Mac Pro or Imac

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by JustSomeDude, Dec 29, 2010.

  1. JustSomeDude macrumors regular

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    #1
    So I'm investigating what system to set aside money for next year and I'm thinking i7 iMac or Mac Pro. If nothing major comes up, it may be as soon as tax return time.

    Currently, I use my MB pro, with a core 2 duo, for web browsing, some light programming, writing, reading and occasional gaming. My current system is usually sufficient for this. I'd consider getting a 27" iMac just for that beautiful screen and have the i7 for overkill.

    However, at some point I would like to try to work from home and I'd like to have something more powerful than at work (I'd avoid using the company provided machine). At work, I have a core i5 windows 7 (64-bit) system with 4 gigs . This thing gets slammed. Our legacy win32 c++ app takes over an hour for a full build. Our newest million+ line .net app, which works with a locally running instance of SQL server, takes about 20 min or so for a full build, and another couple of hours to run unit tests. Additionally, with the code analysis add-on we use, visual studio's ide can't come close to keeping up with my typing, which is incredibly frustrating.

    I'd like to run the windows 7 partition as a virtual machine inside OS X.

    So I'm wondering if the i7 imac would be sufficient in this case? Honestly, my work system is not - it lags and stutters like hell. I'd like a system that would speed up all of my work related tasks while keeping the system responsive. If possible, I'd like to be able to do this within a virtual machine.

    Honestly, if an iMac is borderline, I'd consider a hackintosh and OC it. I wouldn't be terribly worried about OS X getting borked, since I could switch over to the Windows 7 partition, for work related tasks, if that happens.

    I'm thinking that 8-core Mac Pro would be best. I'd probably go the 2.26GHz Nehalem route on a refurb system. Although maybe a quad core system with a SSD would be sufficient?

    Any advice, thoughts, things I've overlooked? I don't see any reason to wait for the next major release of the iMac or Mac Pro, unless, of course, my finances should demand it:rolleyes:, but perhaps I'm overlooking something there?
     
  2. Santabean2000 macrumors 68000

    Santabean2000

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    #2
    I think you should be looking at the high-clock, 6 core MP beast.

    More space, more speed.
     
  3. jav6454 macrumors P6

    jav6454

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    #3
    A 6-core Mac Pro should do, that will leave you with 3 threads per OS. However, you say an i5 system at work stutters.

    So I want to ask. What are the other specifications for your work computer? RAM, HDD, etc all count.

    I believe this should help me out gave a proper assessment since buying a Mac Pro is a hefty investment and burns a hole into a pocket and I am sure not everyone has $3,000 to spend so leisurely.
     
  4. lythium macrumors member

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    #4
    If you're looking to spend some coin, a bitchin iMac with an SSD OS drive, would be an awesome setup for just about everything.

    If you're on a budget, I'd go for a slightly used mac pro.
     
  5. jav6454 macrumors P6

    jav6454

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    #5
    That won't do.... an SSD can offer so much before the systems becomes bottlenecked by the i7. Yes, that CAN happen under the stress Virtual machine running.

    Also, no TRIM support, so he'd have to buy a rather large SSD in terms of space to prevent the degradation in write speeds and possibly early malfunctioning of the drive.
     
  6. opera57 macrumors 6502

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    #6
    From your post I would agree with others and definitely say the Mac Pro would be a better bet. Quite a bit more powerful, it can be upgraded and also less problems with heat (which could be an issue with the iMac if stressed at 100% for long periods of time [​IMG]
     
  7. JustSomeDude thread starter macrumors regular

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    #7
    The work system has a core i5 660, 4GB ram, with a 160Gb hd that currently has 25gb free.
     
  8. TheNakedMan macrumors member

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    May 20, 2007
    #8
    pimp out the imac. I'm in a similar situation, and recommend that to you as well.
     
  9. jav6454 macrumors P6

    jav6454

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    #9
    Any graphics unit? But by the initial looks, it seems the work computer is a mid-range PC, which is what the iMac covers (mid to min-high ranges)
     
  10. PatrickCocoa macrumors 6502a

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    Dec 2, 2008
    #10
    Not that you asked . . .

    Not that you asked, but I'm uncomfortable with you using your own money to cover up inadequacies in the equipment that your employer provides.

    I'm fully aware that there may be office politics involved, or unresponsive management, but still.
     
  11. Hellhammer Moderator

    Hellhammer

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    #11
    Apple offers only 256GB which is quite big, especially if it is used just for OS(s) and apps. With 3rd party SSD, OP could get a SandForce based drive since they require no TRIM.

    IMO SSD degradation is overrated. It was an issue with older drives (such as the Samsungs Apple used to use) but today's controllers and firmwares are much better. People talk about the degradation like it would occur after days of use. Even if it occurs, it will only affect write speeds and most everyday tasks mainly consist of reads, thus the difference in real life would be negligible.
     
  12. jav6454 macrumors P6

    jav6454

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    #12
    However those 256GB options are quite overpriced.
     
  13. JustSomeDude, Dec 30, 2010
    Last edited: Dec 30, 2010

    JustSomeDude thread starter macrumors regular

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    #13
    Radeon hd 4350. Yeah, definitely a mid range pc, which, unfortunately doesn't really cut it for heavy development.
     
  14. jav6454, Dec 30, 2010
    Last edited: Dec 30, 2010

    jav6454 macrumors P6

    jav6454

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    #14
    Well, I'd say then a 6-core or 4-core Mac Pro is in order. An iMac will do it, but you'd be limited in expandability, graphics department, and to a certain extent CPU capabilities.

    You, see the highest end iMac starts at $1,999 with an i5-750 (or 760) and the upgrade to an i7 is a $200 upgrade, and adding extra RAM which you most certainly need because of the heavy toll a Virtual machine has is another $200 upgrade. Also, the highest GPU it has is a HD 5750, which is basically a mobility HD5850. The i5 CPU may be choked, but an upgrade to an i7 guarantees 8 threads which should be more than enough. However, this class of CPU is in the Lynnfield class which itself is dedicated to mid-high computers. Sure, it may be enough, but since you say your current i5-660 can't hold ground, then I wouldn't risk it since the i5-660 and i7-860/870 use the same Lynnfield architecture that can create CPU bottlenecks like the one you are experiencing. Moreover, expandability wise, you are limited to one hard drive. Furthermore, there is no way to get an after market SSD without voided the warranty.

    A 4-core Mac Pro starts at $2,500. Sure $200 over the highest-end iMac. However, you get the dedicated desktop class 1GB HD5770. A spanking Nehalem based i7 CPU (8 threads [4 real and 4 virtual]) that will not choke on anything (except benching it to extremes). The only pitiful thing is the RAM Apple offers at 3GB; that's just sad for a machine this capable. However, a reseller like Newegg, has tons of RAM offerings considerably cheap that will allow you to have a nice 6GB based system for less than a $100. (Use this Newegg link. Crucial and Kingston are great brands). Also, since the 4-core option has 4 DIMMs, you can use one of the 1GB modules and have not 6, but 7GB of RAM, enough for both OSs running side by side in a virtual environment. Also, adding hard drives to add storage space for work files does not void the warranty with the Mac Pro and you have an extra 3 slots to put 3 hard drives. Right now, you can find cheap 1TB HDDs online, like this link with many known HDD manufacturer's products.

    What else? Not much I can think off. Sure the iMac looks nice and all; but, it will not bring the same level of performance. The only big con that I can't justify to you is the fact that you will need a monitor. However, if you have one, I think this is a moot point.
     
  15. Hellhammer Moderator

    Hellhammer

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    #15
    There is no i5-860 (or 870), it's i5-760. The i7 is i7-870 ;)

    2x2GB from aftermarket costs ~45$. That would make it 8GB. Another 50 bucks gives you 2x4GB to make it 12GB.

    Mobility 5850 provides about the same performance as desktop 5750 and the difference between 5750 and 5770 isn't that big, especially if OP is not going to game.

    http://www.anandtech.com/bench/Product/173?vs=172

    Lynnfields use Nehalem architecture, just like Bloomfields. Benchmarks show little to no difference between similarly clocked Lynnfield and Bloomfield. Lynnfield actually wins in some due to it's more aggressive Turbo.

    The only reason to get Mac Pro is because of upgradeability. Performance wise, i7 iMac and base Mac Pro are pretty much identical. In case you need more CPU power than iMac can offer, then Mac Pro is your best bet. If you know you need more internal storage or PCIe cards, then Mac Pro is your only choice, again. However, if you're fine with the i7 and 2TB offered in iMac along with some external storage (preferably FW800), then I don't really see the point of paying more for Mac Pro. Monitor is a good point though. Monitor with same specs as iMac will set you back another grand so the price of Mac Pro just bumps to +3500$. Sure, you don't have to get one, maybe 200$ 24" is fine but more pixels is always nice.
     
  16. JustSomeDude thread starter macrumors regular

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    #16
    It's not really managements fault (at least not my immediate management). They're well aware that all of the programmers think the machines we have our insufficient. They make requests to someone else (forgot their title) that decides what everybody gets. Sadly, I have one of the fastest machines at work, since I fell in the upgrade cycle not too long ago. The company is looking to cut back on expenses, so the slow computer deal is unlikely to change anytime soon.

    Its also entirely possible that I won't be able to work from home, in which case this machine may be just overkill for strictly my use. Although, I do have other possible opportunities where it may come in useful.

    Of course, if I keep doing the commute in to work thing, if I end up getting the Mac Pro, I'll probably drag the machine in during crunch time so that I can be productive when things are really hectic. So, then, I'd still be covering for the inadequate work machines:rolleyes:. I'm just tired of dealing with these slow things.
     
  17. JustSomeDude thread starter macrumors regular

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    #17
    Thanks for the replies everybody, especially Jav6454 and Hellhammer.

    The iMac monitor is definitely nice, and having the screen real estate is actually useful for development, so it is a consideration. But, it's more minor; the speed of the machine is the most important thing to me.

    When dependencies aren't an issue, I know that visual studio is capable of using as many cores as you can set aside for it (aside from unit tests, which are limited to using 5). So that was why I thought the 2.26 GHz 8-core machine might be the way to go. But seeing that my i5 work machine is clocked so high, at over 3 GHz, I'm losing a lot of speed on a per thread basis if I went this route. Is this why you guys (Hellhammer and Jav6454) haven't mentioned this as possible alternative? Or do you think I would not be able to make good use of these extra cores?
     
  18. jav6454 macrumors P6

    jav6454

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    #18
    Don't buy into the Megahertz myth. Higher clock does no mean or imply higher performance.

    Today factors such as process, architecture and class need to be taken into account. An 8-core Nehalem based Xeon clocked at 2.26GHz will run circles around a quad core with 2.6 or 2.8GHz. Its all about turrases peroformance. However, higher threads does not mean higher performance as well. If your system doesn't use them all or a large number of them the system will be hurt performance wise (mind bugging, but true). You need to really assess how mug work you are expecting to choose a proper CPU.
     
  19. JustSomeDude thread starter macrumors regular

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    #19
    Oh, certainly. I was just wondering if perhaps the amount I was giving up per thread was not making up for the increased thread count because of them not being full utilized. I probably won't really know without having the machines to test on, though.

    Again, thanks everybody. I'm still deciding, but I'll set aside enough money to at least get a low end Mac pro (I'm leaning towards this at the moment), so I'll be set if I do go that route. It was helpful to know that I wasn't completely off base in terms of what I should be looking at, and to get different view points and things to consider.
     
  20. Hellhammer Moderator

    Hellhammer

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    #20
    Only if all those 8 cores can be used. Assuming that those 2.6GHz and 2.8GHz CPUs are Lynnfields and thus Nehalems, they will outperform the 8-core in tasks that can only use four cores or less, i.e. in most tasks since software is still lagging behind.

    OP, if you have the $ for 8-core, then you must have an extra 200$ to go for the 6-core. It provides high clock speed (3.33GHz) which guarantees great performance in all apps, even in apps that support only one thread. Actually, it even provides more raw processing power than the 8-core does. The issue with 8-core is that it crawls in single-threaded tasks due to its low clock speed.

    Of course, one option is to get the base Mac Pro and then upgrade the CPU later on. W3680 currently goes for 899$ in eBay so if you buy that and sell the W3530 that came with your Mac Pro for around 300$, the price of the CPU upgrade will be 600$, half of the Apple's price.
     
  21. JustSomeDude thread starter macrumors regular

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    #21
    Actually, I was looking at places like MacMall for the 8 core system-so it runs about $2350 while the hexacore runs more than $1000 over that, so there is big jump in price.

    I'd hadn't considered swapping CPUs in the base pro. I thought Mac pros were hard to switch CPUs in. I think I recall reading somebody at anandtech damaging a CPU, when attempting this because of something nonstandard with Mac pros.
     
  22. Transporteur macrumors 68030

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    #22
    That's the case for the 2009 octad models only. The quad and all 2010 models have lidded CPU sockets, which makes swapping the processors very easy.

    If you're not very handy with computer hardware, don't attempt to replace the processors in that particular system. It will void the warranty as well.

    Anyhow, as a (former) developer that particular machine (2.26GHz octad) has served me very well. It is by no means slow and well priced for $2300!
     

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