Non-gamer that wants a no lag computer when running 2 4k displays BUYING HELP

Discussion in 'Mac Pro' started by cmm, Jan 24, 2015.

  1. cmm, Jan 24, 2015
    Last edited: Jan 24, 2015

    cmm macrumors 6502a

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    #1
    I’m in a bit of a pickle and need some advice. I thank you in advance for reading this lengthy post and adding your input!

    I had the current model rMBP 15 with discrete graphics. It was great, but I wanted something more portable, so I went to the current model 13 rMBP. Both laptops had 8GB of ram and a 512 SSD. I have a 27” Thunderbolt Apple Cinema Display, however I’d like to sell it and get a good 4k display (60hz Samsung). Maybe I’m glorifying the 15 rMBP because I’m having such problems with my 13 rMBP?

    The 15 rMBP didn’t lag as much (I keep about 15 windows open), I assume due to its GPU. I am getting very annoyed with the lag and beach balls occurs at least twice a day with my current machine. I am constantly swapping more than 1GB. For example, I have 20 tabs open in Safari now (I don’t use Chrome since it’s a memory hog), mail, adium, skype, messages, textual, textedit, 2do, sublime text, rubymine, terminal and preview open. Uptime says I haven’t rebooted for 5 days and Activity Monitor shows I’m using ~600MB of swap.


    I write code all day and use various development tools. I have several VMWare VMs I run, but no more than 2 at a time (these will live on the external Thunderbolt enclosure). I never game. Occasional 1080p playback, but most of the time, I play the media off my FreeNAS box to my xbmc HTPC in my living room—more often than 1080p, will I watch clips on youtube (in HTML5 when possible). Any crunching I have to do, I will run on the computers at work.

    I’m trying to decide what to do: Should I purchase a 15 rMBP with Iris Pro graphics or a dedicated GPU? Should I get a 5k iMac and plug in a 4k monitor (I have heard reports that the graphics card in the 5k iMac isn’t as powerful as it should be and I may experience lag issues when running a second monitor). Or, should I buy a Mac Pro (more or less the base model, however, I’ll probably install 32GB of ram), which should easily support 2 4k monitors, and I can always add a third later on. Which graphics card do I need for the Mac Pro? Is base okay for my needs? Do I really need the discrete graphics card for the 15 rMBP, or will Intel Iris Pro be fine to power one more 4k monitor?

    Most important thing is NO MORE LAG. It’s like I’m back in the mechanical disk age, when I wanted to throw the computer out the window several times a day (although, admittedly, it isn’t that bad yet).


    If I go with the rMBP, I will max out the memory to 16gb. If I go with the 5k iMac, should I start with 16gb of ram or go to 32gb, I was hoping to go with a 256GB or 512GB SSD, depending on the price difference, as I already have a 20TB FreeNAS box running raidz2 that holds all my media (bluray movies and music)…I have 2TB free right now. I am planning on purchasing a 2 bay thunderbolt enclosure for 2 512GB SSDs to hold all my documents (as I use owncloud) and my 200GB picture collection. Of course I have another server for backups of everything.


    I do like the idea of having ECC ram, which the Mac Pro has. I like that it can support 3 4k monitors, but that’s a total luxury… I would be happy with just one extra 4k monitor. I never thought I’d go back to a desktop, but the iMac and mac Pro isn’t that hard to carry around on occasion.

    I am considering a few monitors, but this one is a particularly good deal: $600 for a 4k 60hz 28” monitor http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00KJGY3TO...UTF8&colid=GC0A9OU78MT8&coliid=I39EPXEKT18WMP

    If it matters, I plan on running the extra 4k monitor in “retina” mode, i.e., high DPI, so not the full 3840x2160 resolution? I like the crispness of the retina screen and I assume the text isn’t as crisp at 3840x2160…
     
  2. Quijano187 macrumors member

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    Jan 14, 2015
    #2
    I'm very curious what the masses have to say about this. I want to run the same setup basically
     
  3. dmylrea macrumors 68020

    dmylrea

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    #3
    Just some thoughts on a few of the many points you made --

    If you're considering an iMac and a Mac Pro, then we should assume that portability isn't a priority after all? You mentioned getting a 13" rMBP because it was more portable than the 15, so I wasn't clear what your priority is with regards to portability.

    If a desktop is fine, then considering all the alternatives, I would go with the Mac Pro. I recently had an upgrade project for a client to upgrade some old Mac Pro 2009's with either iMac 5K or new Mac Pro. After doing some research here, we decided against the iMac 5K because the graphics chip is too underpowered to be useful for the next 5 years, and because the iMac is sealed and not upgradable (except memory). I did find a bevvy of refurbished New Mac Pro models at the Apple refurbished store, with a really nice Quad Core, 16GB RAM, 512GB SSD, and Dual D500's for about $3200--a savings of over $500.

    Given your thoughts, I don't think you will be happy with another Mac Book, so one of the two desktop options seems to be in your future. It doesn't make sense to skimp on the "brains" when you are considering 4K monitors.

    One other thought on 4K monitors...having played with a Dell 4K monitor for the past week, and done a bunch of research on them, I have learned one thing--28" is too small for a 4k monitor. Two ways of using a 4K monitor is either scaled or native. On a 28" monitor at native resolution, everything is JUST TOO SMALL. I know...people say that about 1080p and 1440p, but even if you have the best vision, 4K really is too small. Many apps are unusable. Popular opinion is that 32" is the minimum size to make use of all the native real estate afforded by the 4K resolution. Using scaled modes (Retina-style), you're gaining nothing in terms of real estate, instead just making text sharper and more paper-like. If that's important to you, then fine, but really, a nice 27' @ 2560x1440 is the sweet spot for native resolution and gaining real estate, while maintaining good compatibility with hardware (everything works with them) and you can get a better panel (IPS) in the display for the same price as a cheap 4K (inferior TN panel).

    Good luck.
     
  4. cmm, Jan 24, 2015
    Last edited: Jan 24, 2015

    cmm thread starter macrumors 6502a

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    #4
    Thanks for your insight.

    Re portability: I used to travel a lot overseas and planes are smaller there and the 13 rMBP worked well in those situations. Ultimately, I will still need a laptop, which is why I was thinking maybe I could get the 15 rMBP with discrete graphics and be okay. Another option is to get a cheap Thinkpad for ~$400, since I can get about $1500 for my 13 rMBP. But nowadays I work from home mostly so I would rather be on a powerful machine that doesn't cause me grief (lag, beachballs, etc), than be able to move to the couch and lay down and work (which is horrible for your body). Indeed, at this point, I just need a laptop when I'm on the road. Is the graphics card in the 15 rMBP underpowered?

    My only caution would be that I most likely wouldn’t keep either model five years; I tend to upgrade every release cycle. However, it is nice to have the option to wait to buy another computer. If the 5k iMac had a better graphics card, would you have gone with that? So even the upgraded graphics on the 5k iMac isn’t that good?


    Interesting what you say about picking up several 27” 2560x1440 monitors (whether they be Apple, Dell or someone else…). Maybe I misunderstood, but if I scaled the resolution of the 4k monitor, I’d have the same resolution as the 2560x1440 monitor, but with crisper text?

    What if I changed it a little bit…what if I bought one nice, IPS 4k monitor and scaled it to retina, then added two 27” 2560x1440 monitors (I already have one ACD)? All three monitors would be the same effective screen resolution, just the 4k monitor would act as my “main” monitor where I’d do most of my reading and coding, and the other two displays for auxiliary stuff? Or is that silly—will it look drastically different (the 4k next to the 2560x1440 displays)?

    Or what about 4k monitors; one IPS panel and the other TNs from the Acer PB287Q. If I do any work in Lightroom (basically I upload photos, sometime fix red eye store them, I'd use it on the IPS screen.


    As an aside, what do you think of this 40” 4k monitor from Amazon Warehouse Deals for $470 http://www.amazon.com/LG-Electronics-55UB8200-55-Inch-Ultra/dp/B00MYMF9DU/ref=cm_rdp_product (hit the 40” option) ? It’s 60Hz and it’s cheap as hell. I assume it’s an inferior TN panel, but other than that, what’s the downside of using it as a computer monitor? There must be something!?

    I just like having as much screen real estate as possible. Given that most sites are 960px wide, a text editor and/or IDE would be ~1200px wide, another 960px wide for PDFs and then notes and IRC take up some more space. It seems the sweet spot would be 2 monitors, although three may prove useful. And the only way to have three monitors on a Mac is with the Mac Pro.

    Is the 5k monitor much nicer than 4ks?

    The only downside of buying a Mac Pro or iMac is I’d have to keep my current rMBP. Maintaining, viz. syncing, two machines, is a pain in the ass.

    These are the 4k 60Hz monitors I’m looking at (I plan on buying used from Amazon Warehouse Deals or possibly eBay):

    Asus PB287Q 28” 4k TN panel 60Hz new $609 and used $461
    http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00KJGY3TO...UTF8&colid=GC0A9OU78MT8&coliid=I39EPXEKT18WMP

    LG 31MU97-B 4k 31” IPS panel 60Hz new $1399 and used $1301
    http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00OKSEVTY...UTF8&colid=GC0A9OU78MT8&coliid=I2URIUCOB4B09P

    BenQ BL3201PH 4k 32” IPS panel 60Hz new $1001 and used
    http://www.amazon.com/BenQ-BL3201PH...=UTF8&qid=1422117568&sr=1-1&keywords=BL3201PH

    Acer B326HK 4k 32” IPS panel 60Hz new $898 and used $850
    http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00PDOBUGQ...UTF8&colid=GC0A9OU78MT8&coliid=I1M4QPD934PWXF

    ASUS PQ321Q 4k 31.5” IGZO panel 60Hz new $1407 and used $1196
    http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00DJ4BIKA...UTF8&colid=GC0A9OU78MT8&coliid=I2H9RPGACP8ME4

    Dell P2715Q 4k 27" IPS panel 60Hz new $599
    http://accessories.us.dell.com/sna/productdetail.aspx?c=us&cs=04&l=en&sku=210-ADOF


    Based on these choices, the cheapest 4k monitor at 60Hz with an IPS panel is the Acer B326HK at $850 used. I could get one of those and then two of the Asus PB287Q TN panels for $461 each. EDIT: I just found a Dell 27" 4k 60Hz IPS panel monitor for $599 (it was just on sale for $499, so maybe some are available in the refurb store)...on that news, what about getting three of these, or if I want to save $300, one of these and the Asus PB287Q?

    What do you think of the monitors I found thus far? Thunderbolt Apple Cinema Displays still sell for over $500 used on eBay, so it isn’t a huge savings? Am I missing something?


    Thanks again!
     
  5. dmylrea macrumors 68020

    dmylrea

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    #5
    While I am "absorbing" your response, I wondered--what is it you actually DO with your Mac(s)? The only thing you mention is some light Lightroom work, and really, you don't need all this power and screen real estate for some red eye removal. What you do with all this does have some impact on what people might recommend for you.

    Second is, when you travel, I assume you don't do whatever you do at home with all these monitors and power. In that case, you could keep your existing MBP for travel and stay Mac-centric, or were you selling your MBP to get money to buy all the desktop stuff?
     
  6. cmm thread starter macrumors 6502a

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    #6

    I already said: I code. I'm a theoretical physicist that works on creating and analyzing computer models. When I need computational power, I use dedicated boxes for those purposes, so I'm not too concerned about quad core, etc.

    The idea of selling the 13 rMBP would be to get some money. I'm cheap and if I can save money, that makes me happy. But, the most important thing is to have a computer that doesn't lag, beachball, or act very slowly. I think right now the reason my machine doesn't run fast is I only have 8GB of ram and the Iris graphics card is underpowered and has trouble displaying all the windows I have open.

    NB: I edited the post right after your reply: I posted another 4k 60Hz IPS monitor made by Dell for $599 each. Seems like a screaming deal.
     
  7. dmylrea macrumors 68020

    dmylrea

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    #7
    Sorry, I missed the part about what you do in the original post.

    With regards to the Dell 27" 4K monitor, again, it depends on how you plan to use it...scaled or native. At even smaller than a 28", using it at native resolutions would be painful to me. Look at the example image on Dell's site for the monitor...the one with the zoomed in flower...then look at the menu bar for the app. It's microscopic. If, since you code, you want clearer text, then make sure the Mac will support Retina mode on the monitor. FWIW, retina mode on a 4K monitor equals 1920x1080 in real estate, just paper smooth.
     
  8. cmm thread starter macrumors 6502a

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    #8
    NB: I only mentioned Lightroom because I thought that's what IPS screens are made for: color accuracy. I didn't know there were other benefits of them? So I thought, why not buy one IPS screen and then buy two TN panels for a lesser amount. But if the Dell 4k 60Hz IPS monitor goes on sale again, I think that's the best bet? Even at $599, that's not bad, is it?

    ----------

    The plan was to have it scaled down to a retina resolution... I wasn't going to run it at 3820x2160 resolution..

    Wait, so if I scale a 4k monitor down, it is actually less real estate than my thunderbolt Apple Cinema Display? That sucks! I thought it was 2560x1440. :( That means two browser windows would take up one screen, another screen for code and another for IRC, notes, skype, misc. I was hoping to get 2560x1440.

    On that note, if I wanted to run that 40" TV/monitor at full 4k resolution, how would the text look compared to HiDPI retina scaling of the other monitors? Do you see any issues with that 40" 60hz monitor? Seems to good to be true...

    Now I'm really confused on what to do. :(
     
  9. dmylrea macrumors 68020

    dmylrea

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    #9
    I'm no 4K TV expert, but I'm not sure how much color accuracy TV makers put into displays to be used for TV's vs. monitors being made for desktop use. I'm guessing a TV is nowhere near as color accurate as a good IPS screen in a desktop monitor.

    Only the iMac 5K Retina display will give you the real estate of a 2560x1440 display since it's native resolution is 5120‑by‑2880. Divide both native dimensions by two to get the effective Retina resolution.
     
  10. cmm thread starter macrumors 6502a

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    #10
    ****.

    If I run the displays at full 4k resolution, will it be as crisp as a retina scaled display? I assume not. Will it be crisper than the thunderbolt Apple display? I am just afraid, now that I'm spoiled by retina MacBook Pros, I'm going to hate it if it's not in retina scaled mode. BUT, 1920x1080p is a giant step backwards.

    What are the other reasons you didn't go for the 5k iMac? It seems your main complaint was the graphics card not lasting long, but if I sell my computer every 12-24 months, will it really be an issue?
     
  11. dmylrea macrumors 68020

    dmylrea

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    #11
    I should add that I have read that some "hacks" are needed to force a Mac into Retina mode on some 4K monitors. You need to research the Mac forums for which displays are known to work in Retina mode.

    ----------

    The main reason was the client is really against All-in-ones because if one part breaks, the whole unit is unavailable while it is being repaired. In the case of the iMac, we can't even do our own repairs or upgrades because the thing is sealed. They do plan on a 5+ year usable life span for their investment. The users are graphics artists and Retina is less important to them than more screen real estate. The graphics guys said their existing 27" Cinema Displays are already good enough (with regards to image quality), and that 5K native resolution on a 27" display is counter-productive. Most apps are not HiDPI aware yet. The 4K computer (and TV) display industry are, IMHO, ahead of the sofware and computer hardware industry. I think a few more years are really needed. That's why I suggested sticking with 2560x1440 displays for now.
     
  12. cmm thread starter macrumors 6502a

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    #12
    Why do graphics artists say retina isn't important to them? Wouldn't they want to be able to see the full image without scrolling from a DSLR, for example.

    So if I were to buy two 27" 2560x1440 for a total of three, you think it's more preferable than running 4k monitors at retina HiDPi?

    What about buying a 32" or so 4k monitor and letting it run at 3840x2160? What is the downside of this? Text won't be as crisp as the retina display? Will it be more crisp than a 27" thunderbolt ACD?

    It is just...now that I'm used to the retina display on my laptop, I fear going backwards...

    Thanks for the help!
     
  13. dmylrea macrumors 68020

    dmylrea

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    #13
    I feel like I'm repeating myself. ;)

    Retina does not give you more real estate, it makes the image/text sharper. It won't allow you to view photos without scrolling because you still have the same resolution. Non-retina mode (native) WILL give you that quadruple resolution, and sure, you can now see more of an image without having to scroll, but again, everything will be microscopic.

    You need to figure out which is more important to you, Retina "paper-like" sharpness or more resolution (pixels across and down). If the latter, then go for a 32" or larger 4K screen. That's my opinion and I'm sticking to it! :)
     
  14. edanuff, Jan 25, 2015
    Last edited: Jan 25, 2015

    edanuff macrumors 6502

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    #14
    Agreed. If you want retina pixel density @ 4K, go with a 24" display*. If you want the the most real estate possible and with the pixel density exactly matching the Thunderbolt Display (around 110 PPI), go with a 40" 4K display. And of course, there are a number of good options between those two extremes.

    * ideally, there would be a 21.5" 4K monitor for truly exact retina pixel density, but no manufacturer is producing 4K panels in that size yet, and I suspect most people here would complain they're too small, even though Apple ships a bunch of 21.5" iMacs.
     
  15. goMac macrumors 603

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    #15
    That's not totally correct.

    Retina can do either for cases like photos. Yes, Retina blows up the UI so buttons on the screen and window chrome all still stay the same size... But Photoshop will not scale the contents of documents, so you can properly see more of the document without sacrificing 1:1 pixel mapping.

    So for image editing, there are advantages to 4k. With a Retina aware app like Photoshop, you can have your cake and eat it too without forcing a native 4k res.
     
  16. dmylrea macrumors 68020

    dmylrea

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    #16
    Maybe I don't understand your response, but in my case, with Photoshop CS6, when I load a 4K image and display it on my 4K screen in scaled "Retina mode", I see only an inner section of the image and I have to scroll the image around to see it (this is with PS in full screen mode).

    When I set the 4K monitor scaling so that everything is tiny (full native res) and load the same image into PS, I can see practically the entire image without scrolling. So, to me, with a 4K monitor scaled like a Retina display, I DO have to scroll around, and native res, everything is teeny tiny, but I can see the whole image.

    My results don't match what you say.
     
  17. edanuff macrumors 6502

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    #17
    I'm using a 4K monitor in Best For Display "Looks like 1920 x 1080" scaled resolution. I've attached a screenshot of a 4K (3840x2160) image loaded into Photoshop CC. Photoshop is displaying it at 100% in Fullscreen mode and it's appearing correctly, filling the screen exactly.
     

    Attached Files:

  18. cmm thread starter macrumors 6502a

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    #18
    At the sake of beating a dead horse, how does the sharpness compare to a good 60hz IPS 32" 4k monitor at 4k res vs running it at 1080p (retina) res?

    Would it make sense to get one 32" display and run it at 4k, and then two of the Dell 24 60hz IPS screens and run at 1080p?
     
  19. dmylrea macrumors 68020

    dmylrea

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    #19
    Could be a difference between CS6 and CC? I use the "Scaled" options and when the middle position is chosen, it looks like Retina (items in the UI look like the MacBook Pro Retina display). Only a small section of my image is displayed when "actual pixels" is chosen in CS6. When, like you, I choose "Best for Display" in System Preferences, it looks like native 4K res and everything is tiny. Mine doesn't say "Looks like 1920x1080". Does yours actually say that or was that added by you for clarity? It's definitely not Retina.

    As a happy medium, when using the scaled options, choosing the 4th choice does make the screen elements large enough to see/use, while giving more real estate.

    It must be a trick in Photoshop CC, though, to be able to show an entire 4K image on a screen that "Looks like 1920x1080". How can that be?
     
  20. ViktorEvil macrumors member

    ViktorEvil

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    #20
    Assets such as images and video etc are not scaled so they are at their native resolution. thats the reason people buy 4K screens or why the 5K iMac exists (I believe it can display and edit a 4K video at native resolution and still have space around it for the GUI

    Pic taken from apple store
     

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  21. dmylrea macrumors 68020

    dmylrea

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    #21
    So, it's just a Photoshop CC thing (or a handfull of specially written apps) or all Mac apps can differentiate an image or video from other elements and scale them differently than the UI, because mine doesn't do it.
     
  22. ViktorEvil macrumors member

    ViktorEvil

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    #22
    I believe that if the app is not retina aware then the the assets are scaled as they would be on a normal display
     
  23. edanuff macrumors 6502

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    #23
    Depending on what an app does, it may or may not have to do anything special to support retina. Apple publishes for developers High Resolution Guidelines for OSX (BTW, the introductory sections are suitable for non-programmers). For example, a text-based application probably doesn't need anything special done to it for retina support but an app like Photoshop almost certain does. Adobe did release retina support for CS6 and also has an FAQ on HiDPI/Retina support. One potential issue is that all Mac retina displays have a scaling factor of 2, whereas OSX itself supports fractional scaling factors. For example, if you are running in "Looks like 2560x1440" mode, that's a scaling factor of 1.5. I strongly suspect that many apps, and Photoshop in particular, have not been extensively tested with fractional scaling factors and probably don't yet do the right thing in those cases. Photoshop probably only supports scaling factors of 1 or 2. Interestingly, Apple's Preview app does not seem to handle the retina scale factor at all for images. You can see in the attached screenshot of Preview that I had to set the zoom to 50% to get it to display the image at the correct size.
     

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  24. goMac macrumors 603

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    #24
    For me, Photoshop seems to support fractional scaling factors just fine.
     

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