Mac Pro 3,1 Upgrades

Discussion in 'Mac Pro' started by subv3, May 10, 2014.

  1. subv3, May 10, 2014
    Last edited: May 10, 2014

    subv3 macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    May 10, 2014
    #1
    Hello,

    I have a Mac Pro 3,1 (Early 2008 - 2x 2.8Ghz Quad-Core Intel Xeon). I've upgraded quite a lot over time: extra RAM (currently at 8GB); 3 HDs of various sizes plus 1x 240GB SSD - original HD long gone; USB3 PCI card, Blu-Ray drive. I've just bought an NVIDIA GeForce GT120 as used in the Mac Pro 4,1 as I wanted to try running the 30" Cinema Display alongside a 27" LED Cinema Display (Mini DisplayPort) which I believe should work.

    I still love the machine and it works beautifully but I'm wondering if anyone has any suggestions on any other upgrades that could be made. Should I bother to upgrade it any more? It feels like there is a lot of life left in the machine yet and it's not limiting me in any way currently.

    Thanks
     
  2. NOTNlCE macrumors 6502a

    NOTNlCE

    Joined:
    Oct 11, 2013
    Location:
    DMV Area
    #2
    I would get a better graphics card. The GT 120 might be an "official" Mac GPU, but the PC NVIDIA cards perform much better. I'd return that GT 120 and pick up a 600 or 700 series NVIDIA GPU and just use an adapter for Mini DisplayPort. That being said, the GT 120 is still an OK card, and you get a boot screen. I would spring for a PCIe SSD controller. Try an Apricorn Velocity Solo (either x1 or x2) for increased performance from your SSD. Any further processor upgrades aren't going to be worth it as far as price/performance ratio. The 3.2GHz are the max in a 3,1 and the performance increase over your twin 2.8GHz CPUs is minimal. And of course, if you have empty RAM slots, more RAM never hurts. Check eBay for FB-DIMMs, you can usually pick up 8GB in 4x2GB sticks for a bit over $20 shipped.
     
  3. subv3 thread starter macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    May 10, 2014
    #3
    Thanks for the reply and the advice. I'll try out the GT 120 when it arrives but I might end up putting it back on eBay. We'll see. I only got it was because it seemed to be the cheapest way to get the 27" LED Cinema Display hooked up to the machine. The Apricorn Velocity Solo looks pretty good but I don't know how much it would improve the performance of the SSD I've got currently (OWC Mercury Electra Pro 3G 240GB - very expensive at the time!). Looks like 4GB sticks of RAM are about £15 ($25-ish) each on eBay so I might consider sticking another 8GB in the two slots I've got free.

    ----------

    I just realised I wasn't looking at 800MHz RAM which actually seems to be pretty expensive at around £70–80 for a 4GB stick.
     
  4. sigmadog macrumors 6502a

    sigmadog

    Joined:
    Feb 11, 2009
    Location:
    near Spokane, WA
    #4
    The best upgrade I've done on my 3,1 (2.8 dual quad) is to add a Sonnet Tempo Pro PCIe card with (2) 480GB SSDs. I set them up as a RAID 0 and use them as my boot disk.

    Before the upgrade, my system would take about two minutes to start up. Afterwards, just for fun, I did a start up that included auto-starting Illustrator, InDesign and Photoshop - it took less than thirty seconds.

    Using it as my boot disk makes the system feel much faster (because it mostly is), and I'm starting to transition to loading all my temporary work files on it as well to speed up my workflow.

    If you do this, I recommend frequent backups just in case something goes awry with your SSDs.
     
  5. NOTNlCE macrumors 6502a

    NOTNlCE

    Joined:
    Oct 11, 2013
    Location:
    DMV Area
    #5
    If you already have that much in 800MHz RAM, it might be good to keep 800MHz RAM. I run 667MHz in my 3,1 and I believe the number is a "15% memory bandwidth increase going from 667MHz to 800MHz, and a 4% increase in system wide speed" as cited HERE though whether that's important to you or not is something else entirely. Personally, I use more RAM than 8GB, so the performance hit doesn't mean much to me as long as I have free memory. If you don't use all 8GB, you will benefit more from RAM speed than capacity.
     
  6. satcomer macrumors 603

    satcomer

    Joined:
    Feb 19, 2008
    Location:
    The Finger Lakes Region
    #6
    You could get Mercury Accelsior PCI SSD and use as a boot up drive but store music/pictures on an internal hard drive.
     
  7. subv3 thread starter macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    May 10, 2014
    #7
    Thanks guys. I'm using the OWC Mercury Electra Pro 3G 240GB as my startup drive and it's pretty fast but I could probably do better. Just did a start up test auto-opening Illustrator, Photoshop, InDesign, Chrome, Spotify and a few other login items (plus I had an external USB HD plugged in which seemed to slow it down a little) - 56s from the startup chime.

    The OWC Mercury Accelsior looks like it could be a really interesting upgrade, although it is a little pricey (looks like it's nearing £1/GB).

    ----------

    Ah, I was under the impression that 800MHz was the minimum RAM speed supported by the 3,1 after checking EveryMac.com and apple-history. I guess it must be working for you though?
     
  8. NOTNlCE macrumors 6502a

    NOTNlCE

    Joined:
    Oct 11, 2013
    Location:
    DMV Area
    #8
    Yes, the 667s work fine in my 3,1 - I even have some of the original 800MHz FB-DIMMs in my machine still, working fine. They just run at 667MHz instead of 800.
     
  9. OS6-OSX macrumors 6502a

    OS6-OSX

    Joined:
    Jun 13, 2004
    Location:
    California
    #9
    Pertaining to 800 v 667, it has been said that lots of ram running at 667 is better than a small amount (8GB) at 800. Check the prices of 667 ram and see if an additional 16GB is out of the question. Then read online user results of 667 with apps that you use.
    Someone I know uses Mavericks in addition to 10.6.8 and 10.8.5
    Mav uses 5GB which would only leave you 3GB
    The GT120 needs to be replaced like NOTNICE stated.
     
  10. m4v3r1ck macrumors 68020

    m4v3r1ck

    Joined:
    Nov 2, 2011
    Location:
    The Netherlands
    #10
    +1
    I would recommend exact the same upgrades to keep your MP 3.1 going for a few more years! Good luck choosing yours.
     
  11. Varmann macrumors member

    Joined:
    Jan 3, 2010
    #11
    Good recommendations!

    Before you decide what to upgrade as first priority, I guess it is a good thing to try to find the usual bottleneck in your system. What that is depend on many things and may take some effort to find out.

    Personally I have gone a long and expensive way to upgrade my own system. Mainly since the setup is a bit complicated and it took seven years to get it nicely working together (five on PC and two more, after I bought the 3.1). Then expensive upgrades are well worth the frustration of a partly dysfunctional system. Worth it to me, but probably not to many else.

    My last upgrade was 4 Samsung EVO SSDs in raid0 on my Areca raidcard. They really make my huge Lightroom library fly.

    After 6 years my 3.1 do not feel limiting or slow. I have never been able to say that for a computer before. A very solid build and base configuration!

    I plan to keep it until both the new MacPro and the peripherals for TB have been tested by time and had some ironing out of different issues.

    Good Luck!
     
  12. Macsonic macrumors 65816

    Macsonic

    Joined:
    Sep 6, 2009
    Location:
    Earth
    #12


    I would recommend that you still keep your Nvidia GT120, for back up to your other incoming GPU and in case you need the boot screen Also handy for troubleshooting and isolating in case you encounter hardware issues. I keep extra GPUs for emergencies. One time my Viewsonic monitor went black and I had deadlines to meet. Since I had an extra video card and an extra monitor, the problem was the monitor. Both GPUs were fine.
     
  13. m4v3r1ck macrumors 68020

    m4v3r1ck

    Joined:
    Nov 2, 2011
    Location:
    The Netherlands
    #13
    Very good point! If you have the PCIe slot available, use it. Do you have a 2 input monitor to hook both cards to, so you can select the GT120 input for bootscreen/maintenance?
     
  14. Mhaddy macrumors 6502

    Mhaddy

    Joined:
    Oct 26, 2005
    Location:
    Canada
    #14
    Where can I find this? Thanks!
     
  15. NOTNlCE macrumors 6502a

    NOTNlCE

    Joined:
    Oct 11, 2013
    Location:
    DMV Area
    #15
    Depends on how lucky you get with Ebay auctions. HERE is 16GB in 8x2GB sticks for $40. HERE is half that, 4x2GB sticks for 8GB at around $25. If you can get anything lower, it's a great deal provided you don't need more than 16GB of RAM. Of course, they're not Apple memory sticks so they don't have the huge heatsinks, and are of course 667MHz.
     
  16. Macsonic macrumors 65816

    Macsonic

    Joined:
    Sep 6, 2009
    Location:
    Earth
    #16
    Thanks BDM Studios. Hope you had a good weekend. My other GPUs are not installed and on standby as backups. The monitor I am using now is just a one input hooked to one video card. To bring the Mac Pro to an Apple Service Center is hassle as you would lose a day or two getting it diagnosed. With the work deadlines, better to diagnose yourself and hope to solve the problem in a few minutes.
     
  17. subv3 thread starter macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    May 10, 2014
    #17
    Just wanted to update this to say that I did get the GT120 and it's been working well – powering both a ACD 30" and a ACD 27". A slightly more powerful card would be nice though. Can anyone recommend a specific GTX? I'm also looking at Radeon 5770s on eBay as they seem quite reasonable – ~£100 (~$170).

    I'm still at 8GB RAM atm but I've just bought another 8GB :)
     
  18. NOTNlCE macrumors 6502a

    NOTNlCE

    Joined:
    Oct 11, 2013
    Location:
    DMV Area
    #18
    If you have access to Windows, you can flash a PC GTX 680 card if you require a boot screen. If you don't need a boot screen, almost any Kepler GPU is great. I personally use a GTX 660 2GB SC edition, and it is more than enough for my needs. It drives 3 1080p displays and handles light gaming very well.
     
  19. subv3 thread starter macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    May 10, 2014
    #19
    I've just been looking at GT640s which are very well priced but no DisplayPort. The EVGA GeForce GTX 660 (~£135) or the Asus Nvidia GeForce GTX 660 (~£120) looks like it might be a good option for me. I've read about a limitation of the MacPro3,1 being able to take advantage or some of these cards. Any ideas if the machine will be able to make use of these properly?
     
  20. NOTNlCE macrumors 6502a

    NOTNlCE

    Joined:
    Oct 11, 2013
    Location:
    DMV Area
    #20
    Every machine is different, but my 660 performs fine in my 3,1. I would definitely recommend springing for the 2GB edition of the 660, if that's the card you choose to go with. The 640 is a GT series (notice the lack of "X") which does not have all the features that a GTX card brings. Most notably (for me) the 640 does not support ShadowPlay under BootCamp while the 660 does. I too have seen reports of the 3,1 not taking full advantage of these cards, but I have had 3 different EVGA GTX 660 2GB SC cards in my 3,1 (due to replacements and RMA procedures) and I cannot say that any of them were bottlenecked by the tower.
     
  21. subv3 thread starter macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    May 10, 2014
    #21
    Excellent, thanks. I think I know what the next item on my shopping list is! I've just reinstalled the original Radeon 2600 alongside the GeForce GT 120 – I don't know why I didn't consider using them both at the same time before. Seems to be better.
     

Share This Page