Is it still worth upgrading a 4.1 or 5.1?

Discussion in 'Mac Pro' started by Cookie18, Jun 8, 2019.

  1. Cookie18 macrumors member

    Joined:
    Sep 11, 2014
    Location:
    France
    #1
    Hey all,

    I’ve been reading the classic Mac Pro upgrade thread stickied in this section and it’s super intriguing to me. I’m considering getting a 5.1 or 4.1 Mac Pro and upgrading it enough to use as my main desktop for at least a couple of years. Is it still worth doing? To give you an idea of my needs;

    I currently have a 2016 MacBook Pro and 2017 21.5” 4K iMac. I don’t use anything too intensive for my work. It’s mostly Skype or Chrome and a bunch of different “light” apps such as Pages.

    I only want to do it if I can get the same or better performance out of it as my other two current Macs.

    I figure I would need to put an SSD in, get at least 8gb of RAM and get a metal GPU for Mojave (I don’t need Catalina on it).

    Would that get it up to speed? Is there anything else I would need to do? I’d mostly like to do it as a fun little project but I want to get a couple of years use out of it as my main computer. Any extra would be a bonus, eventually I’d probably just rip Blu-Rays to it.
     
  2. iluvmacs99, Jun 8, 2019
    Last edited: Jun 8, 2019

    iluvmacs99 macrumors member

    Joined:
    Apr 9, 2019
    #2
    I'm also in a process of buying a used Mac Pro 4,1 myself to supplement it with my current older Mac Mini 2011 and Macbook Air 2014 as a main video and audio editing machine. The reason for me is basically for thermal management as I'm using active cooling for both my Mini and Air to cool them down during high intensive video and audio exporting. The Mac Pro 4,1 and 5,1 are designed to be pushed harder, so that's the reason why I am planning to get one as prices are pretty reasonable right now and they are both upgradable to 12 cores. I too am planning to use the 4,1 for a couple of years alongside my 2 macs. The 4,1 Mac Pro I am planning to get is going to be much better speced than my current Mini and Air and it will have a dedicated Radeon RX GPU for metal support, so getting it makes sense for me.

    For you though, you have a much better speced Macbook Pro and iMac and have modern faster CPUs. The Xeons in the 4,1 an 5,1 are already old and their single thread performance sucks at least with their base configuration. Unlike my case (where I need better multi-thread performance for video and audio work), your case with Chrome, Skype and Pages don't really benefit from the multi-core performance of the Mac Pro 4,1 and 5,1 and even both your macs have much better multi-core performance than the base 4,1 and 5,1. Unless you have the 12 cores 5,1 or 4,1 updated to 5,1 with dual CPU tray, the single core performance is still too slow compared to both your Macbook Pro 2016 and iMac 2017.

    Here are the benefits you will get from the older 4,1 and 5,1 Mac Pros.

    1, Excellent thermal management so your excessive workload like video and audio editing won't cause a crash. It happened to my Macbook Air even with multi-fan cooling on a hot day!
    2, PCIe slots to add desktop class GPU like the Radeon RX580 or Vega via the Pixlas mod. This can only be achieved with your Macbook Pro and iMac through an external GPU box and that raises the cost. You can get a decent modestly speced 4,1 with RX580 for a similar price as the new 650W eGPU box + RX580!
    3, Can be setup with internal RAID for faster disk data processing
    4, Can be further upgraded up to 12 cores as time goes by and as prices fall and budget allows. This benefits more with software like Davinci Resolve and Final Cut Pro X with more cores than with Pages, Skype and Chrome which are mainly single thread/single core. With Chrome, it's more important to have lots of RAM so the computer doesn't need to page back and forth from CPU RAM to SSD/HD. With video editing like Davinci Resolve or even iMovie, more GDDR GPU ram is better like having 8Gb RAM allows less paging from SSD/HD back and forth to video RAM allowing smoother editing. You can only upgrade video RAM by upgrading to a better GPU card and you can only do that with a Mac Pro or with an external GPU if you have a Macbook Pro or an Imac.

    Hope this helps..
     
  3. pl1984 macrumors 68020

    Joined:
    Oct 31, 2017
    #3
    For the workload you've described I do not see any advantage to buying a 4,1 or 5,1 Mac Pro. What you have is more than sufficient (and probably faster) for what you've described.
     
  4. Cookie18 thread starter macrumors member

    Joined:
    Sep 11, 2014
    Location:
    France
    #4
    Thank you, this helps a bunch. Despite researching I couldn’t figure out if my workflow benefitted from the enhanced multi core speed.

    I’ve been looking for some with the faster processors but I feel like it gets to the point where it isn’t really worth it for what I need. The graphics card is a big draw for me though. The best my current macs can do with games is pretty much Civ 6 and being able to play some more intensive games is certainly a reason to do it. Alas, work comes first haha.

    I’m going to continue with my research but you’ve given me a lot to think about. Maybe a new Mac Mini would be a better alternative.
     
  5. chrfr macrumors 604

    Joined:
    Jul 11, 2009
    #5
    I don't see any advantage in buying an old Mac Pro for you. As mentioned above, the MacBook Pro and iMac are most likely faster at most of what you want to do, and are much more power efficient.
     
  6. pl1984 macrumors 68020

    Joined:
    Oct 31, 2017
    #6
    The new Mini has fairly weak graphics. If you need a fast GPU I would avoid it unless you're willing to go with an external GPU.
     
  7. Cookie18 thread starter macrumors member

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    Sep 11, 2014
    Location:
    France
    #7
    Thanks, I didn’t realise my work valued single core much more than multi core. Knowing that I’ll either use my MacBook Pro with a monitor and keyboard or get a Mac mini. I need another desktop because the iMac is technically my wife’s, although we trade back and forth between the pro and the iMac.

    I don’t actually have any need at all for the GPU lol. I just wanted it for gaming but it isn’t necessary for work. I like the option of getting an external gpu when prices come down though. I’m looking at the 3.2ghz i7 6 core or 3ghz i5 6 core Minis now.
     
  8. iluvmacs99, Jun 8, 2019
    Last edited: Jun 8, 2019

    iluvmacs99 macrumors member

    Joined:
    Apr 9, 2019
    #8
    To be honest, your workload would probably benefit more from a RAM and GPU upgrade than with multi core. Very few applications take advantage of multi-core. As a rule of thumb, commercial programs like Adobe Premiere, Davinci Resolve, Final Cut Pro X, Logic X, Cubase etc (all creative software) benefit having more cores. Your current macs are performing quite well for single core/thread. To speed up basic tasks is to run something like istats or memory usage to see where your bottle neck truly is; whether be it in RAM, disk access speed and graphics performance. The Mac Pro 4,1 and 5,1 allows you to address all as they all can be upgraded much more than 16Gb or 32Gb or 64Gb of RAM if need be and disk access can be set to Nvme RAID (super fast) and with Vega 64 cards or Titan X (super fast GPU). Mainly, the CPU acts as a traffic cop and the performance of the RAM, disk access speed and graphics performance are somewhat regulated by the system architecture and bus speed. The 4,1 and 5,1 architecture are designed for sustained maximum throughput, not for single throughput. I personally think you are not going to gain much with Pages, Chrome and Skype with a newer Mac than what you have. A word processor isn't a data intensive software. It only goes as fast as you can type your words. Same with Skype; can't speed up your communication speech. You can only talk as fast as your mouth moves.

    If you want to speed up your current machines, look at your main boot drive. Do you have at least 20% free capacity left? If you don't, then that will slow your machine down. How much RAM do you have? 16Gb RAM is a good spot if you have Skype, Pages and multiple pages of Chrome opened up ontop of the 20% free capacity on your main boot drive. If you want to play games and your computer has at least TB2 or TB3 (Thunderbolt 2 and 3) ports, you can add an eGPU and a decent GPU card like the RX560 or RX580 if your Macbook Pro or iMac have the lower end Intel Iris iGPU or even the Pro 560x or 555x. Plus an eGPU allows you to playback 4K UHD movies buttery smooth without driving your internal Mac fans crazy. The eGPU is nice for that. I too was planning to get the Mac Mini 2018 until I realized that it has a thermal management problem and many of them had been returned to Apple or I see them selling on my local Craigslist at discount prices as I think people bought them to push them and realized they can't be pushed. That's why I chose the 4,1 Mac Pro route as it was a better cost alternative.
    eGPU, more RAM and faster SSD external drives can make both your computers faster again without spending on the Mini 2018. Or I see that you are looking for another desktop machine, then a Mac Pro 4,1 could make the cut. The 4,1 is still capable of running Pages, Skype and Chrome very well if you give it 16Gb of RAM, SSD and a RX Radeon GPU card. While the single core performance is lacking compared to your Macbook Pro, those applications don't need to export massive data like video and audio editing do, so you don't have to wait. With a faster GPU, you would probably see better improvement in Chrome and UHD 4K content. Hope this helps.
     
  9. Zen_Arcade macrumors member

    Joined:
    Jun 3, 2019
    #9
    If you're doing it partly for fun, why not?

    While I'm a big proponent of the 5,1 (because it does not require de-lidding CPUs to upgrade the DP models), I know that their end is in sight. As others have noted, the single core performance is weak by today's standards; this is offset if your work benefits from multi-core, where a 12 core MP is still respectable (particularly given its age). And the ability to upgrade to massively faster GPUs, to expand storage, etc., also counts in their favor, as does their thermal management.

    There's a thread somewhere on MR (might be in the Mac Blog forum) that asks if the MP 4,1/5,1 is the greatest Mac ever built; I still believe the answer is yes.
     
  10. Cookie18 thread starter macrumors member

    Joined:
    Sep 11, 2014
    Location:
    France
    #10
    Thank you, I don’t have performance issues with either of the Macs that I have but I will run some tests to see where they could be getting close to limits, if any. Its mostly just a desktop vs laptop issue that we have. My wife and I trade off between the iMac and the MBP but it’s difficult to communicate which one we need due to the nature of our work (being on skype all the time) and we can’t easily trade machines once we have started work.

    We’d like to have a desktop each and the MacBook Pro could be taken by either of us when needed/wanted. I’m considering the Mac Mini because it would allow me to get a faster processor and I have the option to upgrade the ram later or add an eGPU. Still, if there would be little to no difference between a Mac Pro with the appropriate upgrades it could still be on the table.

    If it helps, my wife had a 2017 MacBook but she had to sell it because it couldn’t handle her work, which is the same as mine. While on skype or video calling via Chrome it would become almost unusable for any other apps.

    Your last point is kind of what I figured with the Mac Pro before making the thread. Although the CPU is old, I thought an 8 core cpu plus 16gb of RAM, ssd and a good gpu might make up the difference.
    --- Post Merged, Jun 8, 2019 ---
    Honestly, having a fun project may still win out if I can make it at least close to equal with my current machines for work.
     
  11. iluvmacs99 macrumors member

    Joined:
    Apr 9, 2019
    #11
    Your wife issues I suspect is mainly due to inadequate RAM, so her Macbook was forced to page constantly to its hard drive or SSD and I think the drive is already or close to max of its storage space. If she is doing that often, you really need 16Gb of RAM or more. Since some Macbook Pros are built to order and can't upgrade to more memory further; you are stuck with selling the computer to get a better one. Modern processors are capable of doing multiple apps like your wife is doing. Heck, my Mac Mini 2011 can do video conferencing, transcoding h.264 material via elgato co-processor as well as running Chrome with multiple windows with only 8Gb, but I have a fast big SSD drive with more than 60% being empty space for paging, so it pages very quickly. I do everything on SSD or USB RAID so there is no bottle neck. The problem with my Mac Mini and Macbook Air is that, they get overally hot and then thermally throttled down and or shut down if I don't have external cooling fans turned on. Now that I see very clearly what you guys are doing; then you probably benefit more from something like a Mac Pro 4,1 or 5,1 not because of the lower single core scores, but rather a higher RAM ceiling and faster GPU performance so all the data stays in RAM; whether it be in CPU RAM or GPU GDDR5 video RAM for both Skype video and Chrome which does use the GPU for some intensive web pages, so that you won't see the slow down causes by the bottle neck imposed by limited RAM and limited GPU performance with the Intel iGPU. You can see this with istats or memory usage.

    The fallacy with most people when buying a new computer is they thought buying a faster computer with the same old configuration (base 8Gb RAM and small 128Gb SSD) will suffice, but not realizing that it is that limited RAM and limited space for paging on a small SSD/HD drive that is limiting performance not the CPU speed or more cores.
     
  12. orph macrumors 68000

    orph

    Joined:
    Dec 12, 2005
    Location:
    UK
    #12
    the MacPro 4.1/5.1 are geting fairly old and harder to maintain, a new mac min will be a nice option or a cheep PC for games (ryzen 1600 + used RX 580/GTX1070 is the best value option for playing games).

    also good to point out the MacPro will make more fan nose & takes more room.

    Chrome eats ram like a beast, worth checking activity monitor memory section to see whats going on
    https://support.apple.com/en-gb/HT201464#memory
    if ram is upgradable it's relay a good option if not try safari or firefox they use a lot lot less ram

    i see chrome using more than 12GB of ram when i use it, firefox tends to be around 8GB for what i do m(& i use firefox more so id asumeit's got more windows open)
     
  13. Cookie18 thread starter macrumors member

    Joined:
    Sep 11, 2014
    Location:
    France
    #13
    This is exactly what I was hoping for! I think the MacBook was just all around under powered. It didn’t really have enough of anything that could be used to pick up the slack. My MBP and our iMac both have 8gb of RAM but they aren’t simultaneously limited in other areas.

    I might just go with the Mac Pro and use it until the iMac redesign. Ideally I’d get a little extra out of it to get the second gen of the iMac redesign. It sounds like it’s probably doable.

    It doesn’t have to be a computer that lasts 5 years or so. I’m good with Mojave support and being able to use it for 2 years, maybe even 3 years would be awesome. I don’t want to buy another iMac until the redesign which is part of the problem.

    I hate using chrome. I use safari all the time when not working. The problem is that one of the websites we use requires chrome for conferencing so we don’t have an option when working.

    I have a big desk and I actually like the idea of the Mac Pro being on display haha
     
  14. iluvmacs99 macrumors member

    Joined:
    Apr 9, 2019
    #14
    Chrome has its own task manager where you can free up memory, by shutting down GPU processes. Chrome is heavily relying on the GPU to speed up those web pages compared to other web browsers. So it's a super memory hog if your GPU GDDR 5 memory is not enough to hold all those web pages in memory, it will rely on the system ram and then if the ram is not enough to hold them, then it will page the HD/SSD. 8Gb of system memory is just not enough to run Chrome seriously and all the other apps, so this makes the Mac Pro 4,1 and 5,1 very relevant still today. You need at least 16Gb or better 32Gb of ram and a good sized GPU RAM to work smoothly, so even with a Mac Mini 2018, you need at least 16 to 32Gb (not 8Gb ram) and at least 256Gb SSD and that price alone doesn't even come with an eGPU. The Mac Pro 4,1 and 5,1 allow upgrading RAM up to 128Gb and GPU with some mods up to Vega class.

    This is why some people complain where there isn't a Mac model in between a Mac Pro and iMac where you have a desktop machine with some slots and good thermal management for people who need more than a Macbook Pro, but less than a Mac Pro like the OP. As long as you can find a good condition 4,1 and 5,1, then it will last. That's why these machines still command some premium even though it is a 9-10 year machine.
     
  15. orph macrumors 68000

    orph

    Joined:
    Dec 12, 2005
    Location:
    UK
    #15
    if both computers only have 8 GB of ram id relay think about upgrading at least one to 16Gb, 8GB is fine for light use but once you get a few tabs open in chrome :(
    it wont cost to much and once you see the change you can decide what to do.

    if you google 'chrome ram use' it's telling that google kicks images like this out
    [​IMG]
    as one of the top hits :D

    relay worth having activity monitor open and when things get slow just checking, it will be ram that's the problem.
    you have two new (ish) computers with good CPU's, apple uses fast SSD's but 8GB of ram is relay a tad small now for normal use.

    a 16GB kit of ram will cost a lot lot lot less than a macpro 4.1/5.1 and take 10 mins to instal.

    if you buy a 4,1/5,1 you may have to buy RAM/SSD/GPU on top and hit the hard fact that the CPU is slower, the SSD is slower (unless you pay more and go PCI) and hit the risk of parts failing

    i do like my CMP, had it for 3-4 years now(?) but i know it's old
    https://www.phoronix.com/scan.php?page=article&item=intel-990x-9900k&num=1
    and shows
     
  16. iluvmacs99 macrumors member

    Joined:
    Apr 9, 2019
    #16
    Only if you can pick up a Mac Pro 4,1 or 5,1 for a really good price all set up to go. I actually just picked up myself today a Mac Pro 5,1 flashed from 4,1 Dual CPU tray with 2Tb HD, 18Gb memory, cleaned internals and all tested the works for $370 as the store had the last one he wanted to get rid of. I am impressed with its performance so far as Chrome is definitely running better with 18Gb ram as opposed to 8Gb with my Mini or my Macbook Air. Now shopping for a GPU to replace the GT120, so it should be close to $500 when I am done. I also have spare SSDs that I am putting in to 2 trays to raid it. I could push this baby also all the way to 12 cores for not much more. For this price and expansion slots, I think it is still worth it so I can play a wait and see game for a few years to see what Apple has to offer next. What will the OS be after Catalina and what software and platform would serve me? Personally, I was not impressed with the new Mac Mini 2018 offerings and I do not want to get caught again with my pants down during the last transition from PowerPC to Intel.

    By the way, I think the OP's Macbook Pro is not memory upgradable. You have to order the right ram at the time of purchase as they are soldered. So the OP still need to sell the Macbook Pro to get more ram I think. And isn't the ECC ram for the 4,1 and 5,1 pretty cheap. I think the OP just wants a desktop computer that he can tie it over until there is something better on the iMac lineup.
     
  17. orph macrumors 68000

    orph

    Joined:
    Dec 12, 2005
    Location:
    UK
    #17
    ah, no ram upgrades is a pain.

    try firefox, safari

    @iluvmacs99 for upgrades, you got lucky and have spare parts.
    let's see, good price is cmp 5,1 £300-500 (in UK)
    RX 580 £100-120 (used)
    GPU power cables £10
    32GB ram £50 (used)
    SSD SATA 500GB £80
    display ??? 100-300
    cpu upgrade? £50-100 (used)
    thermal paist plus bits £20-30?

    im gessingin part but it relay adds up & the time taken to find what parts to use, buy them, instal them etc is not small

    16GB ram kit will be about £70-90 i gess? for the imac
     
  18. Cookie18 thread starter macrumors member

    Joined:
    Sep 11, 2014
    Location:
    France
    #18
    Thank you for your input. I don’t actually have any performance problems with my current computers. I want another desktop because my wife and I need more computers for our work. I’m mostly using the MBP but I want a dedicated desktop so we can both switch back and forth when needed. Depending on what we are doing we like to switch back and forth. I don’t want to get a current iMac because I want to see what the redesign brings. But yeah, my biggest worry has been whether the cMP would actually be as good as the ones I have.

    I’ve worked out that it would cost around €600 all in but I’m including adding a blu-ray drive and a couple of other bits which aren’t entirely necessary. I’ve found new 580s in France for €130-140 which is good, I’m going pcie for the SSD and it’s not much more here either. I shouldn’t need to upgrade the CPU of the ones I’m looking at but I’m glad I have the option. Comparing geekbench scores to my MBP it’s almost the same and I’m betting the added GPU and RAM will make up the difference.

    As for the time, that’s part of the fun. I’m really looking forward to tinkering with it and putting it together!
    --- Post Merged, Jun 8, 2019 ---
    That sounds awesome! I’m glad you got yours. What processor did it come with?
     
  19. iluvmacs99 macrumors member

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    Apr 9, 2019
    #19
    It came with a dual E5520 @2.26Ghz which gives me 8 cores. Single core sucks, but multi-core just smokes both my Mini and Macbook Air. With SSD RAID, this thing boots decently fast. Not as speedy as my Mini and Air, but good enough. Thankfully I made the right choice as I am more than happy with this than the Mac Mini 2018. And it's actually quiet so far with the GT120. Need to find a GPU card that's not so noisy and the store has a bunch of Radeons used and new of all kinds available. Just need to wait for the PCIe ax cable for GPU on order from the store to get things going.
     
  20. MisterAndrew macrumors 65816

    MisterAndrew

    Joined:
    Sep 15, 2015
    Location:
    Portland, Oregon
    #20
    I wouldn't recommend a 4,1/5,1 to anyone now since it's no longer supported by Apple and the CPUs have security vulnerabilities that will not be patched by Intel. I would suggest waiting for the 7,1 (if your budget doesn't allow purchase at initial launch there'll be sales/refurbished before long). If you need a new desktop right now I would suggest a 6,1 or a Mac mini.
     
  21. orph macrumors 68000

    orph

    Joined:
    Dec 12, 2005
    Location:
    UK
    #21
    macmin with DIY RAM upgrade to 16GB or 32GB ram will be a relay nice computer.

    if you want to tinker with a box maybe a Hackintosh with a i5 +16-32GB ram will cost about the same £600 ish and end up much much faster and with some good fans not to bad noise wise.

    for an idea of how the macpro has aged look at this review
    https://www.phoronix.com/scan.php?page=article&item=intel-990x-9900k&num=1
    the i7 990x is the i7 version of the W3690 which is one of the fastest CPU upgrades for a macpro4,1/5,1

    Id get the macmin for the work you described.

    if you do get a MacPro we will give help if you hit a problem ^^
     

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