Graphic Design capable macs

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by Salient, Nov 20, 2014.

  1. Salient macrumors newbie

    Oct 25, 2013
    I held out for the 2014 mac mini and joined the 'WTF?' self-help group when I realised Quads were dropped. Now I find myself looking at options for a home computer that's capable of running Adobe CC 2014 (of which Photoshop is the most demanding). I'm running a 2008 Mac Pro 2.8 Quad at work which struggles at times to keep up – particularly with new apps like Sketch that seem to rely more on the GPU. My 2007 MacBook Pro with 2GB ram for home use just can't cut it when it comes to large format graphics in Photoshop (500MB – 1GB files). I'll typically have multiple apps open at the same time (Ps, Ai, Id, Word plus a browser with a dozen tabs is the norm). Over the next couple of years I may go freelance, so whatever I chose may need to become my main workstation.

    So I've got a few options – older Mac Pros that need upgrades (are they at the tipping point of becoming obsolete?), a maxed out 2012 mini or the latest rMBP. I guess it boils down to small cost upfront and upgrade more frequently or throw double the amount at something that will last longer. Which way would you go?

    Option 1.
    2009 Mac Pro Eight Core 2.26GHz / GT120 card / 6Gb ram / 1Tb HDD

    Option 2.
    2012 Mac Pro Quad Core 2.8GHz / 6GB ram / Radeon HD 5770 1GB / 1Tb HDD

    Option 3.
    2012 Mac Mini 2.3GHz / 16GB Ram / 1TB HDD & 512 Crucial SSD

    Option 4.
    15" Retina MacBook Pro / 16GB ram / 512 SSD
    £1800 ( I can get education discount so inc. Applecare)
  2. robgendreau macrumors 68040

    Jul 13, 2008
    Check the reburb MBPs at the UK Apple Store, BTW. 15" MBP with 2.4 GHz quad core, 16GB RAM, 512 SSD, 750M graphics. £1700.

    I'd go with the laptop. I think it's the best bargain. Nice to have a retina screen for graphics, and a laptop is a better investment since it remains useful for so many tasks over time, even after it might be too slow for your work. Sort of that hoped-for Mini but with a very very nice screen.
  3. imaccooper macrumors regular


    May 29, 2014
    North Carolina
    I would go with option 2. The machine sounds great but the biggest reason in my thinking is the ability to run several screens at high resolutions. When I do some small graphics projects I would love a few 27 in screens and I am sure you understand since it appears you are experienced. Mostly for that reason I would lean toward the mac pro especially if you already own or have the extra money to spend on a couple of good screens.
  4. phrehdd macrumors 68040


    Oct 25, 2008
    Perhaps finding a computer with the correct CPU set up is the first step. You may consider afterwards changing out drives, adding RAM and a different video card. Just because something sells as a "unit" doesn't mean you have to keep the guts of the machine.

    You might want to consider -

    Apps that take advantage of multi-core and which speed and number of cores is the best fit.
    What type of graphics you will need (Nvidia vs ATI)
    How much RAM can you afford and really need
    As for hard drives - way too many combinations out there to suggest other than perhaps SSD for OS and apps. Scratch space also lots of options.
  5. octothorpe8 macrumors 6502

    Feb 27, 2014
    I bet pretty much any machine you get that has a decent amount of RAM (16 GB would probably be good) and an SSD (way, way faster) will be a LOT better than what you've got now. Don't buy a machine with only a standard old mechanical HDD at this point. That's just shooting yourself in the foot.

    I'm using a setup basically equivalent to your #3 option and it's lightning fast with Photoshop.
  6. Salient thread starter macrumors newbie

    Oct 25, 2013
    Photoshop can eat up to around 16gb ram until I quit out and reload it on my 2008 Mac Pro so I'm concerned that leaves little for anything else on the mini or MBP options - or is that less likely on much newer kit?

    I can see the 2012 Mac Pro costing around £1500 by the time I've added 32gb ram and a pcie SSD but how much more capable would it be over the mini? It's just about in budget to get a couple of Dell U2145s with either of those choices.
  7. h9826790 macrumors G4


    Apr 3, 2014
    Hong Kong
    A suggestion for you.

    1) Try to get a 2009 Mac Pro Quad core (2.66 is good enough), this is around $700. Aim at the base model, as cheap as possible.

    2) Upgrade the firmware to 5,1 (this will give your Mac the ability to use the 2010 Mac Pro CPU and 1333MHz RAM).

    3) Upgrade the CPU to W3690 (6 cores, 3.46 turbo 3.73), or W3680 / X5677 for better balance between cost and speed. May cost you around $200-300.

    4) Upgrade the RAM to 3x8G 1333MHz for best performance, or 4x4 if you prefer this option (the real world performance gain by optimising the triple channel is just about 2%, the 4x4 may be a much better option in terms of cost).

    5) Get a 2nd hand PC version HD7950, and then flash it to enable the EFI boot screen. May be cost you around $100 depends on how and which card you get. Of course, you can go for 7970 or the Nvidia route. I suggest the 7950 simply because it's relatively cheap, and painless (in terms of power or driver issue).

    6) If you want to have a much more responsive machine. Better to get a SSD for the OS and applications, you may simply plug that into the optical bay. The PCIe SSD is still quite expensive at this moment. Unless you really doing some read/write extensive job. You won't feel any difference between SATA 3, SATA 2, and a PCie SSD (Apart from running benchmark or copying huge files etc). However, you may consider get a real new Mac Pro Apple SSD, run that via a PCIe adaptor (just $10). This will give you the best performance and native TRIM support.

    This setup should be good for photoshop, and the cost is reasonable.

    The reason why I won't choose 8 core 2009 Mac Pro is because the CPU is very hard to upgrade. (They use lidless CPU for dual CPU model, but normal CPU on the single CPU model). And most of the software still unable to fully utilise all cores at this moment, so better to go for less cores but higher speed. And this is a cheaper option as well.

    For quad core Mac Pro, you can flash the 2009 firmware to make it almost identical to the 2010-2012 version. So, better to go for the cheaper option. However, if you decide to go for dual CPU option. I strongly recommend go for the 2010 model. Which use normal CPU, very easy to upgrade to something like dual X5690. Of course, this will be relatively expensive.

    Another reason to choose the old Mac Pro is the PCIe expandability. You may go for dual 7970, or even use the GTX980 if you need those power later on.
  8. Salient thread starter macrumors newbie

    Oct 25, 2013
    Thanks for the recommendations. If I were to upgrade a Mac Pro, I'll be getting pretty close to new rMBP prices - how would a pimped classic fair against the new machine? I realise they're different beasts but would prefer to buy new if performance was similar.
  9. Macsonic macrumors 65816


    Sep 6, 2009
    All the 4 machines you mentioned are capable of graphic design. Personally a classic Mac Pro would be fine and can handle graphic design or Photoshop. Another advantage is being able to use Nvidia cards for CUDA which Adobe apps run well.
  10. teahouse macrumors newbie

    Aug 8, 2014
    Ram it is

    The Photoshop bottleneck is always ram and disk speed. Go for at least 16gb of ram and for at least one 256gb ssd.

    I would prefer the 2012 Mac Pro and fit it with a couple of ssds and hard disks and loads and loads of ram.

    Make sure you enable about 90% of the available ram on a 16gb+ machine and to enable all disks as scratch disks.

    Im on a 2008 Macbook (the unibody one) with a 256 gb ssd and 8gb ram. As far as i can tell it runs Photoshop cc2014 as fast as a 2013 Mac Pro with 12gb ram runs Photoshop cs5. Except of painting on top of more than 150 layers with dimensions larger than 8000x6000 pixels (48 megapixel). From there on the dual core processor develops a bit of lag and the Mac pro sometimes takes the lead. :D

    Honestly, if you survived on a 2007 Macbook Pro with 2gb ram, all the options are complete overkill. Invest instead in a good screen, like a 27 inch dell ultrasharp.
  11. IanGahagan macrumors member

    Jun 11, 2012
    I am just finishing up my Graphic Design degree and I was required to buy a Mac for the program in 2012. I opted for a RMBP and it was a great choice. It still is very fast.

    Coming from a graphic design student that has spent hundreds of hours on his laptop, I would go for the best 15inch RMBP you can get with 16gb of ram and at least 512gb memory. you will not be disappointed and you will get your moneys worth!

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