New iMac vs. 2012 Mac Pro

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by Bechtold, Nov 28, 2014.

  1. Bechtold macrumors newbie

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    Nov 28, 2014
    #1
    So, a little background: I work and freelance in the marketing/creative industry, mostly editing photos, video, audio and graphic design (i.e. heavy use of Adobe CS). Occasionally I do some basic 3D work in Google SketchUp for clients (museum/exhibit layouts). The MacBook Pro I've worked on for the last 7 years has been on its last legs for far too long, and I really need to replace it. Unfortunately I also have a poor post-grad budget sub-$2,000, so I'm wondering if I'll get more bang for my buck with a new 21.5" iMac (my workspace won't physically accommodate the 27" anyways), either the 2.9gHz or 2.7 with RAM upgraded to 16GB...or else, a used 2012 Mac Pro (perhaps similar to this), possibly putting a little work into upgrading some of the components in the near future. I've done some research, and the benchmarking tests by BareFeats [1, 2], although a bit tangential and outdated, potentially point favorably to the Mac Pro for my uses. I certainly like the upgradability of the Pro (I upgraded the RAM and hard drive in my MacBook several times, so in comparison, the Mac Pro looks really convenient), but honestly specs and all are not really my strong suit, so I'm feeling very uncertain—thoughts? Thanks.
     
  2. boast macrumors 65816

    boast

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    Nov 12, 2007
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    Phoenix
    #2
    If you don't care about the smaller footprint of an iMac, the flexibility of a Mac Pro would suit you better- especially for being on a budget and slowly upgrading it over time.
     
  3. Bechtold thread starter macrumors newbie

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    Nov 28, 2014
    #3
    Yeah, especially since I've liked doing all my upgrades DIY-style in the past, the old Mac Pros have that going for them. I've never not bought anything directly from Apple though, so that scares me a little, although, it looks like just about any component in that tower can be replaced with relative ease if something did fail. There's also a refurbed i7 version of last year's iMac on the Apple Store, which this article makes seem like a happy medium, although I'd be pretty much stuck with 8gb of RAM and a 5400 RPM drive unless I took it somewhere, because I don't think I'd want to attempt any upgrades on it myself. Ultimately what matters most though is which setup will perform the best when, say, previewing and rendering 1080p (and potentially 4K in the future) composited/animated video, because that's always where any machine I've ever owned has choked the most and hampered my workflow.
     
  4. h9826790 macrumors 604

    h9826790

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    Apr 3, 2014
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    Hong Kong
    #4
    For the single CPU model. It's better to get the cheapest Mac Pro 2009, flash it to 5,1 and upgrade the CPU by yourself (X5690 is the best, but relative expensive. W3690 will give you exactly the same performance as X5690, but lower RAM limit (56G). W3680 / X5677 will has better performance to cost ratio). You will have basically a machine identical to the 2012 model but lower cost.

    IMO, only get the 2010-2012 Mac Pro if you want the dual CPU version, and planing to upgrade the CPU by yourself.

    If you compare it to the new 21.5" 2.9GHz iMac. The iMac well perform better on single thread applications (most of the software still single thread at this moment. A 3.33 or 3.46GHz Hex core XEON may be 20% slower on some applications. However, for multi-thread applications (e.g. Video encoding), it can be 40% faster than the iMac.

    When consider the graphic card performance. The Mac Pro can easily out perform the iMac depends on your upgrade (a $100 2nd hand PC 7950 can perform 600% better than GT 750M on OpenCL, and about 200% better on OpenGL).

    For storage. Mac Pro surely win with 4 internal HDD bay, plus able to use the new Mac Pro's PCIe SSD via a $10 PCIe adaptor (1.4GB/s).

    Other considerations, the Mac Pro has better cooling system (no thermal throttling), may has better and more stable performance for prolong period of time (especially under high workload).On the other hand, the iMac may be more quiet and has much much lower power consumption.

    Also, the new iMac has thunderbolt, USB3.0, 802.11ac, and BT4.0 LE. The Mac Pro has no way to get the thunderbolt at this moment, but able to get USB3.0 by a $25 PCIe card (not bootable), and 802.11ac + BT4.0 LE by installing a $150 mini PCIe card (native Apple card).

    The new iMac will has warranty, but I really doubt can you still get a old Mac Pro will reasonable warranty. This may be important for your production.
     
  5. Bechtold thread starter macrumors newbie

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    Nov 28, 2014
    #5
    Thanks for the input, these are all good points to factor in! I think I'm down to only considering the refurbed 2013 i7 iMac or the 2009 hex-core Mac Pro (which I realize now makes the title of the thread irrelevant/misleading...oops). Based on everything I've read, these two actually come out relatively comparable to one another in benchmarking/performance tests (with the Pro having the edge in multi-core, and the iMac having the edge in single-core processes; the graphics cards are also comparable—however, like you point out, an upgrade to the in the Pro's card would blow the doors off the iMac's GT 750M). The refurb iMac would cost about 1,530 after tax, whereas a Mac Pro setup with monitor and just some extra RAM would run just over 1,700. So it's a question of the better value, which between my own research and yours guys feedback so far is seeming like the Mac Pro, although I'm sure either would satisfy my immediate need to replace my MacBook. Now, if only the iMac weren't so damned sexy...
     
  6. Naimfan macrumors 68040

    Naimfan

    Joined:
    Jan 15, 2003
    #6
    Go with a MP.

    The iMac offers no flexibility or upgradability - note you can only upgrade RAM on the 27" models. And if any part of it fails, you're SOL until Apple repairs it (though their turnaround times have been very good in my experience).
     
  7. Bechtold thread starter macrumors newbie

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    Nov 28, 2014
    #7
    Thanks, yeah the refurbished iMac I was considering is no longer even available on the Apple store anyways, so that makes that decision loads easier (not to mention every reply here has been pretty much been in favor of choosing the Pro :p). Now just trying to narrow down exactly what year/model Mac Pro to buy. I'm definitely not super experienced with upgrades aside from RAM and HDDs, so I'd rather not mess with the processors (but the graphics card looks easy enough). The seller I've been looking at has several pre-flashed 4,1>5,1 models, but I've seen a couple threads on other forums about problems with flashed machines and some updates in Yosemite, so I think I might just go ahead with the 2010 hex-core model and see if I can haggle the price down a little or get a memory upgrade. I've seen conflicting stats on how much memory is supported in these models--everything from 25 to 32 to 48 gigs. :confused:
     
  8. h9826790 macrumors 604

    h9826790

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    #8
    I've never heard anyone has problem with Yosemite due to firmware flashed to 5,1. Anyway, it's your own choice, but really no need to consider this. I guess what you read about may be the flashed graphic cards (most likely someone with a flashed Nvidia card upgrade to Yosemite without knowing that they need to install and activate the Nvidia web driver in order to make their flashed card perform properly).

    About the Max RAM, 25 doesn't make any sense to me, because it should be an even number. I guess that's from intel's website (e.g. 24G max for W3690), and someone miss type the 24 to 25. Anyway, I personally consider this limit is the "maximum demonstrated", but not the real max. CPU manufacture publish this limit when they introduce a CPU to the market. e.g. If 8G stick is the max available for the market at that moment, they may publish 24G (3x8) as the max. They won't guarantee anything above 24G, but the CPU may work well with 32G (4x8), or even 48G (3x16 when available to the market).

    For the Hex core 2nd hand old Mac Pro, it should either use the W36xx serious CPU, or the X56xx serious CPU (the i7 990X also compatible, but only very few people will use it, due to lack of ECC support, and the 2nd hand XEON is quite cheap now). The W36xx's max is 56G (3x16 + 8), and the X56xx's max is 64G (4x16). All these numbers are proved by the users in the Mac Pro forum. A "normal" Hex core Mac Pro 5,1 should use the W36xx CPU, that means the max RAM is 56G. However, for best performance, it's better to fully utilise the triple channel architecture. Therefore, 48G (3x16) will has the best balance between max capacity and max performance (unless you really need more than 48G RAM, then 56G will definitely better than "48G + lots of HDD swap").
     

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