Need some advice regarding Mac Pro purchase

wot_fan

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I just came into a little money and am in the market for a new desktop computer. I am pretty sure that I am going to get a Mac Pro. I am leaning towards the two 3.0GHz Quad-Core Intel Xeon processor model. I plan on running 3D Studio Max (3d Animation software) in Parallels so I want a machine with enough power to run Windows apps in a window vs bootcamp.

I have only been a Mac user (MacBook Pro) since March so I have a few questions that I am hoping members here can help me with.

  1. I plan to wait at least until Leopard is released to make my purchase. Should I wait until the next hardware update is made to the Mac Pro? When does Apple usually update the Mac Pro? Does Apple ever have sales or promotions on Mac Pros?
  2. How much memory should I purchase with the MP? I have read that with a MBP your best option is to buy the memory separately and install it yourself. Is this true of the MP? For dual processor machine how much total RAM is recommended?
  3. Finally should I buy a big HD preinstalled or purchase it separately and install it myself.

I have built my last 5 or so PCs so I have no problem installing hardware. My questions are meant to find out what options make the most sense financially without jeopardizing the machine's stability or warranty.

Any comments or advice would be appreciated. TIA ;).
 

chris

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#2
I just came into a little money and am in the market for a new desktop computer. I am pretty sure that I am going to get a Mac Pro. I am leaning towards the two 3.0GHz Quad-Core Intel Xeon processor model. I plan on running 3D Studio Max (3d Animation software) in Parallels so I want a machine with enough power to run Windows apps in a window vs bootcamp.

I have only been a Mac user (MacBook Pro) since March so I have a few questions that I am hoping members here can help me with.
  1. I plan to wait at least until Leopard is released to make my purchase. Should I wait until the next hardware update is made to the Mac Pro? When does Apple usually update the Mac Pro? Does Apple ever have sales or promotions on Mac Pros?
  2. How much memory should I purchase with the MP? I have read that with a MBP your best option is to buy the memory separately and install it yourself. Is this true of the MP? For dual processor machine how much total RAM is recommended?
  3. Finally should I buy a big HD preinstalled or purchase it separately and install it myself.
I have built my last 5 or so PCs so I have no problem installing hardware. My questions are meant to find out what options make the most sense financially without jeopardizing the machine's stability or warranty.

Any comments or advice would be appreciated. TIA ;).
With 3D animation software, you might be better off running via Bootcamp in Windows. I haven't used Parallels, so not sure how the performance is for a processor intensive app.

I too am waiting for Leopard to upgrade my mac (I bought the last PowerPC G5). Here's the MacRumors buyers guide which tells you when they think an update will occur. Right now, it's a BUY. That might change come October.

I always buy the minimum RAM and then boost it with aftermarket ram. Check out Ramseeker and buy on price. Not sure if there are particular requirements for those processors. The general rule of thumb (as you probably know) is that RAM is the best investment you can make in any computer.

I do the same for hard drives. I have a few external Firewire drives and try to keep my internal drive clean (doesn't always happen). This allows me to do clean installs of the OS if need be.

Installing drives and RAM on these machines is a breeze. I never worried about voiding a warranty. I'd check with Apple, but I'm not even sure if putting RAM into your Mac voids your warranty. They build these things so you can open them. Standard rules apply with the install. No carpet and touch the power pack to remove any static electricity. For externals, NewEgg has enclosures that look just like the G5. I purchased the drives and enclosures. I also have a G-Drive, but it'll be a bit more expensive. I haven't sacrificed any reliability in my setup. Rock solid.

Install, reboot and enjoy!

-Chris
 

Spin This!

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I am leaning towards the two 3.0GHz Quad-Core Intel Xeon processor model. I plan on running 3D Studio Max (3d Animation software) in Parallels so I want a machine with enough power to run Windows apps in a window vs bootcamp.
Bootcamp is your only option if plan on doing any kind of 3D rendering. Virtualization software, such as Parellels, uses "virtual" hardware and then sends those commands back out to the CPU. Why you would limit performance in a 3D rendering program is beyond me.

3DS might even balk since it can't "see" the hardware directly (specifically you won't be able to render using the 4 cores). I'm not sure how much 3DS depends on the graphics card either, which it might need direct access to... depending on those factors, you might not even be able to run it at all.

(Unless you're a dedicated Max user you might want to try LightWave or Maya on the Mac to see how it compares.)

Should I wait until the next hardware update is made to the Mac Pro? When does Apple usually update the Mac Pro?
As you know, Apple just updated the tower with the quad core (clovertown) processors so I wouldn't expect an update for awhile. I would be surprised to see something this year... maybe Macworld in January.

Does Apple ever have sales or promotions on Mac Pros?
Go enroll at your local community college... you don't even need to sign up for a class. AFAIK, Apple doesn't really check to see if you're actually a student. You can save about $200 if you buy now, plus you get a Nano that you could eBay, making an upgrade in October basically free.

I'm not sure if Apple still does the Up-to-Date program but if previously you could get the newest OS for $20 depending on when you purchased your machine. So you could buy a new machine new and when Leopard ships, update to it.

your best option is to buy the memory separately and install it yourself. Is this true of the MP?
You always pay the Apple premium for Apple to install it. Certain memory configs they don't charge that much extra or are actually on par with other sellers (for example, in some mid-line configs, you might pay an extra $20.) But don't max it out, you'll end up paying more than $2000 more... and that's just for memory.

It's super easy to do this in a Mac Pro. It's just a riser card that slides out, install the ram in the card and put it back in. The only thing with the Mac Pro memory is make sure you're getting the correct memory. Originally when the Mac Pro came out, some vendors were selling substandard memory that didn't dissipate the heat properly causing performance problems.

I always buy my ram from Other World Computing (OWC). Their prices are always reasonable, they have a lifetime memory guarantee, and since you're in Chicago (they're based in Woodstock, IL), they're relatively close by (about an hour I think) and beat them over the head if you have problems.

Finally should I buy a big HD preinstalled or purchase it separately and install it myself.
Hard drives are only dropping in price, especially serial ATA drives, so unless you fill up a drive, it doesn't make much sense to purchase a couple drives right away unless you plan on using all that space.

Again, as with memory, you pay the Apple Piper to have it preinstalled. I would go with a standard config of one drive and get another one from another source (even Best Buy) or if you have any older serial ata drives lying around, you can use those (eg as a backup or so).

Apple really did a great job on the case design of the Mac Pro... the case designs are so easy to get access to everything. Coming from the PC world, you'll love this case.
 

chris

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... the case designs are so easy to get access to everything. Coming from the PC world, you'll love this case.
Having recently completed a few necessary upgrades to my DuLL, I can attest to this. My Macs (outside of my PowerMac clone) have always been pretty easy to upgrade. MacPro towers are the epitome of this ease of use.

Second the vote for OWC -- via macsales.com. Browse the various tech deals sites and you'll be able to get name brand Ram for pretty cheap.

-Chris
 
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wot_fan

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Thank you Chris and Spin This! for the great info. I will definitely purchase the HD and memory from someone other than Apple. That should save me a considerable amount of money. It is good to know that the MP's case is easy to work on. From the pictures on Apple's site it looks like a work of art.

Chris:
Thanks for the info on the Rosewill drive enclosure. It matches the Mac Pro very nicely. I recently purchased a Fantom 1TB USB/1394a/1394b drive to supplement my MBP's hard drive. Since it matches the look of the MP, I may use it with that instead and use a Rosewill enclosure + drive for the MBP. Here is what the Fantom drive looks like:
Spin This!
Thanks for the info on the student discount plus Nano offer. I have already applied to the local community college. Once I am enrolled, it will be hard to wait to purchase the MP. Hopefully the Nano offer will still be available by the time I am ready to purchase.

Also thanks for the info regarding 3DS. I am a little disappointed that I will have to reboot to use it, but this still better than using it on a different machine. I have too much time and money invested Max to switch to another software package. It is just a hobby for me after all :).

I do have another question though, since the RISC processors in the MP are 64bit, do I have to run the 64bit version of XP in bootcamp? I own a copy of the 32bit version of XP and 3DS Max. I don't want to have to purchase new copies if I can help it. If the 32bit version will work, do you think there would be any problem having more than 4GB of ram installed in the MP since the 32bit version of XP can only handle 4GB?

Thanks again for you help. It is greatly appreciated :).
 
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chris

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Check out the refurbished Macs. I've had great success with monitors and Powerbooks. They have a Dual-Core 3.0Ghz XEON with updated graphics card for $3299. Savings of roughly $500. Adding AppleCare and you have 3 years service/extended warranty.
 

wot_fan

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Check out the refurbished Macs. I've had great success with monitors and Powerbooks. They have a Dual-Core 3.0Ghz XEON with updated graphics card for $3299. Savings of roughly $500. Adding AppleCare and you have 3 years service/extended warranty.
Thanks for the heads up. I am going check it out now :laugh2:.

Edit: It is a great deal, but I think I am going to have to pass. I really have my heart set on a Quad-Core MP ;).
 

chris

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Thanks for the heads up. I am going check it out now :laugh2:.

Edit: It is a great deal, but I think I am going to have to pass. I really have my heart set on a Quad-Core MP ;).
It's tempting for sure. I can't justify it myself. My G5 is still humming along nicely and the DELL C521 is filling my limited need for WindoZe.

Leopard and new towers will probably bend my arm a bit.

When you do make the leap, I do recommend the refurb stuff. Apple Stores have something called Refreshed. These are items returned within the 10 day timeframe because the customer wanted something different. I don't suspect you'd find too many Quad-Core Mac Pro's (what would they return them for?), but worth a shot to save a few bucks. They usually bundle the Apple Care. I bought two Powerbooks this way.

-Chris
 

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I own a copy of the 32bit version of XP and 3DS Max. I don't want to have to purchase new copies if I can help it.
Nope... bootcamp will work just fine with 32-bit. The Xeons are 32-bit capable—they're running Tiger now at 32 bit.

3DS will depend more on processor speed than memory I'd think.
 

wot_fan

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When you do make the leap, I do recommend the refurb stuff.
I have heard a lot of good things about Apple's refurb program. I plan to buy refurb Apple stuff when ever I can. In fact, I bought an refurbished AppleTV last week (saved $50). It is on a Fedex truck and should be delivered Tuesday :). Hopefully, refurb Quad Core MPs will start showing up and a I can save a few bucks.

Nope... bootcamp will work just fine with 32-bit. The Xeons are 32-bit capable—they're running Tiger now at 32 bit.

3DS will depend more on processor speed than memory I'd think.
Thanks for the info.
 

joe

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The Mac Pro is a very impressive system, especially if you are considering the 8-core model. It also includes drive bays which should make adding extra disk a snap. Also consider extra disk for Leopard's Time Machine.

Adding memory should not void your memory. I too recommend adding it from aftermarket, and the OWC recommendation is a good one. I order all of our memory and disk from them.

Parallels 3 now supports 3D.

While it comes with 1G of memory, I do recommend going up to at least 2G if you are going to do any intensive stuff. I would recommend going up to 4G if you want to run something intensive in Parallels.

I would think you are safe to get the current Mac Pro when it ships with Leopard, but keep reading the different news sites looking for hints on any hardware updates.
 

wot_fan

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Thanks for the advice Joe :).

Does that mean I may be able to run 3DS Max in Parrallels 3 instead of boot camp? I have to believe that an 8 Core MP has enough horse power to do it so it comes down to parallels.


While it comes with 1G of memory, I do recommend going up to at least 2G if you are going to do any intensive stuff. I would recommend going up to 4G if you want to run something intensive in Parallels.
Right now my plan is to get the MP with the standard 1GB of ram and to add 4GBs (4 x 1GB). That will leave me one bank set for the future.

BTW, do you recommend the Apple Certified ram or the Apple Qualified ram? I am willing to pay the extra $ for Apple Certified ram, buy I don't want to waste my money if the Apple Qualified ram is just as good.

Thanks again :).
 

chris

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I have heard a lot of good things about Apple's refurb program. I plan to buy refurb Apple stuff when ever I can. In fact, I bought an refurbished AppleTV last week (saved $50). It is on a Fedex truck and should be delivered Tuesday :). Hopefully, refurb Quad Core MPs will start showing up and a I can save a few bucks.

Thanks for the info.
How is the Apple TV? When will YouTube be available on it? Curious as to how that's going to work.

When browsing the refurb stuff, they were out of refurbed AppleTV's.

-Chris
 

wot_fan

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How is the Apple TV? When will YouTube be available on it? Curious as to how that's going to work.

When browsing the refurb stuff, they were out of refurbed AppleTV's.

-Chris
I willl let you know after I get a chance to put it through its paces. I have been ripping my DVDs and encoding them for AppleTV. It is the main reason I chose the 1TB external drive over something smaller. I am really looking forward to having all of my movies at my finger tips :).

I haven't heard a date for the YouTube upgrade. I thought it was supposed to happen in June though.

I must have got lucky with the refurb AppleTV. I was browsing Apple's site last Tuesday night when I saw it. I bought it right away since I knew I was going to get one soon and $50 off for a refurbished one seemed like a steal. I plan on checking Apple's refurb site frequently in hopes of finding a Quad Core MP. If I see an AppleTV, I will let you know.
 

Spin This!

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Does that mean I may be able to run 3DS Max in Parrallels 3 instead of boot camp? I have to believe that an 8 Core MP has enough horse power to do it so it comes down to parallels.
Horse power means nothing if Max can't have access to the hardware. Afaik, there's no way you can set parallels to see more than one chip.

It might be worth trying—do some render times and see how they compare with direct access to the hardware—but even then, I'd be wiling to bet the difference in virtualization would be significant enough to want to restart the machine. Virtualization has come along way but it makes no sense to me why you limit your dual quad cores. Get another box in that case.

I am willing to pay the extra $ for Apple Certified ram, buy I don't want to waste my money if the Apple Qualified ram is just as good.
Don't waste your money. Just make sure the ram you buy meets (or in OWC's case exceeds) Apple's specs. I compare "Certified" ram to Microsoft's Windows logo testing for drivers—an unnecessary BS just for "piece of mind" and screwing everyone else into paying extra money for no benefit. Apple doesn't make their own ram—they just get it from other sources anyway. Your Mac Pro will not explode if don't use it. If your ram ends up being bad (which ends up being the same chance as being Apple "Certified"), usually the worst that will happen is the machine will experience random crashes and freezes. I had some ram go bad on me before—OWC has no BS returns so they'll send you a new stick you can use to test with before you send them the other one.
 

joe

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Thanks for the advice Joe :).
Sure thing! :)


Does that mean I may be able to run 3DS Max in Parrallels 3 instead of boot camp? I have to believe that an 8 Core MP has enough horse power to do it so it comes down to parallels.
The 8-core MP has more than enough power for this. I cannot say for sure if this is supported by Parallels 3 but it sure sounds like it might be!

Right now my plan is to get the MP with the standard 1GB of ram and to add 4GBs (4 x 1GB). That will leave me one bank set for the future.

BTW, do you recommend the Apple Certified ram or the Apple Qualified ram? I am willing to pay the extra $ for Apple Certified ram, buy I don't want to waste my money if the Apple Qualified ram is just as good.
I would spend the little extra to get the better memory just based on my past experiences. Have fun with that hot rod! :cool:
 

Spin This!

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The 8-core MP has more than enough power for this. I cannot say for sure if this is supported by Parallels 3 but it sure sounds like it might be!
Let me break this down for you guys... the Mac Pro has plenty of power but that doesn't mean Parallels will use half of it. Until Parallels supports multiple processors in virtualization, this is not going to happen.

Mac OS X natively supports multiple processors and will divide up processes based on load of each processor but that means very little if the application you're writing isn't written to take full advantage. Windows is much the same way afaik.

The problem here is 3DS really only sees 1 processor--the "emulated" one in Parallels. That makes 3DS "see" only 1 processor even though you might have 8 within OS X.
 

wot_fan

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Thanks for the clarification. Hopefully Parallels will add support for multiple processors in the future. Based on your comments, Parallels will meet my needs for all of the MS apps I need to use except for 3DS Max. I can live with that.

Thanks again for your help :).
 

Spin This!

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Definitely try 3DS and see though... Parallels will use all 8 cores, splitting up audio, video, and such over multiple cores but the actual rendering performance might suffer a bit, since it's not optimized... at least you'll get one full core free for processing, so depending on your previous system it might be just as fast (if not faster depending on clock speed).