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Retina MBP or Mac Pro - FCP X and more

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Michael Ball
Retina MBP or Mac Pro - FCP X and more
on Jun 15, 2012 at 8:02:43 am

I'm a long time lurker but this is my first post. :)

Anyway, I think I'm in need of a new system... I'm a current undergrad comp sci major UC Berkeley and this summer I'm producing videos for a class which is going online soon. I'm also getting more involved with personal projects both photographic and video, and I'm hitting the limits of my current system.

Right now I've got a late-2011 13" Macbook 2.8Ghz Dual Core i7. It's pretty well maxed out: I've got 16GB RAM, 120GB SSD, and 500GB 7200rpm disk drive (which might get upgraded soon).
Obviously, the integrated graphics are a big problem as I start to do more work, and I'm working enough this summer and during the school year that I can cover about $2.5-3k on a computer system. However, really the cheaper the better at this point since school ain't cheap.

In addition to Final Cut X, my main thing is photography which I mainly use Aperture and Photoshop, plus I use my Mac for much less intensive things like Unix work, grading class work, programming, and all that fun stuff. :) Currently, I've also got a 23" ACD and 2 19" monitors which I could setup with a Mac Pro. (Right now, pretty much only the ACD is in use, and one of the 19"s sometimes gets used as an iPad monitor for testing.

Here are my thoughts about what I'm considering - there's two basic options:

1. The new option: The Retina MacBook Pro. I'd opt for the highest end model with 16GB RAM and a 768GB SSD since I really need the storage. I'm not sure whether I'd opt for the 2.7Ghz proc or not. Thoughts? It's not a huge speed advantage, but the larger cache could be helpful. I'd probably get a friends' 15% Apple discount on this system and sell/give my current 13" to my sister for $1000. So, that's right around $2,000 not including tax, AppleCare, etc. I'd also need new laptop cases, and a couple other little things, plus adapters for thunderbolt.
2. The last-gen 2.8Ghz 4 core Mac Pro. I'd immediately upgrade it to 8GB RAM and either drop in an SSD or a second graphics card - maybe both. That starts at $2,080 from B&H (no tax! :)) and then the upgrades... The good thing I see about the Mac Pro is that I'd be able to really upgrade the machine over the life that I'll have it. (So, extra RAM, never graphics cards, SSD raid even). Under this option I keep my current laptop. Selling it and being without a laptop isn't an option.

Those are the two basic systems I'm considering, and here's some extra thoughts:
• I've spent 15 min in the Apple store with the new MBP - and it's really nice, and the weight is great. However, I have concerns about getting used to the extra bulk as it still feels bulkier than my current 13". I've had the 13" form factor since the original white MacBook (which I still have as server!) and I'm totally absolutely in love with it.
• If I did decide the 15" was OK, the current 1680*1050 antiglare model has the same specs, and is even upgradable (and my current RAM works in it) so that would save me some, but I'm not sure I'd be happy with this option. (That could cost me as little as $1100 which is rather appealing however...). It's also upgradable with faster SSDs and if 8GB DIMMs ever show up.
•Here's the big one: How much of a difference is there between laptop and desktop graphics in terms of raw power? Or now, is the 650M so good for FCP X would it not matter as much? This is particularly interesting since the iMac has mobile graphics and will take 2GB of VRAM on an AMD 6970m.
• Do you think the iMac is a viable option? I hate to think about it because It's not really upgradable aside from RAM - and I'd probably end up paying apple's ridiculous price to add an SSD. My cost for that would probably be around $2500 based the fact I'd upgrade it. The 27" display would be nice, but isn't hugely beneficial to me currently.
• Other considerations: Thunderbolt - not on a Mac Pro, but it is on my portable mac right now. I have at least 1 TB connection either way.
• Having a desktop mac means apartment server. This could actually be really useful, and dual ethernet in a Mac Pro is nice.

So, I guess it comes down to what offers the best value proposition currently and in the future - and in terms of graphics vs processing power what's going to be the best. The Mac Pro will be upgradable for a long time (including the proc), so that's something to consider as well.

I hope that wasn't too long; thanks for any help! :)
Michael

--Cycomachead
http://cycomachead.doesntexist.com


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Michael Hadley
Re: Retina MBP or Mac Pro - FCP X and more
on Jun 15, 2012 at 10:44:00 am

As far as performance on FCPX, your current MBP may be fine—it really depends on the types of projects. Assume your media will be on a fast external volume via T-bolt or Esata and you may be okay for the types of videos you are working with. If everything gets transcoded to Apple Pro Res and you projects are smallish and straightforward, I bet you will happy.

On the other hand, if you are adding a lot of filers, or keying, or using very high bit rate formats, you may run into problems. My advice: save your bucks until a project forces you to make a choice.

On the other hand, the new MBP looks terrific and will be a good investment. Sounds like a 'like to have" not "need to have" for your particular situation.

New iMacs may be coming before year's end. SInce you are not in a "paid/client" situation, you have the luxury of time.


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Michael Ball
Re: Retina MBP or Mac Pro - FCP X and more
on Jun 26, 2012 at 3:39:06 am

Thanks!

Right now transcoding takes a rather log time, but I guess performance isn't too bad for just rough edits so far. However, I am doing a LOT (30 hours ish) of keying and that is making things pretty slow.

--Cycomachead
http://cycomachead.doesntexist.com


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