In the need of some purchasing advice!

Discussion in 'Mac Pro' started by Jeshua, Jan 30, 2012.

  1. Jeshua macrumors newbie

    Jan 30, 2012
    Hi, I'm about to be a graduating college student going out into the field of professional audio and sound design (video games, film, commercials, etc.). I'm currently the owner of a mid-2007 Imac and a 2008 15inch MBP. I'm starting to get projects from outside school and my computers are really being crushed by the size of them, rendering takes forever, and I have way too many external (and slow) HD's laying around. I have been drooling over a Mac Pro for years and I'm starting to think that my skills are finally able to exploit the horse power of at least a hexacore system. The question is, would it be a foolish purchase for a college grad in debt to buy a new computer with this kind of strength? I am looking to work in-house at a company post graduation, but I will always be looking for freelance work and I use the computers for my own composition as well. Any advice is welcome.

    Also, I'd have to get a monitor. Do any of you guys think the apple monitor is worth its weight in gold? My Imac monitor is nice, but as an audio guy resolution isn't such a big deal, but more screen real estate is nice for fitting large sessions on the screen.

  2. FrankHahn macrumors 6502a

    May 17, 2011
    1. If a Mac Pro is more productive to you and you are able to pay it off in installments without much hardship, you do not need to hesitate to get one. Also, using a Mac Pro to do your work makes your work more enjoyable.

    2. The Apple Thunderbolt Display is certainly worth the gold you will spend to get it.
  3. CaptainChunk macrumors 68020


    Apr 16, 2008
    Phoenix, AZ
    First off, the Thunderbolt display does not work with current Mac Pros because they lack TB connectivity. You'd have to wait for new Mac Pros (which will presumably get TB, but nobody really knows) to use one.

    Second, unless you're really in love with the ACD, it's a lot of money to spend considering you're an audio guy. You can get two Dell U2412Ms (24") for less than the price of one 27" TB ACD - and you get more total screen real estate, a better warranty and similar quality IPS panels. The boxes aren't as pretty, but who cares?

    Do what you want, but that's something to consider.
  4. gpzjock, Jan 31, 2012
    Last edited: Jan 31, 2012

    gpzjock macrumors 6502a

    May 4, 2009
    Do you really need a Mac Pro?

    The main reasons for wanting a Mac Pro are huge expansion options and monstrous GFX crunching power compared to an iMac if you put a decent video card in it. How much of this do you need?
    A 2011 i7 iMac with a Thunderbolt port would allow rapid external storage and clocks a Geekbench of around 11000. Comparing this to even the fastest mid 2007 iMac at 3700ish or a MBP 2008 at best 3900, it is nearly 3 times quicker at crunching than what you are used to.
    A 21" iMac i7 in the UK is only £1400 (not including student discount) and a 27" one £1800 (again not including educational discount).
    The cheapest hex core Mac Pro is £3000 (14000 Geekbench average) and due a refresh as it is running a 2010 CPU. Plus you need to buy a monitor too and it won't be an Apple Thunderbolt one....
    Think carefully and keep your budget down, or wait till they refresh and splurge on a spanking new spec Mac Pro. :D

    If it was me I'd probably invest £2400 in this:
    27" iMac
    3.4GHz Quad-Core Intel Core i7
    4GB 1333MHz DDR3 SDRAM - 2x2GB
    1TB Serial ATA Drive + 256GB Solid State Drive
    AMD Radeon HD 6970M 2GB GDDR5
    then go buy 16 GB of RAM somewhere else and fit it myself rather than pay Apple £480 to put it in....:eek:

    Interestingly enough Apple claim you can only configure up to 16 GB on their website but Crucial say that the iMac can take 32 GB of RAM and as it has 4 slots I believe them. So 4 + 16 = 20GB for £155 extra.
    Or 2 sets of 8 GB for £36 each, filling all slots and giving 16 GB for £72.
    You could spend the other £400 Apple would have sucked out of your wallet on beer like a proper student would. :rolleyes:
  5. rp911 macrumors newbie

    Oct 26, 2007
    Is the 27" LED Cinema display the same display as the Thunderbolt with a different connector, or is there a difference otherwise?
  6. AdrianK macrumors 68020

    Feb 19, 2011
    Read the blurb. The Thunderbolt display contains a hub with gigabit ethernet, FireWire 800 and USB 2.0 (more bandwidth if you have more devices). It also has a FaceTime HD camera (as opposed to the cinema display's VGA iSight).
  7. CaptainChunk macrumors 68020


    Apr 16, 2008
    Phoenix, AZ
    You're also assuming that graphics and video guys are the only ones who can benefit from the Mac Pro's expansion. Most sound engineers working in the entertainment field use Pro Tools workstations and many of those setups require expansion cards to interface with Digidesign hardware. Geekbench scores aren't everything in those situations.
  8. ActionableMango macrumors G3


    Sep 21, 2010
  9. CaptainChunk macrumors 68020


    Apr 16, 2008
    Phoenix, AZ
    The other visible distinction is the number of ports on the front of the unit. PMG5s had one USB and one FW. Mac Pros have 2 USB and 2 FW.
  10. gpzjock, Jan 31, 2012
    Last edited: Feb 1, 2012

    gpzjock macrumors 6502a

    May 4, 2009
    Merely pointing out an economic alternative.

    The OP uses an iMac and MBP already, if he is using the same software for audio he obviously doesn't need expansion slots that he hasn't already got. That would be illogical Captain (as a tall geek with a pudding bowl haircut and pointy ears once said). I grant he might like the option but he doesn't mention this as a reason to choose a Mac Pro, he can enlighten us if this is the case. It does sound like an attractive choice. :D

    The OP complains about slow rendering so CPU workload capability is very relevant. I was only pointing out the speed of an i7 3.4GHz running 8 cores (4 virtually) in direct comparison to the OP's dual core Macs and the Mac Pro's 12 cores (6 also virtual) for much more money.

    The iMac also saves £900 on a 27" Apple LED display of either flavour, having one built in, with the same resolution, a Thunderbolt connector and Facetime camera. I didn't notice the upgrade on the camera, well spotted Captain, I stand corrected. :)

    The only really significant difference between the 2 displays to an audio man are the ports as I stated.

    To spec similar equipment in a Mac Pro plus the hex core:
    One 3.33GHz 6-Core Intel Xeon “Westmere”
    3 GB (3 x 1 GB)
    1TB 7200-rpm Serial ATA 3Gb/s hard drive
    ATI Radeon HD 5870 1GB
    One 18x SuperDrive
    Apple LED Cinema Display (27" flat panel)
    Magic Mouse
    This would total £4095.00 in the UK (not factoring in educational discount ofc) even with outsourcing the 16 GB of RAM plus the 256 GB SSD and fitting both yourself, including the fact that it has no Thunderbolt or lightfootery.
    Converting this into UK student currency, that is 1695 more beer tokens than the iMac, 70% extra in fact!

    Just my 2c. as usual. :)
  11. wonderspark macrumors 68040


    Feb 4, 2010
    My choice would be to buy a refurbished or used 2009 Mac Pro. They're $2039 from Apple, or I found a guy selling one for $1600 in my town, for example. For free, you can download the app that converts a 2009 to a 2010 from this thread.
    Then you can buy the 3.33GHz Hex-core chip for $585, and 24GB of RAM for $330 here.

    Any monitor (except the Thunderbolt one) will work, so shop around for a nice one and skip the price of an Apple monitor. There are plenty of good options for a lot less. About as low as $2500 for a 6-core with 24GB RAM, and whatever you pay for a monitor. Way more power and expansion for close to the same price as the iMac after adding RAM to it.

    DIY and master your destiny.
  12. gpzjock macrumors 6502a

    May 4, 2009
    Now that's more like it!

    Right price, right thinking. Hex core with trimmings for £1500, bargain! Top man! :D
  13. Sirolway macrumors 6502

    Jun 13, 2009
    I'd generally say that if you can't *easily* afford a Pro & replacing it fairly regularly, you're probably better off going with something else & upgrading every few years to take advantage of chip speed increases.

    Also, the Pro is due an update & you wouldn't want to buy one, only to find it's last year's model almost straight away, would you?

    Finally, when it comes to graphics rendering, *nothing* is going to be fast enough - it's just relative slowness on those big grinding tasks, so paying the premium for it to be a little less slow ....

    Comparing geekbench scores & going for a recent iMac / MBP with a high score makes sense to me ...
  14. Jeshua thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jan 30, 2012
    All of the replies have been great guys. To answer some of the questions I am not planning on moving to a system that needs DSP chips in the PCI slots. For me it's all about sheer power and flexibility. For one, eliminating and freeing up some precious desk space with four hard drives inside my computer is nice. I also do some programming, and in my free time I work on coding my own audio tools. While I don't use a whole lot of video, I have been studying a program called Jitter by Cycling 74 that lets me program a lot of 3d environments, 2d video mixing, video effects, etc. But by no means am I a video editor.

    Back when I used PC's I would just upgrade a component when I needed to, instead of buying a new computer and monitor ever two to three years and it seems the Pro is my only option for that route. Do you guys think the MP offers more longevity in your investment? I know you spend more upfront but do you get more out of it in speed, efficiency, total time of ownership, and upgrades? Personally, now that I'm not using my computers just for entertainment and learning at school, but to generate revenue it makes me nervous to use an Imac. Because if any little part goes bad I could be out of work for days or weeks even.
  15. CaptainChunk macrumors 68020


    Apr 16, 2008
    Phoenix, AZ
    If you decide to go with the Mac Pro, I'd probably look at the hex core model. A hex core would offer the best split between clock speed and core count without getting outlandishly expensive. With that said, very few users can harness the power of a 12-core machine. You really need to be running software that can use all those cores consistently.

    Versus an iMac, you get the following advantages:

    • Workstation-class components
    • More CPU options
    • Internal hard drive expansion
    • Higher RAM ceiling
    • Upgradable GPU
    • PCIe expansion

    If your workflow can benefit from at least a couple of the advantages listed above and you don't mind the additional expense, I think the choice is clear.

    In terms of overall longevity, yes, a Mac Pro will generally outlast an iMac. My 2008 8-core Mac Pro is pushing 4 years old and it's still a beast - and ZERO problems since the day it was new. In contrast, I've owned iMacs of similar vintage that have needed repairs at least a couple times (dead PSUs, fried GPUs, etc.). While I won't accuse iMac reliability of being poor, iMacs are more prone to failure by nature (lots of integrated parts). But YMMV...

    And BTW, regarding repairs, Apple is known for being very fast and efficient. If you're under warranty, they overnight replacement parts and repair your machine within a few days if you bring it into an Apple Store.
  16. gpzjock, Feb 3, 2012
    Last edited: Feb 3, 2012

    gpzjock macrumors 6502a

    May 4, 2009
    It really is a matter of expense versus necessity.

    I agree with the Captain in theory on this one. I also have a MP 08 Octo and if the current range of MPs were the same price point relative to iMacs as our ones were in 2008 I would have said Mac Pro, no contest.
    The current pricing is stupidly overloaded for a workstation using non Sandybridge CPUs, older connectivity (FW800 and USB 2.0) and needs a monitor to be added to the budget.

    On the subject of repairs Apple return iMacs and MBPs just as fast from the workshop as they do Mac Pros. I took a MBP to an Apple store for an Apple Care repair, they told me to go home and wait for a call. By the time I got home there was an answerphone message saying "Come back.". They had replaced the logic board already...

    If you have your heart set on a Mac Pro, wait till they update, then the value for money should be back to the right scaling.

    If you can't wait the iMac i7 gives a good bang per buck and super fast external connections, SSD and huge 2TB HDD inside, 1 big drive box outside. Want one of these? So that is 4 TB of storage, a superfast system drive and only 1 extra box, daisy chain more as you wish and the speed stays fast.

    Or £4000 for old hat? Stroll on guv. :eek:
  17. deconstruct60 macrumors 604

    Mar 10, 2009
    Unless you have the cash burning a hole in your pocket for a Mac Pro, it is the money that matters first and the other stuff is secondary. You have a debt load and no solid job right now. That doesn't sound like you have $3,000 in purely discretionary funds.

    Second, from the initial description it sounds like this is not your primary work computer. If the intention is to get a job "in-house" somewhere the computer located there would be your primary work computer. This would be a computer where you might be doing secondary work on. I wouldn't create a plan where your new employer leaves you with copious spare time to do something other than what they pay you to do.

    If striking out as an independent contractor where at least the majority of your work is done on the new Mac Pro then that would be a different story. Again though your other costs ( bills , necessitiies ) versus what your cash flow would be primary factor.

    Third, long rendering time aren't necessarily a problem if have something else to do. A 4-6 hour render will be done if start before going to work. If you had to do multiple things at the same time on one box then the Mac Pro has more leverage ( render and music and ....). However, if can leverage multiple boxes for multiple workloads then have a reduced need for one more expensive box.

    Not the only option. You can decouple the Monitor with a Mini also. Nor it is absolutely necessary to upgrade every 2-3 years since the machines you have now are over that time range. Nor have you factored in offsetting trade-ins savings/costs.

    This is where some folks get into trouble. It is not a linear increase. A Mac Pro that costs twice as much will not get twice as much support/longevity. Ask G5 users if they got a "get out of jail free card". Apple gives around 7 years before the machine is likely to drop on to the "legacy" list. You may squeak out a few more years with a Mac Pro but that isn't a good foundation for a debt repayment plan.

    Upgrades are an additional cost. So if the machine "pay off" period is 5-6 years it is 5-6 years till can buy upgrades without backsliding on associated debt.

    As others have pointed out that is a bit long, unless you don't have a good Apple repair shop nearby.

    The original post mentions a MBP that is coming due for an upgrade also. If you sink all of your Mac budget into a Mac Pro you will be creating the single point of failure. With two Macs, you have a fall back machine to go to.

    If shifting all the mobile workload to some other device (iPad , iphone) then perhaps.
  18. wallysb01 macrumors 65816

    Jun 30, 2011
    Have you thought about maybe just the 2009 base quad core model? Your macbook pro and iMac from 08/07 respectively geekbench in the high 3000s. The 2009 2.66 quad core Mac Pro geekbenches in low 8000s. That will be a pretty huge step forward for you and you might save close to $1000 over the current base model and more like $2000 from the 3.33 hex if you bought them new. Plus, the 09 could be upgraded to a Westmere hex core later if you have a spare $600 sitting around at some point and feel up to doing the upgrade yourself.

    Also depending which exact model, that 2008 MBP will fetch a pretty decent price, maybe close to $1000. The iMac could hardly be worth giving up if its the base model, but if its the 24" with the 2.8 GHz processor, it might get $700. So, depending if you want to give up the portability, after trading in the MBP a 2009 Mac Pro might only cost your a little more than $1000 out of pocket.

    Something to think about. I'm also a broke graduate student, so I have some experience trying to penny pinch, selling the right things to then get something better at the cheapest possible cost.

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