Mac Pro specs for graphic designer?

Discussion in 'Mac Pro' started by rgustafs, May 18, 2012.

  1. rgustafs macrumors newbie

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    #1
    Our whole office is PC-driven, but we have just hired our first ever graphic designer. The designer is too modest to tell us the specs of the machine that would would be fitting so I am turning to you smart folks. (I crank out Word documents all day so I know zippo about this Mac stuff.) Budget is not a huge consideration, but we're not prepared to spend a huge chunk of change if it is not needed.

    Designer will be doing print work primarily using inDesign and Photoshop. InfoGraphics will be the name of the game for this designer, but I am sure there will be photo editing and the like thrown in once we get the hang of having an in-house designer. There could be some rudimentary web or video editing, but we typically contract that out.

    All materials should be saved on a corporate server so HD size does not need to be massive. I am guessing dual screens would be best, but I have no clue what one would want/need for design awesomeness.

    Anyone have suggestions on what machine and peripherals one would need? I hate that I know nothing, and we want the designer not to hate us on day one.
     
  2. derbothaus macrumors 601

    derbothaus

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  3. wonderspark macrumors 68040

    wonderspark

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    #3
  4. G51989 macrumors 68030

    G51989

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    #4
    With a horrible video card, and zero room to expand.
     
  5. JasonR macrumors 6502a

    JasonR

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    #5
    +1. You don't need a badass video card for Graphic Design (unless doing 3D work, of course).
     
  6. thekev, May 18, 2012
    Last edited: May 18, 2012

    thekev macrumors 604

    thekev

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    #6
    It's print work. Have you ever done this before? The graphics card is virtually meaningless. If you have enough vram, that's about where the concerns end as 2D imagery is not typically gpu bound. You'd know this if you knew anything on the subject. If you're wondering why it's still laggy at times, it's because Apple implements OpenGL standards in weird ways, so much of the time these developers are using older versions. Loaded with ram I could comfortably work in photoshop with layered 10k .EXR files (google it if you don't know) on an imac. I don't really like the imacs in terms of serviceability and glossy displays, but that is a totally different matter.

    As for room to expand, 16-32GB of ram isn't that expensive for it, and it will minimize scratch disk use. The OP mentioned that he'd be working off a server which means you don't need as much space internally. If the display isn't suitable, I'd suggest the mac pro. They're pretty common there, but the base single core system isn't that worthwhile these days. The display would be a bigger concern if he's doing heavy retouching or illustration work or working in too bright of an area with a lot of reflective issues. This is because for that kind of work, uniformity in color and luminance + lack of reflections would be critical. One is nothing like the other though. I had a lot of complaints with the older Apple displays. The newest ones seem to last longer. It's just that your costs do go way up if you're going that route. Rather than $2k~ for an imac, you end up spending more like $2500-2700 minimum for the mac pro configured with a bit of ram, then add on $1700 or so for an NEC 27" with colorimeter, hood, and spectraview or more like $3k for the Eizo version (they are more consistent, but you really see diminishing returns between the two compared to a few years ago).

    My point is that you're focusing precisely on the wrong points.

    I'm with you here on the imac. My main complaint with it is serviceability. If I went away from the mac pro, I'd most likely try to go to a macbook pro cutting it down to one computer overall as I don't feel there's enough benefit there for me. Of course I already own expensive displays, and I don't turn the Eizo on until I'm doing something that really requires it, so as to prolong its performance. If the imac display is suitable, then it should be fine. In any case for a business buying a mac, I would suggest they have a good relationship with a local authorized repair center in case of problems. Apple slips on their repair time estimates too often in my experience, and some of the third party guys are much easier to speak to than the Apple geniuses.

    You're completely correct. Beyond meeting minimum requirements, you're not likely to see much, if any improvement in the smoothness of your workflow. If he's doing print graphics work, there isn't a lot of heavy lifting. You just want something that will go a few years without starting to develop minute pauses while you work. Those can be distracting and lead to a loss of productivity, but they're more common due to ram than cpu with the current computer generation. If they're buying today for the purposes listed, they'd have to spend way more to see a significant advantage. If it's a display thing, even a mini loaded with ram will most likely do the job. My real complaint with the mini is ironically the gpu setup. They starved it on vram and you can't get a discrete card on the quad model. The combination of Intel drivers + lack of vram is extremely annoying. Gpu benefits with this stuff experience severe diminishing returns though unless you're making heavy use of OpenCL aided rendering and heavy OpenGL drawing. Moving millions of pixels in photoshop/InDesign/Illustrator is nothing like pushing around millions of polygons with large texture maps. Even if we're talking about large files with 100 layers, the gpu provides little benefit. It's been tested. CS6 increased reliance, but I haven't seen anything yet that shows it really increasing the benefit received on large files or with vector data.
     
  7. wonderspark macrumors 68040

    wonderspark

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    #7
    My whole reason for suggesting a Mac Pro was in reference to the sentence, "There could be some rudimentary web or video editing, but we typically contract that out."

    They typically contract that out now, but then they typically didn't have this graphic designer position in house, either. Once they "get the hang of having an in-house designer" as they said, they may stop contracting out all that other work as well.

    I personally didn't enjoy editing video on a brand new Thunderbolt equipped iMac at all. Thankfully, it was just something quick I had to do in an emergency while on vacation, and it so happened there was a new iMac to use for the job. I set it up and went to the beach while it rendered.

    Other than the possibility of growth / expansion, I'd say an iMac is fine. The beauty of the Mac Pro is that it can be improved so easily, as I have done to my own.
     
  8. camomac macrumors 6502a

    camomac

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    #8
    +1 mac pro

    i would suggest a mac pro, for photo editing. imac's have a glossy display, and i find it very annoying in any kind of environment were direct sunlight hits the screen. also a lot of people complain that the "glossy" display skews the colors.

    with a mac pro you could add any monitor you like (or two), and it has more room to expand as your future needs may change.

    don't buy your RAM at apple. look to crucial for that. you can get 24gb for around $299.

    make sure you get a monitor with a wide color gamut. b & h, or newegg are probably you best bets for that. i'm sure other people on this forum have good recommendations.
     
  9. thekev macrumors 604

    thekev

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    #9
    I didn't have an issue with your comment at all (in case this was in reference to my post). Mac pros have been super common for this stuff. I was only saying that to put together a setup that realizes some true gains over the imac relative to all of the information provided, you will spend considerably more. This is one of those things where you hit hard diminishing returns.


    Your eyes are easily fooled. It can bias colors and tones, which is why I did mention the lighting conditions. It matters how in depth they're getting though. If they're just receiving assets, dropping them in, putting together vector elements and sending an fpo with the high res assets for someone else to fix, that's quite different from doing complex comp work. Most graphic designers choke when it gets past the point of dropping a simple background. Unfortunately print tools are in the dark ages compared to some of what is available in a program like nuke.

    That's something where you have to be careful. Some of them are a pain in the ass to calibrate. I don't know how much editing they're doing, or if they're even investing in a viewing table to compare proofs. Just wide gamut isn't really an advantage though unless you can control it really well. Otherwise you end up with green grey tones.
     
  10. wonderspark macrumors 68040

    wonderspark

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    #10
    I agree with that, but if you did buy an iMac (say the $1869 one in the refurb section) and then realized you wanted to start editing video, you'll either spend way too much on Thunderbolt parts or find yourself wanting to upgrade to a Mac Pro after all, and you have an extra iMac left over. Maybe that's ok, but I'm biased toward expandability and my suggestions tip that way. :)

    I realize not everyone is cool with swapping in a new CPU, but it's so incredibly easy on a Mac Pro, and going from 4,1 quad core to 5,1 6-core after selling my old CPU cost a total of $300. Also, swapping drives, RAM and graphics cards is even easier. Not nearly as fun to do on an iMac. My mom gets a new one every three years or so, and I see the old ones pile up here and there at their house. It just seems like a waste, considering my updated Mac and my ten or so year old PC that I keep alive and well.

    Maybe it's inaccurate, but I feel like iMacs are today what those plastic cameras with film already loaded for one use were. I ran a photo lab for years, and was always entertained by tearing apart those cameras and tossing them in the trash, even though I could pop the film out by pulling on one little door under the paper label covering. I should have installed new film and batteries, and resold them. Ah, well.
     
  11. valleydesign, May 18, 2012
    Last edited: May 18, 2012

    valleydesign macrumors member

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    #11
    As a designer myself in desperate need of a new computer I'd like to offer up my 2 cents.

    I'm buying a new mac pro if a new one EVER COMES OUT....:D (if not I will be more than happy with a maxed out iMac hooked up to my existing AC display)

    My moneys on the mac pro because I don't want to buy another computer in the next 5-6 years (at which point apple will probably sell an iPad that is more than capable of creating content and their entire product line will consist of one iPhone and one iPad.)

    Anyways....
    a. I dont want to worry about heat issues
    b. More power = better.... Ha but in all seriousness, if I wanna run 3ds max along side indesign illustrator and photoshop, I don't want to be concerned about coming up short.
    c. Expandability / Longevity

    On the other hand, If you don't mind buying a new iMac every 3 years or so I'm almost positive your designer would be more than happy to work on a 27" iMac with an extra display or two that you bought with the money you saved not going pro.
     
  12. thekev macrumors 604

    thekev

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    #12
    Apple's lineup is really awkward in this range. That's kind of a problem. Regardless it's hard to tell what will be supported more than a few years. In an office situation, upgrading cpus isn't that common.


    If I ran Max i'd just switch to a PC. Running all of that at once is primarily an issue of ram unless you've got mental ray chugging along in the background. In that case, ram + many cpu cores. The mac pro isn't exactly new today either. In 3 years, both will look old. A mac pro can be a really good choice, but it's not a lot of detail to go from. I don't know how they're going to set up the designer's work area. I don't know how heavy of editing or footage resolution, not that I'm an expert on that anyway. Anyway the OP should probably figure out details of what they really need. Edit: video editing is probably the most complex need
     
  13. Nostromo, May 18, 2012
    Last edited: May 18, 2012

    Nostromo macrumors 65816

    Nostromo

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    #13
    First: when do you need it?

    If now: get a Mac Pro period. A 6-core will be great. Get a 256 Gb SSD as a start-up disk and spend $100 extra on a better graphics card, put 24 Gb RAM in (or more) and your graphic designer will be happy. As you said, you don't need drive space, so you just put in another HD to give him some extra space, and that's it in regard to drives.

    What applications is the graphic designer using? Does he do 3D work? (here a higher end graphics card would come in handy)

    Generally: a workstation is the best for your graphic designer.

    If you have some time, wait for the next generation Mac Pro - everybody is awaiting every day the announcement of the upgrade (we'be been doing this for a good three months now - it's called "Apple Waiting Sport").

    Don't buy, under any circumstances, an iMac. Or buy it if you want to fry your graphic designer. Those things get hot! The graphic cards is not as good as in a work station, expandability is a joke. And the display is a mirror that will leave your guy blind in no time. Well, I probably exaggerate slightly... but you get the drift ;)

    Instead, get a NEC or an Eizo display. He'll put you in his prayers for this.

    Just don't get the 4-core. It's a pedestrian machine (not that it's bad, but the 6-core is so much better).
     
  14. SDAVE macrumors 68040

    SDAVE

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    #14
    iMac is fine. Just make sure there aren't too many lights around the office as the glossy screen gets really annoying with the reflections.
     
  15. Lingua macrumors newbie

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    #15
    I agree with Nostromoʻs hardware advice. The iMac is capable of doing a basic job short-term however it will hamper workflow overall which in my experience is crucial. I too was an in-house designer in a similar situation (Mac among PC network, info-graphics, as well as in-house signage and media ads) with a large company (NYSE listed) with many divisions. Deadlines were very tight and the last thing I needed was doing busy work color-correcting what I saw on the screen to printer proofs or in-house signage prints (company identities had specific PMS colors).

    I highly suggest the aforementioned Mac Pro, 6-core, 8 core or better (refurbished from Apple is great when available + Applecare (from Amazon, should be cheaper), 3rd party ram to at least 8gb (very easy to install). The stock video card will be fine.

    In my experience an Eizo monitor (CG line only) is the way to go along with a spectrophotometer over a colorimeter for more accuracy; the Colormunki would be a great choice (download Eizoʻs latest hardware-calibrating software rather than Colormunkiʻs supplied discs). You donʻt need a large Eizo screen, just a 22.5" one like CG223W ($1,400) for design along with an office-level secondary monitor of any choice (matte screen), maybe 27" for software palettes, word docs, email and web.

    With this setup I would basically soft-proof with the Eizo CG and with confidence trust (when calibrated regularly) what I saw on the screen to closely match what was printed. Color proofs from the printer were always dead-on. This often saved precious time going back and forth with the printer (like I often experience when I was using the originally provided company iMac) or my in-house signage printouts, not to mention savings in in-house print supply costs.

    The all-in the cost would be around mid $5k - $6K which seems like a lot, however when considering the cost of re-work labor wise, I think it should pay for itself (difference-wise from an iMac) within a year depending on production level. Although, if by info-graphics the OP meant monthly in-house printed newsletters only this would be overkill and an iMac should suffice. My apologies for the long post.
     
  16. JavaTheHut macrumors 6502

    JavaTheHut

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    #16
    iMac i7 w/2nd non-glossy monitor for colour correct work can be an alternative.
    Max out the RAM to 32GB, Illustrator, Indesign CS6 is 64bit now and can now address more ram then 3GB, Photoshop on its own can easyly chew up 16-24GB of RAM on its own for a medium to large hires image.
    If you want to keep the cost down throw a hood on the iMac using black foam core to reduce glare or as others have stated keep the mac in low light at an angle to prevent reflections.

    In some freelance locations I have worked in they have 12 imacs setup w/ dual screen running 16hrs a day doing graphic design/print and a little colour correction the main colour correction setup is MacPro with 48GB of RAM.

    OR

    As others have stated MacPro for expandability would be ideal, but if your moving into 3D and Video you would need a dedicated machine for this in the end.

    My2¢ Good Luck
     
  17. blackhand1001 macrumors 68030

    blackhand1001

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    #17
    Apple unfortunately doesn't make a machine that makes sense for this use. The pro is too expensive, the iMac is not the right type of machine and the Mac mini falls short. They need something around the price of the mini but in a mid tower so that it doesn't compromise on performance and price for form factor. Desktop form factor is not important. Unfortunately apple really doesn't care about businesses and pro users.

    Honestly I think the question needs to be asked, does he really need a Mac? I would say no. I hate to say it but windows 7 really makes a better graphics art platform.

    ----------

    It absolutely not fine for color critical work.
     
  18. derbothaus macrumors 601

    derbothaus

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    #18
    It absolutely is with right profiling. New pucks can deal with LED backlights AND the glass. Only up to user if they like reflective or not. Matte actually distorts the image compared to glass/ gloss. The jagged crags on matte finish move image under crystals that throw light. Another misrepresented "fact" amongst users. That matte is better for "color critical". Not if your display is a 6-bit nightmare that is more important. iMac is true 8-bit H-IPS. Screen coating not a huge deal. Old facts. It can profile close to any NEC or even IPS based Eizo for that matter.
     
  19. SDAVE, May 19, 2012
    Last edited: May 19, 2012

    SDAVE macrumors 68040

    SDAVE

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    #19
    What are you talking about? What is this "critical" work you're speaking of? Send me your portfolio so I can decide if you know what you're talking about.

    I think I know more about this subject than anyone here.

    iMac is perfectly fine for print. Even for motion. I highly doubt anyone here is working on title sequences for $150 million dollar movies. The new iMacs are just as fast as the 2008 Mac Pros and I've done plenty on those.

    If you're doing print work, either way your stuff is going to the printer so your display doesn't need to be an Eizo or whatever. You can see/check your proof with your printer before you mass produce your material. Any good designer will tell you this. If he/she says they NEED an Eizo, that's complete bollocks.

    I personally do not like the glossy screens, but they're fine under good room lighting conditions.

    It is quite true that Apple has stepped away from the desktop publishing, but in no way are the new machines inadequate for anything that we are discussing here.
     
  20. thekev, May 19, 2012
    Last edited: May 19, 2012

    thekev macrumors 604

    thekev

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    #20
    Bleck you've never dealt with trying to explain to someone why their display looked reddish after they profiled it have you? Prior to last year it was a pain in the ass to profile one unless you already owned a spectrophotometer. The other brands do a little bit under the hood to compensate for unevenness, and Eizo can approximate printed brightness. It's balanced for much lower settings. My point earlier was that for the work described, the advantage/disadvantage in this isn't such a big deal. You really need a fairly dark work area to take advantage of that, but it helps quite a lot on a beauty pass with whatever (photos, CG, video) as you won't encounter the issue of something seeming slightly off color further toward the edge of your display. I kind of wonder what will happen to these companies long term. The advantages aren't what they were a few years ago. They've all moved to generic LG panel designs from Hitachi/Mitsubishi, and a few of NEC's internal designs.

    Okay I'm getting off topic here, but the color temps were a bit different, and it used to be difficult to get an acceptable result. The problem I see is that people are suggesting that the mac pro is likely to amortize better over its usable life. I don't fully agree there. Some of the older Apple displays didn't age well. I had the same problem with some NECs. I'd suggest the NEC or Eizo if it was guaranteed to be a mac pro purchase. Right now the value equation isn't really in its favor though. The only thing to look at might be if video is an issue where the imac is limited on hardware options. Also I already mentioned lighting conditions. The imac would not be fun near a window.



    The 22.5" isn't an IPS display, and the viewing angles aren't quite as good. It's still a decent display. I don't agree with you on the Colormunki. It's a very low end spectrophotometer. If you're going that route, buy the real thing. They can deal with some things better, but they typically have a few problems with shadow values. I use this, but I don't use X-rite's software. The only typical complaints are regarding the software. Beyond that, to get anything better, it's over $1000.

    Regarding the 6 and 8 core. Most software the OP will be using won't scale past 4 cores. With the 6 core, you'd be working with the extra ghz alone, and the 8 core is slower for most of these tasks than the imac or single socket mac pros. Ram has come down in price enough to where if they need a lot, it will not be a huge offset in price as long as it's not purchased from Apple. There are plenty of ram vendors who test and guarantee on Macs. It takes all of 5 minutes to install.

    Also you mention regarding press checks and matching PMS (pantone matching system) colors. Pull proofs from five different printing houses and tell me if they match:p. The display has little to do with matching reference colors on something where they want a really tight match for consistency.

    That's kind of what I was saying. Screen type doesn't mean that much for design as long as it doesn't suck. If you're doing heavy heavy comp work, it helps if color is predictable and uniformity is really good so you don't think something is off then pan it toward the center of your display to see that it's actually fine (this was much more common with earlier lcds). It's not like you're going to use what the display tells you for a final check.
     
  21. wonderspark macrumors 68040

    wonderspark

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    #21
    I wonder how rgustafs is feeling at this point... question answered or more confused than before?

    Maybe give the new designer a budget and let him/her decide what they prefer to do with it.
     
  22. thekev macrumors 604

    thekev

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    #22
    Beer and hookers:cool:.
     
  23. macbook pro i5 macrumors 65816

    macbook pro i5

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    #23
    :D 6-core mac pro sounds adequate.
     
  24. Nostromo macrumors 65816

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    #24
    Are you using the ColorMunki yourself. I have heard so many different opinions. Some says it's great, especially for calibrating the printer output, others don't seem to be able to get it right.

    By the way, BasicColor display 5 is a great calibration software, and their Disquus a great measurement device (but very expensive). NEC is using a version of BasicColor's software for their own calibration package (for NEC wide gamut displays) which receives high regards everywhere.
     
  25. thekev macrumors 604

    thekev

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    #25
    I've been commenting way too much in this thread. The colormunki isn't designed as anything beyond a low end solution. Typically spectrophotometers are quite expensive. This just added a low end version. For what it costs, it seems like an okay device. It's just that the advice there was out of date. When the divergence occurred around 2009 with wider gamut displays and LED backlit displays beginning to hit the market, many of the existing colorimeters on the market weren't really equipped to deal with them. The DTP-94 was X-rite's last internal project, and it was released at least a decade ago. The designs they absorbed from Gretag-Macbeth were also out of date relative to newer displays, although they still produced okay results with typical sRGB ccfl lcd displays.

    Basiccolor is really good. Some people have suggested it gives better shadow values than some of the stock programs. NEC doesn't use it in the US if the OP is here. They call it spectraview either way, but it's a different internal program and UI.

    On colorimeters, I know Chromix liked the i1 display pro. They haven't published anything on the Spyder4 yet. Here is an article on colorimeters and spectrophotometers. Their testing methods seem okay. Spectrophotometers have trouble with shadow values, which you can see here. Note the spectrolino is an older spectrophotometer gretag macbeth used to make. Where it mentions i1 display pro / colormunki display, those are both colorimeters. I bought the more expensive version (which was still only $250) because even if the hardware is basically identical, it was required for use with color navigator or spectraview. I don't think X-rite opened development on the colormunki display under their SDK.

    The older colorimeters don't work very well with newer displays. You can never get a neutral grey. Some of them won't work with Lion. I keep the displays on 45 minutes to an hour before calibrating. I keep the colorimeter plugged in 10 minutes or so before doing so as well. In an office environment, I'd just suggest doing this once or twice a month. The designer can set it up right before they go to lunch, and just let it run so as not to lose productivity.

    Getting exact print matches can be annoying depending on the level of consistency required.

    Oh and once again note the poor naming convention on the colormunki devices. The two are completely different.
     

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