Is a Mac Pro Right for Me

Discussion in 'Mac Pro' started by L.Brasi, Jun 23, 2013.

  1. L.Brasi macrumors newbie

    Dec 10, 2012
    I've been considering purchasing a used Mac Pro for a few months and thought I would post here for some opinions. I've read every thread I can about the pros and cons of a Mac Pro 1.1 and haven't been able to reach a decision.

    I'm a college student and was looking for a second Mac to manage my music and movies, surf the web, write papers, manage spreadsheets, and occasionally convert some video files. I am a finance major and in no way will be using this computer to earn a living. From what I've read this would generally indicate that a workstation like the Pro is not what I need, but the expandability is what drew me to the Pro.

    I currently own a late 2011 13" MBP with a 2.4 GHz Intel Core i5 and 4GB of RAM. This machine has been more than powerful enough for the tasks I perform. I was looking for a second computer mainly to manage my movie collection. I currently use an old Gateway tower running XP for this and it's incredibly slow. I'd like a computer that has the speed to rip Blu Rays and DVDs and can play them smoothly. I would also like having a physical keyboard and mouse for spreadsheet work.

    I was considering a Mini or a Pro, but was leaning towards the Pro because I could easily add RAM and storage. I could also upgrade the processors and graphics card to keep it reasonably usable for years to come. At least, that's what I was thinking. I understand that the 1.1 is an old machine and isn't supported by Lion. Not to mention the RAM is expensive which detracts from the upgradability aspect. I was wondering if I would be better off buying a Pro or Mini considering the age and limitations of the 1.1. Would the Pro remain relevant for my usage longer than the Mini?

    It seems that a fair price for a 1.1 is around $300. I haven't seen many many Minis on my local Craigslist for that price, but have seen a couple Pros. Would I get more bang for my buck from a Pro or a Mini? It seems that I don't need the power of a Pro and the older models are beaten in some respects by the newer Macs. The main reason I was considering a Mac Pro over a Mini is because I was thinking that I would be able to use it longer, but wasn't sure and was hoping to get some feedback on this and anything I've left out in my reasoning.

    Sorry this post is a little long, but I wanted to make sure I included all the necessary information to receive the best help possible.

  2. osiris24x macrumors member


    Mar 11, 2007
    Given your price range, a Mac Mini or iMac might be a better idea. I'd personally want something that can run Mountain Lion. You might consider spending a little more for a slightly newer Mac Pro. In the long run, as you mentioned, you can upgrade most of the components, as finances permit. A good condition Mac Pro can be had on eBay for a reasonable price. Otherwise, if you're locked into the $300 price point, a Mac Mini might be a better choice.
  3. L.Brasi thread starter macrumors newbie

    Dec 10, 2012
    I'm not necessarily locked into the $300. Would the upgradability of the Pro be worth the increase in price for someone like me? I just wasn't sure which would last me longer, a Pro or a Mini.

    Because my needs don't dictate a Pro or because a Mini would remain useful for longer?
  4. Dweez macrumors 65816


    Jun 13, 2011
    Down by the river
    IMNSHO a Mac Pro would be overkill for the tasks you want the new machine to manage. A mini would probably fit the bill perfectly. I've got an older mini which is managing all of my media & streaming, web server and file server duties.
  5. deconstruct60 macrumors 604

    Mar 10, 2009
    If looking to buy used Mini or Pro then probably should be aware of Apple's Vintage and Obsolete policy.

    The 1,1 is a candidate for the list. I'm not sure how often Apple updates the formal list, but items on the verge on going on tend to first start lacking OS updates.

    If you needed something from the past then a machine from the distant past can be a good match.

    There is not much difference in ease with a modern mini and a Pro for RAM upgrades.

    Not really. The processor used in the 1,1 is obsolete and Intel has discontinued selling it. Your only options are used. The ~ $300 prices on the boxes are more reflective of system being sold for boneyard parts as much as for usage.

    Similarly the older Mac Pro's use a EFI graphics model than even Apple is walking away from for one hat the larger UEFI market has adopted. In couple of years you'll likely be limited to used video cards.

    The notion that PCI or PCI-e slots will always guarantee "future proof" solutions isn't true. Over a limited set of years perhaps but it has pragmatic term limit on it.

    Not that old unless buying a mini equally as old.
  6. monkeybagel macrumors 65816

    Jul 24, 2011
    United States
    The Mac Pro 1,1, while a tower, has several disadvantages to it right now. RAM is rather expensive, and with the EFI limitation, you are limited to OS X 10.7.

    Many consider 10.7 Apple version of Windows Vista, so not necessarily the version of OS X you want to be stuck with. I don't believe it is that bad, but you will be two version out-of-date with the release of OS X 10.9.

    Software will probably soon follow, requiring 10.8+ to run.

    If you are fine with the machine being frozen where it is in regards to OS X updates, then you may be fine with it, but I don't think I would want to paint myself into that corner. With that said, the Mac Pro is by far my favorite Apple machine. If you were looking for a 4,1 or 5,1, it would be a significant price difference, but would make much better sense.
  7. minifridge1138 macrumors 6502a

    Jun 26, 2010
    As a user of both a Mac Pro and a Mac Mini, I would recommend the Mini.

    For what you've described you don't need the expanded memory (you said your current machine has 4 GB and is enough).

    You probably will need extra drives to store media and it will be "cleaner" to keep the drives internal to the Pro. But don't forget that the Pro is big and weighs 42 pounds. You'll have a much easier time hiding an external drive and some cables than you would finding a place to keep the Pro.

    The Pro also uses more electricity (if you care) and will put out a lot more heat.

    Here's where I see downside to the Mini:
    The last one that came with a DVD drive was slower than the Pro 1,1. That could be bad if you wanted to use this as a HTPC. So to get the DVD drive, you get a machine that can't encode as fast. If you get a newer mini that can encode faster, then you lose the DVD drive.

    As a college student, I'd go with the Mini.
  8. Tesselator, Jun 24, 2013
    Last edited: Jun 24, 2013

    Tesselator macrumors 601


    Jan 9, 2008
    • This is perhaps the most important point in your list of considerations to get straight. I'm informed and experienced enough to comment on this I think. There are quite a few people here who rag on the MP1,1 simply because of it's age plus their own individual expectations are over-the-top near the cutting edge. There's also a bunch of folks here who talk out the rear ends just bagging on it just cuz they either have something better or cuz they admire the newer machines. It's a VERY capable machine and if you want to upgrade it a little bit every month or as you get a little ahead the base MP1,1 at $300 to $400 is a great way to go!
      Awesome it is, kid you I do not. :D
    • Yup, it's great for this! Buy the already capable base 4-core for $300 then look around for a matched pair of X5365 CPUs at $125 to $175 (for the pair) which will triple the speed over the slower dual-core chips, maybe add 8GB of 4GB modules for $50 to $70 a pair and build it up over time, either go for an 8800GT for like $30 or get a GTX 570 for like $100 in the next few months (mine cost $90 two months ago). The only thing you need to buy new are HDDs or SSDs. You should be able to get a 128GB SSD as a boot drive for under $100. You can upgrade to OSX 10.8.4 or 10.9 by using free boot-loaders.
    • As you probably already know the CPU speed times the number of cores is the responsible part for ripping. The GPU is the main component responsible for "smooth playback". Whichever is the most important to you is which you should upgrade first. The 8800 GT will play back 1080p smoothly - in fact it will play two monitors of two separate 1080p videos. BlueRay disk reading is a different matter. Have a few searches to find out the best BR play methods.
    • RAM isn't that expensive really. Just stay away from or be cautious of, retailers or auctioneers advertising "Apple Approved" memory with those huge and unnecessary "Apple" heat-sinks.
    • Which Mini? If you're buying the latest version Mini it will feel a little zippier under the mouse but for things like ripping it will be considerably slower. "Longer" I don't understand. Either machine could last for the next ten years without a hitch - who knows. If future-proofing is the question then I guess the MacPro1,1 is a little better. The Mini has a TB port for external graphics but TB1 isn't faster than the MP1,1's PCIe x16 bus.
    • Yeah, $300, that's base <200GB HDD, <4GB RAM, 7200GT or 8800GT, 4-core 2.66GHz or less.
    • Define "bang". Zippiness or horsepower?
  9. 50548 Guest

    Apr 17, 2005
    Currently in Switzerland
    I would recommend a maxed-out 2011 iMac + SSD just like mine - it is blazingly fast, great GFX, has a DVD drive and carries a good price tag now.

    Or a top-line 2012 iMac + external DVD. Your profile definitely does not ask for a MP.
  10. L.Brasi thread starter macrumors newbie

    Dec 10, 2012
    Thanks for the replies everyone. I appreciate the feedback. It seems that the Pro would be a little overkill for my needs, but I'm still unsure if a Mini represents better value for me. Given the tasks that I need the machine to perform a Pro is overkill, but are the drawbacks that big of an issue to me? Would stopping at 10.7 (or possibly shoehorning ML to run) become an issue 2 years down the line? Five years? Since I'm just managing my media collection, surfing the web, and working with Word and Excel, would the latest software be all that imperative? I understand eventually Excel won't be compatible with the OS I'm on and support for browsers may end, but the majority of my professors still run Excel 2007 and wouldn't it take a while for browsers to stop being supported? As long as I can continue the tasks I want to perform today in a reasonable manor I'd be happy. While the Mini can do all of this and would be able to support a more recent OS, would the ability to upgrade the CPU and graphics etc of the Pro make it usable for my tasks longer? I'm not really hung up on the idea of a Pro, it just seemed to me that they represented a decent value for money considering the upgradeability and expandability.

    Also, would I be better off waiting until the fall for the new Pro to be released? Will the value of the 1.1's change in any way? The value of a base 1.1 seems like it's gotten pretty low and I wasn't sure if the release of a new Mac Pro would change that.

    I appreciate the detailed reply. I was thinking I would upgrade as you described. I'd add RAM, storage, etc. as needed. Looking around eBay and CL it seems that $300 or around that could possibly get me a mid 2010 mini or a 2011 model if I'm lucky. I could be a little off base here because I haven't spent as much time pricing out the mini as I have the Pro.

    When you say faster under the mouse I assume you mean faster to launch programs and for daily computing, but the Pro will do tasks like convert video etc faster? When I say "bang for my buck" I guess I mean zippiness. I am looking for the choice that will remain useful for the longest amount of time and by useful I mean retain the ability to perform the tasks I listed. I don't need it to be blazingly fast, but I don't want it to be so slow it's a pain to use.
  11. Tesselator, Jun 24, 2013
    Last edited: Jun 24, 2013

    Tesselator macrumors 601


    Jan 9, 2008
    I doubt the bas MP1,1 will go below $300 for another 2 years. I think it'll go back up actually. Seriously. $300 is low for the hardware you get and the dollar is tanking. If the dollar falls faster than the hardware (continues to) depreciate it could very well go back up a bit. I personally think it will. I guess the average low on the base model will go back up to $375 or $400 (pizza money).

    If it's not the Mini with the TB port I'd just forget it. The earlier version is nowhere near a match for the base MP1,1 - just saying.

    "Faster under the mouse" mostly means the speed of windows, icons, right clicks, and like that. Program loading is mostly determined by the storage device speed and the amount or RAM (more RAM facilitates I/O cache) - at these things the Mini will be faster AKA snappier. When you finally get 16GB or more of RAM and the X5355 or X5365 CPUs installed the MacPro will be considerably faster at processing images, ripping CDs, DVDs, and BRDs, and better suited at multitasking. I don't think either machine will "be so slow it's a pain to use" for the next 3 to 5 years. If it's the Mini without the TB port then it might be tho.

    Do keep in mind that a brand new Mini (with TB and USB3.0 ports) is only $599. I guess you could find one used for $400 or a little over.
  12. Macsonic macrumors 65816


    Sep 6, 2009
    I guess you have researched on the Mac Pro 1,1 and its limitations and you favor the Mac Pro than the Mac Mini. Just go for the Mac Pro and enjoy the machine. Just to correct your post above. Lion 10.7 can run in the 1,1 Mac Pro as far as I know. It's Mountain Lion 10.8 that is not supported in the 1,1. Good Luck and happy buying.
  13. L.Brasi thread starter macrumors newbie

    Dec 10, 2012
    Ok, now I know which Mini to look for and a baseline for a reasonable price if I decide to go that route and have an idea of the MP's performance compared to the Mini. It sounds like I wouldn't be disappointed with either and need to decide if I value processing power or speed under the mouse more.

    Appreciate the input. I think I'll keep an eye on my local CL for awhile and see what comes up. It seems like a MP 1.1 wouldn't be a waste of money at around $300 and I wouldn't be disappointed in it. I'll keep this in mind if I see a good deal come up on one.

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