MacPro Quad now or wait?

Discussion in 'Mac Pro' started by Rics, Apr 8, 2011.

  1. Rics macrumors newbie

    Jan 11, 2011
    Hello macrumorsfolks!

    My 4 years old 15" macbook pro 2.16ghz got his Ati gpu broke, so to repair it i've to replace the logic board.
    (not available at ifixit and really expensive at apple support)
    As replacement, for now, i'm working (graphic and web stuff) with my girlfriend 13" macbook pro 2.2Ghz, i'm used to have a lot of softwares and browser pages opened at the same time each in his spaces desktop.
    I don't want to stress too much this machine as i got problems with my old 15" macbook pro because i've stressed it a lot in 4 years: travels, 16-20h per day powered up, 3d modelling and rendering, music composing and a lot of other intensive tasks.

    So i'm thinking to go for a Mac Pro, i went to an Apple retailer to see also the iMac 27 but after touching the rear case of it, and noting the heat at 0 cpu use i decided to go for the apple tower model.

    Choosing this model i had also to think about quad, exa, eight etc...
    I've tought about my use that will be mainly 2D graphics and music production, rarely something in 3D and video compositing/post-prodution.
    I've tought also that with music production i use a lot of AU plugins, that are almost all single-thread useable.
    Unless if i'm wrong in calculations what is best for me is an "higher CPU clock" solution than a "more cores with slower clock CPU" solution.

    In my opinion, always unless if i'm wrong, the best would be the 6-core 3,33Ghz Quad core machine.
    At almost the same price i could get the Eight cores model, but with 2.4Ghz slower cpu clock.
    I could afford one of these two machines only after a work that i'm doing at the moment, this means that now i can only afford the Quad 3.2Ghz model.

    Now intel released the new Xeons E7 cpus, that will have, in their top gamma, a max clock of 2.4Ghz

    I wonder if Apple updates the MP (end cycle on buyer's guide) will use these new cpu with more cores but slower cpu.

    Assuming that now i can also wait before buy, i'm not really in a hurry, What's your advices?

    -Wait to see the next MP update with the risk of a more-cores but slower clock machines offers.

    -Go and buy the Nehalem Quad 3.2Ghz

    -Wait 1-2 month (with the risk of an imminent update) to save money and go for the Westemere Exa 3.33Ghz.

    -Don't care about single threads softwares/plugins and buy now the Eight 2.4Ghz

    Thank you for your time!
  2. legreve macrumors regular


    Nov 22, 2010
    If it was me, I would stick it out and wait for the refresh...

    Sandy, Thunder and the probability of more powerful base configs in the store, is worth waiting for imo. Especially since you can't upgrade to thunderbolt by adding cards etc... you simply HAVE TO have thunderbolt build in to utilize it...
  3. jerry333 macrumors regular


    Nov 4, 2005
    Unless you need it right now, it would be better to wait. Even if you do need it right now, it might be better to buy an older refurbished one and then sell it when the new one comes out.

    I'm in the same situation. I have a 2 x 3GHz which is getting a bit long in the tooth. Fortunately, Snow Leopard revived it with the 64 bit processing (I get far fewer beach-balls with Snow Leopard than I did with Leopard).

    Don't worry about the GHz of the processor, GHz is pretty meaningless unless you are talking vast differences (1 to 2, 2 to 3, etc.). The internals of the processor and the number of cores are far more important, although this, particularly the number of cores, depends on what you are doing. Generally speaking, the more things you are doing simultaneously, the more multiple cores will help you. For some reason the reviewers only seem to talk about running one application, but I've never found this to be true in practice.

    ps -ef |wc -l
    ps -efM |wc -l

    For sure, if you're spending ~12K on a new Mac Pro (and that's what the Apple site shows for a Mac Pro configured the way that I would like it), you'll want Thunderbolt as future proofing.
  4. Rics thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jan 11, 2011
  5. Hellhammer Moderator


    Staff Member

    Dec 10, 2008
    It's very unlikely that Mac Pro will use those new E7 Xeons. See this thread, I'm lazy to repeat the same things again :p We are looking at Q4 2011 or early 2012 Mac Pro update. Sandy Bridge CPUs suitable for Mac Pro are due in Q4, thus the long wait.

    If the software you use can take advantage of all eight cores in the 8-core Mac Pro, then it's most likely the most future proof machine for your needs. In raw CPU power, it's about as fast as the 3.33GHz 6-core (assuming the software can take advantage of all cores). That leaves you with the option of upgrading the CPUs to 6-core versions and turning your Mac Pro into a 12-core. In general, CPUs from eBay are a lot cheaper and in couple of years, they will be even cheaper.

    Of course, depending on what's your budget, you might be able to do the upgrade right away. Or get the 2.66GHz 12-core refurb for 4249$. Seriously, that is a great deal IMO. Even better than the DYI CPU upgrade.

    List the software you use so people can help you more. I think most 3D modeling suites should be able to utilize all eight cores though.

    I asked this thread to be moved to the Mac Pro forum. You didn't do anything wrong with posting it to the Buying Advice forum but to be honest, most people in this forum have no clue about Mac Pro and can only make general recommendations (not directed at the posts above, just in general). There are lots of very knowledgeable people in the MP forum (such as nanofrog) who can really help you to get the best machine for your needs. In the end, it's not just the CPUs you need to pick. You will need more HDs (possibly RAID), RAM, maybe even an SSD.
  6. PeterQVenkman macrumors 68020

    Mar 4, 2005
    Wait a month and get Sandy Bridge iMac. If you rarely do 3d, IMO, your money is better spent on a speedy 4 core CPU.

    I just got a sandy bridge core i7 and overclocked that sucker to hell and back. The disadvantage is less cores in rendering. The advantage is that my cores are clock for clock faster (in single threaded tasks) than the current Xeons in the mac pro, even at stock speed.

    Depending on what program you use, it could mean a variety of things. In C4d, not much is multi-threaded beyond rendering so clock speed is king. In Maya, some things are multi-threaded, others only mildly so (2-4 cores), but if you're not doing a ton of 3d, I think a faster clocked lower core (and thus lower cost) system will be a better invenstment.
  7. Rics thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jan 11, 2011
    Thank you for the tips Hellhammer!
    I've already read that thread about sandy bridge, but no one can say that in the meantime MP could gain a speedbump.
    I wrote this thread mainly for comparing Quad and Eight considering the different clock speeds and then to be adviced on the better price/performance ratio for my use.
    Obviusly, having read about these new cpus, i can think about a MP update...and if will not be an update, i'll have anyway to choose always between these models: Quad, Exa or Eight.

    If you think that's better to move to MacPro forum i agree with you, i'm new here and you know surely better than me!

    BTW here it is what i'll probably do with my computer:

    At the moment i'm not doing so much 3D modelling and renderings.
    And it's not something that i'm planning to do in the near future.
    If i will use 3D softwares i will use them for simple and not really intensive tasks.

    The softwares that i'm using often now are:

    Ableton Live
    Native Instruments Maschine
    Native Instruments Kore 2
    A lot of AU software synthesizer instrument plugins
    Traktor Pro
    (All my audio tasks are based more on virtual synthesizng than using sample files)
    Photoshop CS5
    Illustrator CS5
    Panic Coda
    Safari&Firefox&Chrome with a lot of Tabs for web development
    Canon Digital Photo Professional

    Sometimes, but really rarely, i use also:
    Luxology Modo
    Rhinoceros beta
    Eagle Layout Editor
    Adobe After Effects
    Final cut express

    Everyday 24h opened apps:
    Firefox with a lot of tabs

    Let me know your advices, thank you!
  8. Rics thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jan 11, 2011
    Thank you for your advice!
    Considering that i'll not never buy an all in one system, except a laptop for obvious portability reasons, you are directing me to the MP Quad.
    About the iMac (and also Macmini as all in one) there are some things that i've considered to not buy it:
    -Overheat, i will use my pc for at least 16h per day for 300 days per year, if it will have the videocard fried i will be in the same situation like with my old MBP. Then i went to an apple retailer and with my hand i've felt how much was hot the rear of the 27" imac...not for me after what happened to my MBP!
    -The display is glossy, not the best for graphics, if something goes wrong with the display i'll have to stop working because i'll have to bring all the machine to repair. With a MP i can use any display that i have apart for emergency.
    -Expandability, if i want to use some DSP express cards, use some CUDA software with nvidia GPU i can configure the MP, with an imac i've to get stuck with the initial configuration. The only thing over that we can think about is a future TB port for disk storage, but we are in the same situation of the MP, wait and see for an update!

    Then yeah, if i'll have to do renderings i'll think about CUDA and GPU render capable software like Arion or Octane and i will swap the ATI with an nvidia.
    I'll have so a lot more horse-power than using the cpus for renderings.
    If ever i'll need to do intensive renderings!
  9. Hellhammer Moderator


    Staff Member

    Dec 10, 2008
    Hmmm, I think quad core is fine for you then. You can upgrade it to 6-core from aftermarket later on if you wish. It's actually much cheaper than what Apple offers.

    8-core is more "future-proof" but it is quite a lot slower in tasks that cannot use all eight cores.

    Be sure to get lots of RAM as it sounds like you use fairly a lot. IMO no less than 2x8GB. 8GB modules offer space for future expansions, otherwise you can only get 4x4GB. 8GB modules have the downside that they cannot be mixed with other modules so if you go with 4x4GB, then you must get 3x8GB to get more RAM and that is starting to be expensive, unless you sell your old RAM for good price.

    I would get an SSD at least for OS X and apps and then e.g. 2x1TB RAID 0 for data, or more if you need. Also, DO NOT forget to backup your data. If you have a certain budget, then you must make your purchases so that a solid backup solution fits in the budget.

    These are just my thoughts. I'm not that familiar with the apps you listed so I recommend you to wait. Like I said, there is lots of wisdom in this forum and some members make me look like a noob. Wait for their inputs and you will get the best service you can :)
  10. Chupa Chupa macrumors G5

    Chupa Chupa

    Jul 16, 2002
    I think it's possible for an intermediate speed bump using the current chips IF the rumors about a new FCP next week come true. I'm basing my hunch on that idea that the new version will be a showcase for "Thunderbolt," and that Apple has already announced a PCI card will not be available for current models. So seems 1+1 = new Mac Pro even if it's not Sandy Bridge.

    At any rate I'm getting ready to sell my MP on this suspicion. I think Apple intends to sell only Macs w/ Thunderbolt by the time 10.7 ships at WWDC in early June.
  11. Rics thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jan 11, 2011
    Thank you a lot, i'm really happy when i find people available to give advices!
  12. Rics thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jan 11, 2011
    Yep, considering the new iMac TB updates rumors, i really doubt that apple will leave their top line computers (MacPro) without features present in the "lower" machines (imac, macmini and macbooks) up to the Q4.
    Then hey, all is possible!!:D
  13. Joshuarocks macrumors 6502


    Mar 12, 2011
    Somewhere in Cyberspace
    So many complainers on here... be happy with a 6-core or 8-core or 12-core Westmere... and yes, I am sure there will be PCIe thunderbolt cards.. 3rd parties have a tendency to not allow stuff to fall by the waste side.
  14. Rics thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jan 11, 2011
    The main discussion it's about the choice of a quad or an eight cores machine for my needs. (listed above)
    We are going a bit aside from the main goal of the thread, probably also myself with my last post! so back to the thread!
  15. Joshuarocks macrumors 6502


    Mar 12, 2011
    Somewhere in Cyberspace

    It really boils down to what you want to use the machine for.. As far as thunderbolt.. if you are thinking it will speed up carbon copy cloner for cloning your hard drives, or using time machine to speed up your backups, you are GRAVELY mistaken. Thunderbolt is used to transmit and or copy simultaneously Hi-def content from one computer to another at amazing fast speeds.. It will NOT speed up carbon copy cloner or time machine. With that out of the way...

    Again, what do you plan to use the computer for? If you are going to get into serious video editing, 3d animation, or anything to do with video.. your needs might be better off with 8-core.. but consider this: The 2.4 is slow at single-threaded tasks while at multi-threaded it is fast.. but the sweet spot would be the 6-core 3.33 of which I have.

    For everyday basics, you won't notice much of a difference between 8-core or 6-core, but audio pro level apps and video pro level apps - the 8-core and even 12-core will outgun the 6-core.

    SO, what do you plan on using the system for?
  16. Rics thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jan 11, 2011
    As wrote before i'll not do so much video editing/post-production and 3d modelling/render (considering also that if i'll do 3d rendering i'll consider cuda systems to gain render horsepower).

    The other tasks are music composing with AU virtual instruments and 2D graphics & web development.

    It's all wrote in the upper post:

    Then if i need to be more specific let me know! Thank you!
  17. Hellhammer Moderator


    Staff Member

    Dec 10, 2008
    Depends on your setup and what you compare it to. Is TB faster than USB 2.0? Yes, tens of times! Even for CCC and TM. Faster than FW800? Yes, still a lot faster. Faster than eSATA 6Gb/s? Theoretically yes but in most cases they are the same because of your equipment.

    To take advantage of TB's full potential, you need a source and a target which are both capable of extremely high bandwidth. A single mechanical HD isn't, it tops out at 150MB/s which is something that eSATA 3Gb/s and USB 3.0 can both provide just fine. You are going to need a some level of RAID setup in both ends of the TB cable to really use it at its top speeds.

    The reason why TB isn't that big of a deal for Mac Pro users is that they already have the possibility of high-speed external storage. All you need is an eSATA PCIe card. That is available today and eSATA externals aren't that expensive either. For other Macs, TB is a great addition because before that, almost all other Macs were limited to FW800 and USB 2.0.

    TB can speed up CCC and TM as long as you have the right equipment. Whether it is worth it or not is a whole new question. Anyway, TB can transfer any data at 10Gb/s, not just HD videos.

    I think OP has answered this pretty well in the earlier posts already...
  18. philipma1957, Apr 8, 2011
    Last edited: Apr 8, 2011

    philipma1957 macrumors 603


    Apr 13, 2010
    Howell, New Jersey
    look at my base quad core 2.8 cpu upgrade

    cost is about 650 usd
    plus a 2010 quad 2.8 see below;

    quad is 2119 before tax so 2119 plus 650 is 2769 and a spare quad 2.8 cpu

    for a hex that is about 95 to 97% as good as the 3699 hex at the online store.

    or buy the dual cpu:

    cost is 2949 before tax and it is about 2900 for two of the better hex cores total of 5800 with a pair of quad cpus left over but this would give you a machine that is better then any mac pro there is a thread on this build maybe some one can find it the machine would be close to this machine

    but for under 7k and a mac of course.

    this seller has a cpu for 1350
  19. Rics thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jan 11, 2011
    That's a good point!
  20. Rics thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jan 11, 2011
    That's something that i will see on later.
    The quad 3.2 nehalem MP will cost me, in europe, 2560€ (3700$) tax included.
  21. Joshuarocks macrumors 6502


    Mar 12, 2011
    Somewhere in Cyberspace
    TB can speed up CCC and TM as long as you have the right equipment. - Apple themselves told me for what I use my machine for it would be a waste of time, since Thunderbolt is much more involved.. and backing up using CCC or time machine I wouldn't notice a thing.. is Apple wrong?

    Do I really have a need for Thunderbolt? Not really, it is a waste of time for doing everyday backups like what I do with CCC or time machine.. if however, I were to transfer two HI-DEF movies or programs at once, that would be a different story.. Again, is Apple wrong or right when they told me that CCC usage with thunderbolt is a waste?
  22. philipma1957 macrumors 603


    Apr 13, 2010
    Howell, New Jersey
    superduper would fly with t-bolt in raid0 and if it boots t-bolt would be a great backup. you could put a daisychain of 3
    t-bolt externals all raid0 first 2 alternate backups every other day and the last is a tm
  23. Hellhammer Moderator


    Staff Member

    Dec 10, 2008
    Well, the thing is that it doesn't really matter is your backup completed in 10 minutes or in 40 minutes. They are something that can run in the background. That's probably the reason why Apple told you that it's waste of time/money, which is correct.

    Like I mentioned in my post above, you will need some serious hardware to transfer data at high speeds. If you buy a single 2TB external HD with TB, it's not going to be any faster than eSATA because the hard drive is the bottleneck. You can't transfer data any faster than your drives can read and write.

    If you have a 8x2TB RAID 0 setup and you are transferring data to your MBP which has a 500GB 5400rpm HD, you won't be able to transfer data at 900MB/s because the HD in your MBP can barely write at 80MB/s.

    This is the biggest issue. Most people don't have equipment that is capable of such high bandwidths. TB isn't any better than eSATA unless you have some serious hardware that can really read and write data at nearly 1GB/s.
  24. Joshuarocks macrumors 6502


    Mar 12, 2011
    Somewhere in Cyberspace

    "TB isn't any better than eSATA unless you have some serious hardware that can really read and write data at nearly 1GB/s."

    Of which at this moment I don't nor do I foresee any such needs for anything which could remotely write and read data over 1GB/s+
  25. Rics thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jan 11, 2011
    Ok, i'm tempted to wait june, not for eventual TB, but just for a speed bump for the base model, maybe for the same price i can pick a little speedy machine.

    But i've read that at next june event apple will only talk about software, no hardware.
    I don't remember if at the past events they annunced hardware before or they did a silent update/speed bump in the meantime/some days after the event.

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