18 Replies Latest reply: May 10, 2011 6:34 PM by rdbaron RSS

    Best Mac Pro Configuration for LR?

    rdbaron Community Member

      For various reasons I'm planning on migrating from my home desktop pc ( 4 year old core2 2.4 ghz xp pro sp 3 32bit accessing 2.93 out of 4 gb ram) to a new or (lightly used recent) Mac Pro desktop.  The Mac Pro is available in a lot of different configurations and I would appreciate advice on how many cores and how much ram I actually need to comfortably run LR3x and its eventual upgrades (within reason) and PS3 for now and later probably whatever is current.  I'm a reasonably advanced amateur photographer; I shoot what interests me and now use LR for 90-95% of my post processing of my raw Leica and Canon image files. I do use some add-ons (SilverEfex Pro2 and such).

       

      I understand from reading some articles that too much muscle in the Mac Pro can actually slow down LR, so if this is true I'd like to stay svelte; also economic issues are somewhat a concern.

       

      I have already considered a laptop or an iMac and decided the Mac Pro is what I want.  The question is just 'what will work best for me'?

       

      Thanks in advance, and if you need more information just let me know.

       

      --Bob

       

      p.s.  Is the Search Function disabled in this Forum?  I couldn't get it to work.

        • 1. Re: Best Mac Pro Configuration for LR?
          JayS In CT Community Member

          rdbaron wrote:

           

          For various reasons I'm planning on migrating from my home desktop pc ( 4 year old core2 2.4 ghz xp pro sp 3 32bit accessing 2.93 out of 4 gb ram) to a new or (lightly used recent) Mac Pro desktop.  The Mac Pro is available in a lot of different configurations and I would appreciate advice on how many cores and how much ram I actually need to comfortably run LR3x and its eventual upgrades (within reason) and PS3 for now and later probably whatever is current.  I'm a reasonably advanced amateur photographer; I shoot what interests me and now use LR for 90-95% of my post processing of my raw Leica and Canon image files. I do use some add-ons (SilverEfex Pro2 and such).

           

          I understand from reading some articles that too much muscle in the Mac Pro can actually slow down LR, so if this is true I'd like to stay svelte; also economic issues are somewhat a concern.

           

          I have already considered a laptop or an iMac and decided the Mac Pro is what I want.  The question is just 'what will work best for me'?

           

          Thanks in advance, and if you need more information just let me know.

           

          --Bob

           

          p.s.  Is the Search Function disabled in this Forum?  I couldn't get it to work.

           

          Bob,

           

          I came from a Macbook Pro 2,1 with 4GB (kind of - takes 4, but only give about 3.25 GB) and both internal and external eSATA bus speed restricted to 1.5 vs. the full 3.0...  I went with a refurb on the Apple site for a 8 core 2.4 Westmere, comes with ATI 5770 Graphics card, 1TB 7200 RPM Black Caviar, and 6GB RAM (which I've up'd to 10GB).  I looked at it this way..  I've got a ton of head room on memory 64GB, high speed slots if I want to upgrade graphics, and 8 cores to work with.  So far I've done 5 times as much on the Mac Pro concurrently and the CPU free % is obscene (in a good way)  :-)

           

          I have to give some props to TheWhiteDog, who helped me a lot with the pro's and con's of the different Apple offerings.  I wanted Westmere CPU.  Would I have loved the 12 core, higher clock speed puppy.. yep, but price point was hard.. even the 6 core higher clock speed was up there.  So I think I've got a strong foundation to build on for a while, and the refurb price from Apple was very good.  They warranty as new and Apple Care is exactly the same as new.  Seemed the right choice for what I'm doing which includes video rendering with Final Cut Pro 6.

           

          Jay S.

          • 2. Re: Best Mac Pro Configuration for LR?
            rdbaron Community Member

            Thanks, Jay.  I'm having trouble understanding 'needed number of cores' vs. 'needed clock speed' vs 'needed ram' to make the current versions of LR and PS 'sing'.  I know there's a lot that goes into selecting an optimum configuration, especially when cost is an object. I'm just tired of limping along with my current setup and am ready to step up....if I can figure out where the steps are.

             

            --Bob

            • 3. Re: Best Mac Pro Configuration for LR?
              Victoria_Bampton CommunityMVP

              Bob, you might find this article by Ian Lyons particularly useful in understanding which components tend to have the greatest impact on your LR usage: http://www.computer-darkroom.com/blog/will-an-ssd-improve-adobe-lightroom-performance/

              • 4. Re: Best Mac Pro Configuration for LR?
                rdbaron Community Member

                Victoria, many thanks to you for bringing this to my attention, and of course to Ian for writing it.  It is a very big help!

                 

                --Bob

                • 5. Re: Best Mac Pro Configuration for LR?
                  thewhitedog Community Member

                  @ Bob: I think you may be have acquired some misinformation somewhere. There is no such thing as "too much muscle" in a Mac Pro in relationship to Lightroom - or any other program. OS X allocates resources to applications as they need them. Unused resources remain idle or are utilized by other applications.

                   

                  Adobe posts the minimum system requirements for their applications, but these should just be taken as a starting point. In my opinion you should buy the best Mac Pro your budget can handle - and maybe a little bit more. The computer is an investment, after all, not a luxury. That said, what you need to run Lightroom efficiently and what Jay needs to do video editing are not necessarily the same. For video rendering more cores are better. For Lightroom the question of the number of CPU cores is less critical. Whereas, CPU speed is more relevant. For both, the amount of RAM can make a big difference.

                   

                  I recommend as a starting point, at least a quad-core Mac Pro with 4GB of RAM. That would do if you were looking at an iMac as well.

                   

                  I can understand, though, how looking at the current line-up of Mac Pros can be confusing. The older Nehalem powered Mac Pros look faster for less money, but this is now old technology. The new Intel Westmere CPUs offer significant improvements in performance. Unfortunately, they are also much more expensive than any previous Mac CPU upgrade. But if you want to "future proof" your new Mac, one with a Westmere CPU is the better way to go. The 8 core model Jay went with seems to be the best value, with two quad-core 2.4GHz Westmere CPUs. However, for just $200 more you can get the 6 core 3.33GHz Westmere CPU. For the purposes of Lightroom, the faster CPUs in the 6 core model will make more of a difference than the two extra cores in the 8 core version. And the 6 core version will handle just about any multi-tasking job you throw at it; that it, using Lightroom in conjunction with Adobe Photoshop, for example.

                   

                  To confuse the issue a bit more, however, if using Lightroom is your primary concern, a Mac Pro may be overkill. The new iMacs, which came out since you started this thread, are excellent machines. You could get a lot more for your money with a 27" iMac, BTO with a quad-core 3.3GHz Intel Sandy Bridge CPU, 8GB of RAM and a 2TB hard drive for roughly $1,000 less than the Mac Pros you're looking at. Along with a capable computer you get a beautiful 27" screen on the iMac. I'm not sure why you think you need the Mac Pro. The iMac can now take up to 16GB of RAM. If you were to get one with 8GB factory installed by Apple - as a BTO option - there would still be two empty RAM slots available for a future upgrade. You could add an SSD to the iMac and still pay less than you would for the Mac Pro.

                   

                  And the new iMacs have a Thunderbolt port; in fact, the 27" models have two Thunderbolt ports. These offer much better throughput and greater flexibility than any previous I/O connection. With an appropriate adaptor you can use almost any external device, including eSATA, FireWire 400 and 800, USB 1, 2 and 3 and even Ethernet and an external monitor. Of course the iMac still has a Firewire 800 port and four USB 2 ports, and an SDXC memory card slot. For what it may be worth, I suggest you give the iMac another look. Your budget will thank you.

                   

                   

                  • 6. Re: Best Mac Pro Configuration for LR?
                    rdbaron Community Member

                    Thanks again, Victoria.  You've not only answered the questions I asked, you anticipated the question I've been pondering in the background.

                     

                    To paraphrase someone else: "To iMac or not to iMac, that is the question".

                     

                    As I've reviewed the specs of the new iMacs and the cost ratio as opposed to Mac Pros I have come to feel as you suggested, the Mac Pro may be overkill for me at this time.  However, I've got the concerns about the iMac you would suspect: (1) I've already got two really good (although older) large high end Samsung monitors and I've somewhat mixed emotions about the iMac's glossy, razzle dazzle display, and (2) I am reluctant to put all my computational eggs in one basket.  If the monitor goes south, or the computer goes south, the whole package  goes south. There's an Apple store fifteen minutes from my house, but still....

                     

                    Third, I'd be inclined to put my image files on an external usb drive, which is probably not the fastest solution.  This may be obviated by getting the iMac configuration with a 1 TB hard drive plus an ssd.  As I understand it the programs will all be installed on the ssd, leaving the hard drive to hold the images.

                     

                    From what I see I've got time to make the decision, since it appears the really tricked out iMac won't be available for 4-6 weeks (per the Apple Store website).

                     

                    Again, many thanks for your help.  It is really hard to find someone around here who understands LightRoom from a Mac hardware standpoint and this is why this forum is so valuable to me.

                     

                    --Bob

                     

                    Message was edited by: rdbaron due to speling misteak

                    • 7. Re: Best Mac Pro Configuration for LR?
                      rdbaron Community Member

                      PS: And that brings up the question of whether to wait for Lion so as not to have to do the upgrade but have it pre-installed.

                       

                      I really can wait a couple of months without too much additional pain.

                      • 8. Re: Best Mac Pro Configuration for LR?
                        rdbaron Community Member

                        Make that 'thanks, White Dog'.  I'm having a bad internet day.

                        • 9. Re: Best Mac Pro Configuration for LR?
                          JayS In CT Community Member

                          thewhitedog wrote:

                           

                          @ Bob: I think you may be have acquired some misinformation somewhere. There is no such thing as "too much muscle" in a Mac Pro in relationship to Lightroom - or any other program. OS X allocates resources to applications as they need them. Unused resources remain idle or are utilized by other applications.

                           

                          Adobe posts the minimum system requirements for their applications, but these should just be taken as a starting point. In my opinion you should buy the best Mac Pro your budget can handle - and maybe a little bit more. The computer is an investment, after all, not a luxury. That said, what you need to run Lightroom efficiently and what Jay needs to do video editing are not necessarily the same. For video rendering more cores are better. For Lightroom the question of the number of CPU cores is less critical. Whereas, CPU speed is more relevant. For both, the amount of RAM can make a big difference.

                           

                          I recommend as a starting point, at least a quad-core Mac Pro with 4GB of RAM. That would do if you were looking at an iMac as well.

                           

                          I can understand, though, how looking at the current line-up of Mac Pros can be confusing. The older Nehalem powered Mac Pros look faster for less money, but this is now old technology. The new Intel Westmere CPUs offer significant improvements in performance. Unfortunately, they are also much more expensive than any previous Mac CPU upgrade. But if you want to "future proof" your new Mac, one with a Westmere CPU is the better way to go. The 8 core model Jay went with seems to be the best value, with two quad-core 2.4GHz Westmere CPUs. However, for just $200 more you can get the 6 core 3.33GHz Westmere CPU. For the purposes of Lightroom, the faster CPUs in the 6 core model will make more of a difference than the two extra cores in the 8 core version. And the 6 core version will handle just about any multi-tasking job you throw at it; that it, using Lightroom in conjunction with Adobe Photoshop, for example.

                           

                          To confuse the issue a bit more, however, if using Lightroom is your primary concern, a Mac Pro may be overkill. The new iMacs, which came out since you started this thread, are excellent machines. You could get a lot more for your money with a 27" iMac, BTO with a quad-core 3.3GHz Intel Sandy Bridge CPU, 8GB of RAM and a 2TB hard drive for roughly $1,000 less than the Mac Pros you're looking at. Along with a capable computer you get a beautiful 27" screen on the iMac. I'm not sure why you think you need the Mac Pro. The iMac can now take up to 16GB of RAM. If you were to get one with 8GB factory installed by Apple - as a BTO option - there would still be two empty RAM slots available for a future upgrade. You could add an SSD to the iMac and still pay less than you would for the Mac Pro.

                           

                          And the new iMacs have a Thunderbolt port; in fact, the 27" models have two Thunderbolt ports. These offer much better throughput and greater flexibility than any previous I/O connection. With an appropriate adaptor you can use almost any external device, including eSATA, FireWire 400 and 800, USB 1, 2 and 3 and even Ethernet and an external monitor. Of course the iMac still has a Firewire 800 port and four USB 2 ports, and an SDXC memory card slot. For what it may be worth, I suggest you give the iMac another look. Your budget will thank you.

                           

                           

                           

                          TheWhiteDog,

                           

                          Kinda, Sorta, Maybe...  :-)  The cost differential between the 8 and 6 cores is $200 when comparing new to new.  I picked up the 8 Core Westmere 2.4 for under $3000 because it comes up on the Refurbished side... So now we're talking $700 difference.  the difference in price can be used for memory (I got 4GB for $50 at OtherWorldCmputing's "Garage Sale), a drive.. any number of things.  Since Apple treat refurbs as new for warranty purposes (including AppleCare), I didn't see any reason not to go with the refurbished model..

                           

                          I agree a higher clock speed is better, but as you said, I also do video so more cores helps (amazingly helps)..  Yes, for LR 6 3.33 cores may outperform  8 2.4s, but the 8 core machine flies with LR.

                           

                          As for iMacs vs. Mac Pro..  the biggest difference is that you find with any desk top vs. a "fixed" machine like the iMac.  The upgrade as far a internal (and external) drives on a Mac Pro is so much better as well as to upgrade video if I want to in the future as well.  As for Thunderbolt, clearly a lot of potential, but it is a daisy chain design and the slowest device in the chain can slow down everything if not done right.  There's also not a lot out there for Thunderbolt yet.. and I'm not 100% sure that there won't be an PCI card for Mac Pros for Thunderbolt (although it could be a system board feature only).

                           

                          At under $3000 with 6GB of memory and a 1TB 7200 drive, combined with growrh potential and the Mac Pro I think has a longer shelf life vs. the iMac.  Without those Thunderbolt adapters in the market place, you're stuck with FW800, which is a lot slower than even eSATA for external drives.  Since most all the LR recommendations are to split the catalog away from the cache and away from the images themselves, it's a trickier and more costly venture on the iMac..  The 27" screen in nice, but I'm not a big fan of glossy screens.  I don't think any of those allow you a matte finish option like on the Macbook Pro.

                           

                          Bottom line Bob is there are different choices for different budgets... Heck I went with a 17" Macbook Pro for a long time, using an inexpensive Expresscard 34 to hook up external eSATA drives and a second 24" Dell monitor..  Great combo and I always had the portability aspect of the 17" for client work, being tethered, etc..

                           

                          Jay

                          • 10. Re: Best Mac Pro Configuration for LR?
                            rdbaron Community Member

                            JayS In CT wrote:

                             

                            Bottom line Bob is there are different choices for different budgets...

                             

                             

                            Thanks again for your thoughts, Jay.

                             

                            Assuming just one budget.....say $3000, +/- $100 or so.....there are still, as you all point out, a lot of choices within that range.

                             

                            I appreciate the help in identifying and understanding those choices and the probable consequences of each.

                             

                            --Bob

                            • 11. Re: Best Mac Pro Configuration for LR?
                              JayS In CT Community Member

                              rdbaron wrote:

                               

                              JayS In CT wrote:

                               

                              Bottom line Bob is there are different choices for different budgets...

                               

                               

                              Thanks again for your thoughts, Jay.

                               

                              Assuming just one budget.....say $3000, +/- $100 or so.....there are still, as you all point out, a lot of choices within that range.

                               

                              I appreciate the help in identifying and understanding those choices and the probable consequences of each.

                               

                              --Bob

                               

                              Bob,

                               

                              No problem...  It's interesting in that of the Westmere processor machines, only the 8 and 12 Mac Pro's show up in Refurb. section.  I've never seen the 6 show up there.  I would suggest checking the refurbs though..  You'll clearly get a better bang for the buck.    Again for memory and things, check Other World Computing and sign up for their "garage sale" notification.  You can't beat $50 for 4GB of OEM Apple memory - NEW!

                               

                              Jay S.

                              • 12. Re: Best Mac Pro Configuration for LR?
                                thewhitedog Community Member

                                @ Bob & Jay: The Apple Refurb store is a good solution - in fact, I got my current Mac Pro there and saved about $500. It meant getting the model I wanted instead of settling for less. And Bob may yet end up with a Mac Pro, given that, as he explained, he already has two good monitors and the Mac pro would support those just fine - assuming they have DVI connections, though he will need a Mini DisplayPort adaptor for one of them as the Mac Pro graphics cards now include only one DVI connection and two Mini DisplayPort connections.

                                 

                                The Westmere Mac Pros are quite new, which explains why the selection is limited right now. If Bob waits a few months there will probably be more to choose from - and perhaps even some of the new iMacs as well. Though these will probably not include Lion pre-installed - unless he waits even longer. I suggest, Bob, if you do decide to get a refurb Mac that you contact Apple by phone (1-800-MyApple); it was my experience that the sales people there have a more up-to-date list of what's available than you will see on the web site. And you might be able to talk them into throwing in a copy of Lion. ;-)

                                 

                                Be advised, though, that the Mac Pro is big, probably larger than your current PC. You'll probably have to put it on the floor, unless you have a lot of desk space.

                                • 13. Re: Best Mac Pro Configuration for LR?
                                  rdbaron Community Member

                                  Thanks again for the tips.

                                   

                                  I think I will be waiting a month or two, both to let the refurb stock build up and to see if there is more news on the timing of the release of Lion.

                                   

                                  Also, although I do have sufficient desk space for a Mac Pro, there have been rumblings of a new, more svelte model.

                                   

                                  I'm lucky in that I don't need to make an immediate purchase so I can spend some time learning before doing, all the while knowing that whatever I buy will be superseded by something more desirable within one week of my purchase.

                                  • 14. Re: Best Mac Pro Configuration for LR?
                                    thewhitedog Community Member

                                    @ Bob: The stock at the refurb store doesn't build up - it moves quickly. You'll want to keep an eye on it for something you like. Jay can tell you, he missed several chances before he landed the one he wanted.

                                     

                                    As for the more svelte Mac Pro, I wouldn't hold my breath. Apple just upgraded the Mac Pro line recently with the Westmere CPUs. And even when (if) a new form factor arrives, it will be some time before it will show up in the refurb store. If you can wait six months, you may have a chance at one, but if your timeline is much shorter than that I'd plan on getting a current model. I suggest you make a list of your priorities with the most important items at the top. This will help you decide when the time is right to pull the trigger - that is, when your most important priorities have been met.

                                    • 15. Re: Best Mac Pro Configuration for LR?
                                      JayS In CT Community Member

                                      thewhitedog wrote:

                                       

                                      @ Bob: The stock at the refurb store doesn't build up - it moves quickly. You'll want to keep an eye on it for something you like. Jay can tell you, he missed several chances before he landed the one he wanted.

                                       

                                      As for the more svelte Mac Pro, I wouldn't hold my breath. Apple just upgraded the Mac Pro line recently with the Westmere CPUs. And even when (if) a new form factor arrives, it will be some time before it will show up in the refurb store. If you can wait six months, you may have a chance at one, but if your timeline is much shorter than that I'd plan on getting a current model. I suggest you make a list of your priorities with the most important items at the top. This will help you decide when the time is right to pull the trigger - that is, when your most important priorities have been met.

                                      Bob... He's 100% correct on this point...  We're talking gone in minutes sometimes. There are very few that come up on refurb (especially desireable Westmere) ... when they do, they're snatched up quickly.. again with good cause. Apple treats them as new for all purposes.

                                       

                                      Jay S.

                                      • 16. Re: Best Mac Pro Configuration for LR?
                                        rdbaron Community Member

                                        I gather there's no way to set a search / alert, sort of like a google news alert on a specific subject?

                                        • 17. Re: Best Mac Pro Configuration for LR?
                                          thewhitedog Community Member

                                          As far as I know, there is no way to set an alert; it's pretty much first come, first serve. But, as I said, when you are actually ready to buy, the best way to get the latest info is to call 800-MyApple. That's how I got my Mac Pro when it wasn't up yet on the web site.

                                          • 18. Re: Best Mac Pro Configuration for LR?
                                            rdbaron Community Member

                                            Thanks all for your help.  I really appreciate it.   --Bob