The Low End Mac Mailbag

The Mac Pro Value Equation Letters

Dan Knight - 2006.08.16

Wow, a lot of feedback on The Mac Pro Value Equation: Where's the Sweet Spot? - Tip Jar

Cuts to the Chase

Dan Martin succinctly says:

Wow! Cuts to the chase. Thank you.

Mac Pro Memory

Daniel Decker writes:

You mention "...and for best performance RAM should be installed in matched pairs...."

Actually, you have no choice, RAM must be installed in matched pairs on the Mac Pro, ideally from the same vendor. It's in the system requirements.

As always, keep up the exemplary work; LEM is an invaluable resource.

Daniel Decker

Thanks for pointing this out, Dan. I missed it in my reading. I've updated the article and the Mac Pro profile to include this.

Dan

G5 or MacPro?

Scott Areman says:

Dan,

I have read your value columns with interest. I am trying to do decide whether it is better to buy a dual 1.8 or 2.0 G5 or to buy one of the new Mac Pros. I'm a photographer who has been using a 1.25 GHz PowerBook for three years.

I'm doing more Photoshop work and image viewing now, and coupled with the 47.5 MB files that come out of my Canon 1DS Mark II camera, the PowerBook seems slow. I'm usually conservative about spending money on the latest and greatest technology. However, the price of the base Mac Pro seems a good value compared to the prices that G5s are still going for on eBay. I've seen dual 2.0 G5's selling for $1,500-2,000. Is there something I'm missing?

But also I've noticed that upgrade items like RAM are much cheaper for the G5s than the Mac Pro.

So any advice or suggestions you have would be welcome.

Best regards,
Scott Areman

Scott, I can tell you up front that the Mac Pro will run circles around your 1.25 GHz PowerBook G4 for Photoshop. The entry-level model has four 2.0 GHz Intel cores, which is probably 6-8x the raw horsepower of the G4 CPU in your 'Book. Even if the Rosetta PowerPC "emulator" uses 75% of the processing power (which is a ridiculously high estimate), you're going to be running Photoshop 50% to 100% faster.

Add to this the wide, fast data bus and the fast SATA hard drives, and the Mac Pro may give you 3-4x the performance using the current version of Photoshop - and probably more than double that when Photoshop goes universal binary in 2007.

For the small difference in price, I recommend the 2.66 GHz Mac Pro over the 2.0 GHz model - 33% more processing power for just US$300 (13% more).

Yes, RAM for the Mac Pro is expensive right now, since there aren't a lot of computers on the market that use this type of chip yet. Over time they're bound to become more affordable, and your best bet might be to order a 2 GB configuration now and add additional RAM (if you feel you need it) when prices reach your comfort range.

Dan

Final Cut Pro Benchmarks

Mitch writes:

Hi Dan,

Even with a dual processor Power Mac G4/1 GHz, it can take hours and hours and hours to apply color correction to a one-hour video in iMovie.

I'm guessing that a 2.0-2.3 GHz dual-core G5 would cut that time in half, the G5 Quad would half that again, and that for a project like this the four core 3.0 GHz Mac Pro might half that once again. Ballpark figure, I'd estimate 6-10x faster for this kind of thing.

Thought you might be interested in the following FCP [Final Cut Pro] test someone at 2-pop compiled a few years ago.

(FCP 2.0 or higher, render files sent to an internal HD.) Place a 10 second clip (DV25) on the timeline and apply a Gaussian blur with a setting (radius) of 25. Cut the clip in half and apply a 5 second cross dissolve on the cut. Time from the click of "Render All" to the point at which the render status window disappears.

The Results

  • G3 SP 300 4:45
  • G3 SP 350 4:35
  • G3 SP 400 (Blue and White) 4:06
  • G3 SP 350 (w/ G4 550 ZIF Upgrade) 1:45
  • G4 SP 400 1:40
  • G4 SP 800 (iMac) 1:25
  • G4 SP 450 (OS9.2.2/QT5) 1:21, 1:16
  • " (OS10.1.5/QT6) 1:12
  • PB Ti/667 (1st generation) 1:12, 1:21, 2:05, 2:30
  • PB Ti/500 (Rev. A) 1:11, 1:12,1:15
  • G4 SP 500 1:10
  • G4 SP 733 (Original ver./not Quicksilver) 1:08
  • G4 SP 533 1:05
  • G4 SP 867 (Quicksilver) :49
  • G4 DP 450 :47
  • G4 DP 500 :40
  • G4 DP 533 :39
  • G4 DP 800 :37
  • G4 DP 1 GHz (Quicksilver) :28, :29, :30
  • G4 DP 1 GHz (DDR RAM) (OS X 10.2.1) :28
  • G4 DP 1.42 GHz (OS X w/FCP 3.0.4 : :20, :19, :19
    (used the second hand on the clock, so it's probably +/- 1 second)
  • G5 DP 2.0 12 seconds

Best wishes,
Mitch

Thanks for the data, Mitch. It shows a dual 2.0 GHz G5 is roughly 2.5x as fast as my dual 1.0 GHz G4 setup, even better than I would have predicted. With the shift to dual-core CPUs, we'd gain a bit more efficiency, and with two dual-core CPUs running at 2.5 GHz, we'd double that.

Based on these guesstimates, I'm thinking a G5 Quad would be about 6x as fast as my dual G4. Wow! And the Mac Pro should be even more powerful, with a faster 2.66 or 3.0 GHz CPU, although I haven't seen any extensive Final Cut Pro benchmarks yet. Bare Feats shows that applying the Soft Focus effect in iMovie is about 50% faster (2.5 GHz G5 Quad vs. 2.66 GHz Mac Pro).

Soft Modems

Jeremy writes:

Dear Mr. Knight:

In one of your recent articles (on the new Mac Pro, I think), you briefly adverted to the Mac USB modem as an appropriate low-cost add-on for those in need of fax capability. Might you address this:

Several blogs refer negatively to the Mac modem, calling it a "software" modem, slow and clunky. Of all the larger modem manufacturers, only Zoom seems to continue to make a stout USB hardware faxmodem for the Mac. But the most recent review of that device that I could find was about 5 years old. Do you know whether that faxmodem would offer any improvement on Apple's, and whether it would work with the newer operating systems? Is there any other "better" faxmodem that you would recommend?

Thanks,
Jeremy

Unfortunately, Apple decided to go with "soft" modems years ago. In the old days, the modem itself had all the hardware onboard, and all the computer did was send commands to the modem and send/receive data through it. With soft modems, the computer does all the hard work of data compression.

This has also been the norm in the Windows world, where "Winmodems" offer equally mediocre, CPU sapping performance. Why? Because it's cheaper.

I have to admit to not being anywhere close to abreast to the world of modems. 56k modems are a mature and, by now, boring technology. I'm not at all surprised that most of the industry has gone the way of cheap, and I couldn't tell you if Zoom or anyone else makes a real hardware modem for USB Macs.

Dan

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Dan Knight has been publishing Low End Mac since April 1997. Mailbag columns come from email responses to his Mac Musings, Mac Daniel, Online Tech Journal, and other columns on the site.

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