My 2008 Mac Pro has done sterling service over the past 4 years 9 months. I bought it back in February 2008 with a single Quad-core 2.8GHz Xenon CPU, single 500Gb internal hard drive, 4Gb of RAM and a single nVIDIA graphics processor. Since then I have upgraded the RAM to 12Gb (primarily to support running multiple Windows VMs under VMware Fusion), have upgraded the internal storage to 2 x WD ‘BLACK’ 1Tb drives and 2 x WD ‘GREEN’ 2Tb drives, and have added a second graphics card to support three monitors in total. The icing on the cake is that Mountain Lion supports the 2008 Mac Pro, so I’m running the latest OS on a Mac that’s nearly 5 years old!
Daily work includes running the aforementioned Windows VMs as well as email, web surfing, hosting a very large music collection (around 250Gb of mp3′s), photo processing and graphics work as well as some iOS development. For the most part this all works pretty well, however I have noticed that in the last few months the machine hasn’t been quite as swift as it once was. iTunes takes a while to load as does iPhoto and this is despite me doing a clean install of Mountain Lion a couple of months ago. What’s more, over the first four and a half years I’ve not once had a single kernel panic, freeze or crash which is pretty remarkable for a computer that has all sorts of rubbish thrown at it. However, since upgrading to Mountain Lion about 3 months ago I have had two kernel panics and some other odd behaviour, e.g. Notification Centre freezes, some ‘double-take’ reboots and a few other miscellaneous app crashes. I get the ever so slight feeling that destruction testing Mountain Lion on the 2008 Mac Pro was probably not the focus of their attention when developing it, and that perhaps there are one or two Mountain Lion bugs with this hardware.
The launch of the new ‘slim’ iMacs has got me wondering whether now is the time to invest in a new 27″ iMac to become my main workstation and relegate the Mac Pro to being a workhorse machine for storage and running VMware? The one thing I have learned with iMacs is that certain parts (e.g. CPU, GPU and storage) can be very difficult or even impossible to upgrade at a later stage, so it’s best to go for as high a spec as you can afford up front. So that would mean opting for the 27″ model with a 3.4GHz Quad-code Intel i7 CPU, 16Gb RAM (Apple RAM prices aren’t nearly as scary as they used to be!), 3TB Fusion drive, 2Gb GeForce GTX 680MX graphics processor. Unfortunately that little lot together with 3yr AppleCare comes to a whopping £2,597 and while Apple are currently offering 10 months interest free credit, that is still a huge amount to spend on a computer. Admittedly I could sell the Mac Pro and the going price even for a Quad-core 2008 model seems to be around £1,000, trouble is it’s been such a good machine for nearly five years that I’d find it difficult to part with!
Alternative would be a new Mac Pro and it’s rumoured there’s a new one in the pipeline as drivers for it (or its likely GPU) have been spotted in recent builds of OS X. Main considerations here are firstly how far off is the new Mac Pro and secondly what will it cost seeing as the entry-level prices for Mac Pro’s seem to be much higher than they were back in 2008 – i.e. they have gone from enthusiast money to professional money.
Decisions decisions… I wouldn’t even be considering a new Mac if it weren’t for the special interest free finance deals (which probably won’t last beyond Christmas), but given how much I use the Mac and assuming I’ll get a good five years of service out of a new one, it’s mighty tempting. And yes I realize that for this kind of money I could buy some massively fast and highly spec’d Windows machine and still have money left over for a holiday in the sun, but I parted company with Windows as my main OS back in 2008 and I haven’t looked back since. Maybe that’s the price of being a Mac user, but the peace of mind for five years has probably been worth it alone