Mac Pro Dilemma

Discussion in 'Mac Pro' started by Paxsman, Feb 14, 2012.

  1. Paxsman macrumors newbie

    Feb 14, 2012
    Here is the issue: I am currently a Windows user with a rapidly failing old workstation. I need to replace my current workstation very soon. I am very interested in moving into a Mac Pro. I will be using the new workstation for music creation, editing, and most other normal activities. I believe the music editing software, control and playback will be the most challenging activity for the new workstation. My current budget is around $2,600.00. This budget needs to also cover a new 200-250.00 monitor. I will add a second and/or third drive to the workstation as the budget allows for a scratch/backup disk. I was originally going to purchase a Mini Mac and max that puppy out with solid state drive and packed full of memory. I then realized I was pretty close to a entry level Mac Pro. I am having trouble with the Idea of an I-Mac because of the computer monitor integration. (This just worries me too much) So here I am wondering if I should just pull the trigger on the entry level Mac Pro or revisit the Mini Mac Idea. On top of everything else I am wondering if the current Mac Pro will be upgraded the day after I pull the trigger on the Pro.

    Can you please help me? Is the maxed out Mini going to handle the music software? I am a little concerned about not being able to upgrade without using external devices. Will an entry level Mac Pro (with minor upgrades as budget allows) out-perform the mini? Am I selling myself short with the quad core processor for a Mac Pro or will this be plenty of power? Can the processor (Mac Pro) be upgraded in the future?

    Any advice or direction would be greatly appreciated. Thanks for your help!!!
  2. ashman70 macrumors 6502a

    Dec 20, 2010
    I think a Mac Pro is the way to go for you, for the following reasons:

    1. A dual CPU Mac Pro will outperform a single quad core i7 Mac Mini, in my opinion.
    2. You have far more options in terms of expandability and future upgrades.

    However I think your budget limits you if you buy new, so you may want to consider a refurb or even a used 2009 which can be upgraded to a 2010 hexcore. I wouldn't be too concerned about a new MP if it comes out soon as it will most likely be out of your budget anyway. Mac Pro's are workhorses and last for years, you can upgrade the video cards and CPU's (some limitations on CPU's) and you can do all kinds of things with internal storage. You are far more limited with a mini.
  3. deconstruct60, Feb 15, 2012
    Last edited: Feb 15, 2012

    deconstruct60 macrumors 604

    Mar 10, 2009
    This "backup" disk is an extra spare disk or the disk target for your backups? If the second, then it really needs to be in your budget along side the monitor. You need a backup target and operating backup process before getting into optional ("when I get some more money") upgrades.

    The other issue is whether this budget above includes new Mac OS X software since coming from Windows. Or is that purely the hardware allocation?

    If your old workstation is just failing due to old age then, probably yes. if your old workstation realtively healthy but groaning under the increased load of your increasingly complex and/or larger projects then probably need more info.

    Also was the old workstation leveraging some sort of DSP card to do part of the workload. Or it is all editing/creation/control with x86 cores ? A DSP card doesn't automatically leave the mini out if there is a viable Thunderbolt path to doing data acquisition.

    Unless there is a security (e.g., locking down the external device) or space issue (the Mac Pro is rather large in comparison) if this is a matter of budget then "little concern" may not be worth the money you don't have.

    It is kind of curious how people get twisted when the monitor is embedded but then have exactly the opposite position when it isn't the monitor. Pick a side.

    If follow the inevitable "buy an XX year old Mac Pro" then that gets questionable. Especially if the mini has 2011 (or 2012 in several months) processors, 12GB or 16GB of RAM memory, and a SSD while the Mac Pro has less than 8GB, has HDDs, and is 3 years old. Both for exactly the same amount of money.

    They both can have quad cores. There is a mini option with 4.

    Technically yes, but you will be shift all risk to yourself. If the upgrade goes wrong you could be out approximately half the cost of a mini. It may be unlikely, but if it means your dead-in-the-water because budget is completely blown it may not be worth the risk.

    Again I'd caution against blowing our whole budget on the "future proofing" your set up. There are way to employ multiple computers for music generation. The money invested in the mini could be leveraged in the future in a two computer set up. (again extremely tight physical requirements might make that difficult but multiple computers can be more cost effective if not a real constraint. Kind of weird when folks go off to simulate an whole complex orchestra with one computer whereas if using real musicians it would be multiple instruments. )

    If want to do Mac Pro processor surgery then 3rd party SSDs and RAM should be on the table for the Mini. A nd in that case not sure really in entry Mac Pro range:

    $250 16GB RAM
    $400 200-300 GB 6Gb/s SSD
    $999 Mini Server. (quad core and two 500GB drives. Remove one. )
    $349 500GB RAID 1 Mirror
    $79 HDD dock
    $79 Superdrive


    Can use the HDD dock with the 500GB drive take out of the mini for the SSD and use for rotational, offsite backups. While this does crack the $2,000 boundary it is till $499 away from a Mac Pro. That's not really close if still have monitor, software, and taxes to pay for and an upper cap of $2,600.
  4. Paxsman thread starter macrumors newbie

    Feb 14, 2012
    Thanks for the reply.
    Now I have a few more questions. Is the Mini Mac Server a viable option for my requirements? I always looked at the server as a server and not a workstation. What is the main difference? As for the budget this is based on what I would expect to pay for a entry level Pro shipped to my door and a $250.00 dollar monitor. I believe apple will discount 10%. As for the future upgrades I do have several drives sitting around that could be used for backup ect... Also my current workstation is just plain old so likely anything I buy will be a big upgrade. I really do like the "idea" of owning a Mac Pro mainly for the potential future upgrades. Last comment...this budget is for hardware only. Any software will be purchased as needed.
    Great perspectives keep them comming!


    One last question. I haven't followed Mac so... If the Pro is upgraded today does the entire line get bumped up or just the top of the line? Will the entry level unit become mid grade or does it trickle down over time?
  5. ashman70 macrumors 6502a

    Dec 20, 2010
    In my opinion, the Mac Mini is too limiting a system for your needs. The advantage of the Mini Server over the regular mini is that the mini server can house two drives and you can configure it with a quad core i7 CPU, that seems to be about the only difference. Both models are limited to a maximum of only 8GB of RAM, as well, you are limited by the closed system design and the onboard video.

    With the Mac Pro, you can at any time, upgrade your video card or add a second video card, add as many internal drives as you like ( and have space for), setup a hardware or software raid config, add a second optical drive, or remove it and upgrade your CPU's if you wish. The Mac Pro obviously offers greater growth potential down the road. The Mac Mini might suite your needs and if you don't need the growth potential offered by the Mac Pro, then get the mini. As for upgrading the CPU's on the Mac Pro, there are quite a few youtube videos that step you through it, its really not that difficult for the average person who has some computer hardware experience, even then I imagine without experience you could pull it off no problem.
  6. goMac macrumors 604

    Apr 15, 2004
    Four cores isn't very much for audio work. It's certainly workable, but for more professional usage you're much better off with 6 or 8.

    An 8 core Mac Pro in the 2009 vintage uses a very similar processor design to the 2011 Mac Mini, and will blow the doors off a quad mini.
  7. deconstruct60, Feb 15, 2012
    Last edited: Feb 15, 2012

    deconstruct60 macrumors 604

    Mar 10, 2009
    That was the previous generation minis. (previous generation non-server mini's would have a optical drive). In the current (2011) mini the sole difference relevant to music is that Apple will put a quad in the server and only duos in the non server. [ the upper range non server has an embedded discrete graphics board the server lacks. As long as heavyduty 3D work is not on the table and max out the RAM, that is largely a non issue. ] There is even a non server BTO option to put a 256GB SDD + 750GB HDD (it is priced at $750 which is rather high.)

    It is essentially the same case and internals for both versions now.

  8. deconstruct60 macrumors 604

    Mar 10, 2009
    If you are not going to stress video and could leverage more cores then it is viable. The leveraging cores is dependent upon the software you use.

    Apple doesn't have "server only" hardware. They take hardware that is primarily designated for use by single users and add some additional software to it and put the "server" adjective on it. If you don't need the "server" functionality just turn the "server" processes/programs off.

    Servers options typically don't stress GPU performance. In the context of the mini you also get more cores (and not necessarily max single thread performance.) As of Lion, "Mac OS X Server" is a set of applications you run on top of basic Mac OS X.

    That's a bit backwards. ( answer leading to a question). If this is for a business then budget flows from expected revenues from work done. "If business generates this much revenue what machine can I buy and pay off in 3-4 years. "

    If a hobby then "budget creep" is one way to take the 'fun' out of the hobby.

    The entire Mac Pro line up would get updated. (both the single CPU package and the dual ). If Apple keeps it the same then about 7 (3 single, 3 dual , 1 sever ) would get trotted out.

    The entry level Mac Pro is extremely likely to remain a quad core if there is a upgrade in next month or so. The equivalent class of Xeon is the E5 1600 series which starts off with a quad core at about the same price as the current W3530.

    The Mac Mini's would be on a different schedule (and different components). Likely, June/July. But same thing, the server and non-server models would all bump at the same time. It is a single "product" with "good, better, best" flavors.
  9. derbothaus macrumors 601


    Jul 17, 2010
    It's all about your music and how you make it. If it is all live audio with tons of mics and compression, EQ on each channel a mini is just fine with at least a 7200RPM HDD or SSD. If you are using tons of samples and midi instruments you'll be better served by the Pro's extra memory and core allotments. i/o is not really all that problematic until you reach major 80+ track counts. The pro allows for PCI DSP so if you want to use something like Universal Audio stuff all the processing is on the card (like all your console plugs etc) also PCI has way more bandwidth for multiple audio streams vs. Firewire if you need to record 24 tracks simultaneously. FW is usually capped around 16 simultaneous streams. USB is a little less, also depends on your preferred sample rate. 192kHz is more demanding with more i/o needs than 88.2kHz, etc. The base 2.8GHz Mac Pro Quad is faster than the Quad 2.0GHz Mini server. And much faster than the regular Mini's.
  10. ashman70 macrumors 6502a

    Dec 20, 2010
    @deconstruct60, I was just going off of Apple's website, so I don't know how you can say they are 'dated' unless they have more current specs somewhere that they have posted elsewhere.

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