Upgraded 2009 Mac Pro or Hackintosh

Discussion in 'Mac Pro' started by dhazeghi, Feb 27, 2014.

  1. dhazeghi macrumors member

    Nov 2, 2006
    Looking to update my 4-year old iMac to something with more horsepower for Lightroom, and high speed storage options. In theory the CPU is upgradable, but my i7 860 never had many upgrade options since Intel discontinued the socket in early 2010. The lack of USB 3.0 makes external storage painful.

    At this point, I'm deciding between getting a secondhand 2009 Mac Pro and upgrading it heavily, or building my own 'Hackintosh'.

    The two builds I'm considering are:

    Mac Pro
    • 2009 Mac Pro dual socket (base model) - secondhand
    • 2x Xeon W5590 CPUs (so 2x4x3.33GHZ) - secondhand
    • 24GB RAM (3x8GB)
    • Samsung EVO 256GB SSD
    • Geforce 650 GTX (2GB, flashed for MacOS X)
    • USB 3.0 card (Orico 4-port)
    • SATA III card (Syba SD-PEX40054 is supposedly bootable)

    Total: $2180 (assumes Mac Pro will be around $1250 and CPUs around $400)

    • Core i7 4930K (6x3.4GHZ, overclockable)
    • Gigabyte X79 motherboard (GX-X79-UP4)
    • ATX mid tower case (Antec 300)
    • 500W PSU (Corsair CX500)
    • 24GB RAM (3x8GB)
    • Samsung EVO 256GB SSD
    • Geforce 650 GTX (2GB)

    Total: $1485

    Clearly the Hackintosh is significantly less expensive (~$700 if my calculations are correct), so the question is, aside from the obvious fact that you don't have to worry about setting it up and updating it (OS X will just run), does the Mac Pro provide any significant advantages in terms of either Lightroom performance or future-proofing?
  2. jwjsr macrumors 6502


    Mar 15, 2012
    Fairhope, Alabama
    i can't answer your question but you sound like like you have the knowledge to deal with the Hackintosh.
    I looked into it about a year and a half ago and decided I could build it it but wasn't savvy enough to do the routine tweaking I thought it might require.
  3. dhazeghi thread starter macrumors member

    Nov 2, 2006
    Hackintoshes certainly aren't for everyone, but I've been pretty lucky - I've been running OS X on a home-build machine since Snow Leopard came out, and aside from a day or two at the beginning, I haven't really had to spend any extra time on it. Part of that's probably luck, but sticking religiously to known-working hardware I suspect also made a big difference.

    All that said, I'd still rather use Apple hardware - they build good machines and the legal/ethical implications of Hackintoshes make me uncomfortable. But there just aren't any current Macs that have the kind of upgradability/expandability that I want. If Apple made a $1500 machine with 2 PCIe slots and a socketed LGA2011 processor, I'd be set. So I'm left choosing between a tricked out 4-year old design or building my own setup.
  4. zarf2007 macrumors regular

    Aug 27, 2010
    go 2009 mac pro....but swap the brand of usb3 card to Inateck and the sata III to a velocity x2 pcie sata III card.... the build quality overall will be far better and probably silent in comparison....

    also get a 680 GTX 2GB if you can stretch to it (a pc version flashed would be fine)....
  5. Gav Mack macrumors 68020

    Gav Mack

    Jun 15, 2008
    Sagittarius A*
    I would go the Mac Pro route - but the hackintosh option with the Quo motherboard instead of the gigabyte is very tempting, simply cos the Quo flashed with the uefi third party bios is rather awesome at emulating a real mac. It's actually made by gigabyte on Quo's behalf but I don't think they would dare face the wrath of Apple making one themselves this much mac compatible. Vanilla OSX install and all have upgraded to 10.9.2 with no problems.

    I stuck to the recommended hardware list on the wiki.


    I'd still get the cheesegrater but I'm biased!
  6. dhazeghi thread starter macrumors member

    Nov 2, 2006
    Thanks for the SATA tip. The Apricorn Velocity is a good bit more expensive than the Inateck - I take it that's due to build quality?

    Regarding the 650 GTX vs. the 680 GTX, I understand the 680 is faster, but I'm not sure it makes sense to pay 2-3x more as none of my applications are GPU optimized.

    I read about the Quo not long ago, and it looks quite well done. Problem is they don't have an X79-based board, so I'd be stuck with 4 core CPU, which wouldn't be a huge boost over the current machine.

    Regarding the 'cheesegrater', do you think it'll still be sufficient as your main system (either as is, or with upgraded components) in 4 years? The main thing at this stage for me is not to spend the money now, and then have to spend it all over again in a few years...
  7. Gav Mack, Feb 27, 2014
    Last edited: Feb 27, 2014

    Gav Mack macrumors 68020

    Gav Mack

    Jun 15, 2008
    Sagittarius A*
    It's extremely well done, and hopefully when Quo release a bigger brother it will seriously tempt me to jump on the hack ship at least for one in the house anyway, though maybe not as a direct replacement for the cheesegrater. I can only say from my own experience and uses I am perfectly happy with the performance of my pretty much maxed out 3,1, though it's my intention in the near future to transplant all my upgrades into a dual socket 4/5,1 bought cheaply enough which will last me at least another 3/4 years. However I have no needs long term for thunderbolt, my replacement MBP will get that first. I need my sleds far more for disk diagnostics and the Inateck usb 3.0 card for the Mac Pro works good enough for me in both OSX and Windows 7.

    Lightroom iirc relies a lot on a single core, I use it occasionally but most of my photo work is on ps cs6 and that is far more multi core aware plus it gets a big kick in performance with my GTX 680. With 32gb ram thrown in its photoshop bliss!
  8. applereviewguy macrumors regular

    Aug 22, 2011
    Definitely 2009 Mac Pro.

    I've built probably 4-5 Hackintoshes (one with dual Xeon's), and owned 3 Mac Pro's (just got one the other day), and the Mac Pro is just amazing in comparison. They just work.
    IIRC Lightroom works with mutiple CPU's, and multiple cores, thus the 8 core Mac Pro will be better.
    Also factor in the fact that you can sell the video card that comes with the Pro, along with the original 2.26Ghz CPU's.
  9. westrock2000 macrumors 6502

    Oct 18, 2013
    My only concern with comparing that board to a Mac Pro directly is that it does not appear to support ECC memory, which for some of the things a Mac Pro can be useful for is important. But if your looking for something that's more akin to an iMac (as far as consumer orientated) then it looks great.
  10. dhazeghi thread starter macrumors member

    Nov 2, 2006
    Lightroom is threaded, but not from what I can tell nearly as well threaded as Photoshop. Tony Hart did some benchmarks of LR, and a 6 core 2013 Mac Pro was only about 20% faster than a 4 core 2013 iMac (both 3.5GHZ machines). It also doesn't appear to benefit from memory past 8GB or the GPU.

    Hmm, hadn't thought of that... The resale value on the E5520s looks pretty poor - I see a pair on eBay for all of $20 at the moment. The video card on the other hand looks like it has some decent value.

    Lightroom does like extra cores, but as far as I can tell only up to a point. Again, my main interest is performance, and to a secondary degree how long I can expect to keep the system (including with upgrades). The twiddling required for a Hackintosh, while annoying, doesn't really matter to me at this stage. If the Mac Pro really is gong to be faster, that's far more significant.

    ECC sounds useful, but I've never had it so I'm not sure how much it would come into play in practice.

    My objection to the iMac is not that it's consumer-oriented but that it's an utter and complete dead-end in terms of upgradability. No way to add USB 3.1, SATA express or other high speed storage interfaces later on (except maybe with an uber-expensive Thunderbolt PCIe chassis). No way to get to more than 4 cores (LGA 1150). Limited to 4 memory slots. No way to have more than 2 internal drives. Etc.
  11. zarf2007 macrumors regular

    Aug 27, 2010
    Inateck = usb3 card, velocity = sata3, I use both and both are stable and seem good quality. the velocity card also has a spare sata3 port to add another ssd if required.

    You could by some warranty replacement 680's for half the price and flash them.....think someone posted a link to these on ebay....
  12. Gav Mack macrumors 68020

    Gav Mack

    Jun 15, 2008
    Sagittarius A*
    Yes that was my post with the gainward 680's but they are in the UK


    Will need the extra Mac Pro PCIe power cable


    I'm sure they'll be similar items on other ebay sites worldwide!

    The 680 is about 2.5 x faster than the 650 and flashed has nice Mac EFI boot screen, and if you do use Photoshop the 680 does give great GPU acceleration on blurs etc.
  13. CrazyNurse macrumors regular

    Oct 23, 2012
    I picked up a Mac Pro this December and I'm loving it so far.

    The build quality is pretty impressive. And it has been fairly easy to work with. And it's solid like a block of aluminum.

    The only thing is that they do get warm. Think of a server near your feet (if you have it on the floor).

    The tech is old e.g. USB 2, SATA2, no TB. But you can overcome those needs with the proper pcie cards.
  14. xcodeSyn macrumors 6502a

    Nov 25, 2012
    I have had a 2009 MP for a while and am happy with the 8-core performance and further upgrade potential, but I really can't give you any advice since each person's case is different. However your choice of Hckintosh with the LGA 2011 platform right now is probably not good timing. Due to Apple's delay of nMP development and skipping Sandy Bridge-EP generation, the LGA 2011 is already a dead end which kind of contradicts your future proofing criterion. The Hackintosh community still hasn't come up with a good solution that takes advantage of the LGA 2011 and X79's full potential mainly because the MP6,1 was introduced only a few months ago. Given time I'm sure this problem would be solved, but by then Apple may have already moved on to Haswell/Broadwell-EP platform.

    I recently bought a Gigabyte LGA 1150 motherboard and Core i5 processor for around $300. Using other parts from my possession, I was able to quickly build a Hackintosh running Mavericks with a slightly better Geekbench score than the equivalent iMac model without any overclocking or tweaking yet. It won't outperform any nMP models in multi-core performance but it still has better single-core performance than any MP due to its newer architecture, and it has better upgrade potential than the LGA 2011 or 1366 platform. So you probably need to prioritize your criteria before making a decision. Good luck.
  15. Silencio macrumors 68020


    Jul 18, 2002
    Why a dual socket Mac Pro? You can buy a single socket 2009 Mac Pro (4,1), flash the firmware to a 2010 Mac Pro (5,1) , install a 6-core 3.33GHz Xeon, and rock out for less, especially if your applications don't take heavy advantage of 8+ cores.
  16. jasonvp macrumors 6502a


    Jun 29, 2007
    Northern VA
    Access to more RAM slots, perhaps?
  17. Gav Mack macrumors 68020

    Gav Mack

    Jun 15, 2008
    Sagittarius A*
    Plus if you're running more than one app. Unless I am doing raw, often I've got Photoshop, quark, Lightroom, illustrator, bridge and Firefox all open. That used to bring my MBP with 8gb ram often to its knees. My old cheesegrater just romps along!
  18. dhazeghi thread starter macrumors member

    Nov 2, 2006
    After poring over the Lightroom rendering performance results that Tony Hart has compiled, it looks like an 8 core (2x4x3.33GHZ) upgraded 2009 Mac Pro won't be as fast as a 6-core Ivy Bridge E hack (1x6x3.4GHZ). The 6 core Ivy Bridge E is about 25% faster than the 6 core Westmere for Lightroom, but the 6 core Ivy Bridge E is only 15% faster than the 8 core Ivy Bridge E. Assuming that the 8 core Westmere has the same delta with the 6 core Westmere, that means the hack should be at least 10% faster than the 2009 Mac Pro.

    At any rate, the good news is that the 6 core IVB-E should net me a 65% gain over my current Lynnfield CPU. The only question is whether I should build my system now or wait for the rumored Haswell-E release in Q2.

    I suppose it's also worth mentioning that going from a 4-core 2013 iMac to a 6-core 2013 Mac Pro nets a whopping 13% speedup. I sure hope nobody is buying the new Mac Pro primarily for Lightroom, because a bargain it is not.
  19. macproredux macrumors member

    Mar 3, 2014
    I'd probably pause unless it's urgent and wait for x99.
  20. dhazeghi thread starter macrumors member

    Nov 2, 2006
    It's not especially urgent, but the downsides is that until Apple updates the Mac Pro to Haswell-E, getting OS X running on it as a hack will probably be rather painful. I've had luck with hackintoshes in the past, but I was always careful to use well-supported hardware. To do that with Haswell-E basically means waiting until at least 3 months after Apple updates the Mac Pro, which I'm guess will be at least August if not later. Ivy Bridge-E is well supported as of right now.

    The obvious upside of Haswell-E is that it should have a longer shelf-life, and the overall price for the same performance will be lower - it looks like the midrange x900k part may well be 8 core instead of 6 - so basically I'd gain 2 cores for a fairly small price increase over the current Ivy Bridge-E chips.

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