iMac vs Mac Pro for 3D work...

Alright people, I would like your honest opinions, please.

When the next (Leopard-friendly) version of Blender is released, I plan buying either an iMac or a Mac Pro. I’m trying to determine whether the Mac Pro is worth waiting and saving up and spending the extra money for. It would be nice if I could get away with using an iMac because since the monitor is part of the computer itself, I wouldn’t have to pay extra for the display. And yet the Mac Pro offers that 8-core processor, which would make renders go insanely fast.

Of course I’d prefer the Mac Pro because it is just so badass, but if I can get away with just throwing 4GB of RAM in an iMac and calling it a day, I may go that route. Basically I would like to hear from people who have experience doing a lot of rendering on different machines, who know the kind of difference a 2.4 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo with 4GB of RAM makes over a 2.8GHz 4CoreX2 Intel Xeon with 4GB of RAM. The Mac Pro would be about twice the price when taking into consideration the Cinema Display, so is it worth the extra power?

I plan to move toward making some short, yet potentially processor-intensive animations on a semi-regular basis and I would like to not have to wait overnight for sequences that could otherwise render in a couple hours. Also I’m considering the time that could be saved when doing test renders.

I look forward to hearing your thoughts.

I ve never used a MacPro, but i recently swap (swapped? To swap, swop swoppen ?) my E6400 for a Q6600 (4 cores instead of 2). It is easy: the 4 cores render a scene in 1 min where the dual core takes 1 min 50 sec. Nearly twice as fast. So i guess a 8 core system would be 4 times quicker, for twice the price ! Do the math…

It all depends on your ambitions… Just a thought:if you go for a MacPro, think of a way to get extra RAM and HDD from another source than Apple: they are charging you a fortune !
Don’t buy a Pro if you render 5 sec shorts with 3 lamps and no raytracing in 320x240…

4GB RAM can be to small for bigger projects and if you want to run blender + ps or gimp at once.
Also new 20" iMac have TFT screen, so forget about good colors. They may look good at first sight but they aren’t good.

i went the mac pro route, and do not regret it. i went for a samsung monitor instead of the apple brand, and bought my memory and drive upgrades from a different vendor, and saved lots of cash. ( about 1/3 the cost! ) being able to upgrade the ram may make a huge difference, as the imac will only go up to 4Gb, but the pro will take 16Gb. and if you do complex modeling, you may want to upgrade the video card as well. and when you render all those enormous models in HD, you may find you need more storage. these were all things i thought i was taking into account when i purchased it, and i was correct. my needs expanded, once i had the room to play.

Careful you know what type of screen it is before you buy!

I would say test them out on both machines. I know the iMac is the best bang for the buck but its worth checking out both prior to making an investment like that. I still don’t like the steep price of the Pro for what your getting.

I guess it couldn’t hurt also looking into using a PC with synergy on an iMac as a possible option as well… that way you can use iMac as a mac and your PC as a full screen Blender Client. At least with blender the UI is the same no matter what platform your running. A PC for 1/4 the price of the Pro will probably beat it Graphics performance… but I could be wrong.

jimww, you’re advice seems wise. I’m curious what video card you recommend. As for drive space, I’ll probably go with 500GB to start and just buy an external 1TB LaCie eventually when I find myself filling the 500.
To be more specific: the projects I have in mind would be about music-video length. But they may be HD and may be using many lights, layers of transparent materials, reflective materials, AO, etc.

The Mac Pro has a BTO option of a 512MB 8800GT coming in at £1500 total with the quad core 2.8GHz. I highly doubt you’ll get a quad core PC with that card for £400. I’ve seen PCs with a similar spec for £1200 (8800GS card and 2.4GHz Core 2 Quad though). Building one is different of course but building it quiet and stable with those components isn’t easy.

@OP, I would definitely take the Mac Pro over the iMac. The iMacs have glossy screens and prolonged rendering sessions might build up a lot of heat in the enclosure. Don’t get a cinema display - they are way too expensive. Samsungs are very good makes of display and you can get them quite cheap.

Buy with the base spec and get all upgrades 3rd party except bluetooth/airport and the 8800GT card (can’t remember what comes built-in). You can get the extended warranty up to a year later so you don’t have expensive repairs to deal with but don’t put out the expense now.

As for 8-core vs 4-core, 8 cores probably won’t give you as much of a speed up as upgrading 2-core to 4-core. Animations in Blender will still render one frame at a time unless you set multiple instances of the blend to render one with even frames the other with odd frames. In that case, the 8-core will definitely be about 2x faster.

I’d personally get the 4-core and upgrade the parts but it depends on your budget and how long your animations typically take to render.

You are correct about that. But you can get a good PC for around $800.00 if you part it out and upgrade something you already have. I’ve got a 9800GTX and 8GB of ram on order and that alone was about $550. But a ground up PC would still cost around $1500 for this setup I have.

I’m going to tie my MBP to it though Synergy so that I can do my blender work on an external monitor powered by that system.

You have to play with the parts ( ) and the threads, but i’m sure 8 core is as twice as fast as a 4 core.

And dont buy an all in one. They make compromises between space and performance. Less space will cost you performance.

That said i think the pro is more than two times faster.

with the video card you are limited by the options apple offers, the PC equivalent will NOT work on a mac. ( i bought a couple 512Mb 7300 GTs, just to test that theory. $60 each, as opposed to $280 for the 256Mb version from the apple store. apple includes a chip to ‘enable’ them to run on apple hardware, at roughly 4 times the cost. so those went into an ubuntu machine which i run at home. snappy! )

Blender already supports OSX Leopard 10.5.2(I used Blender on Leopard since November)
I thinki Mac Pro is better(I use Macbook Pro)

I use a mac pro every day for video and audio editing and 3d work with blender. I would highly recommend that if you are serious about this kind of work that you invest in a mac pro. The imac is a consumer model with limited upgrade capabilities and a glossy screen.

I have a dual boot system set up with ubuntu with a wacom tablet and a 23" cinema display and it’s a great setup. Really wonderful color, but when I first purchased my display I wasn’t versed in the whole glossy vs. matte thing, so I spent almost two hours trying to peel off the non-existent plastic off my brand new screen (which was the irremovable matte!).

ammmm 8 core daaaa the mac pro! lol

Get a Mac Pro - better machine.

Alright, my intuition is confirmed. I’ll go with the Mac Pro.

Back to graphics cards. Here are the options I’m considering:

  • ATI Radeon HD 2600 XT 256MB (Two dual-link DVI) [this is standard]

  • 2 x ATI Radeon HD 2600 XT 256MB [$150 more]

  • NVIDIA GeForce 8800 GT 512MB (Two dual-link DVI) [$200 more]

Based on the description it sounds like the NVIDIA will make 3D apps perform faster overall. I’m not looking to spend more though unless it will significantly speed up rendering. How much of a speed boost are we talking about, and would it cut render time too or just speed up viewport navigation?

No question, the Mac Pro is the box to go for for this job. The iMac is quite restrictive, you can’t easily upgrade the graphics card and RAM upgrading is limited. RAM is everything for modelling, and cores is everything for rendering, and the Mac Pro represents amazing value for money, youd be hard pressed to get an 8 core machine much cheaper.

Do remember you need fully buffered DIMMs for the Mac Pro, and there are claims that the sticks can overheat if you’re not careful. I’ve had a look at the riser cards in my machine, and the sticks certainly have pretty hefty heat sinks on them.

My system has the ATI card and I’ve not managed to badly overstress it. The 8800 would probably be a better option though, as it is a more powerful card. I don’t think the ATI vs nVidia driver issue is a big issue on the Mac as it is on Windows so you probably don’t have to worry about the ATI problems some have reported. Stick to just one graphics card though, while the Mac does support multiple cards, it doesn’t officially support SLI or Crossfire so there’s no performance benefit to more than one card, just a benefit in being able to drive a lot of screens from the same system

It will only boost the viewport in Blender at the moment but you can at least experiment with Nvidia Gelato (hardware rendering app) with the 8800 if you install Windows.

Whether you only need the ATI power now, the Geforce will future-proof your machine a bit better. It has double the VRam too which is handy for previewing scenes with lots of high resolution textures or using hardware accelerated compositing software.

I think the benchmarks came out that the 8800 is 3 x faster than the ATI card.

and do not bother with multiple cards. there are different ways to configure multiple cards, but only one runs full speed. ( something that is only noted on the install manual. )

But what about the options to upgrade the mac pro? Are they really so great?
I’ve been thinking about getting a previous gen quadcore from ebay or something (2.66 quad core), since they seem priced more fairly, and then throw in a new graphics card and more ram and harddiscs.
But I understood that I can’t just get a new graphics card, install it and get some mac drivers for it. (I was thinking about a certain kind of geforce 8800 or 9800) Isn’t it so you can for most part only stuff apple’s own hardware in it? or at least for the graphics card part, you are stuck with their versions of nvidia or ati cards?
It’s a big deal to me because I intended to dual or triple boot with windows and linux. Windows for games, so I wanted a speedy graphics card. But I like what I’ve seen from osx. it feels like a linux OS that is very polished.
I’ve ordered one of the better laptops currently around with great linux support and sticking with ubuntu on it for now, and for years to come. I would have gotten an mac pro if I could have gotten confirmed that I could upgrade it with other parts. But quite a few people I asked thought this wasn’t possible. (or needed, but they don’t dual boot or do 3D)