CUDA, wide variety of Nvidia and AMD GPU options, numerous flash and SSD storage options & pure CPU power: Why the Mac Pro 5,1 is the creative professional’s choice At Create Pro, the Mac Pro 5,1 is our system of choice and the same goes for a huge number of creative professionals. But why is this? Why do so many audio, video, 3D & still image professionals choose to employ the Mac Pro 5,1 workstation? There are many reasons for the classic Mac Pro’s continued dominance of the professional market.
We’ll explain them today in this post and discuss why the 5,1 is held in such high regard amongst creative users. Mac Pro 5,1 History Before looking at why the 5,1 is presently the professional system of choice. Lets look at where it came from, and the design features that allow it to dominate even in 2015. Initially released in 2010 the Mac Pro 5,1 was the pinnacle of the classic Apple tower design. The 5,1 debuted with a 12 core 2.93GHz processor as the top spec option. By it’s final release in 2012 we saw a 3.06GHz 12 core system.
With a custom Mac Pro build in 2015 you can install a staggering 3.46GHz 12 core CPU ensuring unparalleled CPU grunt. Mac Pro 5,1 workstations shipped with an ATI Radeon 5770 1GB GPU and could be upgraded to an ATI Radeon 5870 1GB GPU. Further down the line Nvidia GTX680 and AMD Radeon 7970 Mac editions were released.
Nowadays, thanks to the efforts of various EFI programmers around the world, we have a multitude of modern GPU options for the Mac Pro 5,1 encompassing both Nvidia and AMD. The 5,1 could be configured with up to 48GB RAM on a single processor system and 96GB RAM on a dual processor Mac Pro when it was released. With the debut of 10.9, 10.10 and new CPUs we can now add up to 64GB RAM on a single processor system and 128GB RAM on a dual processor workstation. The real strength of the 2010 and 2012 Mac Pro systems come from their internal expandability. The Mac Pro is equipped with 4 SATA drive bays and 4 PCI-E 2.0 slots. This means unrivalled customisation and a never ending supply of new components that make the Mac Pro 5,1 better every year.
CPU Options The processing power of the Mac Pro 5,1 is highly scalable depending on your budget and can easily match the grunt of the 6,1 for just a fraction of the price. We personally stock 4 different CPU options that we believe can fulfil the needs of all users. Mac Pro 5,1 CPU options:. 3.46GHz 6 core Intel Xeon W3690.
2.66GHz 12 core Intel Xeon X5650. 3.06GHz 12 core Intel Xeon X5675. 3.46GHz 12 core Intel Xeon X5690 For those with a thirst for unparalleled power the 3.46GHz 12 core processor will score similarly in benchmarking tests to the Mac Pro 6,1’s top spec processor at just a fraction of the cost.
For those that have a smaller budget the 3.46GHz 6 core processor or 12 core 2.66GHz processor will provide impressive power, exceeding that of the Mac Pro 6,1 base models, and still leave change in your pocket. For more information of processors, cores, GHz and CPUs check out our guide to them.
GPU Options The fact that the Mac Pro 5,1 has PCI-E 2.0 slots means that theoretically the system will keep getting brand new GPU options as new graphics cards are released. This is in contrast with the Mac Pro 6,1, which uses proprietary GPUs meaning you are tied to the option you choose when your system is assembled.
It should also be noted that the Mac Pro 6,1 has no Nvidia GPU option, this means no CUDA functionality is available on that system. Most PC cards are compatible with the Mac Pro 5,1 out of the box, they wont however have a boot screen and GPGPU functionality is missing in some cases. This being said, thanks to a number of Mac EFI developers, there is a continual stream of modern GPU ROMs being released that allow PC cards perform as well on a Mac as they do on their PC counterparts, boot screens and all.
Below are just a few of the GPU options we offer for the Mac Pro 5,1, all of them run off internal power with no need for an extra PSU. Internally powered Mac Pro 5,1 GPU options:. AMD Radeon R9 280X 3GB (2 can be installed internally). Nvidia GTX 780 3GB.
Nvidia TITAN Black 6GB For many users Nvidia GPUs are essential to their workflow. CUDA acceleration provides huge performance boosts in many professional applications (detailed ), and is only available on Nvidia graphics cards. For Nvidia users the Mac Pro 5,1 has no competition. For more information on AMD and Nvidia GPUs, GPGPU, OpenCL and CUDA check out our guide. Storage Options Similarly to the GPU department, the Mac Pro 5,1 shines when it comes to storage options.
This is due to the 4 SATA bays and 4 PCI-E 2.0 slots which allow installation of HDDs, SSDs and flash storage in multiple configurations. HDD: In terms of traditional HDDs, you can install 5 in the Mac Pro 5,1 (4 in SATA drive bays and 1 in the secondary disk drive).
With HDD capacities now reaching as high as 6TB one could theoretically install 30TB of HDD storage in a Mac Pro 5,1. RAID cards can also be installed which allow HDDs to be configured in a striped RAID, hugely increasing read & write speeds. SSD: Looking at SSD drives, they can be installed on both the PCI-E 2.0 slots and SATA bays. Much faster and reliable than a traditional HDD, SSDs will reach considerably higher speeds than HDDs when in a SATA bay.
If you install your SSD on a PCI-E 2.0 slot using an adapter, speeds start to get ridiculous at up to 3x that of a traditional HDD. PCI-E SSDs can be set up in a striped RAID configuration, without the need for a RAID card, if more than one is installed, this will lead to even higher read/write speeds. Flash storage: Finally, the same flash storage that is installed in the Mac Pro 6,1 can also be installed in the Mac Pro 5,1. Flash storage is incredibly fast, reaching read and write speeds over twice as high as regular SSDs.
Whereas the Mac Pro 6,1 is limited to a single flash storage blade, the Mac Pro 5,1 can install multiple flash storage drives as you have 4 total PCI-E 2.0 slots. Again these blades can be set up in a striped RAID configuration (without a RAID card), 2 1TB flash blades in a striped RAID can reach read and write speeds of beyond 2,000MB/s. For more information of HDDs, SSDs, flash storage and RAIDs, check out our Mac Pro storage guide. Further PCI-E 2.0 expansion 4 PCI-E 2.0 slots not enough? No problem, PCI-E expanders are available allowing you to trade a x16 lane for 4 x4 lanes.
This means more GPUs, more SSDs, more flash storage, and overall, just incredible performance potential. We stock CUBIX expanders which, for us, are the best on the market. But the 5,1 doesn’t have Thunderbolt? Yes, the 5,1 cannot support Thunderbolt. Is this a big deal? The reason why the 6,1,and many other Apple products tout Thunderbolt is that they lack PCI-E 2.0 expansion. The 5,1’s biggest strength is it’s PCI-E expandability and for this reason it does not need Thunderbolt, need extra storage?
Install it on the PCI-E slots. Need more PCI-E slots? Install a PCI-E expander.
Thunderbolt is a great piece of technology but it still has a few flaws. It cannot support an external GPU, and with no Nvidia option in the 6,1, this is a deal breaker for many users. The 5,1 can thankfully have Nvidia GPUs installed internally & externally. Value for Money Let’s face it, the only real alternative to the 5,1, the 6,1, is just plain expensive.
The 3.7GHz quad core Mac Pro 6,1 model starts at £2,499. At Create Pro, our. The 5,1 can also be upgraded in the future with new GPUs, extra RAM, more & faster storage, and whatever comes out next.
The 6,1 is locked into the spec you choose when you order. This means if you want an upgrade, you need to shell out for another brand new system. Not the case with the 5,1 which can be internally upgraded as and when you like, without the need to purchase a new system. Summary In the end, it rings true that size does matter. The Mac Pro 6,1 relies on Thunderbolt for expansion, but the tech isn’t quite there yet. External GPUs are not yet possible meaning no CUDA/Nvidia. The 5,1, however, has bags of room on the inside and can accommodate multiple AMD/Nvidia GPUs, flash storage/SSD RAIDs and a host of traditional SSDs.
Regardless of price, the 5,1 simply has greater potential as a workstation due to it’s internal expandability. Bring price into the equation and it’s a no brainer.
The 5,1 is highly customisable and great value compared to the current Apple offering. To build your Create Pro Mac Pro today head over to our page now. You may also be interested in our article were we put a custom 4K Mac Pro 5,1 system against the new iMac Retina, check it out. Thank you very much for such an excellent write up I always wished I could afford a Mac Pro and I was lucky enough to buy 4,1 Mac Pro which I flashed to 5,1. I am more than happy with it. I have already installed a PCI-E SSD blade and at the moment I’m getting just 450MB/s writes and 725 MB/ s reads, but I’ll invest into it more in the future so I hope I’ll get over magical thousand mark. Oh yeah, and of course I’ll equip this baby with at leat 64GB ram, GTX 970, AC Wifi and Bluetooth 4.0.
I’ll also add some large harddrives too! =) Keep up the good work! I’ve just read over at MacRumors that you are working on flashing the latest Nvidia GTX cards, so I’ll keep following you. Hi Gantsta, In real world situations RAM speed actually makes very little difference. Certainly nowhere near the difference that having more RAM makes, and nowhere near that of the CPU, GPU & storage speed. RAM speed can have an effect on benchmarks, but as mentioned above, in professional applications, it’s not a significant consideration.
As for the 5,1 in particular, it’s strength is customisation. Extremely powerful Xeon processors, modern Nvidia & AMD GPU options, flexible storage options from SSDs, HDDs & flash storage and an upper RAM limit of 128GB. The 5,1 is still the professional users number 1 choice, and we can’t see this change in the near future. Hope that helps.
Mac Pro 5,1 isn’t just for power users. A few years ago I sold my 2006 Mac Pro 1,1 because it wouldn’t run Mountain Lion, replacing it with a Mac Mini. I’ve now gone back to a Mac Pro 5,1 from Create Pro, because of the following: Ability to accept 4 3.5″ drives (we have lots of these floating around) Ability to be secured to immovable object with security cable (and to have internal drives under the same lock) as our data is more valuable than the computer. Doesn’t run hot, no risk of overheat-related problems due to decent internal enclosure fans Ability to recharge multiple devices by USB (due to decent PSU) Optical drive(s) Two RJ45 Ethernet sockets as standard.
Hi, I have a 2009 8 core Mac Pro 4,1 that currently has a 4gb GTX 680 (Zotac manufacture, flashed for Mac) the problem is I purchased a 27in Cinema Display (Mini DisplayPort version not the Thunderbolt), the GTX 680 does not have a Mini DisplayPort and every adapter I have tried does not display a image on the monitor (I tested the monitor with a MacBook Pro and the monitor is 100% functional). So my question for you is if I purchased a flashed 280x do you think it will work with the 27in Cinema Display? Thanks, Jordan D. I have a Mac Pro 5,1 mid-2010, running 10.10.5 (14F1603), with a flashed AMD RADEON R9 280X 3GB which works perfectly with my Apple Cinema Display 30″ (DVI connector). I think the 280X will manage the Aluminum 27in Cinema Display 🙂 On the contrary, for having recently tested (before eventually buying) the Dell UltraSharp Monitor UP3214Q 4K with my Mac Pro, I can say that the R9 280X IS NOT 4K@60Hz COMPATIBLE with the Dell monitor UP3214Q, neither with 1 miniDisplayPort (Mac) DisplayPort (Dell) cable, nor 1 miniDisplayPort (Mac) DisplayPort (Dell) cable + 1 miniDisplayPort (Mac) miniDisplayPort (Dell) cable.
I have a question: is the R9 280X compatible 4K@60Hz with my Mac Pro 5,1 mid-2010 running 10.10.5 and the LG 31UM97B LED 31″ (4K 4096×2160)? We are waiting for Apple to sell a brand new 4K or 5K monitor compatible with old Mac Pro. Cerven, I would have to agree with Tom that the 5,1 is still a great option. Just a couple months ago I built up a 2012 5,1 with 12/3.46 cores, 128GB RAM, Titan X 12GB GPU, 512GB PCIE Flash drive for the OS (currently Sierra), and a 1GB SSD for scratch and storage.
Benchmarks rival the 6,1 for 1/4 the cost and have had no issues. The Titan X is not flashed so I don’t have a boot screen but it isn’t a problem unless I do an OS update then I have to pop in the old Radeon 5770 to reset the graphics driver back to Nvidia web driver then switch back to the Titan.
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But that is the only minor complication and one by choice to run the awesome 12GB Titan at a lesser cost. A 980ti would solve that and be a great card too. The trashcan 6,1 is a 2013 model and until Apple comes out with something significantly faster I will cruise along with this screaming 5,1. On a style note, no one ever comments on how incredibly well designed and simple to work on the 5,1 is. Super clean design. If anyone ever produces new logic boards that can bolt in to upgrade the 5,1 to newer faster processors and USB 3.0 (or 4.0), PCI-E 3 or 4 and faster memory speeds, that would be interesting.
Tom, I recently got one of the final (2012-vintage) stock 4-core Nehalem machines (3.2GHz). I read the bit above about all the 4- and 6-core machines now being able to handle 64GB of RAM, if you’re using 10.9 or newer for your OS. I have got Yosemite running, and got 4 x 16GB DIMMS (proper speed, etc., from a Mac-centric vendor), and the machine will only see/use three of them for a total of 48GB. When I try and use all 64GB, it hangs on boot at the beginning of the grey apple and progress bar. Is there something I am missing that will make the 4- and 6-core machines see and be able to use all 64GB?
Plan is to put a GTX 908 Ti in, and run three monitors (card coming on Tuesday!). Got it booting from an SSD in slot 1, there’s a 4TB drive in slot 2, and slots 3 & 4 each have 6TB drives. Also put in an eSATA/USB3 card, got two 4TB external RAID boxes on via the eSATA (who needs Thunderbolt when you have eSATA?), and a USB3 hub. I plan on keeping this machine alive for a long timehopefully with 64GB of RAM! Thanks for the inspirationgot the idea to do all this after reading your article! Hello Ludditus In regards to your RAM its not the operating system which limits how much you can run. The W series Intel Xeon processor which is used in the single CPU systems will only support up to 48GB The X series Intel Xeon processor which is used in the dual CPU system will support up to 64GB each that is why you can run up to 128GB.
We can provide a full run down of model numbers if needed. We fit only the X series processors so you can get the maximum amount of performance possible. The 980Ti is a fantastic cards seriously impressive performance! There isn’t much you really can’t do with the Mac Pro 5,1. If there anything else we can help with just let us know! Cheers George. If you are a video editor working in any kind of graphics or non-linear editing, a flashed efi card from any efi developer will have your computer crash while you are working at completely random events.
I had one and yes, I tried everything between the earth and the moon for about 6 months praying that this wasn’t too good to be true. And yes MacVid Cards are not different because that is where my GPU came from. It was not quite there fault, however, I am sure they knew about the issue without saying anything. It is an issue with the web drivers from Nvidia and Adobe perhaps or just Nvidia. Doesn’t matter now. All I can say is that you will have to stick with the Sapphire HD 7950 until you leap to the next machine. I can’t decide whether it’s a good idea to buy a 5.1 Mac Pro.
2010 2.93 GHz 12 core 16GB ATI Radeon 5870 video 1GB? Is it too old? What are the concerns I will have?
I bought a new 20″ imac G5 years ago for over $3000, and it lasted approximately 7 years. After paying that much $, I felt short changed and no longer want to buy a new imac. I’m concerned that maybe it’s not a good idea to buy a 2010 mac pro from a private seller, in comparison to buying a refurbished imac 21.5 with Retina for a little more, from the Apple website. I want something that will enable me to have good graphic design options, other than Apple’s Pages.
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