Thinking of getting a Mac Pro, but it will primarily be a Windows machine

Discussion in 'Mac Pro' started by mixvio, Jul 19, 2014.

  1. mixvio macrumors 6502

    Apr 12, 2009
    Sydney, Australia
    This is my setup at present —

    My primary machine is an 11" MacBook Air. It's not massively powerful, sure, but its portability is most important to me.

    At my desk, MacBook plugs into a 27" thunderbolt display. I also have a 27" iMac whose sole function at present is to be a second monitor (via target display mode) to the MacBook and then I use it for Boot Camp to do gaming in Windows.

    There are some niggling drawbacks to this, mostly because the iMac has to be on and booted into OSX and it's sitting there unnecessarily running an entire operating system in the background while I use it as an expensive screen.

    What I'm planning on doing —

    Getting rid of the iMac, replacing it with a second thunderbolt display in the process, and getting a Mac Pro to pick up the functionality I've lost by dropping the iMac.

    In this respect, the Mac Pro would be on when I need Windows (and I can just switch the thunderbolt display from being my MacBook's second screen to the Mac Pro's main one) and otherwise won't need to be running when I'm just on my laptop.

    I use Boot Camp on the portables and iMacs but I've never owned a Mac Pro and specifically given how much custom gear is involved in the construction of the new ones, I'm wondering if there's anything I should be afraid of before buying it as a really expensive desktop gaming machine. Any drawbacks or things I should have a heads up on — specifically in terms of performance under Windows — before I go ahead and buy it?
  2. maflynn Moderator


    Staff Member

    May 3, 2009
    You really don't define what you will be using the MacPro and given the cost it may be a massive expense and over kill.

    Personally, if you're in windows most of the time, I'd buy a windows machine, and keep the MBA for your OS X needs/wants.
  3. simsaladimbamba

    Nov 28, 2010
    The Mac Pro is not aimed at gamers, thus you might see less performance than with an i7 and GTX Titan or 790 or R.290-X or whatever they are called nowadays.
  4. mixvio thread starter macrumors 6502

    Apr 12, 2009
    Sydney, Australia
    The only reason I have a desktop is for gaming and the day those thunderbolt external GPUs ever properly take off is the day I won't even need a desktop for that. But my primary OS is OS X and my primary machine is the Air, I just keep Windows for Boot Camp/gaming.

    I'm well aware that it's overkill but —

    I need the two monitors for productivity, and there's unfortunately no easy or elegant way to drive dual 2560x1440 displays without either keeping the iMac (which is a burden for the reasons I mentioned) or getting a second thunderbolt display.

    And the second thunderbolt display is fine, except that I have almost no other options to use that as an external screen for any sort of Windows desktop that isn't based on Apple hardware, so then I'm going to need to find room for a third screen on my desk solely for the Windows desktop.

    The Mac Pro will have better specs than my iMac at least, but I'm very much aware of the fact that it's a lot of money to spend. Sadly, that's the extent of my desktop options unless Apple decides to stick a proper GPU in the Minis.


    Can someone elaborate on this point more? I don't know tons about the current state of AMD GPUs but I'd assume that the dual ones in the Pro are going to outperform what's in my iMac right now.
  5. reco2011 macrumors 6502a

    May 25, 2014
    Aside from some additional power draw what is the concern with this?
  6. simsaladimbamba

    Nov 28, 2010
    Those AMD GPUs in the Mac Pro belong to the FirePro series, which are workstation GPUs like the Nvidia Quadro series. Those workstation GPUs excel in Digital Content Creation applications they are meant for, like compositing, 3D modelling and animation, video editing and so on applications.
    They are capable of playing games, but gaming GPUs, while cheaper, are much better than that, thus you would pay too much money for the looks and for insides you do not really need.
    A gaming computer can be had for less than 2.000 USD even with top of the line gaming GPUs and in a small form factor.
  7. bennibeef macrumors 6502

    May 22, 2013
    Well I say this much I didnt really get how you work now but this I can say.

    Your Air is currently driving 1 Thunderbolt display and 1 iMac (I dont really know how this is possible?) as external displays.

    Is your concern if you sell the iMac - buy a Thunderbolt display that you need a mac to drive it? And you want 2 Thunderbolt displays because it just looks better?

    I dont get if you get the mac pro - why use the air as primary machine? Keeping the files on both should not be that big a deal
  8. mixvio thread starter macrumors 6502

    Apr 12, 2009
    Sydney, Australia
    I have a thunderbolt dock plugged into the Air and if I don't disconnect the iMac first (which means having to reach around behind the machine to fiddle with cables) then everything in that dock switches over to the iMac and gets connected to it — so then I have to go and eject discs and so on from the iMac when I want to have them back in the Air.

    I recognise that these are the most #firstworldproblems imaginable but after months with this set up it's grating on my nerves.

    Yeah I'm certainly aware of the latter point, and while I don't mind throwing money at the problem my concern is that I'm spending $5000 on a machine which is overkill for what I'd be using it for.

    The iMac is plugged into the back of the thunderbolt display and the thunderbolt display is plugged into a thunderbolt dock (which then goes into my Air.) I daisy-chain the screens and just use the iMac in target display mode.

    And yes my concern is that if I get a second thunderbolt display and get rid of the iMac that I've bought an $1100 monitor that's only compatible with Apple hardware. I've looked into trying to run a thunderbolt display from a normal PC computer and it's arduous and highly annoying.

    But thanks for the feedback then guys, I guess in the end it's going to be a big chunk of money spent unnecessarily. You helped me make up my mind!
  9. Rad macrumors regular

    Aug 8, 2006
    For work I have to run Windows 8.1 natively on my 2013 MacPro. Runs very sell without any issues. I have 5 monitors including two 30" displays. Runs intensive medical imagIng software well. Also runs and can use all monitors in Parallels very well from OS X.

    6 core
    64 GB RAM
    1 TB SSD
  10. koyoot macrumors 603


    Jun 5, 2012
    Before you will do anything, wait for what Apple will do.

    Maybe you will not need a Mac Pro at all... ;)
  11. deconstruct60 macrumors 604

    Mar 10, 2009
    3rd? May not even need a 2nd display.

    But you essentially only want the desktop to run Windows. Apple's constraints here are rather flimsy. If the objective is Windows looking at Apple's product matrix is looking in a rather odd direction.

    A Thunderbolt isn't a necessity either (there are docking stations that can transition to HDMI DVI for the second monitor ).

    You problem solving is myopic so your solutions are myopic. Throw out the self inflicted constraints and there are more solutions.
  12. austinpike macrumors 6502

    Oct 5, 2008
    Can you run a displayport monitor off the thunderbolt dock? You can't daisy chain a DP monitor directly off a TB display, but supposedly if you have another TB device between them it will work. (Air -> TB display -> TB device -> DP display)

    So get a (non-apple) display with DP and dual link DVI inputs, plug your Air via TB chain into the DP input and plug a "real" PC into the DVI input. You can swap between Air and PC on the second monitor with the push of a button; seems like the cleanest solution if you can live with non-apple hardware.
  13. Neodym macrumors 68000


    Jul 5, 2002
    What do you expect them to do? Intel's delays in Broadwell CPU's will push back new MBP's further into the future, the Mac mini never saw much love from Apple (and besides it's merely the hardware stepchild of the 21,5" iMac) and the fabled (and often demanded) xMac never came to life. iDevices are still some years behind in terms of MacPro-level performance, so... again: What surprise do you expect from Apple?
  14. Wardenski macrumors 6502

    Jan 22, 2012
    A base Mac Pro in the UK costs £2500, for that, you could buy a very nice single GPU gaming PC and a decent large monitor which could satisfy your gaming needs. You would probably have a significant amount of dancers to spare as well.

    Just throwing some ideas around ;)
  15. deconstruct60 macrumors 604

    Mar 10, 2009
    No surprise. Merely a MBA with Thunderbolt 2 ( and hence DisplayPort 1.2 ) will support a larger variety of straightforward methods to two monitors. At that point, the principle core issue here disappears.

    The next iteration of the MBA probably will get TBv2. In fact, the whole Mac line up probably will be on TBv2 after the next round of respective updates.
  16. shaunp macrumors 68000

    Nov 5, 2010
    I second this. I have a nMP (6-core, D700s, etc) and while it's a very good workstation and can have 64GB+ of RAM the performance of the dual 700's is around the same as single GTX 780 Ti.

    If you are wanting a small machine that runs Windows, there are loads of small gaming rigs out there that will do a better job for your needs. If you were wanting to run OS X as your primary OS then I could understand your need for the nMP. As you intend on running Windows I think you need to do a bit more research.
  17. deconstruct60 macrumors 604

    Mar 10, 2009
    Depends. At least not if want to daisy chain something further down the Thunderbolt chain. The 2nd TB socket should serve as a backward compatible DP socket if the DP signal isn't being consumed inside and the socket isn't needed for TB network workload.

    Several docks have a HDMI outputs. Won't get both (at least with TB v1 implementations) at same time. May only get the fixed dedicated socket working for similar reasons as the Apple TB display is limited (and it being easier/cheaper to implement).

    That is in part a TBv1 constraint because it is dealing with DPv1.1 and limitations on the decoder. The "backward" compatibly is done by looping back the decoded DPv1.1 signal to the port that is put into backwards compatibility mode. If that single decoder is needed to send signal to the internal display panel there isn't a decoded signal for the 2nd port.

    TBv2 supports DPv1.2 which does natively support daisy chaining if the right additional hardware was in the docking station. Conceptually the DPv1.2 multiple monitor signal could be split and sent to two different destinations (one internal and another looped back for the 2nd port.).

    Even slicker if have a monitor with Picture-in-picture abilities can have both up at the same time. ;-) I think some of the newer ultra wide monitors can split the screen.

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