Help me choose -2008 or 2009 Mac pro

Discussion in 'Mac Pro' started by rondocap, May 16, 2012.

  1. rondocap macrumors regular

    Jun 18, 2011
    So I want to get a 2nd Mac pro to go along with my 2006 one.

    I want something mountain lion compatible, so I am between either a 3.2 8 core 2008 3.1 model, or one of the 2009 models. (either quad or 8 core)

    I plan to add an ssd and ati 5770 to either. Obviously the 2009 's are newer, but the 08's are a bit cheaper but have more expensive ram.

    Basically, any big reasons to avoid the 2008 3.2 and get an 09, or is it not a big deal?
  2. elvisizer macrumors 6502

    May 29, 2003
    San Jose
    the difference in RAM prices is about it.
    2009's have the slide-out CPU tray, so they make it a little easier to work on the CPU's.
  3. wonderspark macrumors 68040


    Feb 4, 2010
    Things to consider for 3,1 Mac Pros:
    - RAM is a lot more expensive, and DDR2
    - First two PCI slots 1 & 2 are 2.0 (500MB/sec per lane), second two slots are 1.0 (250MB/sec per lane), so that handicap is to be taken into consideration.

    From Apple's website:
    "Mac Pro (Early 2008)

    The Mac Pro (Early 2008) computers implement PCI Express revision 2.0 which support twice the data rate per lane as the PCI Express revision 1. Slots 1 and 2 are both x16 revision 2.0 slots. Slots 3 and 4 are both x4 revision 1 slots. Placing a revision 1 card in a revision 2.0 slot, or visa-versa, is supported and results in a revision 1 link.

    The number of lanes for each of these slots is permanently set for the Mac Pro (Early 2008). The Expansion Slot Utility doesn't apply.

    Mac Pro (Early 2009) and Mac Pro (Mid 2010)

    The Mac Pro (Early 2009) and Mac Pro (Mid 2010) computers implement PCI Express revision 2.0 for all four slots. Slots 1 and 2 are x16 slots, and slots 3 and 4 are x4 slots. As with the Mac Pro (Early 2008), placing a revision 1 card in a revision 2.0 slot works and results in a revision 1 link.

    The Expansion Slot Utility is not required for these configurations, since the number of lanes for each slot are permanently set."

    What they don't mention is that there are only 36 lanes available to the PCI slots, and therefore slots 3 & 4 are switched, meaning they share x4 lanes between the two of them. Credit for this discovery goes to Nanofrog, who was looking up part numbers which revealed the PCI switch.

    Lastly, the 4,1 and 5,1 Mac Pros can use 6-core CPUs, whereas the 3,1 cannot. In a 4,1 like mine, you need to change the firmware to 5,1 to allow this, but otherwise they are the same machine physically.
  4. ashman70 macrumors 6502a

    Dec 20, 2010
    If the price difference between the 3,1 and 4,1 is not too bad, then its really a no brainer to get the 4,1. As you may have read on these forums or elsewhere, a 4,1 can be turned into a 5,1 via CPU and EFI update which means you get a whole lot more machine if you do the upgrade, which isn't necessarily cheap, but well worth it in terms of the performance gains, from what I have read.
  5. strwrsfrk macrumors regular

    Mar 1, 2011
    Arlington, VA, USA
    This. An 8-Core 3,1 at 3.2 GHz is basically the end-of-the-road with regard to CPU upgrades. An 8-core 4,1 at 2.26 GHz is practically a blank canvas, and 2.66GHz X5650 Xeons are between $550 and $750 on eBay right now (and falling). So give it 2+ years, and you could probably pick up a pair for a couple hundred dollars.

    Also, in my personal testing, a base model 8-Core 2.26GHz 4,1 with 6GB (6x1GB) RAM outperforms an 8-Core 3.2GHz 3,1 with 8GB (4x2GB) RAM by 8-12%. Granted, these are theoretical maximum performance numbers, but you're not buying a Pro to play Solitaire. So right off the bat your maxed-out 3,1 under-performs relative to a base-model (8 Core) 4,1.

    And the DDR2-800 RAM for the 3,1 is slower than the DDR3-1066 (or 1333) of the 4,1/5,1, all while being more expensive.

    Finally - and I know you're swapping the GPU, anyway - the Nvidia GT 120 is a better card than the ATI 2600 XT.
  6. rondocap thread starter macrumors regular

    Jun 18, 2011
    What's a fair price for a 3.2 8 core 2008 with only 2 gigs of ram, a 750gb hd, and the stock video card it came with?
  7. handheldgames macrumors 65816


    Apr 4, 2009
    Don't even consider a 2008. RAM prices are crazy for that platform...
  8. thekev macrumors 604


    Aug 5, 2010
    About the same as a 2009. You just have to shop for it. Consider that Apple will still phase out support for older models. Nothing is going to change this. 2008 is still good for Mountain Lion. After that nothing is guaranteed. They'll find a new excuse to drop support. The 2009 is using the same board that is used in the ones sold today, so I think it'll be supported a bit longer. Note how the Mac Pro 1,1 and 2,1 used the same board, and they are both dropped from ML. It shouldn't be much of a price difference if you find a reasonably good deal. If you plan to upgrade ram, take a look at prices for 2008 ram before you even consider one. Today there are many more X64 application builds, so it can be a major factor once again, as you don't buy a mac pro to check facebook.
  9. strwrsfrk macrumors regular

    Mar 1, 2011
    Arlington, VA, USA
    Close. $900-$1100 is what l would consider a "fair" price for an 8-core 3,1. That might be a fair price for a 4-core 4,1, but an 8-core is twice that.
  10. rondocap thread starter macrumors regular

    Jun 18, 2011
    But isn't an 8 core 2008 going to be much better than a 4 core 2009 even if the price is similar? The ram is more, but probably only like $150 more for around 12-16 gigs of ram vs the 2009.
  11. rondocap thread starter macrumors regular

    Jun 18, 2011
    Also, the 1.1 was 32 bit kernel that got it off ml - anything like that possible for the 3.1 pros? Any chink in the armor? Or are they relatively similar to the 4.1?
  12. thekev macrumors 604


    Aug 5, 2010
    OWC is a popular point of reference. I'll use them.

    2009 16GB using 4GB dimms $140.
    2008 adding 12 GB via 2GB dimms $360. I factored in using whatever was there in the cheapest possible configuration. If you were going 32 GB, the difference in price between the two jumps to around $700.

    This is Apple. I don't think buying a model that went out of production 3 years ago will guarantee you much in longevity. After Effects came out better in this test.

    I just don't trust Apple very much. I use their products, but I don't trust them to maintain support if it's even a minor inconvenience. The mac pro 1,1 is a prime example. It should have gotten 64 bit efi. It didn't. If you find a good deal on the 2008 and you can take advantage of the cores, it can be a good buy. If you're considering doing your own cpu upgrades, I'd say go for the 2009. $600 and a firmware upgrade would give you the 6 core mac pro. I'd link geekbench but it factors in memory speed pretty heavily. I do dislike how much the price of the mac pro has inflated relative to its internals.

    That sounds like a good price. It really does annoy me seeing how much Apple charges for a new one. The main motivation there would be to avoid Lion. All I can say is that I hope Mountain Lion shapes up quickly.
  13. thefredelement macrumors 65816


    Apr 10, 2012
    New York
    I was in the same boat and a 2009 is on its way. At first I wanted a 2008 because the price was attractive, I just couldn't get over the PCIE/QPI/faster CPUs available for the 2009. Add on the fact it can be modded to a 2010, plus the RAM economy and I was sold.

    I felt that if I purchased a 2008 I'd have to buy another one sooner, I'm hoping to keep the 4,1 going for a good while, and when the time comes I'll drop in faster CPUs and hope that keeps it relevant for awhile longer.
  14. strwrsfrk macrumors regular

    Mar 1, 2011
    Arlington, VA, USA
    Yeah, the prices I've listed are basically the Craigslist prices in my area (bought/sold over 2 dozen 1,1, 2,1, 3,1, and 4,1 Pros this year) with a ~10% margin of error to account for regional differences and availability. Below are the two most common models I sell and the prices that get them sold quickly (within a week):

    MP 2,1; 2x 2.66GHz Quads (8-cores); ATI Radeon HD 5770; 8GB RAM: $1150
    MP 3,1: 2x 2.8GHz Quads (8 -cores); ATI Radeon HD 5770; 8GB RAM: $1350


    Exactly. If you ever need to go above and beyond 8GB RAM or so, the prices will shoot up on a 3,1, particularly if you are reusing the original 800MHz RAM and are buying more of the same. Then again, I find that using 667MHz RAM has no negative impact on machine stability, and only a marginal impact on performance. That is much cheaper. I typically buy from Amazon for about $60/4GB.


    Based on Apple's support cycle, I would imaging the 3,1 will no longer be supported by 'Q1 2014. The 4,1 and 5,1, however, have until at least 'Q1 2016.

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