Would an i7 Quad maxed out iMac be "respectable"?

Discussion in 'Mac Pro' started by computerjunkie, Oct 28, 2009.

  1. computerjunkie macrumors member

    Mar 31, 2008
    I know there had been some discussions here about the new i7 quad, and before I spend my hard earned cash I wanted some last minute opinions.

    I post this here in the Mac Pro forums because I figure there might likely be more FCP users...which is what my main use for my new machine will be.

    I have been wanting a new unit for several months now, and have been just waiting to pull the trigger on a Mac Pro. In fact, it has gotten to be a running joke around my house with my wife and I...we can be talking about something totally non-related and I will say "I just have one word for you...OCTO!!!" Anyway, I digress.

    While I simply cannot justify (or afford really) a maxed out octo, I have been considering a "fairly" maxed out quad MP. But now that the new iMac has appeared, I am having more trouble.

    I am not a pro...meaning I am not paying my bills with FCP. I would characterize myself as prosumer...which describing myself really means consumer who likes nicer equipment. I do want a "respectable" machine that will handle FCP with somewhat ease.

    My current video set up is an HMC150 mixed with Canon 7D. Converting to ProRes 422 (not the HQ flavor) and using things like Magic Bullet. Not doing much Motion work...mostly because I have not learned that process yet. I am currently doing it on a maxed out 2008 iMac. And so far it has not been all that bad. Ingesting is not taking long enough to bother me really...and editing is nice and smooth. The only really long times are for rendering and encoding to H.264.

    So, given these facts, am I way out in left field here considering a maxed out iMac? I am sure that during the process, the render and encode times will be what taxes the machine the most. And I am not even really sure that those times would be much different on a quad MP. Octo, sure. But even then I am not sure what kind of differences we are talking about. I mean would a similarly configured octo have double performance from the quad? Would a 2 hour render or encode on an octo take 4 hours on a quad?

    The other thing I am thinking is this...Even if the iMac turns out to be way less than what I would like, I am thinking I can use it for awhile (as long as I can stand it) then maybe down the road look again at the MP...say after the 6 or 12 core thing plays out. I could always use the iMac as the monitor for a MP down the road. The glossy thing is not a factor for me...it doesn't bother me at all.

    Just some random thoughts I guess, but I wondered how others were thinking.


  2. twoodcc macrumors P6


    Feb 3, 2005
    Right side of wrong
    well, it sounds to me that the i7 iMac might just be the right fit for you. now the MP is more expandable and all that, which has been discussed. only you can make that decision. but the i7 iMac should be a great computer, as long as you don't need 2 internal drives, or need to upgrade anything except the RAM.

    but you might want to wait and see the reviews before you buy
  3. frimple macrumors 6502

    Nov 18, 2008
    Denver, CO
    I honestly think you would be completely satisfied with either machine. The main advantage that the Mac Pro has (until any spec bump) over an iMac is expansion and upgrades. For example, if you want to change the hard drive in your fresh new 27" iMac, you're taking the glass and LCD off. It's not an "easy" task. Want more than one HDD? Well then it's a fine line of external drives for you! RAID? External over firewire is the best you can do, and the real problem is that the people that make external firewire RAID enclosures don't really optimize them for super speeds.

    The pro of course on the other hand offers you easier paths with these quests. And the real appeal of the pro (to me at least) is that you can add these great things over time. For example, if you got the base octad now, you could in time add 2 w5590 processors @ 3.33Ghz. Max out the memory, add a RAID card and 8 SSD's in delicious RAID 0!? All these are just not possible on the iMac.
  4. TheStrudel macrumors 65816


    Jan 5, 2008
    Final Cut is actually more of a limiting factor than the hardware in question.

    The current version of FCP is 32-bit and has limited multicore awareness, so you really won't benefit that much from a Mac Pro compared to the new quad core iMac. Only Compressor can actually use 8 cores right now.

    The next version of FCP should address this, but right now, the iMac will be more than adequate for your uses. And even when the next version comes out, your machine will be plenty fast - the next upgrade will only make it faster.

    You'll be fine with the iMac.
  5. dagomike macrumors 65816

    Jun 22, 2007
    I think it depends on the work. I couldn't get by with an iMac for storage. I would be really interested to see some compressor benchmarks between the two, however.
  6. Dr.Pants macrumors 65816


    Jan 8, 2009
    If you aren't making money, this its all up to you. Once again, once you have the iMac, that's almost all you get. Indeed you can get processor upgrades and the like, and I was under the impression Apple is making it easier to put more RAM in it, but its far more PITA to do it on an AIO then a tower. But the iMac really is a good machine compared to the base MacPro at this moment in history.

    Not to mention the real speed limit is on Gb ethernet linked to machine that has a RAID. Rules out uncompressed real quick, IMO.

    But still, if you were to get a MacPro, the base octo would be the one to get and upgrade. Processor upgrades will be more expensive due to needing 55xx series Xeons (built for dual-socket systems). (and may be incompatible with the upcoming processors on 32 nm manufacturing! :eek:)
  7. thermodynamic Suspended


    May 3, 2009
    Not all apps use all 8 cores (much less 4). Photoshop CS4 has SOME filters revamped for multicore usage, but with the entry level octo being $800 more - and whose lower GHz value means single threaded apps are going to execute more slowly. Macworld's benchmarks did show, on an octo system, and depending on application, either a negligible difference, up to 40% difference (raw number crunching, but the Cinema4D renders were only 20% faster) and for single-threaded apps the base octo took a hit. (the 2.66 or 2.93GHz octo would be the one to get but those prices are cost-prohibitive.)

    And you're right, if the machine won't be making money, high-end is not the way to go -- benchmarks show, more often than not, a small gap between low- and high-end units.

    Upgrading the CPUs is not recommended - usually on the octos as Apple removes the internal head spreader (IHS). Most boxes CPUs are sold with it and to remove it also breaks the CPU's warranty... (the single quads have the IHS so it's a very simple replacement... thankfully... :D then again, going from 2.66 to 2.93 at a $500 price tag isn't worth it - not for a 2 second difference in Photoshop. The only feasible CPU upgrade is the 3.33GHz w3580, which matches the entry-level octo in net performance for many apps but also has the strength the single-threaded apps need, and single-threaded apps will be around for some time.)

    If you were to ask me, the 27" iMac or single quad Mac Pro are the better buys (likely the former but there is NO substitute for direct SATA performance)...

    (includes benchmarks; the results are striking and not in the octo's favor unless one does only or primarily 3D rendering. Even then, depending on the app, the belief 2 CPUs = double the processing power is a sheer myth.

    The de facto benchmarks. All looks nice until you remember the cost, which is - at bare minimum - $800 more than the single quad 2.66 Mac Pro. It's outdated to an extent but it's easy to extrapolate for more modern equipment. Is $800, for even prosumers, worth a 26 second difference in After Effects?

    Even the RAM tests - static benchmarks show 6GB having faster bandwidth, but nothing yet can even begin to suck up that much. Most apps prefer RAM over hard drive virtual RAM to begin with, so taking a hit in the RAM benchmark is going to be acceptable, again for all but the highest-end purposes... (if you were to ask me; part of me does want a 2.93 Octo... :D )

    Dollar per dollar, the single quads seem to be the best bet.
  8. goMac macrumors 603

    Apr 15, 2004
    64 bit is actually going to be a problem for a while more. Even once FCP is updated, a lot of plugins are still going to be 32 bit, and they won't work with FCP. I agree that 64 bit is a transition that FCP is going to have to be made eventually, but it's going to be more complicated than just a 64 port of FCP or CS5, especially if you're serious and you've invested in some addition FXPlugs or After Effects Plugins.

    (Disclaimer: I work in the video "industry" on the engineering side.)

    If you're going video work, and you want the machine to last, go for the Mac Pro. Interest is growing in stuff like CUDA and OpenCL, and I'd throw more horsepower at that than I would the main CPU. The top end iMac ships with a very good graphics card, but the Mac Pro will let you add additional cards which could boost your OpenCL performance, or even replace the main card which would boost OpenCL and your rendering performance.

    Nice to see you use Magic Bullet, computerjunkie. :) Which products specifically do you use? I might be able to narrow it down for you better.
  9. computerjunkie thread starter macrumors member

    Mar 31, 2008
    Right now I am only using Magic Bullet Looks. This is the only plug-in I am using. Some other things out there look interesting to me, but as you can see from this discussion, right now I have nowhere near the horsepower required.


  10. goMac macrumors 603

    Apr 15, 2004
    I believe Looks is CPU bound currently, but I can check. Edit: I take it back, Looks is GPU accelerated.

    I'm also pretty sure Looks at this point does not take advantage of multiple cores, although other Magic Bullet products like Mojo do.

    Yeah, a lot of the Magic Bullet products take a lot of horsepower. :) I know Particular on my work 8 core Mac Pro is a slideshow, and when I run the Windows version in virtualization it's pretty bad too. :) But once you actually render it... oh so pretty...

    My personal opinion is that you would be best to invest in a machine supports video card expansion. I see the industry as a whole moving in that direction. This would rule the iMac out.
  11. nanofrog macrumors G4

    May 6, 2008
    Good point with the software, and it does look like the iMac will work quite well.

    This is my question for the OP as well. If the single HDD in the iMac will work, then go for it, as external drives though possible, are messy if capacity growth is fairly rapid. There's no eSATA port, so no ability to add in say a 4 bay enclosure.

    Also, if there's a desire to speed up the workflow in terms of disk speed, then the MP has to be used, as it can be used with RAID.
  12. TheStrudel macrumors 65816


    Jan 5, 2008
    Oh, I'm aware of this. That's why FCS 4 is going to be such a huge update. Like you said, it's not just 64-bit, but the whole rewriting in Cocoa, and existing Quicktime framework being stripped out for QT X, adding in OpenCL and all the other fun stuff.

    I fully expect most of the plugins to require rewriting or at least thorough updating/upgrading, and you should as well.

    He doesn't describe a real need for the horsepower, though, which is why it seems like the high end iMac offers plenty of growing for him except in terms of HDD space. But if he's considering that, he's probably not going to be working with uncompressed HD anytime soon and a two-drive Firewire 800 external should work just fine for him.
  13. goMac macrumors 603

    Apr 15, 2004
    Depends which Magic Bullet products he's thinking about working with. They can require a lot of horsepower. Don't get me wrong, there are people who run them on iMacs...

    But in the future, with things moving to OpenCL, in general for any set of plugins or any sort of video software it would be a good idea to use a machine that can handle multiple upgradable graphics cards. Even encoding is moving in the direction of using OpenCL.

    It really depends on how serious the OP is. If he's a hobbyist, the iMac may do him well for a while. If he's looking to do video work professionally... most editors and compositors in the field that I know of are using Mac Pros (at least on the Mac side.)
  14. VirtualRain macrumors 603


    Aug 1, 2008
    Vancouver, BC

    # 2.8GHz Quad-Core Intel Core i7
    # 8GB 1066MHz DDR3 SDRAM - 4x2GB
    # 1TB Serial ATA Drive
    # ATI Radeon HD 4850 512MB
    # 8x double-layer SuperDrive
    # Apple Magic Mouse


    Mac Pro Quad...

    # One 2.93GHz Quad-Core Intel Xeon
    # 8GB (4x2GB)
    # 1TB 7200-rpm Serial ATA 3Gb/s
    # ATI Radeon HD 4870 512MB
    # One 18x SuperDrive
    # Apple LED Cinema Display (24" flat panel)
    # Apple Mouse


    :eek: I think it's a no brainer!
  15. Gen macrumors 6502a


    Jul 15, 2008
    Graphics card.
    The iMac uses a mobile 4850.
    For the Mac, you can upgrade tomorrow with something better.
  16. TheStrudel macrumors 65816


    Jan 5, 2008
    Again, for what he's described, the 4850 should be more than adequate. There's no OpenCL acceleration now, and we don't know how effective it will be when it's introduced. And that introduction, if FCS is on the normal schedule, is almost two years away. At which point a Mac Pro will be considerably more bang-for-buck.
  17. computerjunkie thread starter macrumors member

    Mar 31, 2008
    Yea this kind of analysis is what I have been doing, and this analysis is what is hanging me up on selecting the MP. But there is one thing hanging me up on selecting the iMac as well...and you guys hit on it...drive speed. Right now I am using external FW800 7200 rpm 32MB cache drives...and right now i believe that is my weakest link. That will carryover to any iMac one might select.

    But I am surely glad to see that people here are making the same "types" of analysis that I too was making. At least it helps me realize that I am considering the right factors/issues.

    The one post was correct insofar as I am not a professional and only a serious hobbyist. And in that regard, the number (dollar) analysis weighs heavily to the iMac. But make no mistake, I certainly see the other side, as it relates to what the MP is and what it offers.

    I think, given the types of user I am (ie NON-pro), it will ultimately come down to giving the iMac a shot...and living with its limitations...the worst of which (to me anyway) will be drive speeds. I guess in the end, if worse comes to worse, I can always look at the MP again later down the road. At least I won't have to buy a monitor for it!!!!

    And thanks so much guys for the discussion. It's greatly appreciated.


  18. goMac macrumors 603

    Apr 15, 2004
    Initial benchmarks for OpenCL are extremely promising, and OpenCL encoders are much faster than their CPU bound counterparts.

    The OP has already indicated that he is using a plugin suite, some of which are GPGPU capable. He has specifically mentioned that he uses Magic Bullet Looks, which does use CUDA/GPGPU.

    A new FCS has been rumored for sometime next year, but I don't know anything specific myself.

    The OP may not care about these things in since he's indicated he is not a pro user, but it is disingenuous to say that CUDA/OpenCL support is a ways away when the OP himself is using CUDA software.
  19. nanofrog macrumors G4

    May 6, 2008
    If you're a non-pro, must you be looking at the Octad MP?

    A Quad would have a much smaller cost differential, and it's still capable of RAID to alleviate your drive bandwidth issues. ;) If you want more CPU power than the base, you can upgrade the processors yourself to save some funds.

    IIRC, the cost difference between the top end iMac and base Quad MP, is ~$300USD.

    Any other add-ons also 3rd party of course. :p
  20. goMac macrumors 603

    Apr 15, 2004
    I think the difference is they were using a 2.95 four core Mac Pro...

    Honestly, the upgradable video card would be worth more to me than the .3 ghz per core bump...
  21. Badger^2 macrumors 68000


    Oct 29, 2009
    some additions and corrections

    Not quite right, getting the glass off any AL iMac is really, really easy. One suction cup, pull, and its done. Its really a non-issue in the whole drive installation process.

    I could drop a new drive in a 24" (and it looks like the 27" is pretty much the same) in about 15 minutes.

    Same with adding a FW800 RAID, its very easy. There are many 2 bay and 4 bay FW800 cases that perform very well. Not as well as eSATA mind you, but more than enough. OWC makes quality Mac stuff and uses quality Oxford chips.

    Heres a 2 bay RAID for $107: http://eshop.macsales.com/item/Other World Computing/MEPT934AL2C/

    And a 4 bay RAID for $330: http://eshop.macsales.com/item/Other World Computing/MEQX2KIT0GB/

    Which just got tested at barefeats: http://www.barefeats.com/hard126.html

    And adding ram to an iMac is about 5X easier than adding it to a Macpro, and thats been the case since the G5 iMacs. One or 2 small screws, pop in ram, done.

    And no one buys their ram from Apple. 8 gigs (2 x 4) is running close to $400 right now...

    And although the iMac may use the mobile 4850, you can clearly see in the barefeats test how close that is to the desktop 4870 they ran the numbers on.

    overall, I think either of the octo iMacs will be pretty darn good performers...
  22. nanofrog macrumors G4

    May 6, 2008
    I wasn't sure, so I mentioned the possiblity of swapping out the CPU on their own.

    To me, the cost difference of $300 seems acceptable if a user needs to address bottlenecks such as HDD throughput, and then the other things that can be upgraded/added are a nice little bonus, such as graphics cards.

    FW800 is only good for 100MB/s though, and may not be fast enough for those wanting to use the iMac as a graphics editing system. It will depend on the specific needs, as not everyone's level of editing will match up. Lightweight/home use, the iMac would suffice.

    But for those wanting additional HDD throughputs, it would seem their degree of requirements exceeds what the iMac can deliver.
  23. computerjunkie thread starter macrumors member

    Mar 31, 2008
    Well I am glad you brought this up because I have been considering checking out a FW800 RAID setup. Then I read something mentioning that RAID 0 (the fastest setup right?) didn't do much good with FW800 because FW800 in itself would be the limiting factor. That is to say a single FW800 drive would be just as fast as a RAID setup because even single drives are faster than FW800 bandwidth. Is that correct or would a FW800 RAID 0 setup be faster? I am not concerned with "safety" in a RAID setup because I have a backup solution of my own. Also, as a non-pro, drive crashes/lost data doesn't cost me money as they would some folks. So for RAID, I would only be looking for speed.


  24. goMac macrumors 603

    Apr 15, 2004
    It depends on the drives. But there certainly is a limit to how much capacity FW800 can handle, in addition to a higher latency for moving the drives off machine.
  25. nanofrog macrumors G4

    May 6, 2008
    FW800 is only good for 100MB/s. You can get this from a single 1TB 7200rpm drive, and larger can exceed it due to the higher platter densities. The enterprise versions may be a little slower (say 85MB/s typical, especially on smaller drives using 334MB/platter densities).

    Wire does add latency, but the real limiting factor is the available bandwidth. You'd want SATA (good to 375MB/s max) to go faster (or eSATA). You can run the drives in parallel, which is how RAID obtains it's throughputs.

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