The Beauty and The Beast:
2013 Mac Pro 12-core 2.7GHz vs
2010 Mac Pro 12-core 3.46GHz
Posted Tuesday, April 29th, 2014 by rob-ART morgan, mad scientist
Should you upgrade and max out your 12-core Mac Pro tower? or sell it and get new 2013 12-core 'Tube'? How do they compare in performance? How do they compare in cost?
HYPOTHESIS: A 2010 Mac Pro tower can be 'pumped up' to match the overall performance of the 2013 Mac Pro -- whether it is worth it or not.
12c nMP 2.7 D700s = 2013 Mac Pro 2.7GHz 12-core, 64GB 1866MHz DDR3, 512G flash storage, dual FirePro D700 GPUs (6G GDDR5 each)
12c MPt 3.46 280Xs = 2010 Mac Pro 3.46GHz 12-core, 64G 1333MHz DDR3, 512G flash storage*, dual Radeon R9-280X GPUs (3G GDDR5 each)**
*We installed a Sonnet Technology Tempo SSD Pro with dual striped 6Gbps 256GB SSDs to mimic the fast flash boot drive of the 2013 Mac Pro.
**The R9-280X GPUs were chosen as a close match to the FirePro D700s in the 2013 Mac Pro. They were flashed by MacVidCards to be compatible with OS X Mavericks.
DaVinci Resolve 10.1.4
We imported a 289 frame RED Digital Cinema clip (4800x2700 with 5:1 compression ratio). First we playback the R3D clip without any color correction or effect nodes but at "Full Premium" quality. (RED graph bar means FASTEST in FPS. Target speed is 23.976 FPS.)
As you can see, "Full Premium" quality playback falls short of the target 'real time' 23.976 FPS but Half Good easily exceeds it.
Continuing with "Half Good" playback quality we added Blur nodes until both Macs fell below the target speed.
With even one Noise Reduction node, both Macs were unable to playback the R3D clip at the target speed.
Shifting gears, we used the "Deliver" function to export the R3D clip to QuickTime ProRes 4444 in HD 1920x1080 with both "Force sizing to highest quality" and "Force debayer res to highest quality" enabled. (RED graph bar means FASTEST in SECONDS.)
We imported a 1080p ProRes 422 clip into Final Cut Pro X 10.1.1. Here's how long it took to render two video effects. (RED graph bar means FASTEST in SECONDS.)
Returning to the 5K R3D clip used with Resolve, we used the "Share > Master File" function to transcode to 5K ProRes 4444.
The 2013 Mac Pro 12-core is faster in the two CPU intensive tests like the Resolve export and FCPX export. The 2010 Mac Pro edged it out in five of the six tests that stressed both CPU and GPU such as Resolve playback and FCPX video effects rendering.
The hypothesis holds up in our limited testing: You can build a 'beastly' Mac Pro 12-core tower that rivals the performance of a 2013 Mac Pro 12-core 'Tube,' -- but at what cost?
Consider our cost breakdown in this table:
(Prices for the 'Beast' based on quotes from Edit Builder.) The Cubix GPU Xpander Desktop Series II adds a big chunk to the cost of the 'Beast.' I included it because it provides power and an external 16 lane slot for the second high-end, power-hungry GPU. It also frees up both internal x4 PCIe slots 3 and 4 for other uses such as video capture and fast flash storage cards.
A less costly approach is a GPU power booster that fits the lower optical bay, allowing both double wide GPUs to function internally. That brings the total cost down to $7200. But installation can be tricky if you lack "McGiver" skills. Speaking of less costly, if you already upgraded everything in your Mac Pro tower except the CPU tray, you can order a 12-core 3.33GHz or 3.46GHz tray starting at $2799.
Apples versus Oranges? The two Mac Pros featured here may be close in performance in our test cases, but there are other factors that can sway your decision one way or another.
Big mahalo to to Harris Charalambous, Director of Photography, who was my testing partner in this endeavor. Comments? Suggestions? Email
, mad scientist.
Follow me on Twitter @barefeats
WHERE TO BUY A MAC or other APPLE products:
USA readers can help us earn a commission by using this Apple Store USA link or by clicking on any Apple display ad. Or if you are buying a new Mac Pro or iMac, you can choose GPU options when you configure your order.
OTHER SOURCES FOR Mac Pros (and iMacs)
- PowerMax takes trade-ins when you buy a new Mac Pro.
- MacMall's prices for the new Mac Pro start at $2994.
- B&H Photo will take your order for a new Mac Pro.
WHERE TO BUY AN UP-CLOCKED 12-CORE MAC PRO TOWER
- Visit EditBuilder.com's eBay Store. Or you can email them or call them (1-855-EDIT-BAY). They are offering both tray replacements as well as complete setups with 1-3 year warranties. They also offer up 128GB 1333MHZ RAM and graphics card upgrades for Mac Pro towers.
- Also, check out Other World Computing's Processor Tray Upgrade Program.
- Live in the UK? Visit ScrumpyMacs for 'fire breathing' Mac Pro options.
WHERE TO BUY NVIDIA GPUs for your MAC PRO tower