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Upgradable GPUs

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Andrew Richards
Upgradable GPUs
on Jun 11, 2013 at 4:01:23 am

Informal poll, raise your hand if you have upgraded the factory GPU in your 2008-or-newer Mac Pro to one of these current-gen GPUs:

EVGA GeForce GTX 680 for Mac
SAPPHIRE HD 7950 3GB GDDR5 MAC Edition
NVIDIA Quadro K5000 GPU for Mac

I'm just wondering if the chorus lamenting the apparently hard-soldered dual GPUs on the new Mac Pro are taking full advantage of their current user-servicable GPU upgrade options.

Best,
Andy


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Andrew Kimery
Re: Upgradable GPUs
on Jun 11, 2013 at 4:03:56 am

What no love for the people that have upgraded their 1,1 Mac Pros?




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Andrew Richards
Re: Upgradable GPUs
on Jun 11, 2013 at 4:08:32 am

[Andrew Kimery] "What no love for the people that have upgraded their 1,1 Mac Pros?"

None of the modern cards I linked work in a 1,1. Hence the distinction. If you upgraded your 1,1 what did you go from and what do you use now?

Best,
Andy


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Michael Gissing
Re: Upgradable GPUs
on Jun 11, 2013 at 4:05:15 am

I'll put my hand up. I did upgrade, change Mobo, RAM, system drive and add a GTX680. But I did it rebuilding a PC. My MacPro is locked in Sl Legacy land and with Color, I can't go NVIDIA and get any advantage. The RAM is already more than Legacy can handle.

Over the years I have upgraded GPU and RAM and system drives in my MacPros. This time I just jumped ship.


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Andrew Richards
Re: Upgradable GPUs
on Jun 11, 2013 at 4:11:38 am

[Michael Gissing] "Over the years I have upgraded GPU and RAM and system drives in my MacPros. This time I just jumped ship."

Kind of my point. My hunch is not very many Mac Pro owners took advantage of their slotted GPU's upgradability, even if there only ever were a small handful of upgrade options out there.

Best,
Andy


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Michael Gissing
Re: Upgradable GPUs
on Jun 11, 2013 at 4:28:29 am

Given the FCP/Color Preference for ATI cards, there was little to gain unless running Adobe or other software. I think the number who jumped ship to PCs because of that is significant, rather than few people update their MacPro.

To argue that a MacPro was rarely updated to NVIDIA cards is hardly proof that internal upgradable GPU is a non stater.


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Andrew Richards
Re: Upgradable GPUs
on Jun 11, 2013 at 4:32:22 am

[Michael Gissing] "To argue that a MacPro was rarely updated to NVIDIA cards is hardly proof that internal upgradable GPU is a non stater."

Or newer Radeon cards, like the Sapphire card I linked to. If someone is not a Mac user, the new Mac Pro is hardly relevant regardless of its hardware.

Best,
Andy


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Michael Gissing
Re: Upgradable GPUs
on Jun 11, 2013 at 4:39:09 am

This new MacPro does seem to have enough GPU for most users so I am not arguing that lack of modding is really an issue for most. Apple have certainly solved the GPU deficiency for most users.

Only some want to tinker under the hood and we can play happily in PC land unless we need Mac OS specific software which is the only reason why I bought a G5 all those years ago.

It is a bit like grandads favourite axe but I am using rack mount cases from 15 years ago. Bang for bucks and keeping up to date is why I prefer to tinker so for both those reasons, I am not particularly excited by this announcement but I do understand why many are.


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Ridley Walker
Re: Upgradable GPUs
on Jun 11, 2013 at 5:59:09 pm

I upgraded my macPro 5,1 to a flashed GTX 570, a roll-your-own Fusion drive and have all PCI slots full.

The new MacPro wold mean everything is a peripheral, lots of USB and TB Cables.


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Jamal Watts
Re: Upgradable GPUs
on Jun 11, 2013 at 5:31:14 am

I upgraded my 3,1's (2008) GPU but not to one of the cards that you listed. I upgraded the ATI 2600 to an nVidia GTX 470. I keep both in the box. I used to GTX as my main card and use the ATI as a GUI when I'm in Resolve. Only drawback is that I have no grey boot screen. Not really a drawback for me, really.


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Michael Garber
Re: Upgradable GPUs
on Jun 11, 2013 at 5:56:14 am

I upgraded 3 of my Mac Pros to 5770s and 5880s when those were the only options available. One of the systems was a 2008. The other 2 were 2007s.

I sold all three when I consolidated my office and decided to purchased an iMac late last year. I have already started to notice sluggishness on the iMac on certain FCPX projects, so I figure in a year the current system will be ready for Craigslist.

Historically, I prefer upgrading parts vs short-term resale (mainly because that's been my pattern). Ultimately it comes down to cost. If the resale value works out more in my favor to sell early and purchase new in a shorter time frame, then so be it.

Michael Garber
5th Wall - a post production company
Blog: GARBERSHOP


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joe mordecai
Re: Upgradable GPUs
on Jun 11, 2013 at 6:14:44 am

i still have the ATI Radeon HD 5870 from when I bought my Mac Pro 5,1 in 2010. The last few months, especially after using FCPX for my work, I've been thinking of upgrading the card.

But I'll be honest, I haven't yet because 1) I wanted to wait to see what Apple had in store for this new generation and 2) call me sorta GPU-illiterate, but I never quite got a good sense of what the best card to upgrade to would be for FCPX. The Sapphire seemed like a good bet (especially at the price), but then I heard it didn't offer too much of an advantage. Any thoughts on the best card for FCPX right now?

Alas, FCPX still runs fine with the 5870, but I would be looking for more zip. Considering it's been nearly three years of totally fine usage, I'd imagine the new Mac Pro's GPUs would be good for at least the same amount of time if not longer.

Who the hell knows. I still want one.


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Lance Bachelder
Re: Upgradable GPUs
on Jun 11, 2013 at 6:28:54 am

I upgraded my 2.1 to a 5770 which is the only thing I can put in there to run FCPX. But that doesn't mean I'm bummed out by the built-in GPU's in the new Mac Pro. I don't think we'll be cutting anything beyond 4K for decades so to buy a machine that can drive 3 4K monitors seems pretty adequate for some time.

I this new machine is really unprecedented - I mean we're talking extremely powerful graphics that are utilizing PCIe 3.0 - there's nothing on the market to even test against it. I suppose you could build a custom PC with dual K6000's in it - that should give you an idea of what this new beast should play like.

Lance Bachelder
Writer, Editor, Director
Downtown Long Beach, California
http://www.imdb.com/name/nm1680680/?ref_=fn_al_nm_1


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Nicholas Zimmerman
Re: Upgradable GPUs
on Jun 11, 2013 at 7:20:51 am

Lance, I threw a 5870 in my 1,1 no problem. Just have to make sure you get the right cable (4 to 6 pin I think).

--------------------------
Avid MC, PPro CS6, FCP7 - wasting away on my SSD.
I just can't quit X.
--------------------------


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Nicholas Zimmerman
Re: Upgradable GPUs
on Jun 11, 2013 at 7:13:29 am

Went from a 1,1 default to a flashed 4970 which 10.6.3 broke. At that point I spent a week trying to fix it and eventually decided to save myself the trouble of dealing with this every OS update and went with the official 5870. Just upgraded to a 3,1 (great deal for 8 cores) and moved the card to it.

If I was stuck with the default card on the 1,1 I would have been screwed, but they didn't put very good cards in their vanilla systems. These dual FirePros seem like they'll have significantly longer shelf lives.

--------------------------
Avid MC, PPro CS6, FCP7 - wasting away on my SSD.
I just can't quit X.
--------------------------


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Craig Seeman
Re: Upgradable GPUs
on Jun 11, 2013 at 11:23:02 am

Upgraded to ATI (AMD) 5770 just to hold me over to use FCPX in 2011.
Consider that I had to upgrade the GPU on a 3 year old system simply to run software.

Yes I know the GPUs are beasts today but I wonder about the demands in late 2016 early 2017 when it's 3 years old and the base price will have been even higher than 2008 8 Core MacPro.

One might say, "what they hell could be happening in late 2016 that you'd need to replace the AMD FirePro?" but some might have asked the same question in 2008. Apple has a way of doing stuff to push hardware upgrades. It's their business. What some of us have done with our older MacPros (upgrade the GPU) doesn't really serve their business model.

Don't get me wrong. I like and will likely get the new MacPro but I can't underestimate the need to replace it in three rather than five years.



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Greg Jones
Re: Upgradable GPUs
on Jun 11, 2013 at 11:29:17 am

I upgraded my 2008 Mac Pro with a GTX680 and SSD drive. It's very fast now. I've also heard a Nvidia Titan will work but you won't get boot screens.

Greg Jones
D7,Inc.


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Brett Sherman
Re: Upgradable GPUs
on Jun 11, 2013 at 11:34:07 am

ATI 5770 in Mac Pro 1,1 and 3,1 for me. But only because I couldn't run FCP X. I think its unlikely that Apple will ever abandon the GPUs in the new Mac simply because they aren't easy to replace. But maybe I'm naive. I do believe they are relatively more powerful than anything Apple has put in their Mac Pros before so they might actually last longer.



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Chris Kenny
Re: Upgradable GPUs
on Jun 11, 2013 at 1:43:07 pm

[Craig Seeman] "Yes I know the GPUs are beasts today but I wonder about the demands in late 2016 early 2017 when it's 3 years old and the base price will have been even higher than 2008 8 Core MacPro."

Upgradability, at this level, is merely a price calculation.

If the thing ends up costing, say, $4500 in the configuration you buy, you can probably get $2000 selling it two years later. Apple stuff holds its value pretty well over such time periods. Then just buy a new one. That's not necessarily going to cost much more over time than, say, spending $800 buying two new graphics cards after two years, and then holding the machine for a full four years after which its resale value will probably be well under $1000.

With the numbers above, for instance, $4500 purchase price - $2000 resale price over two years works out to $1250/year. Then do it again.

$4500 purchase price + $800 GPU upgrade two years later + $1000 resale price after four years = $1075/year.

Given that the former approach will, during those second two years, give you the benefits of a new CPU (with, probably, more cores, more memory bandwidth, etc.), probably a larger SSD, and whatever other slick things Apple has on a late 2015 or early 2016 Mac Pro, it doesn't seem obviously worse by any means. There's also the distinct possibility that even if you need to buy a $4500 configuration this year, you'll only need to buy, say, a $3500 configuration to meet your needs in two years, which could make the resell-and-replace approach cheaper outright.

--
Digital Workflow/Colorist, Nice Dissolve.

You should follow me on Twitter here. Or read our blog.


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Craig Seeman
Re: Upgradable GPUs
on Jun 11, 2013 at 2:20:59 pm

[Chris Kenny] "Upgradability, at this level, is merely a price calculation."

I suspect my thinking comes from how a move through machines. I tend not to sell them but, rather, move them to less demanding tasks. Additionally, going forward, I'm thinking of clustering older machines for encoding. If I had to replace more frequently then, yes, I'd probably have to sell but it does require a rethink for me.

The problem arises in timing relative to technology changes. For example in late 2016 if Apple is a year away from 100Gb TBolt I'd tend to want to hold out the year rather than purchase a new machine "too early." It would seem to make more sense (if it were possible) to spend the theoretical $800 for one more year than buy a new MacPro which I know will be behind where I want to be the following year.

With Apple particularly, the tech changes are often "jumps" punctuated by speed bumps. The trick is timing the purchase with the jump.

Another example, once I knew TBolt was coming there'd be no reason for me to purchase anything until it arrived.

Basically GPU upgrades are the kind of think that allows you to improve performance enough if you feel you need to hold off another year because you know a significant hardware change is under development.



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Chris Kenny
Re: Upgradable GPUs
on Jun 11, 2013 at 3:16:13 pm

[Craig Seeman] "I suspect my thinking comes from how a move through machines. I tend not to sell them but, rather, move them to less demanding tasks. Additionally, going forward, I'm thinking of clustering older machines for encoding. If I had to replace more frequently then, yes, I'd probably have to sell but it does require a rethink for me."

Most encoding/rendering tasks are getting so fast on current hardware that the idea of clustering a bunch of large, power-hungry old machines isn't going to be that appealing in many cases.

[Craig Seeman] "With Apple particularly, the tech changes are often "jumps" punctuated by speed bumps. The trick is timing the purchase with the jump. "

In many ways just planning on a regular two year upgrade cycle helps with this problem, I think. I tried to play the purchase timing game with my last MacBook Pro, a 2007 model, and ended up keeping it for five years, first holding out for Thunderbolt to show up, then holding out for Retina displays to show up. I certainly saved some money in the process, but toward the end that machine was pretty damn useless for pro video work despite having an SSD added and its RAM doubled (it couldn't plausibly run FCP X or Resolve because of limited graphics memory). In retrospect I'm pretty sure I'd have been better off buying an additional machine in between the 2007 MBP and the 2012 MBP.

Once you just plan for a two year upgrade cycle, the stakes of 'missing' a new feature by buying a year early are greatly reduced, because you'll just get it the following year, whereas if you keep machines for four years and miss a new feature by a year, you'll have to wait a full three years to get it.

And, of course, if it really comes to it, you can always resell and buy a new machine after a year — since it'll retain more of its resale value at that point, this might not even end up costing very much more.

--
Digital Workflow/Colorist, Nice Dissolve.

You should follow me on Twitter here. Or read our blog.


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Craig Seeman
Re: Upgradable GPUs
on Jun 11, 2013 at 3:46:55 pm

[Chris Kenny] "Most encoding/rendering tasks are getting so fast on current hardware that the idea of clustering a bunch of large, power-hungry old machines isn't going to be that appealing in many cases."

Looking forward to using 4K HEVC source files and/or having to encode to that as well. The resources may be much heavier for decode/encode. One might say we're a couple of years away from that... but that's my point. Two years from now.. while the beast won't be puny but there may be GPU assisted decode and encoding may be much more demanding.

Hence the concern about the state of GPUs in two years and, sans upgrading the machine, clustering for faster encoding.

[Chris Kenny] "In many ways just planning on a regular two year upgrade cycle helps with this problem, I think. I tried to play the purchase timing game with my last MacBook Pro, a 2007 model, and ended up keeping it for five years, first holding out for Thunderbolt to show up, then holding out for Retina displays to show up."

Three year cycle for me. 2008 MBP for a 2011 MBP but 2008 is still in service. 2008 MacPro with nothing to move it to in 2011 so GPU upgrade. Of course in 2012 rMBP with USB3 and 2 TB ports came out (more important to me the Retina). While there's not much one can do with laptops, my concern is that significant tech changes can happen at unpredictably fast speeds. Yes, it's harder to find a "right" time which, for me, means it sometimes better to extend the life of a machine and hold out another year. Again, it's just a different way of looking at things.

Some people are going to feel "sandwiched" when they want to hold out one more year for something they know is coming, know they need, with no "interim" expansion to improve their current box.... err cylinder, to extend it one more year with a modicum of improvement.

[Chris Kenny] "And, of course, if it really comes to it, you can always resell and buy a new machine after a year "

Yes, I'll have to start thinking that way. I don't look forward to it though.



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Michael Gissing
Re: Upgradable GPUs
on Jun 11, 2013 at 11:05:48 pm

[Chris Kenny] "Upgradability, at this level, is merely a price calculation."

Of course if everyone did that cycle the market would flood every two years with yesterday machines, so the price won't hold. How much do you think my late 2009 MacPro is now worth? Compared to the money it makes, I would be a fool to sell it now.

In Australia we pay a much higher price for all things computer so a 5 year cycle for Mac gear is required for the maths to work.


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