nMP - To buy, or not to buy. That is the question.

Discussion in 'Mac Pro' started by RebelDamien, Mar 10, 2015.

  1. RebelDamien macrumors newbie

    Mar 10, 2015

    I need to get a new computer able to handle 2 4K screens, but am having a really hard time deciding what to do because the newest Mac Pro's specs are quite old (it's really frustrating).

    I have an option of upgrading my current very capable PC (6-core Xeon W3690, SSD Vertex 3), upgrades would cost me around $1,500.00 (new memory + graphics card(s) comparable to the ones in nMP).

    As for the Mac Pro, I have this configuration in mind:
    3.0GHz 8-core with 25MB of L3 cache
    32GB (4x8GB) of 1866MHz DDR3 ECC
    1TB PCIe-based flash storage
    Dual AMD FirePro D500 GPUs with 3GB of GDDR5 VRAM each
    = $6,699.00
    (with probably a little less than 1/3 improvement of performance)

    All-in-all it wouldn't be worth it, but there's one reason why I'm still considering getting nMP: while I'm mostly working at one location, I also spend some time at another location (less than 100 miles away), so it would be quite practical being able to work on the same computer. Moving standard cases isn't convenient at all, however, this new Mac Pro design seems to be perfect in that regard. Seems very portable.

    But, as I said, it really, REALLY bothers me that Apple still didn't update it. It really bothers me not getting the best performance at such prices.

    Sorry for being a bit long, but I really want to hear some thoughts.

    Thanks in advance!

    P.s.: Which SSD is in nMP? Samsung XP941?
  2. austinpike macrumors 6502

    Oct 5, 2008
    I love being able to tote my nMP between work and home; there are a few camera bags out there that fit it perfectly. That said, it was purchased by my employer; there's no way I could justify that $ outlay myself.

    What about building a new PC box instead? Could you cram all the hardware you need into a an ITX or mATX size case? I've got a hackintosh in one of these - it is cheap and ugly but it weighs nothing and the built in handle makes it super easy to haul around.
  3. xcodeSyn macrumors 6502a

    Nov 25, 2012
    You really lost me with your statement here. First you called your W3690-equipped PC very capable and then criticized "the newest Mac Pro's specs are quite old". You do realize that your W3690 (Westmere) is 2 generations behind the Ivy Bridge-EP processors used in the MP6,1, which is only one generation behind the current Haswell-EP processors, and "for many the improvements with Haswell EP may not be sufficient to entice them into upgrading. The 14 nm Broadwell EP will likely be a better time to update servers, but that's still a year or so away." as quoted from the AnandTech review seemed to suggest not much performance gain between these two generations.

    So I am just curious what your main complaints are against the "quite old" specs of the MP 6,1 and why even consider the GPUs comparable to the nMP as an upgrade option if their specs are outdated and there are better GPUs available from both AMD and NVIDIA? What are the main applications you use on your computer and are they CPU or GPU intensive? If you really want helpful feedback, you may need to provide more relevant info.
  4. RebelDamien thread starter macrumors newbie

    Mar 10, 2015
    Yeah, that's exactly what intrigues me the most. I love the idea of just having it in a bag. Also, it probably fits in most safes if you want some extra security when you're away.

    As for building a new PC box instead: it's a very nice suggestion/idea, I will keep it in mind if I decide against buying the nMP. It would be somewhat of a compromise between the 2 options.
    Sorry for not putting more details out there, I thought I was already being too long with my OP. :) I wrote more at first, but then deleted some.
    Maybe my choice of words regarding my current PC wasn't completely accurate. It does the work for now, but maybe there could be some problems when my multitasking increases with 4K displays.

    What I will use it for:
    1. I work with big databases, so SSD speed probably affects the performance the most (need real-time reads). Second is CPU (needed to calculate things real-time using data from those databases to put stats/calculations on screen). I was actually also thinking about 12 core CPU because of it, but then single core performance is lower.
    2. As for non-work-related stuff: besides trivial nerdy things I plan on doing some amateur SketchUp work on it, but it's very amateurish (just messing up with my future house project that doesn't look like it's happening anytime soon :)). However, since it's going to be on 4K displays, I'm not sure if I'm over or underestimating GPU needs!?

    As for the "quite old" MP 6,1 specs: I was comparing some benchmarks, but maybe I read too much into people complaining about nMP "not being up to date". One of the things that stood out is the SSD: I have a hard time finding which one is in it and how does it compare to the recent super fast Samsung SM951? I only found brief mentions of XP941 with quite amazing speeds up to 1,000MB/s.
  5. xcodeSyn macrumors 6502a

    Nov 25, 2012
    I'm assuming that you use the computer mainly for DB development work and in that case a nMP is not a good fit because DB development is more about the I/O speed and CPU multi-core performance. If your W3690 machine is still capable then all you need is just one top-of-the-line or two medium-performance video cards to drive 4K monitors. Based on your description, you could just buy two NVIDIA GTX 660 video cards and put them in your current PC, that's enough to run two 4K monitors without problems as suggested in this thread. If you want the latest technology, one NVIDIA GTX 980 could drive 2 4K monitors as long as you don't play 4K games on them.

    Apple designed the nMP as a niche product in an already small high-end segment, and it's a perfect fit if you run FCPX and other OpenCL optimized applications but it does not quite fit your particular use case. Because there are two GPUs in the nMP, 32 PCIe 3.0 lanes are reserved for them and the rest has to be shared by 6 Thunderbolts, SSD, and all other ports. The SSD (XP941) in MP6,1 only has PCIe 2.0 x4 bandwidth, while the new SM951 moves to PCIe 3.0 x4 with up to 2150MB/s sequential read speed as indicated here. If SSD I/O speed is your ultimate goal, you should consider building a new gig so you can take advantage of the SM951 SSD with PCIe 3.0 bandwidth. If you value portability over anything else, then nMP is your choice even if it doesn't fit well.
  6. kingtj macrumors 68020

    Oct 23, 2003
    Brunswick, MD
    Sounds fair enough .....

    But as a nMP owner myself, I find it an excellent "all purpose" desktop workstation Mac too -- so I don't really like to over-emphasize the "niche" nature of it. Yes, it's clearly optimized for Final Cut Pro X and other OpenCL based apps. But it's also really the only option if you wish to stay in the OS X environment and still use a current model of a Mac which supports multiple external displays (4K even).

    Technically, a Retina 15" Macbook Pro can be rigged up to drive 3 simultaneous external displays, but the video chipset in it is still a mobile version and wasn't intended to be "beat on" like that. Everyone I know who tried to seriously use one in that configuration throughout a whole workday ran into overheating issues -- or even wound up with hardware problems with the logic board after a while, assuming they used graphics-intensive software for any length of time.

    Unfortunately, I think the bottom line with Apple computer products is, they're often not the "best possible value for the $" if you're chasing after the latest components inside and the best performance benchmark scores. They *sometimes* come out near the top, but only in the beginning of a new product cycle. It's not really part of Apple's roadmap to keep ANY of their machines so current they stay on top in the benchmark game. Most of us invest in a Mac because we like the overall package and OS platform, and realize that the longer upgrade cycle also helps preserve the resale value of the system longer. If it's "good enough" for your purposes, then you may as well buy, unless you find out a new model is really soon to be released.

  7. thats all folks macrumors 6502a

    thats all folks

    Dec 20, 2013
    Austin (supposedly in Texas)
    the current trash can pro is now firmly last year's model. the v3 Xeons that Intel has been shipping for months are overall a better cost proposition and bring tech better in line with where things are headed, DD4, native USB 3.0... If Apple ever releases a machine built on those, it will return better performance per dollar and have a longer total life span as a relevant and upgradable machine.

    If you want best return on investment now, get a stripped Lenovo D20 and a pair of Xeon X5690s or X5687s off of eBay. 48 or 96 GBs of RAM and one or two of whatever graphics card you want. Now you're doing math.
  8. xcodeSyn, Mar 11, 2015
    Last edited: Mar 11, 2015

    xcodeSyn macrumors 6502a

    Nov 25, 2012
    The OP already has a capable PC as he puts it, not someone who wants to stay in OS X. In fact, DB development can be done on any platform and it's actually much easier to add 2 4K monitors in Windows environment unlike in OS X it is such a privilege as you put it. If the OP wants to spend five thousand more for this privilege, it's definitely his own decision.
  9. RebelDamien thread starter macrumors newbie

    Mar 10, 2015
    Wow, xcodeSyn, lots of very useful information.

    You are right, nMP was clearly targeted for a different group of professionals.

    Also, due to the nature of some apps that I use, I'm kinda forced to run Windows via Boot Camp, so being able to run OS X is sadly irrelevant. Btw., does Boot Camp affect nMP's performance in any way?
    Oh so XP941 is indeed in the nMP. Do you maybe know it's read speed? I found numbers from 800 to 1000MB/s, which already puts my current Vertex 3 to shame. My current PC is looking worse and worse.
    It would definitely make my life easier. :) Portability, security (as I mentioned, it can even be put in a safe, or just hidden easily when you go somewhere for a longer period) and also quietness (I always put my working desk to the middle of my living room). That's why I'm still not rulling it out, even though you wrote some nice arguments against it. The decision is getting harder and harder, though.
  10. xcodeSyn macrumors 6502a

    Nov 25, 2012
    I don't think there is major performance difference running Boot Camp, but nMP can only run Windows 8 and later version due to drivers offered by Apple. The nMP SSD performance is summarized here. If you read this thread you'll find out that you could do the PCIe SSD upgrade on a PC with PCIe 2.0 x4 bandwidth. However it won't be bootable unless it uses the Z97 or X99 chipsets.
  11. theSeb macrumors 604


    Aug 10, 2010
    Poole, England
    As much as I like my nMP, I don't think it would be wise to buy one now.
  12. kingtj macrumors 68020

    Oct 23, 2003
    Brunswick, MD
    Not disagreeing there ....

    If your focus is DB development and you don't care what platform you use, then why even look at the Mac Pro at all?!

    The Mac Pro is a machine that tries to meet a number of criteria that you have to place some value on, or else it's pointless. (EG. Quiet operation, low power consumption when idle, attractive styling, support for a fast, newer I/O standard with Thunderbolt and small footprint.)

    And yes, running multiple 4K resolution monitors is currently a "privilege" in the world of Macs, simply because Apple has never placed much priority on putting high performance graphics cards in their products. Only the Mac Pro workstations have ever really been worthy, in Apple's eyes, of receiving high performance video (and even then, it was usually at least one small step below whatever the "latest and greatest" model was in the Windows world at the time the Mac was released).

  13. xcodeSyn macrumors 6502a

    Nov 25, 2012
    I have no idea why you are asking me instead of the OP? Some people actually bought MacBook Air to run Windows exclusively and please don't ask me why.;)
  14. RebelDamien thread starter macrumors newbie

    Mar 10, 2015
    As I wrote, it's mostly because of it's portability. Secondary reasons include quietness and safety (it looks quite easy to hide somewhere when you're away for longer periods).

    It's difficult to find a more convenient option for my specific situation.

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