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Mac Pro 2008 vs. iMac 2011 for Logic

Discussion in 'Mac OS' started by irfon, May 30, 2011.

  1. irfon

    irfon New Member


    I'm currently running Logic Pro (8, but will be upgrading to 9 with the
    new system) on a 2006 MacBook Pro with 2GB of RAM and a 350GB hybrid
    disk. I run into the dreaded system overload with some regularity. I
    don't run very high track counts and do very little recording, but I
    tend to use a lot of softsynths (mostly from the NI Komplete suite) and
    use a very large array of effect plugins per track.

    I've been saving up to replace this machine, and was targeting the
    newly-released 2011 iMac 27" with the 3.4GHz quad-core i7 Sandy Bridge
    processor, 4GB of RAM (that I was going to upgrade to 12GB after the
    fact -- the system maxes out at 16GB), the 256GB SSD + 1TB HD disk
    configuration and the 2GB GDDR5 Radeon HD 6970M. With the AppleCare,
    this clocks in at $3098 + tax.

    However, it's recently come to my attention that a local shop is selling
    a gently used 2008 Mac Pro. It has two 2.8GHz quad-core Nehalem Xeon
    processors (8 cores total), 4GB of RAM (maxes at 32GB), a 320GB hard
    disk, and an NVidia 8800GT with 512GB RAM. They'll warranty it for 90
    days and you can pay extra to extend the warranty if you like, although
    it'll be their warranty rather than AppleCare. They want $1699 + tax.

    Among my geekier-than-me friends, there's been a big debate about the
    CPUs in these two machines. The iMac's Sandy Bridge architecture
    supports SVX instead of SSE, which apparently will, once apps are
    updated to support it, allow it to process eight instructions per cycle
    rather than four, according to them. Given that it's already clocked
    faster than the Xeons in the Mac Pro, that would make it noticeably
    faster CPU-wise. The rest of the Mac Pro's architecture is slower as
    well -- the memory bus isn't as fast, the 8800GT is about half the
    performance of the 6970M, etc. However, the Mac Pro offers more
    expandability -- I could add a RAID card, I could have several internal
    disks, I can upgrade the video card, etc. And if Logic Pro doesn't
    support SVX, then I expect that having twice as many cores at a slightly
    slower speed might be a CPU win.

    But the difference in price is also a big factor -- with that much less
    money I could perform a lot of ugprades (note that I'd have to eat away
    some of that buying a monitor, but you can get a 27" LCD of good enough
    quality for me for $300, and getting a disk system comparable to the one
    I was speccing for the iMac would take away more of that, but I could do
    this flexibly over time). I mean, at $1699, I wouldn't be particularly
    upset if I had to upgrade it after only say three years, whereas at
    $3100, I'd want the iMac to last me a good five years, much as my
    MacBook Pro did.

    My only real bottleneck is Logic Pro, though. This is going to be my
    studio machine. I mostly game on the Playstation 3, and I have an iPad
    that is fine for my needs for travel and surfing. So I'm wondering if
    any of you have any thoughts or real-world experience between these two
    machines as they specifically pertain to Logic Pro, and if anyone knows
    what the status of this SVX issue is with Logic Pro -- if it's something
    that I should expect to see coming down or that's even already there, or
    if it's even relevant to Logic Pro's architecture, or if having twice as
    many cores will still be better when running a ton of plugins.

    [Note: I did track down one benchmark that compared both machines -- the Geekbench puts the iMac quad-i7 3.4GHz at about 12,000 in 64-bit Mac OS X mode, with the Mac Pro eight-core 2.8GHz Nehalem Xeon coming in around 8,000 on the same mode. I'm not sure precisely what that benchmark tests for and how well it maps onto Logic performance, though.]
  3. georgelegeriii

    georgelegeriii Senior member

    I'd say the iMac with the Sandy Bridge CPU and 12 gig of ram (so the cpu can work in triple memory mode, a faster way to access memory) would be my choice, based on the fact the the older machine was/is 3 years old, and 3 or 4 generations of CPU's back.

    You are right about the Mac Pro having some advantages, especially when it comes to upgrades, but the question I wonder is this: how many channels do you want to record and playback at any one time?

    A new Duet would be a smoking 2 in 4 out solution, using usb2, and once the new thunder bolt ports come online with raid solutions for disc access, you will be smoking fast.

    Also, the new apple monitors blow the doors off any $300 monitor I've seen, they are really beautiful.

    So there's my suggestion...
  4. irfon

    irfon New Member

    Thank you for the input! I believe that after a lot of research, that's the decision I'm coming to myself. I've been saving for the iMac for almost a year now, so although it's tempting to go with the Mac Pro at least in part to have all that extra money available for software upgrades and the like, I think that I'll be left always second-guessing the choice and feeling like it would have been better to wait the couple of months to get the iMac. It does seem to be the case that it will in the long run be much faster, and I've budgeted to get the SSD+1TB configuration with the upgraded video card and the 3.4GHz i7.

    Does the specific configuration of the RAM matter in terms of triple memory mode? My plan was to get the base 4GB from Apple, which comes as two 2GB modules, and then buy an 8GB (two 4GB modules) kit from a third party (for a fraction of the money), to bring it up to 12GB as 2+2+4+4. Does that work for what you're talking about? It's actually not much more to just top it up to 16GB from the get-go so long as you're buying from a non-Apple source, and the RAM is the one part that's easily user-upgradeable on the iMac.

    In terms of tracks, my track counts at the moment are not very high. Most of my projects, by the time they're done, have 12-16 tracks at the most. What does seem to be pushing the envelope on my current system (2006 MacBook Pro) is a high number of plugins per track. I currently freeze tracks that I'm not working on *right now* to get around that, but constantly freezing and unfreezing gets tedious at times.
  5. georgelegeriii

    georgelegeriii Senior member

    Triple memory is something that makes a difference in the current Mac Pro's, but as I think of it, the Sandy Bridge systems don't do that anyways (they are only dual mode, not such a bad thing actually).

    As for plug-ins, it really depends what one if using as related to performance. Some take a boatload of cpu, some very little.
  6. Uwe Rodi

    Uwe Rodi Member

    Don´t know the new imac but I have the MacbookPro from this year with the quad-core i7 processor with 8GB Ram. It really rocks!
    Only one example:
    Last gig I was using a Mainstage Project with about 30 Patches with many Samplers and Organs and Pianos for Life playing AND made a 16 Channel Live Recording at the same time with logic. The Mainstage goes over Saffire pro Firewire interface and Logic uses the Presonus Studio Life 1642 (also Firewire) Firewire Routing: Macbook Pro - Presonus - Saffire. The only thing was, that the Saffire needed external power supply.
    Greetings Uwe

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