Looking at buying a Mac Pro, but hesitant, please help!!

Discussion in 'Mac Pro' started by Fenix16, Aug 22, 2008.

  1. Fenix16 macrumors newbie

    Aug 22, 2008
    Just a little bit about myself:

    Im currently a 3rd year Graphic Design student about to take on my last year of college and try my part in the workforce of design. I currently own a MBP 2.0 GHZ from when i started school, but the last few months or so have brought on hard life to my baby. She is running sluggish, crashing constantly and really just on its last legs. Mind you I have gotten a great amount of work from her over my 3 years of owning it, but with myself going into the workforce and entering my final year of classes where I cant afford to have a buggy MBP by my side I have decided to buy a Mac Pro.

    I found myself torn from where I should buy it, I currently work at Future Shop which is like the Canadian version of Best Buy. I have been working there for about 5 years and ironically work in the mac department. I want to buy it from my store as not only will I get the commission from the sale, but also a very handy financing package which apple does not offer in Canada. But, after finding out that Future Shop only carries the standard ($2899) Xeon 2.8GHZ Mac Pro, without the ability to customize I find myself with a few questions and no answers.

    1. Can I buy a graphic card from my store, and install that in my Mac Pro. The one im going to be buying will come with the standard ati 256MB graphic card, but id like to have at least 3 cards running as I do ALOT of high 3D rendering and would like to run a series of monitors across my workplace. Also I would want them running at the same time, using either SLI or Crossfire to do so. Is this ability common in Mac Pros? Basically what im asking is would my Mac Pro have the ability to use 2x SLI Nvidia Graphic cards, or 2x ATI Crossfire Graphic Cards.

    2. What is the type and speed of the RAM modules used in the Mac Pro.

    3. Would I be able to buy any hard drive, install it in my Mac Pro, format it to Fat32 and use it as either a ghost drive or a complete mirror of my Primary HD.

    4. Would I be able to buy a hard drive, just install it in the Mac Pro, and use it to backup TimeMachine?

    My biggest area of concern is the graphics, as I'm buying a $3000 computer I want the ability to upgrade the graphics periodically throughout the computers life, and I dont want to go through tons of stress to get a "Mac Compatible" Graphic Card. So would any PCIe graphic card work in the mac pro, running leopard

    Thanks in Advance
  2. nanofrog macrumors G4

    May 6, 2008
    Buy the base model offered at your store, and upgrade it. It ends up costing far less by adding your own upgrades anyway, as Apple's prices are quite steep.

    1. A Mac Pro cannot use SLI. The motherboard isn't equiped to do it.
    It can run crossfire using 2x graphics cards, but only in windows. The Radeon HD 3870 PC & Mac ed. seems to be quite a decent card for the Mac Pro.

    2. FB_DIMM @ 800MHz

    3. You can install any SATA I/II HDD you want. Most use HFS under OS X, but FAT32 could be used. Search the forum, there's quite a bit of info on this. ;)

    4. Yes.

    As for graphics, Apple has a lack of options, and tends to release a generation behind. As mentioned earlier, the HD 3870 is available. Nor does Apple currently offer the card. But at $220 MSRP, it's not bad at all.

    Graphics cards that are to be operated in OS X, the choices are very limited. They must support Apple's EFI based firmware. A typical PC uses BIOS, and these cards can be used, but only under a windows environment.

    Take a look at these articles. It may help get you started.

    Good Luck. :)
  3. Umbongo macrumors 601


    Sep 14, 2006
    When you say you do alot of 3D rendering what do you mean? GPUs and CPUs do different things in regards to rendering. Also what software are you using? If it is windows based then you can use any graphics card you want.

    Don't worry about buying the base model, that is what most people should be looking at anyway. Disadvantages for you might be that you probably can't get the Airport installed at purchase and you will end up with a 2600XT that you may not use (but could sell). Though if you are going to be working in OSX only then you might want to use the 2600XT to power secondary displays and buy the ATI HD3870 to power your main display and use that as your main workspace for 3D, I'm assuming you are going with 3 monitors, but more than that can be solved in a similar way.

    As far as I know you can't use crossfire with seperate cards to power multiple displays on the Mac Pro. A multi-card crossfire setup all has to feed in to a single display. I don't know how the x2 cards work though.

  4. nick9191 macrumors 68040

    Feb 17, 2008
    Yes the graphics are upgradeable. You really want ATI graphics for the work you are doing because:

    1. ATI cards perform better thanks to Nvidias useless OS X drivers.
    2. Crossfire is supported whilst SLI is not. However Crossfire is not supported under OS X, only Windows, however this is likely to be included with Snow Leopard or a current Leopard service pack.

    The Mac Pro takes up to 4 graphics cards, however under OS X this is only good for multiple monitors at the moment. As stated Crossfire support is most likely coming.

    Until that time comes, I know several hard core (and when I say hard core, I mean hard core) post production artists, 1 uses a single 3870, the other uses an single X1900XT. OS X is much more advanced than anything else in the way it deals with graphics, and you will likely find a single 3870 ample. And if you need more, hey theres always the Quadro.

    Also Crossfire does not mean the power of 2 graphics cards. 2 crossfired 3870's provides only a 30% performance increase over one.
  5. kahine macrumors regular

    Jul 10, 2008
    You can't say the Crossfire only can help by 30% - it can be less or more - much more -

    Age of Conan and Warhammer both show crossfire helping at least 50% and often 70-80% -

    At high resolutions like 1920x1280 and 2560x1600 with AA on without crossfire those games run 20-40fps - with it on they run 45-90fps

    So there is no set rule of a limit of how much crossfire can help - at high resolutions it can can very close to doubling your framerates fairly constantly
  6. TheStrudel macrumors 65816


    Jan 5, 2008
    I'd be very surprised if you found any speed limitations with a mac pro in design work with even the base graphics card (a 3870 would help). I'm not all that knowledgeable about design software, but animation, rendering and video editing put a much heavier load on the computer than design work; I've yet to hear of any designers complaining about speed with their mac pro. Provided you've got enough RAM (and being that most software is still 32-bit, you won't need more than 8 GB).

    FAT32 is limited to 4 GB file sizes, so you won't be able to use it to mirror your primary drive. Use HFS+.

    Out of curiosity, what kind of commission and discount will you get for this "sale"? I wonder how it compares to the edu discount.
  7. Fenix16 thread starter macrumors newbie

    Aug 22, 2008
    First off thanks for the responses already, you all have been very helpful.

    1. Mostly the programs that I use are:
    - Adobe Illustrator
    - Adobe Photoshop
    - Quark Xpress
    - Adobe Indesign
    - Dreamweaver
    - Flash

    all under Creative Suite 3

    2. Yes, I would be running 3 monitors.

    3. I would see a 150$ commission from the sale, and the ability to take Future Shop's current Student Bundle which comes for free with any Mac purchase, it includes:
    - iWork'08
    - Airport Xpress Basestation
    - HP 4280 Printer

    all for free.

    I would buy it from apple if I needed the ipod, but i have an 8GB iphone already and that handles my music needs.

    Also back to the RAM, would this be compatible
  8. Umbongo macrumors 601


    Sep 14, 2006
    The applications listed will run fine on the 2600XT which can drive two displays, so either add another one of those or get the HD3870 if you intend to use 3D applications (or games).

    You need Fb-DIMMs for the Mac Pro. DDR2 PC-6400 800Mhz FB-DIMMS should be what you are looking for.

    http://www.canadaram.com/apple_mac_pro.htm is a good source for Mac Pro memory in Canada.

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