I've been bequeathed a Mac Pro 5,1. Can I turn into a gaming machine?

Discussion in 'Mac Pro' started by Babubadar, Jun 23, 2017.

  1. Babubadar macrumors newbie

    Babubadar

    Joined:
    Dec 12, 2010
    #1
    Hello,

    Sorry if something like this has already been posted but I couldn't find it in the search. I'm looking for some advice. Long story short, I've been gifted a Mac Pro (Mid 2010). I have been sitting on what to do with it for nine months. Partly because of life commitments and partly because of not knowing what to do with it. At first, I thought I should turn it into a dedicated Plex Server. However, I thought that was a bit overkill and it would be a menial task for something that used to be a beast (still is?). I have now decided to relegate my mid-2010 27" iMac for that task.

    My question then is how feasible is it to turn into a gaming computer (and process large amounts of proteomics data when needed). I've always wanted to build a gaming PC/workhorse machine. I feel like I've been given a headstart in that avenue akin to inheriting a muscle car and just restoring some bits here and there. I know if I want to game with it I'd need to go mostly Bootcamp avenue but she runs a few games on Steam alright already: Skylines. So this is what I was thinking of doing:

    • SSD Upgrade x 2
      • Windows 10
      • macOS High Sierra
    • Ram Upgrade
      • 12GB seems too paltry. I'm thinking either 32GB or 64GB
    • GPU Upgrade: Nvidia GTX1080
      • This is one of the main things that have impeded my plans. I know Nvidia released web drivers recently, but I still hear horror stories. Even though the Mac Pro only has a PCI2, that wouldn't be as much of a bottle neck for the GPU, am I right? How would it fair with boot camp. And I don't wish to pay a £200 premium for a flashed one. And with Apple officially supporting eGPUs I think Nvidia will keep supporting OSX in a more timely manner even though both companies have beef
    • Smaller additions: Bluetooth 4.0, USB 3 Upgrade and maybe a Blu-Ray drive for ripping my Blu-Rya collection
    I don't think a CPU upgrade would be worth it. I have posted the specs below. Please let me know if my plan is viable or am I better off just scrapping the idea. Could it be done for less than £1k. Considering I got the Mac Pro for free, I think I have a bit of leeway. If I wanted to build a PC from scratch I'd have to factor in motherboard, case, CPU, PSU, etc




    Mac Pro Specs 01 CPU GPU.png Mac Pro Specs 02 RAM.png
     
  2. sentential macrumors regular

    Joined:
    May 27, 2015
    #2
    Absolutely! My 2c, try to locate a handful of RX580s or RX480s (3) rather than the 1080Ti, and eBay the best processors you can put into it and coin mine (bitcoin / ethereum) your way to profit/breakeven and game on the side. Had I been given one for free that's exactly what I'd do
     
  3. bjar macrumors member

    Joined:
    Feb 20, 2013
    Location:
    Sugar land, tx
    #3
    CPU upgrade was worth it for me. You can get 2 3.46 ghz x5677 on eBay for ~$100. They are only quad core but you will benefit more from speed than more cores for most games. You don't have to delid for a 5,1 so it is easy.
     
  4. h9826790 macrumors 604

    h9826790

    Joined:
    Apr 3, 2014
    Location:
    Hong Kong
    #4
    The 5,1 can do gaming quite well. However, you need to upgrade the CPU. Your Mac is very CPU single thread limiting in gaming. And as the other points out, X5677 is the way to go.

    1080 is a nice choice for gaming. Nothing wrong to use that. However, my understanding is a non flashed 1080 can only run PCIe 1.1 in Windows. In MacOS, it can run at PCIe 2.0, however, it won't work at all before Nvidia driver install and activated. This will give you some trouble on every OS update. You better study that, make sure you know what you are doing before you make the purchase.

    Anyway, for gaming, only Windows 10 is he way to go. If you don't need MacOS, then you can forget about the web driver trouble.

    I believe PCIe 1.1 X16 will bottleneck the card a bit, but won't be very significant. Also, in any case, still able to provide decent gaming experience.

    However, £1k may allow you to build a gaming PC that perform better than 5,1. So, you better be sure you want to do this. It's more for fun, or fully utilise the resource, but not for performance. Last but not least, cMP use much more power than a current gen PC. If you put the electricity bill into account, using the 5,1 as gaming machine usually is not a good choice.
     
  5. xactoman macrumors member

    Joined:
    Jul 9, 2015
    #5
    Mac pro makes an awesome gaming machine. That is exactly what I did with mine. I upgraded the processor to 3.46ghz, Hex core, 32 GB of ram. Put in 4, 1 TB drives, 2 for mac, 2 for PC. Installed two PCI SSD cards, one mac, one for WIN Ten. I had a GTX 980ti installed but recently switched it out to a GTX 1080. Smoking fast! I only have a single 6 core processor, but with the 1080, it drives well over 100 fps at high settings on most games. Very satisfying and easy build.

    You don't really need more than 16GB of Ram, but I just happened to have it. The 980ti is harder to install as it needs more power connections. the 1080 is super easy with a single 8 pin. you can drive that right off the logic board. Its also a TON cooler running. The 980ti was like a blast furnace.
     
  6. Babubadar thread starter macrumors newbie

    Babubadar

    Joined:
    Dec 12, 2010
    #6
    Cheers for that. You wouldn't happen to have the exact components that you used to hand, would you? I.e., the RAM, PCI SSD? I imagine it is an awesome workhorse for you as well
    --- Post Merged, Jun 23, 2017 ---
    Yeah, that's what I was referring to when I heard nightmares in regards to installing a 1080. I just checked eBay and I think I will upgrade the CPU as well, following some advice. It wouldn't strictly be a gaming device only. Professionally I need to process 100s of GBs of proteomics data as well at a time, however, the software is Windows only but I prefer data analysing in OSX, so I'd need it to run virtual machines as well.
     
  7. Flint Ironstag macrumors 6502a

    Flint Ironstag

    Joined:
    Dec 1, 2013
    Location:
    Houston, TX USA
    #7
    - is your professional software GPU accelerated?

    With sufficient RAM, fast storage, 1080 and 12 core CPU upgrade you should be able to: run your number crunching VMs, serve multiple plex streams, and game simultaneously. Maybe dedicate a 2nd GPU to the VMs.
     
  8. xactoman macrumors member

    Joined:
    Jul 9, 2015
    #8

    Certainly do the upgrade. I have a machine at work that is a dual 3.46GHZ 12 core adn when all 24 are rocking it really crunches the numbers. Can't be beat.

    as for my install, i used very inexpensive PCI SSD cards (from ebay):
    http://www.ebay.com/itm/mSATA-Mini-...ard-6-0Gbps-/181692051233?hash=item2a4db0af21

    and installed Crucial MX200 500GB mSATA Internal Solid State Drive - CT500MX200SSD3 for SSD drives. They have been rock solid.

    GTX 1080 is very simple and easy to install. I have an EVGA PC version and it drops right in. I have a mac GT120 in the last slot so that I can access boot loader screen.

    Hardest part was getting the drives to all play nice together. I installed Mac on the SSD with nothing else in the computer. Removed that device, then INstalled windows on its own SSD. Win drivers were downloaded from apple and installed from a USB. Put both PCI cards back in and they played nice together. The 4 1TB drives gave me some fits when they were installed as they still had EFI boot partitions on them and would mess up startup. They need to be totally wiped out so the EFI boot process can find the PCI startup SSDs. With that sorted the machine has been rock solid.

    As for memory I used GB PC3-10600 1333 MHZ ECC REGISTERED APPLE Mac Pro MacPro5,1 MEMORY RAM. Dropped in 4 sticks and were good to go. You can find Samsung RAM used from old HP servers online fairly cheap.

    Processor was w3690, but its a single unit. I think you need the x variants for dual processor. STill, very inexpensive.
     
  9. Babubadar thread starter macrumors newbie

    Babubadar

    Joined:
    Dec 12, 2010
    #9
    The proteomic analysis (searching for amino acids based on masses using mass spectrometry) is all CPU heavy. The developers of The software recommend more cores, SSDs and higher clock speeds, and RAM as file sizes get enormous. Protein folding could benefit from GPU type calculations but I don't really deal with that. The issue with running a Plex server is that as mentioned the cMP can draw a lot of power. I don't have a 4K TV yet so I wouldn't even benefit from transcoding that with the extra horsepower. I guess more people could stream simultaneously. Essentially I know the Mac Pro can be a work beast even if it is 7 years old but I was curious to know if I could insert a GPU in there as well and use it for gaming as well.
    --- Post Merged, Jun 23, 2017 ---

    Thanks for the help. I'm quite excited. I will update everyone when its all done!
     
  10. h9826790 macrumors 604

    h9826790

    Joined:
    Apr 3, 2014
    Location:
    Hong Kong
    #10
    For CPU demanding job, you may consider the X5680 / X5690. But unless you sure you can use more than 8C 16T, X5677 may serve you well enough.
     
  11. xactoman macrumors member

    Joined:
    Jul 9, 2015
    #11
    I use my dual Hex core for CPU rendering. Once engaged, all 12/24 go full bore, so there isn't much left for other tasks. I assume that would be the same for you analysis sequencing. I'd drop in a pair of X5690 and a full 64GB of RAM and have some fun. These CPUs are pretty inexpensive, no need messsing around with anything but the top speed versions.
     
  12. ActionableMango macrumors 604

    ActionableMango

    Joined:
    Sep 21, 2010
    #12
    Well I learned a new word today.

    Also, I agree with the others--a CPU upgrade is very useful in your scenario.
     
  13. Flint Ironstag macrumors 6502a

    Flint Ironstag

    Joined:
    Dec 1, 2013
    Location:
    Houston, TX USA
    #13
    I would definitely go for the 12 core CPU upgrade then. Heh, a nMP would do nicely.
     
  14. CapnDavey macrumors 6502

    CapnDavey

    Joined:
    Apr 11, 2015
    #14
    thats a great Mac Pro and free is always the best price
     
  15. DanSilov macrumors member

    Joined:
    Sep 19, 2016
    #15
    For best overall performance definitely upgrade CPU to dual X5675/X5680/X5690. CPU is important, and since 5,1 is quite old you might want to brute force it with max base frequency and max number of cores. Plus with new CPUs RAM will work faster. You should be able to find a couple X5680s for ~$200 on eBay.

    For RAM consider 6 DIMMs (3 per CPU). Sweet spot would be 6 x 8GB = 48GB, and it is dirt-cheap anyway. I don't remember exactly, but I think I've got 64GB set of 8GB DIMMs for about $50-70, using only 6 anyway.

    For boot drive use PCIe adapter and M.2 blade (Samsung SM951 AHCI for example). This will be around 1500MB/s. Adapter is ~$20 and the blade is ~$170 for 256GB (enough for main disk).

    For video 1080 is the way to go, absolutely, if you have the money. Dual AMD 580x might be another option.

    Overall I think you can definitely do it for way less than $1000.
     
  16. Ph.D. macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Jul 8, 2014
    #16
    My take:

    * First, congratulations on passing on the MP for Plex. cMP's are extremely inefficient for that task.
    * 12 GB of RAM is plenty for games and most general use, actually (except maybe for your proteomics?). Check your "memory pressure" and I think you will see that it's almost always in the "green."
    * Your processors are pretty slow, but CPU upgrades (at least top-tier ones) can be expensive. I'd pass.
    * Realize that SSD's will be slow in a normal drive sled. You would need a PCI card to take better advantage of them.

    But, and I hate to say this, if you want to play games, the wisest use of your MP is to sell it for cash, add in your upgrade budget, and build a machine from scratch: An I7 7700k on a mid-range motherboard, good air-cooling, a decent SSD, a 1070 or 1080(ti?) will blow away a fully buffed cMP for games, and this system will have modern ports, etc. My machine (6700K, 1070, extra-nice case, etc.) cost around $1500. Given your list of upgrades, I'd say you wouldn't exceed your budget.

    For Proteomics, your cMP could still be fine (as is, even), as long as it uses all of your cores. But a scratch built system would likely be faster for that, too. Sad, I know, but cMP's are just getting old these days.

    Oh, and if you do build a computer, consider running Linux. :)
     
  17. DanSilov macrumors member

    Joined:
    Sep 19, 2016
    #17
    Single X5680 goes for $90, which is not that expensive.
    http://www.ebay.com/itm/Intel-Xeon-...050835&hash=item4646b19198:g:xSUAAOSw~otWfP63

    I would agree with this in general. Right now with the right upgrades and 1080 it will be just as capable, but in the future it won't be upgradable just as easily. Mac Pro's are great for work (FinalCut, Logic, etc), but gaming is easier and cheaper on a custom PC. Plus, selling beefed up Mac Pro can be quite profitable. I'd say go for upgrades, test it out and then sell it for cash with a profit.
     

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