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Leila North
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New Mac Pro Tower Configuration

Feb 8, 2012 8:45 AM

Hi

 

I am currently looking at purchasing a new Mac Pro Desktop Tower to run CS 5.5.  I am planning to use it for longer video projects with premier and AE.  I would also be using audition to some extent.

 

I don't think that I can afford to go with a twelve core version of the Mac Pro, but I am wondering what is the best way to configure the ram/processor/video card?

 

Also are there any compatability issues with OSX Lion?

 

Any help will do.

 

Thanks

 
Replies
  • Currently Being Moderated
    Feb 8, 2012 9:24 AM   in reply to Leila North

    Leila,

     

    Right now is not a good time to purchase a new Mac Pro because the currently available models are now almost a year and a half old and have not been updated at all since when they were first introduced back in September of 2010.

     

    For starters, the current line uses the soon-to-be-EOL'd (End-Of-Life'd) LGA 1366 Gulftown line of Xeon CPUs (these CPUs will be replaced in Intel's lineup with new Xeons based on the LGA 2011 Sandy Bridge-E this spring).

     

    Second, none of the Mac Pros are available with an nVidia GPU at all; instead, all of them are offered only with AMD/ATi GPUs (and older-generation ones, at that, not even the HD 6000 series) that cannot use the MPE GPU acceleration mode in Premiere Pro CS5.x at all (Premiere will run only in MPE software-only mode with anything that's not from nVidia). This forces you to purchase a Quadro 4000 for Mac just to even use GPU acceleration at all - and the Quadro will add an extra $900 or so to the already high $2,500 starting price for a base Mac Pro configuration.

     

    Third, you will need to add more RAM and at least two additional hard drives to that base configuration (go with 24GB of RAM and at least two 1TB+ 7200 RPM hard drives); however, Apple charges an exhorbitant price for any such upgrades whatsoever (for example, they charge well over $1,000 just to upgrade from the base 3GB to the desired 24GB when third-party resellers charge only $200 for the exact same amount of Mac-compatible DDR3 RAM).

     

    Finally, the future of the Mac Pro is uncertain: The lack of any hardware updates to the line is a sign that Apple may be retreating from the professional market. And when the current Mac Pro line goes EOL, there may not be any more new Mac Pros at all.

     
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    Feb 8, 2012 10:48 AM   in reply to Leila North

    Well to even make the Mac Pro a worth while purchase over the I-Mac's with Adobe you need atleast the following:

     

    12GB ram

    3 HDD's total

    Quadro 4000 card

     

    Keep in mind the Quad single is going to be a marginal difference over the I-Mac with the 2600 if at all. If you can't afford a Dual, I am not sure how you will configure this to really make it worth your investment but that above would atleast handle the long form material to a point.

     

    Eric

    ADK

     
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  • Currently Being Moderated
    Feb 8, 2012 11:51 AM   in reply to Leila North

    I would like to keep things consistent with the operating system for my students, so I don't really want to go to a PC.

     

    Most people are plenty familiar with Windows.  Considering the money you will save and the increased performance you will get from using a PC (as well with the students once they leave), it's probably a good idea to go ahead and switch platforms on this one machine.

     
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  • Currently Being Moderated
    Feb 8, 2012 12:37 PM   in reply to Leila North

    Leila North wrote:

     

    I don't think that I can afford to go with a twelve core version of the Mac Pro, but I am wondering what is the best way to configure the ram/processor/video card?

    What's your overall budget look like for the purchase?  I assume you get some sort of EDU discount through Apple?  Do you have some on-site computer-savvy folks that can help you add/replace/swap parts?

     

    Also are there any compatability issues with OSX Lion?

    Any that may have been were cleared up with the latest revisions of PPro.  I run PPro on Lion and have no issues.

     

    jas

     
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  • Currently Being Moderated
    Feb 8, 2012 1:05 PM   in reply to Leila North

    Leila North wrote:

     

    Budget wise, I want to keep it under $4000, unless an upgrade to the Mac Pro line is launched, I am starting to think that loading up an IMac with more ram and the better processor might be the way to go.  I really wish that Apple would announce what will happen with the Mac Pro line.

     

    Do you know what % your edu discount is?  If you're a business partner with Apple, you get a paltry 8% discount on hardware.  But my guess is schools get a bigger discount?

     

    Into the cost you'll want to factor:

    • RAM (definitely DO NOT buy from Apple)
    • A Quadro 4000 video card
    • Some extra HDs

     

    If I know what your discount is, I can try to figure out the best setup you can afford.  But my guess is that even with your discount, you're not going to end up with a very powerful Pro for $4k.

     

    jas

     
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  • Currently Being Moderated
    Feb 8, 2012 1:40 PM   in reply to Leila North

    While the case for building a PC is strong and valid, and while I would build a PC if I needed a new system right now, I also understand the needs of some institutions to build a Mac. Here is my advice in that regard:

     

    1. You don't need dual processors. I have a single 6-core 3.33GHz chip in my 2009 Mac Pro (which I upgraded myself) and it handles heavy work in Premiere and After Effects CS5.

    2. Don't buy any RAM from Apple. With the price of hard drives today, it isn't such a big deal to have Apple install extra drives for you, but if you're even slightly technically inclined, you can install more RAM and hard drives for less if you shop and buy from other vendors. There is a great Mac-specialty website where I buy my RAM from called OWC (Other World Computing link) that has excellent deals and service. I think 24GB is minimum ($322), and 32GB is better... only $425 right now.

    3. If you have the budget, a proper third party RAID card is a much better deal and performer than Apple's Mac Pro RAID Card, so don't waste your money there unless you really want to limit yourself to an internal RAID 5 of no more than four disks. I got by with a 3-drive RAID (AID) 0 stripe of disks for a year before needing to expand to a proper RAID. With three Apple drives striped together, you'll get a sustained data throughput of 330MB/sec both read and write speed, which is good enough to edit some HD video. I edited a feature-length film shot on P2 at 108060i/24p using only three internal Apple 1TB disks, with backups to external drives holding a safety net for my data.

    4. You don't need to buy an NVIDIA /CUDA card (Quadro 4000). I have the 5870 from Apple, and I can edit DSLR 5DMkII footage in smooth real-time, but that is helped by the 32GB of RAM and fast RAID. I have a CUDA card, an older GTX285, and while it was good for Premiere, I felt it was slower than the 5870 in After Effects, which is where I spend more time rendering anyway.

     

    I'm not sure how much weight you'll be placing on student projects being safe from loss in the event of a drive failure, but you could either have them back their projects up themselves on their own external drives, or build a robust RAID. I have an Areca RAID card that runs eight 2TB disks in RAID6, which yields 12TB of very fast data that is also still safe if any two of the eight drives fails before being replaced. Depending on the number of students using the system, it could cost less to build a similar RAID than have each student buy their own drives. Question is, does the school eat that cost of security for the students, or let them shoulder that cost themselves?

     

    I was a film school student myself, and I know what it's like to sign up for a four-hour block on a limited number of edit suites. You want the system to run faster than the students, so they can be creative without wasting their time slot waiting for the computer.

     

    With your education discount from Apple, you should be able to get a 6-core 2010 Mac Pro, RAM, disks (and RAID if you go that route) from 3rd parties about $6000... much less if you skip the RAID system. If I can help in any way, let me know. I love my system, even if I could build it in a PC today at half the cost. Adobe works the same (or better) on a PC as it does on a Mac once you're in the software, but if you have to go Apple and can't wait for what may come out in the future, consider a system like mine.

     

    2009 Mac Pro (updated to 2010 firmware... you'd buy a 2010 and not worry about that.)

    3.33GHz 6-core CPU

    ATI Radeon HD 5870 (still runs software acceleration very nicely)

    32GB RAM @1333MHz

    (4) internal hard disks (1=OS X, Adobe CS5, 2+3=RAID0 (stripe) for scratch files, 4=other backups and storage)

    Areca 1880ix-12 RAID card

    Sans Digital 8-bay tower

    (8) 2TB WD RE-4 hard disks in RAID6 = 12TB parity array (sustained 816MB/sec write, 714MB/sec read speeds)

    Various backups in external disks.

     

    Good luck!

     
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    Feb 8, 2012 1:38 PM   in reply to Leila North

    If $4000 is your budget then you can definitely get the single Quad Mac Pro 12GB ram, 3x1TB drives from Apple and the Quadro 4000 card separately with the EDU discount. The Quadro alone would make the Mac Pro better with Premiere than the I-Mac. However I can't say I would recommend that at this point considering what is available on the PC for that price range.

     

    Eric

    ADK

     
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  • Currently Being Moderated
    Feb 8, 2012 1:50 PM   in reply to Leila North

    I didn't see the $4000 limit as I wrote my novel.

     

    For $4000, with your EDU discount, all you need is:

    6-core 2010 Mac Pro

    5870 video card

    24 or 32GB RAM

    All four drive slots filled, put OS + Adobe on drive #1 and the other three in RAID0 for project data and everything else.

     

    Find some 2TB hard drives for about $200 each, saving $100 each you'd pay Apple, and the RAM from OWC. You'll come in under $4000, or very close.

     
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    Feb 8, 2012 8:41 PM   in reply to wonderspark

    Sounds like you already have all the great advice you need, but just for your info.

    We have a mid-2010 MacPro in our main edit bay and a newish iMac for less intensive stuff. The MacPro 8 core has, 12 gig memory (from Crucial), Nvidia 4000, FirmTek eSATA card connected to a 5 drive FirmTek RAID 0. It makes scrubbing the timeline, JKL or whatever of AVCHD (H.264) footage look relatively smooth at full rez playback. It is a challenging codec, but it only stutters trying to shuttle backwards. We do have an older Kona LHe card, that we used with FCP, but it's only being used currently for audio out. The system is solid, no crashes in Premiere or the OS thus far. With our iMac we have to render everything or set PP to 1/4 rez.

     

    Do you know that via Thunderbolt you can get an external card enclosure and put third party cards in that. I think Sonnet makes one. Not sure how it would deal with a secondary graphics card. I stumbled across a guy on the web that was using a MacBook Air with one of these setups, but he was running Windows 7 I think. It was more for a fun test, I don't think he was seriously encouraging anyone to use a MacBook Air, but Thunderbolt really opens up possibilities and none of us really no if the MacPro will actually be updated.

     

    If we were upgarding today, as much as I love the Mac experience, we would look seriously at going PC as well. Some of my Mac friends would burn me at the stake, so don't tell anyone. But we'd go with a custom build like the folks at ADK are doing. All the best!

     
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  • Currently Being Moderated
    Feb 8, 2012 11:55 PM   in reply to Glitchdog

    For what it's worth, I can scrub H.264 1920x1080 forwards, backwards, fast or slow with instant perfection.

     

    I tested some 4.5K RED footage (4480x1920, 1.0) and it comes close to playing smoothly in real time at 1/2 resolution, with just a slight stutter, with no rendering at all... yellow bar up top, which is surprising. Figured it would be a red bar with my 5870 GPU. In 1/4 resolution, it all plays smooth as ever. This is on a dual monitor setup, one of which being a 30" ACD. Pics:

    Screen shot 2012-02-09 at 12.44.04 AM.png

    30'-ACD-scaled-down.jpg

    Had to scale down the last image so it would upload here. Anyway, this is all using the 5870... no CUDA / hardware acceleration.

    This is for information purposes only... not intended as any kind of brag or slight.

     
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    Feb 9, 2012 6:51 AM   in reply to Leila North

    Whatever you do don't get a $2000 PC and run windows with the $800 CS 5.5 educatoin suite. All of the students will be fighting each other to use it, the IT guy won't have anything to do, and the teachers won't have anything or anyone to to complain about.

     
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    Feb 9, 2012 3:16 PM   in reply to Islanders66

    PC people are funny

    Wonderspark, now I'm jealous! Just kidding. Maybe someday I can scrub backwards, for now at least, I can walk backwards. I actually thought the 4000 was the only Mac Nvidia card with CUDA, good to hear there's another option. Happy scrubbing!

     
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    Feb 9, 2012 3:34 PM   in reply to Glitchdog

    The Quadro 4000 is the only card currently available for Mac with Cuda. Cuda is specific to Nvidia and is their own programming language. ATI uses Open CL for their GPU coding language and that is not currently supported by the MPE.

     

    Eric

    ADK

     
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  • Currently Being Moderated
    Mar 16, 2012 12:12 AM   in reply to Leila North

    I have a mid 2010 macpro quad with 16gb ram with 5770 ati card and Nvidia 4000 installed. In addition I use 4tb external raid and Matrox MX02 mini for grabbing footage via HDMI into my rig. I like the 5770 over the 5870 because it uses only one power socket to run vs two in the 5870. I use the 5770 for my CPU functions and use my nvidia for gpu/CUDA functions. IF you can get a good deal on a 2009 Macpro or later then that is all you really need. In fact...I'm still using Snow Leopard because it is reliable.

     
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    Mar 16, 2012 12:54 AM   in reply to carylee2002

    Good to hear you're doing well with the dual GPUs like that! My buddy just ordered a refurb 2010 Mac Pro to replace his MacBook Pro that he's been struggling to work with. He's not nearly into the heavy editing that I do, but does want to do some, and his rig is due for delivery tomorrow with a 5770.

     

    I'm curious about power for the two cards. I thought the 4000 needed two power connections, so you have three going to the two cards, right? Do you use an adapter from the ODD bay power plug or something for #3? I was just contemplating how it might work out if he wanted to try the 5770 and GTX285 together.

     
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    Mar 16, 2012 2:41 AM   in reply to wonderspark

    The 5770 and Nvidia cards only need one power source each. The 5870 needs two. There is another power source available to be used for a second DVD/BD drive on the board. To look for the correct configuration that I have mine setup..I resourced to the Divinci Resolve site for samples. Go to pages 13 or 14 to get an idea to setup the Mac Pro.

     

    http://www.blackmagic-design.com/media/1034879/davinciresolvemacconfig guide.pdf

     
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  • Currently Being Moderated
    Mar 16, 2012 4:49 AM   in reply to carylee2002

    carylee2002 wrote:

     

    The 5770 and Nvidia cards only need one power source each.

     

    FWIW I can verify this as I'm doing the same thing in my 2010 Mac Pro.

     

    jas

     
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