My Mac Pro Gameplan -- Input Requested

Discussion in 'Mac Pro' started by jasone6, Jan 15, 2008.

  1. jasone6 macrumors member

    Jan 9, 2008
    Hi all,

    I plan on buying my first Mac Pro shortly after the conclusion of Steve's keynote today (!). My G4 PowerBook [1.25GHz] has been my only Mac to date.

    I've been using my PowerBook for nearly 4 years now, so I'm not entirely new to Macs. However, I'm looking for a deeper understanding of the fundamental "Mac Pro concepts" I should understand as a purchaser/owner of this lovely system. (I do have "Leopard: Missing Manual"). I've browsed a lot of the current discussions on this board and have read a bit on each of the following topics in these forums, but would love to know more so I can feel more confident in my purchasing decisions (and in optimizing my system after my purchase):
    • Smartest Hard Drive Options
    • Smartest RAM configuration(s)
    • Video Card considerations
    • Planning for Expandability
    • Battery/Power Back-up solutions (i.e. PowerBooks have batteries to protect against outages, what to do for MP?)

    I'm approaching this purchase with a willingness to pay a decent premium for quality (~$4,500) -- so, for example, I'd like all my hard drives to be as 1) big, 2) fast, & 3) reliable as possible; I'd like to eventually max out my RAM to the point where it will still make a significant difference; I'd like to have the best video card for my intended uses (details below); etc.

    - I'm a graphic designer and serious photo-enthusiast w/ many years of experience in Photoshop/Illustrator. I use CS3 & plan to use Lightroom and/or Aperture regularly.
    - I am new to video, but expect extensive work with Final Cut Studio. I'm intent on mastering Motion, and plan to work with HD video/graphics consistently. I want to be able to explore 3D programs without limits.
    - To a lesser degree, I expect to become involved with Ableton Live and/or Logic Pro -- mainly as a hobby, but also with the desire for a "pro-capable" system.
    - I have very little interest in gaming or running Windows (Base Camp / Parallels)
    - I do have interest in eventually integrating my system with my Home Entertainment system (Elgato, Tivo, TV, etc.)
    - I'm somewhat familiar with RAID, but it seems expensive and I'm not entirely sure it's right for me (though I'm open to convincing!)
    - I'm doubtful that I'd ever need to power more than two displays (but open to convincing on that too)

    My current plan (pending input from all of you):
    • 8-core (2.8 GHz)
    • GeForce 8800 (unless another recommendation?)
    • RAM - 2 GIGs from  + several additional GIGs from 3rd party)
    • 3-4 one-terabyte drives (from  and/or 3rd party) -- Samsung F1's?
    • 2 Optical drives from  (replacing 1 with Bluray eventually)
    • 23"  Display (which I already own) + 2nd display (pending keynote developments)
    • Airport Extreme Base Station (I already have older "Extreme" & "Express" base stations)

    Sorry for the huge post. If anyone can offer advice on a specific "gameplan" (short/long-term), I'd be very, very grateful!

  2. hayduke macrumors 65816


    Mar 8, 2005
    is a state of mind.
    A few thoughts...

    I would get only one hard drive from Apple and I would get the largest one (1TB). If you get something smaller from them then you will probably want to sell it and trade up, but I couldn't be hassled to do that so I just buy the largest one. I would then fill the other three bays with aftermarket drives. The install is super simple. If you want to you can simply match the manufacturer of the drive they send you, or you can match it with one drive and by two faster drives for the other two bays.

    I wouldn't pay the money for RAID unless you are prepared to buy a secondary back-up NAS (or something similar). RAID is not a back-up solution, it protects against drive failure. I would simply back-up two of the internal drives to two of the other internal drives. I would also buy a massive external to use as a 2nd back-up. This is the most economical if you don't anticipate more than ~2TB of disk space needs.

    Regarding RAM, I've heard that ~2GB per core makes sense. That rule may change a bit with 8-core machines, but that was the "logic" with 4-core machines. 4GB DIMMS are too expensive (I think...), so I would order 3rd party ram in 2GB matched pairs. I would only purchase 2x1GB from Apple. If you bought 4x2GB and kept the 2x1GB you'd have 10GB, but still have two slots empty. You could add more as necessary (monitor your page outs) and eventually dump the 2x1GB if necessary.

    I would probably get the 8800GT card and be done with it. Good power, good RAM, not-completely-insane-price.

    Order it with a wireless card and if, your machine is connected via ethernet you can use the built-in Airport as a router. This means you can broadcast a wireless signal from your MacPro that your other devices can then use for internet and file transfer. The MacPro also has two ethernet ports so you can also share your network connection over one (or both) of those depending on your home's network set-up.

    Oh, and get the 30". It is stunning.
  3. imacdaddy macrumors 6502a

    Feb 2, 2006
    This will be my config tomorrow. :cool:

    Two 2.8GHz Quad-Core Intel Xeon (8-core)
    NVIDIA GeForce 8800 GT 512MB (Two dual-link DVI)
    AirPort Extreme card (Wi-Fi)
    320GB 7200-rpm Serial ATA 3GB/s
    Apple Mighty Mouse
    2GB (2 x 1GB)
    Apple Keyboard
    One 16x SuperDrive

    1. Take out the stock 320GB
    2. Install 1st Samsung F1 640GB (HD642JJ) for OSX and Apps.
    3. Install 2nd Samsung F1 640GB (HD642JJ) for Data (music, photos, videos, etc.)
    4. Install Samsung F1 320GB (HD322HJ) or re-use the stock 320 for Windows (work and development and some gaming). Need to see which drive is quieter.
    5. Buy 16GB RAM from OWC
    6. New ACD? If none are announced tomorrow then NEC 26" LCD2690WUXI
    7. Don't look back and enjoy for the next 4-5 years. ;)
  4. jasone6 thread starter macrumors member

    Jan 9, 2008

    Hayduke -- Thank you! :) Your recommendations seem to confirm a lot of what I was already thinking. I wasn't aware that I could use my MacPro as a wireless router. A couple follow-up questions (if you don't mind):
    1. It seems some people endorse using one HD exclusively for Applications. Is there a lot to gain from this? Alternately, should I just get four 1-terabyte drives and use two of them to backup the other two?
    2. Would I gain anything at all from getting a new Airport Extreme Base Station -- given that I can apparently use an airport card to perform a simlar function?
    3. Is there anything else I should consider in order to maximize the operating value of my current G4 PowerBook as a cog in my now-growing Mac set-up?

    Thanks again!

  5. Jebaloo macrumors 6502

    Sep 12, 2006
    The Airport Card in a MacPro allows for you to RECEIVE wireless internet, not transmit.
  6. Macinposh macrumors 6502a

    Jun 7, 2006
    2x1Gb+base hdd+8800.

    Then get 4x500GB from a 3rd party vendor (cheaper+better warranty) and raid them together with software raid to a raid10 setup.
    If you are loaded,get the raid card so you can get a raid 5 for you 4 bay disks.

    Then,if your fingers are nimble,route a sata cable from the mobos free sata slot (the new MPs should have one as the old ones did,but dont know for sure..) to dvd drive bay 2 that is empty and put a 1TB disk there for media backup.
    That way you have a internal 4 disk raid system and a 1 disk internal backup. All for pennies.
    Then,when expandability/speed becomes a concern in the future,get a eSata card (2 or 4 slot) and route external raid boxes to them,if you video stuff catches on.

    Been running the raid10+internal backup for the last 18 months with no problems (knocks wood x 3...) and getting the eSata card now.

    For the original 320GB disk you can get a external FW box (40€?) and make it a bootable backup disk if ***** should hit the fan big time,and you are on a deadline.

    How does it sound?
  7. Toups macrumors regular

    Nov 23, 2007
    Battery Backup

    I am currently waiting for my Mac Pro to ship, but I have been using battery backups for my PC/Networking for years (am an infrastructure engineer) and have found the APC and more recently the Geek Squad (Best Buy branded APC) to be some of the best.

    Be sure to get one that can supply sufficient power to your system, as the Mac Pro comes with a 1kw power supply, and if you have extra RAM, Harddrives, Raid, upgraded video or multiple video cards, monitors, DSL/Cable modem and WiFi router, you would be looking at about 1100+kva at peak. Also, I strongly recommend buying a unit with a status LCD so you can see detailed usage and performance of the battery without having to rely solely on the Apple UPS status in Leopard. Below are two models that we have been using for the last couple of years now with great success, and they have field replacable batteries which extends the life and usefulness of the units.

    The first unit should be able to power your system, basic network and a single display up to 30" if you go with multiple displays or external drives/peripherals, I strongly recommend the 1500 kva. Also, you can find these on sale from time to time for $30 off, but even at retail they are a sound value.
  8. amik macrumors regular

    Dec 11, 2007

    Where have you found the 640 and 320gb F1 drives? I was under the impression that only the 1TB drive was currently available using the higher density platters.

  9. krypt macrumors newbie

    Nov 12, 2007
  10. amik macrumors regular

    Dec 11, 2007
    The difference I am primarily concerned about is the platter density. The new 1Tb drives use 334GB platters as opposed to 250GB platters. The 640 and 320 will also use these higher density platters.

    Samsung also just announced the F1R series which are enterprise class Raid edition drives that push the MTBF to 1.2 million hours.
  11. jasone6 thread starter macrumors member

    Jan 9, 2008
  12. bigbossbmb macrumors 68000


    Jul 1, 2004
    that 320 Samsung F1 would make a great system drive.... Any idea when they're coming out?
  13. thejadedmonkey macrumors 604


    May 28, 2005
    While I don't have a Mac Pro to confirm or deny this, I do have a mac mini that has an airport card, that was plugged into a network via ethernet, and I used the airport to share my internet connection to my laptop.

    using a router instead of the Mac Pro to broadcast the wireless is advantageous because you won't need to keep your Mac Pro on 24/7 to have wireless.
  14. hayduke macrumors 65816


    Mar 8, 2005
    is a state of mind.
    Not true. With an airport card you can *transmit* wireless if you are receiving your network connection over the ethernet. This is a wonderful feature of OS X that not a lot of people are aware of. You can do this on a laptop too. I have, for example, used my wired connection on my old Powerbook to create a wireless network for my colleagues when there is only on ethernet cable around. Blows peecee-folks minds.

    Therefore, your MacPro can serve a wireless signal if it is plugged into the ethernet. This means that other computers can access the net via wireless or network to your MacPro to trade files etc. You could even set it up so that your wireless devices back-up to your MacPro's drives. This is a bit tricky as network back-ups require that you use disk images. More on that if you search about. In the end I wouldn't run out to buy the AEBS because you can always pick it up later, but I would definitely add an Airport card to the MacPro.

    With regards to one drive for apps. I think more people have a seperate drive set-up as a scratch disk. I don't do heavy photo or video editing, but having a separate scratch is common. Much of what I do is processor and memory intensive, but not disk intensive so other may be better able to comment.

    I would install for drives and back-up two of the to two others. If you really value your data (data is often worth $10,000 or more! think about it) then I would buy a third back-up drive(s) that you can store offsite. Call me paranoid, but you won't find me on these forums asking how to crawl back after a bad crash.
  15. jasone6 thread starter macrumors member

    Jan 9, 2008
    Toups: Just wanted to say "thanks" for the recommendation on the GeekSquad UPS unit. Mine arrived today (although my Mac Pro won't be here until late Feb :( ). MAN is that thing heavy! Feels good though... like it's a real piece of heavy duty machinery. Even came with the battery charged!

    Thanks again!

  16. thevibesman macrumors regular

    Oct 26, 2007
    I know you made your order, but I'm going to weigh in anyway, so here is some stuff for you and others to think about:


    If you can do it, yes, having only OS and Apps on your boot drive is a good thing for a few reasons:
    • It will take a lot more time for the drive to get fragmented
    • If it comes time to reformat your drive (not bad to zero all bits once a year to make sure you take care of any bad blocks) you won't need to deal with backing up files
    • If OSX is using any virtual memory, this will increase performance quite a bit, because your page ins/outs won't need to wait because your I/O band with is being used by reading/writing a file

    People have been giving you suggestions on what sized drives to buy, and really you are the only one who can answer this because we don't know how many files you want to be able to store. The suggestion to use 4x500GB drives I disagree with because you seem to expect the need for much more, and even if 1TB seems pricey, 750GB is not bad at all. As far as size for your boot volume, there have been complaints on this forum about the size of the base HD config provided by Apple. If all you have on that drive is OS and Apps, 1TB is probably an overkill (the apps you list won't take nearly that much to install). I ordered a 500GB hard drive from Apple for my OS and Apps with the plan to 3 more drives from a 3rd party. Personally, I think 500GB is too big for apps and OS, but I didn't want the wimpy cache of the default drive. From what I have read, I think you will be perfectly happy using software if you decide to RAID, but this Mac Pro will be my first RAID experience, so take that with a grain of Salt.

    Getting 16GB or 2GB/core are alright suggestions that could end up fitting your needs, but there is a lot better way to figure it out (keep in mind, that any one 32Bit app will only be able to use 4GB of physical RAM, so 4GB per program you want to run simultaniously is one way to look at it). Here's what I recommend to make sure you have enough RAM wihtout wasting money on RAM you won't use. Get the pro with the stock 2GB of RAM. Once you have all your apps up and running, look in activity monitor and the total memory usage (Physical + Virtual) for your OS and for each app you plan to use (if it is a 32Bit app using more than 4GB of ram total, call it 4GB because no matter how much RAM you get, this app will use virtual memory). Now think about what apps you'd use at the same time, add up their ram usage + the OS RAM usage and this is how much RAM you should get to be able to use as little virtual memory as possible. I recommend OWC RAM.

    Video Card
    Get the NVIDIA 8800GT if you can handle the wait. I did, but as Mr. Rogers says "it is very very hard to wait."

    Audio Sequencer
    Live is a neat tool for looping/sample triggering (the task it was originally designed for). I noticed you said "and/or" Logic. If you are saying "or" get Logic. If you get into this, you will outgo live--I understand this is a hobby but you want "pro-capable" and I wouldn't consider Live a pro App. Also, performance-wise, Live is very ineffecient for the tasks it does and on top of that Logic is 8core ready. I not saying don't get Live if you like what it does, but don't think you can compare it with Logic, different categories of software.
  17. big dainjerus macrumors regular

    Nov 9, 2007
  18. SilverL macrumors member

    Jan 14, 2008
    You should also consider the HP LP3065 30 inch Display.
    It's based on the next generation LCD that the ACD was based on. S-IPS and amazing color reproduction along with much faster refresh rates.
    I have it hooked up to my MacBook Pro now and it is simply bliss.
    Good luck with your choices - there is plenty of good advice above.
  19. jasone6 thread starter macrumors member

    Jan 9, 2008
    thevibesman: solid post, my friend. Your efforts are very much appreciated. Even though I did already go ahead and place my order, I'm sure others can benefit greatly from your input, and I myself intend to reference it as I continue to advance my understanding of the world of Mac Pros.

    - - - - - - - - - - -
    FYI, here's where I netted out:
    - I upgraded my primary drive to the terabyte. I'm going to add more Samsung F1 terabyte drives upon delivery. I figured "what the hell... it's unlikely I'll ever regret having too much hard drive space."
    - I got stock RAM (2 Gigs), and will be getting at least 8 more right off the bat.
    - I went with the 8800, despite the wait. Good things come to those who wait, indeed.
    - I got a 2nd Apple 23" to go with the one I already have. I'm feeling really positive about having 2 of these side by side. I love the Apple Displays, even though I do realize there is better value for the money out there (and better technology).

    My lone "outstanding items" are:
    - VESA mounting arms. I got adapters, and I'm exploring my options here. I tried rotating my 23" to the "portrait" orientation the other day, and loved it. I think I'll use one vertical and one horizontal about as much as I'll use both displays side-by-side.
    - New Desk.

    Once again -- thanks to all of you for the detailed information and recommendations!!:)

    - - - - - - - - - - - - -

    P.S. Is this possible, and does it make sense?

    - Drive 1:
    • Partition A (200 GIG): Operating System and Applicatons
    • Partition B (200 GIG): Used as Scratch Disk (i.e. kept empty/clean)
    • Partition C (600 GIG): Files (Photos, Music, Video, Docs, etc.)
    - Drive 2:
    • Not partitioned; used for files (Photos, Music, Video, Docs, etc.)
    - Drive 3:
    • Mirror of Drive 1
    - Drive 4:
    • Mirror of Drive 2
  20. hayduke macrumors 65816


    Mar 8, 2005
    is a state of mind.
    I've never really understood why someone would want to partition drives. Inevitably one partition gets full while another still has space and then you have to re-partition using tools not written by Apple, which IMHO puts all your data at risk (of course...things are backed up), but it all just sounds like a hassle. I would just use folders. There is no speed increase associated with partitioning AFAIK.
  21. noi375 macrumors member

    Nov 2, 2007
    Especially for Unix based system - they never really cared about which hard drive it's from - the structure is all the same. Besides, doing access across different drives is faster than having all the folders in one hard, unless you happen to use a SCSI drive...
  22. Macinposh macrumors 6502a

    Jun 7, 2006

    Sorry,not to sound harsh,but that systems seems to be about the dumbest setup ever?

    You have practically a raid 10 setup,without any benefits of the raid.
    AND you have program,scratch AND files on the same disk, A?
    That way you would propably get abysmal performance, as the program would need to search the disk,scratch would use the disk AND you would have the files would use it for r/w.
    So you would have the system to jump around the disk all the time,from sector to sector,doing its assigned tasks.Not good.


    If you are not doing overly I/O intensive jobs (video) a setup like:

    A) OS + Programs
    B) Scratch
    C) Files
    D) Backup for all above

    could be feasible,if you have 4 disks?
    Ok,the A) disk would be only quarter full,witch is ok speed wise. B) Disk would be empty. C) would almost be full D) would be full eventually,but you could extend externally.

    Or you could make a raid10 disk.Simpler,faster and cleaner.
  23. netdog macrumors 603


    Feb 6, 2006
    Can confirm that the Samsung F1s are very fast and very quiet. I have two in a RAID 1 configuration for my home directories (750x2, each with 32MB cache).

    I plan to get an SSD 128GB for apps and OS X when they get cheap enough and am using the stock 320 for now. I am a quiet freak and the stock 320 is a little loud. An SSD should be incredibly fast and completely silent.

    Pulling the RAM that comes in the machine and dropping in 4x2GB sticks from OWC for 8GB of RAM (leaving 4 slots open for 2GB or 4GB sticks down the road if needed). I reckon that 8GB configured that way will be faster than 10GB. Am anticipating that 1GB/core will be very fast.

    Going with the stock video card for now. Don't do any 3D modeling and if I do need to upgrade one day, there should always be something better and cheaper available then.

    System is a stock 2x2.8.
  24. iswitch2mac macrumors newbie

    Jan 12, 2008
    how do you transmit the signal from your airport card?

    I have mine connected to a wired router, and I'd love to bounce the signal over to another room.

    I went into the system preferences, but don't understand all the different settings (appletalk, proxy, etc)
  25. caeneal macrumors member

    Aug 20, 2007
    To share your wireless signal, just look in System Preferences, Sharing. Turn on Internet Sharing, and select AirPort. You can even get into the airport options to set up WEP or whatever.

    It really is a killer feature. I don't have wireless right now because of where I live, but I'll occasionally share the airport signal from my imac so that my iphone can browse the web in the apartment.

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