Is It Worth Upgrading My Mac Pro 4,1?

Discussion in 'Mac Pro' started by barry.pearson, Dec 15, 2016.

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Upgrade Mac Pro or Purchase Windows PC?

  1. Upgrade Mac Pro

    20 vote(s)
    74.1%
  2. Purchase Windows PC

    7 vote(s)
    25.9%
  1. barry.pearson macrumors member

    barry.pearson

    Joined:
    Jan 26, 2016
    Location:
    England
    #1
    TL,DR Version: Should I upgrade my cMP 4,1 or use the cash to start a Windows desktop that will allow me to upgrade and should receive software updates for longer than the cMP? If I upgrade, what should I upgrade next?


    Hey all, I purchased a (relatively) cheap Mac Pro 4,1 at the beginning of the year to replace a 2012 Mac Mini. While it's been a joy to use the cMP, I'm worried about the cost effectiveness of upgrading this machine since it's no longer supported by Apple.

    Since purchasing I've upgraded the firmware to 5,1 so that I could install Sierra, added an SSD and upgraded the RAM to 16GB. In total I've spent around £600-650 on the machine and the specs are:

    Quad Core 2.66GHz Xeon (W3520 I believe)
    16GB Memory (It's running at 1033MHz but is 1666MHz)
    Sapphire AMD Radeon HD 7950
    Bluetooth (2/2.1 I believe) and no WiFi

    With Apple no longer supporting the Mac Pro 4,1 with macOS updates going forward, this got me worried about how long they will support it with the 5,1 firmware. I wouldn't mind as much if there was a machine to upgrade to in the future, however all of Apple's machines are essentially non-upgradable. As with many other users, I wouldn't be as frustrated if Apple offered a machine similar to the cMP (upgradable) that I could move to in the future once this one becomes obsolete, however none of the current nMP, iMac or Mac Mini machine's really seem like realistic alternatives.

    Then again based on my last Mac ownership over the last 15 years I have owned five machines: G3 Power Macintosh, iMac G5, iMac Intel C2D, Mac Mini Intel i7 and now the Mac Pro 4,1. The longest I had a machine was the iMac G5 which I purchased in 2004 and upgraded in 2010 when I got a cheap Intel iMac. So I guess on average I own a machine for around 4 years?

    So do I continue to upgrade this machine with additional parts, or do I preempt the need to jump to Windows and use the money to start a Windows machine instead? While I have absolutely nothing against Windows 10, I use it on my Surface regularly, I've been a OS 9/OS X/macOS user for around 15 years now and feel much more productive with Apple's OS.

    I just hate the feeling that I could sink a few more hundred pounds into a machine that potentially won't be able to run next year's update to macOS. I was almost about to pull the trigger on a few upgrades, but they sure do add up:

    Intel Xeon W3690 Processor (£100-150)
    WiFi and Bluetooth 4.1 PCI card (£40)
    USB 3.0 PCI card (£45)
    500GB SSD (~£120)

    That could potentially be a new processor and a chunk towards a motherboard for a Windows PC. I already have an old case and power supply so I'm partially there. Anyway, sorry about the rant, I'm just wondering on what people's thoughts are.
     
  2. ActionableMango macrumors G3

    ActionableMango

    Joined:
    Sep 21, 2010
    #2
    Do you have a pressing need to always run the lastest MacOS? For my 5,1 I'm mostly still on Yosemite, although I do have an ElCap drive that I use from time to time.

    Also, people have tended to find ways around the rather artificial restrictions and continue to run much newer MacOS versions than their hardware officially supports. If I'm not mistaken, there are people running ElCap on a 1,1.
     
  3. nigelbb macrumors 65816

    Joined:
    Dec 22, 2012
    #3
    Putting in a 3.47GHz 6-core CPU is a very decent upgrade that will be immediately noticeable.
    It all depends what you actually use the system for but if you are basically happy with the current system then a couple of hundred pounds spent now should see you good for several years.
     
  4. barry.pearson thread starter macrumors member

    barry.pearson

    Joined:
    Jan 26, 2016
    Location:
    England
    #4
    @ActionableMango I don't have a pressing need, however I've been in the situation where I was a few versions of OS X behind on the iMac G5 and had terrible issues with devices such as iPods, iPhone, iPad and various pieces of software not working after updates. It was a frustrating and unpleasant experience, one I don't want to repeat.

    I know that people have found ways to run the Mac OS on machines that Apple don't officially support, that's the reason why I upgraded my 4,1 firmware to 5,1 just to install macOS Sierra. While there'll likely be more fixes in the future I always worry about the stability of my machine.

    I use my machine as a standard day-to-day use computer as well as for creating and modifying training videos and apps for companies. Most of the software I use regularly is tied into subscriptions (Adobe and Microsoft for example) and that is also a worry if I'm held back by the OS and the software requirements continue onwards.

    @nigelbb I'd imagine it would be a nice speed increase, especially when rendering. My only concern is that for the £120 I'm getting a pre-owneded ~5 year old CPU, while in a Windows build I could get a new, more power efficient Skylake processor for only £30 more. Now I know the Xeon is a six core compared to a quad core i5 but it's almost half a decade older.
     
  5. ActionableMango macrumors G3

    ActionableMango

    Joined:
    Sep 21, 2010
    #5
    Well Apple's official documented policy for obsolescence is 7 years after the model was last made. The 5,1 was made at least through 2012, so it should go obsolete in 2019. Although that policy is referring to hardware support, the OS support seems to run on a similar schedule (4,1 was 2009, +7 = 2016).

    I can't promise anything though. Only Apple knows. If you want to play it safe, move to Windows.
     
  6. mcnallym macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Oct 28, 2008
    #6
    If using mainly Microsoft and Adobe software then would suggest that make the move to Windows.

    As you said then using Win10 on Surface anyway. Most of the time surely people spend in the Apps that using. I spend very little time in the actual OS of my machines.

    Put together a Win10 machine for my brother recently, had been on Vista recently however a move to iPhone SE meant needed newer iTunes then what runs on Vista.

    Not had any issues with iTunes on Win10 for him either in terms of managing iPhone etc.

    At the moment then on OS X seem to be stuck at either the 980Ti, or the Titan X with the Nvidia Web Driver and potential issues with updating OS X without the Driver, yes you can work around this if you apply some common sense.

    That way the 1070/1080 becomes available if you want it.

    To me seems a bit of a no brainer.
     
  7. h9826790 macrumors G4

    h9826790

    Joined:
    Apr 3, 2014
    Location:
    Hong Kong
    #7
    If macOS is what you need, and you value stability more than performance. IMO, upgrade the 4,1 is the way to go. Even though quite a few guys said that they have a Hackintosh that 100% stable as Mac and never have any issue on OS upgrade. That's still just a relatively small group of Hackintosh. More Hackintosh have to face some minor issues on OS update (e.g. lost sound or network. Appstore, iMessage doesn't work, etc), even though usually has easy fix, but still not as stable as a real Mac in general.

    For cost to performance ratio, I doubt if any real Mac can beat the Hackintosh. So, if purely considering which one is more cost effective. Hackintosh should win.
     
  8. DPUser macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Jan 17, 2012
    #8
    • Get an X5680 or W3680; should be under $100 and well worth the investment. Machine will be significantly faster than it is now (Geekbench 2 score up from about 9k to over 15k) and should be viable for several years. Profit from its eventual sale may more than cover the expense. I have yet to hear of a used Xeon failing due to age, and the installation is dead simple.
    • Other than CPU and RAM, all the other add-ons can be transplanted to another machine any time.
     
  9. barry.pearson thread starter macrumors member

    barry.pearson

    Joined:
    Jan 26, 2016
    Location:
    England
    #9
    @ActionableMango I wasn't aware of the timescale that Apple supports the machines, although I do feel their exclusion of the 4,1 from macOS Sierra was some-what unjustified (I've heard it was something to do with the older Bluetooth and lack of standard wifi?) If I was able to get another 3 years of macOS updates on this machine as a 5,1 I'd be happy.

    @mcnallym I do use the Surface regularly for sketching notes and for browsing the net from the couch or when I'm out and about. However, although I use most of the same apps on the Surface, the Windows OS slows me down. Not because there's anything wrong with it, just simply because I'm so used to working within OS X. While I navigate between apps on a Mac using gestures on the Magic Track Pad, I don't think there's such an easy way to do this on a Windows 10 machine (outside of using a touch screen).
    You bring up a good point of the upgradability of the graphics card, however outside of slightly improved rendering times I don't think I would see a benefit. Currently the only games I play are Civilization V and Beyond Earth, neither of which push even the iGPU on the Surface.

    @h9826790 I had considered building a Hackintosh a few years back (that's actually why I already have a case, PSU etc), however I had trouble with the finer points such as wifi, imessage, Bluetooth etc. I think for the peace of mind I would want to stick to a Mac running macOS, and avoid the headaches that can come with a Hackintosh.

    @DPUser I have actually just missed out on a W3690 for £107 on eBay, although I am watching a W3680 for £85. I must admit I'm tempted and as you said it will only increase the overall value of my cMP when I come to sell it. Plus I should get £15-20 back for my current W3520.
     
  10. kschendel macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Dec 9, 2014
    #10
    I went the upgrade route: 1 Tb SSD, a couple new WD Blacks to replace the original spinners, 24 Gb memory, W3680, el cheapo USB 3 card. I run wired so I don't care about upgrading the wireless. I was going to drop in a PCIe SSD, but I'm happy enough with an ordinary SATA SSD plugged into one of the drive slots (so yes, SATA II) that I can't be bothered to spend the extra money just now. I'm pretty sure that I am set for another 3 or 4 years. (I actually used a service to upgrade my CPU board since this computer basically pays my salary, and I'm not as good at close work as I might have been 40 years ago. The extra few hundred was worth it to me but probably not to most people.)

    However, I don't care as much about staying current with OS X, I don't care about GPU performance (the original GT120 is just fine for my work), and quiet is very important to me. If I were starting out to build a PC or hackintosh I'd want to go the silent PC route, and the last time I priced doing that it ended up being $thousands.

    I think if I were you I'd do the CPU upgrade at least. That will give you a nice boost for a relative pittance. Go with the W3680 if you can't land a W3690, the difference is down in the single percentage points at best.
     
  11. barry.pearson thread starter macrumors member

    barry.pearson

    Joined:
    Jan 26, 2016
    Location:
    England
    #11
    @kschendel Looking at what people have said I think the upgrade is probably the best route to head now. It's not that I find the machine slow or lacking at the moment, I'm just thinking ahead. I think I might opt for the W3680 since I can see them for around £85 as opposed to ~£150 for the W3690 and the performance gain doesn't seem worth the extra 45% or so price increase.
    As for the WiFi card, I also use my cMP through a wired connection, I'm lucky enough to have ethernet ports in my house so the WiFi is used almost exclusively for my portable devices, however I would like to upgrade the Bluetooth in the Mac to something a little more modern. That way I can use Messages to send and receive SMS messages as well as iMessages.
     
  12. DPUser macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Jan 17, 2012
    #12
    About 4% speed differential by my calculation. More than 35% increased cost based on current Ebay $ prices.
     
  13. ActionableMango macrumors G3

    ActionableMango

    Joined:
    Sep 21, 2010
    #13
    If you aren't using software that can take advantage of more than 4 cores, then the X5677 3.46 1333 Quadcore is a good deal too. Fewer cores, but otherwise same speed as the W3690 for a lot less money.
     
  14. Macdctr, Dec 16, 2016
    Last edited: Dec 16, 2016

    Macdctr macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Nov 25, 2009
    #14
    I would recommend upgrading to the Xeon 5690 6-core processor then your memory will go from 1033Mhz to 1333Mhz and you will see a noticeable performance boost from having both faster processor and memory speeds. Another thing you can consider doing to bring your computer more up to speed regarding capabilities is to do the 802.11ac/Bluetooth 4.0/Continuity/Handoff upgrade. I highly recommend doing this as I have already done this to both my 4,1 and 5,1 MacPros. I love having the improved bluetooth upgrades and continuity/handoff capabilities my MacPros now have. You also have the added benefit of having airdrop on your MacPro with this upgrade...

    Here is the link to the thread I followed which allowed me to do this, in my opinion, necessary upgrade...
    http://forums.macrumors.com/threads...orking-on-mac-pro-2010-keep-updating.1748061/

    So far no issues with any peripherals that I have connected to my MacPros... I for one have no intention to change out my towers as they both perform their tasks with ease :)


    Short answer? Hell yeah it is worth upgrading your 4,1!! :D
     
  15. barry.pearson thread starter macrumors member

    barry.pearson

    Joined:
    Jan 26, 2016
    Location:
    England
    #15
    Okay, so I think it's going to be more cost effective to upgrade my cMP. I'm somewhat torn between a few processors, I have the 5,1 firmware installed and a single CPU tray. Options I have are:

    X5677 (4c, 3.46GHz) for around £50

    W3680 (6c, 3.33GHz) for around £120
    X5680 (6c, 3.33GHz) for around £150

    W3690 (6c, 3.46GHz) for around £150
    X5690 (6c, 3.46GHz) for around £160

    Would there be any real improvement to upgrading to the X5680/90 over the W3680/90 if I was only realistically ever going to install 16-32GB RAM? My belief is that both processors would take advantage of higher RAM speed?

    Also I see a lot of people selling the CPUs from Hong Kong/China and I'm very wary of ordering these items from there, has anyone ever had any experience with CPUs from China?

    Thanks in advance for everyone's help so far!
     
  16. h9826790 macrumors G4

    h9826790

    Joined:
    Apr 3, 2014
    Location:
    Hong Kong
    #16
    I got my W3690, 3x16GB 1333 ECC RAM, Wi-Fi ac + BT 4.2 card from China. All works as expected, zero failure so far.

    Anyway, my personal recommendation is just pick the cheapest one. The more expensive one doesn't mean more reliable, that's China. I am from Hong Kong, we do lots of online shopping from China, and that's what we learn. We usually only buy from the seller that has plenty of good feedback, and they usually sell items at the market driven price, but not any higher.

    Also, Hong Kong / China are the same in this case, the goods are all from China.
     
  17. rueyloon macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Sep 24, 2013
    #17
    I went from the 2010 macpro to a 2013 nmp, for the amount I spent, I would say it is quite a good deal to upgrade the old mac pro.

    1) go for the fastest processer available, the 3.47GHZ hex, either single or dual
    2) go for the fastest GPU. Seems to be the TitanX or 980 at the moment.
     
  18. pastrychef macrumors 601

    pastrychef

    Joined:
    Sep 15, 2006
    Location:
    New York City, NY
    #18
    Upgrading 4,1/5,1s can be a lot of fun. But at this point, I wouldn't put a lot of money in to them. If you can do the upgrades for cheap, go for it. If it's going to add up costing you anything more than say... about $250, don't do it.
     
  19. h9826790 macrumors G4

    h9826790

    Joined:
    Apr 3, 2014
    Location:
    Hong Kong
    #19
    IMO, it depends if the upgrade parts are solely buy for Mac Pro. e.g. The CPU, the network card etc. If yes, then we should avoid spending too much in this area.

    On the other hard, if that's something like a 980Ti, or SSD that can be migrated to another new computer. Then spend a bit more is not a problem. Even though we end up give up macOS, or go for the Hackintosh route, we can still use those parts and practically no lost on money.
     
  20. barry.pearson thread starter macrumors member

    barry.pearson

    Joined:
    Jan 26, 2016
    Location:
    England
    #20
    @pastrychef Looking at what I would upgrade (CPU, Add Wifi/Bluetooth and maybe another 16GB RAM) I would be looking to pay around £220 (~$275), although this wouldn't be all purchased at the same time and would likely be spread over the next few months. I've never been a gamer and don't know how much of an improvement upgrading from my 7950 to another graphics card would make to me for the cost.

    @h9826790 The PCI wifi/blutooth card I've been looking at is listed as compatible with both macOS and Windows, so that could be salvaged if I went to Windows. I could also take some of my SSD/HDDs and maybe RAM from the machine and still leave it in a saleable-working condition should I choose to upgrade.
     
  21. kschendel macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Dec 9, 2014
    #21
    I'm not an Intel CPU model expert, but my understanding is that the X vs W processors are mostly about dual processor support, so there's not much if any benefit to running an X5680 instead of a W3680. (Unless you want to install a full 64 Gb of ram; the W3680/90 top out at 56 Gb.) The interesting entry on your list is the X5677, which might be your best answer (given the price) unless you're running multi-threaded loads like DBMS loads.
     
  22. ActionableMango macrumors G3

    ActionableMango

    Joined:
    Sep 21, 2010
    #23
    I don't think that's true. There are Dual Xeon models starting with W and X (and E too).

    Snippet from the CPU compatibility list:

    upload_2016-12-19_12-26-20.png
     
  23. artfarmer macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Dec 30, 2016
    #24
    hi there! newbie arrived ;) thanks for the helpful discussion...

    I am about to buy an X5690 or W3690 – just one question left:
    Can I mix RAM sizes?? E.g. changing my actual constellation of 4x4GB/1066 to 2x16GB/1333 + 2x4GB/1333...

    I guess it's not possible to use 2x16/1333 + 2x4/1066... or would they just be "clocked down" to 1066MHz then?
     
  24. barry.pearson thread starter macrumors member

    barry.pearson

    Joined:
    Jan 26, 2016
    Location:
    England
    #25
    @artfarmer Hi, I don't know about the speed the RAM will run as my processor is limited to 1066MHz, but I did run my Mac with a mixed set of RAM without issue (2x 4GB and 2x 2GB). I would imagine that you RAM would just run at the speed of the slowest pair (the 1066).

    Currently the RAM I use in my machine is 1600, however it is clocked down to 1033 due to that being the maximum my processor will handle.
     

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