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Mac options

post #1 of 3
Thread Starter 



I wonder if someone might be willing to offer me a little advice, even though this is along the lines of the frequent, no doubt annoying, 'buy now or wait' type questions!


I am making the jump from PC to Mac. The IOS8/Yosemite better cross-device syncing, Cloud drive etc is what has persuaded me this is the right time (I use my iPad air a lot on the move and am a long-standing iphone user). I currently have an i7 dual core 2.7GHZ sony vaio z with 512 GB SSD, 8GB ram. I use it on the move and, when at home/office, with dual 27 inch monitors (which run at 1920 x 1080). I am not a 'pro' user, however (a) I value a great screen resolution and, provided it is discernably better, am happy to pay a premier for it (b) I'm (newly) a 'hobby' photographer and videographer (mainly family photos and vids).


I'm about to start a pretty big video project, editing lots of footage from my kids' past couple of years. As I'm intending on moving over to Mac, and want to get reasonably deep into the video side of things, I figure it makes sense for me to do this on Final Cut Pro X and take this opportunity to learn it (rather than use Premier, learn it, only to move to Final Cut Pro which I gather is better optimised for the newer, better macs). I realise may pros prefer the Adobe products but, not being a pro, I quite like the idea of sticking to the more 'made for mac' product suites (i.e. I plan on using Aperture for photography as well).


This leaves me wanting to get a Mac right away. However, ideally I'd like to wait to see what the c. October (or later depending on the extent of the Broadwell delay) hardware launch brings. My ideal eventual set-up is probably a desktop along with as light as possible laptop as my iPad air, whilst great, doesn't replace completely my need for a laptop (I realise some/all of these products might not end up existing!):


Relatively 'base' mac pro plus retina mac air or

Relatively 'high end' Retina imac plus retina mac air or

15" Macbook pro


As some of the above don't exist my options, assuming I want some form of Mac right away for my video project, are:


(a) Buy a macbook pro now - it's a little heavy for my ideal on the go laptop and maybe not the ultimate machine for my video editing but would be a good all-round solution; quite a like for like with my current Vaio Z. Query though what the next update will be bring in terms of lighter, faster etc? I also think, ideally, I'd prefer a desktop/lighter laptop combo.


(b) Buy a Mac pro now - my use won't need it, although I'm willing to pay for such speed increases as this will give me over other options for my video work. I also want the best possible display and this will future proof that possibility once Apple sort out the HiDPI issues that seem to be present at the moment. I'm aware for my other consumer uses, where the program is either poorly or not multi-threaded (as well as compressing/rendering using quicksync) this option might actually be slower in some cases than an iMac or new model Mac mini, if we see one, might be.


(c) Buy a highest spec Mac mini now as a temporary machine - then wait and see what comes along in terms of a (i) Mac Pro update that addresses some of the single core/CPU performance issues, (ii) a retina Imac and (iii) a new Macbook Pro; decide then what to buy and sell my Mac mini on.


Particular questions I have in mind - will a 2014 Mac Pro update be likely to significantly improve it's (slight) single core/CPU/lack of hardware acceleration issues? Do these discussed issues even matter outside benchmark testing? If, for all intents and purposes, most work on the mac pro feels instant and the next update isn't likely to be significant, then I'd consider just going straight for this. I don't mind spending the kind of money involved provided it feels outrageously fast in all it does and I don't end up feeling that I could have got something faster for a significant % of my useage at a lower cost?


If I wait to see what Apple do next re: their Mac line up, will the Mac mini cope well enough with Final Cut Pro X if I buy that as a temporary solution or will it be a bit frustrating?


Any thoughts readers have would be greatly appreciated,





post #2 of 3

Hi James,


From what I read, above, I think your primary focus should be on the Graphics processors.  The Mini and Retina MBP have no options for larger or faster GPUs.   

The Mac Pro desktop is the Gold Standard for digital editing.   It was built to handle powerful graphics cards and that's where the performance is most noticeable.   That's the right place to do most of your work.   In addition to better components and cooling, the Mac Pro's have more cache, faster bus speeds, and faster data transfer.    I don't have any experience with the solid core storage, but it is faster with data transfers.  And, the new black tunnel design is portable, so just take it along with you!


BTW, don't get crazy about the number of CPUs.  After 8 CPU's, there isn't a significant increase in production, because it takes more and more overhead work to keep everything running smoothly. (IMHO)


I love the Minis, but they have a older GPUs (Intel 4000, similar to my MBP - details below).

Their bus is slower and the hard drive is much slower than you will want to work with.

The MBP's will have more choices for CPUs and graphics cards (Intel 5000).

16 GB it the max RAM on any of them.   


I would focus on the best graphics card and lots of RAM.  


I use a MacBook Pro (2008 MBP - i5 2.57 GHz (no Turbo) and the Intel 4000 graphics card) and a larger display for all my work at home.  When I break out Photoshop, things get noticeably slower.   When I try any kind of video editing, there are often long pauses and rendering is dramatically slower than my desktop Mac Pro (2008 - the older 40 lbs big sliver box) with 4 CPUs and the NVIDIA GeForce GT video card using a Thunderbolt connection and 1024 MB of VRAM.


Doing video work, I like having two displays and an NTSB monitor (TV) for playback.


When I play a video game or run Photoshop, the MBP gets pretty warm where the GPU card is.  I have a thick cast aluminum baking dish I set the laptop on, to help dissipate the heat build-up, when I do a lot of video work.  


On some older MBPs, the graphics card could be replaced or upgraded.   That might be a good thing to find out, first. Not sure on the newer models.    


You'll want all the RAM you can afford, of course.  MBP and Mini's are limited to 16 GB.

I never buy the fastest CPU's.  It's the GPU that matters for editing and rendering.

I have no idea why Apple now posts "Turbo Boost speeds" (Marketing hype ?)

Video work requires sustained speed and memory, but I don't think you will notice a difference in CPY speeds, Turbo or not.


Laptops can do the heavy work, but I think it's not wise to to it for a long time.  Hence, the need for a desktop.   And, of course, the new Mac Pro is the black tube thingy, which has powerful GPUs and super fast bus speeds.  It's just very expensive ($$$$), for what it is and what it replaced.  And there are very few configuration or upgrade options for that particular platform.   


I've had a harder time figuring out the Intel graphics cards.  You might want to look on the Intel web site for specs.  


Here is my MBP display detail:


Intel HD Graphics 4000:


  Chipset Model:    Intel HD Graphics 4000

  Type:    GPU

  Bus:    Built-In

  VRAM (Dynamic, Max):    1024 MB

  Vendor:    Intel (0x8086)

  Device ID:    0x0166

  Revision ID:    0x0009


Color LCD:

  Display Type:    LCD

  Resolution:    1280 x 800

  Pixel Depth:    32-Bit Color (ARGB8888)

  Main Display:    Yes

  Mirror:    Off

  Online:    Yes

  Built-In:    Yes

LED Cinema Display:

  Display Type:    LCD

  Resolution:    1600 x 900

  Pixel Depth:    32-Bit Color (ARGB8888)

  Display Serial Number:    2A1271HF6JL 

  Mirror:    Off

  Online:    Yes

  Rotation:    Supported

  Connection Type:    DisplayPort

Edited by Mac-Cat - 9/22/14 at 3:35pm
post #3 of 3
Originally Posted by CJH26 View Post

I quite like the idea of sticking to the more 'made for mac' product suites (i.e. I plan on using Aperture for photography as well).

Aperture is being discontinued. It's being replaced with Photos. Aperture users will migrate to Adobe's Lightroom or Photos if it has enough features.
Originally Posted by CJH26 View Post

Relatively 'base' mac pro plus retina mac air or
Relatively 'high end' Retina imac plus retina mac air or
15" Macbook pro

They are all suitable options really. The MBP, iMac and entry MP have very similar levels of CPU performance. The iMac and MP GPUs are faster than the MBP but close to each other.

If you don't want to have to sync data a lot, the rMBP would be a good option. The latest ones are fast enough to do the job, especially with PCIe SSD storage.

I would hold off to see if the October event brings in a Retina Air. I personally expect them to go fanless with a very low power draw and cut the weight down further. A Retina iMac and Retina Air would be a nice combination if you want portability and high performance at a desk with a good large display.

The Mac Pro is ok but is about $1000 more than you need to spend. These are mainly good if you go for more cores. This year's model should go up to 14-cores.
Originally Posted by CJH26 View Post

Particular questions I have in mind - will a 2014 Mac Pro update be likely to significantly improve it's (slight) single core/CPU/lack of hardware acceleration issues?

It will move to Broadwell ahead of most of the consumer lineup. I don't know if it will improve single core performance but most apps are multi-threaded very well anyway.
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