Put an SSD in your current Air and up the Ram over at Macsales, but they also have 2009 4,1 starts at $875 and you could
get an 8-core
you don't need the 6 core but it is sweet
16GB and up
lots of disk storage options and in graphic cards
no Thunderbolt on Mac Pro but you likely don't need and not invested in TB storage or display
heat, power, louder fans and 65lbs
my 7 yr old Mac Pro 1,1 is bettertoday than ever and gets updated hardware but stopped at 10.7.5 as far as OS.
Evan Robinson wrote:
This is probably an odd question, I know.
I'm a medical student currently working on a 2010 Macbook Air. I have ~$1800 to spend on a machine that I want to last me for another 4 years at least.
No, I don't do any video editing or anything like that. My primary usage is research with multitasking (i.e. I want a couple dozen browser tabs open, MS Word, Powerpoint, and Endnote open without noticing much lag as I do currently).
I have a local seller with a 2010 Mac Pro 6 core 3.33 + 16GB ram for $1800.
My other option is a 27" iMac i5.
I'll put an SSD into both of them.
The raw power of the Mac Pro attracts me to it, which makes me think it will last me longer despite being a few years old already. Also, I don't want the 21.5" iMac because I need a large screen so that I can have Word and a browser open side by side, so the i7 model is out.
The only thing odd about your question is you actually have a budget!
The Hatter's advice is all solid. If you're excited about raw power, the Mac Pros are where you'll end up. I had some friends bring over a new quad-core i5 iMac a couple of months ago and I was unimpressed. It was pretty.
'08 Mac Pros are getting very cheap lately but are a little long in the tooth.
'09s feature the HyperThreading Nahalem processor so you get lots of virtual cores.
'10s and newer are all pretty nifty and have more processor configurations but are still pricey.
All will benefit from a SSD system drive. The more cores, the more bandwidth... 8 is great! All can handle 4 hard drives and the SSD without a problem.
I added a USB 3.0 card to my ('08) system and that opened up a fast lane to cheap external storage. I like writing to a thumb drive at 100 MB/sec. An ATI 5770 will fit any of the Mac Pros and supports a max of three monitors; I have two 27" Samsungs and a 37" HDTV on mine.
Three things will always be true: the next Mac will always be cooler, the last Mac will still be a good machine, and there's always a maniac out there with a insanely old Mac.
postscript: We've retired our '01 PowerMac 867MHz "Quicksilver" G4... still running great but it's slow...
Have you looked at benchmarks? In single-processor tasks, the 27" iMac i5 will significantly outperform the 6-core Mac Pro. Nothing in your intended usage does any heavy multiprocessing. Its graphics will be faster, too. So, the iMac seems like the better choice unless you want the expandability and internal drive bays of the Mac Pro... and "expandability" at this point seems to mean "legacy expandability", as the future for Mac is Thunderbolt and USB3, of which the Mac Pro has neither.
Have you looked at benchmarks? In single-processor tasks, the 27" iMac i5 will significantly outperform the 6-core Mac Pro.
Have YOU seen the benchmarks? Here's what everymac.com has in their extensive benchmark bank:
Mac Pro "Six Core" 3.33 (2010/Westmere) 14089/15802
iMac "Core i5" 3.2 27-Inch (Late 2013) 10236/11199
Looks like the Mac Pro is about 35% faster... figures, 50% more processors...
I think I said "single processor". You are providing multiprocessor-intensive geekbench scores. Single-processor geekbench scores show the imac much faster than the pro. As I said, the tasks specified by the OP are not multiprocessor intensive, so will reflect the single processor scores more than the multiprocessor scores. For video work, graphics, scientific calculation, photo editing, the six-core will sometimes be faster. But for browsers, word processing, PowerPoint, etc., the imac will likely be faster.
I think I said "single processor". You are providing multiprocessor-intensive geekbench scores. Single-processor geekbench scores show the imac much faster than the pro.
That is like comparing single-cylinder performance in automotive engines; it's interesting but has no relevance in the real world. Which Apple computer were you thinking of? Even an iPad has multiple cores.
As I said, the tasks specified by the OP are not multiprocessor intensive, so will reflect the single processor scores more than the multiprocessor scores. For video work, graphics, scientific calculation, photo editing, the six-core will sometimes be faster. But for browsers, word processing, PowerPoint, etc., the imac will likely be faster.
The operative word here is "intensive." You provide no metrics, so I can only assume that you mean "a whole boatload" which is, as I recall, several orders of magnitude greater than "a bunch."
There are some single clock instructions that may execute a bit faster based on the clock rate. This was the basis of the old notion that a Pentium 4 was actually faster than G5. Apple's data (from early Intel-on-OS X work) showed the P4 was faster in screen scrolling but something like 20X slower in floating point math...
Hey, dudes, i don't want to start any trouble. Your machines are very nice.
But you're missing the point. Most software does not take advantage of multiple cores, or can only do so in a limited fashion. Geekbench single-core scores are not analogous to a one-cylinder engine test. The difference in the test is that the multi-core version is written specifically to use as many cores as possible, and include special CPU instructions that do parallel processing. The CPU is not "limited" to using a single core, and if you monitor your machine, you'll see it doesn't just use one core. The benchmark measures performance WITH SOFTWARE THAT CAN/DOES TAKE ADVANTAGE OF MULTIPLE CORES, vs SOFTWARE THAT CAN'T/DOESN'T. Look for explanations at, say, http://macperformanceguide.com/ or http://www.macworld.com/article/1162105/macworlds_new_speedmark_7_benchmark_suit e.html . The vast majority of software does not make good use of multiple cores, and will benefit more from higher clock speeds (and Turbo-Boost) than from more cores.
The vast majority of software does not take good advantage of multiple cores, and nothing the OP listed does. Even with multi-core specific software like Photoshop, etc., it may be able to take great advantage of 4 cores but not much beyond that... so even pro video oriented reviews talk about (in comparing Mac Pros to each other) the 6-core as the "sweet spot", because its higher clock frequency trumps the number of cores (6-core at 3.33 vs 12-core at 2.93 GHz, etc). Look at the inverse ratio between "ordinary task" performance and "core-friendly" task speed nicely laid out in the CPU discussion at http://macperformanceguide.com/ . Look at barefeats.com comparisons of iMacs vs. Mac Pros over the last few years.
So, as a rule, a faster 4-core machine will outperform a slower 6, 8, or 12-core machine of the same processor architecture on most tasks. The high core counts are there for very specific applications where the parallelism vs. clock-speed tradeoff is carefully engineered to take advantage of more cores. This is actually a very hard (often impossible) thing to do; taking advantage of higher levels of parallelism has been a Holy Grail of Computer Science for decades with only small, specific improvements in limited tasks. Single-core vs dual-core or quad-core performance often makes a significant difference because there is some "naive parallelism" in the OS overhead, the running of different programs simultaneously, etc., but testing has shown that beyond4 cores there is not much benefit for such "naive parallelism".
So, for our OPs intended use, the iMac will likely be faster and more responsive. If he had said we was going to be doing a lot of complex rendering or video editing, I would certainly suggest the mac pro instead.
Actually, you are the one who has missed the point.
Evan Robinson (the OP) wrote:
"The raw power of the Mac Pro attracts me to it, which makes me think it will last me longer despite being a few years old already. Also, I don't want the 21.5" iMac because I need a large screen so that I can have Word and a browser open side by side, so the i7 model is out." (emphasis is mine)
Hatter suggested ways to increase the power of his existing syste, and I suggested that the Mac Pro had attributes that would serve both his stated interest in raw power and monitor size and/or number of monitors.
A 6-core 3.33GHz Mac Pro is unusual in that it provides snappy screen response and has significant "heavy lifting" capacity. While it may be possible to devise a benchmark that obviates these advantages and declares some laptop (or derivative of that architecture) to be superior (MacWorld seems to have managed it) I doubt it would be of interest to someone with the above stated objectives.
35 years ago while doing a bit of street racing, I beat a V-8 Corvette three stop lights in a row with my 4-cylinder Lotus. As proud as I was, I always knew his car was faster... beating him didn't change that.
Well, we haven't heard the OP for a while, so we have to interpret his objectives. But he seemed to have clarified "raw power" with "I want a couple dozen browser tabs open, MS Word, Powerpoint, and Endnote open without noticing much lag as I do currently". None of this intended usage will take great advantage of multiple cores. It will all benefit from higher clock rates.
I'm not sure about your emphasis of the screen issues... I think the OP was happy with the 27" screen, he was just saying that he couldn't afford 27" screen AND i7, so was looking at the 27" i5.
"devise a benchmark that obviates these advantages"? I think that's unfair. All the testing I've seen at reputable sites has a variety of different measures for different situations, and attempts to model real-world workflows. The consensus is clear: for certain niche apps, especially video processing, the machines with more cores are better. For average usage with productivity apps, machines with highest clock speeds are better. I don't think any Mac reviewing/testing site out there disputes this... can you point to one? Did you look at the sites I suggested above?
Now, when he says "The raw power of the Mac Pro attracts me to it, which makes me think it will last me longer despite being a few years old already" one has to think about the fact that the Mac Pro will never have Thunderbolt, which is clearly the path forward, and for that reason alone will likely be less viable in the long term. There will be no more development of PCIe options for the Mac, because there are no longer PCIe macs. So, if the processor power is not an issue, the iMac seems like a better approach.
Look, no need to get worked up about this. Let's see what the OP says, if he still cares.
PS, would you have traded your Lotus for the faster Corvette? If not, why not?
P.S. A better link for the macperformanceguide processor comparisons on "ordinary tasks" and "core friendly tasks" is http://macperformanceguide.com/blog/2013/20131022_2-brief-notes-on-new-2013MacPr o.html