Recommendations for my first 'Pro desktop'

Discussion in 'Mac Pro' started by Darwin36, Apr 20, 2014.

  1. Darwin36 macrumors newbie

    Nov 21, 2013
    Hi MacRumors community,

    I’m in the process of updating my mac kit to some brand new goodies that will hopefully see me through the next 7 years before any significant upgrades. With that in mind i’d like to tap your vault of knowledge about some recommendations as my choice to dabble in my first professional desktop is both expensive and daunting.

    Basically I can only really afford one machine that has to do for work and play.

    Work for me these days involves creating, processing and animating motion capture data/ building VR environments for research purposes (anthropology, psychology). For this I use Motionbuilder (bummer, windows only), Maya, Blender, and DAZ Studio. The thing that takes the time is lengthy model renders in DAZ, my current 2011 MBP15 takes upwards of 15-30 hours to render a short animated scene with lighting. I also do statistical (SAS) and experimental programming using both python and MATLAB (big data).

    DAZ loves cores but doesn’t use GFX card grunt by default, some renderers take advantage of this although I’m not sure what kind of benefit this might be. I’m not as clear on the other packages on what they take advantage of, my forum reading stumbles a bit here and I’m relatively new to the who animation/render game and this will be the first machine I will have bought that takes these things into account.

    Home involves the usual low energy stuff and maybe some light windows gaming (Starcraft II) so I assume this will be no problem.

    I have never owned a workstation computer before and have read that they excel mainly at multi-core complex stuff and either break even or are worse than your normal desktops at single core tasks. The new mac pro has plenty of options to tick, often with massive price tags so here are my umms and ahhhs.

    From my reading I’m thinking the 8-core holds the best all-round performance based on single clock and core count that should be perfect for my home/work scenario. At an extra £1200 over the 6c for the web average of up to 30% boost, do you guys think in the real world this is that noticeable in anything other than intense multi-thread activity?

    What about RAM? - I know traditionally mac installed ram has been very expensive but a quick peek online it seems to be more expensive to buy third party as the stick size means all 4 modules need to be replaced (like 16GB will be 4 sticks of 4GB whilst a 32GB kit would be 4x8GB sticks).. what is your take on this? I currently have 8GB in this MBP so of course even 16 will probably feel great.

    My biggest umm and aahh has been the graphics, the D500 or D700. to be honest I have no idea whether the 700 would benefit me. Graphics performance/requirements in pro applications with pro cards outside of gaming (i.e. fps metrics) confuse me. Is there anyone out there that use the above apps that can comment on whether one might be better than the other? I’d love to run a couple of good screens, maybe even a 4k if the price was right if that helps the recommendation.

    I read somewhere on this forum that the 1TB flash SSD has better performance than the other SSD choices, how is this so if they are all using the same PCIX interface? can anyone comment on this or is this a fallacy? I was going to go for 512GB and will have big capacity for files using external drives.

    Finally, I read that now on the nMP you can only bootcamp win8 but on the documentation for the latest bootacamp win7 is still listed. is it that its no longer able to be installed or its just no longer officially supported?

    Looking forward to your recommendations.
  2. ChuckBlack macrumors member


    Jul 5, 2010
    Nobody has a crystal ball but most believe the only true part that won't be upgradeable is the video card. If you're planning on keeping the machine 7 years like you said, I'd go D700 there and upgrade the rest over time. It's strongly believed that a 3rd party solution will come out for the hard drive. The CPU has already proven to be upgradable and there are many choices for Ram outside of apple with a much better price point.
  3. energy23 macrumors member

    Apr 8, 2014
    those graphics cards will be obsolete much sooner than the 7 year projection.
  4. pertusis1 macrumors 6502

    Jul 25, 2010
    +1 to that. My thought is that no matter what you get, if you are a creative professional, it's not likely to last 7 years. Since you're thinking hard about the cost of each of the upgrades, you might consider a refurbished 5,1 12-core, which at present is available for $3200. This computer boasts a benchmark between the 6 and 8 core nMP, and you can choose a graphics card that suits your workflow. There are really quite a few choices now for graphics cards on the 5,1.

    Granted, hard drive speed is somewhat limited on the 5,1 MP, but there are plenty of relatively cheap solutions to this, including internal RAID setups, etc.

    I just thought I'd throw that idea out there. For what it's worth, you'll probably be happier with the nMP, since it's quieter, looks better, extremely fast, and will likely retain it's resale value a bit better. I can't really comment on the graphics card choices - I'll leave that to the bigger brains. For myself, I have been very pleased with my ability to upgrade my 5,1 MP to a kickin' graphics card :) thanks, MVC, even if he is on 'probation' or whatever :roll eyes:

    Oh, one other thing. I'm pretty sure your best bet is to buy the low end (except for the graphics cards) and upgrade everything else later. For example, a lot of people are looking at a 4-core to 10-core aftermarket upgrade.
  5. flowrider, Apr 20, 2014
    Last edited: May 2, 2014

    flowrider macrumors 601


    Nov 23, 2012
    Or SSD Drives with a PCIe interface like the reasonably priced Velocity Solo x2.

    And remember, it's electronics after all. And computer electronics at that. Things are always rapidly changing in the marketplace. If you wait for the Lastest and Greatest, you'll never own anything.

  6. Macsonic macrumors 65816


    Sep 6, 2009
    Hi Darwin36. The 8 core configuration is a good choice as it presents a good balance of speed, core distribution and price point. There are some tasks that are just almost the same speed as the 12 core models. Also if you can get a 1TB Flash drive would be great.
  7. Darwin36 thread starter macrumors newbie

    Nov 21, 2013
    Ha I thought I was being a tad optimistic with the 7 year time frame. Maybe if I can get 5 good years out of it I would be quite happy, anything extra is a bonus then upgrade bits and pieces.

    Im assuming that the upgrade CPU upgrade would render the warranty void? I get 3 years by default in academia so I wouldn't do that until the warranty is up, it would just be my luck.

    pertusis1, Thanks for your outside of the box thinking here. Am i right in thinking however that upgrade-wise, parts and upgrades for this model might dry up in the next year or so because of the new pro?

    From what I have read so far it looks like it will be the D700s and the 8c if I go down the nMP route, I'll need to do a little more saving which looks to be fine as they aren't really shipping yet.
  8. pertusis1 macrumors 6502

    Jul 25, 2010
    I would be very surprised if upgrade parts dry up in the next year. The only component that may not have great availability over the next 5 years is the CPU. As you mentioned, though, this is the part you are least likely to replace due to warranty issues. Everything else (RAM, hard drives, peripherals) will definitely remain on the market. There are quite a few graphics cards, both from AMD and Nvidia, that remain available. Although it is unlikely that developers will continue to market to the MP community, there are still quite a few MP users out there, and graphics card choices should continue to expand.

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