Recommended Upgrades for a Mac Pro 4.1?

lumencreative

macrumors regular
Original poster
May 19, 2014
123
88
Lancashire
I have just managed to snap up two Mac Pro 4.1's for £350 each. One will be for myself and one for my wife. From what I've seen, they're fairly standard spec so I'm wondering what I should be upgrading.

Current specs are (both are the same):

Mac Pro 4.1
2.66GHz Quad Core
3GB Ram
GT120 GPU

We're already going to stick SSD drives in.

Is it worth upgrading the CPU? If so, which CPU should I go for?

What Ram do I need to look out for and how much should I be getting?

We're both going to be moving from using i7 2.2GHz Macbook Pro's as main machines to using the Mac Pro's so want as big a boost as possible, without too much outlay.
 

DougTheImpaler

macrumors 6502a
Feb 28, 2006
558
49
Central Illinois
What will you be using it for? You'll need to talk about what your uses are before we can be much help. Is this the Macbook Pro you have? Radeon 6750 and Sandy Bridge quad 2.2GHz?

If you want to play games, you want a GTX 760 or Radeon 7950. If you don't, you still might want to upgrade from the GT 120, but cheaper like GT 640.

For memory, non-ECC regular old DDR3 DIMMs are OK unless you really need ECC. Best performance will be installing them in 3s. Get a total of 6x4GB DIMMs and give 12GB to each, maybe. If that's not enough, you can do 3x8GB instead.

For the CPU, the hex-core upgrades seem nice, but a W3570 is less than half the price and still gives you 3.2GHz quad, which should make your MBPs feel slow.

Here's what I did to mine, which was basically the same as yours. Not sure what prices are like where you are, though, as I bought on eBay US.
http://forums.macrumors.com/showpost.php?p=20772909&postcount=10

I will warn you, like I said in that linked post, hot-rodding these things can get super addictive.
 

lumencreative

macrumors regular
Original poster
May 19, 2014
123
88
Lancashire
Thanks for your input. My Macbook Pro is the early 2011 model here.

In terms of usage, both machines will be used for Web Development and Graphic Design work. My machine will also be used for doing company accounts, etc. Both will also be running Parallels 10 with Windows 7 in full screen mode on a second display.

In terms of suggested upgrades, what sort of geekbench scores are you getting from your W3570 as appose to the original 2.66GHz CPU? Looking at prices here the W3570 is about £120.

In terms of Ram, you mention installing in groups of 3, however, I read online there's only 4 slots. Is that incorrect?
 

lumencreative

macrumors regular
Original poster
May 19, 2014
123
88
Lancashire
Using 1333MHz and triple channel
http://forums.macrumors.com/showthread.php?t=1808520

http://macperformanceguide.com/Reviews-MacProNehalem-Tests-Memory.html

I would want 6-core 3.xGHz to run your VM, and also an SSD blade in one of the PCIe slots, and a standard SSD to hold VM

3x8GB RAM
Thanks, I will look at this. I don't think I would need 24GB Ram so might go for 12GB (3x4GB) or 16GB (4x4GB).

W3680 are super hard to get in the UK and the only one on eBay comes with the CPU board and costs more than I paid for the Mac Pro, so way out of the question unfortunately.
 

IowaLynn

macrumors 65816
Feb 22, 2015
1,306
287
Thanks, I will look at this. I don't think I would need 24GB Ram so might go for 12GB (3x4GB) or 16GB (4x4GB).

W3680 are super hard to get in the UK and the only one on eBay comes with the CPU board and costs more than I paid for the Mac Pro, so way out of the question unfortunately.
Seeing how you want to run VMs, and the cost of changing from 4GB to 8GB DIMMs, I would avoid 4GB completely even if that is 2x8GB.

Slot 3&4 have a special relationship they share a channel.
24GB had been the sweet spot and also for photoshop something of a bottom for good performance.

You realize you can run Windows natively quite well if needed and then have the choice of both as a VM and to dual-boot your system.
 

DougTheImpaler

macrumors 6502a
Feb 28, 2006
558
49
Central Illinois
OK, yeah if you're doing a lot in VMs you should definitely get a 6-core and as much memory as you can afford - I was just giving a starting point for a cheap way to get started, but you definitely need more than that. I'd also still consider a GT 640 video card, for better desktop and VM video performance.

For the quad 3.2, I get single thread of around 2400 and multithreaded of around 8600 in Geekbench. I didn't actually run it on the 2.66, but the Geekbench database suggests around 7400 multithreaded.

A W3680 seems to get just under 14k, which is a bit over half again faster than mine (so that seems reasonable): http://browser.primatelabs.com/geekbench3/2013571

For memory, as IowaLynn said, it's a triple-channel memory controller. For me, I have 2x8 in DIMM 1 and 2, and 2x4 in DIMM 3 and 4. That way all 3 channels have 8GB. You can do a max of 4x8GB, and it's fine, but there may be a *small* performance penalty associated with the last 8GB. If you're hitting virtual memory, that extra 8GB is way faster than even the fastest SSD so it'd be worthwhile. I completely agree with and defer to the macperformanceguide link - it's right on the money if you need lots and lots of memory.
 

lumencreative

macrumors regular
Original poster
May 19, 2014
123
88
Lancashire
Seeing how you want to run VMs, and the cost of changing from 4GB to 8GB DIMMs, I would avoid 4GB completely even if that is 2x8GB.

Slot 3&4 have a special relationship they share a channel.
24GB had been the sweet spot and also for photoshop something of a bottom for good performance.

You realize you can run Windows natively quite well if needed and then have the choice of both as a VM and to dual-boot your system.
Thanks. I will have a look at memory options. I will be going for standard non-ECC ram anyway to keep costs down.

Yeah, I'm aware of Bootcamp, but we only use Windows for 2 applications (Quickbooks and WinSCP) so it's not really extensive use, and I get by doing this on my Macbook Pro so the Mac Pro should handle it no problem.


OK, yeah if you're doing a lot in VMs you should definitely get a 6-core and as much memory as you can afford - I was just giving a starting point for a cheap way to get started, but you definitely need more than that. I'd also still consider a GT 640 video card, for better desktop and VM video performance.

For the quad 3.2, I get single thread of around 2400 and multithreaded of around 8600 in Geekbench. I didn't actually run it on the 2.66, but the Geekbench database suggests around 7400 multithreaded.

A W3680 seems to get just under 14k, which is a bit over half again faster than mine (so that seems reasonable): http://browser.primatelabs.com/geekbench3/2013571

For memory, as IowaLynn said, it's a triple-channel memory controller. For me, I have 2x8 in DIMM 1 and 2, and 2x4 in DIMM 3 and 4. That way all 3 channels have 8GB. You can do a max of 4x8GB, and it's fine, but there may be a *small* performance penalty associated with the last 8GB. If you're hitting virtual memory, that extra 8GB is way faster than even the fastest SSD so it'd be worthwhile. I completely agree with and defer to the macperformanceguide link - it's right on the money if you need lots and lots of memory.
Thanks, will give the memory situation some thought. Unfortunately, the only W3680 I can find in the UK is over £400 and considering I only paid £350 for the Mac Pro, I'm not going to spend £400 on a CPU otherwise my wife will kill me haha :D
 

dmylrea

macrumors 68030
Sep 27, 2005
2,695
3,091
Lumencreative,

Not sure how technical you are (or want to be) but upgrading a Mac Pro 4,1 can be a fun, and relatively easy project. There are many facets to address, to get the most from your "new" classic Mac Pro, and plenty of threads on this forum to assist you in making the right decisions.

First, if you upgrade the firmware of your 4,1 to a 5,1 it opens up a whole different crop of usable CPU's. Here in the US, prices on ebay for 6 core XEONS have really dropped in price. Recently, X5680's were $140 and X5690's are as slow as $194. If you monitor ebay daily, you can really get a good deal.

Second, you want SSD's. It's important to note that to get full performance out of a modern SSD you need to install it in a PCI-e slot, and NOT in one of the SATA drive bays. The reason is the old MP 4,1 drive bays use slower SATA2 speeds and your SATA3 SSD's will only be around half as fast as they could be. Better to put your SSD on an Apricorn Velocity Solo x2 and you'll get full speed from your SSD. There are other options for this (for dual SSD's, etc.) but this card is cheap and easy to use.

Other items to consider is adding a USB 3.0 card, and possibly upgrading the video card since the old GT120 is miserably old and slow.

Here is a pretty good deal on 24GB of RAM. You can buy this set and split it between the two Mac Pro's, giving each MP 12GB of RAM.

Good luck!
 

scottsjack

macrumors 68000
Aug 25, 2010
1,899
261
Arizona
My 2012 MP Geekbench scores went from ~2400/9700 to ~2900/16000 when I replaced the 3.2 quad with a 3.46 hex. I paid USD 320.00 for the W3690 just a couple of months ago.

I can also recommend an Apricorn Velocity Duo x2. It has been flawless, booting both Yosemite and Windows 8.1 each on its own Crucial M500 SSD. There are definitely faster SSDs now but 960GB M500s can still be found for under USD 400.00. That is a lot of capacity for not too much money.
 

lumencreative

macrumors regular
Original poster
May 19, 2014
123
88
Lancashire
Lumencreative,

Not sure how technical you are (or want to be) but upgrading a Mac Pro 4,1 can be a fun, and relatively easy project. There are many facets to address, to get the most from your "new" classic Mac Pro, and plenty of threads on this forum to assist you in making the right decisions.

First, if you upgrade the firmware of your 4,1 to a 5,1 it opens up a whole different crop of usable CPU's. Here in the US, prices on ebay for 6 core XEONS have really dropped in price. Recently, X5680's were $140 and X5690's are as slow as $194. If you monitor ebay daily, you can really get a good deal.

Second, you want SSD's. It's important to note that to get full performance out of a modern SSD you need to install it in a PCI-e slot, and NOT in one of the SATA drive bays. The reason is the old MP 4,1 drive bays use slower SATA2 speeds and your SATA3 SSD's will only be around half as fast as they could be. Better to put your SSD on an Apricorn Velocity Solo x2 and you'll get full speed from your SSD. There are other options for this (for dual SSD's, etc.) but this card is cheap and easy to use.

Other items to consider is adding a USB 3.0 card, and possibly upgrading the video card since the old GT120 is miserably old and slow.

Here is a pretty good deal on 24GB of RAM. You can buy this set and split it between the two Mac Pro's, giving each MP 12GB of RAM.

Good luck!
My 2012 MP Geekbench scores went from ~2400/9700 to ~2900/16000 when I replaced the 3.2 quad with a 3.46 hex. I paid USD 320.00 for the W3690 just a couple of months ago.

I can also recommend an Apricorn Velocity Duo x2. It has been flawless, booting both Yosemite and Windows 8.1 each on its own Crucial M500 SSD. There are definitely faster SSDs now but 960GB M500s can still be found for under USD 400.00. That is a lot of capacity for not too much money.
Thanks to you both. I had not even considered that the Mac Pro would be SATA2, not SATA3.

Will have to have a think :)
 

IowaLynn

macrumors 65816
Feb 22, 2015
1,306
287

DPUser

macrumors 6502a
Jan 17, 2012
864
198
Rancho Bohemia, California
I'm very happy running boot SSD from SATA2. I don't know that you will notice much difference with SATA3 except for copying big files.

And you can use X5680 in Single CPU MP; tons are out there, being retired from servers, so are often less expensive now than the W3680.
 

pertusis1

macrumors 6502
Jul 25, 2010
392
88
Texas
I'm very happy running boot SSD from SATA2. I don't know that you will notice much difference with SATA3 except for copying big files.

And you can use X5680 in Single CPU MP; tons are out there, being retired from servers, so are often less expensive now than the W3680.
I second the notion that upgrading these machines can be a bit of an addicting habit. I agree that putting an X5680 or X5690 is your best bet for a processor. Virtual machines love more cores.

I put the XP941 in a 5,1 mac pro. It makes the computer very 'snappy', but I'm not sure it's worth the extra money compared to a SATA2 SSD.