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Old February 17th, 2008, 11:25 PM   #1
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Mac Pro configuration -- processor power:dollar ?

When looking at the options for the new Mac Pros, I am wondering what is the "best bang for my buck" option when it comes to selecting the processor.

Let's say I want to be able to do uncompressed HD in FCS2. Leaving the other options -- such as graphics card, hard drives, monitors, etc -- out of the equation for now (I already have a good idea what I want/need there), is the dual-3.0 or dual-3.2 GHz Quad-Core Xeons worth the extra money?

A bump up from the standard dual-2.8GHz to a dual-3.0GHz set-up -- a 0.2Ghz improvement -- comes with an $800 CAN pricetag. Would I truly see a justified ROI in general performance or such things as render and/or compression times?

Naturally, RAM is very important and more is ALWAYS better... and I could take that $800 and bump my RAM from the standard 2GB up to 16GB (w/ the Apple-approved heatsinks, but not purchased from Apple) and save about $120... but, RAM is easier to scale than processors.

If faced with the choice, would it be better to initially get the slightly faster processor and eventually scale the RAM up? Or is the 0.2GHz and 0.4GHz upgrades really for the boys who need the biggest toys (ego rather than practicality)?
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Old February 18th, 2008, 01:40 AM   #2
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Originally Posted by Mike Barber View Post
Would I truly see a justified ROI in general performance or such things as render and/or compression times?
I may have answered my own question, but would love to hear about realworld experience from my peers...

Looking at the MacWorld Benchmark Test, it appears that there is a minimal advantage to springing for the upgrade from the dual-2.8GHz configuration. MacWorld testers found "the new 3.2GHz Mac Pro to be nearly 9 percent faster than the stock, 2.8GHZ 8-core Mac Pro."

9% increase in performance... for a 55.2% increase in cost! Hardly what I would call a healthy ROI.

So this is what I am thinking:
dual-2.8GHz Quad-Core Xeon
8GB RAM
2 x 500GB SATA 3Gb/s HDD
NVIDIA GeForce 8800 GT 512 MB graphics card
AppleCare Protection Plan

I may be able to swing this in the shorter term, if a certain contract lands in my lap... we'll see. No room to upgrade the display yet, but that's something to work towards.

Anyone see any pitfalls as far as future-proofing for the next 5 or so years? ;-p
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Old February 18th, 2008, 10:47 AM   #3
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Mike,

You are on the right track. i just got the 2.8GHz model and spent the money I saved on RAM and hard drive space, which will make a noticable difference, whereas the minor CPU speed difference will likely go unnoticed in most situations.

- Martin
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Old February 19th, 2008, 01:48 AM   #4
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Anyone see any pitfalls as far as future-proofing for the next 5 or so years? ;-p

As far as computer power goes 5 years is a long long time to expect your rig to be competitive. From 10 or so years experience in building them etc. I have found that it's better to buy a step below in processor and and save the rest for other upgrades that are a better value.

I guess it just depends on your budget, but the increase in price for the last couple steps in raw speed seems to become exponential. In 1 year that $1000 processor will be todays $250 run of the mill. And in 3 years(give or take) it will be obsolete.

Last edited by Adrinn Chellton; February 19th, 2008 at 09:16 PM.
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Old February 19th, 2008, 09:12 PM   #5
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As far as computer power goes 5 years is a long long time to expect your rig to be competitive.
Competitive isn't my concern, obsoleteness is. For example, my G4 PowerMac is about 5-6 years old and has now reached the point that I can no longer upgrade the software I need. It doesn't nearly meet FCS2's minimum specs. Magic Bullet Looks will not run. Motion nor Aperture won't even allow themselves to be installed on this embarrassment (somehow, CS3 has been working just fine).

So I don't have any expectations that what I buy today will be the best in two years, much less five... however I would like to not be in the position of having to buy a new machine when FCS4 comes out, if possible.

I suppose as long as I make sure I have a machine that is able to work with uncompressed HD, I should be able to stay in the game for some time. Currently, with my inability to even work with HDV, I am behind the eightball. I feel that I am out of the game when it comes to competing for pro gigs. Several broadcasters mandate that programs be delivered in hi-def as part of their technical requirements (for example, the CBC here in Canada). Hi-def is no longer the future, it is the here-and-now.
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Last edited by Mike Barber; February 19th, 2008 at 09:13 PM. Reason: grammar
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Old February 19th, 2008, 09:34 PM   #6
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Yes, I understand what you mean. I have a feeling some of the newer compression standards like AVC-intra will be taking more and more raw processor power and I just don't know how fast the plateau will rise.

I decided to buy an Imac 2.4 for the time being until 64 bit becomes the norm. It seems the transition between 32 and 64 isn't complete yet and I want to hold off on a pro rig until the 4+ core chips are cheaper as well. For $1500 it does the trick with HD footage, albeit a bit more slowly. I do find it's faster than the 2+ year old Mac Pro machines I use at college though, so no complaints there.

Spending over $3000 on a tool that won't last more than 5 years is an unnerving prospect. Well for those of us on limited budgets at least.
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