Does Your Mac Pro Tower
Really Need 12-Cores?
Posted March 16th, 2016 by rob-ART morgan, mad scientist
Do you need a 12-core Mac Pro tower to run Pro Apps faster or will a 6-core do as well? Thanks to Other World Computing's Turnkey Processor Tray Upgrade, we were able to compare them running at the same core frequency: 3.33GHz.
cMP 12c 980x2 = 'mid 2010' Mac Pro 3.33GHz 12-core Xeon (CPU tray by OWC) with dual NVIDIA GTX 980 GPUs
cMP 12c 980 = 'mid 2010' Mac Pro 3.33GHz 12-core Xeon (CPU tray by OWC) with single NVIDIA GTX 980 GPU
cMP 6c 980x2 = 'mid 2010' Mac Pro 3.33GHz 6-Core Xeon with dual NVIDIA GTX 980 GPUs
cMP 6c 980 = 'mid 2010' Mac Pro 3.33GHz 6-Core Xeon with single NVIDIA GTX 980 GPU
To make it a fair fight, both trays had 48GB of 1333MHz ECC RAM.
BLENDER using CPU(s) only
Compute Device set to "None" forces your Mac to render using the CPU(s) only. We rendered the Dual BMW Benchmark (CPU version; 32x32 Tiles). Essentially cuts the render time in half by have twice the number of CPU cores. (LOWEST time in seconds = FASTEST)
Exporting a complex project to Blu-ray format. Competed faster with more CPU cores. (LOWEST time in seconds = FASTEST)
Logic Pro X
Using the EvanLogic sample, we kept adding tracks until Logic Pro X 'cried uncle.' The number of concurrent tracks improved by having more CPU cores. (HIGHEST number of concurrent tracks = FASTEST)
Final Cut Pro X
Using the BruceX 5K project, we export a Master File using ProRes 4444 XQ. Note that the number of GPUs had more influence that the number of CPU cores. (LOWEST time in seconds = FASTEST)
Using a 5120x2160 RED clip, we asked it to 'deliver' a copy in ProRes 4444 XQ format. Having twice as many CPU cores resulted in faster 'delivery' -- but not twice a fast. (LOWEST time in seconds = FASTEST)
On the other hand, when playing back a 1080p clip with Noise Reduction being rendered on the fly, the number of GPUs was a factor, not the number of CPU cores. (HIGHEST frames per second = FASTEST)
After Effects CC 2014
We used 'CC 2014' because it allows you to choose how many cores are used for rendering and how much real memory is reserved for each core -- a feature missing from 'CC 2015', resulting in much slower render times. Below is the render time for the TotalBenchmark project created by Total Training. (LOWEST time in seconds = FASTEST)
SO IS A 12-CORE MAC PRO TWICE AS FAST AS A 6-CORE?
Yes and no. Some pro apps benefit from more CPU cores and some don't. And when the render time is reduced, it's not always by half even if you have twice as many CPU cores because certain pro apps use less than all available real and/or virtual cores for rendering. Sometimes the render time remains the same because the GPUs are doing all the work.
When you ask me for advice on how to speed up your Mac, I usually respond by saying, "It depends on what software you're running."
One extra benefit of the 12-core processor tray is that it has two memory banks that accept up to four sticks of ECC RAM each -- thereby doubling the amount of RAM compared to the 6-core. That can be very useful in RAM hungry apps like Photoshop.
In this shootout we used both single and dual NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980s. The main downside of dual high-end GPUs in the Mac Pro tower is that the second GPU requires an auxiliary power supply. There are clever ways to supply power to the second GPU including routing power from the optical bay and/or stuffing a spare power supply in the lower optical bay. Life is simpler if you go with ONE really strong single GPU like the GeForce GTX 980 Ti or TITAN X -- although they (along with other NVIDIA Maxwell class GPUs) require a web based driver from NVIDIA designed for the Quadro K5000 for Mac.
With many Mac users clinging to their Mac Pro towers, the OWC Turnkey Processor Tray Upgrade Program for 2009-2012 Mac Pros is yet another way to extend its useful life.
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WHERE TO BUY THE OWC TURNKEY PROCESSOR TRAY UPGRADE