To Buy/Not Buy A 2008 Mac Pro

Discussion in 'Mac Pro' started by Acaleus Thor, Oct 10, 2012.

  1. Acaleus Thor, Oct 10, 2012
    Last edited: Oct 10, 2012

    Acaleus Thor macrumors newbie

    Oct 10, 2012
    Hi guys

    Im posting this as a new thread as there are some current threads out there talking about owners who have 2008 Mac Pros and upgrade ideas, however my main posting reason is about whether I should get a 2008 model now and if its worth it.

    So my current situation is that in the office we have a mix of PCs and Macs and honestly there is only 1 type that is fun to use.

    I currently use my MBP (MacBook Pro 2.53 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo 15-inch, Late 2008) for
    - graphics work (mostly Adobe CS5 Indesign/Photoshop) with some
    - video work (iMovie/Final Cut Pro)

    This system I would move to another user so they can stop using a PC if I can afford another mac.

    So how much should I be paying for these options below and are they better then what I currently have:
    For example if I can get option 1 for $450 is it worth it with the upgrades needed or would it handle ok?

    Option 1: 2008 model
    Mac Pro 4 Core
    - 2 x 2.66 GHz Dual Core Intel Xeon
    - 14Gb RAM
    - 3.5TB HDD
    - ATI Radeon X1900 XT 512MB
    - MATROXHD Compressor card for professional h.264 compression
    - USB 3.0 PCI card

    Option 2: 2008 model
    Mac Pro 8 Core
    - 2 X 2.8 GHz Quad-Core Intel Xeon
    - 8GB RAM
    - 500GB HDD
    - NVIDIA Geforce 8800GT 512MB

    Option 3: 2008 model
    Mac Pro 8 Core
    - 2x 2.8 GHz Quad-Core Intel Xeon
    - 12GB RAM
    - 120GB SSD
    - 2x 500GB HDD
    - NVIDIA GeForce GT120 512MB (GPU from new Mac Pro)
    - Bluetooth
    - Airport Extreme (802.11n)

    I know that I need a NVIDIA for CS6, but not sure how easy it is to just grab "any" NVIDIA GPU and stick it in or whether there is a strict list of compatible GPUs.

    Any answers of knowledge would be greatly appreciated ; )
  2. ColdCase, Oct 10, 2012
    Last edited: Oct 10, 2012

    ColdCase macrumors 68030

    Feb 10, 2008
    You should see what you can get in a 2009, much easier and perhaps less money to upgrade I think.

    I have something close to option 3 with a Radeon HD 5870 and it works pretty good for your type of use. Many of the Geforce 8800GTs of that era seem to be having PCB solder problems.

    There is a thread that discusses inexpensive GPUs. The only thing available from apple are the 5770 and 5870. MacVid sells a line of flashed cards that provide more options.
  3. Acaleus Thor thread starter macrumors newbie

    Oct 10, 2012

    Dont have any 2009 options on my list at the moment.
    So I cant grab any graphics card and chuck in like a PC?
    [side question: What about hackintosh builds which seem to be able to handle a good variety of cards?]
    Im aiming for option 3 at the moment, so what price do you think its still viable to buy old mac pros?
  4. Pakaku macrumors 68020


    Aug 29, 2009
    Mountain Lion added support for a bunch of NVIDIA cards, and I think Lion supports them as well with a driver install. I say a bunch because I'm not sure how many cards are supported, but you can probably look up info for whatever card you'd plan on using.

    I'm running a GTX 560Ti in my Mac Pro on ML with virtually no problems whatsoever. The one caveat is no more EFI booting, since it doesn't have any Apple Magic inside it. So unless you don't ever boot up the EFI for whatever reason, you'll need to keep your old card around for various booting reasons.

    I also had to buy an extra power cable to power my card, but it's easy to find extras on Amazon. I bought mine from this guy:
  5. dmax35 macrumors 6502

    Jun 21, 2012
  6. ScottishCaptain macrumors 6502a

    Oct 4, 2008
    I wouldn't bother with the 2008 machine.

    It uses FB-DIMM RAM, and you're going to be working with high-RAM/CPU use applications. The FB-DIMM RAM that the 2008 machine uses is expensive, slower then the equivalent DDR RAM, it sucks up a lot of power and throws off a ton of heat.

    I would buy a 2009 Mac Pro at the minimum. The '09 series represented the last (most recent) radical redesign of the Mac Pro internally. It uses standard DDR3 RAM (ECC is recommended, but even if you buy DDR3 ECC RAM you're still going to save money over the FB-DIMM stuff), and will likely accept a wider variety of video cards going into the future. Likewise, the CPUs are newer and if you wanted to swap them out in the future- you'd have a larger selection to pick from.

    Personally, even if I had to downgrade a few of the specifications to buy an '09 instead of an '08- I'd do it. The 2009 Mac Pro is just a better machine, and I have a feeling you'd be happier with one of those then you would be with the 2008 system. You'll be able to upgrade the 2009 system more then the 2008, and for the kind of work you're doing I think the upgradability is important.

  7. jeremy h macrumors 6502

    Jul 9, 2008
    I've got a 2008 machine. Very good machine but it is beginning to feel a bit long in the tooth now.

    I'll keep running it for at least another year (I use it 10 hours a day 6 ish days a week, year in year out for design work and some 3d/video stuff.) Perhaps a lot longer depending on what Apple are doing with this product line. :confused: (Keep wondering about whether Apple has completely abandoned us but that's differing thread.)

    Mine is probably number 2 on your list. I'm running 10.6 and won't upgrade unless I have to.

    My GT8800 card packed up within a year and had to be replaced. So might be good to avoid them.

    The other posters are right about the differences between 08's and 09's but If the only option I had was mine (an 08) and I could buy it under $1000 (I have no idea what they go for secondhand) I think I would be pleased.
  8. Acaleus Thor thread starter macrumors newbie

    Oct 10, 2012
    Hi Guys
    Thanks for the feedback. (just saw your reply jeremy ; )

    Budget...theres my problem! Thus my thoughts on a 2008 model as I may be able to pick one up between $500-$750AUD maybe $1000 max.

    I have noticed the high cost of extra FB-DIMM RAM thus the leaning towards Option 3 as it had the most getupandgo plugged into it already and being a 8 core its nearly as fast as its going to get without the extra cost of hard to find CPU replacements.

    But hey I've been doing all my graphics work on my MacBook Pro for the past 4 years so really looking for anything that can out do it and not make loud huffingandpuffing noises.

    The usual $3000 price of a standard Mac Pro has kind of kept me in awe of them and not really being able to justify the need for the killer power has not helped in passing it through the budget. But if an older model is now more affordable, is it not a GREAT idea to grab one and still be able to out do my current workstation?

    I mean if I were to buy a new iMac24" I would probably pay 3-4 times what I may be able to pick a 08MP up for, but I may max out the power of the iMac. I am coming to this conclusion because I have bought an iMac 21.5 2012 model couple of months ago with the i5 2.7GHz 4GB ram and its a cool all-in-one package. But when you have photoshop, indesign, mail, network hhds and safari open there are times that my fellow graphic designer has had fits and just had to restart the system! So I think an iMac may not be all so cool all the time.

    Now looking at getting CS6 adds a new spanner to the works as I have found out that I NEED a NVIDIA card to have the most fun with CS6 which rights my iMac off, but Option 3 of the MPs available has pretty good specs above the minimum requirements. So if those of you using 08MPs are still plugging away on them do you believe I could have greater value out of one if I get it under $1000?
  9. CaptainChunk macrumors 68020


    Apr 16, 2008
    Phoenix, AZ
    RAM prices alone are a huge reason to avoid buying a 2008 (3,1) machine these days. And I'm saying this as a current 3,1 owner.

    I'd love to max my machine out to 32GB of RAM. BUT...the price is very prohibitive. I'd have to yank out my eight 2GB modules and replace them with $1,000 worth of 4GB modules. And then I'd have to cross my fingers and hope the old RAM sells on eBay.

    Consider this (I certainly have!):

    1. I can sell my 3,1 8-core as is (worth $1,300 tops by now, the way it's configured).

    2. I can then pick up a base 2009 (4,1) quad for under $1k. But let's call it $1,000 even for simplicity).

    3. I can then flash the firmware to 5,1 and toss in a W3580 hex-core. Used ones on eBay get around $400.

    4. Around $200 buys 32GB of RAM (4x8GB modules) for a 4,1.

    In this scenario (assuming my current machine sells for around $1,300), I would be spending $300 total. And I'd end up with a faster machine with superior CPU/memory architecture and double the RAM.

    3,1s are just bad investments right now. :p
  10. Acaleus Thor thread starter macrumors newbie

    Oct 10, 2012
    Thanks for the checklist Capt'in.
    Funny how you join the forums in 2008 ; )
    Guess Ill have to wait and see if any 2009 models pop up on my radar, unless I can get one from overseas...
  11. Macsonic macrumors 65816


    Sep 6, 2009
    Hi Acaleus Thor,

    In my opinion try to go for a 2009 or 2010 Mac Pro if you can. Though the 2008 MP is a good machine by next year it's a 5 year old machine and uncertain if Apple will still have spare parts to support that model. I also have a 2008 2.8ghz MP and still doing good. Though I noticed the 2009 and 2010 models are somehow faster. I compared a 2010 2.4ghz MP with the 2008 2.8ghz MP and the 2010 MP at a lower clock speed, is just as fast or slightly faster than the 2008 2.8ghz in graphic heavy tasks. But a quad 2009/2010 MP will do just fine.
  12. CaptainChunk macrumors 68020


    Apr 16, 2008
    Phoenix, AZ
    And that can mostly be attributed to the vastly improved CPU and memory architecture present in the 2009+ machines. The Westmere architecture CPUs in the 2010 8-core are simply faster clock-for-clock than the Harptertowns found in the 2008 machines. The CPUs also have direct access to RAM over QPI, while the older Harpertowns have to go through a northbridge.

    I'm still somewhat happy with my 3,1, but whenever I think of adding more goodies to it, I come back to this same kind of dilemma: hock the 3,1 while I can still get semi-reasonable money for it and start again with 4,1 that's in good working order. Decisions...decisions...
  13. Mactrunk macrumors regular

    May 12, 2005
    I'm getting a lot of work done in my 3,1.
    Replaced power supply and she is humming along.
    Tried a 2010 on a trial basis and it was not much better for what I'm doing.
    I'm hanging here until Apple brings new fruit.
  14. Acaleus Thor thread starter macrumors newbie

    Oct 10, 2012
    Hey chaps

    Thanks for your advices. I've learned quite a bit about Mac Pros since I started this thread. Have to agree that anything before 2008 is not even worth looking at even if you can get one for $500, they're just too far behind.

    But as Jeremy H mentioned, I do believe that if it were possible to get an 08 under $1000 it would still be feasible. Problem is its not easy to get one under the 1k mark. I've seen some 09 quads for $1.6k-1.9k, but as they're only 4 cores I'm still not really paying good monies for that.

    What I've been most worried about is trying to compare what I have with what is available for my budget and I was going to ask here but checked google first. If anyone is interested check this link for some stats:

    Turns out my 2011/2012 iMac is still getting outpaced by a 2008 Mac Pro! And my current 2008 MacBook Pro "workstation" is really outdone x3 by an 08 MP...soooo: in my simplistic-cheap-ass-mind I see the improvement of x3 for $1k now as a really good deal. Specially for what I'm doing. Chuck in a new $300 Nvidia GPU and I recon I'm set for another 4 years with maybe another $300 for another 8GB of ram.

    Anyone else agree? Or am I just a really really cheap ass :apple: user?

    One other question, anyone done the CPU upgrades on their 2008 MPs? What Xeons can I get? For example will the 2009 CPUs work in an 08 model? Or do I have to stick with the E54xx range? Anyone had a CPU die and do an upgrade with some 2nd hand CPUs (eBay doesnt have any, but seen them on Amazon)?

    For your thoughts and experience, I thank you!
  15. Spacedust macrumors 6502a

    May 24, 2009
    Don't buy Mac Pro 2008. A lot of heat, dying RAM modules and some very old technologies like IDE Superdrives etc.
  16. gpzjock macrumors 6502a

    May 4, 2009
    The '09 model is upgradeable to Hex cores the '08 is stuck with Quad core 3.2 GHz at best. This is why the '09 hold better value and the '08 is significantly cheaper. The lifespan on the '09 will be much longer.
    I have an '08 octo and will not be replacing the 2.8 GHz quads, it serves my needs just fine. You may find that is the case too but for long term upgrading the '09 wins (cheaper RAM too).
  17. Acaleus Thor thread starter macrumors newbie

    Oct 10, 2012
    So heres a question I havent looked into. Are the standard 2009 Quad core motherboards the same as the 2x Quad core systems? ie same motherboard but just 1 cpu chip inserted? Which if that is the case can I then insert a second (same) cpu and make it a Oct core? :eek:
  18. comatory macrumors 6502a


    Apr 10, 2012
  19. ColinRF macrumors newbie

    Oct 24, 2012
    Are you sure that's right? I'm using a 27" 2011 iMac and as far as I can tell CS6's MGE engine is GPU accelerated just fine and I'm chucking around 22MP TIFFs exported from Aperture. Adobe say that MGE isn't written with nVidia's CUDA framework but uses OpenGL and OpenCL to be cross-vendor:

    I think CS5 used CUDA so was nVidia only but if you're going to CS6, you can use any OpenCL compatible card supported by MacOS.

    [As a side note, from a performance perspective, I've regularly got PS CS6, Aperture, iTunes, Eclipse, MAMP, Mail, Chrome, Spotify and a few other odds and sods like VMWare Fusion open and the iMac is silky smooth albeit with the quad core i7 and 16GB of RAM in it and running ML. I'll tend to work in a "set" of apps at a time like PS/Aperture or Eclipse/MAMP/VMWare so I'm not context switching between the real heavyweights all the time but it's still an incredibly powerful machine. It's not as upgradable as a Mac Pro of course but it's never given me reason to shout at it yet for being unresponsive :D ]
  20. Cfreak macrumors newbie

    Oct 24, 2012
    North America
    I need to chime-in here for the OP.

    I was like you back in the spring. I had a limited budget and the 2012 speed bump MP was not out yet) and I was desperate for a faster Mac (see what's listed in my sig.)
    I had a search on ebay sending me an email every motrning of new deals. Once in a blue moon a 4,1 2009 MP showed up for ca. $1500 and disappeared quickly if they had a buy it now option. After weeks of looking and getting more and more frustrated with my 09 17" MBP running FCP7, editing HD video in ProRes with long render times, I bought the best MacPro I could find and afford was a
    stock 2008 MP3,1, 2GB RAM, 10.6 fresh install. no install disc, keyboard or mouse, 1x320 HD stock ATI XT2600 graphics board, used for $1200.

    I added:
    8 GB ram ($200 at Newegg),
    2x 2TB 7200 RPM drives (ca. $300 at Newegg or Tiger Direct),
    500 GB 7200 RPM SATA II drive I had lying around for a faster boot drive and to create a dual boot system (keeping 10.6 just in case) (~free),
    Used nVidia GTX 465 flashed to a GTX 470 by prior user (ca. $110 on ebay + 20 for cables) it was a PNY 1280 MB version (dumbed down by the firmware, then liberated by the flashing. Works great!)
    Lion installer ($30 from Apple).

    Since drives are optional I have excluded them from the calculation: My cost to bring this machine to be CS6 & FCPX ready (Cuda and Open CL capable):
    1200+200+130+30= $1560

    ...and countless hours (days even) reading in forums about GPUs and then having to edit some kexts to get the OpenCL to work.

    FCP 7 didn't feel much faster on this machine due to it's SW architecture. FCPx runs fast, but, seems to render naitive AVCHD slowly (I am not sure it is really stressing the GTX 470), but faster than FCP 7 using ProRes. I am just getting started with FCPx now that the .6 upgrade is out. If I don't like it I'll go to Premiere Pro and see what the Cuda can do. I'd rather stay with FCPx b/c my MBP can run it, although barely with naitive codecs.

    My point is that I have heavily invested TIME into setting up the MP 3,1. If I want to upgrade with more RAM another $200 is going to make me feel so stupid for not BUYING A 2009 MP 4,1 !!!

    That price on the RAM just kills this investment. I did not check it out before I bought the MP3,1 thinking RAM has gotten cheaper.

    Cheapest I found was here:

    For comparison look here:

    One week later my Ebay seller (liquidator) sold one MP 3,1 for $1000, making me feel like I couldn't easily get my $1200 back, so I should stick with it as my first MP. I also learned I couldn't upgrade the processors beyond 3.2 GHz, which isn't worth it.

    Live and learn. If I had to do it again I'd GO FOR A 2009, no question.
  21. darkcoupon macrumors regular

    Aug 8, 2012
    I recently went through the same pros/cons issues between the 08's and 09's and though the 08 price difference is tempting, it's soooo much more worth it to go with the '09.

    The only thing that the '08 has going for it over the '09, imho, is the two extra SATA ports on the motherboard. I'd love to be able to set up two SSD's in a RAID 0 for my boot/scratch disk and still have the 4 HDD bays available. Other than that, the '09's can use pretty much any memory, has more CPU and graphics upgrade options, and the lower end models are only marginally slower than the higher end '08's.

    Honestly, if you can get a great deal on an '09 2.66 quad, it's possible upgrade it to a 3.33Ghz hex with 48GB RAM and a decent graphics card for under $2,000, INCLUDING the computer. Add a little more for HDD's and SSD's if you like and the only way you would be able to tell it's not a 2010/12 6-core model is by the serial number.
  22. darkcoupon macrumors regular

    Aug 8, 2012
    Also, if you're doing a lot of photoshop/Adobe CS work, take some time to search around this site:

    It has helped me tremendously in finding the "sweet spot" for performance and price.

    And recently ran a photoshop CS6 benchmark with several nvidia and radeon cards that you might be interested in:
  23. darkcoupon macrumors regular

    Aug 8, 2012
    The Motherboard is the same with single and dual CPU computers, but the CPU's and RAM modules are actually located on a separate daughterboard (or processor board) that makes it easy remove and replace for upgrades. If you buy a 2009 single CPU Pro, like the 2.66 or 2.93 quad, you can theoretically upgrade to an octo-core system by replacing the daughterboard and CPU's from an octo-core 09 or 10 pro, but you would need two new processors that are designed for dual processor boards as the single slot CPUs are not designed to communicate with other processors.

    So, technically, yes it's possible. For your use, though, you'll probably see zero advantage, and possibly even experience lower performance, if you go for an 8 or 12 core system as CS5 and CS6 still aren't able to take full advantage of multi-core processors. The hex-core actually out-performs the octo and 12 core systems in these photoshop benchmarks:
  24. adam9c1 macrumors 68000


    May 2, 2012
    Wow. What an excellent page to read.
    I think I'll spend lots of time there. I was browsing it on my phone for a little.

    Btw I have E2008 with 4x4gb ram sticks.
    I think I got my tower with 2GB about two years ago for 2800 I think.
  25. DPUser macrumors 6502a

    Jan 17, 2012
    I did the 4,1 Quad to 5,1 3.33 hex upgrade, and it is perfect. I paid $1175 for my used 4,1 2.66 at a retailer in my town. I saw one go for $1050 on San Francisco EBay (pickup only), but most are around $1,200. Mac of All Trades had 4,1 Quads for $1,000 for a while (probably took in a big shipment from someone dumping old Macs), but no more.

    One thing to remember if you are thinking of going with a dual processor Mac is the WAAAY higher cost of the CPUs required in the dual MPs. The hex 3.33 SP Westmere was under $600 (ProVantage) when I bought it a few months back. The hex 3.33 DP Westermere's were, last time I looked, over $1,600 each! And you need two of 'em.

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