Amazing how quickly things move on……
You’ll have read all about my inner turmoil yesterday, being tempted by the new Mac Pro and the realisation that my plans for a new development machine based on a new Mac mini had to be put on hold whilst I considered using an iMac as an alternative.
I’m fortunate to already have a Mac Pro, one of the 8 cores introduced in Jan 2008, which is my main desktop machine and video production workstation. I wanted a second Mac to both act as a Snow Leopard test bed and also as a potential dedicated screencapture workstation.
I’d figured on getting a Mac mini for this, but the price differential between the maxed out Mac mini and the iMac was a mere £350 to get a much more capable machine plus a 24″ glossy screen.
Well, I was happily working away yesterday afternoon, with one eye on my Twitter feed as normal, when I spotted a tweet from @leanda with the news that she’d just had a great offer on the now “end of line” Mac Pro from her local Apple store. A significant discount off the usual price of a Xeon Quad Core 2.8Ghz Mac Pro – £400 off in fact!
Hmm, now that’s a development machine.
Curious, I rang my local Apple store and lo and behold, they also had a couple of the same machines with the same discount (for business customers).
The bottom line was that could get a Xeon Quad Core 2.8Ghz Mac Pro with 2GB RAM for just under the price of a new 24″ iMac. In all honesty, I didn’t really need the display on the iMac, and with the Mac Pro, I’d have the ultimate in flexibility and more than enough raw computing power for a long time to come. Besides which, if I had a second 8 core Mac Pro, I could combine both machines at encoding time using Virtual Clusters in Compressor and all 16 cores should be utilised to the max, reducing my current video encoding times by half.
Now my current Mac Pro is currently configured with 10GB RAM and potential “other’ Mac Pro has only 2GB. Apple memory is out of the question but a quick search at OWC showed I could upgrade both machines to 16GB RAM for approx £400 including shipping. A quick trawl at ebuyer showed 4 x 1TB drives would set me back another £280.
So in effect, I’d be getting an Xeon Quad Core 2.8Ghz Mac Pro with 16GB RAM and 4TB disk (and upgrading my current Mac Pro to 16GB RAM in the process) for approximately £600 less than buying a base model of the new Mac Pro.
So yes, I scuttled off to my local Apple store and did the dirty deed!
So now I’m the owner of two “End of LIne” Mac Pros with more horsepower that I ever dreamed possible. I’ve not set up the other beast yet as I’m waiting on the other bits to arrive.
One thing I’m going to test out is “teaming” the dual gigabit ethernet ports on each machine using link aggregation
Link aggregation allows you to aggregate or combine multiple physical links that connect your Mac to a link aggregation device (a switch or another Mac) into a single logical link. The result is a fault-tolerant link with a bandwidth equal to the sum of the bandwidths of the physical links.
In effect, this would give each machine a huge fat fast pipe between each other which again, should speed up the video encoding and enable me to pass the huge video files I create between each machine with ease. I need to do some more research on this as I think you need a special type of gigabit switch, but I’ll keep you informed!
I’m also seriously considering setting one of the machines up as just a dedicated video production machine, optimised for video production and not to be fiddled with or experimented with.
So that’s the end of my
justification to myself reasoning behind what some people may think as crazyness (looking at you Allison) but it really is a business tool. I spend countless hours in front of my rig editing and encoding, so it’s an investment in technology to help smooth out the process and also another learning experience to share.
With GrandCentral in Snow Leopard, I’m fully expecting more and more applications to become multi processor aware, so over time it’s not just the video encoding side that will benefit.
Finally, it’s always good to remember when investing in Mac kit, just how long the kit both lasts and is supported. I fully expect these machines to be earning their keep for many years, not just for me. The resale value of Macs is significant, so when the time does come to upgrade to the next level, both machines should still attract a pretty decent price, recouping a significant amount of the initial investment.
If I can ever bring myself to part with them!