addition to her normal hobby photography. She currently runs photoshop cs2 and the lag time is dreadful, she soldiers through it but it means a lot of wasted time. She has a new copy of Photoshop CS5 and Lightroom 3 coming her way in December (though she doesn't know it yet) but I know our current laptop will roll over and die at the very thought of it.
    As we started the search I was edged towards the 27" imac after reading numerous online blogs and reviews and then to the Mac Pro so that we could continue to upgrade and use for the next 10 years or so. This is where I need help, I do not know anything about Macs and their architecture, how upgradeable they are and so forth. Immediately the 2010 hexcore machine strikes me as being the best balance of performance and price, though I would almost certainly have to turn around and dump more money into it to bring the RAM specs up to par. So, what would I lose by purchasing a 2006 or 2008 Mac Pro from a reputable seller off of ebay and then upgrading it with the RAM? I am wondering how much performance I stand to lose by going with one of the older quad core machines and whether or not I am going to notice it.
    The primary purpose of this machine will be her photo editing/archiving/whatever other magic she works on them, though it will also serve many of the general home computer tasks.

    I am new here, though I have lurked for a while reading posts, and tried to find some answers via the search function to no avail. I apologize if their is a glaringly obvious thread somewhere that would answer all of these questions! Thanks for all the help and friendly advice on the forums!
  2. Hellhammer Moderator


    Staff Member

    Dec 10, 2008
    Mac Pro offers upgradeability but it's limited. You can upgrade and add hard drives and PCIe cards such as graphics cards but that's pretty much it. You can upgrade the CPUs but your choices are limited and usually there are no much faster CPUs available. For example, if you bought the 6-core MP, you would already have the best CPU on market and because next gen Intel CPUs will use new sockets, you would be stuck with that CPU even though there were better ones on the market.

    It doesn't really look that you need a Mac Pro. Photoshop is still mainly single-threaded so the frequency of the CPU is important thus I would get an iX Mac. The only reason to get the Mac Pro is if you really need the expandability that it offers. If you're not going to add any PCIe cards or extra hard drives, they you might as well get an iMac.

    The only issue with iMac is its screen that may not be the best choice for editing purposes due its glossiness. If she can live with that or get an external monitor for editing, then I would just get an iMac. It has FireWire 800 port which is fast enough for using external HDs as storage. IMO Mac Pro is overkill for you. You can sell the iMac after few years and upgrade to the latest iMac
  3. Honumaui macrumors 6502a

    Apr 18, 2008
    for LR and PS mac pro will beat the pants off a Imac once you get a few things done to it ?
    those would be using a SSD for the cache for LR
    and you could use it as scratch for PS ? but their is some unknowns how long a SSD will last using as scratch ?

    if you start working with larger files the memory limits of the Imacs are not as good and the screen ?

    I am not sure what your budget is ? but the 3.3 is going to be faster than the 3.2 by about %10 in PS on avg in LR I am not sure using develop module of LR ? I can say that using SSD as Cache helps a ton ! and just got done testing LR using some dif configurations on a new 3.2

    I do photography for a living and also have a post production company layout and PS and LR work

    depending on the size of files 16 gigs ram is going to be needed with say 14MP images and a few layers etc...

    using a SSD as a boot drive is a nice luxury and can help speed a bit and once you use them you wont want to go back ?

    for a monitor I say do it right the get go if you can swing it get a new NEC PA series ! the 24 inch is about $1100 with SV software the 27 about $1350 with SV
    SV is spectraview its a profiling software and comes with a Gretag eyeone puck that is set to the NEC white point so more accurate
    remember a monitor is the one place you get to see and adjust your images so IMHO one of the most important things in the computer workflow

    if it came down to a 3.2 or a 3.2 and save the $800 to get a NEC I think you would be farther ahead in the long run
    also learning and being efficient with programs helps
    I can say being a life long PS expert I can be on a slower machine and get more done than someone that knows less and is on a faster machine !

    now once you have experience and the fast tools ! thats when it really helps :)

    using a car analogy if someone cant drive they will be about the same in a normal car or fast car around the track but once they learn how to drive the faster car will benefit them more

    so I might say get a quad 3.2 with 16 gigs ram and get the 2 GB sticks this leaves you the ability to ad more easily and not be stuck with ram to sell etc..
    and 2 SSD
    both the OWC 120 versions about $314 so two of them about $630

    to give you a idea in LR in develop module using SSD the sliders which you use to adjust things comes up %50 quicker using SSD as cache !

    depending on how much space she needs ? the mac pro comes with a WD black HDD which is a nice fast HDD

    I would get a 2 TB HDD such as a WD green or Hitachi or ? just a nice basic 2TB drive for time machine to back up to and use that one gig that came with it for data
    one of your SSD will be the boot drive the other will be the cache

    I can point you to a few things to get if you wanted to go that route to mount the SSD inside ?

    a few notes in PS you get better performance turning off Open GL so dont pay for a graphics card you wont be using that much :) get the basic :)

    also NAPP
    you get free shipping from BH photo ! you also get about %10 off on your mac !!! so you gain back more than the $100 membership by joining !! and its a nice thing to get your other half going and have a decent learning resource
    with the discount and free shipping from BH etc.. you can save quite a bit !!!
    I cant remember if they have adobe discounts or not ? but worth checking out

    so a shopping list
    mac pro 3.2 order bare basics from apple
    no need to update the graphics card
    memory get 2 8GB sticks from OWC
    SSD two 120 GB from OWC
    monitor NEC PA series from B+H photo
  4. flyingphish macrumors newbie

    Aug 22, 2010

    i just got my 6-core pro and love it. now my brother wants one. he already has a G5 powermac but needs to upgrade to intelmac and not spend the same money i did.

    SoTex comented on a 2006 or 2008 machine. currently on craigslist in my area there are two 2006 2X3ghz (4 core) machines, one for $1500 one for $1200. Powermax list them for $1699.

    Is there any disadvantage in going with an older machine? Use will be lightroom3 and final cut express.

    much appreciated.
  5. Honumaui macrumors 6502a

    Apr 18, 2008
    LR 3
    using the same SSD setup for cache the white sliders to turn white when you move to a next image so you can get editing again !
    the 3,1 8 core 2.8 I have takes .38 best time
    the 5,1 4 core 3.2 I have takes .25 best time

    this might not seem like much but for a living it matters ? but for most it wont matter and some dont care ?
    figure its half again as fast ? but that half again is not to much

    In PS using retouch artist you are looking at about 3 seconds quicker for the new one 12 for new 15 for older one ? I think that was my numbers ? forgot have to many numbers in my head :)

    these programs dont care if you have 4 or 8 core ? so a good idea that clock speed matters more ? the final cut ? I dont use so cant comment other than it seems video likes 8 core machines ?

    now with the amount of money you save I would say you can get some SSD and maybe a nice areca and make things move along quite nice and in the future move those things to a new computer ?
  6. DualShock macrumors 6502

    Jun 29, 2008
    For comparisons to older model Mac Pro's, as well as each 2010 model, you can check out:

    In fact, they have some specific tests run on Photoshop.

    Also, has some memory benchmark test results to help determine what RAM config runs the best for a given model.
  7. snberk103 macrumors 603

    Oct 22, 2007
    An Island in the Salish Sea
    I'm going to add another option. The options above are good options, so consider this a "low budget" option.

    As an Analogy .... The most important tools for a photographer are their lenses. Bad lenses on a good cameras means bad images. There is nothing a good camera can do to fix bad glass.

    In the same way, a pro photographer (semi or otherwise and doing the standard type of work) needs an excellent monitor. And if they produce hardcopy a really good printer. Though, of course, the printing can be contracted out to a pro shop. There is no point in buying a maxxed out, specced out computer if she can't produce colour correct prints. All she will be able to do is create off colour stuff really really quickly.

    Take her to a store that sells iMacs, and put her in front of a glossy screen. Get the store to allow you to load up some of her own images, that she knows are colour correct. See what she thinks of the glossy screen.

    If she likes the iMac at that point, I believe an iMac will suit her just fine for at least 3 or 4 years. The money saved can be put into glass for her camera.

    If she doesn't feel comfortable in front of the iMac.... then you are looking at an expensive-ish 3rd party monitor hooked up to something. Could be an iMac, or ??? This is where your budget comes into play. Do a bunch of reading... there are some very good monitors out there, none are what are called "cheap" but you can find affordable ones. For post processing, bigger is good. I have a 23" which is adequate. A 27" one is better. Does she have a good photo printer? That might be required too. One that does 16x20s will make her good money, and save a huge amount of money by not sending the images out to a print shop.

    After those two items are taken care of.... if your $$ are tight then you might want to go for a Mac Mini. It will be bit slow (relatively) but if you max out the RAM (do it yourself so save $$) it will work just fine. She may have to wait at times.... but because of the monitor and the printer she will be putting out good work. A slow computer doesn't mean she puts out bad images - it's just slow.

    As she builds up the business she'll be able to move up to a Mac Pro in time and the monitor and the printer and software will move along with her. The other advantage of the Mini is that if she hates Macs, she can move the monitor and printer and software (by cross licensing) back to a PC and the Mini can be sold for 75% of what you paid. If you buy the Mini through the refurb shop, you might even be able to sell it for nearly what you paid... if you're lucky.

    One other thought. Currently PS and LR don't take advantage of multiple cores very well, I believe. I think that will change in the next major upgrade. It will be better to have more slower cores than to have fewer and faster cores. This is just a belief on my part as I currently I use CS3 and LR2 (though I'm trying LR3 at the moment.) But I'm pretty sure I'm correct because I try to stay on top of the news as I'm waiting for the update that make good use of my 8 core Mac Pro.
  8. Honumaui macrumors 6502a

    Apr 18, 2008
    jump to CS5 and snow leopard and you get a huge bump from this !

    I wish and hope also about cores ? but not going to hold my breath :) LR I get 6 cores going quite a bit on my 8 core ?

    also the idea of a Imac and lens is a good choice :)
    I did not bother going into the camera side since I figure thats a whole other area all together :)
  9. snberk103 macrumors 603

    Oct 22, 2007
    An Island in the Salish Sea
    I've waiting on the updated driver for my printer. I was reading on some forums that when Snow Leopard was first released it didn't play well with my printer, so I put it off. I should check again and see if it's fixed now. I had been hoping to teach this fall, but the class I teach didn't get enough students.... so no academic upgrade pricing for me (CS3 to CS5). Too bad. I'll just have to bite the bullet, I guess. Light room 3 for sure... I'm trying it out, and the sharpening and noise reduction are much much superior to LR 2 to my eyes. CS3 may have to stay on the system a little while longer.

    To expand on my longer post above.... I started with a Mini, and worked on files that were up to 1GB in size. With 2 GB RAM. Talk about slow.... I would save a file and go and make tea and clean up the kitchen. But it never crashed. It got me through a year and half. It drove the Cinema Display I'm still using. It was good bridge system. Then we retired it to the living room where it served up our entire collection of music and movies as jukebox.
  10. SoTex thread starter macrumors newbie

    Sep 15, 2010
    I have now realized, even more than before, that I am in way over my head...monitors..printers..external drives..all I wanted to do was buy her a computer! Ha! No, in all seriousness thank everyone for their advice, if it weren't for the help I be really really lost.

    After checking out barefeats it looks like the 2008 8core 3.2 would not be a bad option for our needs. Can someone confirm or deny this? I realize I am going to need a lot of memory, ultimately maybe 16g? According to honumaui that might be just the ticket. I am trying to run down one of these 2008s to see what I am looking at as far as price goes to see if what I am saving on it justifies going with it over the 2010 hexcore (which for some reason just appeals to me). Any ideas on a good place to find one?
  11. philipma1957 macrumors 603


    Apr 13, 2010
    Howell, New Jersey
  12. snberk103 macrumors 603

    Oct 22, 2007
    An Island in the Salish Sea
    Lots of information on the web. Challenge is sorting it all, eh? If there is a pro photo shop in your neighbourhood pop in and chat up a couple of clerks about monitors and printers. If you like what you are hearing, and you feel comfortable.... then that is place to buy them, eventually if not immediately. You will get terrific advice from good pro shop, and more importantly support. If you feel you are getting talking down to, or made to feel uncomfortable then try to find a better shop.

    I have the 2009 8 core Mac Pro. Very happy with it, and it does everything I need it to do well. Has been solid and given me no issues. That said, I don't know that I would start out with one today unless I got a really good deal. It is 3 year old technology, and while it will continue to work for many years to come as well as it did in 2008.... the older the technology the higher the chances that a piece of software or hardware introduced in the coming years won't work with it.

    As an example.... since Apple never tells us what it is going to do, it is possible that the next version of OS X won't run on the 2008 MP (hypothetically speaking), and then Adobe releases a version of Photoshop that won't run on anything other than OS X 10.7. I emphasize that this is a hypothetical situation, and I have no inkling that this will happen. But.... Apple is known for 'just moving on' with new stuff, and not worrying about legacy HW. And while Adobe's CS3 works on OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard, it is not "officially" supported (CS5 is the current version - and CS3 is about 3 years old).

    In other words, if you are paying near new prices for a 2008, spend a little more and get something newer. On the other hand, if you can get the 2008 for a good price, go for it. It will suit you and your wife just fine for years to come.... but there is always the risk that in a couple of years the software on it gets "frozen". Though of course it will work fine. I am happily using CS3, and used PS 7 before that for years and years after it was "outdated".

    Yes, 16 GB of RAM will suit you two just fine. But it may be more than you need. I've got 12 GB of RAM, and I work with very large files - up to 1.7GB at a time. What you described for your wife's work, she could probably get by with 8 GB or 6GB even. Check out the I've linked it directly to the page that talks about cores and memory, etc. Don't let the site overwhelm you. Read about memory.... and then walk away.... if you try to absorb too much your head will explode. :D

    Hope this isn't too much info....
  13. johnnymg macrumors 65816


    Nov 16, 2008
    I wouldn't overthink this MP deal TOO much.

    JMO, but I highly suspect you would be very satisfied with a 2010 2.8-3.2 GHz Quad. **** MOST current programs won't even utilize a Quad properly let alone a hex or octo box. It might be years before applications fully utilize multiple cores "properly".

    I'd recommend the refurbs but JMO, the MP refurbs don't represent very good values when compared to the 2010 release.

    cheers and good luck with whatever you get.
  14. Honumaui macrumors 6502a

    Apr 18, 2008
    I would say check your efficiency ?

    I work with files up to about 300 megs and use about 17 or more gigs all the time of memory ? with those size files :)
    I dont work with huge files anymore :) thank goodness :)

    I would say 16 gigs is the new minimum for PS work with CS5 and SL combo ? give yourself some headroom

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