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skortch
08-31-2006, 11:46 AM
Hey all,
After spec'ing some build-my-own systems using Core 2 Duo and Xeon chips, I'm thinking about ordering a Mac Pro 2.66 today. The crazy thing is that at first it's main duty would be as a render farm machine for Windows Lightwave under Bootcamp.

I'm choosing the Mac route partly because of the price/performance ratio and partly because I want to run Final Cut Pro and Shake. It's been 8 years since my last Mac purchase, and I want to come home...

I've scanned over the Newtek forums and those on CGTalk for any potential problems. See any that you can warn me about? I've got Spider working for my Lightwave network render controller, and I also have a license to Butterfly.

My main concern is whether the Mac Pro in Windows mode can communicate seamlessly with my Windows workstation over my gigabit ethernet network.

Thanks! -Mark

Chilton
08-31-2006, 01:19 PM
Hi Mark,

MAKE SURE you have WindowsXP SP2. If you only have SP1, you'll find that updating it to SP2 will be problematic (under Boot Camp). Other than that, you should be good.

Of course, when the UB version is ready, you'll be ready.

And welcome home ;-)

-Chilton

skortch
08-31-2006, 01:52 PM
Thanks, Chilton! That puts my mind at ease. I think I'll have to buy a copy of OEM XP SP2, as I assume I can't use the installation disks that came with my Windows computers.


Hi Mark,

MAKE SURE you have WindowsXP SP2. If you only have SP1, you'll find that updating it to SP2 will be problematic (under Boot Camp). Other than that, you should be good.

Of course, when the UB version is ready, you'll be ready.

And welcome home ;-)

-Chilton

avkills
08-31-2006, 03:17 PM
I've been think the same thing Mark, although I will probably just wait for Lightwave UB, since I am already running the Mac version. However, I was looking at the Minis, although the RAM ceiling is kind of a letdown. If Apple comes out with a Mini that can support >2 GB then I will be very happy since you really do not need anything but CPU horsepower for a renderfarm; plus the Minis have gigabit ethernet now which is a plus.

-mark

geck
08-31-2006, 04:58 PM
IMHO, a stack of Mac Mini's and a copy of Remote Desktop would make an excellent renderfarm, but as you say the RAM ceiling would be a problem.

Captain Obvious
08-31-2006, 06:45 PM
IMHO, a stack of Mac Mini's and a copy of Remote Desktop would make an excellent renderfarm, but as you say the RAM ceiling would be a problem.
Quick & dirty math based on these two results:
http://www.blanos.com/benchmark/bprint.cgi?s=d&id=5879
http://www.blanos.com/benchmark/bprint.cgi?s=d&id=6111

The clock frequency in both is incorrect. The Macbook is running at 2 GHz, and the Mac mini has the same Core Duo running at 1.66 GHz. It would thusly render the scene in approximately 290 seconds. The dual Xeon 5160 renders it in 47.6 seconds.

The 3 GHz Mac Pro costs $3224 with the smaller hard drive, and the Mac mini costs $799, but then it only ships with 2x256 megabytes of RAM that you'll have to replace. If we give both systems 2 gigabytes, the price becomes $1099 for the mini and $3524 for the Mac Pro.

The Mac Pro is approximately 6 times faster, and only 4 times more expensive even without the RAM. If we then look at the 2.66 GHz Mac Pro, the performance difference is about 535% and the price difference is a mere 300%.

When you're pinching pennies, the Mac Pros give you a LOT more performance per dollar spent.

Now, let's have a bit more fun. Let's look at performance per VOLUME! The Mac Pro is a rather impressive 51.1 x 20.6 x 47.5 centimeters (height, width, depth), and the Mac mini is downright tiny at 5.1 x 16.5 x 16.5 centimeters. We can fit approximately six Mac minis in the same width as five Mac Pros. Not a tremendous difference there. Now, let's stack them! In the height of one Mac Pro, you can fit ten Mac minis! So in the same space as five Mac Pros, you can stack up sixty Mac minis. And if we then take the depth into account, it becomes even worse. Since the Mac mini has an external power supply unit, we can't squeeze them in as tight as you might hope, but you'll still be able to fit three minis in the same depth, for a grand total of 180 Mac minis in the same space as five Mac Pros.

Of course, the stack of computers will probably melt unless you put it in a walk-in freezer . Not to mention the fact that you'll have to shell out $144 grand for it (plus RAM!).

skortch
08-31-2006, 08:29 PM
Since the Mac mini has an external power supply unit, we can't squeeze them in as tight as you might hope, but you'll still be able to fit three minis in the same depth, for a grand total of 180 Mac minis in the same space as five Mac Pros.


Hmmm, now you got me thinking. Should I cancel the Mac Pro and order 180 Mac Minis?

Just when I think I got it all worked out...:foreheads

Actually, I'm buying right now because I have a big 2-month project starting up. Given more time, I'd probably wait until the Quad-cores are released in a few months or so. My big question is where is Apple going to put the Core-2-Quad? Maybe a new midline Mac? That'd be very very nice...

avkills
09-01-2006, 12:16 AM
I'd go with the Quad Xeon, the RAM ceiling in the Minis is the deal breaker. I actually priced out just buying Core 2 mobos, and all the ones I could find for cheap had the same RAM ceiling issue.

My idea was to buy a bunch of Mobos and one honking power supply to power them all and put them into a custom box with a boatload of cooling.

Oh well.

-mark

skortch
09-01-2006, 08:12 AM
I'd go with the Quad Xeon, the RAM ceiling in the Minis is the deal breaker. I actually priced out just buying Core 2 mobos, and all the ones I could find for cheap had the same RAM ceiling issue.

My idea was to buy a bunch of Mobos and one honking power supply to power them all and put them into a custom box with a boatload of cooling.

Oh well.

-mark

Yep, it's on order.

It's actually a bit cheaper than the Athlon X2 4400 system I had built nine months ago. I still have to buy more ram and the video card is mediocre, but the Mac is way more powerful, more than 2x I'm guessing.

I'm hoping there'll be better nVidia card options available next year, 7800-7950 types. The Quadro is a bit spendy for me right now.

skortch
10-17-2006, 03:45 PM
Just thought I'd follow up...

I just finished a project involving a 50 second animation of the upper digestive tract. Nothing too major, some hypervoxels, some deformations, etc.

The Mac Pro 2.66 (running Windows XP) I was using in my render farm turned out to be around 3 times faster than the Athlon X2 4400+ workstation I bought 9 months ago.

I didn't have any problems with Boot Camp or anything else. All in all, very cool! :beerchug:

-Mark

Chilton
10-17-2006, 03:46 PM
Very nice. Thanks for the info!

-Chilton

byte_fx
10-17-2006, 04:17 PM
Thanks also.

When the Mac Pro comes with dual quad core Xeons it'll be an even better render farm candidate if the pricing is similarly competitive.

Just a thought.

byte_fx

skortch
10-18-2006, 08:46 AM
Thanks also.

When the Mac Pro comes with dual quad core Xeons it'll be an even better render farm candidate if the pricing is similarly competitive.

Just a thought.

byte_fx

True, the price is the thing.

Here's a good article on Anandtech.com that details the process of upgrading the Mac Pro's Xeon CPUs:
http://www.anandtech.com/mac/showdoc.aspx?i=2832

Not the simplest process, but it looks like it's doable and they say the Quad Clovertown chips should work. Whether that will void your warranty (most likely) or whether Apple will offer the upgrade at the Apple Store locations, time will tell. It sure would be nice as an option down the road!

-Mark