Pros on the "workstation fence", what will it take to get you into a new MacPro?

Discussion in 'Mac Pro' started by echoout, Apr 9, 2013.

  1. echoout macrumors 6502a

    Aug 15, 2007
    Austin, Texas
    I hope this is an appropriate place to discuss this as it's MacPro-related, but I apologize if not. This discussion is for creative professionals who HAVE to have a prebuilt machine, but anyone feel free to jump in if you've got something to add.

    A recurring theme in each MacPro thread seems to be others mirroring my situation which is: I'm a creative professional freelancer with money in the bank, several shopping carts with customized workstations ready to be ordered, I feel burned by Apple's professional product situation from the last 4+ years, I've been forced to be open-minded about my next purchase, and I'm holding on by a shred of remaining loyalty to see if the mid-2013 MacPros are a reality before I give up.

    So, my question is, if we start hearing any seemingly realistic details by the end of WWDC, what will make you go one direction or another with your purchase?

    I personally realize all of my research has brought me back to putting more emphasis on power than connectivity. I would love to see Thunderbolt. and I have some $ tied up in TB gear, but ultimately my biggest want is to have a powerful, prebuilt machine (with a solid warranty) with the comforts of OSX. The idea of getting away from Spotlight and iCloud/Back To My Mac bums me out to no end.

    My current top candidates are all:
    -dual 8-core Xeon 2687W
    -64GB RAM
    -400+GB SSD 6G boot and scratch drives
    -nVidia GPU/s with as many CUDA cores as are available
    -all have several PCIe slots for expansion, USB 3.0, internal RAID possibilities
    -none have Thunderbolt (obviously) and Firewire 800 is mostly an after-thought

    My top contenders are:
    BOXX 8980 XTREME
    Promax-configured HP z820
    HP z820
    I get some discounts through Dell and Lenovo but haven't gotten too serious about them.

    I would LOVE to be wrong but I don't see Apple offering anything that powerful. If it were close I would probably jump on it. In the meantime I'll just be moving along with my MBP and anxiously waiting. I don't want to get burned like a lot of people just did with their Blackmagic Cinema Cameras but maybe that's unavoidable.
  2. bsbeamer macrumors 6502a

    Sep 19, 2012
    exactly what type of work are you doing? it has a HUGE impact on which way you want to lean on that fence to fall into the right place...

    Internally I set a deadline of after NAB to make a decision. I currently don't know if I will switch to a PC or hold off and keep hope. One part is waiting to see the spec sheets for technical requirements for the new software releases, but the other part is just complete frustration with Apple.

    I need PCIe access for video I/O cards, GPU's, graphics and video accelerators, and for my external storage configuration.

    I need RAM. I've always bought RAM upgrades from vendors like OWC who charge a premium, but it's not nearly as outrageously priced as Apple's RAM options. If they came to reality a bit, then I'd consider possibly from Apple. If the RAM is non-removable or non-upgradeable, then that's probably it.

    Really would like easy access to SATA drive connectors to easily swap in SSDs, HDDs, clones, etc. I'm not needing to run internal RAIDs due to my external PCIe connected RAID-5 system, but having the option could make a difference for a newly configured system. It would be a cost/benefit analysis to see if it's worth it. If these drives are proprietary or inaccessible, then it's not a pro machine for me.

    I also really should be using only dual CPU systems for the work I do. If this comes down to a single CPU only system, I'm gone.

    In all honesty adding USB3, PCIe3, and maybe SATA6 would be enough for me. Bump processors to latest specs and call it a day. I can't tie up PCIe slots with port upgrade cards. I don't NEED a new design for a tower, but additional PCIe slots would be welcomed.

    Seriously though, I'm making a roadmap decision before WWDC - I just can't wait 6-8 weeks more for an announcement, then even longer for product availability. PC options are available right now and they do work for almost all the software I need. I hate the OS environment, but I need to get work done. At the end of the day, it's all just part of the tool box...
  3. goMac macrumors 603

    Apr 15, 2004
    A new Mac Pro.

    Seriously, my workflow is all Mac. What else am I going to do?

    Apple jumping off the Xeon train would make me sad (I like my cores), but it wouldn't introduce as big a difference into my workflow as much as loosing that powerful GPU.
  4. fabriciom, Apr 9, 2013
    Last edited: Apr 9, 2013

    fabriciom macrumors 6502

    Feb 17, 2008
    Madrid, España
    I think you need to answer the question. Do you really NEED a mac or you WANT a mac.

    I dont know why everyone is so crazy on new equipment. I need a mac for my music setup and my 2009 mac pro is more than enough. I also do software development as my day job and I work on very big projects and my mac pro has 0 problems.

    To answer your first question on what would make me buy a new mac pro. I would have to say 1 cost and 2 if this mac pro dies then I would have to buy a new one. Other wise, I keeping this guy until it goes or I find a nice deal on a newer model.
  5. echoout thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Aug 15, 2007
    Austin, Texas
    The bulk of my work is medium to heavy After Effects work and a decent amount of Cinema 4D. My clients tend to be of the quick turnaround variety so render farms aren't usually an option. I do a fair amount of editing in Premiere and audio in Pro Tools and have been shooting video in larger formats recently. Kind of all over the place.

    I NEED multiple fast processor cores, CUDA cores and RAM. My RAID situation isn't as big a deal for me as for some. I just can't be waiting so long for GI/AO-heavy 3D renders, raytraced AE renders and particle effects and whatnot. I can always jump on my MBP while big renders are going.

    Sold my 2012 MP last month as it was pretty decked out but just didn't turn out to be that much faster than my MBP MOST of the time. That was such a disappointing machine but it got me through a big project.

    Yeah, watching the new software announcements closely. I'm a perfect candidate for the new CineWare software in CS6.5/7 or whatever. I'm curious to see if C4D R15 takes advantage of the GPU at all and how CineWare handles processing. I know the even in AE, CineWare will be doing the processing but not sure of the details yet.

    Do I WANT or NEED a Mac? A little of both. A little of neither. I want Spotlight integration and iCloud/Back to my Mac convenience. Those features really speed things up. That being said, I can live without them.

    I do most of my work off of a QNAP NAS so that simplifies some storage and access issues.

    But anyway, yeah, processor core number and power and GPU power are my main needs.
  6. deconstruct60 macrumors 604

    Mar 10, 2009
    There is a difference between maxing out power consumption and maxing computation power. They aren't necessarily coupled one-to-one.

    If you have embarrassingly parallel single float computations to do, than a high end GPGPU is likely more effective than two 2687 are. Apple isn't likely to use the 130W E5 2600 options. Perhaps the 115W at the high end but not the 130's. Still will have just as many cores and just as many hyperthreads... all that is missing around 300MHz/core.. That really isn't going to make that huge amount of a difference unless have some seriously detached from the times software.

    The current Mac Pro can do this really a non issue competitive difference.

    The Xeon E5 chipset has SATA 6Gbps support. So again there is non issue competitive difference.

    As many as possible is different than enough to fit needs. But if looking to max power consumption... no the Mac Pro isn't likely to go there.

    Mac Pro isn't going to make it easy to do your own "wire up job". USB 3.0 like the other 2012 workstations should be handled by a discrete controller on the motherboard.

    Four is the max number of slots going to get. A subset of folks have moaned and groaned since the Quadra 9000 disappeared over greater than 4 slots. Not likely coming back. Especially, if they add Thunderbolt since mundane port expansion can be done via TB. More likely Apple would use dual package E5 set up to make 4 wider/higher bandwidth slots. So Like three x16 and one x8 slot.

    Lots of relatively low bandwidth cards don't really make alot of sense efficiency wise. If a legacy PCI/PCI-x/PCI-e card collector maybe, but it doesn't sound like you are a collector.

    Thunderbolt is likely to have an offset in that there will be an embedded GPU. Thunderbolt is likely going to impact the balance of overall bandwidth balance.

    If can "get by" with a MBP then much of the "power" being referenced above seems more like "future proof" motivated than a real business need.
    Apple isn't going to compete on a "more future proof" dimension. If that is the primary criteria then not likely to be there. That say very little though of providing useful tools for work that needs to be now and for the next several years.
  7. echoout thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Aug 15, 2007
    Austin, Texas
    Right on. Sounds familiar. Hmm.


    I have a deadline Sunday, then 3 (much needed) slow weeks, then a 3 week European vacation that brings me back to Texas in early June. Then it gets crazy again. That's my "get by" schedule. I can't take certain jobs without a known, powerful machine.

    Future-proof for a few months would be great but I just don't see that happening. Having Thunderbolt on my MBP does simplify some things if my workstation doesn't have it.


    Oops, I wasn't clear, I should have said "-all have USB 3.0, internal RAID possibilities, and several PCIe slots for expansion". Damn you, English!
  8. fabriciom macrumors 6502

    Feb 17, 2008
    Madrid, España
    I'm sorry but I'm getting the feeling you want a new mac.

    One thing I cant understand is how you say you'r macbook pro was quicker than you 2012 mac pro. There is something wrong with that picture.

    For what you mention your work is related with I don't think anything on the list is not available in Windows.

    So if you want a new mac pro and can afford it, go for it. Do you need one? Probably not, I'm sure you can work with a windows setup.

    My 2cents.

  9. echoout thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Aug 15, 2007
    Austin, Texas
    I said the MP was just a bit quicker than the MBP most of the time. Never said the MBP was faster. The i7 MBP is pretty fast for some of my common tasks. Rendering is not one of them.

    Actually leaning towards the BOXX right now. Everyone's input has been really helpful. I appreciate it. :)
  10. violst macrumors 6502


    Jun 14, 2012
    What version of the Mac Pro did you have? because if your MBP was as fast as your MP it must have been a lower end model.

    I have a 2008 8 core 3.2 and the new macbook pro as well, and my Mac Pro for real world tasks is faster.

    I use the same apps as you, more C4D and photoshop then AE but I do my fair share of AE, and my old dog gets the job done.

    If you need more power the current gen 12 core will destroy a MBP hands down. A MBP 2.7 gets a geekbench score of around 13000 some 12 cores get up to 25000. All the apps you listed take advantage of multiple cores so the 12 core would do you well. Also you should be using ML with Cinema to take advantage of openGL 3, SL is openGL 2.1 and it chokes C4D's finder view.

    Put in the new GTX 680 or even faster the Quadro k5000 and offset your rending to the cards cuda cores and AE and Premiere will fly.

    You just missed a great deal at bestbuy for the 12core 2.4 for $2499, thats a great price for that system.

    I need a new Mac Pro but since the one I have is still getting it done I can wait and see what apple has up its sleeve for the new Mac Pro and if I am not happy with it I'll get the 12 core 3.06 or 2.93 and slap in one of the multiple new GPU options, new sata 6g card, usb 3 card, SSD raids, 64 gigs of ram and I should be good to go for the next couple of years.

    Like a lot of people on this forum have said before if you need the power now then buy now.

    good luck.
  11. echoout thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Aug 15, 2007
    Austin, Texas
    Multi-processing in AE is jacked for many types of compositions. Most of the techniques I use don't play well with it. The MP always benchmarked much faster than the MBP but my head-to-head renders were often just 10-15% faster.

    I had a 12-core 2012 with 48GB of RAM, GTX 570, and SSD system and scratch disks. My MBP is a loaded 2012 with SSD system and scratch disks. C4D rendering was much faster but day-to-day stuff wasn't significant enough for me to justify it. AE and Premiere actually do a respectable job on the current MBP for CUDA-enabled operations. Could be a lot better, but not too shabby.

    One of my students did a big Kickstarter campaign for her new film and bought it off me as her Resolve machine so I made most of the money back. It's all good.

    Boxx do a 30 day trial so I may take them up on that and see how it goes.
  12. bsbeamer macrumors 6502a

    Sep 19, 2012
    Are you talking about the render multiple frames simultaneously function? That is different than dual-CPU processing...

    Dell has done the same thing - I believe if you go through the business department and work out prior to purchase, and I'd venture to guess HP would as well. They may not send you the EXACT machine you're looking for, but if you called up their business department and asked for a demo unit to test before making a large purchase, chances are they'd comply, especially if it's prior to making a multiple machine purchase.
  13. wallysb01 macrumors 65816

    Jun 30, 2011
    For me, my employer just bought me a workstation that is running ubuntu. I'd have loved it to be a Mac, but I wasn't going to pay new prices for ~3 year old parts, even if it wasn't my money.

    So the first thing that would need to happen is a job change for me or for 3+ years to pass, when its time to upgrade.

    But my needs are simple, up to date processors that strike a nice balance between core count and clock speed since I have a mixed single threaded and multithreaded work flow. I ended up going for the 2630s in this machine.

    It would be nice if Intel released processors with 6 cores and higher clock speeds at more reasonable prices. I think this will happen to an extent with Ivy Bridge and obviously Apple doesn't have much to say about it.

    Ideally, it would be nice if Apple ended up with 4 options in the Mac Pro dual processor line. A base 12 core with low clock, a mid range 12 core with high clock speeds, a mid range 16 core with low clock, and the high end with both. This core count vs. clock speed issue will only get more complex as Intel pushes into 10 and eventually 12 cores on a single die. So, Intels line may range from 4-10 cores with Ivy Bridge E5-2600s and ~2.0-3.6 GHz base clock speed. That will make Apple's choice somewhat hard in the middle price ranges where there are different compromises on clock speeds and core count that could very significantly effect the preformance of your machine for what you do.

    Other than that, my needs are simple. It would be nice if Apple started supporting up to 512 GB of RAM within a year or two. 32GB RAM modules will become economical soon, which means Apple needs to allow for 8x32GB (256GB) configurations minimally.

    I also don't require much of video card, so it would be nice if Apple gave us an option that didn't had $500 to the price...but that's asking a lot.

    I would also like to see 4x3.5 HDD bays in combination with 2-4 2.5 HDD bays. That would help the Mac Pro remain competative with workstations with 6-8 HDD bays. Especially as the 2.5 form become more economical, and SSDs drop in price.

    For instance it would be nice to have 1 small SSD as a boot (could just be a 2.5 500GB-1TB HDD too), 2 SSDs in RAID0 for fast scratch space and 3-4 3.5 HDD in RAID 5 or 6 for longer term storage. Which also brings up the fact that OSX should minimally support RAID 5....but RAID 1 would be ok as disks expand into 4TB and beyond.
  14. IceMacMac macrumors 6502

    Jun 6, 2010

    I share your sentiments nearly exactly.
  15. telequest macrumors regular

    Feb 1, 2010
    Well if by getting "burned" you mean having a vendor release innovative new products with more power and/or lower prices (which I think is what Blackmagic has just done) ... then I say, bring it on!

    (I don't really know much about the Blackmagic cameras, but it looks like they just announced new entry-level and high end versions of their existing camera).

    Of course, it's a bummer to buy something just before new/improved versions come out, but as you note that's unavoidable.
  16. echoout, Apr 9, 2013
    Last edited: Apr 9, 2013

    echoout thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Aug 15, 2007
    Austin, Texas
    Yeah, ordered our BMCC for my college motion graphics program last Summer. It finally arrived Friday. The one we would have preferred was announced Monday and will SUPPOSEDLY ship in less than 2 months. Nice. I can still teach what I need to with 2.5K resolution. 4K would have been nice for $1K more.

    If it would have arrived 2 days later I would have changed our order. Oh well.
  17. wonderspark macrumors 68040


    Feb 4, 2010
    My next workstation will be either PC or Mac, and more likely PC, since the vast majority of my work is done on Adobe software.

    I went Mac for my current workstation based on a financial balance that tipped to the Mac side by a margin large enough to justify it, based on part of it being gifted to me. When the time comes to replace it, I will do the same comparison of economy and effectiveness, and go the way that makes more sense. I've built my past PC workstations, and I'm comfortable enough on either 'side' to go either way, so it's not an emotional decision at all.

    I have enjoyed OS X quite a bit, but the latest directions the OS have taken concern me. I have Mountain Lion on a new laptop, and it's alright, but I really love Snow Leopard on my desktop. I'll probably continue with the same technique of having a desktop I can trust completely, and use a laptop with the latest version of OS X for my travels, entertainment and other light duty, because my business doesn't depend on it. So perhaps a PC for work and a Mac for play?

    I like having my hands in both pies, anyway. I would have a hand in the Linux pie as well, if I had time to learn it. Maybe someday.

    TL;DR = I'll choose a workstation that makes sense in terms of both performance and financial savings.
  18. echoout thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Aug 15, 2007
    Austin, Texas
    Agreed. And I don't know if I have a single piece of software anymore that is platform specific, so that doesn't play into "The Decision 2013™" at all. Times have changed!
  19. FluJunkie macrumors 6502a

    Jul 17, 2007
    I'm a scientific researcher, and as such most of the things that really require a workstation-class machine are things where OS X works because of its underlying Unix-yness.

    R, Python, C++ etc. all work just fine on Linux as well. Right now I favor Apple because I have been a long time user, and I like the heavy integration between an OS with a polished user interface and easy access to commercial programs for office productivity tasks and the like.

    Linux isn't quite there yet, but its close, and its entirely possible I might substitute "Linux workstation/server" + Macbook Pro for a Mac Pro. A windows-based workstation dual booting or running a VM would also work just fine.

    What would I need to stick with Apple?

    1. Some evidence Apple still cares, even a little bit. I'm alright with a slow update cycle as long as it was worth it. That the "2013 Mac Pro" is a top-flight machine, with modern processors, room to grow, decent GPU offerings, etc. Essentially, you can do fast, half-assed updates, or you can do slow, awesome updates. But if you do slow, half-assed updates I'm walking away.

    2. More official evidence, rather than just "XYZ card works using 10.8.3 beta and the following workarounds..." that nVidia cards and OS X are playing nicely.
  20. spoonie1972 macrumors 6502a

    Aug 17, 2012
    need lotsa jam! more jam.

    and an OS that can address all the ram slots, not just 96 gigs of it.

    don't care about TB. just gimme pci3.0, usb 3.0, some legacy ports (FW800, USB2 maybe?) and a decent videocard. and lots of room for drives and doo-whatsits.
  21. fabriciom macrumors 6502

    Feb 17, 2008
    Madrid, España
    I'd like to see everyone's face when they slap a $12,000.00 price tag on the new MP
  22. echoout thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Aug 15, 2007
    Austin, Texas
    If it had everything I need (and was the fastest thing out there) I'd buy it in a heartbeat. That's about what I'm looking at anyway.
  23. violst macrumors 6502


    Jun 14, 2012
    I couldn't agree with you more.
  24. spaz8 macrumors 6502

    Mar 3, 2007
    Ya specing out a few Boxx work stations, looks like it $6-8K for what I'm hoping for :p .. ofcourse I would buy ram, SSD, GFX 3rd party. I didn't really look to see how fair their pricing on components is.
  25. telequest macrumors regular

    Feb 1, 2010
    Likewise. From 2004 to 2011, I was happily tied to working on a Mac because my work depended heavily on Final Cut Studio ... mainly FCP, but also Compressor, DVD Studio Pro and a bit of Motion. I got started on a Mac in 1996 because of the Adobe products that (I recall) were exclusively Mac for quite a number of years. So Mac was the only option to consider for a long time.

    But now ... I switched to Adobe Premiere Pro in 2011 after Apple dumped Final Cut Studio and replaced it with the incompatible FCP X. Premiere was easier to learn and even easier to migrate FCP 7 projects to Premiere. And it integrates powerfully with After Effects and the rest of the CS Studio package.

    I think the only Apple software I use regularly is Mail, and I'm not a fan (serious bugs for multiple e-mail account users under Mountain Lion, only recently fixed).

    So ... I'm no longer tied to the Mac platform. If Apple delivers, great, but no other reason to stick around.

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