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Author Topic: Opinions on a choice: Mac Pro or iMac?  (Read 15544 times)

jerry7171

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Opinions on a choice: Mac Pro or iMac?
« on: February 06, 2014, 02:00:30 AM »
Hello!

I've been playing with Photoscan and have grown to really like it. I still have a great deal to learn as I don't always get consistent results, but when it all comes together, the resulting models are stunning.

I am currently using a 2008 Mac Pro dual quad core 2.8 GHz with 16 Gb of RAM. For smaller models it mostly only takes around an hour, depending on the quality if the photos and the desired detail output. Other times, even on the lowest quality settings, I've had models that took up to three days to render!

I'm still really new to photogrammetry so I don't have a good idea of how quickly things should build and render but now that I'm inclined to purchase Photoscan I'm looking at my Mac Pro and wondering if updating to a new or at least newer machine would make sense?

I went to EveryMac.com to look at the comparison charts of my current machine versus other newer builds. I was astounded to see that the current late 2013 27" iMac with a 3.2 GHz quad core i5 Intel would actually run faster than my 2008 Mac Pro!

The "cheese grater" Mac Pros from 2009 onwards also run faster but I found only the last generation before the new cylinder design could match the iMac I mentioned. I was mulling over upgrading the i5 to an i7 but the difference in performance looks like it would be negligible.

Right now photogrammetry is a hobby only but it would be a great reason to invest in something newer. Would anyone have any suggestions between a late 2013 iMac versus the cheese grater Mac Pro and why? My budget in July would be $2000 for whatever Mac I invest in.

Jerry

chadfx

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Re: Opinions on a choice: Mac Pro or iMac?
« Reply #1 on: February 06, 2014, 02:19:03 AM »
If you have a modest budget, sticking with the iMac route is likely the best bang for the buck...the biggest limitation would be the max of 32Gb RAM, which can really slow things down if you are working with a large amount of images. I've been able to get by with my iMac and 32Gb...but yeah, some large projects can span multiple days of pixel crunching.

I think 64Gb of RAM is around $700-900 these days, so you'd have to find a pretty cheap used MacPro to start with if you want to stay under $2k. New MacPro's already start higher than that. I'm not sure if going the Hackintosh route would really save you enough, either.

You could also look into CPU/GPU and RAM upgrade options for your current MacPro, although you might be a bit more limited in options than the later models.

I'm hoping that someone will start benchmarking PS on the new MacPro's to see how well the dual GPUs work (and if there's a benefit from the higher priced ones). From what I've been reading, maxing them both out effectively is not necessarily a given, depending on the app (and also Apple's 'moderate' support of OpenCL)

chadfx

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Re: Opinions on a choice: Mac Pro or iMac?
« Reply #2 on: February 06, 2014, 02:21:25 AM »
If you are curious, there are some helpful reviews (with comparisons to older MacPros and current iMacs/MBP's) which might help with your decision:

http://www.anandtech.com/show/7603/mac-pro-review-late-2013
http://arstechnica.com/apple/2014/01/two-steps-forward-a-review-of-the-2013-mac-pro/

jerry7171

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Re: Opinions on a choice: Mac Pro or iMac?
« Reply #3 on: February 07, 2014, 01:39:31 AM »
Thanks for the heads up and advice chadfx!

I started looking at my budget and I could probably go up to about $3000 ballpark.

At that price range, I started thinking about the entry-level late 2013 Mac Pro but some of the reviews I was reading last night seemed to indicate that unless software is specifically written to take advantage of its architecture, a similarly-priced 2013 27" iMac with 32 gigs of RAM and an upgraded GPU and i7 3.5 Ghz quad core would give fairly comparable results.

I was pretty surprised.

I do a little bit of light video editing (I trim out the commercials from my favorite TV shows after I import them from my TiVo then export them to iTunes) but beyond that, I think PhotoScan is just about the only heavy duty software I currently run.

Would I be correct in assuming that a tricked out iMac would be as good enough considering the modest budget I have to work with?

Thanks!
Jerry


chadfx

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Re: Opinions on a choice: Mac Pro or iMac?
« Reply #4 on: February 07, 2014, 03:15:01 AM »
Hi Jerry,

Yeah, those reviews really help shed some light on the factors of maximum clock speed vs. number of cores vs. RAM vs. GPU. Unfortunately the benefits can be highly variable as you can see, depending on the level of OS and/or application support. If you aren't habitually throwing hundreds/thousands of images at PS or constantly building dense clouds at ultra-high resolutions, you should generally be fairly happy with the iMac. It certainly has a good bang for the buck factor (aside from being extremely difficult to upgrade aside from RAM in the 27" version).

That being said, you could probably build yourself a fairly decent PC for $3K that would probably out-spec the iMac for PS use (64Gb RAM, better GPU, 6-core i7)

Cheers, -C

I think to make use of the advantages of the MacPro platform over the iMac, you would at least need to go to a 6 core proc & 64Gb RAM setup...which starts creeping north of $4-5k.

chadfx

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Re: Opinions on a choice: Mac Pro or iMac?
« Reply #5 on: February 11, 2014, 03:03:49 AM »
I found some other detailed benchmarks and comparisons at another excellent site:

http://www.barefeats.com/index.html

They're running some Luxmark tests which are OpenCL-based, so possibly a good estimate of Photoscan speed potential for the GPU heavy parts of the pipeline, and also shows how limited the GPU in the iMac might prove to be:

http://www.barefeats.com/tube03.html
« Last Edit: February 11, 2014, 03:05:59 AM by chadfx »

MrFilson

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Re: Opinions on a choice: Mac Pro or iMac?
« Reply #6 on: February 17, 2014, 04:35:22 AM »
Hello,

Im new to Agisoft and am looking for the right computer. Im not a computer guy by any means. Ive been looking at building a computer vs buying one off the shelf. Every person I've talked too had specked something totally different and the price range has jumped from 1500.00 US to 6500.00 US.

Im looking at the 27" iMac with all of the bells and whistles too and possibly considering springing for a Mac Pro. Ive been running a 2011 iMac since new and love it. Would be nice to stick with Apple but if I need a PC I can get over it.

Heres the specs on the Pro that Im looking at:

3.5GHz 6-core with 12MB of L3 cache
64GB (4x16GB) of 1866MHz DDR3 ECC
1TB PCIe-based flash storage
Dual AMD FirePro D700 GPUs with 6GB of GDDR5 VRAM each

From what I can gather having more than 6 cores will actually slow things down. I will be using the machine exclusively for PS Pro and will be running numerous 100 to 1500 10MPx image projects.

Best that I can determine is that I will be running 4 out of 6 of the cores for PS, will have 64gb ram, and the 1TB Flash will be awesome but IM not 100% sure on all of this.


I need a work horse machine that will last. I too was also told that SSD was the way to for durability, now Im about as confused as I can be.

Any help on the absolute perfect machine within my budget would be greatly appreciated. I would like to stay in the 6500.00 range but am willing to go up to 10K for the right tool for the job.

Thanks in advance for any help.

« Last Edit: February 17, 2014, 04:39:22 AM by MrFilson »

MrFilson

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Re: Opinions on a choice: Mac Pro or iMac?
« Reply #7 on: February 17, 2014, 05:04:37 AM »
Apple is 6 to 8 weeks out on building a Pro.  :(


I will grab the 27"iMac 3.5GHz Quad-core Intel Core i7, Turbo Boost up to 3.9GHz
32GB 1600MHz DDR3 SDRAM - 4X8GB
1TB Flash Storage
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780M 4GB GDDR5

and will make due.


chadfx

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Re: Opinions on a choice: Mac Pro or iMac?
« Reply #8 on: February 17, 2014, 05:29:04 AM »
Hi MrFilson,

I'm glad you found this thread, which covers a log of your questions. If you get a chance, take a look at some of the linked reviews in the earlier posts, as they might help lift the fog hovering over all of the options (or make it worse. ;-)

There is someone out here who just got a fairly beefy MacPro...so I am hoping they will be able to run some bookmarks to help us all see how well PS uses all of that horsepower Apple crammed into that little trashcan. ;-)

http://www.agisoft.ru/forum/index.php?topic=2056.0

From what I have found in general on the Mac, if there is a part of the PS pipeline that can use all of the CPU cores, it certainly will do so. The GPU usage is a bit harder to predict, at least with the 'built in' options from Apple. The GPU in the iMac doesn't seem to be nearly as powerful as if you had a decent midrange model for a PC. The D700's of the MacPro 'should' be relatively equivalent to the popular PC GPU cards on the threads here...but I haven't heard yet just how well PS takes advantage of them on the Mac side (especially if it uses both of them efficiently).

I think some of the debate about the best number of cores is centered around top clock speed vs. number of active cores. Since PS accesses the hardware in various ways through its steps, you sort of need a good all around performer (ie. fast when using only one core (single thread), but still be able to spin up to as many cores as possible for multi-threaded operations)...which seems to be either the 6 or 8 core machines as that sweet spot.

Maxing out the RAM to 64Gb will help for your larger image count projects and the 1TB SSD will allow you to keep more data on a VERY fast storage system. But a decent speed external drive or array certainly would also be fine in most cases. Most likely the D700 GPUs will give you better performance for PS as well.

It's just hard to tell 'exactly' how much of a benefit any of the MacPro configurations will be over the others, a top end iMac, or a build it yourself PC. I'm hoping some benchmarks will start to appear at some point.

If you do go with a PC, the majority of people here seem to use them happily. I think the best bang for the buck can be had there if you go with a 4930 or 4960 CPU with the Radeon 290 GPUs and 64GB RAM. But someone like Wishgranter could probably answer that better than me. I've been hoping that the Hackintosh community will come up with a stable and easy to configure game plan for this type of config, because it seems like the best compromise for us Mac heads.

Cheers, -C

oh, I see you found the delay in the MacPro availability...sorry. The iMac should still serve you quite well for a while, and you could always sell it off and upgrade to the MacPro once it's a bit clearer what config is best and if it would yield enough of a boost for you.

MrFilson

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Re: Opinions on a choice: Mac Pro or iMac?
« Reply #9 on: February 17, 2014, 05:51:12 AM »
 8)

Thanks a bunch.

someDude

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Re: Opinions on a choice: Mac Pro or iMac?
« Reply #10 on: February 18, 2014, 12:38:23 AM »
Just on a sidenote: People always forget, that with the 27" iMac you're getting a 950€/$ Screen. So If you ask how much a workstation you can expect for 2500-950=1550 €/$ it should be pretty clear in which ballpark the imac is settled.
It is still a fair deal in my eyes, it just depends on what you want.

If the i7 is enough for ones budget and you rather take a little performance bump than working with windows (I understand, I'm a mac guy myself, but now am considering a PC for Photoscan work) you could also attach a VIdock + a Sonnet adapter with a nice ATI-card to increase OpenCL performance:
http://www.villageinstruments.com/tiki-index.php?page=Products
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pxxtd2kVf0I

Of course, this is NOT a PRO setup. But considering the exponential increase of cost per performance when moving from i7 to Xeon, this seems like a legit move for a part time Photoscanner ;)