Mac pro 3.1 upgrade... or Change?

Discussion in 'Mac Pro' started by Cactusface, Apr 23, 2015.

  1. Cactusface macrumors member

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    Mar 24, 2015
    Location:
    Leicester. UK
    #1
    Hi Folks,
    I have just got myself a Mac pro 3.1 with 2 x 2.8GHz quad, 8Gb 800MHz ram) and enjoying it. It's not the best but I hope to speed it up a bit! I have put OS Lion on an SSD that helps. I read somewhere that mountain Lion makes better use of available RAM.

    My video card is a NVIDIA GeForce 8800 GT 512 MB, it seems fine but there again I'm not a super game player, other then COD and the like, that I play on a PC. (Mac versions seem rare or just too expensive) What would be a better video card??

    I note that some of the later Mac pro's 4.1-5.1 go back to using a single CPU! Were the early quad processors, just 2 dual cores mangled together? do they run as fast? They seem to take faster ram, it's easier to get too!!

    So before I start messing around with the inners too much do I stick with what I have or go for something newer!! I do a fair bit of RAW photo editing, etc. Run Windows 7/64bit on another SSD.

    Any advice or help very welcome..

    Regards

    Mel.
     
  2. Cactusface thread starter macrumors member

    Joined:
    Mar 24, 2015
    Location:
    Leicester. UK
    #2
    Ok all you guys that looked, but went away.
    Surely the questions not that hard!!

    So just to spice it up a bit, today I purchased another Mac pro 3.1 but this has 28Gb of 800MHz ram in it, still a 2.8GHz 2 x quad, but the memory will make somethings a bit easier and faster. In time I will put the SSD on the PCIe bus, move the other SSD (Win7/64) to the top floor, etc. This Mac also came with an Epson 1660 scanner, C84 printer (Not very good?) and an LG Flatron E2722 27" IPS monitor.

    I will of course be selling my current machine..

    Again should you take up the challenge, your comments or advise is welcome.

    Regards

    Mel.
     
  3. OS6-OSX macrumors 6502a

    OS6-OSX

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  4. MentalVizion macrumors regular

    MentalVizion

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    Oct 30, 2013
    Location:
    Austria
    #4
    The 3,1 model is also decently upgradable, however if you could get a 4,1/5,1, I'd go for that one.
     
  5. ActionableMango macrumors 604

    ActionableMango

    Joined:
    Sep 21, 2010
    #5
    Welcome to the MP forum.

    • Anything you need to know about GPU upgrades is here.
    • Getting an SSD was the right move.
    • I don't know anything about CPU upgrades for 3,1.
    • 28GB is more than enough memory unless you have special needs.
    • If you want USB 3.0, look here.
    Personally I would've gotten a 4,1 or newer just because the memory and CPU upgrades are MUCH better*. As a side bonus for 4,1+ the SATA cabling is provided right there in the optical bays, and on the 5,1 you'll also get Wi-Fi/bluetooth.

    * Normally I wouldn't "rain on someone's parade" by telling them they should have got something else, but you did ask for opinions on that.
     
  6. Ph.D. macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Jul 8, 2014
    #6
    The 3,1 (in octo-core form) is a robust beast.

    Why not make it work for a while? Upgrade it, even. A better graphics card, perhaps a used genuine Apple 5770 for maybe $50, would be great. Move to PCIe for your SSD too, if you feel the need. All such upgrades could be transferred to a 4,1 or 5,1 if you ever desired.

    I recommend either Snow Leopard (for PPC compatibility if that's important to you), Mountain Lion or Mavericks instead of Lion, though.

    Have fun with it. The octo 3,1 was and remains one of Apple's most-flexible and best-value machines ever.
     
  7. sigmadog macrumors 6502a

    sigmadog

    Joined:
    Feb 11, 2009
    Location:
    near Spokane, WA
    #7
    Sounds like a good rig. I've got one also, and it's been solid for 6 years and will last another couple as far as I can tell. I do lots of photo editing also, plus design and illustration with no issues.

    It works fine with a 5770 and 32GB RAM. I've also got a couple SSDs on the PCIe as the start up RAID0 and it's super fast in Mavericks.

    Congrats! It'll be a fine machine for a long time.
     
  8. MentalVizion macrumors regular

    MentalVizion

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    Oct 30, 2013
    Location:
    Austria
    #8
    Meh, I'd still try to sell both of the 3,1's and get a 4,1/5,1 instead.
    Quite a bit more future proof IMO.

    I agree with the 3,1 being a great machine, however for a bit more cash you can have alot more. Best bang for the buck would probably provide the single CPU 4,1 as you can turn it into a 5,1 with extreme ease.

    Since you "have a 5,1" now you are able to install 6 core CPU's that support 1333Mhz RAM. (quite a gain aswell from the Mac Pro 2008's 800Mhz DDR2!)

    Please note: If you want a hassle-free CPU upgrade, don't go for the dual CPU 4,1! (5,1 is fine)

    I don't know how much you paid for that 28GB 3,1 - but if you'd sell it I am sure you can go atleast for a 2009 single core model instead. They can be had for around 500$ it seems.
     
  9. nigelbb macrumors 6502a

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    Dec 22, 2012
    #9
    Ignore those who tell you that you made a mistake that you should have done something else spent more money & got a single core 4,1. I'm betting that none of them actually have a 3,1 as those of us who do will tell you it's a great machine especially in the dual CPU quad core version. A base 4,1 may be more upgradeable but it's barely faster than a quad core 3,1 & definitely less capable than an octo core. To put it in perspective even if you upgrade a 4,1 to the max with dual six core 3.46GHz the single stream CPU performance is about double that of your 2.8GHz & you will have spent way more time effort & money.

    Key upgrades are firstly an SSD preferably on a PCIe card like an Apricom Velocity so as not to be throttled by SATA-II bus speeds. Secondly a PC graphics card - best bang for the buck is a used GTX570 at under $100 and similar performance to a GTX680. Finally upgrade RAM with 667MHz FB-DIMMs bought used as pulls from Xeon servers. I just upgraded one of my 3,1s to 32GB for the equivalent of $120. Apple was the pretty much the only manufacturer to use the 800MHz FB-DIMMs so they command premium prices (32GB new from Crucial is about $1000). The faster RAM only benchmarks about 4% faster & in real like you will see no difference in performance.
     
  10. MentalVizion macrumors regular

    MentalVizion

    Joined:
    Oct 30, 2013
    Location:
    Austria
    #10
    Hmm, you betted wrong. I had one once - and be aware - sold it in the favour of the 4,1! :rolleyes:

    As I already stated, it's a great (7 year old) machine. However, the 4,1/5,1 models are superior, period! Simply because you can upgrade the hell out of them.

    Xeon 6 cores can be had for very cheap, x5650, x5660, x5670 to name a few.

    IMO either 4,1 single CPU or 5,1 dual CPU is the way to go.
    5,1 single CPU doesn't make too much sense since it's more expensive then a 4,1 which can be turned into a 5,1 in 5 minutes.
    4,1 dual CPU model is fine aswell if you don't mind the little bit complicated CPU upgrade.

    OP, I guess I confused you rather then helped you, didn't I? xD
     
  11. Cactusface thread starter macrumors member

    Joined:
    Mar 24, 2015
    Location:
    Leicester. UK
    #11
    Hi All,
    Thanks for your replies! I'm sticking with the NEW 3.1, as carriage is expensive and tricky, the seller is going to deliver it all to me tomorrow.
    Not sure if that has wiFi, but if not it looks a simple matter to change it over? Where does this have it's antenna?

    They do seem very tuff machines, I have a USB-3 card in the old machine to swap over, but it needs the power from the SATA drive socket, I'm looking to find it somewhere else?

    Perhaps it will be a slow climb up the upgrading ladder, but I'll get there in the end.

    Regards

    Mel.
     
  12. nigelbb, Apr 26, 2015
    Last edited: Apr 27, 2015

    nigelbb macrumors 6502a

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    Dec 22, 2012
    #12
  13. Inutopia macrumors 6502

    Inutopia

    Joined:
    Apr 8, 2009
    Location:
    South of Heaven
    #13
    With an SSD, USB 3.0 and a decent amount of ram already in place I'd say go for a GPU and you'll be sorted.

    Forget CPU upgrades with the 3,1 marginal gains going to the max 3.2Ghz ones and potential heat issues as they used a different heatsink I think.

    I use my 3,1 for similar things (RAW edit, Stitching, Video, Games). I just put a GTX 970 in mine and it is BANGIN!!

    Specs atm:

    2x2.8Ghz Xeons
    24Gb RAM
    256Gb SSD
    GTX970 4Gb
    Various spinning hard disks totalling around 7Tb
     
  14. nigelbb macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Dec 22, 2012
    #14
    The thing that makes the Mac Pro 3,1 still such a useful workhorse is that the vast majority of them are dual CPU 8 core model. In comparison it seems the vast majority of the 4,1s are the single core which are tricky to upgrade to dual CPU. With the right professional applications e.g. Premiere Pro, FCP X etc all eight CPUs get used to the max.

    I have a dual 3.2GHz & a my wife has a 2.8GHz & you really cannot tell the difference in day to day use. I wouldn't be happy if I had gone through the hassle of sourcing & upgrading from 2.8GHz to 3.2GHz for a very marginal performance gain.
     
  15. IowaLynn macrumors 6502a

    IowaLynn

    Joined:
    Feb 22, 2015
    #15
    My only regret (1,1 so not EFI64) would be to have two dual-wide slots, and 4 x PCIe aux power connections, like you know two 8-pin? it would be awesome and live up to Intel's name as a Skulltrail 2 Media Creation workstation.

    People have managed 8x8GB FBDIMMs even on these.
     
  16. CaptainChunk macrumors 68020

    CaptainChunk

    Joined:
    Apr 16, 2008
    Location:
    Phoenix, AZ
    #16
    I currently own a 2.8 Octo 3,1 and while it's been a great workhorse (it's paid for itself with work 50x over), I'm leaning more towards finding a decent deal on a dual-processor 4,1 or 5,1 instead of upgrading it further than I already have. I have my reasons:

    1. Slower CPU/memory architecture. Performance bottlenecks are already a very real thing with professional applications such as DaVinci Resolve. DDR2 FB-DIMMs also cost a lot more than DDR3 DIMMs.

    2. Almost no CPU choice - you're stuck using Harpertowns with SLAxx spec codes, limiting you to THREE CPUs with very little performance differential. Swapping 2.8s for 3.0s or 3.2s isn't even worth the effort for the very minimal performance gains.

    3. The x4 slots (3 and 4) are PCIe 1.1 spec, which cripples bandwidth if you want to use PCIe SSD cards and get all the speed you paid for.

    For anyone looking at 3,1, I'd say it's a good buy as long as you're okay those shortcomings and don't spend more than you have to. I wouldn't pay more than $600 for a 3,1 at this point.
     
  17. thestickman macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2010
    Location:
    Jacksonville, FL
    #17
    Had my 3,1 2.8 for a few weeks now. Added SSD + 20gb ram +nVidia 740 card and I have never been happier.

    I do pro audio on mine & have yet to have a problem. Will use it for 2 years or more till 4,1 prices come down more.
     
  18. seveej macrumors 6502a

    seveej

    Joined:
    Dec 14, 2009
    Location:
    Helsinki, Finland
    #18
    OP,

    from someone who's has basically the same rig:
    - Drives: SSD for system and apps. A decent speed-up
    - interfaces: If you need loads of fast disks, get a SATA3 controller and a series of SSD's; If you have use for USB3, get an interface card.
    - RAM: 8 gigs is doable on 10.6, from there upwards you need more. As said, consider going for 667 in stead of 800 Mhz. You'll save a bundle and the speed difference can be more than made up for with more RAM.
    - GPU: The 8800 is decent, considering its age, but actually the noisiest part of your rig. Consider switching it for basically anything compatible (or flashed)

    If the components don't fail (and if you aren't redlining the machine 24/7), it will serve you well.

    RGDS,
     
  19. Cactusface thread starter macrumors member

    Joined:
    Mar 24, 2015
    Location:
    Leicester. UK
    #19
    Hi,
    Thanks to all for your help and encouragement!!! For the time being I will stick with what I have, that is:

    Mac Pro 3.1 2x 2.8GHz, 28GB 800MHz ram, OS Lion on a Samsung 840 Pro SSD, It'd very quite, yes even the 8800 GPU! As a 3.2GHz version wouldn't show much difference?

    How does mountain Lion deal better with memory compared to Lion?? is it worth the change, how do I change? it seems like you pay for a key and download it, would it be worth going for Mavericks on this machine..

    But I think my next move will be putting the SSD on an PCIe card. The second machine I got has 2x CD drives but their quite slow by today's standard, so may pinch the one out of the PC!!

    Regards.

    Mel.
     
  20. carylee2002 macrumors member

    carylee2002

    Joined:
    Jul 27, 2008
    #20
    I tried Mavericks and Yosemite….went back to Mountain Lion and everything is very stable. Mavericks and Yosemite had too many apple apps running in the background and tend to run hotter. When I went back to Mountain Lion…temps dropped and many of my programs still support it. So I will stay with it till I have to jump which won't be a while.
     
  21. CanadaMaple macrumors member

    Joined:
    May 1, 2015
    #21
    The only thing my 3,1 hasn't had is a GPU upgrade.

    I have 14GB of ram
    240 SSD (OWC Adaptadrive, thinking of going to a Solo x2 or something for SATA3)
    3 5TB HDD's.

    Dual CPU Quad 3.0 Xeon (8-core)
    GT120 which mine came with. (Bought second-hand years ago. but even has GT120 on the serial sticker, thought these all came with 8800?)

    I also have dual superdrives.

    My Mac is used mainly for software development and media conversion. It's super fast and I don't see myself needing to upgrade in the foreseeable future. I may add more RAM and new GPU though.

    These are great machines, you should be fine with it for a while.

    I run Yosemite and Windows 8.1 (Bootcamp and Parallels configured)

    -CM
     
  22. IowaLynn macrumors 6502a

    IowaLynn

    Joined:
    Feb 22, 2015
    #22
    The 2008 GPU came stock with OEM ATI 2600XT's actually so someone did you a favor! The 8800GT was BTO but I think after the March 2008 debut.

    Those darn two PCIe 1.1 4x slots are the only real hiccup, and being the first with UEFI 2.0 64-bit firmware too.

    I assume you likely have either Apple 512MB VRAM GT120 or a flashed 1GB PC card in there.

    An XP941 PCIe-SSD boot drive; have Windows on its own SSD (not sure if Windows will boot from an XP941, would like to try)
     
  23. CanadaMaple macrumors member

    Joined:
    May 1, 2015
    #23
    It's an Apple GT120. Came from the factory like that according to its original Apple Spec sticker. My guess is it may be a refurb? Since I also was pretty sure Apple did not ship them with that GPU.

    -CM
     
  24. g2only macrumors newbie

    g2only

    Joined:
    Jun 25, 2015
    #24
    Do you have any PSU issues with the GTX 970 installed or did you add an external PSU...? I would like to install one, but thought the PSU is only 300W. I already have SSD, 24GB RAM--just want a good GPU upgrade to do 4K edits in PPro.
     
  25. Inutopia macrumors 6502

    Inutopia

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    Location:
    South of Heaven
    #25
    I've moved up to a 4,1 flashed in the last year. Having said that I had no issues with the PSU, it's 1000w.
     

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