Pondering a 4,1 8x2.26 advice appreciated

Discussion in 'Mac Pro' started by mattspace, Feb 7, 2015.

  1. mattspace macrumors 65816


    Jun 5, 2013
    Hi Folks,

    I'm toying with the idea of moving to a new system, from a 2009 8GB 2.54ghz core2duo mini, and my options are a bit all over the place, so would appreciate any advice people would care to offer.

    My primary heavy lifting apps are Aperture, Photoshop/InDesign CS5, ArtRage, Autopano Giga & SketchUP. The first two are effectively dead platforms, so they don't really tie me to a mac, and the last 3 have Linux versions. I'd prefer to stay on a mac, but you know, cost is cost.

    Requirement - the new system has to drive 3 displays in hardware. So here's my options on the mac as I see them:

    • Mac Pro 4,1 8x2.26, with a flashed ATI r9 280x to drive the screens, 16gb of ram (2x8gb) & a 240gb SSD - ~AU$2100
      AU$<1500 for the stock8gb (8x1?) 650gb GT120​
      oMPs REALLY hold their value here - that price is more typical for a quad core, and apple never offers refurbs of desktop systems​
    • Entry level 27" iMac - AU$2439
    • 15" Macbook Pro with DGPU - AU$2999
    • Entry level nMP AU$3999

    I don't NEED a laptop, and were I to get one, I think an ultralight MBa would be a better option as a field machine than buying a MBP and constantly running it closed in my studio - the particular task I'm looking at right now is stitching panoramas from 142x36mp RAW files (I can potentially do 21'x10'6" 300dpi panoramas) - so a computer that can just keep going without overheating & throttling down sounds like a good idea. (a bit of gaming wouldn't hurt)

    Artrage and Autopano Giga are multicore happy, SketchUP only uses 1 core, but is primarily GPU bound, and from what I read in a previous thread, Aperture 3 likes lots of CPU, rather than the original version being highly GPU dependent.

    I know the 4,1 can be flashed to a 5,1 - can you run the 5,1 1300mhz ram in a machine that's got the 1066mhz firmware / processors in anticipation of a future CPU upgrade?

    I'm also curious as to how long people think the 4,1 / 5,1 will remain hot-roddable / OS Supported?

    So yeah, thoughts anyone? I guess something else I'm weighing against is whether a Mac Mini / eGPU option will be a viable turnkey thing in the near future.

  2. thefredelement macrumors 65816


    Apr 10, 2012
    New York
    I think anything from where you're coming from is going to feel great. As an owner for a 2009 I'm partial to it, however, it is a bit dated. Do you think you'd benefit from external thunderbolt storage?

    You can get a cMP or nMP to drive 3 displays, I'm not sure how many displays you can get from the other models you listed, I think it may depend on max resolution of each (external in some cases) display and number of thunderbolt buses.

    Also, if you go cMP, you'll want to drop in a PCI SATA adapter card to get SATA3 speed from your SSD.

    It's impossible to tell how long the cMP will be supported. It's already not native with some 10.10 features without some 3rd party hardware for things like handoff and continuity. Though it is a fast enough, 64bit platform and currently that matches a lot of Apple hardware.

    If the majority of your main work flow is multi-core enabled and your in a "time is money situation" then the price difference of a nMP may pay for itself in short order. It sounds like you deal with some heavy data with those images so I'd go for the latest tech I could get my hands on.

    I love my cMP and I dig reading the stories here. I plan to put some new Xeons in mine this year but that's because I already bought it. If I were buying a Mac today, I'd go with a nMP.

  3. mattspace thread starter macrumors 65816


    Jun 5, 2013
    Thanks for the response.

    Probably not in the near future - with dual GIG E ports, or an ESATA port from a pci ssd there's no real use for it in my case.

    All those machines are triple display capable - the Macbook Pros without discreet graphics, and the Retina iMac can't drive 3 screens.

    Unfortunately it's a "time is no money" situation right now - my current setup can't crunch the images to build up the workflow that might lead to time equalling money in the future:rolleyes:

    I guess I'm trying to figure out the overall picture of whether I can put together a capable workstation that'll be as turnkey as a mac can be, compared to a similar budget new hackintosh or Linux machine.

    Thankfully I've found a local crew who seem to do this sort of thing - including optical bay replacing secondary power supplies for graphics cards, so I might see what they can do as a ready-built option.
  4. reco2011 macrumors 6502a

    May 25, 2014
    A couple of thoughts:

    • New, consumer based Macs, tend to benchmark well (Geekbench) but may slow down due to thermal throttling when you're constantly pushing them. For instance I have a 2010 cMP (quad 2.8GHZ, 32GB RAM, 5770) and a 2012 rMBP (2.7GHZ i7, 16GB RAM, 768GB SSD). In Geekbench scores the rMBP is all over the cMP. However in real world Handbrake transcodes the cMP easily outperforms the rMBP.

    • You may want to consider an HP Z series workstation. While this is not a Mac solution you did say your needs could be met with an alternative platform. One can buy a well equipped Z series workstation for a good price. I picked up a dual quad core (8 real cores, 16 with Hyper Threading) 2.4GHz, 6GB RAM, 1TB hard disk, FirePro v3800) for $400. It's at the same technology level as the cMP 4,1 / 5,1.
  5. Machines macrumors 6502


    Jan 23, 2015
    Fox River Valley , Illinois
    Moving on up from a Core 2 Duo system to a Nehalem Mac Pro will be a wonderful experience and your new system will be so much faster and capable .

    It is very difficult to upgrade the processors in a Dual Processor Mac Pro 4,1 (2009) , due to the special form factor Apple used with the factory processors in that Mac (they are IHS-less CPUs, whereas the retail upgrade Xeons likely have the IHS .)

    A much more easier route to take would be to buy a single processor Mac Pro 4,1 and upgrade the bootrom into a 5,1 . Then you can install a nice hexacore chip like a 3.06 GHz Xeon X5675 and up to 64GB of 1333 MHz ECC memory (4 x 16GB) . 16GB is great for most apps .

    A decent video card like a used PC Edition 7950 or a PC Edition GTX 680 adds a lot of punch on the cheap . You should re-thermal paste the pads before heavy use , as these cards might once have been in a bit coin or heavy rendering environment .

    Get a Velocity Duo SSD PCIe card and a matching pair of Samsung 850s and you're good to go .


    Absolutely true and a good reason not to be too dependent on synthetic benchmark scores alone when deciding on a system purchase / upgrade .

    Mac Pros are thermally the coolest beast in Apple's line up . They rarely throttle down .
  6. Macsonic macrumors 65816


    Sep 6, 2009
    Yeah. Sometimes Geekbench doesn't tell the whole story as there are variables that we encounter. One is how software is optimized to respond to new or old hardware. I've used various machines from MBPros, iMacs, classic Mac Pros and a new Mac Pro and the best way is before making a purchase, is to actually try out the Mac to get actual experiences.

    The 4,1 Mac Pro is still adequate for today's requirements and would be a good option for the thread starter.
  7. reco2011 macrumors 6502a

    May 25, 2014
    IMO Geekbench is only good at comparing Geekbench scores. It may be a starting point but the best means is to research benchmarks with the applications you intend to run.
  8. Machines macrumors 6502


    Jan 23, 2015
    Fox River Valley , Illinois
    For highly threaded apps , GB scores can be a very valuable tool .

    But, they will not take into account the immense hardware acceleration provided by installed GPU(s) via APIs for many still image and video rendering operations .

    That's why the OP should browse the forums from actual users of these apps and find out which video card is beefy enough to kick in those APIs .

    With modern rendering apps , I think the Maxwell GPUs will be soon an all-in-one heavy duty, first choice . We'll know in 2 or 3 months if (or once) nVidia and the app publishers optimize these cards . But they look like the best ,emerging choice .
  9. reco2011, Feb 10, 2015
    Last edited: Feb 10, 2015

    reco2011 macrumors 6502a

    May 25, 2014
    Not sure I would agree with this. For example my quad core cMP (5,1 2.8GHz) and my quad core rMBP (2.7GHz Core i7) are equal in core / thread count. the 64-bit, multicore Geekbench scores for each are as follows (I just chose the details for the top listed system):

    2012 rMBP:

    FP: 16,371​

    2010 cMP:

    Integer: 9,553
    FP: 10,730​

    The rMBP multiprocessor scores are 58% and 53% better than the equal thread count cMP. However, in my Handbrake testing, the cMP significantly outperforms the rMBP (approximately 30% faster).
  10. Machines macrumors 6502


    Jan 23, 2015
    Fox River Valley , Illinois


    1) Are you using the same OS X with both systems ?

    2) the laptop is likely throttling down rather severely when under load , for thermal reasons .

    Maybe GB scores are best used within the same product families ! :confused:
  11. ToroidalZeus macrumors 68020


    Dec 8, 2009
    hackintosh man x99-5820k OC'd to 4.4ghz with a gtx 980 ftw.

    geekbench score is 25,000 cost is around 2k usd.
  12. reco2011 macrumors 6502a

    May 25, 2014
    I am.

    Most likely.

    A much better application of Geekbench scores.
  13. mattspace thread starter macrumors 65816


    Jun 5, 2013
    Thanks for the responses folks. I've been able to get the machine for a price I can handle, and as I see things, before any upgrades that's 6 more cores and a somewhat better graphics card (GT120 vs. 9400m) for significantly cheaper than the entry point for any new Apple machine that'll go where I want it to be in the future - 24GB+ of ram and 3 displays.

    pics tomorrow I guess - my first expandable mac since first gen powermac back in 1994 :)

Share This Page

12 February 7, 2015