Mac Pro 4,1: is this a good deal?

Discussion in 'Mac Pro' started by comatory, Jul 22, 2012.


Is that Mac Pro a good deal?

  1. Yes

    11 vote(s)
  2. No

    3 vote(s)
  3. Go with Mac Mini

    1 vote(s)
  1. comatory macrumors 6502a


    Apr 10, 2012
    So I'm still not decided on my new computer, leaning toward Mac Pro because I'm video editor and the heat management + expandability is definitely a plus.

    But I'm on a budget so I'm looking for used ones, not 100 percent sure when one is buying 2+ years old tech. I don't care much for USB3 or Thunderbolt (I can just use FW800 when I need to move a lot of data, it's enough for me).

    I've come across this deal for used Mac Pro, the price is $1640, includes shipping and 30-day guarantee.

    The specs are these:
    - one processor 2,66 Quad Core
    - 6 GB RAM
    - 640GB HDD
    - GT120 videocard (512 megs

    That price is almost the same that would get me maxed out Mac Mini Quad i7 w/16GB RAM 128GB SSD+500 HDD which is something I was considering too.

    The first investment would be to put 128GB SSD and additional 10GB RAM (since it's 2009 model it seems pretty cheap). If the computer felt slow I can always put additional processor in it, right? (another 2,66 quad)

    I'm not super hardcore with my computer but my backup laptop (MB Air) isn't really up to the tasks as I do HD video editing with (sometimes) large files and I do some compositing in After Effects and video encoding.

    Any opinions would be appreciated.
  2. papoopeepoo macrumors member

    Jul 2, 2011
    The mac pro will give you faster spindle hard drives, which equates to faster mass storage instead of having just the SSD and 2.5" in the Mini.

    I'd say if you plan to do any amount of extended rendering or encoding, go Pro. The heat management really is impressive, and it's nearly silent all the time. The loudest part is the optical drives while spinning.

    Also, you cannot add an additional CPU to the computer, but you CAN upgrade to a faster CPU if you decide to. If you want to upgrade the CPU, try to plan ahead and buy 1333 MHz RAM so that the newer CPU can make use of the little extra speed in the future.
  3. comatory thread starter macrumors 6502a


    Apr 10, 2012
    I was always under the impression that you can add another CPU to Mac Pro? Or is that feature limited only to some models?

    I know I could get faster CPU but more cores for rendering are usually better.
  4. papoopeepoo macrumors member

    Jul 2, 2011
    I'm sorry to say that you were misinformed. There is only one location for a CPU in the SP machines, and only two in the DP machines.

    When you upgrade, you can upgrade to a CPU that has both high clock speed, and more cores (hex-core). There are numerous tutorials on this forum for the procedure, just search.
  5. comatory thread starter macrumors 6502a


    Apr 10, 2012
    OK. The information is sometimes confusing to me. So I can actually put six core westmere that is used in 2010/2012 MP's on 2009 Mac Pro?
  6. PowerPCMacMan macrumors 6502a


    Jul 17, 2012
    PowerPC land
    For you to make use of a Westmere processor in your 4,1 Mac Pro, you will need to update the firmware which you can find out more about this on the net. The Mac Pro EFI firmware updater takes your 4,1 and makes it into a 5,1 instantly, thereby allowing you to change the processor and put in a Hex core processor.

    Do a search for 2009 Mac Pro EFI firmware updater.

  7. xav8tor, Jul 22, 2012
    Last edited: Jul 22, 2012

    xav8tor macrumors 6502a

    Mar 30, 2011
    No, not even close. The cheapest deal is often not the best one. I have the 4.1 and it's great, but there are better deals out there for 350 more bucks. I bought mine new in the box in late 2010 for way, way under list from the store in the link below (authorized Apple dealer). As others have said, you can upgrade 4.1 to 5.1, but you will void the warranty, assuming it is from Apple. If you don't need a dual CPU (I do a lot of 1080p HD video shorts with tons of effects/overlays/audio tracks and I still don't need more than a quad), the best deal out there right now that I saw is on a 2010 (5.1) 2.8 Quad with 3GB RAM/1 TB HD/5770 GPU for right at 2,000...BRAND NEW/FACTORY SEALED with full Apple warranty and tech support. 180 bucks more and you can have 3 yrs. of Applecare warranty/tech support on it.

    The GT 120 won't cut it for serious work. You might well get by with the 5770 OK. I used the 4870, which has equivalent performance, for 1 1/2 years before upgrading to the 670 this week. Adding 12 gigs of triple channel Apple compatible ECC RAM with the thermal sensor is only 100 bucks. For video, etc., you can get a GTX 570 or 670/base 680 and use the GPU to help the CPU if the stock model isn't enough, and you won't void the warranty.

    There are a few stores selling it for 50.00 less (B&H also has it for 50 more), but I've bought a half dozen Apple products from these guys with zero issues and flawless customer service:

    PS - Keep the GT 120 for a second or third monitor. If you install a 670, you'll still have a boot screen.

    PPS - I would not even consider the mini due to the relative lack of expandability/upgradeability alone.
  8. comatory thread starter macrumors 6502a


    Apr 10, 2012
    That is a great deal indeed. There is only one problem,I am not from US so that means I must add shipping cost (usually 150-200 USD) and because I'm in EU,I have to tax it. These costs add up and after some research I found out that the best thing is to shop is within EU to avoid taxes and shipping.
    Its a real bummer because you guys have so many great deals for MPs but 1640USD is actually a good price,older MP 3,1 8core are normally sold for 1000-1500 USD and theyre used with no warranty.

    I havent even calculated future costs like GPU and I know it will eventually cost bit more so that is why Im considering Mini. I dont do heavy editing really but I definitely have 2-3 hour sessions at least 3 days a week,rendering not included.

    So Im still not sure if it isnt overkill for me but I really like that I can easily swap or add drives if I need to (plus there seems to be a good hackintosh community as well that helps with flashing GPUs etc).

    Still considering just buying new Mini server every two years (and selling the old one).

  9. minifridge1138 macrumors 6502a

    Jun 26, 2010
    I voted good deal.

    The earlier Mac Pro (2006 and 2008 I think) single processor machines did have an empty socket. So those could be upgraded to dual processors just by adding the cpu.

    They changed that in 2009 and is no longer that simple.
    It can be done, but you'd need a dual processor daughter board as well as the processor.

    I'd say buy this one, use the firmware hack to turn the 4,1 into a 5,1 and then put in a hex core processor.
  10. comatory thread starter macrumors 6502a


    Apr 10, 2012
    I've also read that octo 2008 is still a bit slower or on par with quad 2009. Is that true? Anyone had real world experience?
  11. Phildo macrumors member


    Nov 14, 2011
    Perth, Western Australia
  12. comatory, Jul 23, 2012
    Last edited: Jul 23, 2012

    comatory thread starter macrumors 6502a


    Apr 10, 2012
    No we don't have refurbished section, the official Apple online story was launched only this year (we don't even have official retail stores yet, only resellers). The deal that I've got is from a site that sells used/refurbished Macs but they dont give you full warranty, only 30 days to test if everything's allright.

    I'm not stoked on that either putting so much cash into a computer that's not protected by full warranty but considering the choices I have...

    That's why I'm considering a Mini also although I know most of you would never go that way. Yep, being on budget sucks...

    EDIT: btw thanks for linking to that post, very useful! brings back memories, I remember upgrading the processor in my old PC (Pentium 4 circa 2004). it's good to know that the sockets are still around, I think it's only a matter of time before they start fusing them onto the motherboard.
  13. thekev macrumors 604


    Aug 5, 2010
    More cores for rendering are usually better assuming you can keep them fed with ram. Ignore the 2008. Putting in enough ram to saturate 8 cores will cost you too much on that model due to the use of FBdimms. Everything after it uses standard dimms which cost much less. You can get 16-32GB without spending a fortune.

    Yes. It was more popular prior to the price drop on the 6 core. The 2009s were about the same price, and the 6 core was $3800 USD rather than $3k. The cpu was the same $550-600.

    At least wait for the refresh. It won't be a huge bump, but it would make the mini a little less bleh. I'm not entirely sure of the logistics in using one. Don't bother with the discrete option on the current mini regardless of OpenCL use. It doesn't have enough vram to be used in computation while still refreshing the display. Assuming openCL is a non-issue, an Ivy Bridge Mini should be out soon. Ivy on the notebooks was maybe a 15% increase in cpu intensive tasks. The mini shares components with the notebook lines. The HD 4000 was also significantly better than the HD 3000, although I'm not sure if OpenCL actually works in any video editing applications on that gpu. It's one thing for Intel to say it supports the function. It's another for it to be supported by the application. Some require 1GB of vram, which would rule it out right there. Typically it will either leverage the gpu or it won't.
  14. comatory thread starter macrumors 6502a


    Apr 10, 2012
    Yeah I already decided I don't want to go with 2008s, the RAM is super expensive (weird heatsinks on them) and according to Geekbench it seems that even single cpu 2009s are still bit better or on par with 8 core 2008s.

    Yeah I'll wait till wednesday for Mountain Lion announcement, maybe a month more for new Mini's - actually with Mini that USB3 might be helpful since I can't do much about storage in there anyway.

    I wouldn't even consider dual core version, only the server. It's really tough decision since Mini is basically laptop in small enclosure.

    Since I don't have any experience with Mac Pro's how'd you consider it for video editing and encoding - I mean the 2.8 2009 Quad, compared to let's say Quad i7. Are there significant gains?
    I know this is a crazy comparison but my backup laptop (11" Air, i5, 128GB SSD with 4GB RAM) renders 15 minute video in Adobe Premiere approximately 40-50 minutes. That video is standard definition, has two After Effects compositions in it (quite simple, only Keylight and color correction), some video clips in it are resized to fit DV resolution (upscaling), some dynamic link to Soundbooth.
    I'd like to cut that time to at least 15-20 minutes. Can Mini server do this for me? Will be the Quad 2.8 in 2009 faster?

    I'm willing to part my cash with Mac Pro if it's at least on par with Mini on this kind of processing power because I'll have cash in future so I can get Hex in it, better GPU and more RAM, I'd just like to have this basic setup for next 6 months before I upgrade and I want to be able to do editing and encoding in it meanwhile (gotta earn that cash first :)
  15. thekev macrumors 604


    Aug 5, 2010
    I have an extremely old one. My requirements were flat enough for several years, so although I had intended to upgrade in 2009, I got annoyed when I saw the drop from the 2008 to 2009 hardware. I'm not sure what I'm buying at the moment. Right now I use a lot of workarounds. I keep spotlight disabled. I disable anything unnecessary that can be disabled, lower settings in several applications to reduce lag, etc. I don't deal very much with video editing, or I would have gone to an 8 core that year in spite of the price hikes. The mini isn't that different from the lowest 2009 mac pro.

    The 2012 mini should be close enough to the current cheapest mac pro in cpu only assuming 16GB of ram is enough and that thermals don't force it to throttle down. I'm really not sure how the real world performance would look, but it's definitely more limited in many areas including IO (displayport connection shared with data bandwidth in the form of thunderbolt). It wouldn't help you if CUDA is a requirement either, but CUDA options are also very poor on the mac pro. I'm not sure regarding the performance of the GT120. I don't recall it being that great. The Quadro 4k is around $750 on Amazon and it won't do OpenCL, but it will do CUDA. There's really no perfect option at the moment. The postponement this year wasn't that great for the line.

    For estimates on rendering time, you could check out barefeats. They've posted a number of After Effects benchmarks, but if you're looking for recent versions of AE, especially CS6, they generally use the 6 core machine for testing. You also mentioned the Air. I wanted to mention an issue with the macbook pros. During extremely cpu intensive functions such as rendering, it is possible to draw more power than the charger can supply. This will slowly drain your battery. There are a couple threads on here and a few on Apple discussions. This should be noted as the reason why I wouldn't suggest even trying a notebook for that. They don't offer anything over an 85W charger. The claims that it's a heat thing are dubious. Power coming from the battery means more heat internally which must be dissipated compared to an external brick.
  16. theSeb macrumors 604


    Aug 10, 2010
    Poole, England
    The bandwidth is not shared via Thunderbolt. Displayport gets its own "channel" to send the data so no matter how many storage devices you connect, it won't impact the display data.
  17. comatory thread starter macrumors 6502a


    Apr 10, 2012
    Well I hoped CPU wise the basic quad 2009 would outperform Mac Mini Server by 20% or so. The memory limit of 16gb is same for MP and MMS so there's no advantage there.
    I wont get warranty on MP and void one on MMS when I put my own disks in there so its a tie.
    The obly thing left is heat management and storage,dont care about GPU that much. With money saved I could get Promise Raid with thunderbolt (4tb version).

    So I guess the only plus is the heat management but I dont render 24/7, maybe few hours every week.

    Tough decision as the both solutions cost approximately the same.
  18. Scubaman macrumors member

    Nov 1, 2011
    Mac Pro 3,1

    I bought an early 2008 Mac Pro 3,1 dual Quad Core new in 2008 and it's still going strong 4 years later. I recently upgraded the original Nvidia Card to an ATi Radeon HD 5770 - not necessarily for speed - more for the fact that I want to get an Apple Cinema Display and the original card didn't provide a mini display port connection. The current HD 5770 from the Apple Store (expensive!!) works fine in my Mac pro 3,1 and with 16GB memory it flies.

    I'm in the UK not sure whether 3,1's are too be found easily but they were excellent machines in their day and still are. The MacWorld site ( looks a good place to buy inexpensive memory, SSD's and the like for the Mac Pro. At some point I may even think about a 500GB SSD drive for my 3,1 Mac Pro!! Swapping out and running 1TB Drives has been very easy and as an earlier thread suggests the Mac Pro really is quiet...
  19. comatory thread starter macrumors 6502a


    Apr 10, 2012
    As I said earlier, I ruled out 2008's just because of the memory price and the MP in good price range usually come with measly 3Gigs (even though the machine is 8 core, seller probably sells them separately to make more cash).
    And also 2009 can be upgraded to hex-core for some future proofing so that's nice, 2008 cannot. I still think that it is a capable machine, but at the prices it was offered to me it just feels wrong buying it when Mac Mini Server outperforms it CPU wise.
    I'd go with 2009 quad if I could get it for $1200 shipped but seems impossible to find it for that price.

    I will however will be still considering the deal I have on Mac Pro 4,1 for $1640, I'll just give it a few more days and then I'll see....
  20. JuniperMonkeys macrumors newbie

    Jul 15, 2012
    FWIW, I paid $1260 for that exact same machine on June 12th, although shipping wasn't included (that would have been $80, although I realized the seller was semi-local and went to pick it up). You can keep an eye on eBay; good deals are out there, and maybe you can find a seller willing to work with you. The tax situation is unfortunate, though.
  21. comatory thread starter macrumors 6502a


    Apr 10, 2012
    Yep it is, it gets even worse once you realize that this tax is 25% which hikes even a good deal up - that's why I'm looking only at european e-bay.

    But I shouldn't complain, Apple customers in Brazil have it worst.

    I think I'll go with maxed out Mini and I'll just bite the bullet and get BTO so I can have warranty as well, those $300 saved on 3rd party components are not probably worth the risk.

    If my business goes well and see that Mini isn't fast enough, I'll just get newer Mini or invest in Mac Pro or whatever high-end machine for Apple customers will be available in two years.

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