Is a 6 Core overkill for me?

Discussion in 'Mac Pro' started by percival504, Feb 5, 2012.

  1. percival504, Feb 5, 2012
    Last edited: Feb 5, 2012

    percival504 macrumors regular

    Feb 10, 2009
    I am not a scientist, A/V professional or otherwise a number cruncher. I am a man who craves speed and I like to know that I have the fastest machine currently available. I have been dreaming of a Mc Pro for the last 7 years.

    What I do with my computer:

    1. Use it as a server (15 users, light use - not currently central, but could become so);

    2. Occasionally (once or twice a week for several hours at a time) use it for Photoshop and other CS5 programs;

    3. Occasionally (once or twice a week for several hours at a time) rip CDs and DVDs with Handbrake;

    4. Virtual Machines (all day, every day);

    5. 10-15 Business productivity applications all day every day (including Adobe Acrobat, which seems to inordinately drain resources).

    My goal: to never see a spinning beach ball ever again. Right now, I have an X25-E, 8 GB ram and 2.66 Duo Core MBP. I see the spinning beach ball relatively often. My RAM usage is high (yesterday I had less than 500MB free for a significant period of time), but I might only see an 80-100% CPU spike once a day.

    I think I know the answer to my question, but is a 6 - Core just a stupid waste power here?
  2. wonderspark macrumors 68030


    Feb 4, 2010
    I think that if you've been dreaming of the tasty McPro (with a side of fries) for seven years, you'll always "hunger" for it, and wonder what-if until you get one. On the other hand, what will you dream about after you have one? Could be a never-ending problem. :p

    A 6-core will make the few times you use the Adobe apps more pleasant. What is peace of mind worth to you? Some will say it's a waste, others will say it's not.

    I have been resisting the purchase of an SSD for a very long time, because I really feel like it's a senseless luxury for me to save three minutes a day in boot / program loading time... yet I just caved in and ordered a Crucial M4 SSD last night. I also ordered a new USB 3.0/ eSATA PCI card that allows hot swapping to replace my cheap $50 eSATA card from OWC, because I have been getting annoyed with rebooting in order to mount eSATA drives, and more people are giving me USB 3.0 devices for data transfer. It's all in the name of ending the "what would that be like" voices in my head, which is worth something.
  3. ashman70 macrumors 6502a

    Dec 20, 2010
    Unless you use a lot of multicore capable programs, then that many cores may be 'too much' for you in the sense that they may go unused for the most part. You did say you use VM's and handbreak, both of which use multiple cores, so in that sense, you utilizing all your cores. I think you could easily benefit from doubling your RAM as it sounds like your system is more RAM hungry then core hungry. I think we would all love to never or at least seldom see a beach ball however I just don't think thats possible, but hey if those with systems with maxed out RAM want to comment, please do.
  4. DisMyMac macrumors 65816


    Sep 30, 2009
    If you've ever bought a new car that was more expensive than your needs- you know the feeling years later... should have settled for a Toyota and saved many thousands.

    In any case, nearly the entire Mac line (according to Rumor's buyer's guide) will be due for a refresh soon. I don't think you can go wrong if you wait a few weeks and buy the new Pro, or an Ivy Bridge mini or iMac.
  5. Zwhaler macrumors 603


    Jun 10, 2006
    Sounds like the OP would benefit a lot from a 6 core Mac Pro. The 2.66GHz Core 2 Duo is downright slow compared to any of the Mac Pros, and in the case of the 6 Core 3.33GHz this machine will perform the tasks you mentioned very efficiently.
  6. philipma1957, Feb 5, 2012
    Last edited: Feb 5, 2012

    philipma1957 macrumors 603


    Apr 13, 2010
    Howell, New Jersey
  7. PirateMonkey macrumors member

    Oct 12, 2011
    I was asked to spec out a Mac Pro for an AV and broadcasting and computer CGI room in an academy school, the money was no issue apparently! My eyes nearly feel out and I was actually nervous they where going to reject my decision on the Pro...

    12 cores
    12GB DDR3 RAM
    2TB HDD
    ATi Radeon 5870
    Lacie backup solutions

    I turned round and said something like you need a GB of RAM per processor core lol, but to be fair I checked it all out last week and it's amazing runs Final Cut pro, pro logic, CS and aperture like a dream, all in all it's being used for lots of things mainly recording studio but now they won't have to upgrade for quite a while!

    I think you should go with it, you will only regret it if you don't get what you want, I'm currently looking in the used market at the moment, used but upgradeable market I mean, I need something for steam, CS, Pro Logic and Final Cut pro, I don't care about it not having the latest graphics card as I will do all that myself, in fact if it was just a main board and CPU I wouldn't mind as long as it had the aluminium case I could build it up no problem.
  8. percival504 thread starter macrumors regular

    Feb 10, 2009
    Thanks very much, everyone.

    Your opinions are very helpful.

    A new MBP, with 16GB RAM, will cost me at least $2,800.00, and I will still have to get hard drives and enclosures. The MP will cost me about $4K - to me that is not a significant difference for a computer if I am going to keep it for more than 2 years.

    Finally, expandability and ease of user service are critical as I swap hard drives a lot and need a lot of space (I back up a lot; I absolutely cannot afford to lose data. That is the primary reason I rejected the iMac nearly out of hand - I mean seriously, I cannot replace a hard drive myself, I only have FW800, and I am limited to a slow and sketchy MLC SSD (I think an SLC SSD would be more reliable)? I mean, seriously now... It is also a reason I am not particularly high on the MBP, as I write, I am looking at 1. an X25-E, 2. two WD Caviar Blacks, and 3. 4 WD Scorpio Blacks. I have a 500GB Scorpio Black and an X25-E in my MBP. Altogether, I have about 2.7TB on the combo.

    Thanks, again, everyone, I am beginning to feel that my decision is justifiable.
  9. Vantage Point macrumors 65816

    Mar 1, 2010
    New Jersey
    Whatever you do don't get a ram upgrade from Apple. 16Gb of ram for a MBP (2 x8gb) is currently only about $250 and falling fast (it was closer to $1,600 a year ago). If you need portability then a quad core MBP with plenty of RAM and upgrading the hard drive yourself might be a good option. Plus, new MBP's should be out by around May
  10. percival504 thread starter macrumors regular

    Feb 10, 2009
    Thanks Phillipma! That looks pretty tasty. I assume this is what OWC does for about $500.00. I am curious, is to possible to use one of the fancy new core i7 chips? For example, this one: I know its costs more - but that is OK.
  11. telequest macrumors regular

    Feb 1, 2010
    Which USB 3/eSATA card?

    Just out of curiosity, which USB 3/eSATA card did you order? I have a cheap eSATA card from OWC as well. Thx.
  12. wallysb01 macrumors 65816

    Jun 30, 2011
    This is what OWC does, and its not really a good deal on the single processor upgrades:

    They also don't appear to deal with taking a 2009 from the 4,1 to 5,1, so you won't have that option from them.

    The best deal from the turnkey program seems to be taking the 8 core 2.4 to the 12 core 2.66 for about $2000. That's basically the cost of the X5650s from newegg, you just lose the ability to sell your E5620s. But I think you'd be lucky to get $500 for them anyway, since you'd be selling them used, no original packing and no heat sink.

    Anyway, sounds like you could certainly use the expandability of the Mac Pro, and if you simply just want it and have the money to burn, just do it. But I would be a little hesitant to pay more than about $2500 for how ever you get the hex core, since its probably so close to a refresh at this point.
  13. percival504, Feb 6, 2012
    Last edited: Feb 6, 2012

    percival504 thread starter macrumors regular

    Feb 10, 2009
    Please forgive my ignorance re: "i7"

    I did not realize that the "Gulftown" processors, apparently are i7 processors. There does not seem to be argument that the Gulftown processors will work in the 2010 Mac Pro (I like the idea of buying a new 2.8 and then upgrading it; prices on eBay do not seem to be significantly cheaper than Apple's prices). Is there any benefit to using the Gulftown rather than Westmere - I mean, is there a significant performance difference the price for the Intel Core i7-980 Gulftown ( and the w3690 (

    The upgrade looks really easy - it looks like unscrew some screws, unsparing some springs. But, to be honest, I've not done anything other than change hard drives in my MBP. Would I be biting off more than I can chew?

    I easy with those awesome instructions!
  14. ActionableMango macrumors 604


    Sep 21, 2010
    No, there is no significant price difference. Your own links show that.

    Personally, I'd go ahead an upgrade to the Xeon since it's the proper CPU, it will work with my existing ECC RAM (the i7 won't), the price is almost identical, and it won't look out of the ordinary when it's time to sell it.
  15. percival504 thread starter macrumors regular

    Feb 10, 2009
    There was a typo - is there a significant performance difference? I should not have mentioned price as you are right: the price is pretty much the same. RAM is not an issue for me as I haven't bought any yet and selling it is not an issue because my wife always gets my hand-me-downs.

    Thanks for the advice, though. Every little bit helps.
  16. minifridge1138 macrumors 6502a

    Jun 26, 2010
    If you use virtual machines, then it isn't overkill.

    Get the Ram from a third party to save money.

    As mentioned, you could get the quad core and upgrade yourself.
  17. derbothaus macrumors 601


    Jul 17, 2010
    Xeon is better binned than the consumer i7-980. If they cost the same get the Xeon. It is supposed to last longer, it is the proper chip for the board Apple sells you and the memory ECC or not is around the same price. The Xeon is not any slower than i7-980x. But the i7 is unlocked which means zilch on a Mac Pro.
  18. wonderspark macrumors 68030


    Feb 4, 2010
    I ordered this one from OWC. It's 3x more than the one I have now, but if it means I can mount drives without a reboot in both eSATA and USB 3.0, it's worth it. I'll report here when I get it.
  19. deconstruct60, Feb 6, 2012
    Last edited: Feb 6, 2012

    deconstruct60 macrumors 604

    Mar 10, 2009
    It is not so much as waste of power but a waste of budget (money allocation). Since you mention being RAM constrained, 6 cores isn't going to buy you anything "better" in that respect than a 4 core model. [ If your budget allowed to go to 8 cores then maybe, but suspect this is capped at the top of the single package range. ]

    If the Mac Pros update to E5's then the "middle" model will likely become 6 core. In that context it may make sense but what you really need is more I/O not more cores.

    The difference between a Quad 3.2GHz and a Hex 3.3GHz in the Apple Online store if $800. For that slightly over that $800 you could buy:

    4 x 8GB (32GB) $419 + 3 x 60GB SSDs (total 180GB plus brackets) $417

    Total $836

    The gap between entry Quad and Hex is even larger which could buy a whole Mac Mini Server and prune off all of the server workload. Or buy gobs of SSD I/O.

    With the VMs' Operating systems and apps mostly RAM resident and writing to separate disk images, you would have eliminated most I/O blockages from you workload. In the above set up you could leave the server I/O on the default hard drive. You need multiple drives but not necessarily RAID because the different OS and server data are distinct with natural boundaries between "data volumes".

    Same with the periodic Photoshop usage. RAM resident images + "undo stack" to mutate is better than more cores.

    These are somewhat in conflict where core count doesn't necessarily help. There is potential for a workload spike in either to block the other ( server uses all make requests at once or user on server hits the Ethernet or I/O harder than normal for a peak usage. )

    Mac Pro has two Ethernet ports so could put the server functionality in an VM image with one port/address dedicated to it. That way if want to move off later it is not a problem.
  20. percival504 thread starter macrumors regular

    Feb 10, 2009
    Thanks for all the info.

    I have a few questions though. I have to admit, I just do not know enough to perfectly understand what you wrote, but I think I get some of it.

    If I understand correctly, hexacore = more cores (and I do not need more cores?), but not more RAM or SSDs. RAM and SSDs determine I/O?

    I'm not worried about the update. A hexacore will do me just fine for a long while, and I need to deal with this situation now (I am fighting the spinning beach ball as I am writing this). My budget was originally $4.5k (before Phillipma's excellent suggestion regarding the upgrade). So the hexacore fit in fine. The reason I did not consider the 2.8 , or even the 3.2, is that they seems to be slower, in even normal applications, than even the MacBook Pros. I know I do not need six cores, but I read somewhere that extra cores can help even for non-multithreaded apps. Also, is Lion optimized for multi-cores?

    If I go with the DIY upgrade, I can do all of the other upgrades you mention; also, I already have 2 X25Es. Do you see a reason, other than warranty, to not do the DIY?

    Thanks a lot for your help. And thank you to everyone else as well.

  21. philipma1957 macrumors 603


    Apr 13, 2010
    Howell, New Jersey
    the biggest down sides are:

    1)you break the gear.

    2) you buy it all. do the diy and 4 weeks later the new mac pro comes out and it kills the hex core for only 2.5k

    Number two is not likely to happen.

    If the 2012 comes out(no on is sure ) In order to have a 2012 model that is far better then the 2010 hex 3.33 it will be more then 3k more like 3.5 k

    number 1 well that could happen.
  22. percival504 thread starter macrumors regular

    Feb 10, 2009
    Thanks again, Phillipma1957. Is the DIY difficult - your tutorial makes it look like a novice could do it (with such great instructions).

    If I were to break the gear, would it be either or both of the CPUs, or that and more?

  23. philipma1957 macrumors 603


    Apr 13, 2010
    Howell, New Jersey
    well as of today no one on this site has done the update and said they broke the gear.

    I think with the 2010 model quad to hex we are 50 for 51( this is a guess but it is at least 50 good upgrades) the one bad upgrade was a bad hex core that was purchased from a real seller and the modder sent it in for a rma to buy dot com and got a good hex core that works.

    the provantage link i gave is a real seller and the hex core is under a 3 or 5 year warranty.

    I just mention that breaking the gear is possible because it is. this truly is a very simple job to do using the quad 2.8 to the hex 3.33.

    can be done under 1 hour.
  24. jetjaguar macrumors 68030


    Apr 6, 2009
    im so tempted to do the 3.33 upgrade on a 2010 base quad .. ahh what to do:(
  25. deconstruct60 macrumors 604

    Mar 10, 2009
    Not quite. The Hexcore cost more than a quad core. All the money you spend on those two additional cores cannot be spent on RAM, SSD, or other things that might improve I/O ( which is the primary bottleneck).

    The amount of RAM is limited to the number of RAM slots attached to the CPU package. The Hex and Quad offerings both offer a maximum of 4 RAM slots to fill. So what you need is more expensive memory to put into those 4 limited slots (e.g., 8GB DIMMs ).

    The dual package models (starts off at 8) have 4 RAM slots per package. With 8 total slots to fill you can stuff more RAM into those boxes.

    I'm not sure how that is relevant since you wish to run an abnormal workload on the box ( server + VMs + normal apps). I'm 99.99% certain that any "normal app benchmarks" you might have seen that placed MBP running faster than a 2.8 or 3.2 were not running that workload mix.
    Any one of those subgroups perhaps. But all three at the same time, I extremely doubt it. Either that or the 2.8/3.2 was running stock RAM (3GB) levels. Pushed up into the 16-32GB range where actually using that much RAM the Mac Pro is better.

    For example, some folks get stuck on the first graph on this page (speed test).

    However, if you get to the "Medium test" below you'll see that the Mac Pro 2.8 beats the MBP when it comes to doing something that actually uses 16GB worth of memory., Yeah the Hex is a bit faster but you also pay more. Having enough memory to load everything all at once is critical to making the spinning cursor disappear. As soon as apps (a VM, photoshop, reader, web browser, etc.) start competing for memory resources the cursor will pop up.

    Another perspective of range of performance if have "too little" or "too much" RAM with respect to the workload demands.

    Hex 3.33GHz doesn't save you if you only have 3GB of RAM in the box.

    Yes. If you have multiple users or multiple apps running at the same time then that workload can be spread over multiple cores. (an operating system with several daemons running also can spread work over multiple cores. )

    Lion requires more memory to run without spinning cursors. If you are going to run it natively ( and in VMs ) you'll need more memory.

    " ... While there are no pins to bend/break on these LGA CPUs, if anything goes wrong the socket is toast. In this case, both the socket and CPU were beyond saving. ... "

    hidden behind many of these "void the warranty" discussions are implicit presumptions that warranty wasn't really needed anyway. Upgrades can be done without fraking the board, but Apple doesn't really optimize making the swap easy or safe for the untrained.

    If the Hex upgrade is within your risk threshold fine. But I'd rank order that upgrade last among the other mentioned. Something like

    i. enough RAM for all foreseeable apps/VMs/etc. combinations. (Photoshop + VM + server software/caching )

    ii. enough Disks to spread I/O load. (SSDs for highly independent workload elements except for bulk data. )

    iii. back-up infrastructure ( external disks and card to get to disks. )


    last. hex upgrade.

    IMHO, I'd wait for new Mac Pros and make "hex upgrade" unnecessary. Much of the "get the Hex" chant around here is primarily because the Quads in the single package models are dated. That's because the Xeon 3600 line was jacked up. There was only effectively one model and Apple backfilled the rest of the line up with 3500 series minor speed bumped packages. Once, the E5 1600 series online Apple can leave that cluster-screwed baggage behind.

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