I'm done waiting for new Mac Pro. What are my Mac options?

Discussion in 'Mac Pro' started by dpavid, Nov 22, 2012.

  1. dpavid macrumors regular

    Feb 17, 2004
    Mililani, Hawaii
    I have a 2008 Mac Pro (2X2.8 quad-core, 6GB RAM, ATI Radeon 2600 256 MB, 3TB internal RAID) and its time for an upgrade. Machine is heavily used for FCS 7 video production. We film in 1080/60i AVC-Intra 100 and multi-cam edit in FCP. After import of footage, we export to Offline HD JPEG using media manager straight into a Dropbox folder. Media and FCP project gets propagated and our editor who now works from home on his iMac editing proxy video. We use 4 cameras most of the time minimum, sometimes up to 8. Graphics are pre-built in AE on another machine and just layed in timeline. After the edit is complete, he saves the project file in the dropbox, we open in FCP, preview in proxy video on our machine, make corrections if needed, and then reconnect media to original high res files with graphics once complete. The final sequence is rendered out to XDCAM and Apple ProRes 422 HQ for broadcast. We then share the finished sequences to YouTube straight from FCP. This is the workhorse machine workflow. We literally pound this machine with renders, exports, and YouTube uploads simultaneously.

    I know I could get away with a loaded i7 iMac with Fusion HD or SSD, as much RAM as possible, and Thunderbolt Promise RAID Pegasus R6 with 12TB. Disk speed is fast enough to playback in real-time, actually faster than what I have so I would expect better results. On top of that, couldn't I buy a few Mac Mini's and use QMaster to spread rendering or workload amongst various machines? What is my bottleneck? Processor speed, max RAM space, graphics memory, etc.?

    I want to render, export, and compress fast. I also want more real-time effects and faster playback with multiple streams of video.

    Thanks in advance for your advice.
  2. gpzjock, Nov 22, 2012
    Last edited: Nov 22, 2012

    gpzjock macrumors 6502a

    May 4, 2009
    The Mac you have has lots of upgrade potential without having to pay for a whole new machine. Considering the current arrested development of the Mac Pro line (c.2010) the options for a new workstation are limited and expensive.
    I would hang on till next year and see what replaces the 2010 model.
    For now I would sling a big lump of RAM in your '08 octo and possibly drop in a new Nvidia GFX card along with Mountain Lion if you haven't got it already.
    Any application will like the physical memory boost and CUDA supporting apps will love a 2GB GTX670 over your ancient HD2600.
    RAM is expensive mind: http://www.memoryamerica.com/apple-mac-memory-desktop-mac-pro-mac-pro-8-core-2-8ghz--3-0ghz-or-3-2ghz-intel-xeon--ma970ll-a--a118.html but worth it.

    My '08 octo runs very sweet on 16 GB.

    A maxed out i7 iMac is only about 20% faster and a lot more money to buy new.

    In the mean time start saving your budget for a new Mac Pro when it arrives in 2013 (Q3 or 4 probably).
    A new iMac is limited to its current contents and will be superseded in the future far faster than you would probably like.
    If you have a spare drive bay a nice large SSD for the boot drive/scratch disk wouldn't hurt either.
  3. steveOooo macrumors 6502a

    Jun 30, 2008
    Fcp 7 has a 4gb ram limit (I think) so you won't see a massive boost to this.

    I have a 5,1 mp - I have the boot drive on a 128gb SSD located in the vacant SuperDrive slot and the home directory located on the 1tb internal drive - similar to 'fusion' drive set up - mp boots In 10-15seconds, apps load in 1-2 seconds - will improve speed.

    I think you can upgrade the graphics hard to gtx 670 etc... This should mp rove renders.

    Don't forget, the new iMacs have mobile graphics cards, plus any load will make them practically melt and Sound like a hair dryer as they struggle!
  4. gpzjock, Nov 22, 2012
    Last edited: Nov 22, 2012

    gpzjock macrumors 6502a

    May 4, 2009
    FCP 7 had a 2.5 GB limit originally, this doesn't mean that the rest of the system won't like extra headroom to do all the other stuff your workstation needs to do will running the balls off FCP. Upgrading to FCPX releases the RAM limitation completely, so another option if your work flow allows it. FCPX would love the GTX670 upgrade too.
  5. spoonie1972 macrumors 6502a

    Aug 17, 2012
    one of my friends built a 3.46 dual 6-core, based on a 2010 2.4 dual 4 core.

    it's, uhh. pretty fast. but not inexpensive.

    the 16gb x "x" chips also aren't cheap, and iirc, these machines handle 96gb under osx. He runs Snow Leopard (it's a workstation, Logic, pt HD10, lock to picture. logic maxes out at 16 cores - software limitation - and the rest are left over to help Pro Tools along and whatever else he's running).

    iirc, his 32 bit geekbench is 29,000 and change. I know some people built faster and get into weird/neat cooling gear, but his runs daily without any issues as a rock-solid production beast.

    best luck whatever you do.
  6. d-m-a-x macrumors 6502

    Aug 13, 2011
    ram does not make too much difference but is good. ssd makes a difference, followd by cpu, graphics, then ram
  7. deconstruct60 macrumors 604

    Mar 10, 2009
    If going to stick with FCP 7 on the remote Mac for the immediate future then a refurb of the 2012 would be an option.


    Probably a bit more ( ~ $3.3K ) than the price paid for the 2008 model above ( ~ $2.7-2.9K ) but the performance and functionality is substantially better.

    Move the OS/Apps to a SSD drive and can keep the local workspace on a RAID set up. ( resuse drives if not at end of they lifetimes.)

    The primary match here is the design to engage multiple programs concurrently. Rendering , upload , etc. can be allocated to the OS to different cores. With 12 there are plenty to share.

    If restricting to old software the "old" hardware shouldn't be a huge issue.

    If dropbox works reasonably well for this workload then perhaps. It depends upon where you keep the primary sources and how much concurrent bandwidth their is to that central store.

    That is best answered by you leveraging some profiling tools on your workstation. Minimally can use Activity Monitor but there are other ways to build a profile of what are the primary stressors of your workload.
  8. dpavid thread starter macrumors regular

    Feb 17, 2004
    Mililani, Hawaii
    Thanks for all the replies! Keeping on topic of this thread, I've considered another MacPro for a while now but the common thread is this. No thunderbolt and USB 3. Every new Mac model has thunderbolt, usb 3, and all have HDMI with the exception of iMac. Blackmagic Design, AJA, Motu, Promise RAID, and many other peripheral devices are now all migrating to thunderbolt. It's no secret this is going to be the most supported interface as it serves a multi-purpose from storage to displays.

    If I purchased a new loaded MacPro (12-core, 32+ GB RAM, loaded internal bays with drives, dual monitors, etc.), I would just topple the $8k threshold. For that price, I could get a loaded iMac, Promise RAID, Blackmagic Design breakout box, additional monitor, and a few mac mini's in a Qmaster setup.

    At NAB this past year, hardly anyone had any MacPro's in their booths. iMac's or MacBook Pro's with Promise RAID's on thunderbolt seemed like the common setup. Disk speed is fast enough to playback multiple streams of uncompressed HD video, even more than my internal RAID on my Mac Pro. Not sure on the rendering and exporting though. I'm sure a MacPro would still be king and trump it here but with Qmaster and a few mac mini's, I don't think it would be too far behind. In the short run, it's easy to dump iMacs and mac minis on eBay or craigslist and get a good percentage of your initial purchase price back making the pill to swallow not so bad.

    Opinion's on a new MacPro or iMac with a few Mac Mini's on Qmaster Cluster and Thunderbolt RAID?
  9. propower macrumors 6502a

    Jul 23, 2010
    I love the specs on the 2012 Minis. Geekbench scores put it around 11,500! Sata III internal, USB3, TB etc... add either JBOD, TB raid etc and you have a very powerful modular system -- albeit with fairly weak graphics capability.

    But under load they heat up and basically run at 95degC. If they don't fail because of this and the fan noise is not a deal breaker they are a very cheap workhorse. What does your pro/com list look like when it comes to the mini?
  10. blanka macrumors 68000

    Jul 30, 2012
    It still beats the crap out of his current Radeon 2600.
  11. rGiskard, Nov 23, 2012
    Last edited: Nov 23, 2012

    rGiskard macrumors 68000


    Aug 9, 2012
    Plenty of performance to be gained from upgrading

    I agree with those suggesting to upgrade what you have and wait on a new Mac Pro. A Radeon HD 6870 will give you the best bang for the buck, and FCP performance will benefit. Up the RAM for sure, 6GB isn't enough for multitasking workloads.

    For disk performance, you could drop in a PCIe SAS RAID card which could likely be moved to a new Mac Pro if needed. That will surpass Thunderbolt bandwidth and be more versatile, with plenty of options for external SAS RAID. At least get an SSD boot drive, and maybe a second for working data or a boot RAID volume. Remember you have the two extra SATA ports on the logic board, so you can route a couple cables up to the lower optical bay for a couple SSDs.

    There is just so much left on the table with your current system, it seems worthwhile to hang on to it and wait for the new Mac Pros. The alternatives, Minis or iMacs, simply are not made for the workloads you described. I believe you'll notice the lack of physical cores on consumer grade systems as well - 4 physical + 4 virtual cores do not perform at the level of 8 Xeon cores, even your older designs. This is just my experience, but geekbench scores don't always reflect user experience when it comes to different classes of processors. I've used iMacs and Mac Pros with similar geekbench scores (iMac was actually a bit higher), and the 8 core Mac Pro was a more responsive system when hammered with multiple loads.
  12. dpavid thread starter macrumors regular

    Feb 17, 2004
    Mililani, Hawaii
    Advice taken. Upgrade the Mac Pro with RAM, SSD, and Video Card as a temporary band aid until new Mac Pro's arrive.

    So I did some research for 16 GB RAM $270, Radeon Video Card $150, and Crucial 512 GB SSD $400. It's about tad over $800 to cushion old technology while we wait for an upgrade.

    My other thought is I could probably sell my machine for $900-1000 and get a base Mac Pro 12 core for $3400. Difference would be about $2500 and then I could sit on this machine until the new mac pro's comes out. After, I'll just keep it as secondary machine strictly for DVD authoring and YouTube uploads while I work on the new Mac Pro. Even just use it for Media Manager to export AVC-Intra 100 to Offline JPEG HD. That doesn't sound like a bad idea. I think I might pull the trigger on this idea. It's cheaper than buying a loaded iMac with Promise RAID.

    Did I over think this?
  13. d-m-a-x macrumors 6502

    Aug 13, 2011
    my system folder fits on a 128gb ssd, keep the media on 7200rps's, unless i am doing capture. The 128gb crucial is only 120 bucks, i am waiting till the ssd's come down in price to get more of them. The computer did speed up. I did 8 gigs of extra ram, most applications don't use that much ram - upgrading the processor helped a lot. found a cheap use cpu on ebay, works great. think my total upgrade was around $300
  14. steveOooo macrumors 6502a

    Jun 30, 2008
    same, you can put all your apps (stuff that mostly needs to be 'read') on a ssd thats geared for 'reading' not for lots of 'writing' which is cheaper than a SSD geared towards read / write. - probably around $100

    In system prefs, accounts, just repoint the home directory location to your internal spinning disc - i have around 23gb spare in my 128gb SSD - that includes FCS, adobe master collection cs5.
  15. thekev macrumors 604


    Aug 5, 2010
    I don't remember FCP7 using the gpu for leverage. If you're talking about anything OpenCL based, which didn't show up until FCPX, his old card and the HD 4000 are both bad choices.

    It's important to note FCP 7 as opposed to X. It's still a 32 bit application, so it's either using a scratch disk system or paging a lot of data with larger projects. In this case a somewhat larger ssd makes a lot of sense.
  16. DPUser macrumors 6502a

    Jan 17, 2012
    I just ordered two 240 GB Intel 330 SSDs from Newegg... $140 each. They had 180 GB 330's for $90 but sold out quick.
  17. deconstruct60 macrumors 604

    Mar 10, 2009
    Likely cheaper than the fully loaded with Apple options $8K Mac Pro you quoted earlier to. $8K - 2.5K is 5.5K which if use 3rd party RAM and disk could be quite capable primary machine. This way you also have a "fallback" machine in case either one of them fail in the context of deadline. You can still use the 'older' Mac Pro as a qmaster target computation node.

    RAM for a 2008 Mac Pro isn't effective "bang-for-the-buck". Because it is relatively obsolete you end up paying a price premium for older tech. The 2008 Mac Pro can qualify for Apple's Vintage classification in 2014. Given the huge gulf the 2009-2010-2012 machines need to cover that transition is probably happen sooner ( at beginning of window) rather than later (closer to 6 years after superseded.). If using residual value to help pay for a secondary machine it makes more sense to transition sooner rather than later. Likewise if may need a Snow Leopard machine for legacy software a 2012 box is better fit. Once 2013 Mac Pro comes it is only going to be Mountain Lion and up.
  18. Chrisg2014 macrumors regular

    Aug 23, 2010
    You are about to be sooo pissed off during the first quarter of next year... Just saying :)
  19. ggoerl macrumors regular

    Dec 18, 2007
    wait till next year as there will be a refresh to the macpros.

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