Help me decide between nMP, iMac, or other solution

Discussion in 'Mac Pro' started by MMcCraryNJ, May 25, 2014.

  1. MMcCraryNJ macrumors 6502

    Oct 18, 2012
    Hey everyone,

    I recently sold my 2010 27" iMac as it was getting a bit long in the tooth for my purposes. Because of a student discount when I bought it, I actually got a really decent return on my investment, and along with some additional funds from financial aid, I've been saving up for a new machine (I also have a 2012 15" cMBP to use in the interim).

    I'm basically stuck deciding on 3 options. When I was selling it, my original intention was to build out a new machine and use OS X exclusively (a Hackintosh, if you will). I spent weeks reading about exactly what to do, what hardware to use, and the issues that are still out there. I came away very intimidated, as even though it's gotten a lot better over the last few years, there are still quirks and restrictions on hardware that I just simply don't want to put up with (the video card I want to use has issues, Thunderbolt support is lacking, the new Z97 boards aren't fully supported and won't be for awhile, etc.). It's still an option for me, but the more I read about it, the more I feel I simply won't have time to get it up and running how I need it to be.

    The TL;DR situation: I'm an audio engineering student, about to graduate at the end of September, and ready to go into the field. The most important thing in a new machine for me right now is for major audio engineering purposes (Pro Tools, VIs, lighting fast storage, multi-cores, and low-latency audio production). I'm starting to work with larger and larger sessions, so the machine needs to be able to handle it. I would also potentially like to do some gaming on the Windows side through bootcamp/dual-booting. I don't need insane gaming performance at 4K with dual or triple SLI cards or anything like that, but running games at 1440p at 60 fps would be nice. All of this gaming stuff isn't more important than the audio work, though. The machine would need to run relatively quiet and cool as well.

    So the three options I'm contemplating each have their downfalls, and I'm having a hard time committing to either one:

    1. Just get another 27" iMac. The 2010 served me well for a time, but got incredibly bogged down as I started working with more professional sessions. I had to take the thing in three times (so glad I got AppleCare) for a hard drive replacement/recall, and two screen replacements due to the "LCD Contamination" issue (Apple put in another contaminated display the first time). I never liked the fact how closed down it was...had I been able to replace the stock drive with an SSD, I could have squeezed another year out of it (I know it was possible, but I didn't want to risk breaking things). The new iMacs are even more closed down, so when I priced one out to where I would be happy with it until it was time to retire it, it would run me $3400 with student discount. For that price, I'd rather just get the nMP. The mobile GPU thing kinda bothers me as well, plus there is no Thunderbolt 2 on the machines (which I want).

    2. The nMP. Initially, I was turned off by the lack of internal expansion and the apparent inability to do any upgrades. But then I learned the CPU, PCIe SSD, and RAM are all replaceable, which makes things better for me. It's quiet, which is amazing for my audio work. For just a hundred or two more than a fully loaded iMac, I can get a 6-core Xenon, have faster storage, and Thunderbolt 2. I'd need a monitor, but I can use an older one I have laying around for now. The biggest issue I have is, how well will this thing game on the Windows side? If I can expect 60 fps at 1440p with either the D500 (or even better to save money, the D300), I'd be sold. I know workstation graphics don't do games well as they aren't optimized for them, but I'm trying to gauge if anyone here has any comments on the gaming performance under Windows, or OS X for that matter. This is the option I'm leaning towards now.

    3. Hackintosh route. In terms of hardware flexibility and upgradability, it makes the most sense for me. I'd save a substantial amount of money building a machine around an unlocked Core i7 and high-end consumer gaming GPU. The issues as I stated above still remain, though: the 780TI (the card I had my eye on) doesn't run well under OS X. Thunderbolt support is dodgy at best and requires loading kexts, and often times it just doesn't work properly. And the machine I build would likely be noisy and run hot, not good for my home mixing studio, or when I need to do any tracking in the same room.

    My student discount for Apple products will end around the middle of September, so I'd need to buy any Apple product by the end of August to be safe. Plenty of time to think it over, but it would be great to have some other opinions on the matter. A fully decked out iMac is a very nice machine, and it might do gaming better with the consumer mobile GPU versus the FirePros, but a 6-core Xenon and ECC RAM would serve me better in the audio field for large, demanding sessions, plus you can't touch the machine once you get it, meaning I'd have to almost fully load it out when ordering. I'm leaning towards the nMP, but I have no idea what gaming performance is like (but again, willing to bend on that to have a better audio production machine). The Hackintosh route is great for expandability, but the time it would take me to figure everything out and get everything running properly is big, plus the solutions aren't perfect and the things I want aren't 100% fully supported.

    Sorry for the long-winded post, and thank you very much for reading and for any thoughts you may have. A specific thing that would really help me out are explanations as to the differences in gaming performance from the D300 vs D500 (not looking to move up to the D700). If I can get away with the D300, that might push me more towards the nMP. Thanks again!
  2. SnowLeopard2008 macrumors 604


    Jul 4, 2008
    Silicon Valley
    nMP. For work/profession, I'd never go with something like a Hackintosh. The whole reason I use Apple products in general is because they just work. I don't have to worry about stuff like loading kexts, software updates bricking my machine, etc. I don't want to either. I built my own gaming rig recently. I'm not using it for work, just for play/hobby/side project. So tinkering is preferred. I recommend the nMP over the iMac because the nMP has some many external expansion options. It's also easier to carry with you on the go (it's a cylinder... versus a 21"/27" screen plus awkward angled stand). As you move into more demanding computing workloads, that's where the nMP or any Mac Pro really shines. iMacs are still consumer-focused machines that stretch into light prosumer territory.

    If you're using this for work, I'd scratch option 3 off your list. If you're working on a project and suddenly something happens... I'd imagine it'd be easier and/or cheaper to go to an Apple Store to get help versus trying to diagnose the problem with your Hackintosh and fix it on your own. Apple has much more resources to help you out (plus a vested interest in doing so) than Internet forums. I love the idea of a Hackintosh and all it's tinkering and such, but would never go this option for mission critical work. I'll shell out the extra money if that gives me peace of mind, stability and award winning customer support.

    TLDR: nMP suits your needs best. Depending on which games/which settings/etc. D300/D500 will be enough on the gaming side. Look at for the nMP review. I'll add the link once I find it. It has gaming benchmarks.

    EDIT: found it.
  3. leon771 macrumors regular

    Sep 17, 2011
    If I read correctly you're a student and unemployed. I'd stick with the laptop until you get a job (unless you are saying you want to go into business for yourself).

    I would have thought that any audio engineering job you get would supply you with a machine.

    I can't see the point in a student buying a nMP and not have any clear path (to me at least) to make money from it.

    I say graduate -> get job -> get Mac.
  4. VirtualRain macrumors 603


    Aug 1, 2008
    Vancouver, BC
    Good advice.

    Even better advice.

    However, if you are poised to make money off your trade, or you're wealthy enough it doesn't matter, then absolutely get the Mac Pro. It is the best Mac available for what you want to do... No question about it.
  5. DiScO197 macrumors regular

    Jul 27, 2008
    I bought an iMac for my studio but sent it back within the week. It was a beautiful machine but I felt it was lacking a bit of power when running some intensive virtual instruments. Also, as nice as the screen was I just felt it was not the right option in terms of upgrading internals in the future due to the build of the iMac.

    Before that I had paid a friend who runs a music PC company to build me a machine which would be dedicated to running Cubase on Windows 7 and also be able to run OSX as a Hackintosh, best of both worlds I thought. Thankfully, the motherboard that had thunderbolt on it became discontinued as reading around this would have been the biggest waste of money ever for various technical reasons, so I got a refund and decided to wait it out for the Mac Pro. Quite possibly the best decision I have ever made.

    I bought the base 6-core model and have been using it with an old samsung 1080p monitor over HDMI and I couldn't be happier. I'm running two UAD apollos over thunderbolt with both Logic Pro X and Cubase 7.5.20, the performance is phenomenal. The Mac Pro runs virtually silent and I've yet to get the thing running hot, even with fairly intense sessions. I've seen no signs of overloading the cpu running some gutsy instruments so to me thats the job done.

    Those are my experiences, hope that helps!
  6. FrankHahn macrumors 6502a

    May 17, 2011
  7. Plerf macrumors newbie

    May 28, 2014
    If you've got the money, get the new MacPro.

    - As you already pointed out, it has a certain amount of future-proofing, being so upgradeable and thus superior to the iMac.

    - It avoids ever having to scour the dark corners of the internet to try and solve some vexing hackintosh problem that only you and some guy in Estonia are experiencing.

    - It's small.

    - You get to choose your monitor.
  8. tuxon86 macrumors 65816

    May 22, 2012
    Upgradable in what way? Beside the ram, all the other part, like the GPUs are proprietary.

    The nMP is only upgradable externally, just like the iMac. It does have more TB ports but that's about it.
  9. reco2011 macrumors 6502a

    May 25, 2014
    Can I suggest you might be getting a little ahead of yourself given you are still in school? Perhaps it's better to wait until you graduate and see where you're at before making this decision (I didn't read anything about your already having a job lined up)? Perhaps once you know where you'll be going it will help in your decision.

    IMO don't consider the Hackintosh at all. One buys a Mac because it all works great together. So iMac or nMP should be the only considerations. Buy a PS4, XBOX One, or separate gaming PC for games.
  10. Plerf macrumors newbie

    May 28, 2014
    The processor is not soldered in, thus replaceable.

    The graphics cards are replaceable. (although I'm not aware of any other compatible cards on the market. Yet.)

    The RAM is replaceable/upgradeable.

    The SSD is replaceable/upgradeable.
  11. tuxon86 macrumors 65816

    May 22, 2012
    The processor is replacable if the new one is compatible with the 2011 socket and the thermal spec.

    If no card exist yet, then it isn't upgradable yet. And if there are some later on, your choice will be limited by design.

    I said the ram was upgradable.

    The SSD is upgradable if you can find one using the same connector, so limited by design.
  12. Plerf macrumors newbie

    May 28, 2014

    Replacements will come out.
  13. tuxon86 macrumors 65816

    May 22, 2012
    Mac Cube owner thought the same thing...

    I wouldn't bet on it. If you haven't noticed, the going trend with Apple is closed, sealed and hard to upgrade machine.

    Beside, if there was really the will to make upgrading the nMP an easy proposition, there would have announced the next gen GPU board already or at least commented on them, either AMD or Apple.
  14. brdeveloper macrumors 68020


    Apr 21, 2010
    A Dell Precision seems better for the price to me. I don't care with the size. Precisions are more serviceable, upgradeable, I can buy extended warranty up to 5 years and so on. I would miss OSX, but it's not the end of the world. I'm OS-agnostic, and I think I can adapt my needs to Windows, Red Hat, Ubuntu or another Linux distro if it has good gpu drivers.
  15. Plerf macrumors newbie

    May 28, 2014
    Why would they? So people would wait until the next machine?

    Read about the history of Sinclair computers.

    The fact of the matter is, replacement SSD's will be no problem, new CPU's will inevitably be released, and new FirePro's will become available. None of those things are Apple proprietary.

    Apple has, since the beginning of PowerMac through Mac Pro, made these machines easy to open and fix. This stands in opposition to their trend of sealing their notebooks and iMacs.
  16. tuxon86 macrumors 65816

    May 22, 2012
    The next gen Intel CPU won't work on socket 2011...
    The GPU card format are Apple proprietary. No one use these type of card beside the nMP.

    The nMP has no relation whatsoever with the cMP.
  17. MMcCraryNJ thread starter macrumors 6502

    Oct 18, 2012
    Some great advice here, thank you all for chiming in.

    I'm now definitely leaning towards the nMP. The money situation right now is I've been adding funds to an account over the last couple of months, and by the time July/August rolls around, I'll have enough for it. I'm graduating in September, so if I'm buying another Apple machine, I don't want to lose out on the edu discount. Also, in my state we have one day out of the year of tax-free shopping on computers/printers/student needs. I believe it's in August, so I could save a nice chunk of change with that as well. (EDIT: Might only be computer purchases under $1000. Will have to see as they haven't announced the specific requirements for this year yet)

    I've pretty much ruled the iMac out at this point, it depends on what Apple has to show at WWDC. But reading in the forums that people are still having issues with the screens gunking up on late 2013 models has me concerned, so that's an issue.

    What I'll do is, when I'm ready to pull the trigger, see if the Hackintosh situation has improved (likely not in such a short time), and make my final decision then. But 95% sure I'll end up with the Dyson trashcan from outer space :D

    Thanks again everyone
  18. Plerf macrumors newbie

    May 28, 2014
    .....except all of it's major parts are removable and changeable.

    New cards will come. Eventually.

    The form factor changed - the philosophy didn't (except for moving internal expansion to external expansion).
  19. tuxon86 macrumors 65816

    May 22, 2012
    But not compatible with the next gen and in a proprietary form factor for the GPUs.

    Apple won't sell you a new motherboard for you to upgrade. It's more profitable and less troublesome for them to sell you a whole new nMP.

    Apple didn't sell you a replacement board for the cMP either when new gen of cpu came out. They won't do it now either.

    It's delusional to think that Apple will become "upgrade" friendly at this point in their business model.
  20. MMcCraryNJ thread starter macrumors 6502

    Oct 18, 2012
    Honestly speaking, all I really care about for the life of my potential machine are the RAM and SSD upgrades. The CPU being able to be replaced with the current line of Xenons is gravy. The GPUs I don't care about one way or another, they have enough power to personally last me awhile.
  21. tuxon86 macrumors 65816

    May 22, 2012
    That is reasonable. I may even buy one to replace my aging 2010 iMac for my studio. But I don't have any expectancy concerning it's upgradability, just like I didn't have any for my iMac. I knew what I was buying was a closed appliance/box and it does its job perfectly.
  22. DPUser macrumors 6502a

    Jan 17, 2012
    Think Different...

    I'm gonna' throw another option at you: Get a used cMP Mac Pro and upgrade it. I'm an audio guy, and my 2009 4,1 Quad is now a 5,1 Hex 3.33 machine with 4 internal SSDs and 3 internal HDs. It works great for VI's and native audio.

    Here are some thoughts for a single-CPU approach:

    You could also go with a dual-CPU cMP for even more performance. Either way, you end up with a very powerful, expandable, durable machine for way less than a nMP or top of the line iMac. OK, no Thunderbolt, but with on-board inexpensive PCIe expansion, who needs it? You certainly don't for audio.
  23. macuser453787 macrumors 6502a

    May 19, 2012
    Galatians 3:13-14
    Just looked at the Addonics link. Cool. Do you have this set up in your MP? How is the performance? Am imagining four of the Samsung mSATA SSDs in RAID 0... :)
  24. theSeb macrumors 604


    Aug 10, 2010
    Poole, England
    It does not matter. There are still plenty of CPU choices to upgrade yourself in the nMP, thus it is upgradeable. The situation is EXACTLY the same as the old MP when it comes to the CPU. There is no point in trying to find obtuse ways to argue against this.
  25. tuxon86 macrumors 65816

    May 22, 2012
    You're the one being obtuse and moving the goal post.

    You won't be able to upgrade to the next gen since you're stuck by the design choice that Apple made.

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