octo Mac Pro, 32 GB of RAM, etc. -- advice?

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by mward333, Apr 15, 2007.

  1. mward333 macrumors 6502a


    Jan 24, 2004
    Question: I'm buying a customized, extreme version of a Mac Pro and want to know if I am configuring it as affordably as possible, considering my computing needs are fixed. Is there anybody besides Ramjet and Newegg who have better deals (that are trustworthy!) on the configuration below?

    octo core Mac Pro:
    (installing my own RAM and disks, see below)
    4 NVIDIA GeForce 7300 GT graphics cards
    Two optical drives
    educator's price: $4339.00

    4 Apple Cinema HD 30" displays $1599 * 4 = $6396 (educator's price)

    32 GB of RAM (8 sticks of 4 GB each) from Ramjet $7990

    3 TB of storage from NewEgg
    (4 disks, 750 GB each, Seagate Barracuda 7200.10)
    $254.99 * 4 = $1019.96

    Background: I am a professor who does symbolic computing. I NEVER do any graphics-intensive work (no rendering, gaming, graphics design, etc.).... I just do lots and lots of computing. I run two flavors of programs:
    (1.) multi-threaded applications that I write myself, where I manage the cores manually too.
    (2.) Maple software, which is a symbolic computing package for mathematics

    For a variety of reasons, my purchase will be a Mac Pro, not an Xserve (I won't elaborate here, because I don't want to derail the discussion).

    I am reluctant to wait for the Stoakley-Seaburg motherboard, because I am always hesitant to jump on the first release of a new motherboard. (The current motherboard is tried-and-true, and is good enough for me.) Instead, I believe that the release of Leopard will improve the use of all 8 cores without the need for relying on early versions of a new motherboard.

    (I've read Multimedia's very helpful thread about Stoakley-Seaburg, by the way, and he has excellent advice. Let's leave comments about the choice of motherboard to his thread.)
  2. dartzorichalcos macrumors 65816


    Mar 23, 2007
  3. Cromulent macrumors 603


    Oct 2, 2006
    The Land of Hope and Glory
    Not so. The machine is capable of accessing more than 16GB, the only reason the specs say 16GB is that it was prohibitively expensive to get the 4GB RAM modules at the time of release. In fact it still is.

    A fair few Apple computers have been able to access more RAM than their tech specs indicated.
  4. Sun Baked macrumors G5

    Sun Baked

    May 19, 2002
    XServe runs the same chipset and says 32GB, likely the Mac Pro can also handle it -- although nobody I've seen has tested/certified a pair of 4GB FB-DIMMs, likely due to the price and no RAM supplier making them available with the Mac Pro heatsinks.
  5. jesteraver macrumors 6502

    May 16, 2006
    Montreal, QC
    Honestly do you even need 32 gb?

    Plus if you want to save money try and find two 40" LCDs from Samsung for sale, LCD TVs
  6. furious macrumors 65816


    Aug 7, 2006
    If he is doing simulation work he will need as much RAM as possible.

    He is properly trying to win a Fields Medal by solving a Millennium Prize Problem. He wants that 1 million dollars from The Clay Mathematics Institute. :p
  7. Killyp macrumors 68040


    Jun 14, 2006
    If you can afford that setup, then there is literally no reason why you shouldn't go for it. It'll last you a very VERY long time, and never even have to flex it's muscles for anything, giving you plenty of headroom to work with.

    One thing I'd do, is get a Raptor hard drive to boot OS X off. They're very very fast hard drives, a 160 GB drive should be enough. Just install OS X on it (and any apps which need to be on the boot disk), and you'll notice quite a large speed increase. =]
  8. mward333 thread starter macrumors 6502a


    Jan 24, 2004
    Fields Medal / Clay Math Problems

    I really enjoyed your post about winning a Fields Medal or solving one of those Clay Mathematics Prize problems. Although I am a research mathematician at one of the best universities in the country, these honors are certainly out of my reach. When we read about these awards, the folks who receive them are really amazing, creative, and diligent. Such prizes are truly amazing.... more than I aspire for!
  9. mward333 thread starter macrumors 6502a


    Jan 24, 2004
    Yep, I'm hoping that this machine last for quite awhile, which is possible with today's computers. (A decade ago, computers had such short lifespans.) This computer, however, should be able to last at least through the OS 10.5 lifecycle and 10.6 lifecycle and probably still be very, very useful afterwards.

    That's a great idea about the Raptor hard drive for OS X booting. I had actually thought about doing exactly what you mentioned! I'm glad to hear that you agree it is a good idea. One of the drives should probably be smaller and faster, used just for this purpose.
  10. mward333 thread starter macrumors 6502a


    Jan 24, 2004
    Yep, 32 GB of RAM would be extremely useful, for a variety of reasons. My computations get really, really large in terms of active RAM. In fact, I am quite crippled by my current setup, which is very outdated. I'm thinking big and relatively long-term here.

    About the good suggestion for two 40-inch Samsung LCD's:

    I contemplated buying one 60-inch TV (with one powerful, upgraded graphics card) instead of four 30-inch Apple displays (with the humble GeForce graphics cards). Hmmm... I would appreciate testimonies/experience about this.

    Since the screen dimension is measured on the diagonal, then one 60-inch TV would have the same physical space as four 30-inch TV's (although the pixel counts could be different, of course).

    Has anybody used a 60-inch TV for their Mac? For instance, I noticed that the Pioneer 60 inch Plasma HDTV's (PDP-6070HD and PRO-1540HD) do NOT have DVI inputs, so a converter would be needed to transform the DVI signal. I think that the Pioneed elite 60 inch monitor (PRO-FHD1, which is a monitor, not just an HDTV) DOES have a DVI input, so this would be a solution, although a very expensive solution.

    One advantage of having four 30-inch Apple displays (instead of one 60-inch display) is that you could angle them in a V-shape, in a square shape. I would have them in a square, two monitors across and two monitors tall, and I could sit in the middle. This way, looking to the left, I would see two monitors (one on top of the other), and looking to the right I would see the other two monitors (one on top of the other).

    That was my thinking. I'm happy to hear other folks' experiences/ideas/suggestions. I always appreciate the variety of opinions in our Macrumors community.
  11. Cabbit macrumors 68020


    Jan 30, 2006
    i believe the intel chip-set can manage 64 GB's of ram at most i know there are similar intel that can do 64 GB and AMD machines that can handle unto 128 GB of ram but this amount may be due to the superior opteron memory controller.
  12. mward333 thread starter macrumors 6502a


    Jan 24, 2004
    A colleague on the Apple campus is testing this for me. I'm still waiting to hear whether 32 GB can actually be addressed and used by the Mac Pro. I'm pretty sure it will work, but I want to hear it from someone who has actually tried it, before I spend so much money on this solution.

    You're right: Apple computers can frequently use and access more RAM than Apple sells..... a 3rd-party vendor is necessary. For instance, back in the dark ages, I had 1 GB of RAM in my gumdrop-shaped 400 MHz iMac (2 sticks of 512 MB of RAM each), even though Apple only sold 512 MB (2 sticks of 256 MB each) as the maximum configuration of RAM.

    I'm sorry to say that this is (at least, in part) a result of Apple's high profit margin on their RAM. Very few people are willing to purchase huge RAM configurations from Apple because the Apple RAM is overpriced...... Not to mention the obvious, of course, that it would probably be difficult for Apple to keep many 4 GB sticks of RAM in stock, so Apple doesn't even offer this option at all.

    Warning: Of course, when buying 4 GB sticks of RAM for the Mac Pro, make sure that the sticks are very good quality, from a reputable dealer. The heat sinks are especially important. I have had excellent customer service from Ramjet for many purchases over the years, and in this case they are also the most-affordable, so that is the solution I am going to choose when I purchase my 32 GB of RAM. By the way, Ramjet uses the only heat sink that is certified by Apple for use in the Mac Pro. (I hope that didn't sound too much like a commercial here--I'm just passing on my good experiences.)
  13. lamina macrumors 68000


    Mar 9, 2006
    Whatever you do, I hope it works out for you... but one thing.

    Be SURE to post pictures of this setup. Detailed pictures.
  14. xUKHCx Administrator emeritus


    Jan 15, 2006
    The Kop
    Indeed 4 30" would look pretty good. I wouldn't be able to fit that configuration in my current (student) room
  15. robbieduncan Moderator emeritus


    Jul 24, 2002
    I assume you are buying the 30" to get a gigantic workspace in term of pixels. In this case TVs are a terrible idea. They may be larger but they have fewer pixels so your work area will be small. The maximum resolution on modern TVs is 1080p which is 1920x1080.
  16. thegoldenmackid macrumors 604


    Dec 29, 2006
    dallas, texas
    i can confirm that the 32gb does work, i have seen it...im not sure if it was ramjet ram, but the computer was running at amazing speeds...

    for this displays i would think of how you wish to use them, the reason why the 30" cinema disaplys look soo big to most that own them is because when you are at the apple store you are literally like a foot away from them, but people that have tried to use them as tvs and monitors it doesnt work as well..
  17. Nuc macrumors 6502a


    Jan 20, 2003
    May I suggest getting a ADC Select membership for $500. This will give you and even bigger discount than educational. And with everything your buying this would more than make up for it I believe...

    ADC Hardware Purchase

    Just a thought,

  18. zioxide macrumors 603


    Dec 11, 2006
    Seagate and Hitachi are coming out with 1TB drives in the next couple of months.
  19. mward333 thread starter macrumors 6502a


    Jan 24, 2004
    I really appreciate all of the helpful comments that folks are contributing here. Of course I am happy to post my setup, when the machine arrives. The purchase takes awhile, because this is a large research university, and we have lots of paperwork. When I saw that the octo-core was finally released, I thought to myself that this was finally the time to buy.

    I'll continue reading all of the helpful comments. Thanks again! All of your thoughts are sincerely appreciated.
  20. CanadaRAM macrumors G5


    Oct 11, 2004
    On the Left Coast - Victoria BC Canada
    Since it's an institutional purchase, the Uni will be getting preferred pricing from Apple in any case.

    mward: If there is any way to hold off on the RAM purchase for a bit, prices are coming down. We have just had the 2 Gb modules drop (finally) into demand-based pricing rather than scarcity-based pricing. This will follow eventually for the 4 Gb modules, so it depends how long you are willing to hold out.
  21. mward333 thread starter macrumors 6502a


    Jan 24, 2004
    You're exactly right on both points.

    (1.) The educational pricing makes the purchase sufficiently inexpensive that I do not need to join ADC to get better pricing. In fact, by the time I would pay for the ADC membership, my purchase would actually be more expensive through the ADC store as opposed to the educational store. Simply put, you're right: The educational pricing beats the ADC pricing here, since I would have to first buy an ADC membership ($499).

    (2.) Yes, the 2 GB modules are becoming very inexpensive, and the 4 GB modules are finally really starting to drop in price. On Thursday (April 12), the price of 4 sticks of 4 GB of RAM (16 GB total) just dropped from $4699 to $3995 at Ramjet. So the savings was $700 for 4 sticks of 4 GB of RAM (16 GB total), i.e., $1400 savings for 8 sticks of 4 GB of RAM (32 GB total).
    I might wait awhile longer, but this was a significant price drop which just happened on Thursday, and it might be awhile before the price drops again so much!
  22. cubbie5150 macrumors 6502a


    Mar 4, 2007
    Wow!!! You are speaking of a configuration I can barely fathom!! :D LOL!! I most definitely want to see pics; talk about a tech geek's wet dream!!
  23. mward333 thread starter macrumors 6502a


    Jan 24, 2004
    Hmmmm..... Well, I'll just be using the machine for computing. I don't play games on it (I guess "tech geeks" usually do). I'm just a professor who has serious computing tasks.

    Nonetheless, it will be a nice, nice machine, and I'm happy to show the pictures (perhaps this summer, let's say) when the machine arrives and gets installed.
  24. dollystereo macrumors 6502a


    Oct 6, 2004
    I am a Mathematical Enginnering, I would like to know what are you gonna do with such a powerful machine.
    I think that in macs is better to work with Mathematica from Wolfram than Maple soft because its optimized for multi core performance. Are you solving numerical differential Partial equations??
    Or trying to solve some big linear problems?

    Good luck and PM something....
  25. mward333 thread starter macrumors 6502a


    Jan 24, 2004
    Thank you very much for your advice. I stick with Maple because I do Analysis of Algorithms, and the Maple software has many packages which are written by my colleagues to help with such computations.

    In particular, I frequently compute generating functions and then use residue analysis to extract asymptotics. I am also interested in multivariate asymptotic analysis, where the different parameters grow large in several ranges.

    I was never much of a differential equations guy, although of course Maple has nice packages for these things too.

    Maple 11 was just released (my copy arrives on Monday), but I think that the new Maple 11 is still 32-bit, from what my colleagues tell me. This is a shame to hear, but I'm sure that a 64-bit version can't be too far down-the-road, at least I hope so.

    I also perform computations on discrete, randomly-constructed trees, which lend themselves very well to parallelized tasks (just send separate processes on the 8 separate cores down the separate branches of the trees, and then spawn new processes as necessary..... very easy to parallelize). I can just handle my own multithreading in my programs, but of course Java could be used if one preferred. (I think that Tiger's Java is 32-bit but Leopard's will be 64-bit? I don't know about this, because I don't usually use Java.... so don't quote me here.) I usually use C++ with a multi-threading package.

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