Workstation choices - high end PC or Mac Pro

Started 5 months ago | Discussions thread
Jim Cockfield
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6 years is a long time; Mac Pro is *very* expensive ;-)
In reply to mike in london, 5 months ago

mike in london wrote:

I was totally smitten with it and now my old (6 years old!) PC workstation is becoming unreliable and I need a replacement. I already have a great monitor (27" NEC) so dont want to get rid of that, but need a good workstation. I am considering the Mac Pro but it seems a bit overkill for just PShop and Capture One use but its the only real alternative, but it would work out more expensive (a lot more) than a high end PC (which I can fit internal extra drives in) as i will have to buy a thunderbolt 2 external data drive to go with it too.

6 years is a very long time for using a computer in a demanding environment.

Chances are, one of the entry level Core i3 or Core i5 based desktops you could buy for $400 or $500 is going to outperform a 6 year old computer, no matter how much you spent for it originally.

That's just the way technology works, as we've seen multiple generations of new CPUs, memory types, graphics chipsets, etc. since you bought your existing computer.

What is it anyway (brand/model, CPU type, memory amount/type installed, video card, etc.)?

I keep dithering between getting a high spec PC bulit and getting the Mac pro as it will cost me much less to get a PC which runs faster (benchmark tested too) but am drawn to the Mac Pro so I am fully Mac which seems to make more sense...

Well... the issue is the price/performance ratio with a Mac Pro.

If you look hard enough, you can find benchmarks showing it in a better light in that respect, compared to trying to bundle dual high end Firepro cards into a custom PC.

But, the problem is that you're probably going to see *zero* benefit with that kind of configuration compared to a config costing you half as much for still image editing. Also, because you can't upgrade the video cards on the new Mac Pro, you may find that mid range consumer model PCs have video cards that outperform it a few years down the road. Again, that's just the way technology works.

So, what it really boils down to is how much you want to use OS X.

For practical purposes, you could buy a computer that would have virtually the same performance for the type of work you do for half the cost of a Mac Pro with Windows installed.

For example, something like this relatively loaded Dell XPS 8700 should "do the trick".

http://www.dell.com/uk/p/xps-8700/pd?oc=cdx8704&model_id=xps-8700

If you look at most benchmarks, the Core i7 4770 is slightly faster than the Xeon E5-1620 v2 used in the base Mac Pro anyway; and by the time you bring up the memory to 32GB in the Mac Pro, you'd be spending twice as much for one. As for the dual Firepro chipsets (using a chipset built by Apple), it's underclocked to reduce heat and power requirements, and I have no doubt that the R9 270 in that Dell would be faster for real world use for apps like still image editing (or even gaming for that matter, as the R9 270 is plenty fast enough to run virtually any modern game using their highest quality "Ultra" settings. If you ever wanted even faster, swap it out later (perhaps a few years down the road after a couple of newer generations are shipping; but you're stuck with what Apple includes in the Mac Pro.).

As for drives, an mSATA 256GB SSD like that Dell uses is plenty fast enough. Anything faster, and you'll see rapidly diminishing returns (not to mention that with 32GB of RAM, most anything you'd be working on would likely be in the Operating System cache anyway, unless you're constantly rebooting your PC); and you'd have extra drive bays for even more storage if the 3TB drive included with it is not enough (you could add a couple of 4TB drives in the extra bays without even bothering to go external). Of course, if you did need even more, you'd have plenty of USB 3.0 ports.

So, being practical, I don't see the point of spending twice as much for a Mac Pro versus something like that "out the shelf" Dell model, as I really doubt you'd see any performance benefit from the extra cost (and it would not surprise me to find out that the Mac Pro is slower with your apps, especially since the Apple OpenCL libraries tend to be slower compared to Windows, despite the dual Firepro chipsets they're including)

If you wanted an even higher end Mac Pro (dual Xeon processors, etc.), there are plenty of ways to get one from vendors in the U.K. You don't need dual Firepro cards, etc. (which is what reviews are trying to duplicate to show the Apple is a good bargain). That's not going to help you with image editing. That would be a huge waste of money IMO.

So, the only reason I'd go with a Mac Pro is if you really hate Windows and want OS X instead (but, if you plan on using the same applications with either Operating System, I'd probably ignore the other differences; as how the applications you're using all the time work would be a more important consideration).

Otherwise, it's just a waste of money from my perspective, as you're just not going to see any real world benefit from one versus a PC that you could get for half the cost of a Mac Pro.

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JimC
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