MP Buying Questions - Storage, Graphics Cards, Etc.

Discussion in 'Mac Pro' started by FluJunkie, Jan 10, 2011.

  1. FluJunkie, Jan 10, 2011
    Last edited: Jan 10, 2011

    FluJunkie macrumors 6502a

    Jul 17, 2007
    Hey all,

    I'm considering an upgrade from my pre-Unibody Macbook Pro, and since I've got an iPad, I've found the laptop doesn't leave my desk all that much. So I says to myself "Self, maybe its time you go back to a tower...". Four drive bays is a seductive concept indeed.

    The configuration I'm considering is the 3.33 hexacore model, a modest (and slowly expanding - I'm on a student's budget) amount of RAM, and something akin to the following HD configuration:

    - SSD Boot/App Drive (Snow Leopard)
    - 1 TB 7200rpm HD (Windows 7)
    - 2 TB 7200rpm HD (OSX Data)


    - WD Velociraptor Drive (OSX/Win7 Boot and App drive, partitioned)
    - 1 TB 7200rpm HD (Windows 7 Data)
    - 2 TB 7200rpm HD (OSX Data)

    They're about the same, price wise, so its a contest between trying to decide on "Good for Both" versus "Great For One, Good for the Other" with an eye to eventually add a Windows 7 SSD.

    What am I going to use this all for?


    No, seriously. I'm a graduate student, and I'll be using this machine for the bulk of my dissertation time. I'm in a math/statistics heavy field, so on the Windows side I'll be using SAS pretty hard, and on the Mac side...statistics programs (R), my own simulations in Python/C++ and the like. I have a weakness for simulations, so I tend to have large data sets and, well, I make my computer do alot of math.

    I also game. I'll admit, most of my time is spent on WoW, WAR or Starcraft, and I own an XBox 360, so the gaming side of things is definitely peripheral, but I'd be lying if I didn't say I wouldn't appreciate a decently performing gaming system (with the acknowledgement that it is a Mac, and that is what it is).

    So I was thinking the ATI Radeon HD 5870 1GB.

    Some questions that come to mind for me:

    1. Any rumors that new graphics card options will be coming soon that will help the gaming side of things? My understanding is the 5870 is middle of the road, and the nVida Quadro 4000 isn't much of a gaming card - not to mention mind bogglingly expensive.

    2. Opinions on the two HD setups? Anything glaringly obvious I'm missing? The performance degradation of SSDs is making me skittish - are people having good luck with the OWC drives?

    3. Is it even *possible* to buy the hexacore MP from somewhere like Amazon?

    4. I'm balking at the $720 jump from a Nehalem to Westmere processor. The clock speeds are pretty close - is the 6-core machine apt to show enough performance jump that I'll go "yeah, that was worth it"? How upgradable are MP processors these days - a year or two down the line, when I have a bit more cash, can I nudge it upward?
  2. kunia macrumors regular

    Oct 30, 2010
    Hex 3.33, 24GB of ram (3x8GB), 5870 card + SSD boot drive is a solid setup. I recommend this to anyone planning to get a mac pro:). Granted, I haven't played with other configs, but the stock Mac Pro at my local Apple Store is PoS when comparing it to the hex config above.:eek:

    btw, I find 120gb boot SSDs just way too small. Logic 9, for example, loves to install stuff on the boot drive. You can install some of the content somewhere else, but the core stuff thats gigs installs on the SSD. Then there's FC, CS5 master collection...damn WoW folder is 25gb!...the list goes on and on.

  3. jonnymo5 macrumors 6502

    Jan 21, 2008
    1. What other games do you plan to play? I play WoW and Starcraft2 on the 5770 and it runs on top settings with hardly a hiccup. I'm planning to wait a year for new cards rather than take the 5870 now.

    2. The SSD is the way to go for boot and apps. Just minimize the data getting stored on it and you should be fine. Even a slightly slower SSD will be much faster than a normal drive.

    3. Don't know that one. I would at least look for an authorized reseller.

    4. I got the 2.8 quad and plan to upgrade in a year or two. it is doable.
  4. Hellhammer Moderator


    Staff Member

    Dec 10, 2008
    1. Apple doesn't usually update their GPU offerings before new Mac Pro so 5870 is your best bet for gaming.

    2. Performance degradation is overrated. SSDs with SandForce controller experience pretty much no degradation at all. I might go with low-power 2TB for data though, or 2x1TB in RAID 0 because drives like Caviar Black are pretty noisy. Don't forget to have a solid backup plan though.

    4. Depends does the apps you use support all of its cores. It's not much faster than 3.2GHz quad in apps that cannot but it may be over 50% faster in apps that do. You could get the base Mac Pro (even refurb to save $) and then buy W3680 from eBay for 899$ and sell the W3530 for couple of hundreds. That can be done whenever you want though.
  5. goMac macrumors 603

    Apr 15, 2004
    The Radeon 5870 is a perfectly good card, and is still honestly top of the line (or pretty darn close, the 5870 is at least faster than the 6870.) I wouldn't worry about the GPU. There isn't really a better one to be rumored about, except for the 6970, which isn't a huge deal, honestly.

    It's always possible that NVidia will announce a new GPU that might work better for you, but no one has heard a thing from them for a while, aside from the sub-par Quadro 4000 (which is low end even for Quadros.)
  6. alphaod macrumors Core


    Feb 9, 2008
    Forget about VelociRaptors; they used to be top-dog HDDs before SSDs, but I don't see the point of getting them anymore. When they seek they are loud.
  7. FluJunkie thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Jul 17, 2007
    Alright, consensus has settled it, and I'm going with an SSD.

    Still wavering back and forth on the processor speed. On one hand, I may actually be able to take advantage of all six cores for a fair amount of my work.

    On the other, we're still talking about 1 GHz faster clock speed than what I have right now, and double the cores - and $700 is a lot of money that could go to other things.
  8. Jaygyver macrumors newbie

    Oct 2, 2010
    Don't forget to get Apples "Student Discount"!!!

    Apple won't let re-sellers sell ANY Mac significantly lower then what Apple sells them. It seems to be about a $25 to $50 is the lowest. Not enough profit margins for someone like Amazon.

    I ended up breaking even saving the cost of 3 day shipping for the Student Discount I got from the online Apple Store. But then lost a little with sales tax in my state.
    If you buy it from an online store then you MAY save sales tax if your state has it and the online store doesn't have a "Brick and Mortar" store there. Some USED to have a Student Discount also.

    By the way for those buying from the Apple stores, who do you think delivers THEIR stock? FedEx, UPS, etc.
    They're a little more secure then using a Truck Freight outfit when delivering them to the house.

    It's funny, when I got my TiBook it was shipped "Double" boxed with Apples "normal" shipping box inside a generic outer box. My MacPro came with the normal Apple box, showing the picture and everything. Originally white but looked like the FedEx guy tied a rope around it and drug it around with him on his deliveries. I guess I appreciated the extra security of it not being out of his site! No dents just looked like they played "Air Hockey" with it.
    It actually got to my city in a day and a half and SAT for another day and a half before they would release it! They wouldn't even let me drive 20 minutes to the warehouse to pick it up. GAHHHHH.
  9. toxic macrumors 68000

    Nov 9, 2008
    yeah, the whole SSD degradation thing is overblown, and given the cost of a Raptor, they really don't make much sense with so many SSD options.

    you should consider a 3.2 quad instead and get more RAM and hard drives. the processor can be upgraded to a 6-core later, if you really want one...but sometimes it's cheaper or more sensible to sell an old Mac Pro and buy a new one than it is to upgrade the processor.
  10. kunia macrumors regular

    Oct 30, 2010
    That was a bit harsh, I suppose. What I really wanted to say is just before I got my Hex I went to my local apple store to just play around with the 2010 MP...and to be honest, the stock config was very, very disappointing. I remember doing then same when 08 came out - aperture 2 on that demo machine with d2x raw files was crawling, it was far worse then my old MP 1,1.

    I'm kind of surprised that Apple (at least here in Toronto) is demoing base config Mac Pros in their stores. The tower is nearly 3k, yet it's "slower" than the i7 iMacs they got. I'd personally stick 8gb of ram (min.) and an SSD and just say "starting from...." Those MPs would be quite impressive, at least for me:)
  11. FluJunkie thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Jul 17, 2007
    That's what I'm thinking of doing. The current config I have sitting in my shopping cart is the 3.2 quad, and I've spent the extra money from the hexacore on, well, other things. If it comes down to it, I can upgrade, but I think a proper SSD boot drive, an internal backup drive for my data, and one of the OWC 8 gig chips to maximize its future RAM potential is not the worst plan ever.
  12. toxic macrumors 68000

    Nov 9, 2008
    the stock models only come with 3GB. that's the problem, not CPU.

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