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You are here: MacNN Forums > Hardware - Troubleshooting and Discussion > Mac Desktops > Mac Pro 2.66 vs. 24" iMac 2.33 vs. Dell PC

Mac Pro 2.66 vs. 24" iMac 2.33 vs. Dell PC
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Sep 18, 2006, 02:05 AM
 
I do some digital photography, a little graphic design, but I primarily do architectural design. I'm getting sick and tired of Windows XP Pro and both hardware and software reliability problems. Recently, my 8 month old Dell Optiplex was damaged by a lightning strike, and I'll be receiving an insurance settlement to cover the cost of a new computer equivalent in cost to the Optiplex+old Trinitron CRT monitor. This will not quite cover the cost of a new PC with an LCD of quality equal to the Trinitron, so I'll have to fork over some of my own cash. If I get a Mac, I'll be forking over even more.

I'm friends with several graphic designers who swear by their Macs and the reliability and quality. They're all non-technical types, but they've convinced me to consider purchasing a Mac as a replacement for the Dell. It is a requirement that the Mac run Windows for the present, as AutoCAD is Windows-only. I will be looking purchasing a totally new replacement CAD program (ArchiCAD, VectorWorks are some I'm considering) this spring due to AutoDesk's forced upgrade program. I will also not purchase any Mac versions of Adobe Creative Suite and MS Office until they are MacIntel native, so for the moment I will be using Windows for the majority of my apps.

I am considering the Mac Pro 2.66 standard configuration upgraded to 2 GB RAM and with the 23" Cinema Display and AppleCare.

I also looked at the 24" iMac upgraded to the 2.33 processor, 2 GB RAM, and AppleCare.

The Mac Pro prices out about $1000 higher than the iMac, but I don't think I need four processors, as my single-core Pentium 4 Dell handled the apps just fine. I'm genuinely concerned about the all-in-one configuration of the iMac with its limited memory expansion, although the aesthetics are fabulous. I already had 3GB in the Dell, but Apple's memory is too expensive to get 3GB. I typically keep my computers for 6-8 years with some upgrades along the way, but I'm worried the iMac will be rendered obsolete due to its form factor long before this time is up. Also, the form prevents me from easily replacing failed components (power supply, optical drive, graphics card, etc.) as I've had to do several times before in my PCs.

I have read articles that showed Mac Pro to be less expensive to the equivalent Dell Precision 690. However, when I have priced them with specs as close as I can possibly make them (dual 3.0ghz Xeon, 2gb ram, comparable graphics card as Dell doesn't offer the nVidia 7300), the Dell is always nearly $1000 cheaper than the Mac Pro. So, basically from Dell I can get a workstation class computer equivalent to the Mac Pro for the price of the iMac (~$2600). Switching to Apple also means I'd need to purchase Mac versions of MS Office, CS2, and Quickbooks, and a new scanner as my SCSI Microtek is old enough not to be supported by OS X but works fine with Windows XP.

I'd love to give Apple a try, but financially and practially I'm just not sure Apple cuts it. Can anyone offer any guidance about which Mac model is right or whether it even makes sense to consider the Mac? There are fairly few architecture folks using Macs out there, so I'd be grateful for any advice.

Thanks.
     
Eug
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Sep 18, 2006, 02:20 AM
 
This is sacrilege on a Mac board, but in all honesty I think you should stick with a Windows PC given your needs.

There are too many things right now you've said that suggest this. CAD, the desire to run numerous Windows apps with Windows XP, hardware peripherals, etc.

You could get a MacBook or something to check out OS X and OS X apps, but it seems like a bad idea for you to jump head first into Macland for your main machine.
     
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Sep 18, 2006, 07:42 PM
 
6-8 years? Jesus, get the Mac Pro. But get the base model (2.66Ghz/1GB) and add 2-4GB third-party RAM (I like Crucial). The extra 333Mhz is not worth $800 no matter how long you're going to keep the machine; the quad core chips should work in the Mac Pro (engineering samples have been tested), so there's a nice upgrade path for you in 2-4 years.

If you're seeing a quad 3Ghz Dell for $2600, it's using the hot, slow, old Pentium 4 Xeons, not the new Core Xeons. Just to take the base Dell Precision Workstation 490 up to the same 3Ghz chips as the Mac Pro, it's $3,438.

Booting into Windows for CAD/Adobe/Office sucks, but I doubt you will do it for more than 6 months. Hopefully by then you'll have found a Mac CAD app you're happy with, Adobe will be native, and maybe you'll find one of the free Office replacements (NeoOffice, OpenOffice, etc) meets your needs.
     
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Sep 18, 2006, 08:01 PM
 
Get the MacPro and use Aperture - you'll be quite impressed by its features.

If you tend to hold on to computers for that long, then the MacPro is the only answer even over the Dell. You'll see a lot of Mac users still using G3 - that's because those computers handle their needs. I don't know too many people who hold onto PCs that long (except for you )
Michael
     
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Sep 18, 2006, 08:57 PM
 
Originally Posted by mduell
If you're seeing a quad 3Ghz Dell for $2600, it's using the hot, slow, old Pentium 4 Xeons, not the new Core Xeons. Just to take the base Dell Precision Workstation 490 up to the same 3Ghz chips as the Mac Pro, it's $3,438.
To clarify, make sure you're speccing the Dell using the 51xx xeons, not the 50xx xeons. Both are dual core, but there are significant other architectural changes. Since the OP was happy with a P4, the largest benefit will be that the new series run cooler.

-Xy
MacPro (2.66, 4GB, 4x250GB, X1900+7300, 2x Dell 2005fpw, Samsung LNT4061)
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Sep 18, 2006, 10:45 PM
 
I think I agree with Eug on this one. Get another PC for now. Also get a mac mini instead of a macbook if you just want to learn OS X.
AT&T iPhone 5S and 6; 13" MBP; MDD G4.
     
ionic  (op)
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Sep 19, 2006, 02:20 AM
 
Thanks for the responses.

Once I have a system that works reliably, I stick with it for a long time. I hate to throw out systems and peripherals that are still working just fine, and I can't afford to do it either. Still have a 14 year old Compaq that is perfectly adequate for Word and most Internet, which is all most people use anyway. It's a good system to keep tucked away as a backup, and it's stuck in the day before all the programs became so bloated. Newer versions just add more and more features that I need less and less. My Mac friends keep their systems for eons too, whereas it seems Windows boxes are becoming more and more throwaway every day.

Learning OS X is not a huge concern. I've used Macs before, but I've just not personally owned one. I'm debating the initial investment. My 8-year-old Microtek SCSI scanner works well for what I need to do with it, and a replacement Mac compatible firewire model of equivalent capacity is about $350. I'd need to buy CS3 when it comes out for the Mac, so hopefully I could get it for the upgrade price of $5-600. So too, I would need MS Office 2007 with Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Access, and Outlook (or the Mac equivalents), and that's going to be $3-400. If I stick with Windows, I don't need any of these replacements, as I'm satisfied with the performance of each of these under Windows (aside from Windows' instability and insecurity). Thus, I'm looking at at over $1000 extra to upgrade software that I don't really need to upgrade.

I checked the Dell Precision configuration, and mduell is right that they are the 50xx series Xeon, so it is not a fair comparison at the price. However, I really don't need the Xeon performance for what I do. If I got a Dell, it would likely be one of the XPS models using Conroe chips. I have had extremely bad luck with Dell on this last system, as it had numerous hardware problems initially. I swore I'd never get another Dell. Still, Dell seems to be second only to Apple in service and support in the desktop segment according to ratings. I hate to imagine what Compaq must be like nowadays.

I'm definitely leaning towards the MacPro if I make the switch, but I sure wish Apple offered a system with a little less brainpower (and a little less price) than the Pro but in the same form factor.

Any other suggestions are most welcome.

Also, can anyone recommend a 20" + LCD display other than the Apple models? On reviewing their specs, they seem fairly average at a premium price. I am used to the sharpness and fast response of a high-quality large CRT. No LCD I've seen can really match that yet, but good CRT's are hard to find anymore. Several of EIZO's displays look impressive, but also for an impressive price.
     
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Sep 19, 2006, 02:25 AM
 
Originally Posted by mac128k-1984
Get the MacPro and use Aperture - you'll be quite impressed by its features.
I'm running Aperture on my iMac 24", but admittedly, I'm not a pro user.


Still have a 14 year old Compaq that is perfectly adequate for Word and most Internet, which is all most people use anyway.
Really? That's 1992. Specs?
     
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Sep 19, 2006, 07:50 AM
 
Originally Posted by Eug Wanker
I'm running Aperture on my iMac 24", but admittedly, I'm not a pro user.
I never said you couldn't. As I said if the 24" iMac was out, I may have gone for that over the Macpro. Running aperture on a mini wasn't working so I needed something and that the time the MacPro was the best option.
Michael
     
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Sep 19, 2006, 12:15 PM
 
What was wrong with the mini? Just wondering. On my MacBook it's slow, but usable. I have 2 GB in the MacBook though. How much RAM did you have in your mini. Am I correct to assume you had a dual-core mini?
     
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Sep 19, 2006, 12:59 PM
 
Yep, the Compaq is from 1992.

It was originally a 486SX/25 Mhz, 4Mb RAM, 250 Mb HDD, 5 1/4" floppy, upgraded to a 486DX3/75 Mhz, 32Mb RAM, 2Gb HDD, CD-ROM, Sound Blaster, 56K modem, and NIC. That was back when Compaq was a very well-made computer. It runs Windows 98 and Office 97 fine. Recently the battery died, but it's soldered into the motherboard and difficult to replace. You just have to reconfigure the BIOS settings every time you boot it up.

in 2000, I bought the first Optiplex with 512Mb RAM. It required RAMBUS memory that was 3/4 the price of a new system when I wanted to upgrade this spring. I replaced that system with the Optiplex GX620 because the cost of the memory upgrades didn't make sense. I also have an IBM ThinkPad A21p from 2001. The ThinkPad has been a great laptop.
     
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Sep 19, 2006, 01:22 PM
 
Originally Posted by Eug
What was wrong with the mini?
Most things were ok, but I noticed selecting images in thumbnail mode was real slow and if I attempted to crop an image in aperture it was down right painful so much so that feature was absolutlely useless.

I average about 80 to 100 shots on any given event and working my way through them is an exercise in patience when working on the mini, just selecting a given image caused the beachball of death for 10 to 30 seconds.

I really wished the mini was a little faster because that's an awesome computer and I hate the fact that I don't use it. I'm probably going to sell it to recoup come of the costs.
Michael
     
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Sep 19, 2006, 02:12 PM
 
Re: Mini:

Dual core?
2 GB matched RAM?

Cuz if it isn't a dual-core mini with 2x1 GB RAM, I'm not surprised. 2x512 MB is insufficient, and 1GB + 512 MB = unmatched RAM, which totally kills 3D performance with the GMA 950 graphics (as does single-core apparently).
     
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Sep 19, 2006, 03:13 PM
 
Originally Posted by Eug
Re: Mini:

Dual core?
2 GB matched RAM?
Yep, dual core with 2GB of matched ram.

How many images are in your aperture library, perhaps that might be the reason why the speed is so slow.
( Last edited by mac128k-1984; Sep 19, 2006 at 03:40 PM. )
Michael
     
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Sep 19, 2006, 04:38 PM
 
FWIW, about three years ago, I convinced my former boss to spring for a Power Mac G5. We were upgrading from some P4-based Dell (don’t remember what, exactly; never cared for it), and it just so happened that it was about the time Adobe Creative Suite 1.0 came out. It took a phone call to Adobe, but we were able to upgrade from Photoshop 6.0 Win to Creative Suite 1.0 Mac for the same price as a CS Win upgrade; I can only assume CS3 will be the same way.

Also, just as an aside, the reason I was able to convince him to get me the G5 is because a comparable Dell, at the time, was approximately $2,300 more than the Mac. I’ve still got the Excel doc I used to show him the comparison, and it’s actually kind of funny, given Dell’s rep for low prices. The point is that while I haven’t checked it, myself, I’m more than a bit inclined to believe those on this board that claim the prices are pretty similar.

Finally, one more thing you might want to consider, in making your decision: a little program called CrossOver. I haven’t used it myself, but the bottom line is that it allows you to run just about any Ms Windows program on any *nix-based OS, including Mac OS X. It’s still in beta, but their site specifically mentions Ms Office, Quicken (pre-2007), and AutoCAD as compatible software. (Ms Office 2007 and Abobe CS2 are both listed as “untested”; Adobe CS1 is, unfortunately, not compatible.)

HTH, and good luck with your decision!
( Last edited by bojangles; Sep 19, 2006 at 04:45 PM. )
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Sep 19, 2006, 05:55 PM
 
Our whole office (we're architects) switched from older G5's to 20'-intel-imacs. We're running Vectorworks 12.5 (universal binary) and Artlantis Studio as well as MS Project (on darwine, the free version of CrossOver). Especially Vectorworks and Artlantis is superfast. It's faster than on any PC I've seen. I'd buy the iMac 24' if I had a choice – you simply can't get more in one piece of hardware (no more cluttering your physical desktop).
     
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Sep 19, 2006, 08:11 PM
 
You are doing pro work so you need a pro machine, not an iMac.

Cheaper RAM may make the Dell a cheaper workstation, but even if it is a $1k difference it would not be worth it (or even a $3k saving)s to me to have to work on a Dell for the next few years. IMO visual professionals receive subtle but important feddback from our surroundings, workstation/OS, etc. The PCs I manage all give me a poor visual "feel."

-Allen Wicks
     
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Sep 19, 2006, 09:21 PM
 
Originally Posted by SierraDragon
You are doing pro work so you need a pro machine, not an iMac.

Cheaper RAM may make the Dell a cheaper workstation, but even if it is a $1k difference it would not be worth it (or even a $3k saving)s to me to have to work on a Dell for the next few years. IMO visual professionals receive subtle but important feddback from our surroundings, workstation/OS, etc. The PCs I manage all give me a poor visual "feel."

-Allen Wicks
That's a pretty biased opinion. If he feels that way, then fine, but it seems there are a lot of people out there that work just fine on machines with that "poor visual 'feel'".
     
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Sep 19, 2006, 10:08 PM
 
Originally Posted by ionic
I'd need to buy CS3 when it comes out for the Mac, so hopefully I could get it for the upgrade price of $5-600. So too, I would need MS Office 2007 with Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Access, and Outlook (or the Mac equivalents), and that's going to be $3-400. If I stick with Windows, I don't need any of these replacements, as I'm satisfied with the performance of each of these under Windows (aside from Windows' instability and insecurity). Thus, I'm looking at at over $1000 extra to upgrade software that I don't really need to upgrade.
.
But your forgetting something. if you buy a new intelMac you don't need to upgrade any of your Windows software - it will all run on the Mac just fine. You already own a copy of Windows and Boot Camp is free. All you need is the Mac.

I'm in the camp suggesting a Mac Pro in the config that fits your budget. The iMac is very cool but is limited due to no PCI slots, lack of on board HD bays, only one CD/DVD bay, and inability to easily install new/replacement components due to the sealed case.

I have a couple of vintage 1997 beige G3 towers and 1999 G4 machines that get daily use and have never needed replacement parts. In addition, there are inexpensive add on processors allowing me to significantly upgrade the speed of these machines any time. My point is that if your looking for dependable, versatile, longevity in a computer with the ability to run just about any flavor of OS and software out there then Macs are your machines.
     
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Sep 20, 2006, 12:18 AM
 
Originally Posted by macbarry
But your forgetting something. if you buy a new intelMac you don't need to upgrade any of your Windows software - it will all run on the Mac just fine. You already own a copy of Windows and Boot Camp is free. All you need is the Mac.
Apparently there is a problem installing Boot Camp with Win XP on the 24" iMac.

Plus you can't install Boot Camp on a machine with a partitioned hard drive either.

And last but not least, Windows with Boot Camp is not supported by anyone.
     
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Sep 20, 2006, 01:18 AM
 
go with the mac pro with parallels desktop.

that way you can just use OS X like normal but whenever you need to get to your cad program or office or anything just pop open parallels and bam there you are. you dont need to reboot or anything. that way you get to enjoy os x while youre not working. you also wont need to buy any new software. also, do not buy ram from apple, much cheaper from 3rd party. also, dont buy the apple screen, go with a dell 2007wfp or a 2407wfp. same exact screen for several hundred dollars less. boot camp is really a pain, having to reboot and everything. i just got parallels and it works beautifully.
Macbook Pro 15" (fully spec'd out)

...waiting for 6g ipods.
     
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Sep 20, 2006, 01:40 AM
 
Originally Posted by drewcifer
go with the mac pro with parallels desktop.

that way you can just use OS X like normal but whenever you need to get to your cad program or office or anything just pop open parallels and bam there you are. you dont need to reboot or anything. that way you get to enjoy os x while youre not working. you also wont need to buy any new software. also, do not buy ram from apple, much cheaper from 3rd party. also, dont buy the apple screen, go with a dell 2007wfp or a 2407wfp. same exact screen for several hundred dollars less. boot camp is really a pain, having to reboot and everything. i just got parallels and it works beautifully.
How does parallels handle OpenGL? If the CAD app he's using in question is written with OpenGL in mind, performance might be much better via boot camp.

-Xy
MacPro (2.66, 4GB, 4x250GB, X1900+7300, 2x Dell 2005fpw, Samsung LNT4061)
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ionic  (op)
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Sep 20, 2006, 02:11 AM
 
Well, I finally heard back from the insurance adjuster. After reviewing the spreadsheet, they only want to pay about $700 towards the Dell. The lightning also damaged my copier beyond repair, so I'm paying for a replacement for that (already ordered). I need to get back with the agent about the low valuation on the Dell. They're supposed to provide full new replacement value, but it's true that the Dell system is basically old technology. I can probably buy brand new the exact same Dell as I had for $700 now. It seems like Macs really retain their value, even as older systems, as compared with PCs.

So, I still have to decide whether I want to spend a couple thousand extra to get a Mac Pro. Tough call. I really am getting to despise Windows. IE just crashed as I was trying to open this forum.

I don't think AutoCad uses OpenGL as its 3D capabilities are pretty primitive. My assumption was that OpenGL was more for games. Is that correct?

I'm not sure what the newer CAD packages use, but since I'd get one that's OS X native, it shouldn't be a problem.

Has anyone run CS2 through Parallels?

Thanks.
     
   
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