Memory – CORSAIR Vengeance LP 32GB (4 x 8GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1866 Desktop Memory
Since we can’t get registered memory modules on our ASUS Extreme IV Gene motherboard, we can at least do the next best thing, which is to purchase a kit that is pre-tested. This 32GB CORSAIR DDR3 memory kit runs at the same speed as the memory modules in the Mac Pro. They are also low profile which means that if you wanted to run an air cooler instead of the water cooler we recommended, you could do that with fewer clearance issues.
Unfortunately, because no one seems to be selling a non-registered 16GB single DDR3 module right now, we won’t be able to get the same 64GBs of memory as in our top spec Mac Pro. But we can buy 32GBs of this stuff for only $359.99 US. However, a choice to run with a full sized workstation board and larger case would allow us to use ECC modules and get to the same memory density. For reference, a single 16GB 1866MHz ECC memory module from Kingston would run you about $200 US. So multiply by four to get your 64GBs.
SSD/Storage – Samsung 840 Pro Series 512GB SATA3 2.5 inch MLC SSDs
After populating our slots with dual graphics goodness, we won’t be able to access another PCIe slot for an SSD solution. So that leaves us with standard SATA3, although in this case, we are able to run two 512GB SSDs in RAID0 for maximum performance. Plus we have channels to spare for additional drives internally as needed. Especially for scratch/cache which is often needed for video editing, effects and audio production. We chose two Samsung 840 EVO 512GB units to create a RAID0 drive setup for a total of 1TB of storage.
The Samsung 840 Pro Series 512GB SSDs retail for $459.99 a piece and we’d need two of them to match the storage and performance of the Mac Pro.
What’s the Damage for our PC DIY Mac Pro Equivalent?
After tabulating all the major component costs (plus another $99.99 US for Windows 8 Pro), we are at a total of around $11,530.54 US using today’s prices at retailers that actually stock the hardware. I’m not afraid to admit that compared to the asking price of $9,599 US, the new Mac Pro seems like one heckuva deal for these components. Everything is tested to work properly together (versus some of our unknown incompatibilities with this potential build), and a highly proprietary design that is small enough to fit into a carry on bag, with twice the amount of registered memory (32GB vs 64GB ECC). You simply can’t build a smaller form factor PC that matches the Mac Pro today.
Apple has created an extremely specialized machine that appeals to high end workstation enthusiasts, with current top spec components, for less than the price of its PC DIY counterparts. Because it’s so small, it’s almost like the “anti-workstation” because you typically expect that class of system to be larger. But on the downside, the internal design begs you to attach things to it, instead of locking everything inside. So security of your peripherals starts to become an issue in office/public environments. But a non-issue in your own private studio/workspace.
The other downside is longevity and upgradeability. Unlike the previous generation Mac Pro, the new Mac Pro will not have the ability to upgrade with off the shelf components. The GPUs are for sure proprietary, and based on what we’ve seen on the CPU side from the previous generation,
it not only may be soldered on, but it might have the thermal cap removed, preventing a retail upgrade, even if it isn’t soldered (UPDATE: Looks like it IS upgradeable…sort of). Folks that have been keeping their Mac Pros alive with readily available, industry standard, upgrades may not be able to keep this new Mac Pro around as long. Especially in situations where time is money and you really do need the latest GPUs and CPUs, which seem to get faster/better even more quickly these days. Buying an entirely new machine every couple years seems like the option with the new Mac Pro.
With so many substitute components on the PC DIY side, you can do the work at the same level as someone with the professional stuff, for far less, and have a truly custom system that’s like no one elses. And at the end of the day, no one’s going to know if you created your project on a PC or a Mac, unless you tell them. But you will be pocketing more of your money each month without the higher lease of the top end Mac Pro.
But credit where credit is due. Apple has done a great job with this machine. And if your needs are specialized enough that the combinations of hardware provided by Apple fit, and you’re already using OS X, then it’s hard to say no to what they are offering. It is a very compelling offer for professionals using Macs who do require the precision and power of full blown workstation components.
What are your thoughts on the new Apple Mac Pro? Do you think we’ll ever be able to DIY build a PC workstation this small and powerful?
If you want to know how this plays out at the entry level price point of the Apple Mac Pro you can check out this article.
To see what is likely upgradeable (or not) in the New Mac Pro check out this article right here.
UPDATE: At CES 2014, we caught up with Other World Computing (OWC), who is the leader in DIY upgrades for the Mac ecosystem. We spoke directly to their CEO, Larry O’Connor, and in our exclusive interview, we cover exactly what is (and isn’t) upgradeable on Apple’s New Mac Pro 2013. You can check it out here.