Which Mac can replace my 4x4 GHz PC?

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by bostich, Jul 31, 2016.

  1. bostich macrumors newbie

    Nov 4, 2012
    I am thinking about replacing my Win7 PC that I use for music production with a Mac. It should be on the same level in terms of speed and performance, but I am not sure how to compare a Windows PC to a Mac.

    Assuming both PC and Mac use an SSD as system drive: Can I just compare processor speeds? i.e. if I want the same performance I need at least an i7 Quad 4 GHz processor?

    I would be grateful if someone with experience in both systems could point me to a specific Mac model that is on a par with my PC. Preferably a 21.5" iMac, but I am guessing they are too slow. Or alternatively an older Mac Pro.

    Or is there an easy (and free) way to test my PC's speed and then compare it to the Mac's Geekbench 2 scores which are published on sites like everymac.com?

    Here's the details of my PC: Intel Z97 chipset, Intel Core i7 4790K (4x4 GHz), 16 GB DDR3-1600
  2. keysofanxiety macrumors G3


    Nov 23, 2011
    Don't compare clock speeds (e.g., 4GHz quad i7), as they will rarely reflect the power difference accurately. There are so many other elements of a CPU which affect performance. I'd recommend checking the benchmarks at www.cpubenchmark.net. Higher number is better performance.

    If you need a specific CPU to check against, search the Mac model at www.everymac.com. Macs have standardised hardware so you'll just need the year/model and it'll tell you which specific CPU model it is.

    In terms of what would be appropriate; either a top-spec 27" iMac or a Mac Pro. I would recommend waiting until September for either as the hardware may be refreshed by then. The Mac Pro is currently 3 years old with no update.

    The SSDs in Macs are considerably faster than SATA ones as they are PCI-e. 2GB/s read/write in the higher models and that may be improved further when they're updated. As such you only really need to consider CPU & RAM.
  3. bostich thread starter macrumors newbie

    Nov 4, 2012
    Ok. Let's say I want to find out whether a 2013 21.5" core i7 3.1 GHz iMac ist faster or slower than my PC. These are the cpubenchmark scores of each cpu:

    i7 4790K 4x4 GHz: 11.2
    i7 4770S 4x3.1 GHz: 9.3

    This would make my PC somewhat faster than the iMac.

    But as you said, if the iMac's SSD is faster than my PC's the difference could become insignificant. And what about the main board's bus speed? Does it have to be considered? Also, I am not sure about the RAM. The specs are the same, but that doesn't mean it's really running at the same speed.

    I don't want a 27" screen. And a new Mac Pro is too expensive. I think it's a shame Apple don't make faster non-retina 21" iMacs. So far, the fastest is the 3.1 GHz 2013 model.
  4. keysofanxiety macrumors G3


    Nov 23, 2011
    You'll be unlikely to saturate a CPU with a score of 8000 or above with a DAW. Even with 20+ AUs running simultaneously in Logic Pro X on my 2012 15" MBP is absolutely fine. So any quad i7 or Xeon currently shipping in the Macs would suit you fine.

    You're right about the SSD as plugins and projects will load considerably quicker. Plus as the OS is designed for specific hardware, generally you'll find that a similar spec Mac would run quicker than a Windows box for your usage.

    I think it would be best to wait until September and maybe consider an entry level Mac Pro or higher if they're updated with better specs.

    May I ask what your budget is?
  5. mtneer macrumors 68030


    Sep 15, 2012
    Pretty much every Mac, other than the retina MacBook is rated a "Do Not Buy" by MR Buyers Guide - http://buyersguide.macrumors.com/#Mac

    All these machines are good and no doubt will get the job done - but Apple is asking today's premium prices for yesterday's hardware. Unless Apple discounts Mac's heavily, I wouldn't buy one now.
  6. bostich thread starter macrumors newbie

    Nov 4, 2012
    That's why I was thinking of buying a used 2013 4x3.1 GHz iMac. Some people advise against it, saying that I might not be able to update it sooner or later. But I'm sure it will last a few years.

    @keysofanxiety: my budget is around 2000 EUR / USD. But I wouldn't mind spending less either ;)

    Do you think any quad i7 currently shipping can handle 96k audio sessions? I am not talking about sessions with 90 tracks, but ... let's say 30 audio tracks.

    I noticed with my PC that in 96k sessions cpu speed wasn't a problem at all, but rather read speed from the hdd. My audio project disk is an internal HDD, not SSD. I might gain some performance if I replace it with an SSD.
  7. keysofanxiety macrumors G3


    Nov 23, 2011
    Depends which DAW you're using I suppose and how well it sings on OS X. What's your poison? Cubase? Pro Tools? Or would you be making the plunge to Logic Pro X?

    That machine would be fine for your usage. Regardless, I'd probably recommend against the Mac you're currently looking at for the following reasons:

    1) RAM is not user-upgradable (from 2012 onwards, only the 27" had serviceable RAM)
    2) Age of the machine
    3) SSD speeds on the 2013s are far slower than in recent iterations
    4) Likely updates around the corner, so no point dropping some cash now if you could get a lot more value for money, especially when considering longevity. You want a machine that will be guaranteed to last!

    So I'd say hold off until September and see what Apple has in line for updates (hopefully!). Worst case scenario, the prices of older machines will just plummet even more and you'll save a little cash.
  8. RedTomato macrumors 68040


    Mar 4, 2005
    .. London ..
    Best bang for your buck will be putting a SSD on your PC, if you don't already have one. The difference is night and day. You can always use it as an external on your Mac if you do get one. (or as an internal drive if you get a Mac that allows upgradeable drives, which is increasingly rare.)

    One element that people tend to forget - PCs mostly run antivirus, Macs mostly don't. That translates to a rather large jump in perceived speed for Macs.
  9. velocityg4 macrumors 601


    Dec 19, 2004
    Since your only problem now is just data speed. I'd go with an SSD upgrade on your current PC. Rather than blowing a bunch of money for a slower computer. Will the Mac make the music you produce sound any better or increase productivity?

    Apple's SSD are nothing special. You can buy your own SSD of the same performance. Last I checked Apple uses a Samsung SM951 (the older AHCI model) in a proprietary form factor. It's insanely fast but much cheaper to buy yourself than what Apple charges for a decent capacity. I know of no other company which uses as fast or faster model outside of high end workstations and servers.

    The fastest SSD models now make use of NVMe and are available in M.2 form factor and PCI-e cards. These models include the Samsung 950 Pro, Samsung SM961 (hard to buy but the fastest), Samsung SM951 (NVMe variant), Intel 750 PCI-e, Kingston HyperX Predator, Toshiba OCZ RD400 are most of the main ones. NVMe is a replacement communication protocol for SSD. It has a much lower latency than AHCI allowing much higher IOPS (input/output operations per second).

    So the first thing to check is whether or not your motherboard supports NVMe. You can check with your motherboard maker if it supports it out of the box or if they have provided a UEFI/BIOS update to add support. If not the best you can do is a high end AHCI model. There is an AHCI variant of the Samsung SM951 and lower end PM951. There are plenty of other high end AHCI M.2 and PCI-e SSD offering 1GB/s to 2GB/s.

    If your motherboard does have an M.2 slot that is not much of a problem. As long as you have an open PCI-e x4 slot (you can use a PCI-e x16). You can get a cheap M.2 adapter. Many already have options with a PCI-e adapter.

    As to which high end SSD you choose all that really matters is that it is reliable. While on paper some are faster. In actual productivity testing it makes no significant difference. All the drives pump data so fast that even in huge workloads the difference is a fraction of a second. For a heavy use data server or some special workstation tasks it will make a difference. Not for your uses.

    Real World Performance

    Now if you need a lot of storage space unless you have a lot of money. You will need to get a SATA SSD. This does not mean you are stuck with the performance limitations of a single SATA III SSD. You can connect multiple SATA III SSD in RAID 0 for performance between the AHCI models of the Samsung PM951 and SM951. That way you can pop together several 1TB Samsung 850 Pro or Sandisk Extreme Pro SSD. As you get about twice the capacity per dollar with high end 2.5" models. You can get even more storage on budget models but they have a lower level of endurance and reliability.
  10. bostich thread starter macrumors newbie

    Nov 4, 2012
    Thanks for your advice on SSDs. I really appreciate it!

    Actually, there's a couple of reasons for me to switch to Mac: 1) I prefer the OS by far over Windows. At home I have a Macbook and if it wasn't for the money I would have bought a Mac for music a long time ago. 2) I will be working more with Pro Tools in the future and I believe the software still runs smoother on Mac than on Windows. 3) I need a new audio interface as well and I think Thunderbolt is the best connection right now. Manufacturers don't make PCIe interfaces anymore. That means on a PC I'd have to use USB which is fine but I have a better feeling with TB. This will give me the lowest latencies.

    I think I'll definitely wait until September with my purchase and see what Apple comes up with.

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