State Of The Art MP - Few Remaining Tech Questions: RAID, Blu-Ray, SSD, GFX

Discussion in 'Mac Pro' started by JmeltzFX, Sep 12, 2009.

  1. JmeltzFX macrumors newbie

    Sep 12, 2009
    Los Angeles, CA
    Hello All,

    I’m about to pull the trigger on a BTO 8 core Mac Pro, that I’ve been waiting on for quite some time now. I’m starting a business shortly with some friends in Los Angeles. I’ll be heading up the post-side of things. I specialize in Compositing and Visual Effects (Nuke, After Effects) and editing using FCP or Avid in my spare time. I’m also playing with Maya these days. I’ll also be setting up bootcamp to install / run windows 7 on the same machine.

    Btw, I’m fairly tech savvy, and confident with computers. For the most part, customization is not too much of a daunting task for me. Processor replacement gets me a little anxious though (more on that in a bit).

    I’m aware there are similar posts of this nature, however I do have a few specific notes and questions that I'd appreciate ANY help with. Thank you in advance.

    Here’s my basic configuration:

    Two 2.93GHz Quad-Core Intel Xeon
    8GB (4x2GB)
    1TB 7200-rpm Serial ATA 3Gb/s
    NVIDIA GeForce GT 120 512MB
    One 18x SuperDrive
    Apple Wireless Mighty Mouse
    Apple Keyboard with Numeric Keypad (English) and User's Guide
    AirPort Extreme Wi-Fi Card with 802.11n
    Country Kit

    Cart subtotal $6,418.00
    Free Shipping Shipping $0.00
    Estimated tax $625.76
    Order total $7,043.76 – FROM APPLE’s Site w/No Discounts applied.

    I’ve found the exact same config. for $6290.10

    I'm using the money saved on components from OWC, I’ll be buying this (or something similar based on your advice / reccs).

    1x 2.0TB Hitachi 7K2000 7200RPM SATA I/II HD with 32MB Cache, 3yr Warranty – $279.99

    1x 1.0TB Hitachi E7K1000 "Saturn" Enterprise-Class 7200RPM SATA I/II HD, 32MB Cache, 5yr Warrantry – $137.99

    1x VIDIA GeForce GTX 285 High Performance PCI-Express Video Card for the Mac Pro – $459.00

    1x 8.0GB Mac Pro Early 2009 Memory Matched Set (2GB x 4) PC-8500 1066MHz DDR3 ECC SDRAM Modules – $209.99
    Grand Total: $1095.92

    Onto the fun questions.

    1) If I’m considering RAID’ing the internal drives, do each of the physical drives need to be the same size? I was originally planning on 4x 1 TB Hitachi drives. However, the 2 TB version has just been released. Has anyone used these yet? If I were to raid the internal drives, and leave the OS’s on the SSD (see below) would I be able to read / write to the RAID from Mac AND Windows? Finally, what type of raid is recommended? Bearing in mind that I’ll be running Time Machine back-ups, externally, so redundancy is not all that important to me.

    2) I’ll be adding on a blu ray burner to this system, as I’ve got plenty of old projects that need to be archived. I’ve found the following two shops to purchase from, both have 8x write speeds and seem otherwise fairly similar. Can anyone please shed some light as to which one might be better?

    3) I watched an amazing 24 drive RAID SSD video recently, and was floored by the performance. I think that swayed me into purchasing an SSD for Snow Leopard as well as Windows 7. What’s the difference b/w MLC and SLC? Also, I’ve done some research that leads me to believe that the new Intel SSD’s are the way to go. I’m looking for at least 160GB, however the prices I’m seeing $600+ are a little hard to stomach.

    4) I’ve been dead set on the GTX285 for a while now, will this be good for high end compositing on the Mac side AS WELL AS gaming on the Windows side?

    4b) I’ve seen recent posts about getting the ATI4890 to work with the Mac Pro. Should I be considering this route? How does this card stack up against the GTX285?

    5) Finally, I’ve read that a few users have actually managed to install Intel’s latest chips, 3.2 Ghz into their systems. Obviously, this isn’t for the faint-hearted. How much work would be involved? I imagine the cost of the new processors alone would be prohibitive.
  2. kellen macrumors 68020


    Aug 11, 2006
    Seattle, WA
    Looks good.

    For what I can address would be newegg for the HD's. Cheaper. Don't upgrade anything through apple besides the 8GBs of ram.

    Ram is good as well. Upping it to 8gb through apple is a good idea, price wise. 100 bucks is a good deal.

    1) If I recall you can't do bootcamp from a raid though, just an FYI. I have a raid 0 set up for speed, definitely helps. Just get a good back up no matter what. For raid 0, the size will be the smallest of all of them x number of drives.

    3) Try a dual 80GB SSD raid-0. I would over a single 160 SSD. Prices on the 80 GB intel V2 should be low/mid 200's and the 160 double that. However due to inventory prices have shot sky high at some retailers. Just wait, they will come back.

    5) Just locating the chips and replacement. Extremely expensive for a .4ghz iimprovement in my eyes, but to each their own.
  3. Tesselator macrumors 601


    Jan 9, 2008
    Wow! $7,043.76 (or even $6290.10) for a $2.5k ~ $3k machine. Apple has some kind of magic hold over reality - that's for sure! :eek:
  4. Dr.Pants macrumors 65816


    Jan 8, 2009
    It is recommended that both drives of a RAID-0 are the same size, or else the array will only be the size of the smallest HD time number of HDs. I don't know what third-party options are available for Windows and MacIntosh reading HFS+ and NTFS partitions, but I know that they are there; both can read FAT32 right off the bat. Arrays, however, I'm not too sure if both can read them if it is a software RAID.

    I'm not exactly sure on this one - however, I was under the impression any Blue-Ray drive worked in the MacPro. I could also be horribly mistaken.

    MLC - Multi-Level-Cell
    SLC - Single-Level-Cell

    SLC is better, AFAIK. However, Intel's X25E is a very low capacity and approaches, if not exceeds, your stomach.

    Work involved.

    1. Buy processors and thermal interface material and some thermal interface material cleaner and special screwdriver (I assume one is needed for the heatsinks).

    2. Remove heatsinks.

    3. Remove old processors.

    4. Clean both heatsinks and processors with new thermal interface material.

    5. Check if heatsinks and new processors match up. Some processors were sold "naked", and thus the heatsinks won't fit over them. In fact, this could be step one, but redundancy is good.

    6. Insert new processors.

    7. Apply thermal interface compound.

    8. Reattach heatsinks.

    9. Run computer for thermal interface compound manufacturor's recommended time for burn-in (or summat along those lines).

    Cost prohibative? No. Apple charges an entire processor's worth of change for an upgrade.
  5. ventro macrumors 6502a

    Sep 23, 2006
    Both the 4890 and the GTX285 are going to be obsolete when the 5870 comes out soon.
  6. Dr.Pants macrumors 65816


    Jan 8, 2009
    I don't want to poo-poo here, but unless the 5870 has a MacIntosh edition or is flashable for OSX, the 4890 and the 285 won't be outdated on the Mac platform. There might be a 5870 coming to Mac that I've been ignorant about, but I would doubt inclusion on the Mac platform until Gulftown's release.

    Also, doesn't OpenCL work better on nVidia's offerings, supposedly?
  7. TheStrudel macrumors 65816


    Jan 5, 2008
    Jury's still out on OpenCL. All we've got thus far is benchmarks and the ATI cards might need a driver update to properly work with OpenCL.

    Similarly, we have no way of knowing if the next better-than-entry level Mac Pro card will be an ATI card it all. It could be an Nvidia card, in which case we don't get 5870 drivers, and can't use 5870s. Of course, it might come as an aftermarket card and not a BTO option, but we have no way of predicting that either.

    We'll have to just wait and see.

    If you don't need a new graphics card now, waiting is a good idea.
  8. Inconsequential macrumors 68000

    Sep 12, 2007
    The processors ALONE are $1386... each.

    Mobo another $1k...

    So thats $3.8k already.

    I think you need to go and update your hardware database :p

    Memory, hard disks, graphics, powersupply make up another $500 lets say, then case at $300, so lets say base cost price for the Mac Pro is $5k.

    20% profit margin for development.

    Not unreasonable what-so-ever.
  9. nanofrog macrumors G4

    May 6, 2008
    I'm not the biggest fan of Hitachi SATA drives, especially the consumer models.

    At the very least, I'd look into the reviews of the Hitachi 2TB drive before buying, and see how it compares to at least the WD 2TB models.

    I'd recommend going with WD's RE3 1TB for the enterprise drives at a minimum, as these would be better for the RAID array. (More on this further down). ;)

    This would be fine I think. :)

    Yes, each member of an array needs to be the same capacity to prevent waste. That is, if you use say a 500GB & a 750GB in a RAID0 (stripe set), you'd only get to use 500GB of the 750GB drive. The additional capacity won't be used by the array. You gain access to it by making a partition, but it's going to be slow, as it's on the inner tracks. And if you're trying to access both the array and the 250GB partition at the same time, that will slow you down (simultaneous access). Not what you want.

    I've not tried the Hitachi's, nor do I plan to. :eek: :p I've not had good luck with thier consumer SATA models. SAS is another story though.

    NO. No matter if the OS's are on separate drives or not. They're just completely incompatible.

    So long as you have a proper backup system, you can go ahead and use a RAID0 (stripe set). It offers speed, but 0 redundancy. If you needed any redundancy, I'd recommend 10, for OS X's software RAID capability, and 5 for a hardware controller.

    Pretty much any Bluray burner will work, as the hardware is compatible. No such thing as a Mac version. So check out the product reviews on newegg. They can be quite helpful. ;)

    SLC & MLC are the flash types used in the drives (wiki page that might help).

    I don't think anyone would argue that the Intel's aren't the ideal models to get, but you have to determine that yourself (budget constraints). :eek: :p

    On the Windows side, there's plenty of reviews to check from, so do a search (homework). :eek: :p

    On the OS X side though, as TheStrudel mentioned, OpenCL isn't really known yet. As for Core Image, ATI does seem to do better, as the drivers seem to be better written for that portion than the nVidia offerings. Ultimately, it's sort of a gamble, depending on what you want to prioritize. :(

    If you're going to do this, or at least think about it, base the financial data off a refurbished 2.26GHz Octad model. It's going to be the least expensive way to do it.

    And the current Xeon 55xx parts of the 3.2 or 3.33GHz speeds, won't be cheap. But it might actually be better than you think, if you can get a good price on the refurbished model. As Tesselator pointed out, the current pricing is high, no matter who made it. :rolleyes:
  10. Transporteur macrumors 68030

    Nov 30, 2008
    And you need to update your database to non retail prices. ;)

    If we consider the hardware prices for industrial consumers, Apples profit margin for the current generation of MacPros easily goes up to 40% which can't be justified with development costs, even if they are undeniably higher than that of other workstation producers.
  11. Shake 'n' Bake macrumors 68020

    Shake 'n' Bake

    Mar 2, 2009
    The system you detailed says four cores.

    I'd use RAID 0 or 10. It's best to have all drives the same size and model.

    The RAID in the Mac Pro is probably hardware (but I'm not positive), so any OS will be able to use the array.

    Finding the chips is pretty hard, I think. Very expensive, but not too hard if you know what you're doing. Building a computer would be good training.
  12. nanofrog macrumors G4

    May 6, 2008
    Actually, it's not. It's just the SATA ports on the logic board and other system resources used with software (built into OS X), just as any other OS based RAID support. ;)

    Apple doesn't include a hardware RAID controller. They sell those for a pretty penny ($700USD), and they're junk anyway. :eek:
  13. Dr.Pants macrumors 65816


    Jan 8, 2009
    Once again, much better can be had for the same price... And I don't want to make out Areca to be the best people on earth since I haven't used a RAID controller yet.

    EDIT - removed quite a bit. Not too many members had said anything when I was first writing, but many had chimed in on the points I made by the time I posted. Once again, I blame the satellite that prioritizes everybody else's data over mine.
  14. TheStrudel macrumors 65816


    Jan 5, 2008
    Unfortunately, you'll need the epic design hack that is the TransIntl Pro Cable in order to use the built in drive bays on an 09 Mac Pro with a hardware RAID controller card. '08 and '06 Mac Pros have the handy iPass mini-SAS cable that all the SATA buses connect to.

    Maybe someone will develop a controller that doesn't need a work-around for the '09 Mac Pros, but there isn't one yet.
  15. canes960 macrumors 6502

    Jun 11, 2009
  16. flawless1979 macrumors newbie

    Mar 15, 2009
    Blu ray support

    Quick question does the new snow leopard release fully support blu ray???
    Didn't hear anything about it !!
  17. TheStrudel macrumors 65816


    Jan 5, 2008
    Nothing yet. As reported before, you can use them to store data or burn BD movies but BD movie playback is not supported in OS X as of now. Non-copy protected BD movies (e.g. those you yourself burn) can be manually opened and played back through software such as Plex, but it is a sub-optimal user experience.

    There has been much speculation as to the eventual deployment of Blu-Ray capability, but nothing concrete has been learned yet.

    That is all.
  18. Shake 'n' Bake macrumors 68020

    Shake 'n' Bake

    Mar 2, 2009
    In addition to what TheStrudel said, Final Cut Studio supports BD burning natively as well.
  19. Tesselator macrumors 601


    Jan 9, 2008
    Nope! not even close to correct! Better get back on those shopping sites and look up the actual prices again!

    The MB same as the MP is about $350 to $400. One that TOTALLY KICKS ASS on the MP is just $550. Expandable to 144 GB of RAM, has 6 PCI slots, 8 SATA, 8 SAS, built in RAID5, etc. As I posted a few weeks ago in another thread.

    The CPUs are $1200 And if you shop around I believe you can find them for $1,000 even.

    PSU $350 to $400

    Case: Under $200. For a good one! Cheap ones are $50.

    $100 for a 1.5TB drive,

    ODD SuperDrive substitute: $40 (And better than the Apple Drive!)

    That's $3,440 before the RAM mouse and KB so figure $4k all together. And you end up with a MUCH higher spec machine than Apple is selling you for $7,000. Like I said Apple holds some kind of magic power over reality that people will even consider paying those prices.

    That's not even considering that you can buy a 2008 3.2 GHz for right around $3,2k that is every bit as fast (AND FASTER!) than the 2009 2.93 GHz Apple wants $7,000 for.

    Gawd, lemme say that out loud as I'm having trouble even fathoming that price: SEVEN THOUSAND FRIGGING DOLLARS!

  20. Dr.Pants macrumors 65816


    Jan 8, 2009
    I agree with you fully. $7K is something I would expect to pay for a 4-processor system.

    In essence, this is why people go out and create Hakkentoshes. Personally I can't stomach my main system as semi-legal (whole 'nother can of worms, I might make money someday), but I can certainly upgrade it for less then Apple ever could down to the processors and soldier on a Stoic 8 EEPROM to my GTX 285. Or at least I think that was the chip.
  21. nanofrog macrumors G4

    May 6, 2008
    I've had good luck with their products. For cards that can boot EFI, there's precious few.

    Areca, Atto, CalDigit, and Apple's own offering. The later two aren't that wonderful IMO.

    Don't expect one. It's not profitable enough, and that was one of the reasons , Apple made the change from an iPass cable to using traces on the PCB. Eliminates direct competition. To make a 3rd party controller work, their customers get to fork over an extra $165USD for the adapter needed.

    Good ones can be had for less than that, even before using things like Bing Cash Back or similar programs. :)

    I picked up a 1000W Corsair for ~$200USD (after rebate).

    Which one/s are you thinking of in the $200USD range out of curiosity?

    It's Steve's "magic" Kool Aid. :p
  22. Dr.Pants macrumors 65816


    Jan 8, 2009
    Hmmm... something says that Steve's "magic" Kool Aid isn't exactly legal :D

    Oh, and because I can't help it,

  23. JmeltzFX thread starter macrumors newbie

    Sep 12, 2009
    Los Angeles, CA
    First let me say Amazing pic Dr. Pants... Second, thank you all so much for the help thus far. I've already started putting this info to good use, this is definitely going to allow me to build a better, faster machine for the $.

    To Shake 'n' Bake - Actually the system I detailed is 8 cores. But thanks to all the info from you guys (can't thank you enough) I'm fairly certain I'll be going with an internal software RAID. As for the type (0, 1, 5, etc) I'm still not 100% sure. The specific drives I'm considering will most likely be 2 x 2 TB Hitachi 7200 RPM drives.

    Nanofrog, Tesselator, and Dr. Pants - Thank you all for your detailed price and info breakdowns, and assistance with these questions. I checked, the 2x Quad core 2.26Ghz MP with otherwise identical configuration costs roughly 3K with taxes and shipping. Therefore, I think I've decided to save that money, and use the additional to purchase 2 Intel Xeon W5590 Nehalem - 3.33 procs. Now the trouble will be finding the best price around on them. I've seen them from $1450 on Ebay to $1670 on Newegg to $1800 on Amazon.

    Any other resources you guys know of?
    Also, I'm I'd be lying if I said I wasn't nervous about processor replacement. Is there a detailed how-to guide, preferably with pics that anyone is aware of?

    As far as SSD is concerned I may be passing for the the time being. It really bums me out to have to write that too, but I can't afford to pay more than $400 for 160GB of Solid State storage. My most recent results turned up $600 results every time.

    Does anyone have any specific blu ray internal recorder drive recommendations, they've had good experiences with?

    Also, I want to setup a file sharing drive, allowing me to access files, like my iTunes library (not stored on the OSX raid obviously) from the OSX as well as Windows 7 side. I'm going to dedicate a separate partition to this. What format does that drive need to be? Also, I know there's a file size limit as well. Any idea what that might be?
  24. Tesselator macrumors 601


    Jan 9, 2008
    Yeah, that was pretty cool!

    I would offer to send you from Japan but they're no cheaper here than there. I use this site: for most of my computer and camera buys. If you find what you want and it's there for cheaper than you can find it in the states just lemme know and I'd be glad to forward it on to you - assuming you might need a Japan-local address that is.

    If it were me and I were upgrading my MP I would go for the 2008 3.2 GHz referbs that apple has on-line right now for $3.4K if I remember right. Basically the same speed (or a little faster) as the 2.93 you were thinking of and none of the troubles associated with Hyper-Threading. RAM for the 2008 machines is cheeper too - like 30% off or something. ;)

    Seriously is someone had the 2009 2.93 octad in one hand and the 2008 3.2 octad in the other hand and offered me either one for free (that I wasn't allowed to sell). I would take the 2008 3.2 without hesitation.

    If you go for a 2009 with the intent to upgrade the procs there are already several step tutorials out there. Even one or two here at MR. From reading them it sounds as straight forward as pulling the tray, removing the heat-sink, cleaning the surfaces, swapping the procs, applying thermal paste and putting it all back. Nothing special needed and no special information required. Of course to recoup some of the $ I would sell the old procs (after waiting 4 to 6 months to make sure the system wasn't going to need an RMA).

    I wouldn't worry about that. SSDs are frigging awesome in laptops but there's almost no advantage in a desktop where RAID0 is so easily implemented. A 3-drive RAID0 is faster or on par with the fastest SSD. You can get 7200 RPM drives of 1.5TB that utilize the all important 500GB per platter densities and RAID0 3 or 4 of them together. I dunno prices on the 7200 RPM ones yet as they're too new but the 1.5TB Samsung green drives I bought go for about $100 ~ $110 each in the states. Even though it's green it still beats the speed of a single SSD. Also I just installed Snow Leopard about 4 hours ago and there's much less need for the small file (4KB ~ 8KB) speed that SSDs excel at. I'm still in a slight state of shock. Apple evidently figured out how to utilize caches intelligently! WOW! Displaying a page of thumbs both in C1, LR, and the OS is lightning fast. The OS especially!

    Also I noticed in your original post you asked the difference between MLC and SLC (Single vs. Multiple cell) SSDs. There's a pretty good article here: and Wiki has more if you need. Also you might wanna notice that this article appears on a NoteBook specific site. ;)

    NAS is probably what you want. Most of the systems I see use their own format. Probably some form of ZFS but I'm not sure. Anyway, it's transparent to the user. The other alternative I liked when I looked into it is called unRAID. It's basically a poor man's NAS but with roughly the same capabilities - or perhaps even better in many areas.
  25. Dr.Pants macrumors 65816


    Jan 8, 2009
    I aim to please :D

    While there is probably a guide around somewhere, there may be problems with the heatsinks per use of.. "naked" processors? I remember something about this, but not exactly what. Its driving me nuts, and I know that its an important difference!

    Tesselator is dead on if you order in volume! Not the exact same drive, but one that replaced it in the Newegg store. There are other 1.5 TB drives, obviously, but methinks that is somewhat similar to what Tesselator was testing with.

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