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willofmaine

iMac vs. Mac Pro

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Will VectorWorks Architect + Renderworks perform on an iMac just as well as it will on a Mac Pro? (Based on the following specs):

27" iMac, 2.8 GHz Core i5, 8 GB RAM, ATI Radeon HD5750 with 1 GB GDDRS

Mac Pro, 2.8 GHz Quad Core, 8 GB RAM, ATI Radeon HD5770 with 1 GB GDDRS

Is one mostly paying for the flexibility (and large case) with a Mac Pro, or are its processor & power inherently more capable than those of the iMac? They're both 2.8 GHz, and at the Apple site there's a "Quad Core" icon shown with the iMac...

Any thoughts greatly appreciated!!

Thanks, Will

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Having utilized numerous combinations of iMacs& MacPros ....

if you don't require the more expensive "in box" expandability of MacPro,

then the cost effective iMac i5 & i7 are more than adequate.

As long as you top off the RAM to 8GB .

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Thanks islandmon, that's exactly where I'm headed: an iMac i7 with 8 GB RAM. The only thing I've ever done with my current Mac Pro's flexibility is slide out that little drawer and throw in a bunch of RAM...

That said, I'm also wondering if I might be able to get more mileage out of my Mac Pro by upgrading the graphics card. Any thoughts on whether or not a 4 1/2 year old Mac Pro (see specs below) is going to give me a reasonably acceptable experience with 2011? (My biggest project includes a detailed 3D model, 130 Mb file, with around 240 drawings (viewports) across 30 sheets...).

Thanks! -Will

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My 2?: Once your machine is 3-4 years old there is nothing you can do but throw money in it, for very little benefit. The industry changes too fast (quite intentionally BTW). So you end up playing the hardware/software upgrade teeter-totter leap-frog game. I've been there a few times and it never seems to satisfy. My choice now is to save that money and buy a new machine every 3-4 years...

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Thanks Peter, I pretty much know you're right, but financial constraints may have me in a bit of a state of denial... Also, unless I really don't know what I'm looking at, it seems a Radeon HD 5770 would work with my Mac Pro, and it's only about $160. And a 1TB internal hard drive would be only $60 or so (?). But I know that's still $220 that could go towards a new, faster machine...

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I would support Peters statement.

I doubt that upgranding your mac specially with VW2008 in the graphicscard Area will give a noticeable speedup.

On the other hand, if you buy a new Mac, you will get OSX 10.6, and your VW shoud be upgraded as well.

If I'm not totally wrong, VW 2008 is not Certified to work with OSX 10.6

so it might work, but the combination will be unsupported.

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Last time I looked (the speed bump before these machines) the top iMac was faster than the low-end Mac Pro. Whether that's still the case I don't know but they are different processors despite both being 2.8 GHz.

Bear in mind the Core i7 processor features "Hyper-Threading technology, which allows two threads to run simultaneously on each processor core, providing eight virtual cores for increased performance." If you're a heavy Renderworks user this will probably be worth the extra cost.

We've always used towers but we're moving to iMacs too. We're also considering the solid state drives, despite their cost. I understand they hugely increase the speed of computer startup times, opening apps and pretty much anything that writes to the drive, such as saving files.

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I've been using an i5 iMac for over a year now and an i7 iMac for a few months. I bought the i5 because, at the time, as Christiaan noted, it was faster than the MacPro. They have since upgraded the MacPro line and they are surely faster than the iMacs but MUCH more expensive.

One thing to note, I have found that the i7 isn't noticeably faster than the i7 using renderworks. I suspect that a side by side comparison would show that it's faster but, using one at the office and one at home, I don't really notice a difference.

Good luck.

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Thanks for the heads up on i7 and Renderworks Bill.

You don't have solid state drives by any chance do you? Interested to see what your opinion on them is.

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Thanks everyone for the excellent feedback; much appreciated. I'm pretty much thinking an i7 iMac with 8 GB RAM is the way to go. The RAM can be increased down the road if necessary, and when it's time for more storage or a new graphics card, the processor most likely will be outdated (clearly, we're all in the wrong business!...).

Thanks again, Will

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The glossy screen on the current generation of imacs is a real concern for me. If you work in a sunlit office then I would recommend a trial first if possible.

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Christiaan, no solid state drives for me. My opinion is that they are WAY too expensive for what is likely to be very little performance gain.

Will, It's really easy to upgrade the RAM. I bought my i7 iMac from the apple store with 4G of RAM, and then bought 4 more G from Other World Computing. There's a small, removable panel on the bottom edge of the iMac. Take that off, install new RAM, put the panel back on, and you're done.

Kizza, your concerns about the gloss screen are well founded. My office is also sunlit and I've had to be careful about where I sit. If you work with a black background, it's a much bigger problem but it can be a nuisance even with a white background. Luckilly, the LED screen is super bright and can be adjusted to overpower most back-light. I think that someone out there makes an anti-glare cover that might be of help if your situation proves difficult.

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Bill, from what I've read, for certain tasks the performance gain of SSDs is huge. Is it worth the ?3.46/week over a three year period? I'd be willing to pay that if it means the end of staring at screens while apps start, beach balls spin or VW files save. Just depends if that's the case or not.

Edit: think I've made my mind up. There's a degradation issue with some SSD drives and there's no knowing if Apple's installed drives will or not. And it's ridiculously difficult to fit your own:

http://www.macworld.com/article/151492/2010/07/imac_ssd.html

Although there is this comment at the end:

Anybody who says SSDs aren't worth it hasn't used one - it really changes so much about the day-to-day use of any computer. I wouldn't be without one now, and didn't decide to go for the 27" i7 iMac (back in March, over waiting for a Mac Pro update) until I was sure that using an SSD in a FW800 enclosure was workable. You do lose the top end sustained transfer rate, but the SSD still has no latency, no file contention (with read heads thrashing as they try to load files from multiple locations on a spinning platter), and is still much faster than having the OS on the internal drive.
Edited by Christiaan

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I think that, for HD intensive work, SSD's probably make a great deal of sense. I don't think, however, that using VW qualifies as HD intensive. Opening files could be faster but I only open files a few times a day. Saving could be faster but I'm almost never held up, waiting for a file to save.

But that's just me.

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Thanks, Bill. The iMac being well disguised as a monitor lead me to assume that, like a Mac Mini, the RAM would be difficult to replace. Thanks for pointing out that it's easy. I should have questioned it further 'cause I know buying RAM from Apple is pretty much the most expensive way to do it. When I got RAM for my Mac Pro I got it from OWC, which worked out very well. Thanks again!

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I've been buying RAM & other stuff from OWC for many years now and have NEVER had a problem. I've had their RAM in my MacBook for 6 or 7 years now and it's worked without incident.

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Bill, from what I've read, for certain tasks the performance gain of SSDs is huge. Is it worth the ?3.46/week over a three year period? I'd be willing to pay that if it means the end of staring at screens while apps start, beach balls spin or VW files save. Just depends if that's the case or not.

Edit: think I've made my mind up. There's a degradation issue with some SSD drives and there's no knowing if Apple's installed drives will or not. And it's ridiculously difficult to fit your own:

http://www.macworld.com/article/151492/2010/07/imac_ssd.html

Although there is this comment at the end:

Anybody who says SSDs aren't worth it hasn't used one - it really changes so much about the day-to-day use of any computer. I wouldn't be without one now, and didn't decide to go for the 27" i7 iMac (back in March, over waiting for a Mac Pro update) until I was sure that using an SSD in a FW800 enclosure was workable. You do lose the top end sustained transfer rate, but the SSD still has no latency, no file contention (with read heads thrashing as they try to load files from multiple locations on a spinning platter), and is still much faster than having the OS on the internal drive.

Such a very amazing link!

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I'm no expert but rumor is that iMacs with Thunderbolt are coming soon. This may allow you to use an external SSD (when they're available with thunderbolt in the next few months..) without the normal penalty of external drives.

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