The New Mac Pro is Here – But Can We Build it Better (and Cheaper) PC DIY Style?

Discussion in 'Mac Pro' started by sjinsjca, Dec 26, 2013.

  1. ScottishCaptain macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Oct 4, 2008
    #2
    LOL.

    How about you build a system equivalent in power, and not something that strives to be identical to the nMP hardware wise? You don't need to use a single CPU. The GPUs inside the Mac Pro are not directly equivalent to the W9000, so there are better alternatives available. Etc.

    Of course trying to "replicate" the nMP directly is going to be more expensive. Apple is getting a wicked sweet deal on their silicon. What a derpy article. I see the justification zealots are out in full force again.

    -SC
     
  2. AidenShaw macrumors P6

    AidenShaw

    Joined:
    Feb 8, 2003
    Location:
    The Peninsula
    #3
    Actually, the truer test would be to build a system that has equal (or better or similar) performance for specific tasks or applications.

    If the app has already been rewritten to scale using thousands of GPU stream processors in dual GPUs, the new Mini Pro might be a bargain for that app. If the app is struggling to use more than a handful of CPU threads, those dual GPUs will be a waste of money. If the app scales nicely on CPU threads, but can't use GPU threads, then a dual-socket system could be the bargain.

    The question as stated doesn't make sense without an idea of the applications that will be running.
     
  3. MH01 macrumors G4

    MH01

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    Feb 11, 2008
    #4
    Until we know what the D700s are, let's not get carried away.
     
  4. ZnU macrumors regular

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    May 24, 2006
    #6
    For the sake of making a slightly more sensible comparison, I configured an HP Z420 as follows:

    Xeon E5-1650v2 6-core 3.5 GHz
    16 GB (4x4 GB) ECC RAM
    2x 128 GB SSD
    AMD FirePro W7000 4 GB

    This is roughly in the same ballpark as the base-level $3999 6-core Mac pro. Same CPU, same RAM, two smaller SATA SSDs that can be run RAID 0 for something like the same total SSD speed. And while some uncertainly remains about the GPUs in the new Mac Pro, two D500 cards easily beat a single W7000 — between them they have 50% more VRAM, 2.4x as many cores, and each has 64% more memory bandwidth.

    HP's price? $4,577

    Can you build a cheaper system with similar performance? Sure, particularly if you use non-workstation GPUs. But Apple's pricing is very competitive with pricing of products from other reputable workstation OEMs.
     
  5. beaker7 macrumors 6502a

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    Mar 16, 2009
    #7
    Radeons would be a more equivalent comparison. Without ECC memory and workstation class drivers for OSX, calling the Dx00 GPUs a professional solution on par W9000 etc is not accurate.
     
  6. JordanNZ macrumors 6502a

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    Auckland, New Zealand
    #8
    The W7000 he listed in the previous post doesn't have ECC memory.
     
  7. ZnU, Dec 26, 2013
    Last edited: Dec 26, 2013

    ZnU macrumors regular

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    May 24, 2006
    #9
    As JordanNZ noted, the W7000 doesn't have ECC. Which is among the reasons I'm a little baffled that several people in this forum seems to have decided ECC is the delineation between consumer and workstation GPUs. Also because ECC is not especially critical for content creation, most of this machine's target market.

    What does it mean, exactly, to say the Dx00 cards don't have workstation class drivers for OS X? Of course they don't use the same drivers in OS X that FirePro cards use in Windows — that's obviously impossible. But with the OS X drivers for these cards, Apple and AMD are obviously going to focus on the performance of professional apps, not games. When these drivers are upgraded, Apple will likely test to make sure they don't break important pro apps. Companies that develop pro apps for OS X will make sure that they work well with these cards and with the drivers Apple ships for them.

    What else does it mean to have workstation class drivers?

    I guess the argument here is if the OS X drivers yield slower performance in some pro apps, they don't count as pro drivers? That's a very problematic position, though. First off, it's going to be very hard to distinguish the cause of performance differences between platforms — is it drivers, OpenGL/CL implementations, platform-specific app optimization, or something else entirely? What will you conclude if some apps run better on OS X and some better on Windows? What if relative performance between platforms changes due to driver or other software updates? What about the fact that the cards probably will use FirePro drivers in Boot Camp? What if games, not just pro apps, also run more slowly in OS X?
     
  8. lilo777 macrumors 603

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    Nov 25, 2009
    #10
    Let's put aside for now the fact that we still do not know a lot of details about nMP. One major problem with all such comparisons is that people always try to "build" a PC equivalent of Mac. This puts PC at disadvantage right away because of the way computer manufacturers make money. They price most standard/basic configurations very reasonably and then jack up the prices on upgrades (just as car manufacturers do). Since all vendors have different idea about the target market their standard models always differ. As a result in order to "build" MP equivalent one always has to find a "close" standard PC model and then add some upgrades. This way, sometimes Mac prices do look reasonable. But that's only half the truth. Now if one tries to do the reverse exercise and build a Mac that reproduces some standard PC model the results will be very different. Sure, Mac options are always so limited that it's rarely possible to configure Mac to match any PC configurations ;) but that's a different story.

    And going back to the many bloggers exercises in trying to "build" MP equivalent, many of them simply look as clowns when they try to price a couple of AMD FirePro W9000 as a replacement for D700. Last time I checked, single W9000 consumed 274W. nMP's 450W power supply would allow for 1.2 W9000s at most. AMD has just announced that these are new graphic cards that they named as Dx000 in their press release. We'll see how these (or similar) cards will cost in PC versions.

    Another factor that makes Apple to whatever comparisons meaningless is that they usually are performed just after the release of the new Apple product. This causes two problems:

    * Apple does not discount their products during the life cycle. Value proposition for Macs looks very different when the model is on its second (or third) year.

    * New Apple products often have the components not used in PCs yet (the reverse is true too, it's just nobody rushes to compare newly released Dell computers with a year old Apple models) which makes for very difficult the comparisons.
     
  9. ZnU macrumors regular

    Joined:
    May 24, 2006
    #11
    Comparing the Mac Pro to an HP Z420 isn't much of a reach. At least in the post production world, HP Z-series workstations are pretty much the standard Wintel alternative to the Mac Pro, and the Z420 is the only single-socket model in the lineup offering Xeon E5 options.
     
  10. lilo777 macrumors 603

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    Nov 25, 2009
    #12
    Still, Z420 is a very different machine. Unlike nMP, Z420 is a universal computer which can be expanded in many ways. Sure, nMP may provide enough for many users but that's not my point. My point is that to produce a universal workstation HP had to use a bigger chassis (cost), more ports (cost), bigger power supply (600W) to accommodate various graphic cards etc. And it comes with 3 year warranty (which include on site service). AppleCare costs extra ($250) and no on-site service.
     
  11. ZnU macrumors regular

    Joined:
    May 24, 2006
    #13
    You're nuts if you think that chassis costs more than the Mac Pro case, or that PCIe slots + the usual arrangement of ports on a Wintel machine cost more than six Thunderbolt 2 ports on three controllers. Maybe the power supply costs slightly more, but if I had to guess, based on past design decisions we've seen Apple make, I'd guess they're somehow still spending more despite the lower output, to get something smaller and/or more efficient.

    The Z420 is not exactly a paragon of expandability in general. If you did load it up with two GPUs, you'd have an 8x slot (at 8x), an 8x slot (at 4x), and a 4x slot (at 1x) left. This gets pretty dicey if you want to toss in, say, a RAID controller, a dual port 10GbE card and a video I/O interface. One of those is going to be in a much slower slot than it wants to be. And I believe if both of your GPUs happen to be double-height, you lose the 1x slot entirely.

    The new Mac Pro, in contrast, handles all of that quite easily via Thunderbolt, with room to grow. It's true that Thunderbolt 2 could theoretically bottleneck a RAID controller that wouldn't be bottlenecked in an x8 slot, but in practice almost nobody actually uses storage that fast with a desktop computer. Running out of slots is, I think, a more common problem than needing more than 20 Gbps to any particular device (once you take GPUs off the table). It has certainly been a major thorn in my side with the old Mac Pro and would be with the Z420 as well.

    $250 doesn't quite make up the price difference. I have never used it, but AppleCare claims to offer on-site service for desktops, though I'm not sure under exactly what conditions this applies.

    But a lot of customers in key markets for this system are probably located within a reasonable distance for an Apple Store (i.e. in major cities), and this machine is not nearly as annoying to haul around as a full-sized tower, so on-site support is less critical. Personally, I could toss this machine in a backpack, hop on the subway, and be at an Apple Store in 15 minutes. Or, I could be at the Fifth Avenue store in about 25 minutes, which is open (and actually has Genius Bar hours) 24/365.
     
  12. ScottishCaptain macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Oct 4, 2008
    #14
    I've heard this too, but I've never been able to get anyone to come down and fix my stuff. Maybe it's because I live in Canada or something, I don't know. I've lived in cities with numerous Apple stores, I've lived in cities with only resellers. I've never lived in a secluded region, and I've had plenty of broken Apple hardware over the years (all desktops). Nobody has ever offered to come down and fix it, and when I've asked I can never get a straight answer (usually it's "up to the service centre", and the service centre never does on-site service).

    Oddly enough, I've bought several Lenovo machines over the years and paid for their (cheaper) extended warranties. One machine died with a bad motherboard, and they sent a repair man down the next day with a new logic board. He replaced it within 15 minutes and had the system back up and running before lunchtime, completely free of charge. It wasn't a one-time deal either since the PSU went on that same machine a year later and they sent out another guy the next day. Once again, that very same computer was up and running before noon the following day.

    Frankly, Applecare is a huge sore spot with me these days because you basically have to buy it, and even if you do, you still gotta cart the entire machine down to the service centre and leave it there.

    -SC
     
  13. funkysmurf macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Sep 11, 2006
    Location:
    Sydney
    #15
    I tried and for my usage I'd say I definitely saved money while having comparable specs. It's not that good looking and probably not as quiet as the nMP, but that's a compromise I'm happy to live with:

    http://forums.macrumors.com/showpost.php?p=18538949&postcount=154

    I use 3 applications that use cuda for now, so even the single and otherwise possibly slower performing graphics card gives me better value.

    It's definitely doable, but that's not necessarily what fans of the nMP like to talk about. On a Windows focused forum you'll probably find the opposite. Sometimes it's hard to be objective and we all tend to defend/push our biases.

    This is Bob:
    [​IMG]

    This is the first time since around 2005 that I don't have a genuine mac desktop.
     
  14. Umbongo macrumors 601

    Umbongo

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    Sep 14, 2006
    Location:
    England
    #16
    Somthing every one of these reviews and build comparisons fails to understand.
     
  15. Gonk42 macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Jan 16, 2008
    Location:
    near Cambridge
    #17
    Can't (yet) reach a conclusion

    As I'm on holiday at present, I went to Scan and costed up the components for the base 6 core model except for graphics cards and took this off the Apple price.

    Doing this gives the Apple price for their graphics cards as around £800 inc VAT each for D500s and around £1,040 each for D700s. (50% or more of the cost is in the graphics cards.) But since we don't really yet know what these cards are - it depends on drivers as well as raw hardware and whether or not memory is ECC and so on - it is hard to say if these are very low prices (for workstation cards), average prices (for compute cards such as the S series) or high prices for consumer cards.

    If you move away from the base case, Apple charges its normal enormous markups to upgrade to 12 core or increase the RAM and so on. So if you're looking for 12 cores or more of CPU the new MacPro is probably not a very economic way to go (though if you want OS X you probably don't have a choice).

    I'm not in the market for a new workstation, but if I were I'd hang on a bit until there are some proper reviews of the new Mac Pro, in particular ones that determine how it runs workstation benchmarks under Windows for instance so we find out a bit more about it.
     
  16. JoeG4 macrumors 68030

    JoeG4

    Joined:
    Jan 11, 2002
    Location:
    Bay Area, Ca.
    #18
    Hard to say really, a lot of people don't need ECC ram, a xeon processor, or firepro video cards (especially since Apple isn't using firepros or quadros anyway).

    Getting rid of those can knock thousands off the price of the machine. You can get an i7 4820 (pretty much the same thing the base mac pro has) for about $300, or you could save a few bucks on the motherboard and go with an i7 4770.

    There's so many options, and people can decide whether to get a fancy $300 aluminum case, or a $50 antec.

    Sadly this one's going to be a pretty messed up comparison no matter how you try. About the only part you can match apples to apple is the Xeon processor, the rest is going to be considerably different. I wouldn't necessarily call comparing the D700 to a FirePro fair either, since the FirePro can do full color in Windows, and I doubt the D700 will be able to do that (it's a quadro/firepro thing)
     
  17. slughead macrumors 68040

    slughead

    Joined:
    Apr 28, 2004
    #19
    So workstation cards are workstation cards why? Because the manufacturer charges a high price and sprinkles fairy dust on them?

    I posit that Workstation drivers/software optimizations and subsequent speed enhancements in professional applications over consumer cards of the same kind make them Workstation cards. Forget the marketing buzzwords. The speed and subsequent advantages in professional applications are the only real thing that can be said to separate consumer and professional cards.

    You know what would happen if software manufacturers got the 7970GE to run like a W9000 reliably in Pro apps? Pros would flock to those cards like they're going out of style--only people who absolutely require ECC would stay with the FirePro.

    ECC is probably the only workstation-grade improvement as it is necessary for certain professional applications. You're right in saying that not all pros need ECC--that's in fact why "workstation" cards don't always have ECC. If the D700 has no advantage over the 7970 in terms of performance in professional applications, guess what? Not a workstation card.

    TL;DR; The term "Workstation" is completely nebulous. All you've pointed out is how nebulous it actually is. It doesn't even matter that there are sometimes (most of the time?) completely arbitrary software crippling that make the difference between consumer and pro: if, as a practical matter, pros require it, that's that.
     
  18. Umbongo, Dec 27, 2013
    Last edited: Dec 27, 2013

    Umbongo macrumors 601

    Umbongo

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    Location:
    England
    #20
    The E5-1620 V2 is also $300, just saying because you make it sound like all Xeons are expensive. E3 and E5-1600 are of similar price/performance to consumer stuff.

    The Xeon/ECC/C600 chipset combo isn't much more than consumer stuff and gives you a lot more memory capacity as you can use 16, 32 and 64GB DIMMs. The E5-1650 V2 is even 100MHz faster than the i7-4930K, despite having the same price.

    http://ark.intel.com/compare/77780,75780

    It's just when you go above 6 cores Intel are charging a lot, and Apple (and everyone else) adds a big chunk of change on to that.


    You are right though, plenty of creative professionals don't need all this. Consumer stuff is very stable and perfectly fine to work from, especially for the prosumer.
     
  19. slughead macrumors 68040

    slughead

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    #21
    The W7000 does have a huge advantage in many professional applications whereas the D700 may not in OS X (Possibly Windows too).

    Like AidenShaw says, you have to look at specific tasks.

    I could throw a Titan in a $2000 HP and claim it rips the 12 core Mac Pro a new one because it does CUDA.

    I could throw a W8000 in the same machine and say it destroys the Mac because it has ECC VRAM.
     
  20. slughead, Dec 27, 2013
    Last edited: Dec 27, 2013

    slughead macrumors 68040

    slughead

    Joined:
    Apr 28, 2004
    #22
    Why do you think they were selected to receive the first Mac Pros?

    Anandtech Ars wrote a critical review, and they were left out.

    ----------

    I know Dell offers on site service. What about HP? When comparing pre-made workstation PCs, the Warranty might be a consideration.

    If it doesn't matter, why not just build your own and save a ton of money?
     
  21. JoeG4 macrumors 68030

    JoeG4

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    Bay Area, Ca.
    #23
    lol my $900 alienware has onsite service. It also has the older cousin of the 4 core's chip (a 3820, the 4820 is the exact same chip, minus ECC support and 64gb dimms as pointed out lol)

    OTOH it's a big silly looking case with LED lighting that belongs on a ricer mobile. I love it XD

    Hrm BTW, Apple is supposed to do onsite repairs. According to their warranty (IIRC), but you really have to beg to get it.
     
  22. Brandon263 macrumors 6502

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    Sep 12, 2009
    Location:
    Beaumont, CA
    #24



    Can we stop with the conspiracy theories please? Apple gave Anand the new Mac Pro at the same time that they gave everyone else review units. He's just taking longer to review it.

    https://twitter.com/anandshimpi/status/413775630933585920
     
  23. Umbongo macrumors 601

    Umbongo

    Joined:
    Sep 14, 2006
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    England
    #25
    Well it is certainly true that Apple favour certain outlets and if you anger them you don't get stuff. There is plenty of evidence of that. A recent Macbreak Weekly (I think - it might have been TWiT) covered this and gave many examples including Leo Laporte being left out in the cold despite his massive audience.

    I think slughead means ars technica not anandtech. Dave Girard wrote this and Ars haven't been given one. If they read his forum posts the past few days they may not send him one either, he is highly critical of Open CL on OS X from what I gleaned.

    Not that I'd expect any review from a technical site to be up yet as it is too soon with the holidays.
     

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