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Old Dec 9, 2011, 6:05 AM   #1
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Default Should I buy more ram or a dedicated hard-drive?

Hello,

I recently bought a Mac Pro http://www.macmall.com/p/6218504 but I want to be able to edit and render video files faster than how I'm able to at the moment.

What would be the best solution? More RAM or some kind of external firewire 800 hard-drive to keep the files I'm editing on? Or something else?
I've currently just editing on the Mac's hardd rive and haven't added any extra ram or anything.

I'm new to all this so if you know what would help best, I'd greatly appreciate your advice.

Thanks,
Rob.
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Old Dec 9, 2011, 7:07 AM   #2
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Hey Rob:

I've moved this thread down to our Computers and Operating Systems Forum, which is setup for questions about computers and operating systems.

According to that listing, the CPU in that model is a XEON W3530, which should have identical performance to the Core i7 930 (same specs, except that the W3530 supports ECC memory), so that's a pretty good processor for video editing.

Of course, the Operating System and software come into the equation, and I don't use a Mac. So, perhaps some of our Mac users will chime in. To take better advantage of the extra memory, your operating system and apps should be 64 bit. But, even if you use a 32 bit app under a 64 bit OS, you still have more memory available to each individual app (and extra memory will also be used for disk caching). So, as long as your OS supports more memory, adding more should help out.

With only 3GB of memory in that box as shipped, I'd upgrade it.

So, I'd be inclined to buy a set of three 4GB DIMMs for it, sticking with 1066Mhz PC3 8500 ECC memory like Apple puts in them, and replace your existing 3x1GB DIMMs with them. That would give you 12GB, and you'd still have tri-channel addressing (you need to stick with sets of 3 to get tri-channel addressing with a Nehalem architecture machine). Even though it's got 4 slots and you could use all 4, you only get dual channel addressing that way. So, I'd probably see how 12GB works in it (and you could always add another 4GB DIMM to bring it up to 16GB total later if you found all of your memory being utilized by something you're working with).

I'd probably grab this set of 3x4GB for $114.99 delivered, and install them in place of the 3x1GB DIMMs that Apple shipped with it, giving you 12GB to work with using tri-channel addressing, leaving one slot open out of the 4 slots Apple has on that model's motherboard for memory:

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Produc...82E16820139720

As for another drive, you usually will get better performance splitting I/O between two different drives, using one for the operating system and programs, and another for your data (video files in your case). That's because if you have both on the same drive, you tend to have a lot of drive head movement (going between the area of the drive the programs and their libraries are installed on, and the area your data is located in). So, using more than one drive will tend to boost performance since you reduce head movement, plus you tend to get increased performance since the operating system and programs can access both drives at the same time (and how much of a performance boost will depend on the application and how often it's accessing it's program libraries).

But, I wouldn't go external with it. Your best performance will be by installing another internal drive, as a SATA connection is going to be faster than Firewire. You've got lots of room in that case, so I'd take advantage of it. ;-)

If budget requires you choose between one of the other, I'd upgrade the memory to 12GB first. For only $114.99 delivered going with aftermarket memory like that set of Kingston 3x4GB DIMMs, that upgrade is probably your "bang for the buck" for improving performance.
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Old Dec 9, 2011, 12:04 PM   #3
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Oops.. I see you're not in the U.S.

In any event, your particular Mac Pro uses 1066Mhz DDR3 (PC3 8500) ECC memory the way Apple shipped them if using a 2.8Ghz XEON 3530 CPU. See it's specs here:

http://www.apple.com/macpro/specs.html

If you go to configure one and click on the link for more info when selecting memory options, you'll see the same thing (they installed 1066Mhz DDR3 with your CPU, only going to 1333Mhz with some of the faster CPUs). Either type would probably work in it. But, just to be safe, I'd probably stick with the same type it shipped with (and if you look at the specs in the listing for your box, it came with 3x1GB of 1066Mhz DDR3 in it).

Since you're in the U.K., I'd probably just get it from Crucial. This is their page for an 8 Core Model.

http://www.crucial.com/uk/store/list...=Apple&cat=RAM

But, any of the Mac Pro models using that W3530 CPU can use the same memory type:

http://www.crucial.com/uk/store/list...=Apple&cat=RAM

Even the 2009 models with that CPU can use that type of memory:
http://www.crucial.com/uk/store/list...=Apple&cat=RAM

So, you've got lots of options

If budget permits, I'd just grab this set of 3x4GB DIMMs for it and replace the 3x1GB you have it now, giving you 12GB of memory using tri-channel addressing (you need to stick with matched sets of 3 with Nehalem CPUs to get tri-channel addressing)

http://www.crucial.com/store/mpartsp...AE3949A5CA7304

Or, you could get 2x4GB, remove one of the 1GB DIMMs you've got in it now, and end up with 10GB total (2x4GB + 2x1GB) using dual channel addressing with this set:
http://www.crucial.com/uk/store/mpar...6B1B54A5CA7304

Or, you could get 2x2GB, remove one of your existing DIMMs and end up with 2x1GB + 2x2GB for 6GB total with dual channel addressing. Or, you could get 3x2GB and replace your 3x1GB DIMMs for 6GB total with tri-channel addressing. Or, you could remove your 3x1GB DIMMs and install 4x4GB for 16GB total with dual channel addressing. It looks like your model also supports 8GB DIMMs (but, I'd avoid them right now because they're very "pricey", and Crucial in the UK doesn't offer them for your model yet anyway)

There are lots of ways to approach it. ;-)

Most tests I've seen show the difference between dual and tri-channel addressing setups to be negligible using most applications anyway. Ditto for memory speed (since the 1066Mhz PC3 8500 tends to be timed differently rated for CL7 and you really don't get much measurable difference using real world apps using faster 1333Mhz DDR3 using slower CL8 or CL9 timing anyway).

But, in the U.K., I'd probably just grab this set of 3x4GB DIMMs and replace the 3x1GB DIMMs that came with it if budget permits. That would give you 12GB total using tri-channel addressing with one slot free:

http://www.crucial.com/uk/store/mpar...AE3949A5CA7304

Or, if you're on a tighter budget, grab this set of 2x4GB, remove one of your 1GB DIMMs, and you'd end up with 10GB total (2x1GB + 2x4GB) using dual channel versus tri-channel addressing (but I wouldn't worry about that, as dual channel versus tri-channel addressing is not going to make any difference in real world use):

http://www.crucial.com/uk/store/mpar...41344BA5CA7304

What I find really odd about the Mac Pro boards is that they only have 4 memory slots in the boards with a single Nehalem CPU, and only 8 slots with dual CPUs.

Virtually every other board on the market using that CPU type will have 6 slots for memory with a single CPU. That makes it easier to upgrade in matched sets of 3 to retain tri-channel addressing. Now, when you configure them, Apple does show options for matched sets of 3 DIMMs so that you get tri-channel addressing. But, you'd have to leave one slot free to take advantage of it. Whereas with virtually every other board out their using that CPU type, you have 6 memory slots using a single Nehalem CPU (or 12 memory slots with boards supporting dual CPUs). With Apple, you get 4 or 8. Highly unusual.

So, Apple's implementation of their board for use with a Nehalem CPU architecture is very odd in that respect, and forces you into a dual channel addressing scheme if you want more than 3 DIMMs with a single CPU (where you'd need to use matched sets of 2 DIMMs, meaning dual channel addressing to use all 4 slots). Again, in real world use, it's not going to make any difference anyway (although on memory bandwidth benchmarks, you'll see better performance with a tri-channel setup using matched sets of 3, that really doesn't carry over to any applications you'd be using). So, no big deal. I just think it's a peculiar the way they approached it (or they were just trying to save a few bucks by only offering 4 slots, when other manufacturers using that CPU type with a single CPU usually have 6 slots available on their motherboards)
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Old Dec 11, 2011, 8:34 PM   #4
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About RAM, if you are selling your services, maxing the RAM may pay for itself in increased work completed. And if you are doing that much work, you probably need more drive space to hold the working file. As JimC says, internal drives are almost certainly the best performance per dollar. ThunderBolt offers the highest performance but is premium-priced as a new technology. And I doubt your low-end Mac Pro can make good use of the throughput.

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Old Dec 12, 2011, 8:15 AM   #5
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The Mac Pro doesn't have Thunderbolt. ;-)

They have it on the newer MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, iMac, and Mac mini. But, it's not offered on the Mac Pro.

In any event, with mechanical drives, the speed of the drive would be a bottleneck going with a Thunderbolt solution, even if Apple did offer it for the Mac Pro (and AFAIK, they don't).

The built in SATA II (3Gbps) interfaces in the Mac Pro are going to be faster than any mechanical drives anyway, and it's got four 3.5" Drive Bays with drive carriers included. So, he could add another three 3.5" drives internally.

So, there's no benefit to going external with a Mac Pro, as that would increase your costs, and give you slower speeds via Firewire 800; since the Firewire Interface would then be the bottleneck with modern mechanical drives (as newer mechanical drives deliver >100MB/Second throughput, and you'd have <=100MB/Second via Firewire 800, since the Firewire interface with a Mac Pro isn't as fast as the speeds the drives are capable of).

Now, with some of today's faster SSDs, a SATA II interface can be a bottleneck (as some of the newer models can deliver some amazing speeds, with some testing with read speeds of around 500MB/Second now, with write speeds approaching 400MB/Second using a SATA III interface). So, motherboards in most competing systems now have SATA III (6Gbps) ports built in, and many also have USB 3.0 (5Gbps) interfaces built in, whereas Apple only includes SATA II ports with the Mac Pro.

The built in SATA ports in the Mac Pro are SATA II (3Gbps), and you'd need to go with an Add-On Card to get anything faster. But, the speed of SATA II is not a problem with mechanical drives (or even many SSDs). Only if you're planning on using one of the newer generation SSDs capable of much faster speeds than most would the SATA II ports in a Mac Pro be the bottleneck (and then you could just install a PCIe card to get SATA III ports).

But, I'd avoid Firewire attached drives unless you really want a portable device, as throughput via Firewire 800 is going to be slower than using bare drives via the built in SATA II ports in the Mac Pro, even with mechanical drives, since most newer 3.5" models usually test at >130MB/Second anymore, meaning Firewire 800 would be a bottleneck, since Firewire 800 throughput is going to "max out" at 800Mbps (100MB/Second), and you'll probably get less than that due to protocol overhead and conversion back to SATA inside of the external enclosure, which would probably increase latency for random i/o, too.
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