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BARE FEATS LAB - real world Mac speed tests

Maximizing your 2013 Mac Pro until the 2018 version shows.

Posted April 7th, 2017 by rob-ART morgan, mad scientist

By now you must have heard that Apple lifted the curtain on the future of the Mac Pro. Very encouraging. But what can do you do in the meantime to boost the performance of the 2013 Mac Pro 'Turbo Tube' you have now?

Memory - If you ordered your Mac Pro with 12 or 16GB of RAM, you can't buy any more from Apple. But you can buy memory expansion from TransIntl.com and MacSales.com. Plus it is easy to install. No tools required.

Storage - If you ordered your Mac Pro with 256 or 512GB flash storage, you may have run out of space long ago. You can't just buy a generic M.2 flash blade to replace it. And Apple's flash blades are proprietary in more ways than just the connector. But there is hope. TransIntl.com offers the Super Blade that is fully compatible including TRIM support. Though not quite as fast as the factory blades, MacSales.com has the Aura SSD for Mac Pro in capacities up to 4TB. Installation is a snap, though you need a T8 Torx bit for your screw driver to remove the T8 Torx screw.

Need even more storage capacity? There are many external options for the six Thunderbolt 2 ports. My favorite 'mad science' experiment was attaching three striped LaCie Little Big Disk Thunderbolt 2 enclosures on three separate Thunderbolt 2 buses to attain 3740MB/s. One the other end of the scale, the 719MB/S AKiTiO Palm RAID bus-powered Thunderbolt drive is perfect for 'sneaker net' as is the 374MB/S Angelbird SSD2go PKT bus-powered USB3 drive.

CPU - Did you get the 4-core or 6-core but but found your pro apps crave 8, 10, or 12-cores? MacSales.com has you covered with processor upgrades. They even have a Turnkey Processor Upgrade Program so you don't have to get into the guts of your Mac Pro.

GPU - One key reason Apple is re-thinking the Mac Pro is because of the 2013 Cylinder's achilles heel: two mid-level GPUs that were proprietary, non-user serviceable, and non-upgradeable. Even if Apple wanted to upgrade them, the Mac Pro's design created a wattage ceiling.

Even though you can't upgrade the two internal FirePro GPUs, you can now attach an external PCie expansion box (eGPU). As I write this article on our 2013 Mac Pro 8-core, I have an AKiTiO Node eGFX Box with a TITAN X GPU connected to one of the Thunderbolt 2 ports. There is a website (egpu.io) dedicated to telling about the eGPUs available and how to make them work with your Mac. Other eGPUs we've tested with the 2013 Mac Pro include the BizonBOX and Sonnet Breakaway (coming soon).

An eGPU is not a perfect solution with its limited bandwidth and the fact that some apps ignore it. And even when apps don't ignore it, they don't always gain from its existence if they are CPU bound. But it is a way to provide a serious boost in speed to certain CUDA capable, GPU intensive apps like Blender, Octane Render and DaVinci Resolve (Noise Reduction). And NVIDIA GPUs like the GTX 980 Ti run games like Tomb Raider much faster than the built-in AMD FirePros.

FLASH: This was posted yesterday on NVIDIA's site: "NVIDIA recognizes the desire Mac users have for the greatest functionality and highest performance. Next week, we’ll be posting a new driver that enables Pascal-based graphics cards and allows these users to have a significant increase in both." We have a GTX 1080 in our inventory that we would love to see humming along connected to our Mac Pro.

OTHER - I am using the black Logitech Illuminated (backlit) K740 keyboard and black Razer DiamondBack mouse as I write this article. Display is the black LG UltraFine 5K Display. These accessories fit well with the Mac Pro's black machined, polished, aluminum enclosure.

We have published many articles featuring CPU, GPU, memory, and storage upgrades for the Mac Pro tower. My personal tower is a 2010 Mac Pro with a 3.33GHz 12-core CPU tray, 96GB of RAM, GeForce GTX 980 Ti GPU, 1500MB/s PCie 512G flash storage boot volume, 5900MB/s PCIe flash 2TB RAID storage scratch volume, MCE 12X Blu-ray Recordable Drive (replacing the Super Drive), Razer Black Widow X Chroma mechanical backlit keyboard, and Razer Naga Molten mouse.

We'll catalog some of our favorite tower upgrades in a follow-up article. Suffice to say that there are many options to keep your Mac Pro tower cooking until Apple serves up the next Mac Pro.

Comments? Suggestions? Feel free to email me,
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copyright 2017 Rob Art Morgan
"BARE facts on Macintosh speed FEATS"