Used Mac Pro vs tricked our Mac Mini

Discussion in 'Mac Pro' started by 7enderbender, Dec 1, 2012.

  1. 7enderbender macrumors 6502a


    May 11, 2012
    North East US
    Hello everyone,

    I'm evaluating my options for my next desktop and I could use some input from experienced Mac Pro users. I'm currently on a 6 or 7 year old Windows XP system that gets only limited use in comparison to what I want to get to next. Main applications will be photo editing (Lightroom and Photoshop) and audio recoring (currently on Cubase thinking about switching to Protools or perhaps Logic if I go Mac). Audio interface is Firewire.

    Main motivation to go with Apple would be the OS. I don't like Win 7 that much and certainly don't want Win8. I feel done with that stuff. In addition to that I know that a little down the road my current Thinkpad laptop will need replacement also and the Mac Books just look better these days than what is offered for the Windows world - but that's for later. And no, I still want a separate desktop and laptop solution.

    iMac is out of the question because of the screens and a few other things. That brought me to the Mac Mini. I'm contemplating getting an i7 Mini an upgrade it with 256GB SSD and a large secondary HD (not fusion).

    I want to hook up two good 24" screens and want to stay in the $1200 range for the computer alone. Notwithstanding, I was wondering if may be better off getting a used Mac Pro in that price range that is still easier to update with a few things. Like I said, I'd want a fast medium sized SSD for the system and few other things, easy to access affordable storage drives, Firewire and the ability to run two 1900x1200 screens with a wide color gamut. I don't really care much about the rest that much as long as I can edit photos (even my very old PC does that well so no big concern there) and avoid any latency issues in audio recording that is related to the desktop alone.

    So I looked around at places like this but don't really understand the differences and which of these machines will still support any software or hardware updates as mentioned:

    Any recomendation which of these would be comparable or better than my idea about the Mac Mini with i7 and SSD and 16GB memory?

  2. El Awesome macrumors 6502

    El Awesome

    Jul 21, 2012
    If you're doing Lightroom and audio recording, a Dual-CPU Mac Pro will still smoke the top-end Mac Mini.
    But the Mac Pro is pretty obsolete, with old CPUs, Sata-II and stuff. If you don't need Sata-3, I would buy a used Mac Pro 5.1.
  3. ashman70 macrumors 6502a

    Dec 20, 2010
    It really comes down to how important expandability is to you. With a Mini you are more limited then you are with a Mac Pro. You can throw a few drives in a mini and upgrade the ram but you are limited to whatever CPU and GPU it has. A Mac Pro 4,1 or 5,1, while dated still offer multi core Xeon's, plenty of RAM upgrades, plenty of GPU options and storage options too. For your needs, I'd find a nice 4,1 or 5,1 Mac Pro.
  4. maxmaut macrumors regular

    Nov 13, 2011
    For work - I would never trade my MP over MM. All the expansion abilities, and the architecture of the machine - I love these things about MP. Yes, some of the technologies are outdated, but for my tasks they suit perfectly, so if I had a choice like you do, I would still go for MP.

    But the idea of a small box, lying on my table and performing tasks like photo editing, etc. is actually great. In fact, if the MP will never get updated, I think I would end up with rMBP for design tasks and MM as a home entertaining machine, that might also be used as a backup for working machine.

    But again, you are choosing a working machine, so I would definitely suggest MP. Also, I would suggest to do some ebay-hinting. I got the exactly same machine as in your example for $1400 a year ago. It should be cheaper now, so I think that $1200 must be enough to buy it, you will just need to monitor ebay for some company sales. When I was buying my MP there were like 12 similar machines from one seller, and some people won them for $1200.

    Another thing that you might want to keep in mind - is if the software that you are using can benefit from multi-core machine. That would help to understand what machine suits your goals better.
  5. brentsg macrumors 68040

    Oct 15, 2008
    The Mac Pro may use CPUs that are a generation out of date in the Xeon world, but they are far from obsolete.
  6. tB0nE macrumors newbie

    Nov 21, 2012
    I purchased a dual processor 2008 Mac Pro about 2 or 3 months ago, and after doing numerous tests, after upgrading to an SSD and a modern GPU, the PC is impressive, so much so I think I am going to try to always buy a second hand mac pro and upgrade the internals.

    I've gone hackintosh enough times and I don't want to bother with that anymore. The other alternative is buying a mac mini and a desktop PC and KVM switch between the two, but CPU single threaded speed is out growing it's usefulness, so I am OK being with a slower single thread machine with 8 cores. I would probably stick to something with 6 or more cores though if I went Mac Pro.
  7. GermanyChris macrumors 601


    Jul 3, 2011
    If you need single thread the MM is fine if you need multi then a MP it is..
  8. DPUser macrumors 6502a

    Jan 17, 2012
    I'm doing audio production and mixing on my 2009 (updated to 2010 hex) Mac Pro, and the expandability and connectivity are very much appreciated...

    Audio Interface is firewire 400 connected via a PCIe card with TI Firewire chipset for 20 trouble-free simultaneous channels of audio in and plenty of outputs, too.

    Another PCIe slot houses a UAD-2 Dual card so I can use the great sounding UA plugs

    Another PCIe slot houses a SATA3 card.

    Inside the Mac are 7 SATA drives - Three 2 TB disks for project storage and backup and Four SSD's for Boot Drive, VI sample sets, and in-progress projects. An eSATA port from the SATA3 card allows quick connection of and transfer from external project drives. Time Machine backup is handled by two externals which are rotated every week or so for on and off-site backup.

    The Mac drives three monitors (two Display Port and one VGA) from its 5770 video card. 24 gigs of RAM reside inside, too. It runs cool and quiet in the machine room.

    As you can see, connectivity and expandability abound with the Mac Pro. Good luck managing all this with a Mini... even if you could cobble together such a system, the cost of Thunderbolt peripherals and adaptors would probably drain any savings realized by going with a Mini.

    Current project in mixing now is 7 tracks drums, 3 percussion, 8 claps, 15 vox, bass, lots of guitars, plus VI piano and organ. Loads of plug-ins. Processor load is about 15% across 12 virtual cores.

    In short, the Mac Pro simply rocks my studio.

    PS: don't overlook DP for studio software.
  9. gnasher729 macrumors P6


    Nov 25, 2005
    Not obsolete, but a 2.3 GHz i7 quad core beats an 8 core 2.8 GHz Xeon (ran side by side on the same task by myself).

    Mac Mini, quad core i7 2.6 GHz, buy your own 16 GB of RAM, 1 TB Fusion drive while beat most used Mac Pros. The once it doesn't beat are rarely for sale used. To the OP: I'd like to know why you want to avoid the Fusion drive. It will be overall faster than a 256 GB SSD drive.

    I don't have a Mac Mini but an MBP with the same CPU, and it has no problems running eight threads at full blast.
  10. GermanyChris, Dec 5, 2012
    Last edited: Dec 5, 2012

    GermanyChris macrumors 601


    Jul 3, 2011
    that's great but what about 12 and 24..

    This will be the debate until every program takes advantage of every core real or virtual. My i7 (2700K) Hackintosh at 4.7Ghz GB's at 17,000 in OSX and 19,000 in Windows i.e. "faster" than any single processor MP as fast at the 8 cores. That is until you start throwing real highly threaded work flows at it then you'll find the 12 victuals of the hex and the 16 victuals of the 8 core with eventually triumph. But my really fast 8 do what I need them to do (play in Ps and Ae without lag and handbrake blu-rays in a little over 30 minutes). but it is NOT a Mac Pro.

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