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london 08-20-2006 01:13 AM

To Mac Pro or not to Mac Pro?
 
I am thinking about either getting a Mac Pro or an Opteron Workstation.

The Mac Pro is a powerful beast at a good price for a workstation. Iím thinking of getting the 2.6 GHz model.
Iím leaning towards the Mac Pro but I have a few concerns.
If any of you guys can help me with this, would be great.

1) First of all is the graphics. Can I SLI or cross fire the Mac Pro?

2) Am I limited to the graphics cards Apple offer? (A PC the 7900 and 7300 use the same driver, so can I use a 7900 in the Mac?)

3) I want to add a raid card I have 7 Hdds on my current rig. Where would I put them? 4 Drive bays are not enough. As I will be running Windows and Mac OSX on separate Hdds. Can I put the hard drives in the drive bays backwards and connect then to the PCI-E raid card?

4) I know a 2.6 GHz Xeon will now beat a 2.6 GHz opteron, for the most part. But I heard the Mac proís(intels) are still in the dark ages. Sharing the system RAM memory for both CPUís and not using separate memory and memory buses for each CPU. Is this True? (This is where Opterons have always killed intels hands down) Apples website does not say. Apples website also does not mention memory bandwidth speed, just cpu bandwidth speed. This makes me think this is true. Memory bandwidth is very important for what I do. I hope the Mac Pro Cpuís donít share the same memory.??

5) What kind of sound chip or card does the Mac Pro have? Is it any good for Pro sound production?

I really like the look of the Mac Pro. It looks like a great machine. Iím just concerned of some of the limitations. I really need the flexibility to add Hdds as I need and want to be able to use what graphics card I want.

Thatís all. Thanks for any help in advance.

PowerBookG4 08-20-2006 01:22 AM

What do you plan on doing with the machine so we can recomend the hardware you need, there are alot of options to add, additional brackets, raid cards, etc.

Sound is optical out, it can support 5.1 sound and is very good quality, many pro audio users use power macs and the mac pro has the same technology.

Can not answer that one questoin about changing the graphics card that is why i asked what you would be doing with the machine so I could offer other suggestions... The quadro does not do what you need?

london 08-20-2006 01:57 AM

I know what raid card I want.

Im doing video editing, motion graphics and sound production.
Thats why I need the Hdds. I at least a 4 disc raid and a single boot disc. not to mention a big archive disc. Plus I suppose mores Hdds, for Windows Discs as well.
Im think the Mac Pro power supply will be enough. I use a 550 watt EPS PSU. Thats barely enough. I think I need 750 watt.

Do these people that use the Macs for sound use the stock sound that comes with the Mac? On a PC i would buy a M-Audio card.

where would i Put these brackets for hard drives?

I dont want a Quadro. I will do 3D but not enough to warrant a quadro.
Also just want to know if i can SLI or use other graphics cards. if i buy this machine i will use it for my Windows games too.

dtravis7 08-20-2006 02:21 AM

One thing the Mac Pro is not is a Game system, it's a high end workstation. They did not provide a way to do SLI Video. You can put in up to 4 cards but that is for multi monitor support but no SLI.

london 08-20-2006 03:30 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by dtravis7
One thing the Mac Pro is not is a Game system, it's a high end workstation. They did not provide a way to do SLI Video. You can put in up to 4 cards but that is for multi monitor support but no SLI.

Thanks for letting me know you cant SLI

SLI is not just for games. in fact all state of the art workstations have SLI because true power users want SLI Quadro's.
The mac pro must not have SLI because intel have failed to make a xeon chipset that supports SLI.

There are many opteron workstations with SLI.
I dont want to use it as a gaming machine.
I just dont want to buy it if in jan. they release a model with SLI.

You say it's a high end workstation. it may be as far as Apple go. But most high end PC workstations offer SLI, have no problem adding as many Hdds as you want, (just need a raid card and case to suit) and offer workstations with upto 64GBs Ram with 4 cpu sockets (8 cores)

dtravis7 08-20-2006 03:41 AM

You are correct on the Chipset probably not supporting SLI now.

It really sounds like you should purchase one of the High End Opteron systems. I know some have SLI but not all. Most of the people I read daily talking about SLI are gamers trying to get that last even 1FPS more. I doubt the Mac Pro will ever support gamers.

I know very much about the Opteron and AMD. I use ALL AMD here in fact except the Macs. Have an AMD Server that has been up over 4 years without a crash. Not one. Running Windows 2k Server in fact which really freaks out some people that it is that stable. BUT, For gettng my work done though, I would rather run OSX any day of the week. That is why for me I will eventually purchase a Mac Pro. For anything I would ever do, 16GB RAM, 2TB HDD and the Video options they provide will be fine for me. If I need more storage, I would opt for some of the nice External FW800 RAID drives or External SATA Raid.

Also I want to say, I am not trying to be hard on you or trying to disagree in any way. I understand what you need and want. To me it looks like for at least the present you should go with an Opteron solution so you can have everything you need. Hope whatever you do end up buying turns out to give you the system you really need.

...Dennis

avcabob 08-20-2006 03:53 AM

Most people who use Mac's for pro audio don't use the built in sound card. Mostly because they need multiple channels in at a time. You mentioned you would use an M-Audio device with a PC, well you can use them with mac's as well.

As for hard drive space, Apple offers an XServe Raid with will give you up to 7TB of storage for a total of 9TB with the 2TB you can put in the Mac Pro. It would connect using 2GB fiber channel. There will probably soon be some after market solutions to putting more drives inside the Mac Pro itself just like there are for the G5 Powermac. The computer itself can accept as many drives as you want as long as you can fit them in the case, just like any PC.

If you go with external solutions for storage and sound, they wouldn't be using the Mac Pro's power supply so you wouldn't need to worry about it being to low.

As for video cards, I think you are stuck with what Apple has to offer. Last time I checked, the video cards for mac's were built for mac's, as in different then the ones built for pcs, however I could be wrong. But the ones built for apple at least have the special apple video connector for their displays so that's at least one difference still.

Also, you can't just compare Mac specs to Windows specs. I have an 800MHz G4 Powerbook that easily out performs my friends 1.5GHz Dell.

yogi 08-20-2006 03:56 AM

I, as a student of Audio Design, can only say that I have always felt that the Powermac (or Mac Pro) are systems aimed at those who need power at home, for general working. I would not actually do my professional work on this machine, though, because the Opterons at work encode and run much faster, but those machines are beasts, costing almost CHF 9000 (ca. $6500) and do what they are meant to do - encode audio and video within minutes. I don't have a powermac, but the ones at work are just sufficient to do some low-level work.
Apart from that, they are very good machines, (far better than the beautiful but comparatively lame iMac at home), but since you know your stuff, go with the Opteron.

Obviously the OS is not much of a discussion pint for you.

london 08-20-2006 07:07 AM

Thanks for your Input guys.
i would buy a mac pro now if i knew i could fit 8 drives in it (i dont want a external solution or raid) i just want a all in one workstation like I have now.
I have dual single core 1.8Ghz opterons 7 hdds, 6800 card m-audio sound card. it like 3 years old (except for the graphics card)

i just want something like this in a mac pro. Could i fit 8 hdds with brackets?
i suppose I could settle for 6 hdd's.

Still its unclear on the apple website if the mac pro's cpu's share the same memory.

I want one bad, just a couple of little things holding me back. I also have a funny feeling that the mac pro will be SLI easrly next year. they even said intel will have 4 core Cpu's then.
If thats true and the Mac pros cpus share the same memory. they would want to sort that out. Imagine 8 cores trying to use the same memory bus? should be a bottle neck. It not Apples fault, intel need to get with it.
I am assuming they use the same memory bus?

Marl Huss 08-20-2006 07:14 AM

There are two cores in each CPU, and 2 CPUs. Each CPU has 4MB L2 chache. Therefore two cores share the L2 Cache. Each CPU has its own FSB. That means there are two FSB.

That means minimal bottle necks, and an average (real life) bandwith of up to 8GB/S..


If you want more information on the technical side then go to:

here
and for more technical info
here

satzzz 08-20-2006 07:27 AM

I think apple will introduce SLI for mac, But how and when? I don't know..
Is you see the chipset configurations, is possible, but when is apple going to take the big step?

Marl Huss 08-20-2006 07:42 AM

I believe in fact you could do SLi with a Mac Pro if you had two 8x cards, however the two cards would need to be for Mac and configured as such. The main issue is you cannot have two 16x PCI-e slots on a Mac Pro because of the Xeon chipset.

london 08-20-2006 11:47 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Marl Huss
There are two cores in each CPU, and 2 CPUs. Each CPU has 4MB L2 chache. Therefore two cores share the L2 Cache. Each CPU has its own FSB. That means there are two FSB.

That means minimal bottle necks, and an average (real life) bandwith of up to 8GB/S..


If you want more information on the technical side then go to:

here
and for more technical info
here

Thank you so much for the info. You saved me from making a big mistake.
The MacPro is a serous peice of junk. I dont say that lightly. Its not Apple fault either.
first off all. 8GB/S is the theoretical bandwidth of the Mac pro. its real world bandwidth is a shocking 4.292GBs. :( (A pentium 4 can do better, No wonder Apple dont show the memory bandwidth of the Mac pro).
Please read just this page HERE
A core 2 duo will whip it.
I have a 3 year old Opteron set up it has a theoretical bandwidth of 12.8GB/s I can easily get 9500 GB/s in real world test.(I would get more if i got new Dual core opterons) This is where a seperate memory bus for each CPU and AMDs memory architecture just run rings around intels.
Seriously Im shocked. When will intel get its act together. Whats the use of have a blinding fast CPU if you dont have the memory bandwidth to utilise it properly? the latancy just sucks on xeons. A core 2 duo will give it a run in memory sensitive tasks and my three year old Opteron will obliterate it.

WOW that brought me down to earth. I was so exited about the thought of getting a new Mac Pro.

Guess I have to stick to a PC workstation. Shame on you intel.

ezhangin 08-20-2006 12:03 PM

It appears you need to remember a few things about computers. First off, when you say Opterons don't share RAM and front side bus you are wrong and right at the same time. You are getting dual-core and dual processor computers confused. Dual proc computers do not share ram, or anything for that matter. Dual-core computers share RAM and cache. This makes them cheaper but inevitably slightly slower than a true dual processor computer.

As for the mac pro being a piece of junk, that is not true at all. The processors in their may be more powerful than you think, considering they are core 2's. The Xeon 5100 series are core 2's, just renamed for being server chips (because of their memory!). So therefore the MacPro is both dual-core and dual processor.

It has been noted in quite a lot of places (Tom's Hardware, for example) that the Core 2 family has a weird memory bandwitdh, which is actually lower than most AMD64's. However, the Core 2's still outperform the AMD's (sadly) despite its lower memory bandwidth and ancient FSB technology. Apply this to the server processors and the results are no different. However, because of AMD's hypertransport Opterons are actually better to use in a 4 (and above) processor computer.

And finally, I find it to be a bit baffling that AMD would work on rolling out a new chip to compete with the core 2's (Xeon 5100s included) if their opterons are already faster?

london 08-20-2006 12:20 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by ezhangin
It appears you need to remember a few things about computers. First off, when you say Opterons don't share RAM and front side bus you are wrong and right at the same time. You are getting dual-core and dual processor computers confused. Dual proc computers do not share ram, or anything for that matter. Dual-core computers share RAM and cache. This makes them cheaper but inevitably slightly slower than a true dual processor computer.

As for the mac pro being a piece of junk, that is not true at all. The processors in their may be more powerful than you think, considering they are core 2's. The Xeon 5100 series are core 2's, just renamed for being server chips (because of their memory!). So therefore the MacPro is both dual-core and dual processor.

No your wrong dual cpu socket Xeons share the shame memory and memory bus. the bus from the ram to the CPUs is the same. opteron have a completly seperate memory banks for each CPU. Do you home work. if you take the Ram away from one Opteron CPU it wont work it cant share the memory from the other CPu's memory bank.( it wont even boot if there is no Ram for one cpu.)
If you put just one stick of ram in the Mac pro, both CPUs will use it.

If a Mac Pro had a seperate memory bank for each CPU it would have a theoretical bandwidth of 1600 Gb/s.and going on the real world test of the Mac Pro. Even if it did have a seperate memory bank/bus for each CPu it would still only have a real world memory bandwidth of 8584 GB/s still well short of my 3 year old single core Opterons.

I really wanted to like the Mac pro. i wanted one. but facts are facts. I know a 2.6Ghz xeon is faster then a 2.6Ghz opteron. In raw cpu speed. but in means nothing if your memory bandwidth is jank. memory bandwidth is crutial to overall real world performance.


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