diglloyd Mac Performance Guide

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Mac Performance Guide - I figure you saved me at least $2500

Reader Dave L wrote today:

Followup on Mac Performance Guide - I figure you saved me at least $2500—

I tried using the Mac Pro with the two 2.26 GHz processors a year ago, and the performance was horrible. So horrible that I decided to wait until Apple released a better machine. After seeing the factors that affected the balance between clock speed and number of cores, I decided to follow your advice and get the single processor 3.33 GHz 6-core Mac Pro, as opposed to the dual 2.93 GHz 12-core machine. TBH, I don't know why Apple does the Mac Pro offering with the reduced processor speed on the dual core configs because I might have purchased a dual 3.3 GHz machine with 12 cores. Nice to see that OWC does offer the config. However, I have enough invested in this machine that I'll wait until I'm out of Apple Care or reassess the offerings in several years.

I'm very satisfied with the performance. I got the 24 GB memory and 120 GB solid-state drive from OWC. I've been using eSATA where possible. Not a MPG Pro Workstation by any means, but the performance is so much better than my old machine and the 2.26 GHz Mac Pro.

Thanks again for for your Mac Performance info. Another benefit of your topics is that it takes performance concepts that several years ago were mostly relevant for High Performance Computing, and makes multi-core programming and parallelization relevant to a broader audience.

MPG: Dave L made the right choice. Even if Apple did offer a 12-core at 3.33GHz, it can be slower than the 6-core with Photoshop, as discussed in Why More Cores are Slower. And a few rare programs have severe bugs with 12 cores (e.g., Nikon Capture NX2), resulting in 10X (ten times) slower performance (a constant hassle for my photographic work).

Six CPU cores is a winning combination for almost everyone, which is no doubt why 90% of my Mac Pro consulting clients and MPG Pro Workstation customers are choosing that model. Configured as the MPG Pro Workstation “Burly”, it offers an ideal blend of high performance and reliability.

Some people choose to build their own systems, and this is just fine, but my experience has been that most people overspend due to the uncertainty involved in choosing a new system, spending not only more money than needed, but many hours at “best guesses.

See my in-depth review of the 2010 Mac Pro.

Reader Peter S in Germany writes:

I just wanted to say thanks and how much I appreciate your instructions for setting up
a high performance Mac Pro: I bought the basic "Mac Pro quad 2,8" (mid2010) last week at local apple store, in Munich, Germany, because my budget was not too huge, so I wanted to save at the base and add high-performance-hardware by myself.

I followed your configuration instructions and have been reading all your topics, so I added:

- Two 1TB drives, "caviar black" for building a raid0
- one 3,5" SSD Vertex2 240GB for Boot volume (and potential scratch disc for PS)
- one 2TB Hitachi Deskstar 7k2000 for time machine (apple firmware)
- added 3 x 8GB modules = 24GB RAM
- bought Photoshop CS5 and set the RAM at 70% and big tiles at 1028k.
- I also bought your preferred screen: NEC PA271W 27 " Wide Gamut Professional Display

I’ve been testing large format files in Photoshop CS5, panoramas at 130cm width and 300dpi resolution, and all I can say: performance is at maximum speed, it stores the whole panorama in RAM, lets say it needs 12GB RAM for this image with 40 layers. so there is still 4GB RAM left for opening other psd layer files to compare colors and composition.

The only negative thing I noticed: working intensively on the mentioned panorama with a soft and big brush is not real-time, it lags... but overall performance is so great compared to my old iMac 24" and my experience with some heritaged Mac Pros from 2006 at studios where I use to work: its simply superb now!

DIGLLOYD: there is always a task for which performance is not real-time (such as brushes).


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