Configure me a Mac Pro

by Erica Sadun

It's been over five years since I bought a Mac. I've been using my G4 733 tower forever and it's time--past time really--to move up. I have no issues about opening cases, adding hard drives, memory, modems. I want to buy the very least Mac Pro that will get me through about 5 more years and let me test all new operating systems and most software.

My preliminary thoughts are a "bottom of the line" Mac Pro dual-Core 2GHz 1GB unit with 160GB main drive, GeForce 7300 GT 256MB, no displays (I've got dual LCDs--and I assume I can still use them with the newer Mac), SuperDrive, no built-in wireless, standard keyboard/mouse (which will go into a drawer, and I will continue to use my current setup), and no software or protection plan with the plan of adding memory from Crucial, hard drives from wherever I can find them on sale via FatWallet, and a 3rd party modem unless I can figure out how to re-use the modem from the 733. (I'd also like to re-use my USB 2.0 & 1394 expansion cards.)

Where am I going wrong? What bad choices am I making? Should I consider a fully loaded Mac Mini instead? Advise away.

29 Comments

Sal
2006-08-07 14:50:04
Sell the keyboard and mouse on ebay for $45.


Why no wireless? Sadly, Apple is skimping on Bluetooth/Airport connectivity, but I think if you don't add Bluetooth now you'll have a hell of a time getting it later. Bluetooth is $30, Bluetooth/Airport is $80 (a pain, but probably worth it in the long run).


My actual recommendation is simply that you wait. This is a developer machine being sold, with the Server OS. You don't need that. Apple will *surely* be offering more models and different, less expensive configurations after the early adopters snap up this model.


Besides, how smart has it ever been to buy v1.0 of any Apple hardware? Wait until Christmas.

Erica Sadun
2006-08-07 14:55:09
I don't need the wireless because my office is set up so my router sits directly on top of my tower. Sort of useless to have wireless to go, what, 3 inches? :) Anyway, I probably should wait but I'm going to need speed and reliability and Intel-itude fairly quickly for upcoming projects. I could probably get those needed speeds and the Intel with the mini, if I give up the double headed display, lots of ports and expandibility. It seems that if I'm already throwing $1200+ at a mini, I figure I might jump aboard the v1.0 this time. But you are so right about the un-smart-itude of it.
Sal
2006-08-07 15:20:46
Still consider adding the Bluetooth module. You'll probably have a cellphone that does (or will) be able to auto-synch with your contacts in the Os X Addressbook, iCal appointments, etc.


I'm holding off until March or so, when 10.5 will be bundled in for free. By then I'll decide if I want a laptop or iMac. Currently I'm using a dual-processor 800MHz Powermac. It's worked dependably since January 2002, but I find I don't need the internal slots.

Erica Sadun
2006-08-07 15:23:41
I own a Bluetooth dongle thingie that goes into a USB port. Would there be a huge advantage to going for built-in instead?
rufferto
2006-08-07 15:52:00
Well, according to what I've read the PCI Express slots are not compatible with PCI and PCI X slots so you will have to buy other cards. On the other hand these machines have lots of USB and 400 and 800 Firewire so you may not need your old cards. One reason to buy a new monitor is that the Apple displays have USB and Firewire ports as well. Comes in handy for those speakers and iSight cameras.
The Gibbon
2006-08-07 16:08:34
Sounds good to me! The Mac Pro is a very good deal, And I agree with your idea of a bottom-of-the-rangs one. It'll still blaze with the least options, and it'll cost a more reasonable amount (Although £1,699/$2,499 is still pretty good)


I find my USB/1394 ports precious, So I'd go for built-in Bluetooth. Ethernet cables would also get in the way with me - still, get only what you think you need.

RobInNZ
2006-08-07 18:21:06
Put the bluetooth/wireless in. If you dont, its almost impossible to retrofit after purchase.


I THINK you might be able to get the wireless cards seperate, but bluetooth isnt available as a kit (I have this problem with my current G5 PM). Yes, there is an external USB dongle, but Im pretty sure that they are more expensive, not to mention using a USB port.

McDriver
2006-08-07 18:34:41
I just watched the video from WWDC and was impressed. The Macpro lineup is based on one config (motherboard) instead of 2-3 different as they used to be. Talked to my m8 about what to buy and after some juggling we came out with the following. Buy the 2,0 cpu and standard config the rest of the options (if u need wlan add it ) this will still blow away your old computer. As for the future remember that Apple is on the intel now so if you need to upgrade after 2-3 years you will find the 3 gHz or even faster cpu for 150 Us$ and also a better graphic card. If you are into gaming as I am, then consider buying a second, better pci-expresscard and run it under windows xp only. Same goes for memory as Apple charge too much for it as usual :( I use my Mac for productive tasks and my PC for gaming. The new macs will definitely give me the opportunity to have all the fun in one computer. My current mac is originally a G4 350 Mhz which I overclocked to 450 then I bought a 1 Ghz sonnet upgrade and flashed a Nvidia 8500 graphicscard from a pc. Still does all my tasks at a comfortable pace :) It still amazes me what a lifespan my one Mac has had compared to the three PC:s I have owned for gaming.
dmm
2006-08-07 20:42:40
Question about graphics card choices...
I use my Mac for After Effects and FCP mosty. Would it be better to get the Two 2.6 GHz Dual MacPro with the upgraded ATI Radeon X1900 XT graphics card OR...get the the Two 3 GHz model with the standard NVIDIA 7300 Graphics card? Wish I could afford both, but I can't. Does getting 2x NVIDIA cards make a real difference?
Frank Bisono
2006-08-07 21:24:11
The way I see it, if you are the type of person that buys a machine every 5 years, then you really shouldn't be skimping on anything for your new machine. I recommend you buy the most machine you can afford, and that will guarantee you get maximum life out of your invevstment over the long haul. Don't skimp on something like Bluetooth today because you don't * think * you will need it. The reality is that Bluetooth is becoming more popular every day and future devices WILL support it. For the extra few bucks you spend on the wireless options now, you will appreciate them later - remember, you can't add bluetooth later unless you go the dongle route, which totally blows.


If you already have dual displays, great. Just make sure they are DVI and not the old ADC connectors on older Cinema Displays. If your monitors are not DVI, I would STRONGLY recommend getting new displays, especially given the major price drop today. Also keep in mind that a display is like a light bulb. It WILL get dimmer over time and won't hold the color as accurately. If this is important to you, then I would seriously consider looking at new displays.


Getting the hard drives from Apple isn't a bad idea either. You want to try and keep those drives matched with identical kinds if possible. In the event you want to take advantage of the RAID features within OS X, you will want EXACT and MATCHED hard drives. Food for thought.


Modem? That's one area where I won't tell you to go. Unless you are using dial-up (God forbid) or are using the Mac as a fax, what's the reason for having a modem? Even with faxing, I would go the eFax route before using a dedicated landline and modem.


Adding memory from Crucial is perfectly fine, but make sure you compare prices at BOTH Apple and Crucial the DAY you buy. If the difference is minimal, get it from Apple, even if it's a few dollars more. The reason? Everything you order with the machine is covered under Apple's warranty. Which brings up the next point. Whatever you do - GET THE APPLECARE PLAN!


I find all too often people skimp on this to save a few bucks and when things go wrong, that's when you really start to regret it. You are talking about buying a 1st generation Apple product here. We ALL know what that means, so this is a no-brainer. Remember, it will extend the protection to 3 years, and for Pro Towers, that support includes ON SITE SERVICE. You just can't go wrong with Applecare and it's worth every penny. And again, ANYTHING you buy (Apple gear that is) at the time of your purchase with the system and Applecare, is covered by Applecare for a full 3 years (including those displays if you decide to buy them).


Go for the gusto, you have waited long enough. When you add it all up, it's a tax write-off for your business and it's a 5 year investment. Amortized over 5 years, the cost is negligible. That's what America created credit cards for. Enjoy your new system you lucky dawg! ;-)

extra88
2006-08-07 22:25:57
Sal: This is a developer machine being sold, with the Server OS. You don't need that. Apple will *surely* be offering more models and different, less expensive configurations after the early adopters snap up this model.


Uh, no. This is not a "developer machine," this is the machine. And while you may get OS X Server to run on it, by default it's the same Tiger you already have (plus the usual new-hardware tweaks). It's not going to significantly change or get cheaper in the near future. The next change will most likely be nothing more than a processor shift. 2.66GHz becomes the bottom, 3GHz becomes the middle and something else becomes the high end. Maybe they'll add Blu-ray as a BTO option.


I would get the 2.66GHz instead of the 2.0GHz. I think it's worth the $300 (less if you can get an .edu discount).


Say, this is the first Intel Mac (plus the Xserve) that doesn't come with the Apple Remote & built-in IR receiver. Therefore it also doesn't come with Front Row.

Zac
2006-08-07 22:34:57
$300 for an extra 660MHz of processing power (on four CPU cores) seems like a no brainer to me.
The Pope
2006-08-07 22:55:29
There's something on the specs page about Apple memory modules having an attached heat sink. I guess they're looking for ways to discourage Crucial hoppers and keep the fat markup rolling in. It's not a bad idea.
Frank
2006-08-07 23:11:37
I would definitely grab the 2.66 GHz processors. The 3GHz are a bit overpriced because they are cutting edge but for $300 you will be getting 33% more processing power, which will serve you well over the next five years.


The small hard drive is fine if you don't store a lot of music, photos, and video on your machine and you can always add more later since you have three empty slots.


The small video card is fine also since it will allow two DVI displays.


I am with those that recommend adding wireless now since you can't add it later. You may not connect your tower wirelessly but you may want to connect another computer to it wirelessly in the future. Remember that Apple computers with wireless cards can be used as a means for other machines to connect to the internet. I also think the internal bluetooth will be nicer and less problematic than a dongle. At least you are assured that Apple will support it.


I see no problem with adding RAM from Crucial later.


Do you use the modem? If so, are you sure that a third party modem will work with OS X?


Later, Frank

JP
2006-08-08 04:02:37
Are the RAM cards and S-ATA drives proprietary? (the RAM has odd heatsinks, the drives are cable-free)
DC1974
2006-08-08 07:15:32
I was really impressed too. And also came away from it all with the decision that a Mac tower is now TOO much machine for my home. I have a 2001 Dual 500 G4. It's badly in need of replacement (i've upgraded graphics, added a hard drive and otherwise updated it) and I've a dinky little monitor. But my budget (or my credit rating) does not allow me to plunk down for $4000 for a new system. An all in one MacBook with the added portability factor to and from work and with the home wireless network and a used iBook for my partner, now seem like the better cost benefit. I can still use my G4 as a sort of a server. I think that's going to be the smarter option for prosumer user that I am. The new Mac Pro is just to, well, pro for my home.
David H Dennis
2006-08-08 07:33:48
If you have old Cinema Displays, you can get a DVI to ADC adapter for about $90 - I think it's called a Dvilabor and I know you can get it at macmall.com. I had an almost new 23" Cinema Display and I bought a Nvidia 6800 that didn't have ADC. So I bought the adapter and it works great.


If your LCDs are still good and bright, that's certainly the option I would recommend.


Like others, I think it's probably worth the extra bucks to get the mid-range CPU. My ego demands the fastest CPU but it's probably not that great a choice since it's only about 15% faster. I think Steve Jobs understands this and that's why the high-end model is so expensive.


I'm not sure how worried I would be about a first generation product. My PowerMac G5 2.0ghz model, which I bought as one of the first units that rolled off the Apple Store floor and on to my desk, has performed flawlessly over the years. I think it's mainly the notebooks that they play with fire in (appropriate metaphor considering the cooling troubles!).


I got it without wireless and then I changed the setup in my house and got wireless. I found out that you need to save the external antenna that comes with the machine, or you will have to repurchase it. Apple only charged me about $15 for it, but it was somewhat difficult to find. Putting the card in isn't as easy as other Apple installations but you can still do it yourself without too much trouble. So I don't recommend getting the Bluetooth/AirPort unless you know you want or need them. A dongle isn't that big a deal for a machine that's rarely moved unless you're short on USB ports - and the new model has a lot more of those than the old.


Hope that helps.


D



CycoMacHead
2006-08-08 08:45:19
You are going wrong w/ Graphics
2xMoniters ) would require 2xCards
No get the Mac Pro
just up the graphics
And if you are crunching on Card space you Could get the ATI, has 2 DVI right on it
if your moniters are VGA, you'll have to go w/ 2xCard or just wap out for your own
CycoMacHead
2006-08-08 08:59:04
Also I don't know if you are an ADC member or not, but they get good discounts
you said you were going to find einternal drives on saleIf you do, I would suggest not repleasing the 160, unless you want to go w/ 4 x%00gb
and find a really good deal, other wise it is hard to find a 500gb drive for less than $200


If you are not an ADC member, pay $500 for the select member ship and you get $500 of the base model
i don't know what Crucial chages for the RAm for the MP yet, butIt might be more than the ADC duscount.

JB
2006-08-08 13:51:53
Take it from someone that didn't buy the protection plan for their G5 and who then lost their SuperDrive 370 days after purchase. Buy AppleCare. It would have been cheaper than replacing the drive.
Timothy Brown
2006-08-08 17:17:36
CycoMacHead's comment on the video cards are wrong. One 7300 GT will drive two monitors. The machine will come with one little DVI to VGA dongle, you'll need to buy another if you don't already have one ($5 or so online).


He *is* right about getting an ADC Select Membership. That's what I did. I purchased an ADC Select Membership for $500, and then bought the base $2500 Mac Pro. It knocked the cost down to $2000. You would think it comes out equal ($2500 - $500 + $500 = $2500) but in fact, it doesn't, because you will pay less sales tax. In addition you'll get a free copy of Leopard in the spring.


I would also recommend the internal BT module. What you have now is BT 1.0, the Mac Pro option is built in BT 2.0, which is the new standard and much faster. It's not bad for $29.


When you say "USB 2.0 & 1394 expansion cards", do you mean PCI cards that add those ports? Or devices that hook to those ports. If you're after any sort of PCI card, it won't work. The Mac Pro *only* has PCI-E.


-Timothy

CycoMacHead
2006-08-08 18:48:50
Sorry I was wrong!
I wasn't too sure because I know there was a DVU and VGA, but Apple still says you need 2 card for dua moniters
I wasn't sure if the card would output from 2 different sources


Also on the ADC, I THINK you get a preview version of Leopard, but that might be for WWDC attendes only
but you do get other pre release software
O hnd if you do go the membership route, make sure to buy everything at the same time

Jeffree Lassitter
2006-08-09 04:29:37
Just for grins I configured a maxed out Mac Pro with dual 30" displays, 4 500-Gb hard drives and 16-Gb RAM, and I was surprised that it came in at only just under $18,000 ... a steal (considering that the original integrated b&w Mac cost over $4,000).
Eric
2006-08-10 03:47:03
Have you read the RAM discussions on the MacPro forums at Apple? All of the usual partys have withdrawn their RAM offerings for the MacPro. For the moment, you don't have any RAM options.
Erica Sadun
2006-08-10 08:34:20
Wow guys! You have totally convinced me to go for the better processor. I absolutely loved reading through all the different buying philosophies. What really resonated with me is the argument about what is user customizable--either now or later--and what is not.


Although I've been an Apple developer on and off for years, I wasn't a member last time I bought and it totally slipped my mind of how much the developer discount helps--thanks everyone for pointing that out.


Incidentally, both of my current Macs (1996 and 2001) see daily use--although the 1996 one is now owned and operated by my 3-year-old.

Erica Sadun
2006-08-10 08:35:41
Eric: That's a really good point. I'm pretty sure that Crucial, etc will get around to providing a RAM option over the next year so it matters how long one is willing to wait until the 3rd party vendors catch up.
Erica Sadun
2006-08-10 08:36:53
Jeffree: Remember the $15000 (base-price) NeXT? Ayyyyy! The prices!
Erica Sadun
2006-08-10 08:37:18
Timothy: Thanks for the VGA adapter heads up!!
yasser
2008-05-08 07:58:38
hi all
i have macpro 2.8 One quad core with 10.5.2 , the problem is , i can send file to any by BT but i'm not be able to received from any outside ones , please advise us asap.


Regards


yasser salem