Macs are sealed - How to best go with the flow?

Discussion in 'Mac Pro' started by iSee, Sep 25, 2013.

  1. iSee macrumors 68040


    Oct 25, 2004
    I'm trying to come to terms with the fact that Macs are sealed.

    Of course, Macs aren't totally sealed. If you have the time, knowledge, inclicantion and patience you can open them up and replace or upgrade various parts and pieces. But it's fairly hard, depending on the model and what you're doing and seems to be getting harder all the time.

    I could post this in any Mac forum, but I'm posting in the Mac Pro forum because the new mac pro is definitely the most shocking and controversial form of "sealed" mac.

    I've opened up almost every Mac I've owned to perform unsupported upgrades or repairs (iBook, original MBP, 2009 iMac, mac minis, not my 2011 Air).

    But now I've started to wonder if I shouldn't just go with the flow.

    I started thinking about this because my iMac just died.
    The cause is very likely the SSD I put in a few years ago. Now I've got to pull the iMac apart, get the SSD repaired/replaced, put it back in my iMac, etc. I'm definitely swiming up stream here. And while I have the knowledge, etc. to do all this, I really don't have the time. (I'm in the middle of a project -- developing an IOS app -- that is taking up all my free time.)

    So now I'm thinking: Why swim up-stream? The smart course here is to NOT upgrade my Mac. Now the question is: how can I best live without upgrading components of my Macs?

    Previously, I would buy a Mac with the thoughts: This needs to be significantly more powerful than my immediate needs because I want it to last a long time. I need to be sure I can upgrade significant components like the hard drive and RAM, so that it doesn't become useless too quickly.

    Now I'm thinking:
    - buy for my immediate needs
    - count on buying more often
    - sell the not-too-old system to recoup some costs (maybe keep one back as a quick-to-deploy backup)

    E.g., suppose I was looking to replace my development system today (in reality I'm not quite there yet, but I'm getting there -- e.g., it's not up to simulating a retina iPad for even modest cocos2d/opengl apps.)

    In the past I would have strongly considered the New Mac Pro. I'd opt for a fairly large capacity SSD, etc., and it would be a fairly expensive system.

    Now I'm thinking: at the start of my next big project determine if a new mini will be sufficient -- or even a refurb mini -- and get one of those. It might only be good for a year, but so what? It would cost only ~$1000 and I would likely get a significant amount back when reselling.

    Comparing the old vs. new strategy over four years it might look like this:

    Mini, as needed: 4 minis purchased at 1K each, 3 sold for $500 each. The net cost is $2500, though I need only $1000 up-front and I'm always working with the recent tech albeit not the top-of-the-line.

    Pro: 1 Pro purchased for ? IDK, $3500???. Sold after 4 years for $1000??? the net cost is still $2500. The cost is all up-front. I start with new tech but it's a lot of overkill and I end with old tech. E.g., when USB 3.1 comes out after 2 years, I'm not getting it for at least a while.

    It's a little hard for me to guess at some of these numbers. I wonder if anyone has pursued the "frequent mini" strategy over the "infrequent pro" strategy and how it worked out?

    Does anyone have better ideas?

    Is any one else considering a switch in purchasing/upgrade strategy?
  2. ActionableMango macrumors G3


    Sep 21, 2010
    I don't think the new mac pro is really sealed. This is definitely true of other macs, where even if you can get the things open, components like the CPU are soldered instead of socketed. If you look at the pictures, it appears as if the case readily comes off. The memory is socketed, the drive is on a board that connects to a slot, and the GPU boards also connect to slots.

    That being said, I tried the Mini first and it ran out of steam too quickly. Although I made it last a few years, the last year or so was really bad. I wouldn't start jobs until I had to go to bed because they'd take all night and well into the following work day. Some times a job would fail and I wouldn't know until the morning, which resulted in a whole day lost. Troubleshooting a problematic job could take a week or more. That was clearly unacceptable. The inability to upgrade it along the way turned out to be very crippling toward the end. Also, I don't think the Mini case was really designed with enough airflow for nearly constant hard work. It got very hot and that poor tiny fan was running loudly at max for many hours at a time, day after day.

    My MP on the other hand, is three years old now and still keeps up with everything I throw at it. I've just recently upgraded both the CPU and the GPU, so I expect another 3+ years from it. Even then, there is still room yet for more upgrading because I don't have the fastest CPU and GPUs should continue to improve.
  3. sigmadog macrumors 6502a


    Feb 11, 2009
    near Spokane, WA
    From the look of the previews we've had so far, it seems the new Mac Pro isn't a closed box (or tube, I suppose). I'd be extremely surprised if that were the case, but the fact is that nobody really knows right now.

    Speculation is fun, but pointless if you're looking to make purchasing decisions at this time.

    Wait until it's released into the wild, then form your opinions. Most of what anyone says before then is likely no more than uninformed guesses.
  4. iSee thread starter macrumors 68040


    Oct 25, 2004
    "Sealed" might be the wrong word... "limited internal upgradability" might be better.

    Yes, I know I would need to wait before considering a new mac pro. I just meant that as an example of different ways of thinking about upgradability, but it's a poor example since it obviously comes with a lot of uncertainty right now... it's the opposite of a good example, really.

    Thanks for the insight on the Mini. To overcome it's low performance, I think I'd have to count on upgrading often... e.g. just about every Mini release at the rate they seem to come. The idea is that while I'd never have a powerhouse machine, it would never be all that weak/old either.
  5. deconstruct60 macrumors 604

    Mar 10, 2009
    If your iMac broke then "not swimming up-stream" is just take it to someone who fixes Macs. [ It doesn't have to be an Apple store. ]. Probably don't generate your own electricity or run your own phone network. Lots of businesses outsource common mainstream activities. Fixing stuff... eminently outsource candidate.

    Similar alternative for upgrades. iMac drives dies ( or reports going to die) then replace with bigger drive. [ In other words combine upgrades with preventative or required maintence. ]

    However, for the Mac Pro 2013 stuff like RAM and storage drive are highly user serviceable. Not sure what the new radical change is here.

    In the > $1666 range it is only the retina MBP offerings that have the "hard to access" issue.

    [quote ]
    Now I'm thinking:
    - buy for my immediate needs
    - count on buying more often
    - sell the not-too-old system to recoup some costs (maybe keep one back as a quick-to-deploy backup) [/quote]

    Keeping one back is only practical solution around very short deadlines and things like blown power supplies and fried logic boards. [ either one back or fall-back laptop in a two computer set-up. ]

    If a mini is sufficient then around a mini is all that is really required. It hindges on how measure sufficient. If that means running the mini 24/7 at 95% capacity that may not be a reasonable sufficient.

    Throwing $1,000s at "future proof" is very often not very effective.

    That system should be paying for itself over the 4 years. if not there is a deep problem being swept under the rug here. Could sell at end for bonus money ( if don't need as a fall-back system) but if need that money to make it work. ... that "overkill' is where the waste is. An iMac that is bigger than mini but less than $3.5K Mac Pro is probably closer to non-overkill but not too lightweight either.
  6. pertusis1 macrumors 6502

    Jul 25, 2010
    tried it

    I had similar thoughts a few years ago as I found myself frustrated by having to buy a new iMac every 3 years, whereas my G4 400 tower and my dual G4 867 tower lasted forever (8 years before really becoming obsolete for my needs). I ended up getting a 2012 Mini, but the fact is that it does 'run out of steam' very quickly. My kids home-school, and do projects on FCPX. Even with maxed out ram, etc., the computer would ramp up it's fans and chug away for hours on a fairly short render. It just didn't have enough juice. Although the 'benchmark score' of my 5,1 Pro are only about twice as high as the Mac Mini, for video editing, the real life difference seemed like it was about ten times faster.

    On the other hand, if a mini really does meet your immediate needs, go for it. I agree that computers are becoming 'consumables'.
  7. antonis macrumors 68020


    Jun 10, 2011
    The new Mac Pro will be upgradeable as much as the older ones (at least in theory, yet), but in a very different fashion. It will all be external. And since you are mainly considering about storage upgrades, I guess you will not run out of options with the new MP. If not anything else, storage will be upgradeable easily with external TB drives (if only this was true for GPUs as well...).

    If you need the extra muscle (coming, obviously, along with the extra cost), I do believe the nMP will get you covered for a long time. Unless we'll all have the unpleasant surprise and the nMP proves to actually be sealed.
  8. derbothaus macrumors 601


    Jul 17, 2010
    No PCI, no GPU swap, no CPU swap, not sure about internal storage = not at all 'as upgradeable as much as the older ones'. Upgradable as much as the rest of Apples fleet, yes. You can always choose to off load everything external. That is not a feature.
  9. pastrychef macrumors 601


    Sep 15, 2006
    New York City, NY
    It's possible that with the second gen cylindrical Mac Pros, new video card options will be included that can be plugged in the first gen cylindrical Mac Pros.

    We don't know if the CPUs are socketed or not.

    The SSDs look socketed.
  10. antonis, Oct 1, 2013
    Last edited: Oct 1, 2013

    antonis macrumors 68020


    Jun 10, 2011
    I'm not saying the new status is better, I don't like it myself, either. But, according to Apple theory, which is all we have as of now - upgradability will be possible.

    As far as I understand, the whole system will be built around 3 cards. One of them will hold the CPU, while the other 2 will hold one GPU each. These could definitely be replaceable, if Apple chooses so (or, even better, socketed).

    As for the internal storage, again, according to Apple this is a dead horse. Since there's the option of TB2, you can get your work done with external drives. Again, don't tell me this is a worst method - I agree, however that's far from saying storage is not upgradeable. From a technical scope of view, it is. Same goes with any other internal card you might be added inside the current MP.

    So, what I'm overall saying is that the definition "upgradeable" is not referring only to internal expansion.
  11. slughead macrumors 68040


    Apr 28, 2004
    All derbothaus was saying is that it is not nearly as upgradable as the old models. This is very obviously true. He's taking a leep to say that it'll be 100% impossible to replace the GPU, CPU, and hard drive, however certainly the HD and GPU options will be extremely limited. "New" GPU's for the nMP will likely not be available until Apple danes to create new ones for use in future revisions, and even then they might not be interchangeable, as is the case with SSD drives between Macbook Pros and Macbook airs... have fun with that

    Also keep in mind the 7970 (W9000, basically) will be at least 2 years old when the nMP is released. Your best option is pretty lame.

  12. leman macrumors G3

    Oct 14, 2008
    You can arbitrarily extend iMac's (and MP) storage with external thunderbolt drives. This is the only component that users are usually interested in upgrading anyway. So I don't see any problem. Just 'upgrade' externally instead of internally.
  13. slughead, Oct 1, 2013
    Last edited: Oct 1, 2013

    slughead macrumors 68040


    Apr 28, 2004
    Really? Why don't you sort the threads by amount of page views and take a look at all the video card / USB / SATA CPU upgrades people are actually chatting about--the page views are literally in the millions. Clearly people would like to be able to upgrade their other components as well. Nvidia and AMD even recognized this when they released an entire line of Mac Pro-centered video cards--you think they would do that if people weren't interested?

    Also, as I've repeatedly pointed out, the existing MP has way better /cheaper external options for drives than the new one, simply because thunderbolt 2 doesn't hold a candle to PCIe in terms of bandwidth. A single 8GBps SAS controller has more bandwidth than ALL the thunderbolt 2 ports on a nMP combined, and you'll still have 3 other PCIe slots for your GPU and whatever else you want to run.
  14. pastrychef macrumors 601


    Sep 15, 2006
    New York City, NY
    Look. The New Mac Pros will not have PCI-e slots. Period. There's nothing left to add.

    Don't like it? Don't buy it. How many times do you have to repeat the same complaint? All the B&M in the world isn't going to add PCI-e slots.

    * B&M = B - female dog. M - a sound made my people
  15. antonis macrumors 68020


    Jun 10, 2011
    So, it's one of those threads; "nMP is bad" vs "nMP is good", not very original really. I will just remind to everyone that people were complaining (I will go as far as to say that they were mocking) the MacbookAir when it was released. I'd love to hear the opinion from one of them now.

    nMP is a game changer. It is possible to be the next big thing, as much as to be the last, sad chapter in the MP history, before it is discontinued.

    Personally talking, I can accept any complaint relative to GPUs and CPU (although lots remain to be seen on that matter) but when talking about storage, saying that the nMP has no expandability just because it cannot get upgraded internally, is just an untenable point. Old habits die hard, I know, but things tend to move forward either we like it or not.
  16. iSee thread starter macrumors 68040


    Oct 25, 2004
    Interesting... thanks, it's useful to hear from someone who went down this road.


    Regarding the internal upgradability of the NMP, I know it probably won't be impossible to upgrade at least some parts. However, e.g., I currently have a 2009 iMac where I *could* upgrade the GPU... but only to the GPU from the 2010 iMac... it's not much of an upgrade and costs a lot of money. And it'll take a lot of time and is a little risky to take the iMac apart. Not impossible, but rarely worth it.

    I realize I probably posed the question too early. There are a lot of unknowns about the NMP... E.g., the CPU may very well be easily upgradable. (Not to mention the #1 factor for the success/failure of the NMP, price, is unknown.)

    I probably shouldn't go in this direction, but... the lack of internal storage upgradability in the NMP (or iMac or Mini) doesn't really bother me at all, and probably shouldn't bother as many people as it does, either:

    1. Internal storage implies external storage anyway -- you're backing up all that data right?
    2. All that data on internal drives had to get there somehow in the first place -- so you're ultimatly bound to external connectivity speeds at some point. At "just" 20gbps, how long before you exhaust all of your internal data anyhow, regardless of how many drive bays you have? E.g., you'll go through 8TB in not much more than an hour. Suppose by using internal drives you could get through it in 15-20 min -- then what? More data is going to come over an external connection.

    Now, I know that people may point to workflows that happen to involve data sets small enough to be contained entirely within internal storage of a workstation with X bay, yet too large to fit on the NMP's internal drive. But that's not a coincidence. People just tend to organize their workflow to the capabilities of their tools. People who happen to use a NMP will be no different... e.g., they may decide to work with smaller data sets or maybe just do more work on each pass (and once they've adjusted to processing at the speed of their external connection, they no longer have to limit their data sets to the size of internal storage).

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