Mac noob has some questions!

Discussion in 'Mac Pro' started by SilverFirefly, Nov 6, 2010.

  1. SilverFirefly macrumors newbie

    Nov 6, 2010

    I'm completely new to Macs, having used Windows-based PCs for years. I'm finally completely fed up with Windows and the hassle I get, and have been thinking about switching to Mac because I've heard they are really good for design work and apparently OS X Snow Leopard is more reliable than Windows. So I have some questions about the best set-up for my needs.

    I use PhotoShop and Illustrator a lot, and I usually have several apps running at the same time when I'm working, like Photoshop, Illustrator, a coding app, about 5 different browsers running at the same time, Filezilla, as well as a local server running (as well as the usual iTunes, TweetDeck, Skype, etc running). I also like to play MMOGs like WoW and LotRO when I'm not working.

    I intend to use Parallels or similar for running Windows (and Linux) too, mostly for testing purposes. I need to be able to run Linux/WinXP/Vista/Win 7 apps and browsers without having to reboot.

    I'm looking at the Mac Pro because it has more options concerning the graphics card and HDDs than the iMac does.

    So I'm not sure how much RAM to get, as I've been told that Mac hardware isn't quite the same as hardware that's used in ordinary PCs. I was thinking 8GB should do it but I'd like to know that I can run everything I need (as explained above) without any slow-down. So would I be better off getting 12GB instead?

    Also, the graphics card options - I'm not an expert when it comes to things like this, so would I get more performance (for gaming as well as Photoshop etc) with just one ATI Radeon HD 5870 1GB card or a pair of ATI Radeon HD 5770 1GB cards?

    I've never used SSDs, so are they any good for using as scratch disks? Or would I be better off with normal HDDs?

    If you have any other advice concerning the set-up options for me, then that would be appreciated.

    Thanks in advance.
  2. johnnymg, Nov 6, 2010
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 9, 2010

    johnnymg macrumors 65816


    Nov 16, 2008
    Greets and welcome to these forums!

    A VERY quick response to your questions and then a comment:
    6 GB (3x2GB) of RAM minimum (more better), 5770 is plenty fast, SSD's definitely for boot and maybe for scratch (will "wear out" though). All of these questions have been BEAT to death in this forum so you will find plenty of posts about them.

    My comment would be to suggest getting a MBA/MBP "starter" machine. You can get one for slightly over $1K which would give you a taste of the Mac atmosphere for a LOT less than a MP. The MP is a beast of a machine ~~~ :) and should be approached after at least a little experience with OSX. Anyway, that's JMO as a relatively recent mac switcher.

  3. khollister macrumors 6502a


    Feb 1, 2003
    Orlando, FL
    If you are running CS5 and multiple VM's at the same time, I think you definitely need more than 8 GB RAM. You can chew up 8 GB on Photoshop CS5 alone if you are using a lot of layers on a large file. You probably need a couple GB per VM as well. I would start with at least 12 GB. You're SOL on the laptops right there - iMac or Mac Pro.

    SSD's (at least the ones with Sandforce controllers like the OWC Extreme Pro) are great scratch disks. They may not last for several years due to write limitations on the flash cells, but the small ones are getting pretty cheap, so who cares? Also highly recommended for boot+apps. Put your home directory and other data files on HDD's.

    I will defer to someone else on the best setup for dual monitors (I assume that is where you are going with the comment about 2 5770's).
  4. goMac macrumors 603

    Apr 15, 2004
    I used to run a setup doing just that, running multiple VM's and CS5 suite.

    I had 6 gigs for a while and it was simply anemic. 12 or 16 gigs should be your min.
  5. SilverFirefly thread starter macrumors newbie

    Nov 6, 2010
    Okay thanks. Just a couple of questions.

    Would I be fine with 6 cores or would I be better off with 12 cores?

    And do you know if the Apple LED monitors are any good for web design? The glossy screens are putting me off a tad, would prefer anti-glare.
  6. J the Ninja macrumors 68000

    Jul 14, 2008
    They have a good quality panel, but if you don't want the glossy finish, there are other displays that work too. It's not like having a Mac means you need a special monitor. The Dell U2711 is the same size and res as the Apple cinema display, but has a matte finish. It's about the same price, maybe a bit more, but you get more inputs too.

    For your stuff, definitely go with the 6-core. The dodecas are really only worth it for those who are doing 3D or scientific computing and have a big budget. (Debatably, the hex is a better deal for 3D as well, especially if you have a few other boxen to help with rendeirng)
  7. alust2013 macrumors 601


    Feb 6, 2010
    On the fence
    Definitely 6-core, or even quad would work for you. I don't know that I would get an apple monitor, I'd probably go dell like the above poster said. I believe that monitor might even use the same panel as the apple display.
  8. Transporteur macrumors 68030

    Nov 30, 2008
    Dell uses the exact same panel, however, combined with CCFL backlight instead of LED and a matte coating instead of the glass cover.

    Anyway, for a only a few bucks more you can get a 30" from Dell, or HP.
  9. Garamond macrumors regular

    Oct 17, 2004
    My rig is somewhat an overkill for the CS5 suite, but anyway I have already been as high as 33 gigs of memory use when pushing the apps with heavy loads. That way I'm happy to have 64 gigs totally, but then again that requires a larger budget. Got mine from OWC, btw.
  10. pfjellman macrumors regular


    Mar 18, 2010
    12GB RAM, 6 core, 5870. that will be PLENTY. wow/lotr don't require super great graphics cards, and you aren't doing any 3D rendering.

    definitely get an SSD drive for system+apps (64GB or 80GB should be plenty), makes a WORLD of difference. not sure if i'd use SSD for scratch though, it's up to you and your budget.

    go with someone other than apple for the displays, they are wonderful displays but are overpriced. i'm using 2 24" LCD displays, btw. one ASUS matte finish and one HP glossy finish. this way i have best of both worlds.

    also, if you want to save a few hundred bucks, get the RAM and HDD/SDD upgrades from a 3rd party and install them yourself.

    you'll be insanely happy with this setup. i have a similar one and it's a dream. not only ultra fast but very reliable. been on now for 43 days, no slow downs, no lags, no issues.
  11. Garamond macrumors regular

    Oct 17, 2004
    pfjellman: 12GB RAM is not plenty at all when working with the CS5 suite, I can promise you that.
  12. SilverFirefly thread starter macrumors newbie

    Nov 6, 2010
    Thanks guys.

    I do need to keep the cost down as much as possible, but I've decided to get either a 4-core or 6-core and to max out the RAM (16GB I think? I think with the 8-core and the 12-core it's a max of 32GB according to Apple!).

    I agree that LOTRO and WoW don't require huge overpowered graphic cards but I need to make sure I get the right graphic card for Photoshop/Illustrator.

    I plan on getting 2 x 24" LCD or LED monitors. The Dell monitor looks great but I'm wondering if they've got the same but in 22" or 24"? Not sure I'll have the space for 2 x 27" monitors, as nice as they are!

    I've checked on eBuyer and the 500GB SSDs are roughly the same price as the ones Apple supplies. But I think I'll get the 512GB SSD in the first HDD bay to use as a boot/apps drive and just get one more SSD for a scratch disk (probably about 64GB) and a normal HDD from eBuyer.

    What about RAID? Do I need some kind of hardware for that or can it be done with software? I've never fiddled with RAID setups before so I don't know anything about it really. Some advice about this would be useful.

  13. AnimaLeo macrumors 6502

    Sep 2, 2009
    A good tip for working how much ram you need: Buy the Mac Pro with 6gb to start off with. Then go to your activity monitor and check out your page ins/page outs. If you're getting more page outs than page ins, you need more ram.
  14. Garamond macrumors regular

    Oct 17, 2004
    64 GB is max, I have the 12-core and 8 x 8 GB sticks :) works like a charm
  15. SilverFirefly thread starter macrumors newbie

    Nov 6, 2010
    @AnimaLeo Thanks for the tip. :)

    @Garamond Cool. In the Apple Store they only offer up to 32GB preinstalled on 8-core or 12-core. Could I go up to 64GB on the quad-core or the 6-core?
  16. Transporteur macrumors 68030

    Nov 30, 2008
    32GB for the single CPU versions, 64GB for the dual CPU versions.
  17. you39 macrumors regular

    Mar 21, 2010
    And then...? You know you've wasted money on the 6GB? With the few slots of the SP MP that's not a clever tactic. It also mustn't be outs > ins to indicate insufficient RAM. It's bad enough if there's plenty of page-outs.
  18. Garamond macrumors regular

    Oct 17, 2004
    You'll be fine with 32GB as well, but in any case scenario don't order from Apple. is a recommended dealer.

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