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Mac Book Pro, iMac or Mac Pro Workstation?

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Deb DavisMac Book Pro, iMac or Mac Pro Workstation?
by on Jun 26, 2011 at 4:04:43 pm

Hi,

I’m making the transition into motion graphics (from web design) and I’m in need of some workstation set up advice.

I’ve looked through the forums and could find just a few recent posts about Mac workstations and very little that talk about the latest hardware Apple has released or what is coming later this year... so I was hoping that someone (with a lot of patience) could provide me with advice about the best Mac set up.

I've received advice that PC is the way to go to save money but my requirements to use FCP means I need to go Mac. Plus everyone else is the workgroup is using Mac.

This forum seems much nicer than others I’ve lurked in about this question.

Requirements (software):

  • Final Cut Pro

  • Cinema 4D

  • After Effects

  • After Effects plugins - TBD

  • Adobe Master Suite Collection (latest version)



Question #1: What is the best set up for this budget?
I don’t want to spend more than $3K on a workstation (excluding software). What would be the best set up for a desktop and what would be the best set up for a mobile one. I can’t do both (*cha-ching!*).

Question #2: Mobile Workstation Possible?
If a mobile workstation is possible, I know RAM is a big issue. With the new quad core Mac Book Pros (15-inch), is this really a viable option? What would be the limitations? OWC offers adding 16GB of RAM...

Question #3: Is the latest iMac an option?
I was thinking an iMac/i7 (27-inch, 3.4Ghz, 16GB (4x4GB), 2TB ATA Drive+ higher end graphics card) would work but I've read in other forums that it just doesn't have the juice or flexibility compared to a Mac Pro… Just thinking about ways to save money but if it really isn’t an option, please tell me.

Question #4: New Mac Pro coming this year?
I hear that Apple plans to release a new Mac Pro later this year but there are also rumors that Apple might phase out Mac Pros; that the laptops and iMacs are getting closer in “power” but I don’t see how that’s really the case. Any thoughts? Seems like with my budget a Quad Core is my only option...

Question #5: Best Alternative to Apple’s Cinema Display?
I’d love to know what the best alternatives are for the more costly cinema display monitors (if going the Mac Pro route is best). Having two monitors would be ideal.

Question #6: What am I Missing?
I’m open to suggestions, thoughts about what I may have not considered. As long as it doesn’t make my head spin too much :)

Having enough RAM for AE, I know, is a must. I read somewhere that anything less than 12GB is poor. What’s comfortable without spending an arm and a leg?

Flexibility? External Hard Drives?

Thanks in advance for your time.
Deb


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Tudor "Ted" JelescuRe: Mac Book Pro, iMac or Mac Pro Workstation?
by on Jun 26, 2011 at 5:37:06 pm

Before answering your questions I think you should be clear on some issues:
1- Do you need a mobile workstation at all? This will narrow down your options. If it's a would be nice but I don't need it kind of thing, a desktop is always better. More upgrade capabilities.
2- If AE is what you need most, the graphics card does not need to be the latest, hottest most expensive, a mid range will do, but more RAM will help. So, is AE your main app or not?

Tudor "Ted" Jelescu
Senior VFX Artist


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Deb DavisRe: Mac Book Pro, iMac or Mac Pro Workstation?
by on Jun 26, 2011 at 6:16:19 pm

Before answering your questions I think you should be clear on some issues:

Makes sense. Thanks :)

1- Do you need a mobile workstation at all? This will narrow down your options. If it's a would be nice but I don't need it kind of thing, a desktop is always better. More upgrade capabilities.

Agreed and it's more of a portability issue. I'll be working in multiple places/locations. So, let me pose the question this way: If I were to have a desktop (with a no more than $3k budget) and get a laptop that allowed met to work remotely, what would be a solid set up? Not that I can afford all of this at once but would love a direction.

2- If AE is what you need most, the graphics card does not need to be the latest, hottest most expensive, a mid range will do, but more RAM will help. So, is AE your main app or not?

Ah, makes sense. AE is going to be the primary. Then FCP, then Cinema 4D.


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Tudor "Ted" JelescuRe: Mac Book Pro, iMac or Mac Pro Workstation?
by on Jun 27, 2011 at 11:01:09 am

It sounds to me that mobility is an issue.
For 2700 usd you can get a MacBook Pro with 8gb of Ram and 500 GB hard @7500rpm. That's a decent machine that's mobile as well. If you have a bit more to spend I would get a solid state drive for OS and software and working project, with an external drive to keep all my other files including a clone of the current project.
As you get more funds you can add a second display and eventually a tower.

Tudor "Ted" Jelescu
Senior VFX Artist


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Deb DavisRe: Mac Book Pro, iMac or Mac Pro Workstation?
by on Jun 28, 2011 at 12:34:32 am

[Tudor "Ted" Jelescu] "For 2700 usd you can get a MacBook Pro with 8gb of Ram and 500 GB hard @7500rpm. That's a decent machine that's mobile as well. If you have a bit more to spend I would get a solid state drive for OS and software and working project, with an external drive to keep all my other files including a clone of the current project.
As you get more funds you can add a second display and eventually a tower."


Thank you and what if I went the tower route? I guess I would have to start with a quad core. Keep the 2.8GHz but ramp up the RAM to 12GB (3x4) and keep everything else the defaults?

This of course pushes me over slightly plus no display (boo). BUT, rather than an Apple Cinema Display, what are the best options out there for monitors?


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Brian CharlesRe: Mac Book Pro, iMac or Mac Pro Workstation?
by on Jun 28, 2011 at 12:53:30 am

The benchmarks (speed results) on a 4 core MacPro Tower aren't dramatically faster than the MacBook Pro i7 which has 4 cores and 8 threads. (I have the MacPro 12 core Westmere with 32 GB of RAM). Processor speed is only one measure of a system's performance, pay attention to disk speed and I/O as well.

The advantage of the tower is expandability. More drives, more RAM, slots for video I/O boards.

The MacBook Pro has Thunderbolt, a real game changer once the devices arrive (drives and I/O cards). LaCie has already demoed a Thunderbolt drive on a Macbook Pro, Matrox is updating their interface for the MXO boxes, AJA and Blackmagic will follow suit. So the slots on the Mac Pro may be moot.

Regardless of your choice, buy the RAM elsewhere, Apple charges a horrendous premium for it, and its really simple to install your own.

The MacPro's are rumored to be updated with Thunderbolt soon so there may be reason to hold off if you can.



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Deb DavisRe: Mac Book Pro, iMac or Mac Pro Workstation?
by on Jun 28, 2011 at 1:22:31 am

[Brian Charles] "The benchmarks (speed results) on a 4 core MacPro Tower aren't dramatically faster than the MacBook Pro i7 which has 4 cores and 8 threads. (I have the MacPro 12 core Westmere with 32 GB of RAM). Processor speed is only one measure of a system's performance, pay attention to disk speed and I/O as well.

The advantage of the tower is expandability. More drives, more RAM, slots for video I/O boards.


Hmmm.... good to note. So I guess unless you have the money to go to at least an 8 core or 12 core, a tower doesn't have much of an advantage other than expandability at the 4 core or 6 core category.

[Brian Charles] The MacBook Pro has Thunderbolt, a real game changer once the devices arrive (drives and I/O cards). LaCie has already demoed a Thunderbolt drive on a Macbook Pro, Matrox is updating their interface for the MXO boxes, AJA and Blackmagic will follow suit. So the slots on the Mac Pro may be moot.

Good to know. I didn't know this. Thank you.

[Brian Charles] Regardless of your choice, buy the RAM elsewhere, Apple charges a horrendous premium for it, and its really simple to install your own.

yes, definitely.

[Brian Charles] The MacPro's are rumored to be updated with Thunderbolt soon so there may be reason to hold off if you can."

This is what I hear as well. I have time so it sounds like it would be worth the wait. Thank you. This was helpful.


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