Mac Pro - upgrade or get an iMac

Discussion in 'Mac Pro' started by stimpycat, Jul 19, 2011.

  1. stimpycat macrumors regular

    Jul 2, 2007
    Running a Mac Pro 2 x 2.66 Dual-Core Intel Xeon with 4 GB Memory.

    Have had this for some time now and it's feeling a little sluggish / nosiy at times and as it is old I worry about it breaking (valid?)

    I can't really afford to upgrade to a new Mac Pro and so I have been considering swapping it for an iMac or wondering if it's just as good to upgrade my existing machine with more memory and a clean install once the new OS comes out.

    My main applications are Illustrator & Photoshop which I use for about 10 hours per day.
  2. GoCubsGo macrumors Nehalem


    Feb 19, 2005
    I would try increasing your memory first. Before people reinstall the OS I always ask what kind of maintenance they're doing and how full their hard drive is. I run a Xeon 2.8 octo-core and it feels quiet zippy. I also have an SSD as my boot and application drive and 16 gigs of ram. No doubt there are faster machines out there, but this has not yet felt sluggish until I filled the SSD up too much.

    While you are deciding, do some maintenance and buy some ram. If anything, it will only increase the resale value if that is your goal. An iMac would be nice but for me, the glossy screen is killing it.
  3. stimpycat thread starter macrumors regular

    Jul 2, 2007
    Thanks for the reply - without sounding daft, what kind of maintenance should I do?

    The only thing I have done in since I brought it was get new hard drives - I have one that contains the OS & Applications and the other one is just files.

    I also did a clean install when Leopard first came out.

    I do have mackeeper, but the only thing that does is empty my trash :)
  4. Vantage Point macrumors 65816

    Mar 1, 2010
    New Jersey
    If it is feeling a little sluggish I would first try to Repair Permissions. Go to Utilities - Disk Utility - First Aid. It may take about 10 minutes or so and you may find it to run much smoother after you try this.

    More RAM could be the answer but if it is running slower than normal then Repairing permissions is the first step. The second step might be more RAM. Go to the Activity Monitor and check out the number of Page Outs after you ram some of your more intensive tasks. If this number is in the GB range then you may need more RAM. I often use more than 4GB of RAM on my MBP which is okay since I have 8GB - and the Page Outs is now in the MB not GB range.
  5. stimpycat thread starter macrumors regular

    Jul 2, 2007
    PS: OS& App disc is 320gb with 250 free (that disc came with the mac)

    my file disc is 500gb with 200gb free
  6. stimpycat thread starter macrumors regular

    Jul 2, 2007
    Here is my activity status - not sure if it helps? Seems to be a lot of red

  7. deconstruct60 macrumors 604

    Mar 10, 2009
    Memory can have significant impact if the files you are working with are large :
  8. Vantage Point macrumors 65816

    Mar 1, 2010
    New Jersey
    Here is my activity status - not sure if it helps?

    It doesn't help. Go back and click on System Memory instead of Disk Activity - below is a shot from my AM.

    Also, Repair Permissions - it does hurt and may help. Apple had me do this once when I had a sluggish problem and I was amazed at the difference. I now do it every now and then sort of like a tune up

    Attached Files:

  9. deconstruct60 macrumors 604

    Mar 10, 2009
    Red just indicates 'write' instead of 'read'.

    the "MB/s" is the issue. If it is that low because your files are small than it is not a problem. the fact it spikes and drops quickly is indicative of small files if that was a file "open" or "save" snapshot.
  10. ssgbryan, Jul 19, 2011
    Last edited: Jul 19, 2011

    ssgbryan macrumors 6502a


    Jul 18, 2002
    I have a MacPro 1,1. The MacPro has more upside than a iMac. If something goes out on the MacPro, you replace the component. If something goes out on the iMac, you replace the iMac. Google iMac hard drive replacement. Makes it a no-brainer.

    I would recommend this, in the following order:

    1. Memory appears to be the major issue. 4 gigs isn't going to cut it today. Adobe feels that everyone using there professional products have lots of ram.

    8 gigs of ram can be had for $228 ( Over the years, I have maxed my box out at 32 gigs. The iMac maxes out at 16gig.

    2. You didn't say what video card you had, but a ATI 5770 can be had fairly cheap.

    It runs at $250 at the Apple store & it runs just fine on a 1,1. I know, I have one.

    3. If you haven't already, raid your HDs. That helps quite a bit.

    4. SSD Hard drives. They are pricey, but you can see some major speed improvements. Don't bother with the 6G ssds, your system can't take advantage of it (The 1,1 uses SATA II.).

    OWC sells really good drives:

    I am adding a 240 SSD to my system this month ($430)

    5. CPU upgrades. This is the only thing I haven't done. I am kicking the idea around, but my software isn't really CPU bound at this time. If you have done all of the above, you may appoach the point of diminishing returns, but that would be your call.

    On the other hand, keeping an eye out for 2 quad-core Xeon X5365s wouldn't be a bad idea. Right now, they run about $250 - 450 each
  11. stimpycat thread starter macrumors regular

    Jul 2, 2007
  12. Vantage Point macrumors 65816

    Mar 1, 2010
    New Jersey
    Your Page Outs (at the bottom) are over 4GB which means you are using your slower hard drive instead of RAM. You clearly need to at least double your RAM to 8gb, 12 might be even better. Notice how my Page Outs are only about 150mb, which is insignificant.
  13. stimpycat thread starter macrumors regular

    Jul 2, 2007
    Thanks I will order some RAM - I only have 2 spare slots. Does mixing manufacturer effect performance?
  14. Vantage Point macrumors 65816

    Mar 1, 2010
    New Jersey
    No, the manufacturer is irrelevant, just the specs. Try adding set of paired ram to the 2 extra DIMM slots like 2 x 4gb sticks to get a total of 12gb.

    Also, the memory for Photoshop that I see in your AM is low. You may not have the optimal settings for RAM which is critical if you use Photoshop a lot and want good performance. If you have CS5, then you can use over 3GB of RAM, CS4 and lower can only use a max of 3GB. In CS5 go to the top and click on Photoshop - Preference - Performance and set the max amount of RAM to allocate - not all of it - I use 70% of my total of 8GB. Also, and this is very important for CS5, change the default for the Cache Tile Size from the rediculously low 124k to 1024k or 1028k - this will make a real difference when working with large files - see below. Also, if you are using CS4 instead of CS5, then the default RAM will be too low and should be raised to the Max of 3gb. Then close out and Quit Photoshop and reopen. You must Quit Photoshop for the changes to take place.

    This link should help when shopping for RAM OWC has excellent customer support so if you have RAM questions give then a call - they are very good.

    Attached Files:

  15. stimpycat thread starter macrumors regular

    Jul 2, 2007
    Thanks for the tips, much appreciated.

    I have the same spec in all 4 slots:


    Unfortunately in the UK the best price I can find is £120 for 4GB kit (2x2GB)
  16. Vantage Point macrumors 65816

    Mar 1, 2010
    New Jersey
    Getting another 4GB (2+2) will double what you have and should take care of much if not all of your current problem without spending a whole lot (don't forget to play with Disk Permissions). Give that a go. You can always install that and then if you want/need more remove a pair of 512 and add another set of 4 (2x2) - prices will keep dropping. Also, their might might be a set of DIMM slots that should include the biggest RAM, not sure and this may be a topic for a new thread. If so then it is a simple matter of rearranging the RAM. Again, I am not sure of this but it is worth checking out to get the best performance. At any rate once it is installed you should go to About this Mac to check if all the ram is registering - see below

    Attached Files:

  17. hwojtek macrumors 65816


    Jan 26, 2008
    Poznan, Poland
    I would say quitting the unused apps instead of just closing their windows would help much more... Why on Earth do have Numbers, Acrobat (that's one a hog), Firefox (another hog) all run while you have some work in Illustrator to do? And MySQL? Any reason for this?
    Habits are much cheaper to change than RAM.
  18. Rainier42 macrumors member

    Aug 21, 2009
    In 2010 I went through the same thing ... do I keep my Mac Pro 2x2.66 or upgrade. Found a 2008 2x2.8 Quad on Craigs list for $1700 and sold my old Mac Pro for $1400. Great deal and am still happy with this machine. The deals are out there if you keep your eye open.
  19. SamuraiArtGuy, Jul 19, 2011
    Last edited: Jul 19, 2011

    SamuraiArtGuy macrumors regular


    Jul 13, 2010
    Eastern Panhandle, WV, USA
    Adding RAM is the fastest, easiest, most cost-effective upgrade you can make for Pro users. And you should consider putting 1GB modules in all the slots and going to a more studly 8GB, and just selling off the leftover 512s on eBay.

    Picking up a couple of hardware utilities like TechTool or Cocktail to handle some maintenance tasks will help keep the machine happy.

    Another useful upgrade is adding another drive into an available bay if you have one. Photoshop and Illustrator do like to have a honking great chunk of disk elbow room for their history, cache and redo/undo features, so more room for scratch disk operations is helpful.

    You may have noticed that Firefox is a terrifying RAM hog, since web browsers are now expected to do so much more than read HTML these days. (Note 462 MB for FF vs 255 MB for PS and 176 MB for Illustrator!) One helpful trick is to add the Flashblock plug-in to Firefox, will ease both it's RAM and processor footprint, by only running the Flash objects you choose to enable. (You get a click-able [F] icon instead of downloading and running the Flash bits automatically) But even then, you still should close and relaunch Firefox to reclaim the memory and clear it's cache regularly. You might consider leaving it off if you're not using it while working in Photoshop and Illustrator.

    As for the BIG upgrade - that's a toss up. I'm not impoverished, but tight - so still using a (quite pampered) G5 Tower, but that will not run CS5, which requires an Intel processor. And of course so does Snow Leopard and Lion... and you need those to get the Mac App Store, so modern apps are beginning to drift out of reach... So I live in mild fear of getting the CS5 file I can't open in CS3.

    For those of us facing upgrades, we have to consider the non-trivial cost of a Mac Pro and Display and it's studly speed, build quality and expandability, versus the not-at-all-shabby performance of a i7 27" iMac.

    Mac Pro (2010)
    A current Mac Pro (Yes sandy bridge/thunderbolt upgrade on the eventual horizon...who knows when... ) the base model, modestly configured: 2.8GHz Quad-Core Intel Xeon, 8 GB Ram, 2 1TB Hard Drives, ATI Radeon HD 5770, Apple LED Cinema Display ($999) , iWork, MS Office, Applecare weighs in at a hefty-
    $4,539.95 US

    iMac (2011)
    A maxed out iMac, similarly configured, (2011 Sandy Bridge gen): 3.4GHz Quad-Core Intel Core i7, AMD Radeon HD 6970M, 8 GB Ram, 2 TB HD, iWork, MS Office, Applecare is a bit more reachable at -
    $3,016.95 US

    The price difference here in the states is $1,525, and probably even more dramatic for you UK chaps. In Apples (and Intel's) defense a 2.7GHz Xeon is still heavier iron than the 3.4GHz i7, even a generation back. But that's still totally smokes my relatively ancient kit.

    That's enough to pay for the CS5.5 Upgrade AND an iPad... with a little change.

    That's what Graphics Pros are facing. We'd love the expandability and maintainability of a tower, but our budgets have been tightening. Don't get me started on glossy screens...

    Your mileage may vary. Banzai.:cool:
  20. stimpycat thread starter macrumors regular

    Jul 2, 2007
    Thanks, not a bad idea - but would I sell mine as a Dual Core or Quad Core? Its says dual core in one place and then states it has 4 cores in another?!:confused:
  21. khollister macrumors 6502a


    Feb 1, 2003
    Orlando, FL
    The 3.4 GHz i7 Sandy Bridge will smoke the 2.8 GHz Nehalem Xeon in the current MP's. And it is far cheaper to upgrade the RAM and disks yourself.

    At this point, the iMac will outperform a quad-core MP with a single disk drive. Of course, the MP will go to 32 GB RAM (with 8GB DIMM's), support multiple HDD's on SATA connections, let you upgrade the CPU to a 3.4 GHz hex core, etc.

    Since we are still waiting on Thunderbolt peripherals, the MP still rules as far as expandability. And the MP is certainly more repairable/upgradeable than an iMac.
  22. bamf macrumors 6502

    Feb 14, 2008
    You would sell it as a 2 x Dual Core...

    Look at Ebay, lots of those floating around. You can also look at to get an idea of pricing.

    I just bought a 2008 2 x 3.0 Ghz (for 8 total cores) for $1295 shipped in the US. It was a really decent deal. The only issue with the 2008 and earlier machines (as you probably know) is the price of the RAM. It's much higher than the 2009 and 2010 machines.
  23. AMDGAMER macrumors 6502

    Jan 4, 2011
    I really hope they updated the mac pro with some hard hitting base model specs...I would love to go mac pro for my desktop, but it needs to be bumped. the single xeon, 3GB ram, standard 7200 rpm drive and the ATI card...its just too $$$ for what it is. The update I think will be an improvement. I'll be checking it out when/if it comes out soon.
  24. chockymonster macrumors member

    Jul 9, 2008
    I wouldn't go the iMac route.

    Apple have just given me a refund on my i7 27" imac. I'm on my 4th physical machine and my 3rd panel in this machine.

    The last replacement panel had a noticable yellow bar against the bottom of the screen which makes it useless for doing photo editing. The genius response was "The iMac doesn't have a professional grade screen, that sort of banding is within tolerance"

    I'm now weighing up whether to just rely on my MBP for a period or buy a Pro now.
  25. MIDI_EVIL macrumors 65816


    Jan 23, 2006
    You absolutely need more RAM.

    I'm using a 2008 MacBook Pro 2.53 Core2Duo with 8GB of RAM, regularly using Final Cut Pro 7, Compressor, DVD Studio Pro, Photoshop CS5, Premiere Pro CS5 and running iTunes, scrobbler, Dropbox and Firefox 5... it rarely skips a beat.

    I'll put another vote across for at least 8GB of RAM, 12 - 16 if you can push it.

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