Some Buying Advice

Discussion in 'Mac Pro' started by Game64, Jan 21, 2011.

  1. Game64 macrumors member

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    Las Vegas, NV
    #1
    I'm looking for some buying advice, I'm having a hard time deciding on what to get.

    I have a couple options i'm looking at, but the bottom line is no matter how I turn I will need a Mac. So, i'm looking at the Mac Pro, but I don't have the 2500$ entry level price. So i was looking at a 2006/08 Mac Pro off EBay for around 1200$.

    I would like a Mac Pro because in the future I want to expand the system and add more space/better video cards.

    Now, I know that what i do is important in these decisions, so allow me to describe. My main task is programming, I program websites, video games, programs, Mobile Apps. I don't do any 3D Design, or Photoshop design. I do however take designs and export them for web; I also do BSP map editing. So, theres no rendering here.


    If I got a Mac Pro 2006 would I really see a difference in speed from DDR2(06)/DDR3(08) I doubt the processors would be a problem because I'm coming from an AMD Single Core. I guess i'm asking, would I really benefit from the features of a 2008.
     
  2. DualShock macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Jun 29, 2008
    #2
    I'd say get a 2008 (MacPro3,1) or later model.

    The 2006/2007 models (MacPro1,1 and MacPro2,1) come with EFI32, which limits your (already extremely limited) graphics card upgrade selection. Currently this is not an issue with Apple ATI upgrade cards, since they work with both EFI32 and EFI64, but this may not be the case in the future. Nvidia upgrade cards have typically come in different EFI32 and EFI64 versions, and chances are good that EFI32 will no longer be supported by Nvidia, and most likely Apple (more on this below).

    If you decide to run 64 bit Windows via Boot Camp, note that *officially* Apple does not support running it on the 2006/2007 models. However, *unofficially* it works, but you need to hack the install DVD and hunt down drivers.

    Finally, chances are good that OS X 10.7 Lion *may* drop 32 bit kernel support. Based on this article:

    http://support.apple.com/kb/HT3770

    only the 2008 and up Mac Pro's can run the 64 bit kernel in Snow Leopard. If Apple does indeed go with a 64 bit kernel only in Lion, most likely a 2006/2007 Mac Pro won't be able to run it. (The Xeon CPU's can definitely run the OS, but Apple may artificially limit support for it by using EFI32 as a cutoff point.)
     
  3. jonnymo5 macrumors 6502

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    Texas
    #3
    Sounds like you should also consider one of the newest iMacs.
     
  4. Game64 thread starter macrumors member

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    #4
    I've considered the iMac, but I really dislike them. I've seen them in my office (i'm a technician) and I strongly dislike them. I dislike having the GPU on a logicboard. I also want the ability to upgrade. I thought about POSSIBLY the Mac Mini, but I would be unable to game on it, which is a priority.


    @DualShock: Thanks for the heads up. That clears alot up.
     
  5. CaptainChunk macrumors 68020

    CaptainChunk

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    #5
    Correction... 2006/2007 and 2008 Mac Pros all use DDR2 memory (666MHz and 800MHz, respectively), but no DDR3. Mac Pros didn't get DDR3 memory until the 2009 models.

    And I would agree with others here. If you're in the market for a used Mac Pro, I wouldn't buy anything older than the Early 2008 (Harpertown CPU) model. It keeps your upgrade options somewhat less restrictive.
     
  6. Gatorman macrumors regular

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    Florida
    #6
    While I love my Macs, regardless, they're not the greatest prodcut for future upgradability. So, whatever you invest in, plan on that being your base station until you buy a new one. There are minor things you can do now like memory and possibly a graphics card update, but, don't expect to be taking leaps and bounds from the specs of what your station will be.

    If you're looking for great opportunity to upgrade, you (and I might get flamed for suggesting this) could always follow the lead of the FrankenMac/Hackintosh community and build your own. You'll be able to have the upgradability to anything in your system (if it's supported by OS X...which most stuff is anyway) and be able to run a legitmate copy of OS X and save some money!

    If all you're looking at doing is upgrading the memory and maybe the graphics card, then stick with the mac pro.
     
  7. DualShock macrumors 6502

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    Jun 29, 2008
    #7
    Oh yeah, one other thing with regard to graphics cards.

    Since you mentioned that you want to use the Mac Pro for gaming also, another alternative is flashing the BIOS on a PC graphics card with a Mac compatible firmware.

    This assumes that 1) an EFI firmware is available/has been hacked together for your specific graphics card (and by specific, I mean down to the model number and card revision), 2) the EEPROM holding the BIOS is large enough to accomodate the EFI firmware, and 3) OS X has drivers for the card you are flashing.

    See the various graphics card flashing threads here for more info. Also, check out netkas's forum: http://forum.netkas.org/
     
  8. ActionableMango macrumors 604

    ActionableMango

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    Sep 21, 2010
    #8
    If you can cobble together $1800, you can get a brand new 2009 model with warranty instead of an older used MP.

    http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/608729-REG/Apple_MB871LL_A_Mac_Pro_Desktop_Computer.html
     
  9. ActionableMango macrumors 604

    ActionableMango

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  10. Daud macrumors regular

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    Oct 23, 2008
    #10
    How good deal is it even with the limitations mentioned above ?
    Tempted to replace my 2.66C2Quad 10.5.5 hackintosh...
     
  11. ActionableMango macrumors 604

    ActionableMango

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    #11
    I think only you can answer that question. Worst case scenario for the limitations is that you can't run OS X Lion and the best video card you'll be able to get is a 5870, which is a pretty damn good card.

    If those limitations are important to you, then you shouldn't consider the 2006 at any price.

    If you can live with the limitations, then it's a good price. It's $300 less than the going rate for used one on Ebay, and it includes a 45-day return policy and 90-day warranty.
     
  12. wacomme macrumors regular

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    Jun 21, 2009
    #12
    I recently saw this buy.com ad too, and this got my interest. I was going to buy the entry level 2010 model. Why won't the 2006 model run OS X Lion? Now this bothers me. Also, why the graphics card limitation? What is it about the 2006 model that creates these limitations? And projecting forward, is it likely that in four years that the 2010 models will have the same limitations? I ask because I'm replacing my G5 PowerPC, but for the main reason that it's not Intel based. I thought the Intel models would allow for future-proofing.
     
  13. Game64 thread starter macrumors member

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    #13
    Thanks for the link, Thats gone into my favorites if its there next week it'll be sold.

    Re-guarding Hackintosh:

    I need something that will work all the time. Any time I attempted hackintosh via vmware, or virtual machine. Or even on a machine it's always been broken after a system update or never work entirely correctly. The mac pro would be used for side stuff, and possibly business use. So not able to use my tools = loss of money. I know tons of people have ran hackintosh perfectly w/ updates. But It a chance i'd be taking.


    Re-guarding Video Cards:

    I read that only 5XXX Series Radeon were supported. Running a 5850/70, I'm fine with flashing EFI and BIOS. Its nothing new to me. I'd just find a compatible card and flash it, while keeping the old card just in case.


    Other Thoughts: Aside from the logicboard, ram, and processors is there really a difference between a 2006 vs a 2008/09 machine? I'll have 800$ in June. In the event that Lion requires EFI64 Bit, couldn't I just replace the logicboard, processor,ram? Expensive.. But still.
     
  14. CaptainChunk macrumors 68020

    CaptainChunk

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    #14
    I suppose it's POSSIBLE, but there are also other internal differences between the machines that would require extensive case modification. For example, the 2008 model has a different memory riser cage than the 2006-07 models do. The 2009 and up machines use a daughter card for the CPU and RAM, whereas on the 2008 and older models, the CPUs plug straight into the logic board and the RAM sits on riser cards. 2009+ models also have board-mounted SATA backplanes, whereas older models have wired blackplanes. Those are just a few of the differences...

    So, swapping out the logic board for a newer part isn't exactly plug and play...
     
  15. Stephen23 macrumors member

    Stephen23

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    Austin, TX
    #15
    Here's another vote for going to the 2008 3,1 model if you can manage it. I owned one of the first generation Pros and it was a good machine, but when I wanted to upgrade it, I had a lot of issues with compatibility.

    The 2008 model I bought used is fantastic - I found it on Craigslist for $1500 as a pretty bare machine, then added RAM and hard drives, etc. It uses the DDR2, so in that respect it's not up with the new machines, but aside from that, it's a little shocking how much computer it is after almost three years. My 8 core is still beating some of the entry level models on various tests at barefeats, etc. and in a couple of months, we're going to add one new video card and some new OWC SSDs and it's going to run 8 video projectors for a new opera. You can't really beat that.
     
  16. gpzjock macrumors 6502a

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    #16
    2008 Mac Pro: Team Obsolete and proud!

    I use a 2008 Mac Pro, the Harpertown CPU twin quad core 2.8 ghz is a fine machine with good upgrade options. Only Apple disregard it and consider it obsolete, they refuse to support it with their latest GPUs. I love mine and can heartily recommend one. It still beats half the off-the-shelf PC towers you can buy today! :eek:
     
  17. DualShock macrumors 6502

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    #17
    It's not known yet for sure whether or not Lion will not be supported by the 2006/2007 models. People use Apple's past history and feature set of the current OS to guess at what the next one will be like. Every OS X release has dropped support for various machines, either due to the inability to run the OS due to obvious things, like Snow Leopard on Power PC, or due to artificial limiting, like requiring Firewire on Tiger.

    In Snow Leopard's case, there are 32 bit and 64 bit kernel options. Leopard only had a 32 bit kernel. (Note: This has nothing to do with EFI versions.) Following this trend, it's reasonable to say that Lion might only have a 64 bit kernel. That means the first generation of Intel Macs (32 bit Core Duo CPU's) would no longer be supported if this were the case because they can't execute 64 bit code. While *technically* the 2006/2007 Mac Pro's most likely can run Lion, Apple may decide to drop support *artificially* due to the EFI or some other reason. Of course, Apple could even drop support for the 2008 Mac Pro, artificially or otherwise, but that's not known yet.

    The EFI also causes the graphics card limitations. First, PC graphics cards won't run unless they have an EFI compatible firmware. Second, such graphics cards must be built to support specific EFI versions, EFI32 (2006/2007 Mac Pro) or EFI64 (2008 and up). Every EFI compatible ATI card has been built with both in mind, but Nvidia has either created 2 versions of a card (8800GT), or EFI64 only (GTX 285).
     
  18. emptyCup macrumors 65816

    emptyCup

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    #18
    I may be wrong about this but it seems that people buy Mac Pros for power and expandability now. I have seen numerous threads about the lack of options for upgrading to future video cards. These mostly relate to the lack of drivers.

    Whenever I hear someone say they want to be able to upgrade their video card I assume they are a gamer. If that is you, consider buying a less expensive Mac and a gaming machine. If that is not you, consider buying a less expensive iMac and replacing it sooner than you would a Mac Pro. That is also upgrading. Or consider a refurb.

    What is the point of someone who wants upgradability buying an old machine to begin with? You are never going to be able to upgrade a 2008 Mac Pro into a 2013 Mac Pro. Best wishes.
     
  19. gpzjock macrumors 6502a

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    #19
    Mac Pros trade-in for good money too

    I think the OP's major problem is budget, with not enough to buy a new Mac Pro and a dislike for iMacs he is looking at refurbs purely due to economics and an eye to future expansion. The good news is that unlike PC towers which reach scrap value after 3 or 4 years a Mac Pro keeps a large residual value much longer due to a slower refresh cycle; so if you need to upgrade the whole thing the trade-in or resale value is often a larger amount that you would think. Upgrading from the power lead up is always an option. :D
     
  20. nanofrog macrumors G4

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    May 6, 2008
    #20
    If it's pure EFI, then the bit depth matters. EBC (EFI Byte Code), get's around this as it's CPU agnostic (easier to create drivers that work in multiple systems), and is what ATI's cards use (why their newest products still work in the 2006/7 systems <EFI32 firmware>, unlike nVidia's recent products = EFI64). ;)

    As EFI/UEFI based systems (PC side) become more prevalent, graphics cards are likely to use EBC as the EFI/UEFI spec dicatates that the system firmware must be able to read EBC (it's an interpreter).
     
  21. Bartman01 macrumors regular

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    Oct 23, 2008
    #21
    There is no guarantee that you can add a 'better' video card later without buying a new machine anyway (or paying outrageous prices for an older rare and hard to find card). Some of the newer video cards don't work on the older machines. And the older 'better' video cards are getting harder to find and don't have the speed/features of the new ones. I would not assume that an older Mac Pro will be compatible with future hardware released for the current Mac Pro.
     
  22. VanneDC macrumors 6502a

    VanneDC

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    #22
    all amd mac released cards work on all mac pros up till this date...:apple:
     
  23. goMac macrumors 603

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    #23
    I would not buy an 06 at this point. Stick with the 08's and newer.
     
  24. Bartman01 macrumors regular

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    #24
  25. nanofrog macrumors G4

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    #25
    Despite Apple's published information, they do work in the earlier Intel based MP's (it's to do with support, not a technical issue that prevents it from working). BTW, there are MR users that have already done it.
     

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