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Walter Soyka
Mac Pro Alternatives
on Jun 12, 2012 at 5:11:00 pm

So much of the recent conversation here has about what Apple isn't doing or what the future may hold; relatively little has been about what other companies are doing and how we can benefit from their efforts in our work today.

If you're disappointed with the 2012 Mac Pro and if you're open to running non-Apple software like Creative Suite or MC/Symphony, here are a few alternatives you may consider:

HP Z820 [link]
ProMAX ONE [link]
BOXX Technologies 3DBOXX [link]
Dell Precision T7600 [link]
Lenovo ThinkStation D30 [link]

(And I'm sure there are many, many others.)

I've been working cross-platform daily for almost 9 months now. My daily workstation is Z800 that HP sent me to evaluate, and my daily laptop is a 17" MacBook Pro. I have seven other Macs in regular use, and I bought four more HPs as the start of my in-house render garden. I use a mix of cross-platform, Apple-only, and PC-only software. I've learned a few things through this process:

There is more than one path to enlightenment.

PCs can be good choices for creative work, too.

Good industrial design and high build quality are not exclusive to the Mac Pro.

There are many more performance options available on the PC platform than there are on the Mac platform.

Windows 7 is stable, secure, and very usable.

With cross-platform software and hardware, you can use a Windows computer alongside your Macs with a remarkably consistent user experience.

With platform-specific software and hardware, cross-platform workflows give you the benefits of both platforms without exposing you to platform-specific risks.



I'm not here to argue that going cross-platform (or even switching to PCs outright) is the best choice for everyone -- I know that some here have recently tried and rejected Windows, and I know that many are very happy with FCPX -- but it's been good for me and I do think it's an option for many that's worthy of open-minded consideration.

I know there are several other cross-platform users here, so if anyone is seriously thinking about taking the plunge and has some questions or concerns, I'm sure we could continue the conversation in some depth about cross-platform workflows or Windows 7 from a Mac user's perspective, with minimal Apple-bashing or tea leaf reading.

Walter Soyka
Principal & Designer at Keen Live
Motion Graphics, Widescreen Events, Presentation Design, and Consulting
RenderBreak Blog - What I'm thinking when my workstation's thinking
Creative Cow Forum Host: Live & Stage Events


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Lance Bachelder
Re: Mac Pro Alternatives
on Jun 12, 2012 at 5:35:58 pm

I also work on both platforms and have for years. But I'd like to consolidate - I was hoping for a new MacPro or even a new Ivy-Bridge iMac - but nothing. I really like FCPX and testing Smoke now, but do I really need a Mac at all anymore?

With CS6 and Sony Vegas I really have all I need to complete my work. The new Dark Energy plug-in for AE will be Windows only and that's a big deal for me. ASUS just announced a Thunderbolt PCIe card avail next month for Ivy Bridge mobos. I know I can drive to Frys and in a couple of hours from now have a new 6 core Ivy Biridge beast with every part inside being up-to-the-minute technology and do it for half the price of a "new" 2 year old, over-priced boat anchor.

Decisions to be made...

Lance Bachelder
Writer, Editor, Director
Irvine, California



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Gary Huff
Re: Mac Pro Alternatives
on Jun 12, 2012 at 5:42:48 pm

I would love to have a powerful desktop Mac for home office use, but for the price of the entry-level Mac Pro, I can upgrade my Windows box internals to a Sandy Bridge Xeon (2011 socket) with TWO 8-core Xeons, 32GB of RAM, and a NVIDIA Tesla card.

That would crush literally anything I could get from Apple at the moment.


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Walter Soyka
Re: Mac Pro Alternatives
on Jun 12, 2012 at 9:06:25 pm

[Gary Huff] "I would love to have a powerful desktop Mac for home office use, but for the price of the entry-level Mac Pro, I can upgrade my Windows box internals to a Sandy Bridge Xeon (2011 socket) with TWO 8-core Xeons, 32GB of RAM, and a NVIDIA Tesla card."

If you are comfortable building your own PC, you can, and you can save some money by being your own support.

If you are not comfortable building your own PC, you don't have to; you can buy a preconfigured workstation from one of the big vendors the exact same way you can buy a Mac Pro from Apple, and you have many more options for warranties and support.

Walter Soyka
Principal & Designer at Keen Live
Motion Graphics, Widescreen Events, Presentation Design, and Consulting
RenderBreak Blog - What I'm thinking when my workstation's thinking
Creative Cow Forum Host: Live & Stage Events


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Gary Huff
Re: Mac Pro Alternatives
on Jun 12, 2012 at 9:13:10 pm

[Walter Soyka] "f you are comfortable building your own PC, you can, and you can save some money by being your own support."

I'm much better support than any company could ever give me! :-p

Which is why it's a personal decision and not one that I would lightly recommend to anyone else.


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Walter Soyka
Re: Mac Pro Alternatives
on Jun 12, 2012 at 9:26:06 pm

[Gary Huff] "I'm much better support than any company could ever give me! :-p Which is why it's a personal decision and not one that I would lightly recommend to anyone else."

I have no doubt that you are!

I only brought it up because one of the PC myths I hear among Mac users is that you've got to be an IT geek to use or maintain a PC, and that if you want a computer that you don't need to worry about, you must get a Mac.

The idea, for example, that you can purchase a warranty on a system that guarantees an on-site technician visiting your office for problems that can't be resolved remotely may be surprising to people accustomed to lugging their Mac Pros through the mall to the local genius bar.

Walter Soyka
Principal & Designer at Keen Live
Motion Graphics, Widescreen Events, Presentation Design, and Consulting
RenderBreak Blog - What I'm thinking when my workstation's thinking
Creative Cow Forum Host: Live & Stage Events


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Gary Huff
Re: Mac Pro Alternatives
on Jun 12, 2012 at 9:45:41 pm

[Walter Soyka] "I only brought it up because one of the PC myths I hear among Mac users is that you've got to be an IT geek to use or maintain a PC, and that if you want a computer that you don't need to worry about, you must get a Mac."

I use to provide Windows desktop support. In fact, I supported myself through college doing that. But these days having an actual Windows problem is so rare, that I'm glad I didn't have an interest in doing that as a career.

Most "tech support" issues I run into involve either a dead hard drive or someone who just doesn't know how to do simple tasks.


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Robert Brown
Re: Mac Pro Alternatives
on Jun 12, 2012 at 11:29:22 pm

[Gary Huff] "Most "tech support" issues I run into involve either a dead hard drive or someone who just doesn't know how to do simple tasks."

Yeah I kind of enjoy building my own system as masochistic as that can be. But yeah the number of problems usually isn't that high anymore. Bad HD, bad power supply, or if something is really odd for software and nothing you try fixes it, start from scratch with your OS. Those probably fix at least 90% of the problems I've seen. Only had one or two circuit board type failures in all of the years I've been doing this. Have had some bad ram though which can do some really odd things.

Robert Brown
Editor/VFX/Colorist - FCP, Smoke, Quantel Pablo, After Effects, 3DS MAX, Premiere Pro

http://vimeo.com/user3987510/videos


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Tom Daigon
Re: Mac Pro Alternatives
on Jun 13, 2012 at 3:12:27 pm

Gary, thats almost exactly the same system I configured at Puget Systems.
Details here.

http://magazine.creativecow.net/article/hello-pc-the-journey-to-mac-and-bac...

Tom Daigon
PrP / After Effects Editor
http://www.hdshotsandcuts.com
Mac Pro 3,1
8 core
10.7.3
Nvidia Quadro 4000
24 gigs ram
Maxx Digital / Areca 8tb. raid
Kona 3


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Frank Gothmann
Re: Mac Pro Alternatives
on Jun 12, 2012 at 5:41:25 pm

[Walter Soyka] "I know there are several other cross-platform users here, so if anyone is seriously thinking about taking the plunge and has some questions or concerns, I'm sure we could continue the conversation in some depth about cross-platform workflows or Windows 7 from a Mac user's perspective, with minimal Apple-bashing or tea leaf reading."

Amen! Happy to help if I can.
Maybe it's time to not focus so much on what company xyz is or isn't doing but to see how each and everyone can move forward with whatever they need or want to do without breaking their backs.

------
"You also agree that you will not use these products for... the development, design, manufacture or production of nuclear, missiles, or chemical or biological weapons."
iTunes End User Licence Agreement


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Brian Vedholm
Re: Mac Pro Alternatives
on Jun 12, 2012 at 5:54:03 pm

FCP Classic is gone and so is the main reason to choose Mac over Windows.


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Clint Wardlow
Re: Mac Pro Alternatives
on Jun 12, 2012 at 6:14:28 pm

[Walter Soyka] "with minimal Apple-bashing or tea leaf reading."

Glad you started this thread, though I have to admit curtailing my apple-bashing might be a tad tough 'cause admittedly I am kind of pissed at them.

I have a very general question. My needs are very different from most on this board because I am a one-man operation that really doesn't do much work for hire and doesn't really make that much cash off of what I do. Price is a consideration for me.

So how cost effective is it to run cross platforms? I have been ready to upgrade my computer (from an imac '27 i7 with 16 GB) to a more robust computer for about a year because I have been digging deeper into AfterEffects. I was seriously considering giving FCPX a run, but I don't want to spend a bundle on the "new" macpro and I don't want to wait a another year for a possible real upgrade.

So I guess I could keep the imac running and go with some sort of PC workstation. But my inclination is to choose either one system or the other and go with it because of costs.

So my question is --sorry for the long lead up-- are there any other one-man operation guys out there that do operate cross platform? How costly is it to keep up with software for both systems? Is it really practical for someone like me?


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Walter Soyka
Re: Mac Pro Alternatives
on Jun 12, 2012 at 6:32:26 pm

[Clint Wardlow] "So my question is --sorry for the long lead up-- are there any other one-man operation guys out there that do operate cross platform? How costly is it to keep up with software for both systems? Is it really practical for someone like me?"

If you go with an Adobe Creative Cloud subscription, you can use the same license on one Mac and one PC. If you keep your iMac and get or build a PC workstation, you can use the same license to get all the Adobe apps (including Premiere Pro and After Effects) on both machines. $50/mo ($30/mo for the first year if you have an existing Creative Suite license).

From the Creative Cloud FAQ [link]:
On how many computers can I install the software I download from Creative Cloud?
You can install the desktop applications available in Creative Cloud on your primary computer and one backup computer, as long as they are not running at the same time. You will have access to both the Mac OS and Windows versions, so if you have a Mac at home and a PC at work, for instance, you can install your applications on both. See the product license agreements page for more information.


Adobe's perpetual licenses are not cross-platform. If you wish to buy the licenses outright, you must license and maintain each system separately. Perpetual licences also allow the same primary/backup dual installation, but they are platform-specific.

Avid Media Composer allows you to run the same license on either a Mac or a PC, but only one machine can be activated at a time. Activation and deactivation can be done on the web or over the phone, and I think they still allow you to tie your license to a dongle for an additional fee in lieu of node-locked activation.

Walter Soyka
Principal & Designer at Keen Live
Motion Graphics, Widescreen Events, Presentation Design, and Consulting
RenderBreak Blog - What I'm thinking when my workstation's thinking
Creative Cow Forum Host: Live & Stage Events


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Chris Harlan
Re: Mac Pro Alternatives
on Jun 12, 2012 at 7:13:36 pm

[Walter Soyka] "Adobe's perpetual licenses are not cross-platform. If you wish to buy the licenses outright, you must license and maintain each system separately. Perpetual licences also allow the same primary/backup dual installation, but they are platform-specific.

Avid Media Composer allows you to run the same license on either a Mac or a PC, but only one machine can be activated at a time. Activation and deactivation can be done on the web or over the phone, and I think they still allow you to tie your license to a dongle for an additional fee in lieu of node-locked activation.
"


I'd add also that some Plug-in manufacturers like Boris are have made some of their plugin licenses cross-platform as well.


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Paul Jay
Re: Mac Pro Alternatives
on Jun 12, 2012 at 7:34:55 pm

All great hardware to run OSX on.
I have used windows too long in my life.
Waste of my time.

OSX licensing on HP or ProMaxx would be nice but will never happen.


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Chris Harlan
Re: Mac Pro Alternatives
on Jun 12, 2012 at 7:43:35 pm

[Paul Jay] "I have used windows too long in my life.
Waste of my time.
"


Dude, what does that even mean? Other than you being churlish? Why would running, say, AE or Pr on Windows be a waste of your time over running them on OS X? Would you actually see a difference? Or is this just another of your hit-and-run blarfs?


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Gary Huff
Re: Mac Pro Alternatives
on Jun 12, 2012 at 8:31:56 pm

[Chris Harlan] "Why would running, say, AE or Pr on Windows be a waste of your time over running them on OS X? Would you actually see a difference? Or is this just another of your hit-and-run blarfs?"

It's pretty apparent he knows not of what he speaks.


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Chris Harlan
Re: Mac Pro Alternatives
on Jun 12, 2012 at 7:38:36 pm

Every bit of software I currently buy is done so with cross-platform needs in mind. If it is OS X only, then I'm not interested. Continuum has a cross-platform license, so that plugin is any easy upgrade. Others don't, so they don't get bought or upgraded.

My big sticking point right now is ProRes. My big clients have ProRes workflows and/or libraries, and though they may want to, that is something difficult to untangle. So, a lot of where I go is in their hands. Its ironic that just four years ago, absolutely everything would have been tape delivery and this would have been a non-issue.

They are looking at other delivery systems including IMX and DNx, because they too sense issues, but there is the problem of everything that's come before.


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Lance Bachelder
Re: Mac Pro Alternatives
on Jun 12, 2012 at 7:52:07 pm

There's always Cineform. Far better quality than ProRES or DNxHD and cross platform.

Lance Bachelder
Writer, Editor, Director
Irvine, California



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Chris Harlan
Re: Mac Pro Alternatives
on Jun 12, 2012 at 8:03:58 pm

Cineform's great, but that kind of decision is way out of my hands. My clients are divisions of tier one entertainment corps., so there is a complicated set of overlays, ranging from financial to political (and even geo-political), that set what's what.


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Lance Bachelder
Re: Mac Pro Alternatives
on Jun 12, 2012 at 8:08:00 pm

Gotcha - been through that before... though we ended up moving from ProRES to DNxHD for all deliverables because of the cross-platform issue.

Lance Bachelder
Writer, Editor, Director
Irvine, California



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