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No New Mac Pros, Mountain Lion, WWDC 2012

Today Apple announced three new MacBook models. They showed new details of Mac OS X 10.8 ("Mountain Lion"), due in July. They showed some awesome new stuff in iOS 6, due in the fall.

They slyly updated the AirPort Express.

They also slyly updated the Mac Pro.

Unfortunately, "updated" in this case means "they threw in some two-year old processors 1 and called it a day." In addition to the old CPUs, the most glaring problem with the "new" Mac Pro is that it doesn't have Thunderbolt.

This is in spite of the fact that Intel demonstrated Thunderbolt years ago using a modified Mac Pro motherboard!

I have a Mac Pro (2006 or 1,1 if you prefer). It has 13 GB RAM, four internal 3 TB hard drives, an external Drobo with 3 TB on it, and it's hooked up to a 23" Cinema Display (remember those)? I've replaced the video card, but otherwise, it's served me well.

I'm now in a bit of a quandary as far as my next major computer purchase. If you read on, I'll explain more, and perhaps you can help me decide.

Current Situation
I have a 13" MacBook Air (July 2011) that's as loaded up as it could get at the time of purchase. It's great and all I need on trips.

My desktop Mac has been a tower since they first started introducing them (I think I went from a Performa 6320 right into the tower line).

My current 2 x 3 GHz (Xeon 5100/"Woodcrest") Mac Pro from 2006 (1,1) has 13 GB RAM, dual SuperDrives, the AirPort Express card (upgraded to 802.11n), etc. It was the top of the line tower at the time of purchase (August or September, 2006).

The four hard drives, recently upgraded to 3 TB each, have:

Peter (1.07 TB used): OS, Home Folder (including 250 GB or so of Aperture and iPhoto libraries)
Harvey (1.7 TB used): Aperture Vault, iMovie Events/Projects, and my "Video" folder with DVDs I've ripped.
Mimzy (full): Time Machine drive for Peter and Harvey.
Roger (1.07 TB used): Bootable cloned nightly drive of Peter.

I currently use the Drobo to back up files off-site on a regular basis.

As you can see, I have a decent amount of storage. Though I could fit everything onto a single 3.0 TB drive, at 2.5 TB (the Aperture Vault is about 0.3 TB) it leaves precious little room for overhead on some pretty big disks.

The Choice
So far as I can tell, I have four options:

  1. keep using the Mac Pro until it craps out
  2. Get a MacBook Pro (Retina or not)
  3. Get an iMac
  4. Get a "new" Mac Pro

Investigating each of these options:

Choice #1: Keep Using the Mac Pro I Have Now
This one's not really a choice. When even a two-year-old Mac Mini makes my Mac feel slow at times, despite 13 GB of RAM, something's wrong. Plus I can't run Mountain Lion and that's not really the position I want to be in with some software that's selling pretty well.

Choice #2: Get a MacBook Pro
I could get a new MacBook Pro (perhaps the Retina display ones, maybe not). I could give my MacBook Air to my wife and she could give her MacBook to the kiddo who is still using a 12" PowerBook. I could potentially put an SSD in the thing and use it primarily for my OS and a spartan home folder, but I'd need a 3- or 4-bay Thunderbolt enclosure for my drives so that I could store my music, photos, and videos and back things up to them. I think plugging in to my "home system" could be as simple as plugging into the display or the Thunderbolt "chain."

This plan hinges quite a bit upon the availability of a Thunderbolt enclosure that does what I'd need. And I'm limited in how much RAM (8 GB or 16 GB in the Retina) I can put into the thing.

Choice #3: Get an iMac
Keep the MacBook Air for portability, but otherwise substitute "iMac" in for "display/MacBook Pro" above. I'd gain a faster processor over the MacBook Pro (I think - the iMac is over a year old at this point).

I'm not particularly a fan of iMacs, but I can get the 27" display, a 3.4 GHz i7, and Thunderbolt, but I'm again "limited" to 16 GB RAM and the display is tied to the computer.

Choice #4: Get a "new" Mac Pro
I'd opt for the 12-core model, most likely, with a 27" display.

No Thunderbolt, no USB 3, but at least I basically replicate my existing setup while gaining the ability to put a ton of RAM in the thing (I'd start with 32 GB), Mountain Lion (and beyond) capability, and… that's about it.

The processors aren't recent (they're still fast, though I'm not sure how they compare to the others in the iMac or the Retina MacBook Pro), and the GPU is old too (though I don't think I particularly stress the GPU).

Despite the downsides, this one has a lot of appeal. I believe I'd get the fastest computer available this way, and I'm quite fond of my current setup. It's no muss, no fuss. My MacBook Air is a great travel companion and I use Screen Sharing to check in when I'm in another room in the house occasionally.

Quick Aside: Thunderbolt Question
Does the Promise Pegasus R4 support having four hard drives inside, mounted separately (specifically of course my current SATA III 3.0 TB drives), or does it force everything into a RAID? I won't have to format the drives I have now, will I?Is the Promise Pegasus the only option or are there others?

So What to Do?
So there it is. All of the last three options have their pros and cons. I've included a chart below. I'm pretty much completely undecided at this point.

Retina MacBook Pro
Pros: Great for travel, Thunderbolt/USB3, one computer, entire family gets upgrades, SSD is fast
Cons: Have to "dock" when I'm home, SSD is small (might not even be able to keep my music on it), 8-16 GB RAM ceiling

iMac
Pros: Similar to current setup, get to keep MacBook Air, faster than MBP (?), external drives can stay connected
Cons: iMacs over a year old, non-reusable display, slower than Mac Pro (?)

"New" Mac Pro
Pros: Identical to current setup, no external drives, 32+ GB RAM
Cons: No Thunderbolt/USB3, old graphics card, old CPUs2

What Do You Think?
Have I forgotten anything not listed here? What do you think? Can you help? Can you answer any of my questions?

I'm almost smack dab in the middle of this - I could go with any of the three options and probably be happy, but I want to choose the best option, of course.

I really wish Apple had released some true updates to the Mac Pro line. It'd be a no-brainer then, for me.

Thanks in advance for any help, guidance, or opinions you might offer. I appreciate it.

Links

Update (10:00pm): I think the Promise Pegasus Thunderbolt RAID enclosure can only do RAID. I don't think it can mount my four drives separately. This could put a HUGE dent in options 1 and 2 (MacBook and iMac).

Update 2 (11:15pm): I may be wrong about that. It's a shame the stupid thing comes with disks already in it. I already HAVE disks I want to use. Others are recommending the ReadyNAS. You can get it diskless, but it's going to be slower, unfortunately. πŸ™

Footnotes

  1. Intel Xeon E5645
  2. Though both the GPU and CPUs are more than capable, and better than the other two options I believe.

12 Responses to "No New Mac Pros, Mountain Lion, WWDC 2012"

  1. https://twitter.com/pilky/status/212345505160757249

    @iacas Worth pointing out that unofficially the iMac supports 32GB of RAM, and it's cheaper than Mac Pro RAM

    (RAMJet pricing for 32 GB RAM: $340 for Mac Pro, $395 for iMac).

  2. https://twitter.com/ckelly/status/212347040770949120

    @iacas can you wait 6-7ish more months? Sounds like a proper update may be out in 2013 http://pogue.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/06/11/an-explanation-of-the-news-from-apple/ (then again may just be iMacs)

    Many Apple observers also wonder if Apple thinks that desktop computers are dead, since not a word was said about the iMac and Mac Pro. An executive did assure me, however, that new models and new designs are under way, probably for release in 2013.

  3. Is the display on the iMac completely non-reusable? I thought you could use it as an external display as long as the source has a thunderbolt port.

    I'm a windows user that is looking to switch ASAP. My plan Is similar to your #3 (with less storage πŸ˜‰ but I'm not really dying to buy an iMac if I couldn't use it as a monitor for a MacBook air or pro. If that's the case I believe I'd go with the MacBook pro option.

  4. Trevor Bentz said on June 11, 2012:

    Is the display on the iMac completely non-reusable? I thought you could use it as an external display as long as the source has a thunderbolt port.

    It appears as though you're correct. I'm not entirely sure I'd want to use a 27" iMac as an external display in a few years, though. A 27" LED Cinema display would still be a nice external display for a MacBook Pro in the future, though.

  5. The Pegasus is actually a really great product. It will let you do just about anything, and I'm pretty sure that includes having four separate mounts. Here's the manual if you want to check. I've been very happy with it and it's a little expensive, but not that bad for a good RAID controller, enclosure, and 4 drives.

    Promise Pegasus User Manual

    I would personally consider an iMac or a mac mini. I don't think that the Mac Pro is worth it since you can get almost everything as external enclosures now. There are even 1U enclosures now that you pop a mac mini in that take the thunderbolt connection to give you PCIe expansion.

  6. I'd go with the retina display Macbook Pro. But maybe I'm just basking in the glory of the keynote reality distortion field. And that assumes you can get an enclosure for your hard drives.

    There's not much reason Mac Pros these days. We have them at work because we max out the ram, upgrade the graphics cards and connect to our file system via fibre channel. But we're unusual.

  7. I'd go with the cheaper and more flexible option and wait for the hushed Mac pro update next year.
    Maybe get a ReadyNAS and migrate your stuff there, and get by with a non retina mbp for another year?

  8. Tim said on June 11, 2012:

    The Pegasus is actually a really great product. It will let you do just about anything, and I'm pretty sure that includes having four separate mounts. Here's the manual if you want to check. I've been very happy with it and it's a little expensive, but not that bad for a good RAID controller, enclosure, and 4 drives.

    Thanks. I'd need to make absolutely certain that the device could do it, and wouldn't erase my drives when I put them in the Pegasus.

    The dumb thing about the Pegasus is that I have four 3 TB drives. I don't want to buy their disks, but you can't get them diskless. πŸ™

    Tim said on June 11, 2012:

    I would personally consider an iMac or a mac mini. I don't think that the Mac Pro is worth it since you can get almost everything as external enclosures now. There are even 1U enclosures now that you pop a mac mini in that take the thunderbolt connection to give you PCIe expansion.

    The Mac mini isn't a possibility. Too little RAM, for one, and the processor isn't quite what I'd like. With a slower processor and no portability it doesn't really fit.

    Dave Chen said on June 11, 2012:

    I'd go with the retina display Macbook Pro. But maybe I'm just basking in the glory of the keynote reality distortion field. And that assumes you can get an enclosure for your hard drives.

    The Mac Pro idea is pretty much walking towards the door on its way out of my mind at this point.

    I'm down to the new MacBook with Retina (and the 768 GB HD) or the iMac, but yes - it assumes I can find a way to have external storage.

    Maybe the answer to that is to get the 12 TB Pegasus. I think I can partition the drive(s) and run things that way. It can plug into a new 27" Display and have a single "docking" station.

    The reviews are mixed. People love or hate the enclosure, and the ones that hate it don't like the failed drives. So I'd have to determine if I think it's reliable.

    Also, I'm not entirely sure how I'll copy data off of my current Mac Pro and onto the Pegasus. 2.7 TB of data. The rest are backups.

    kurisu said on June 11, 2012:

    I'd go with the cheaper and more flexible option and wait for the hushed Mac pro update next year.
    Maybe get a ReadyNAS and migrate your stuff there, and get by with a non retina mbp for another year?

    I don't think there's going to be a Mac Pro update next year. An iMac update, sure. A Mac Pro update? I think they're done.

  9. [...] Mac Pro option I mentioned in my previous post is either very close to having left or is on its way towards the door. I do not think the Mac Pro [...]

  10. [...] still trying to decide whether to get a MacBook Pro or an iMac to replace my 2006 Mac Pro. Last night I was almost dead set on getting a MacBook Pro, but today the iMac is making a [...]

  11. You shot down the mac mini, but maybe consider it in addition to a MBP. I "retired" my Mac Pro last summer for one and it's been a good move. I realized that I was using my MBP for 99% of everything. The Mac Pro was just running up my electric bill and causing the AC to run.

    So what I did was switched the Mac Pro out to a mac mini server and attached all of my storage to it. The mini is then configured for to be a file server for my MBP, along with media streaming and junk, with VPN access for when I'm not home. It's worked out well and I've been happy with it.

    The Mac Pro is still partially hooked up (no monitors or keyboard) for when I need a little extra horse power. It still cranks through video encoding quicker than the Mini or my MBP. So when I need to do something like a video encode I turn it on and then screen share on to it, put the jobs running, and then shut it back down when done.

  12. Yeah, I like a bigger screen than any laptop offers for regular use. On any given day I'm doing a good variety of things and appreciate the space afforded by a larger display.

    I might honestly be right back to the MBPR as the best option. It's a new computer and I can hook it up to a larger display when I want to but also carry it around when I want to as well.

    I don't know. I've also been looking at refurbished Mac Pros as a stopgap measure until the new Mac Pros are released. And the Mac Mini idea even makes _some_ sense because I can use the enclosure from the Mac Pro to boot and use all of those drives via Firewire (I think). Too bad the largest SSD drive in a Mac Mini is 256 GB.

    I'm right in the weird middle area where I could go in any of four directions and be "okay" but none seem optimal, either.


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