How To Choose Which Old Style Mac Pro To Get

02-27-2014 08:50 AM

Following our story about the old 2012 Mac Pro versus new 2013 Mac Pro, we have been receiving a constant stream of questions about which old style Mac Pro to get…
I have been listening to everyone on the New Mac Pro and have decided to wait for another year before I make the move. I’ve purchased a used 3.2ghz Quad Core 2012 Mac Pro for $1400 for now. Just so I wouldn’t be spending too much when I make the move to a New Mac Pro. I am presently running PT11HD using a 2010 I7 2.8hz MacBook Pro with a Magma Chassis (Too Damn Loud) for my HD native card. Or should I have waited for a used Mac with more power.
So rather than have to answer each one and add to the backlog of questions on the podcast here are some thoughts to help you choose the best machine for you.
If we take a look at the Avid Knowledge Base for Approved Mac computers for Pro Tools 11 we find this for supported Mac Pro desktop machines…

  • Supported
    • Mac Pro mid-2012, 2010 & 2009 5,1
    • Mac Pro early 2009 4,1

  • Not Supported
    • Mac Pro 3,1 “Harpertown” models and lower

So anything that is 2008 and earlier is not going to be a good investment if you want to run Pro Tools 11. HDX cards will not work in these. I had to upgrade to a mid 2010 machine when I bought my HDX system at the beginning of 2012.
The early 2009 4,1 machines are probably best avoided as they are at the bottom of the current supported list and at some point in the future they will be the first machine to drop off the supported list.
This leaves just the 5,1 machines, but that is still a reasonable pool of machines to choose from, so here are some thoughts on how to choose the best old style Mac Pro to give you the best bang for your buck with Pro Tools.

  • Don’t jump for the first machine that comes your way, it is worth waiting to get the best machine for your needs.
  • Get the fastest machine you can find, but more processors is better than processor speed. For example, if you had the choice between an 4 core running at 2.8GHz or a 8 core running at 2.4GHz, choose the 8 core as it will give you more processors to run more plug-ins etc. So if if it is a choice betwen processors and speed go for more processors.
  • Memory for the later machines is generally cheaper, so once you found your dream machine, fill it up. Go for 16 gig as a minimum, 24 gig is better. If you are using a lot of VIs then get as much as you can afford.
  • Especially after the story on the price drop of SSD drives, do youself a favour, put an SSD drive in it as your boot drive, the time you will save waiting for the Mac to boot up or Pro Tools to load makes it worth it alone.

if you are still not sure then do check out all the pros and cons of getting an old Mac Pro versus a new Mac Pro. The old machines still have a lot of life in them.
If anyone has had any experience then please add your thoughts to the comments.