Mac Pro 4,1 upgrades: storage & RAM?

Discussion in 'Mac Pro' started by jaxrox1, May 1, 2016.

  1. jaxrox1 macrumors newbie

    Oct 19, 2008
    So I'm getting into turning my cMP into more of an 'up-to-scratch' machine that will do what I want when it comes to intensive video editing, colouring, audio production, motion graphics etc.

    I've been reading as much as I can about upgrading and the best ways to do so.

    I'm planning to upgrade the Graphics Card (as an aside: anyone got an opinion either way on CUDA vs OpenCL?)

    So I have the Single Quad-core version of the Mac Pro and I'm wondering a couple of things - it's been a while since I've spent time upgrading computers at this level (probably since I switched to Mac in '08), and it has only ever been PCs. So:

    In their support documentation for upgrading the Mac Pro's RAM, it states that the maximum memory is 16GB (and 32GB for the 8-Core). Is this simply old documentation? OWC looks like it will allow me to buy 3x 16GB RAM modules, for a total of 48GB, and doesn't seem to suggest this would be an issue.

    Secondly, I'm looking into upgrading the HDDs. I'm thinking of having a PCIe SSD as the boot disk, then use 2x internal bays with 3G SSDs striped as a RAID 0 for my 'scratch disk' and a third spinning drive as a 'documents' drive for everything else. Is the PCIe boot disk worth the outlay? Can you even stripe the internal HDD bays in this way without another RAID controller?

    I've read about 'upgrading' the internal bays to SATA III with a PCIe RAID miniSAS controller, but that could be starting to get a bit too involved (although I'm sure for some, that's not all that involved :p ).

    I've got a USB 3 PCIe card arriving shortly - should I just use a USB3 drive...

    Sincerest thanks for any help/advice.
  2. bookemdano macrumors 6502a

    Jul 29, 2011
    1. Yes, old documentation. You can use 8GBx4 or even 16GBx3 DIMMs, so max memory for a single processor model is 48GB. You will maximize RAM performance by only use three of the four slots (because slots 3 and 4 share bandwidth)

    2. FCPX takes better advantage of OpenCL acceleration, whereas Adobe/Resolve benefits more from CUDA. The ATI 7950/7970/R9 280x cards are good OpenCL options. For CUDA check out the NVIDIA thread up top. Keep in mind if you want to see the bootscreen you'll have to jump through some hoops.

    3. Lots of people here use and like PCIe SSDs. I'm not sure the speed difference is worth the cost, however. You will see a much bigger speed difference going from HDD->SATA SSD than you will from SATA SSD->PCIe SSD. I'm sure other people will chime in with their opinions on this though.

    4. You can stripe the internal bays without a RAID controller, but there will be a slight performance penalty of course. In addition, Yosemite was the last version of OS X to include setting up software RAID arrays from Disk Utility. For El Cap-onwards you have to use terminal to set up the array. Not a big deal IMHO.

    5. Someone may correct me if I'm wrong but I don't think the SATA 3 upgrade for the internal bays is possible on the 4,1 because the 4,1/5,1 no longer use a miniSAS connector for the backplane.

    6. I'm not a huge fan of depending on USB 3.0 drives for always-connected storage. May work fine for you, but I'd use internal drives wherever possible. After all having so many bays is one of the primary benefits of that big cheese grater. :)
  3. jaxrox1 thread starter macrumors newbie

    Oct 19, 2008
    Awesome, thanks for this.
    I've been doing some more research..

    I do a lot in FCPX, Avid MC, Davinci Resolve and a little bit in After Effects... I think I'm going to go for a 7950 flashed with custom firmware.

    I can't seem to find a definitive answer of whether it's worth the extra expense overall... I see some insane quoted read/write speeds for the M.2 PCIe SSDs...

    I could also arrange the drives thusly:
    Run 2x 3Gbps SSDs - 1 as a boot drive, one that contains raw/original footage
    1x PCIe SSD - proxies and 'active project' files
    1x 7200RPM high capacity SATA drive as a 'project archive' that things get transferred to once they're no longer needed on the 'active' drives.

    I guess it comes down to whether the extra speed of the PCIe is worth it for things like Resolve... The available space would be limited compared to using the 3G SSDs as my scratch disks....

    I feel like it's all gotten way more complicated than the last time I was upgrading PCs like this.. ;)

    You make a good point :)
  4. pastrychef macrumors 601


    Sep 15, 2006
    New York City, NY
    You might be interested in this:
  5. kschendel macrumors 6502a

    Dec 9, 2014
    I'd strongly suggest something like this, at least partly because you can get into it incrementally. Swap in one or two SATA SSD's, maybe a WD Black if you need some additional sort-of-active work space, and a high capacity archival drive. See if that is fast enough, and if not, add on the PCIe unit for holding your current activities.

    I fully intended to replace 4 original hard disks with a setup like your proposal. I have my active stuff on an SSD running as a drop-in for one of the originals (ie SATA 2), and it's enough better that so far I haven't found the motivation to shell out for the PCIe SSD.
  6. jaxrox1, May 3, 2016
    Last edited: May 3, 2016

    jaxrox1 thread starter macrumors newbie

    Oct 19, 2008
    That's good to know.

    My other line of thinking is that you can get a backbone and custom sleds to turn the internal bays into SATA III bays... so if I'm looking for speed, I can always go that route, which should (maybe?) give me double the speed on those SSDs

    I'm still thinking of a PCIe for a boot drive though - a 128GB M.2 PCIe + an adapter costs about what you might expect of a 480-512GB SSD anyway, so not overly expensive... though is more costly than say a 128GB standard SSD. Just depends on whether that extra speed is worth it, I guess

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