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Thread: Advice on Mac Pro. Need real help.

  1. #1
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    Default Advice on Mac Pro. Need real help.

    About 4 hours ago I was going to buy what I am told is an overpowered Mac pro:

    # Two 3.0GHz Quad-Core Intel Xeon
    # 4GB 667MHz DDR2 fully buffered ECC memory (4 x 1GB)
    # 500GB 7200-rpm Serial ATA 3Gb/s
    # 750GB 7200-rpm Serial ATA 3Gb/s
    # 2 ATI Radeon X1900 XT 512MB of GDDR3 (2 x dual-link DVI)
    # Apple Cinema HD Display (23" flat panel)
    # One 16x SuperDrive

    From what I have been told with this setup my CPU(s) would be constantly waiting for my HD's and RAM to catch up. Seems like a waste to me, but I was considering using this box for many years to come. So I figured I would be set for quite sometime before I needed something new.

    Anyway I'm now considering Raid, and some faster HD's - 10,000RPM's. I'm also NOT going to buy my ram and HD's from apple. Instead I'm getting them from here now that I know that apple is overcharging.

    So onto what I need help with. I have never owned a MAC before, but after recently trying one out I am absolutely hooked. So I want the best system I can get for around $5000 or less (was going to pay nearly $7000 for the above setup!)

    Uses:

    Gaming
    Digital Art - Photoshop, Manga Studio, etc.
    3D Animation/Modeling

    I want to run Both OSX and Linux and possibly windows via bootcamp.
    Most of all I want this system hold it's own for a long time - say 4-5 years or longer (most likely going to take me that long to pay it off!)

    So what do I need in order to take full advantage of the above setup? Raid? SATA? More Ram?

  2. #2
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    Howdy, and Welcome to MacGurus - and welcome to Macs.

    I am not a PS Guru - they will be along - but I don't subscribe to the notion that your machine will always be "waiting" for drives, so you shouldn't buy faster CPUs. RAIDing and newer, faster HDs over the next few years would punch holes in that theory, not to mention there are plenty of things that are CPU intensive.......plus multi-tasking. Wanna listen to iTunes while you are cranking away on serious work? It takes some CPU overhead. Other things do to, so I say more is better, as long as it is in the budget. You are paying a premium for that extra little bit of speed, but that has always been true with any hardware. The top performing boxes have always cost a premium, and always will.

    I can't remember anybody ever - on any platform - complaining that their CPUs were too fast, and they didn't receive any benefit from them. Heck, there are folks waiting for the next version of Mac Pros that will be faster.

    I do think your choice for 4 1GB sticks is good, and you can always always bump up to 6 or 8GB easy enough. Just bought two Mac Pros at work and we picked them up with 4 1GB sticks too. Glad to see you are doing third party HDs and RAM. Apple charges too much. Just buy quality, and buy from someone who knows what works in Macs, and stands behind their gear. MacGurus fits the bill. Not to mention Apple only gives you 1 year warranty, unless you pay for three. Why not get lifetime warranty on RAM gear for less $$?


    A question though. Do you mean two video cards? What for?

    The Apple displays are nice, but pricey. You can save a few hundred bucks with many other brands. Any DVI monitor will work just fine. Color matching can be critical, but you should know that Apple does not build the actual LCD panels; they buy quality parts that meet their spec from someone like (for example) Samsung. I can't help you with color (I'm colorblind), but if you have have or find an LCD you like, go for it.

    If you can live with one video card and a less expensive LCD, you could shave about 500 bucks off.

    One other thing that I have not kept up with.... Some more adventurous types have bought earlier/slower CPU model Mac Pros, and then upgraded the CPUs themselves. This would void your Apple warranty, but you might consider buying a slower Mac Pro now, and be prepared to upgrade the CPUs 18 - 24 months down the road. As faster CPUs come along, the price of what is top of line (now) will drop quite a lot. This plan could let you stretch the Mac Pro for quite few years......depending on what comes down the pike.

    I've rambled enough, let's see what others think. Enjoy the ride.

    Lots of good threads full of info if you search, like this recent thread.
    Last edited by unclemac; 08-11-2007 at 11:38 PM.
    "Imagine if every Thursday your shoes exploded if you tied them the usual way. This happens to us all the time with computers, and nobody thinks of complaining." -- Jef Raskin

  3. #3
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    Thank you very much for the very solid advice. I wasn't really sure if the motherboards that come with the slower CPU's would allow me to upgrade to the 3.0GHz quad cores. I guess they are all the same motherboards?

    The reason for the two video cards is because of the dual link DVI. Perhaps I was thinking about something else, but I assumed that it would give me a total of 1Gig video ram. Maybe I read wrong when I was researching it. It just seems that my old P4 PC (Buddha Box) is falling by the wayside as far as gaming and 3D modeling/animation goes these days. I've maxed out the ram (1Gig) and I'm still running a 8X AGP card. Seems like the games and applications I use are getting more powerful by the second (perhaps I'm just loosing track of time as I get older )

    I still have to do some more research on RAID. I've seen some options for a soft raid setup too. Seems cheaper and just might do the trick for time being.

    Well all in all I think for the first time in my life, technology has surpassed my ability to keep up with it. Not far long.

  4. #4
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    If past experience is any messure then the latest MacPro will be useful for five years, easy, if you don't have to have the latest greatest Mac of the day. I'm using an old G4 that is upgraded and I'm very happy with it. It's 6 years old now. There will most likely come a time when you will desire a faster processor and there will be something that will upgrade that Mac. At that time you get to decide if you upgrade or buy a new one. A new Macpro will have lots of life, but as soon as you get it, it starts to age and newer, faster Macs come along. But don't fret about it, the changes that the newer Macs get don't add up to much until your machine is a couple of years old, usually.

    I agree with Unclemac 100%. I don't know about requirements for Linux or windows, someone here will chime in if there is somethng you need to know about those needs. Like do they need more RAM?

    I guess the big thing I can add is that you want to take into account your backup scheme. A very important factor most ignore. The Burly Hotswap kits are really nice. Plus you can have extra drives and rotate your backups and have an almost bullet proof backup. The first time you loose all your work you hate yourself, the second time you do, you get a backup system in place so you never have to go through all that again. No one here will disagree about having a good backup setup.

  5. #5
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    Doh! Yes, dual link DVI. I forget about such things as it is not possible on Macs. Yet.....at far as I know.

    Most Mac folks I know don't go overkill on video......could be because we have so few choices compared to PCs, could be because many Mac users just want their machine to work, but don't get into benchmarking (outside of HD throughput and have lower requirements.....or could be that Macs have not been the platform of choice for serious gaming for a very long time. Like...ever. Don't know anybody doing 3D stuff myself, so I will leave that to others.

    Would be interesting to know if you can boot camp in XP or Vista do get the use of both cards. I couldn't say. A waste for 10.4, unless you want to run 4 monitors, or two at two at full video card performance.

    Swapping CPUs is a project, but thankfully one of the nice things about the Mac "cult" thing is that there are lots of folks who do crazy stuff and share the wealth.
    "Imagine if every Thursday your shoes exploded if you tied them the usual way. This happens to us all the time with computers, and nobody thinks of complaining." -- Jef Raskin

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by JesterDev View Post
    About 4 hours ago I was going to buy what I am told is an overpowered Mac pro:

    # Two 3.0GHz Quad-Core Intel Xeon
    # 4GB 667MHz DDR2 fully buffered ECC memory (4 x 1GB)
    # 500GB 7200-rpm Serial ATA 3Gb/s
    # 750GB 7200-rpm Serial ATA 3Gb/s
    # 2 ATI Radeon X1900 XT 512MB of GDDR3 (2 x dual-link DVI)
    # Apple Cinema HD Display (23" flat panel)
    # One 16x SuperDrive
    I'd wait for November if possible. Else, save your money and get stock refurbished model for $2200 (2.66GHz). TApple Store Specials has $3300 quad core and dual core from time to time. The X1900 is showing 2 months delay, which would suggest a revised model.

    I am not a fan of buying on time, especially for computers, unless they are paying for themselves for work (in under two years). However, the Mac Pro and Intel could mean drop in cpu but very very costly. Apple Store Specials are a great way to save and still have warranty, and maybe safer than new.

    Basic Mac Pro and upgrade to 4GB RAM, 3 x 500GB, X1900.

    Yes there is "memory thrashing" going on when you have two fsb's and 8 cores.

    forget 10K drives. Nice, but so would some WD RE2 models.

    Wait for the X2950 or Nvidia's fall line-up in graphics. Cross-Fire, dual link. And 1GB GDDR4. Do you need all that though? I think one $500 card is probably a killer. But with one 16x and one 8x slots, seems like SLI would benefit only if you have two 16x lanes.

    NVIDIA SLI™ Technology - Patented hardware and software technology allows two GeForce-based graphics cards to run in parallel to scale performance and enhance image quality on today's top titles.

    Under Windows, you can use any video card you want, but under Mac OS it must be EFI. vista 64-bit does have some support for EFI and GUID, but won't be 'official' until SP1 and will be the UEFI 2.0 specification, which is great.

    Would VMware Fusion handle all but 3D well enough? a great way to run and test OS X and Linux and Vista side by side rather than BootCamp (which is really just another name for running Windows natively on its own drive, with the system 'patched' to support the Mac Pro logicboard chipset with some drivers). I never used BC except to patch and I would not use BC for format a drive. Do that in Windows etc.

    .

    I assume you've read through some of the Mac Pro and Vista FAQ.
    Last edited by TZ; 08-12-2007 at 08:09 AM.

  7. #7
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    Well, there you go.

    Yes, I like Apple refurbs too. Bought a bunch of them at work. Got one bad G5 out of about 6. Could tell it was not right within hours. Apple swapped it for another, no hassle, other than waiting about a week for the replacement. Outside of the thin chance of that - and lets face it, that even happens with the occasional new machine too - refurbs are the best deal going.

    I like boot camp, and I like the fact that with both Fusion and Parallels you can point them at a boot camp install and use one Win OS two ways. If you want to do serious gaming, I would expect you want to boot to XP. Boot camp is still beta, though another release popped just the other day.
    "Imagine if every Thursday your shoes exploded if you tied them the usual way. This happens to us all the time with computers, and nobody thinks of complaining." -- Jef Raskin

  8. #8
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    Thanks everyone for the advice. I guess I'm going to do some more research and figure out exactly what I want on my Mac Pro. Still going with the Dual Quad 3Ghz CPU's. Also going to read up on RAID and a scratch drive. By buying RAM and HD's from MacGuru I am saving quite a bit of money. The only concern I have is a decent video card. While I like the current ones listed, I don't see an option for a single Ati card. I just may wait and see what Nvidia has lined up in the near future, or just end up called Apple to see what they can do.

  9. #9
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    Default Guys, wait a sec please!

    Hello,

    first off:
    DuaL Link DVI means Two DVI-Links in one DVI port for a big monitor with resolutions higher than 1920x1200 cuz DVI only supports to this resolution within VESA specs!
    This means you will need a Dual-Link DVI port for a 30" Apple Display.
    Also one X1950XT has a DualLink port no need for a second one!


    What you mean is, on the ATI side Crossfire and on the Nvidia side SLI.
    2 videocards working together on one App.

    No, the Mac versions wont support CrossFire in windows.
    Because you will need a crossfire edition for that and the Apple card isnt a crossfire edition.

    I have a friend and he is using one X1950XT Mac and two PC X1950XTX for windows. Problem is if your monitor is connected to one of the pc cards you won't have an image in OSX you have to reconnect the monitor to the Mac card if you want to see anything when using Mac OSX.
    Therefor he bought a DVI switch.

    How many PCIe power connectors are in a Mac Pro?
    I never looked at this cuz we don't need such things at work.

    Edit: But there is another problem with Crossfire and SLI:
    The Application you want to use must have SLI or Crossfire support to take full advantage of a dual GPU setup!

    NVIDIA SLI supported games:
    http://www.slizone.com/object/slizone2_game.html

    ATI has since Catalyst driver 6.7 manual Crossfire support which means you can manually switch Shaderfunctions to one and Vectorfunctions to the 2nd card. But don't expect the same performance as you will have if a game or app is really crossfire optimized.

    Regards

    Nicolas
    Last edited by Nicolas; 08-12-2007 at 11:10 PM.
    Custom Configurations! Rad Hacks and Mods!

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    Quote Originally Posted by TZ View Post
    Wait for the X2950 or Nvidia's fall line-up in graphics. Cross-Fire, dual link. And 1GB GDDR4. Do you need all that though? I think one $500 card is probably a killer. But with one 16x and one 8x slots, seems like SLI would benefit only if you have two 16x lanes.
    The ATI HD2900XT isn't that great the "King of the hill" is the 8800Ultra.
    The 2900 is slower to "as fast" as the 8800GTS but needs more power, 30 to 40W more. So I guess the 2950 would be as fast as the 8800GTS or maybe a bit faster but way slower compared to the 8800GTX and 8800Ultra.
    http://www.tomshardware.com/2007/07/...han/page6.html

    Regards

    Nicolas
    Custom Configurations! Rad Hacks and Mods!

  11. #11
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    Nothing like real experience.

    Thank you sir.
    "Imagine if every Thursday your shoes exploded if you tied them the usual way. This happens to us all the time with computers, and nobody thinks of complaining." -- Jef Raskin

  12. #12
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    New questions have been raised, and no I have not yet bought my Mac Pro. I'm waiting for my home loan to go through (which shouldn't be much longer) and I'm using what's left to byy my Mac Pro.

    So anyway I've got a few new questions. Should I wait for the new 45nm penryn chips to come out? Nov 11 is when I hear they should arrive for the Macs. I've read quite a bit about them and I like what I see, but not sure if I want to wait that long. Furthermore I don't suppose the current line of Mac Pro's will be upgradeable to these chips.. ?

    Next I really need a notebook. However I cannot afford one and a Mac Pro. So I found a place selling 800mhz G3 iBook's for $200. I might be able to shell out another $100 to $200 for a new model or perhaps to upgrade this unit. I mostly want it for art work (Corel Painter for example) with a Wacom Tablet. Not even sure if it will be upgradeable to leopard, although Tiger I believe will be fine. Any suggestions here? Here are the specs:

    * 12.1 TFT LCD panel
    * 128mb RAM (expandable to 640mb)
    * 30gb Hard Drive!
    * CDROM Drive
    * 10/100Base-T Ethernet built-in
    * 56k internal modem
    * USB & Firewire ports
    * OSX ready, as well as OS9!
    * Airport ready-just add a card!
    * Includes AC adaptor and Battery
    * includes 60 day guarantee

    Other then Ram will I be OK?

    And finally. As I went out today to pick up a few old arcade machines from a local arcade operator, I noticed he had a Performa 630CD laying around. Picked it up for $3 I have everything but a monitor for it and none of the ones I have laying around fit the pin size for the video port. It boots up, plays some sound, CD-ROM ejects, HD spins up etc. But of course no video. Any way I can mod it, or will I just have to buy monitor that fits? The only one I have that fits burned out some 15 years ago. Keep it around for memories sake.

    Sorry for all the questions. And thanks for all your time.

  13. #13
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    Pick up a Mac Mini. They are back in Apple Store Ref'd bin.

    PS: having the 'best' when it costs an extra $1000 isn't best buy always.

  14. #14
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    You need a Mac to VGA video adapter for the Performa The Mac port is a DB25 I believe and the VGA is a D-Sub 15

    These weren't necessarily Mac specific and you can usually find them in used computer shops but if you say Mac they will tell you they have none. So ask for a VGA monitor adapter and see what they have. Keep your genders in mind you want to go from 25 pin on the computer to VGA on the monitor they make them in 2 different directions.

    Alternately, goodwill stores in my area usually have old Mac monitors
    Damien,

  15. #15
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    Thank you. I found a adapter on ebay for $3. I went to several stores here in my area and found nothing. I did find more vintage macs however.

    I read something yesterday, not sure where it was but I guess it's true:

    "The main problem with Macs is that they last too long"

    I have a ton of vintage computers, and most of them I have had to repair. But these vintage Macs all seem to be working 100% and have a ton of people still using them! Guess making the switch the Mac is the best choice I've made thus far.

  16. #16
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    it's hard to kill a Mac that's true. I have 5 Mac IIsi's setting around here. made in 1990 all five still work and with an ethernet connection will surf the net using my cable modem. I hooked one up once on it just to see what it would do... downloading was about 30K a sec at the time my connection was running 55K a sec so that was pretty good. It totally fell down on the job though trying to draw web pages.. the graphics were too much for it
    Damien,

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