Trying to decide on Mac Pro setup, need advice please!

Discussion in 'Mac Pro' started by Anastasia72, Feb 14, 2013.

  1. Anastasia72 macrumors newbie

    Feb 13, 2013
    I am so unsure, as are the rest of us, what the MP fate is going to be (new better MP being released OR crappier one, or none at all) that I think it really makes no difference if I jump and buy one now, right? I need to ask a few questions first since all I have ever owned is an iMac as far as Mac computers go.

    I want a machine that will take me through the next 5 yrs or so and will allow me to switch out and upgrade parts as needed. I can no longer see the value in an iMac that lasts me just 3 yrs, which both of my iMac's have done. Honestly, if I was not so used to OS X and it was not such a pain to switch over all my software I would just build my own pc and make it easy to keep it for years to come as I switch out and upgrade parts as needed. I am trying to get as close as I can to doing this by going with the MP.

    I'm looking at the quad core and the 12 core and trying to figure out a few things first before I take the plunge. I currently use Zbrush, PS CS4 extended (want to go to CS6 extended), Blender (eventually to move to maya), and Topogun. I am running all this on my late 2009 iMac (not well), but I can never batch bake out larger scenes, run my zbrush at super high subdivisions, and basically need to be a few years ahead of things instead of barely making the cut with using these programs.

    So the questions come down to a few things, go to the quad core model using One 3.33GHz 6-Core Intel Xeon processor OR go to the 12 core Two 2.40GHz 6-Core Intel Xeon processors???? I simply can not take the plunge to go to the 5-6K range.

    Next, the memory, I can upgrade that cheaper on my own I assume, yes or will that really depend on what I start out with when I order???

    Another thing, I have tried to read about this fibre channel stuff and still do not get it, do I need it, what is it good for?

    Finally, I am going to be tight for just awhile, so am I netter off with the ATI 5770 or 5870? I have read some have issues with either card with some of the programs I use and other have no issues at all, so that is really going to be a toss up as far as compatibility with either card. I will probably in the next 6 months or so move the card to Nvidia or try to see if adding a 2nd card can be done too.

    I will bootcamp the machine so I have access to other programs as I need them and probably use win 7 as that is what I bought last year.

    Also, I will more than likely not be using 2 screens, but will not rule out a 2nd screen for the next yr when I have plenty more money to spend.

    Anyone that can please help me decide and list any pros/cons on my dilemmas here, I would really appreciate it.
  2. bsbeamer macrumors 65816

    Sep 19, 2012
    if your software can take advantage of multiple processors and cores, then the upgrade is worth it, hands down better performance on Adobe across the board in my experiences. not 100% sure if Blender can take advantage or not. look into that before spending the money.

    get memory upgrade from OWC ( you can find cheaper elsewhere, but they don't ALWAYS work out of the box apparently. personally never had a problem with OWC and I stick with them.

    what are your storage needs? look at PCIe options that use SSD adapters. fibre channel storage may be out of your price range and usage right now.

    look into an EFI graphics card that supports CUDA. check for macvidcards on the forum and read the sticky. those modified cards will allow windows/mac booting with boot screens. card to purchase depends on setup and port options on monitor.

    between the 5870 and 5770, stick with whatever the machine comes with. not worth the cost for upgrade to 5870 - better spent on an EFI upgraded CUDA card.
  3. snberk103 macrumors 603

    Oct 22, 2007
    An Island in the Salish Sea
    Save some money and buy off the refurbished pages - These are on the Apple website, in the Store section. These units are sold "as good as new", and in fact I'm convinced they often clear new systems out through these pages as well. These systems have the same warranty coverage and are eligible for AppleCare as well.

    Because you are not yet in a 'panic' buy situation (dead iMac) you can take your time. The inventory on these pages changes constantly, sometimes a couple of times a day. Right now they are cycling through a lot of Mac Pros it seems. I've seen some phenomenal deals come and go in the last couple of months. The good deals are gone in the same day. (I took advantage of one myself. (One of the features I wanted was RAM at 1333MHz - and a 6 core system came up at a really good price.)

    Basically, get in the habit of checking several times a day. Compare the refurbed prices and specs to the new machines, and you'll recognize the deals when they pop up. I figured I saved 27% on my system.

    You don't get the same customization options from Apple, obviously... but if you don't mind cracking the case open (and it's obvious you don't) then you will save more doing it yourself in any case..... as you know.

    Good Luck. I love my Mac Pro....

    Oh, and I believe all current Mac Pros can handle 2 (or 3) monitors right out of the box... so when you add a second screen you shouldn't have any issues or added costs. Get AppleCare.... like everything Apple makes they are expensive to repair.
  4. xcodeSyn macrumors 6502a

    Nov 25, 2012
    Personally I would not make any purchase decisions on Mac Pro at this moment until the 2013 MP is introduced. If you have to get one now, I'd recommend getting a refurbished one from here as already suggested. Depending on your budget and needs, you can get either the 2.8GHz quad-core and upgrade to a hex-core later, or the 2.4GHz 8-core and upgrade to 12-core later. It should last at least three years with Apple Care and probably longer with whatever available upgrades.
  5. Anastasia72 thread starter macrumors newbie

    Feb 13, 2013
    Ok, so if I understand you right I am better off with lower Ghz and getting the 12 core than I am with the higher Ghz and 6 core, right? that is what I am trying to figure out for rendering and program speed. thanks!


    See this is my issue right now, we do not know what Mac is releasing it could be many things, I have been reading for 4 days. It could be with some integrated parts, which I would never ever want, that would force me to go straight to building a pc, which I would hate to do as I am not a pc fan, but it could go the better direction and have needed upgrades. We just do not have answers right now. It is also possible they do not upgrade it this yr at all.

    I will ck out refurbished and see if they have one that is out there though:)
  6. snberk103 macrumors 603

    Oct 22, 2007
    An Island in the Salish Sea
    This is my reading of the Mac Pro situation. Apple is coming out with something different over the existing Mac Pros... that I think is a safe prediction. We don't know whether the new 'thing' is going to be better or worse for people like you and me. We also don't know when. My guess is an announcement in the early summer/late spring.

    The other really safe bet is that if the new 'thing' is substantially different (and I think it will be) then lots of people are going to hate it. Justified or not, I think that is a safe bet. And they are going to want to buy the 'old' form Mac Pros to hold them over until they figure out what to do or until they decide the new 'thing' is not so bad after all. So... I think if you buy a Mac Pro now, and you like the new 'thing' Apple releases this year (and it is practically assured they are releasing something to replace the current Mac Pro this year) you should be able to dump the Mac Pro you buy now for a good price.
  7. pertusis1 macrumors 6502

    Jul 25, 2010
    Definitely look for a deal on the refurbished on Apple's webpage.

    As far as when you buy, if the new Mac Pro turns out to be fantastic, there's no doubt your current Mac Pro will have a great resale value. For me, my Mac towers have typically lasted 6 to 8 years, where is my iMacs only lasted three.
  8. bsbeamer macrumors 65816

    Sep 19, 2012
    If your software can take advantage of multiple cores, then yes. If your software CANNOT take advantage of multiple cores, then RAW processor speed matters more.
  9. dmax35 macrumors 6502

    Jun 21, 2012
    I've been very happy with my 3.3 6 core Mac Pro's, especially the flexibility of expansion etc.
  10. ssls6 macrumors 6502a


    Feb 7, 2013
    I bought a refurb 6-core 3.33, 5770. Put in a 120SSD to create a fusion drive, added a second internal drive, moved the memory to 20gig, and hooked it up to a u2713hm monitor.

    Love the thing and I'm surprised how cool it runs. It's a good 30C cooler at the sensors than the 09 27" Imac it replaced and it has FW800 for my external drives. FW800 is leaving the mac line from what I've seen and I still use it.

    No doubt if the new MP is amazing I will be jealous. To be amazing to me it would need to be just like the old one but with faster memory, buses, processors, and graphics options. I put the odds of that as low. In fact, my guess is it becomes a mac mini on steroids and that would make me sad. Why a super mini? I think they would sell more. Ive's is a minimalist so I expect a glass or aluminum cube. Nothing but a power cable and thunderbolt port.

    I like the big aluminum tower with lock down shelves and latches.
  11. rk25123, Feb 14, 2013
    Last edited: Feb 14, 2013

    rk25123 macrumors regular

    Aug 17, 2010
    If you need to upgrade parts DO NOT buy a Mac Pro.
    The Mac Pro is a really great machine, powerful and beautifully designed. The inside is incredibly well engineered, so that any upgrade is easy to do even to someone who never touched a computer.
    So what's the problem, you may ask?
    The problem is Apple. Stupid stupid Apple. Their Mac Pro policy is so stupid and absurd I can't wrap my head around it. I mean, they give you this wonderful machine specifically designed to be upgradable and then, when you try to do your first upgrade, you discover that in some cases it's almost impossible!
    Why? 0 support and effort from Apple.
    You want to get some RAM? Sure, it's possible, but there aren't many brands compatible with the Mac Pro, and it's more expensive than PC RAM for no real reason.
    You want to buy a PCI USB 3.0 card? NOW, after years of waiting, it's finally possible, but your choice is between 2 or 3 models.
    But the craziest thing of all is the graphics card. Officially there are only three, I repeat, THREE possible choices (and what choices!): the Radeon HD 5770 for 249$, the Radeon HD 5870 for 449$ (in Europe 605$! That's just nuts, it's a 2009 card!) and the Nvidia Quadro 4000 for 1199,95$.
    There do are some ways to make a PC card work on the Pro, but you'll still have restricted choice, major limitations (like no boot screen), 0 support and 0 guarantee it will keep functioning.
    All because of Apple's policy.

    If you really want to keep OS X and your softwares, the Mac Pro is the best and most upgradable Mac there is, but keep in mind its limitations.

    Aside from all these problems, the current Mac Pro is 4 years old tech, and rumors have a complete refresh coming up, so I'd wait to see what they're gonna do with it.
  12. snberk103 macrumors 603

    Oct 22, 2007
    An Island in the Salish Sea
    Sorry, but I don't agree. I had multiple vendor choices when buying my RAM. And it is exactly the same price as other workstation grade RAM. I recommend CanadaRAM, if you are looking.
    Can't comment... I user FW800 so haven't needed USB3
    My understanding was that Mountain Lion has done away with most of those limitations.
    Yes, agreed there are limitations.
  13. Anastasia72 thread starter macrumors newbie

    Feb 13, 2013
    I agree with everything you have replied here above. I see lots of people moving to plenty of Nvidia cards in this forum. I see plenty using different kinds of RAM, I just do not see that MANY limitations, unless I am missing something.

    PC's even have limitations on upgrades depending on what type of machine you build.

    My biggest issues were those that I listed in my original post, most concerning specs for my use.

    At this point ANY Mac pro is better than my iMac 2009 obviously, just wanted to make sure I can make it last 6 yrs or so.


    I do not agree totally here. As far as Apple is concerned, yes they SAY you have all these restrictions. If you read these forums many are doing tons of things to their machines that Apple may not say can be done, but seem to be working out great from different graphics cards than you have stated, RAM that is not more than PC, etc...

    The question is not IF I buy a Mac pro, but when and with what specs that meet what I need to do without replacing it every 3 years.:)
  14. Zwhaler macrumors 604


    Jun 10, 2006
    Honestly you'd be better off waiting. It might take 6 months or more but the revised Mac Pro will be a significant upgrade. If you can't wait, 6 core will be fine but it is worth it to wait as this model is 3 yr old.
  15. Lancer macrumors 68020


    Jul 22, 2002
    Apart from adding/upgrading the RAM and HDDs and maybe the video card or adding a 3rd party card what else can be upgraded in the Mac Pro?

    I'm a fan of Mac towers, having owned a G4 and G5 but just took the plunge into a new 27" iMac. I know any all-in-one can be a risk but if you Pro breaks how easy is it to diagnose and fix? Yes I'll miss being able to change the HDD at will but in reality I only upgraded the HDD a couple of times in 5 years and the 1Tb Fusion should be more than enough for me with the external HDDs I have. Also I maxed the RAM (3rd party) already so that is set. And I have AppleCare so worst cast I'm covered.

    Outside of needing 4 large internal HDDs and more RAM for most there is little need for a tower IMO.

    I say if you're waiting on the 2013 Pro then maybe get an iMac to fill the void or buy a refurbished current Pro to tide you over.
  16. Anastasia72 thread starter macrumors newbie

    Feb 13, 2013
    what exactly are you running on a current iMac? Are you using 3d software and rendering out textures or using 2 intensive 3d programs at once? I am just curious of why you would go from a Mac pro to iMac? I find my iMac's go down so fast. I realistically have not been able to work efficiently on my iMac for the last year, which would really make an iMac for me last about 2 years, not a long life for the price in my opinion. I make mine go to 3 years, but not working well.

    If only using it for small tasks then yeah I would go with an iMac again. My biggest issues have been the graphics card going extinct, the ram, the cores. Forget memory I tend to use external memory a lot anyway.


    Do you think? See this is what I am on the fence about. There are assumptions with Apple trying to make everything smaller that they just might screw up the mac pro too, which I am sure you have read, then all of us needing a pro will be scrambling to get the one out now lol
  17. Macsonic macrumors 65816


    Sep 6, 2009
    I've used 3 iMacs, a 2005 G5 and 2 iMac aluminums. I've always had problems with the screen corners having "smudges" or dark spots. It's distracting and inconvenient. I am better off with a Mac Pro having to choose my preferred monitor. I could not bring myself to switch back to iMacs.

    And the new 2013 Mac Pro, also having that feeling that it will be smaller, less expandable.
  18. Lancer macrumors 68020


    Jul 22, 2002
    I'm mostly doing Photoshop work, and some web design. I switched from a G5 tower so the new iMac is light years ahead in speed for my uses. I hope to get CS6 when I can afford it.

    My point was for more users now the iMac is a better choice, keep it for 3 years then upgrade when AppleCare runs out.
  19. snberk103 macrumors 603

    Oct 22, 2007
    An Island in the Salish Sea
    What else is there? Besides the optical drives... two bays for that.
    Very easy. One latch and you are in. There are diagnostic LEDs to help.
    Then a Mac Pro is probably not what you need. And that is fine. Mac Pros are not the right solution for everyone. But the OP has determined that a Mac Pro is correct for their needs.
    But when you want 4 large internal HDDs (technically you can go to 5 by using the spare optical bay.... if forget if you can go to 6 if you don't need the existing ODD) if your RAM requirements surpass what an iMac can handle. And don't forget, a Mac Pro with multiple internal HDDs also very likely has multiple external HDDs as well for back up purposes. I'd go from 2 externals to 5 without my tower.
    But we don't know what is being introduced this year. Regardless, I wouldn't buy it in the first year no matter what it was because the one thing I am sure of is that it is radically different than the existing Mac Pro. And no matter how stupendous it is, it will have teething problems. Anyone want to bet against me? Getting a Mac Pro this month means that you only miss the first 2 and bit years of the new iStupendous - or 1 maybe 2 upgrade cycles - before your 3 years of AppleCare expires. Perfect timing in my books.
  20. deconstruct60 macrumors 604

    Mar 10, 2009

    Don't get hung up on just x86 cores. Modern GPUs have computational cores also. It is easy to add 50-100 cores these days. The operative question is whether you will continue to invest in software over the next 2-5 years that ignores that capability.

    You are fully free go down that path but if looking forward with statements the hardware has to last XX years, you should also be looking at where your software is going over the next XX years. Many folks get into a dubious position where the hardware is all about the future and the software is all about the past. Taking both positions at the same time doesn't make alot of sense when considering using a holistic system comprised of both.

    Again this is a dubious position folks take where either something is totally configurable or totally integrated and not looking at the whole system.

    Apple could add a embedded GPU to the Mac Pro and still offer four PCI-e slots. One of the x16 slots could possibly change to x8 but at the same time transition to PCI-e v3 doubling speed. There is zero net bandwidth loss in that context. This is really no different that integrating Wifi, Bluetooth, GbE, etc.

    I'm sure there will be those who will wail about some "thing" they can't take out. That completely ignores what they can add.

    Even if loose a slot ( doubtful if single and dual package systems will leverage the same core infrastructure motherboard ) there would still be at least one x16 slot available for upgrades. In that context, is it really worth throwing the baby out with the bathwater just because don't have 100% control over all the PCI-e lane assignments. The questions should be do you have enough. Not that it is maximized for some "maybe I'll later ..." notion of 'futureproof'. Nothing is 100% futureproof. Being in the future is the optimal position to solve future problems.
  21. deconstruct60 macrumors 604

    Mar 10, 2009
    Generally, just by the minimal default configuration from Apple. You should figure out what your current software needs ( sample memory footprints using Activity monitor. ). You need enough to keep "swap used" to a relatively low amount ( very low percentage swap/total RAM) and keep VM page outs relatively low. Your workload determines how much you need.

    If need 16-32GB of RAM then that quality, Apple specs aware, 3rd party.

    Again this is really about what your environment set up is. Do you need fast network located storage. For example, there are 2-3 machines that all work with the same material over time or do you have mostly a one person shop?

    If work is typically assigned to one machine for all of processing then no need for network storage. In constrast if currently replicating 1-2 TB on multiple machines because can't share fast enough over the network then may need fibre channel.

    At this point 10GbE is likely a better choice that Fibre Channel only networking at this point for network storage.

    Again this is really needs. Most mid-upper end GPU cards these days can run 2 or more monitors without much problems. The only problem you would run into if there was some app that was loading up the on-card memory with lots of data ( 1GB versus 2GB versus 4GB being a differentiators ).

    If "need" two cards then 5770 is a better option since there is enough power to do that.

    Some apps (e.g., Final Cut Pro X ) actually need multiple monitors on the same card to be happy.

    Some of these modified cards can't walk and chew gum at the same time. If tweaked to be mac EFI compatible they hiccup running under BIOS.
  22. rk25123 macrumors regular

    Aug 17, 2010
    No need to be sorry. Well, I'm sure in north America it's much easier to get Mac Pro RAM at a good price, I can only comment on my experience in Italy. When I bought the RAM for my Mac Pro I had only one choice and it costed me double of what I'd have spent for PC RAM with the same specifics.
    Not really. ML has widen the choice of PC cards you can get to work in a Mac Pro, but the limitations are still there (no boot screen, etc.). Sure, you can flash a PC card and make it work almost as if it was actually supported, but you'll still lack the warranty and support.

    What I meant is that while there are ways to work around Apple's limitations, they are far from ideal. No one should have to go through all that trouble to upgrade a computer which is specifically designed to be upgradable... It's just nonsense! If Apple wanted to, they could offer many more upgrade options, but apparently they're happy selling you a way overpriced 2009 card, which no one buys, I hope. If they only gave a reasonable assortment, they'd be selling cards to every Mac Pro owner, while now the most is forced to flash a PC card. I guess they just want you to buy the new model...
  23. deconstruct60 macrumors 604

    Mar 10, 2009
    It isn't Apple's responsibility to supply 3rd party GPU cards. Apple doesn't prohibit vendors from coming out with their own. If they write the low level drivers and produce/support the cards for sell, they can be sold. For example.

    Nvidia announced a new K5000 card for the Mac Pro. Is it now 2 months late? Yep. Is that mainly Apple's fault? There is no evidence that is the case.

    There is an issue here of size of ecosystem. Macs only have 6-7% of the personal computer market ( and that is leaving out tablets. It is even smaller if include them, but none of those have upgradable GPUs so will leave them out.)

    The Mac Pro is around 1% of the Mac market. Maybe if had newer equipment that might be 2-3%. 3% of 7% ==> 0.2% of PC market. In contrast, 3% of 90% ==> 2.7% of the PC market. So which one are 3rd party card vendors going to spend their limited investment resources on?

    The reality is that the Mac Pro is practically the only Mac these cards can go into. If Apple sold Mac Pros without a PCI-e card that might slightly change the tide. The reality is that a very significant fraction of Mac Pros "retire" with the same video card they came with. That's is why there is no huge 3rd party card market.

    It has much less to do with what Apple does and far more to what customers buy or in this instance don't buy.

    Some vendors have tried to take a stab at offering an upgrade target card. (e.g. PNY Quardro 4000 card ). What typically happens with new card updates is that underground market goes out and reverse engineers the firmware updates and then reflashes PC cards. So the extra work the companies paid for is copied and the size of the market to sell cards into to recoup the investment is reduced. Few if any vendors are in a huge hurry to jump into that kind of market.

    P.S. as for non to limited availability in some countries. Again that isn't Apple as opposed to trade barriers typically thrown up by those countries coupled to limited markets.
  24. MacProFreak macrumors regular

    Feb 14, 2013
    Hi there OP,

    I was in the same boat as you for the last couple of months. After lots of research, I went for a quad core 2.8GHz mid/late 2010 that can be easily upgraded. I'm not too worried about gpu models (the one I bought came with the 1Gb ati 5770 if I remember right - not the '8') - and this is a very fast machine, and seems more stable than PCs I had in the past. So far I'm very happy with my purchase.
  25. rk25123 macrumors regular

    Aug 17, 2010
    Well, don't you think that just like Apple sells the HD 5870 they could do the same with other cards?! They're not even supposed to design the card, they'd just have to add EFI and drivers... I'm pretty sure that with their money they could afford the investment, and maybe they'd actually make a profit selling them to all the Mac Pro owners who are now forced to flash PC cards...
    At least they'd demonstrate that they actually support and care about their Mac Pro line, whereas now it's like they couldn't care less. I don't know about you, but that's not the kind of support I'd expect for a professional machine.
    Maybe they wouldn't even have to go through all that trouble, just with some software work (perhaps some sort of BIOS simulator) they could make it possible to use a normal PC card...

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