Wanting to Upgrading to a Mac Pro

Looking to finally upgrade my 2009 iMac 21.5" with a Mac Pro I hope. I want a machine with expandability and longevity. Still saving for it, halfway there. My 2009 iMac is still working pretty decently and was upgraded to 16 GB of Ram and a 2 TB SSD in December of 2018.

I just watched the 18 core iMac pro video but it isn’t easily upgradable is it? Also, I keep hearing that people plan to keep their Mac Pros for 10+ years, is that really true? Even if the OS can’t be updated anymore?

Congrats! I’m heading in the same direction as well.

The only things that seem difficult to upgrade on this machine are

  • The CPU (but it looks like it can be done by a tech-savvy user)
  • The base SSD (but Apple can do it)

All the rest can be upgraded very easily.
I would not be surprised that users keep these machines a decade, look at the longevity of the cheese grater. I intend to do so with mine when I eventually get there.

That’s a good point. One thing though: it’s not only about power but also internal additional storage (thanks to the Pegasus enclosures). There are many benefits about having a big, silent internal bucket of storage that you don’t get with external drives (video and music workflows - the latter being my case - benefit from that).

Its a tool, what do you want to use it for?

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Having an 11-year-old computer running a deprecated version of Mac OS X, sounds a little tortuous, personally, but if you’re finding that old iMac to still be pretty decent for your uses I honestly don’t see why you’d need a Mac Pro box for its power, longevity, or expandability.

My 2.5-year-old 2017 Retina iMac is working perfectly but AppleCare expires in September, so I’m planning to replace it with a new model at the end of the year, and sell this machine for ~ $1200. This not only makes for an affordable, powerful computer but ensures that my hardware will always be under warranty.

Good resale value of recent-vintage machines, permanent warranty on hardware, and the latest processor/design/OS-compatibility for me easily outweighs a huge upfront cost, eventual expiration of warranty, then having to research compatible replacement hardware regularly, over time. (And given your tolerance for old hardware do you really think you’ll be doing lots of upgrades anyway?)

If I were a full-time music producer using Logic, or an editor using FCPX this wouldn’t even be a question - the Mac Pro would be a business necessity and a ‘listed property’ for tax purposes. But I use Photoshop, panoramic stitching software, Lightroom and Ableton Live and don’t feel I need more power. The main nicety is being able to put external drive in the main body’s case, but even that is an extremely minor advantage given all the external peripherals I use that are already on my desk (two printers, powered audio monitors, CD/CF card reader, SuperDrive, keyboard controller, LaunchPad).

Apple is also on the cusp of migrating to its own processors for macOS, and there’s NO evidence whatsoever that it intends to support ARM processor modules inside already-sold Mac Pros, so I don’t think anyone who wants a modern Mac to last a decade would be well-served by being attached to one of these current Mac Pro models.

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I think I’m with the majority here. Get a Mac Pro because of the power, not the longevity. If you’re doing a lot of data or video processing, this is probably a good idea. Otherwise a highly specced Mac Mini will probably have a lower amortized cost.

Speaking of amortization, it’s easy to do for this kind of purchase. I always find it a helpful exercise:
(Price of the Mac you choose + price of any anticipated upgrades + AppleCare+ upkeep costs, if using) - (Likely resale value of the machine when you’re finished with it) / number of years you expect to use the machine

This gives you a cost-per-year you can use to compare machines A and B that is more realistic than the ticket price on the website.

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As has been pointed out, though, the transition to ARM processors being very near is the only thing that makes me hesitate. Good thing is I don’t nearly have the money yet, so I’ll have to see where this goes anyway :grin:

I would argue though that even for a half-serious music producer this is an interesting investment. I have done pro soundtracks with a (at the time) massively specced laptop but man I have been waiting for this Mac Pro for YEARS. Can’t wait to put all my music libraries on a Pegasus R4i and have Ableton Live purring like a cat.

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I don’t think the more powerful desktop machines will be equalled for another three years, but it looks like we will see the first ARM-based Macs next year, according to the latest Mark Gurman scoop today:

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-04-23/apple-aims-to-sell-macs-with-its-own-chips-starting-in-2021

"The transition to in-house Apple processor designs would likely begin with a new laptop because the company’s first custom Mac chips won’t be able to rival the performance Intel provides for high-end MacBook Pros, iMacs and the Mac Pro desktop computer."

I have been predicting for years that when this happens it will be a dual-boot advice, giving Apple a sales step-up by letting people choose between (ARM-based) macOS and iOS apps on the same hardware, and the new Magic Keyboard case only dovetails with that possibility.

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Yep. This is what I miss most from moving from my old original Mac Pro … now, both at the office and at home I have a smaller mac with a bunch of drives hanging off it. None is loud, but collectively the fan noise isn’t nothing.

One solution I’ve seen to the noise problem, and am experimenting with, is moving all that storage remotely, to a NAS. But a NAS is not without its own problems; running and keeping another OS patched is a chore, 10 GBe switches are expensive / another device to manage, and as I can’t run new cable to my cellar, networking the NAS for highest speeds is a bit of a moving target.

For anyone wondering, in my latest tests with my Mac Mini to various storage pools (vs. 9to5 Mac’s Pegasus tests):

  • TB3 to a (local, loud) 8 drive hardware RAID 6 is 6% faster R/W than the Pegasus
  • TB3 to a (local, loud) 8 bay Drobo is 4% faster read but 65% slower write
  • 5 Gbe to a Synology over Cat 5e cable is about half as fast r/w
  • 10 Gbe to a Synology over Cat 5e cable is 25% slower write but the same speed read

For my office set up, which is a macbook pro 2017 connected to a couple of Akitio drive boxes, all RAID 5’d together using SoftRAID:

  • TB3 to 8 drive software RAID is only 2/3’s as fast write, but 60% faster read

The bummer with those Promise Pegasus modules is the pre-installed drives and the mark-up involved with them. But perhaps complaining about “mark-up” in a post about a Mac Pro is a little rich.

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Thanks for those studies on storage pools, very interesting!
For music workflows: I guess you could move sample libraries to some extent on a NAS, but this is going to be a pain when previewing sounds… for Kontakt libraries and such virtual instruments, it’s a no-go. You need this to go FAST for working realtime. At the moment I have a big 6 Tb TB2 drive that is fast and reliable enough but boy this thing is almost unbearably loud all day long.

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Well, read times (10 gbe) for the NAS are the same as for an internal Pegasus in a Mac Pro, so if the Pegasus works, the NAS might as well.

But that being said, I’m not sure a NAS is worth it for just sound mitigation, and I value sound mitigation a lot.

At any given moment I have two drives hanging off my iMac. Fanless. :sweat_smile: I’m so sensitive to fan noise that I chose the Retina iMac with i5 processor instead of i7 because of reports that the i7 was spinning up the fan when people scrolled, and Intel poo-poohed complaints on its Windows-centric forum boards while acknowledging it and claiming it was “normal”, resulting in a furore.

In 2.5 years I’m not sure I’ve really ever heard the fan on my i5 iMac, so it ended up being the right choice for me.

At the time neither Lightroom nor Ableton supported hyperthreading, so I didn’t need the i7 processor. These days both apps do, and I’ll undoubtedly get some upcoming iMac with an i9 processor, as the current i9 iMacs appear to be pretty quiet.

I bought my Mini as a wait-and-see for what comes next; I expect an iMac will also be in my future, combined with getting-to-be comfortable enough with remote storage schemes.

Quiet spaces are a treasure.

It would theoretically work but you need 10Gbe (which is not a given – that’s a lot of wiring to do or redo) but most importantly, you still depend on your network and the stability of the connection. With wired, it should work most of the time, but I’d still be wary…

FWIW I have a 2015 i7 iMac and YES it’s annoyingly noisy at times (prompting to whisper to the machine “what the hell are you doing?” :sweat_smile:). I don’t know if that’s been fixed in newer iterations.

Yup. 10Gbe is neither cheap nor “trouble free,” as compared to a wired connection, anyway. Internal is better yet.

FWIW I’m mostly a buy-a-Mac-Pro enabler. I like hearing/daydreaming about these machines.

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10GBe Ethernet only makes sense if you have the wiring, switch and a NAS that can serve data fast enough.
This means a NAS with a 10GBe pci card and all drives are SSD.

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I daydream about a triple-height Mac mini with a serious graphics card and easily user-replaceable drive bays: the mythical headless xMac hardware longed for by hobbyists for close to two decades and irrefutably dismissed by Apple Co,

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You and me both.

So, if you’re inviting me, let’s fantasise together…
Usecase : electronic and trailer music production (and… writing)
Configuration Wishlist:

  • 16 core (maximum core numbers before the frequencies drop too much – music software often benefit more from speed than from the number of cores, it’s the case for Live)
  • 32 Gb base RAM (will be upgraded later)
  • Base video card (Radeon 580X)
  • 4 Tb of internal SSD (for document storage and apps)
  • Pegasus R4i enclosure for projects, sample and virtual instrument libraires.
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Happy to weigh in here. Here is how my Mac Pro is currently configured (my W5700X GPU is in the mail):

I’ve also got quite a bit of storage:

I’ve got my boot SSD, and the “Archives” volume is a single SSD attached via SATA. The 5 TB Time Machine is a 2.5-inch spinning HDD. The two “Clone” drives are on PCI cards, and are updated every night via Carbon Copy Cloner.

This machine is silent under load. Even the iMac Pro would be audible when rendering 4K video or doing huge batch processing jobs for audio. That was a big part of my decision, but I really wanted options when it came to expanding it. I was using external drives and a Drobo before this, and it’s great to have everything locally on my machine, even if I am eyeballing my ever-filling SSDs.

I don’t know if I can get ten years out of it. Apple has been good about supporting hardware for a long time with macOS releases, but I can’t help but wonder if an ARM transition will shorten the time this machine gets updates. I don’t think it will, but who knows.

Until then, it’s the best Mac I’ve ever owned, and it should be, given the insane costs.

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