Intel AVX makes a rMBP better for FCPX than a Mac Pro?

Discussion in 'Mac Pro' started by Mr. Happy, Aug 16, 2012.

  1. Mr. Happy, Aug 16, 2012
    Last edited: Aug 16, 2012

    Mr. Happy macrumors newbie

    Jun 21, 2011
    I'm a professional video editor who, like many others, waited for the illusive Mac Pro update, yadda yadda yadda.

    And like many others, I've been drowning in indecision about how to upgrade. I'm currently on a Mac Pro 1,1. I shoot and edit HD footage, color grade, light FX.

    I have read countless threads here and elsewhere on how a rMBP compares to a Mac Pro for professional uses. Professional here defined as small business, not Hollywood studio.

    I'm not looking to rehash the tired debate about how a laptop isn't a desktop replacement because of expandability, upgrades, etc. I'm currently producing professional HD content for clients on a 5 year old machine, so I know a rMBP can easily swing it by simply adding a thunderbolt RAID for the media. And I know the video card isn't a show stopper, not a big deal.

    What I hadn't heard anything about until yesterday was Intel's AVX Instruction Set (on Sandy/Ivy Bridge processors) and how it provides for better performance for FCPX on Sandy/Ivy machines, vs the older Xeon's in the Mac Pros

    Intel's overview:
    Noted under Grand Central Dispatch on FCPX page:

    Can anyone share their knowledge and/or experience with this AVX business?

    PS: I posted here instead of MBP forum because I thought there might be more video pros lurking about.
  2. initialsBB, Aug 16, 2012
    Last edited: Aug 16, 2012

    initialsBB macrumors 6502a

    Oct 18, 2010
    I'm no expert but looking at information on AVX & GCD it sounds like Apple is leveraging Intel's finely tailored SSE extension - CISC answer to AltiVec? - and coupling that to Grand Central Dispatch? I can kind of conceptually understand how that would be a big benefit to the responsiveness of FCPX with AVX ready processors: efficient queuing of tasks on the software side with a 256 bit video specific instruction set. I'm also fairly confident Apple has been pushing Intel in this direction for a while now, and I hope the next Mac Pro (or whatever it is) will really benefit from this R&D.
  3. ekwipt macrumors 6502a

    Jan 14, 2008
    Yep from what I've read this is the case, so your better off with the rMBP at this stage next would be the latest iMac and then a Macpro
  4. Asgorath macrumors 68000

    Mar 30, 2012
    Assuming that the rMBP has 4 cores with Hyper-Threading for a total of 8 logical cores, I have my doubts that AVX can overcome the fact that the top-end Mac Pro comes with 12 cores + HT = 24 logical cores. Yes, the Core i7 is faster at single-threaded workloads, but 24 cores of processing power should mean that any CPU work done in FCPX will be significantly faster on the Mac Pro. Combine that with a full 225W for a GPU and all in all, the Mac Pro is still probably going to be a better choice (despite the fact it's basically 4-5 year old technology at this point).

    Edit: It's a similar situation for software developers like myself. I don't really care that the latest Core i7s are way faster than my old Nehalem CPU, the fact I have 2-3x as many cores in the Mac Pro is what makes the biggest difference when compiling a large software project.
  5. Mr. Happy, Aug 16, 2012
    Last edited: Aug 16, 2012

    Mr. Happy thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jun 21, 2011

    Extra cores aren't a blanket advantage across the board. Rendering definitely, and of course there are other plenty of other tasks which benefit from all those cores.

    But the real-time performance and general snappiness of FCPX is what I'm concerned with here. According to what I'm finding, the sandy/ivy bridge CPUs with AVX outperform the Mac Pro's older Xeon's, flat out (in this capacity). Number of cores doesn't really matter. Same with GPU power. Once you reach a certain level, everything can do the job and the small improvements you gain aren't always worth the dinero you have to lay down.

    And with video editing software (rendering aside), you aren't "using" 12 cores.

    And while there is plenty of rendering in HD workflows, shaving off 30 minutes here or there on a render isn't that big of a deal for me personally. Usually I'm rendering at a stopping point anyways, or if not I can let it go in the background and move onto other tasks.
  6. GoreVidal macrumors 6502a


    Jun 19, 2011
    For any serious/professional editor, rendering makes the most difference. I cut a documentary in anamorphic widescreen DV on a Power Mac G4 as fast as I could have on an 8-core Mac Pro. But the rendering was what made the difference.

    "Shaving off 30 minutes here or there" may not be a big deal for you, but those of us who multitask and bill by the project sure as hell appreciate being able to finish projects faster to move on to the next ones to make more money and be more efficient.
  7. Asgorath macrumors 68000

    Mar 30, 2012
    Yes, an Ivy Bridge CPU is core-for-core faster than a Nehalem or Westmere CPU. Your "general snappiness" will have nothing to do with the AVX instruction set, that's probably got more to do with the fact that the rMBP has an SSD.
  8. Mr. Happy thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jun 21, 2011
    Thanks for adding nothing to the conversation except the implication that I'm not a "serious/professional" editor. I'm very good at it and get paid quite well to do it for a living, so I guess you're wrong?

    Perhaps you should not overbook yourself to the point that an extra 30 minutes rendering somehow costs you money? Absurd. I usually work for 8 or 9 hours then there's a whole other 15ish hours for rendering. Seems to be working out for me thus far!

    But I digress...back to AVX Instruction sets and whether or not someone has actual knowledge about the extent of their affect on performance!


    According to the technical details on AVX Instruction Sets, found on intel's site and some other forums I've perused, the performance improvement of FCPX has quite a lot to do with it. If you've discovered otherwise I would appreciate a source link because this is the very thing I'm researching. Or is it just a guess?
  9. GoreVidal, Aug 16, 2012
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 22, 2012

    GoreVidal macrumors 6502a


    Jun 19, 2011
    I do it for a living as well and am constantly recommended to National Geographic, CNN, and Discovery Channel given my status as one of the fastest and most efficient in my market. Rendering is very important in our industry, and if you knew that and billed your work properly, you'd understand that the faster you can render, the more work you can perform, and therefore charge for.
  10. Zwhaler macrumors 604


    Jun 10, 2006
    FCP X is threaded very efficiently so that a higher core machine plays back smoother, analyses video quicker and does rendering much faster. The MBP benefits from an SSD, but where the Mac Pro makes up for it is in capacity. If you're like me, you need terabytes of space to manage all of your projects. I would go Mac Pro also for the GPU which despite its age can drive a large monitor well, which can't be said completely of the rMBP. Also I like having more than 16GB of RAM... but these upgrades are expensive and you may not need them. If you are doing serious professional work I can't see why an rMBP would be superior to a Mac Pro save for portability... but if you only need to cut an occasional project and work under less pressure than it might be the best option.
  11. Mr. Happy thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jun 21, 2011
    Thanks for the reply. Do you have any links to said discussions or articles? There doesn't seem to be a ton of information as it's a major "under the hood" enhancement.


    Nothing super definitive and conclusive here, but at least some discussion:
  12. Inconsequential macrumors 68000

    Sep 12, 2007
    Just look at any benchmarks:,3071-9.html

    Compare the i7 980X/990X against the i7-3930K or i7-3960X.

    The differences in some cases are marginal, or in others (just as AES encoding/decoding) much larger.

    But in video terms, raw processing power is not outstripped by AVX.

    If you want a boost in productivity, then get yourself a second hand 2009 Mac Pro 2.66/2.93 quad, update to 5,1 firmware and wack a W3680 in there.

    Then you will have six cores at 3.33GHz (3.6/3.46 with turboboost) and a very big boost from your 1,1!
  13. initialsBB macrumors 6502a

    Oct 18, 2010
    Personally as a feature documentary editor I wouldn't bother with the trouble actually. For FCPX, if I were updating my hardware today, I would most probably get a rMBP as a stop gap and sell it if/when Mac Pro update with AVX comes out next year. My job doesn't require heavy effects rendering and most/all of my transcoding and post production is done in post houses by assistants. The rMBP is a great machine for editing in FCPX thanks to ThunderBolt and AVX.
  14. Pressure, Aug 17, 2012
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 22, 2012

    Pressure macrumors 68040


    May 30, 2006
    People should really know how to charge for their services. It takes a while to learn and effectuate your workflow.

    Not sure why you need to smear the message with that kind of tone though.
  15. Inconsequential macrumors 68000

    Sep 12, 2007
    I'll need some proof to see what kind of benefits AVX has on video work, because from what I've seen, the differences are negligible over and above the IPC improvements.
  16. PaulD-UK macrumors member

    Oct 23, 2009
  17. derbothaus macrumors 601


    Jul 17, 2010
    If you are well paid get both. Basic edits and operations on Ivy and render on 24-thread Westmere. Only $10,000:p
    If you can deal with the fans/ noise and life crippling aspect of full time Macbook rendering use then as stated earlier, get a rMBP as a stop gap and sell it after Mac Pro's are introduced with AVX support. Just don't tell the buyer you performed 15 hour renders day in and day out with it.
  18. ekwipt macrumors 6502a

    Jan 14, 2008
    I read it on Creative Cow a few months ago:

    There's not that much info on there though, sorry

    "GPU utilization
    Final Cut Pro uses the high-speed GPU on the graphics card for effects previews and rendering. Because tapping the GPU core speeds up processing, you can work with richer, more complex effects that play in real time during the creative process."

    "Grand Central Dispatch
    For even more speed, Final Cut Pro also uses the AVX capabilities of Intel’s Sandy Bridge and Ivy Bridge processors."
  19. avemestr macrumors regular

    Aug 14, 2012
    First of all: I haven't done work for CNN, National Geographic or Discovery Channel. Therefore, I'm not a pro.

    But, I've used FCP X on a 2011 13" MBA. It's blazingly fast. It felt faster than my maxed out 2010 15" MBP, though that machine had faster CPU as well as twice the RAM. I don't have any benchmarks, except that the UI felt faster.

    Now. I think my MBP would probably be faster in rendering as well as other CPU intensive tasks. An MP would run circles around my MBA.

    But UI-wise, my MBA provides a strange "sense" of very fast performance. It's really remarkable.

    (And no, I'm not saying that all pros could live with a MBA (or MBP). All I'm saying is that the UI feels snappy, and AVX seems to be a good explanation due to my MBP being pre-AVX and MBA being post-AVX).
  20. Asgorath macrumors 68000

    Mar 30, 2012
    As does the fact the MBA has an SSD while your Mac Pro does not (I'm guessing).
  21. avemestr macrumors regular

    Aug 14, 2012
    Nope, the MBP has a OCZ Vertex 2 320GB and the MBA has whatever Apple seals in the box "APPLE SSD SM256C".

    But I agree otherwise. SSD is the largest shift I've seen in perceived responsiveness the last many years. It doesn't explain my experience with FCP X, though.

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