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frankiee

Need CPU & Chipset advice for building a "HackPro"workstation

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Hi all,

Think I could need some help for building my upcoming "HackPro" - should be a "professional" workstation in desktop form, with "professional" simply meaning that I will rely on this machine for earning my money, and I like having some extra power ;)

I want to do all sorts of tasks with this machine, since I do software development on the one hand, but also work a lot with graphics and other media. So while a good part of my work will be dominated by single threaded performance, I also need a decent amount of cores for Photoshop, video encoding, 3D and video rendering and I also use - especially while developing - a LOT of virtual machines - not uncommon to have 4 or even more Systems running at the same time, plus some additional Emulators for iOS and Android. That also means that 32 GB would be the absolute minimum amount of RAM I need.

 

So these would be my requirements, sorted in order of importance:

1) Reliabilty
2) maximum OS X compability "out of the box" (by using similar hardware as the new mac pro for example) The machine must be able to run OS X 10.9, but also Windows 7/8 via Bootcamp.
3) Decent and well balanced overall performance with (PCI based) SSD Storage, Single / Multithreaded Apps as well as GPGPU (Option for Dual SLI should be on the Mobo)
4) Silent operation would also be quite important, I really hate loud rigs.

My budget for this Machine would be around 6000$, so I can throw a bit of money into my build, but of course my budget is not unlimited ;)
Also keep in mind that this would be my first hack, and I am not an hardware expert :(

So basically, I do not need an absolutely specialized machine - for example by using as many core as possible - but rather a good "all around performer", with good single threaded performance, but also a decent amount of cores and good GPU processing power. I assume that 8-12 cores might be the sweet spot in my case, but 6 (higher clocked) cores _could_ also suffice - but might be a bit low even when only looking at my VM needs.

For the GPU, I'd prefer one (maybe later two) TITANs over any AMD card, but the more difficult question right now - before choosing the right Mobo - for me would be the right choice of CPU type and Chipset:

At the moment I would opt for a C602 based chipset, since this should also be the one that the new "Mac Pro" will be using, thus I expect less hassle in the future with Mobos based on this chipset. But of course there is also the X79 chipset, which might be more proved and better tested "in the field", but also seems a bit dated now.

As for the CPUs, the question would be: single socket or dual socket? E5 or E5 v2? Or even a higher clocked Haswell or older i7 CPU? (But I am a bit wary of overclocking due to lack of experience with overclocking and also concerns over stability)

For example, I could use two E5-2637v2 vs one E5-1680v2. Both have 8 cores, but the Dual CPU gives me more memory slots and PCI Lanes, and has a much higher base clock count.

But, would that dual CPU be really faster on OS X? Because I also heard that OS X is not optimized for dual CPU usage at all, and I think that will not improve since there won't be any Dual CPUs anymore from Apple.

So, very difficult question for me - what would be your take on this? Any help or insights would be greatly appreciated!

 

 

TIA,

Frank

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LGA 2011

x79 chipset

 

So you would still prefer X79 over C60x ? Can I ask why? Because it is more mature? I thought it wouldn't be a bad idea to be as close as possible to the upcoming Mac Pro Architecture.

 

Maybe I forgot an important point: I also want Turbo / Sleep / Power management to be fully supported, at least as close as possible. I was under the impression that this should also be easier when using the same procs / chipset as the new MacPro

 

6 core cpu

 

Which one would you recommend? XEON or "standard" i7? Overclocked or not?

 

Not 100% sure if only 6 cores would be enough.

 

 

Do you have any understanding what bootcamp is or how it works? Just asking....

 

I do ;) OK, maybe still cought in the Apple terminology .. well what I actually meant was dual booting, of course. Don't think I need any bootcamp drivers then ;)

 

On the other hand it would be convenient if a tool like Bootchamp still would work, and if I could dual boot with a partitioned drive (just as with bootcamp)

 

And yes, I have looked at clover ;) And this would be also my preferred bootloader at the moment.

Why even use bootcamp on a pc? Use a vm and have even faster access.

 

3 Scenarios where I need a native System:

 

1) I have some special hardware (USB microscope) with some funky driver that insists on native hardware access -> does not work with VMs, at least not with mine

2) Windows Phone Emulator (as far as I recall this also needs some more direct access to the GPU, couldn't get this working in Parallels at least)

 

and

 

3) The occasional game I like to play after work ;) While this Hackintosh is surely not meant to be a gaming machine, it would not hurt if the machine is capable to play games at some decent settings  (which does it anyway with this kind of hardware I guess)

 

Also, the native Windows drive would double as a standard VM - might also be a reason for need of a kind of "bootcamp" support (via clover)

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Why even use bootcamp on a pc? Use a vm and have even faster access.

Because virtual machines require more resources in comparison to running natively and not everyone has those additional resources. Virtual machines are not as smooth as native systems. 

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So you would still prefer X79 over C60x ? Can I ask why? Because it is more mature? I thought it wouldn't be a bad idea to be as close as possible to the upcoming Mac Pro Architecture.

 

Maybe I forgot an important point: I also want Turbo / Sleep / Power management to be fully supported, at least as close as possible. I was under the impression that this should also be easier when using the same procs / chipset as the new MacPro

 

Which one would you recommend? XEON or "standard" i7? Overclocked or not?

 

C60x is for dual Xeon (Ivy/Sandy-E) CPU support. Since X79 supports Sandy-E and Ivy-E CPUs, including but not limited to Xeon CPUs, and since Apple won't release a dual CPU version of its new MacPro, perhaps Rampage thinks a C60x is overkill and will be harder to support properly, and i tend to agree.

 

About LGA 2011 support, including news about power management, i strongly recommend you check Rampage's blog out: http://rampagedev.wordpress.com

 

For a workstation i'd say use a Ivy-E Xeon with the most cores you can buy (and your chosen motherboard can support), paired with the maximum ECC RAM you can afford (the problem is, it can end up being almost as pricey as a MacPro). I wouldn't use an overclocked system when uptime and stability are as important as performance, but that's me. If you go I7 because of budget constraints, buy Ivy-E instead of Sandy-E. With an I7 you'll have the option of overclocking the CPU, which is not an option with Xeon processors.

 

Least but not last - and i know Rampage will not agree with me, but whatever - consider buying the newest high-end graphics solution from AMD: Apple is going FirePro for the MacPro, and it's very likely many apps - and perhaps OSX itself - will rely heavily on OpenCL, where nVidia's performance, Titan included, is a joke. If you have already a workflow with applications that are CUDA dependent, though, go for a GTX 7xx series card.

 

All the best!

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C60x is for dual Xeon (Ivy/Sandy-E) CPU support.

 

C60x for dual boards only? Think that is not the case ;) For example, look at this: http://www.supermicro.com/products/motherboard/xeon/c600/x9sra.cfm

 

Also still undecided between Dual CPU setup (lower corecount, higher clock) and a single CPU (both high core dount and clock impossible!)

 

What I would like to know is how big the performance penalty with OS X and multiple CPUs really is. Would it be enough to offset a 500MHz difference in base clock? (based on the E5-2637v2 vs one E5-1680v2 example)

 

About LGA 2011 support, including news about power management, i strongly recommend you check Rampage's blog out: http://rampagedev.wordpress.com

 

Yeah, know his blog (and glad he answered to me), also thought that the new Board he mentioned (GA7-PESH3) could be a candidate for my needs. So if I understand this right, LGA2011 support is not quite complete, but improving and expected to be fully working with the release of 10.9 - right?

 

 

For a workstation i'd say use a Ivy-E Xeon with the most cores you can buy (and your chosen motherboard can support), paired with the maximum ECC RAM you can afford (the problem is, it can end up being almost as pricey as a MacPro). I wouldn't use an overclocked system when uptime and stability are as important as performance, but that's me. If you go I7 because of budget constraints, buy Ivy-E instead of Sandy-E. With an I7 you'll have the option of overclocking the CPU, which is not an option with Xeon processors.

 

Yeah, that is what I thought first: 8 core Single XEON CPU _or_ 2x4 / 2x6 Cores Dual XEON CPU.

 

Since I want stability, I do not want to overclock at all costs.

 

 

Least but not last - and i know Rampage will not agree with me, but whatever - consider buying the newest high-end graphics solution from AMD: Apple is going FirePro for the MacPro, and it's very likely many apps - and perhaps OSX itself - will rely heavily on OpenCL, where nVidia's performance, Titan included, is a joke. If you have already a workflow with applications that are CUDA dependent, though, go for a GTX 7xx series card.

 

GPGPU would be mostly needed for After Effects, Premiere and Blender.

 

At least AE and PR should do better with CUDA, right?

 

Plus: I do not like AMD in general - got quite some probs with this brand in the past.

 

Edit 1: and also I thought that the NVIDIA Driver support was better - at least they post their own drivers whereas I could not find any OS X drivers on the AMD page.

 

Edit 2:

 

C60x is for dual Xeon (Ivy/Sandy-E) CPU support. Since X79 supports Sandy-E and Ivy-E CPUs, including but not limited to Xeon CPUs, and since Apple won't release a dual CPU version of its new MacPro, perhaps Rampage thinks a C60x is overkill and will be harder to support properly, and i tend to agree.

 

Well but the C602 chipset is what the new Mac Pro apparently uses. And they must support Dual CPUs, at least with a single socket motherboard. (The new 12 core Ivy Bridge E is actually a Dual CPU). Also, the E5-1680v2 I have my eyes on seems to be in one of the new Mac Pro configs.

 

So I am not so sure about this Point!

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I didn't say C60x is for dual CPUs only, i said it supports them :) The problem is not the performance penalty of dual-CPU systems, is their ability to be supported by OSX86 for their current generation. I assume they work, but not as straightforward as a single LGA 2011 CPU.

 

Yes, Adobe apps start to support OpenCL very recently, so CUDA support is better implemented by far on them. NVidia usually is easier to setup on OSX86.

 

All the best!

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Because virtual machines require more resources in comparison to running natively and not everyone has those additional resources. Virtual machines are not as smooth as native systems. 

 My point was that no one needs "boot camp" on a PC because you can have a normal native install.

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The C602 and C606 can work with the six core I7 (which you should get) however not all of the board features will work as the Xeon chip is needed to enable everything on it. 

 

So, what I still don't get: why would you choose an i7 over a E5-1680v2 for example? Let's assume I do not want to overclock and let's ignore the price delta for a moment.

 

Why i7 then?

Yes, Adobe apps start to support OpenCL very recently, so CUDA support is better implemented by far on them. NVidia usually is easier to setup on OSX86.

 

So I'll stay in the NVIDIA camp for now. And if I really see the need, I can still add / upgrade / replace GPUs.

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I7 supports higher speed ram. Also 95% or so LGA 2011 non sever boards only have the x79 chipset and not the C602 or C606 chipset making the point of getting a Xeon worthless. 

 

CUDA CUDA CUDA still 1.2X faster then standard OpenCL and when I say standard I mean that CUDA is based off of OpenCL... 

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I7 supports higher speed ram. Also 95% or so LGA 2011 non sever boards only have the x79 chipset and not the C602 or C606 chipset making the point of getting a Xeon worthless.

 

OK, good point: just did some research on possible 60x single socket options and this was about all I found that seemed to make sense for me:

 

 

But seems, guessing from reviews that both boards have their drawbacks and problems. Don't know how well they would work with OS X.

 

Of course, not much to choose from. Hmmmm.

 

CUDA CUDA CUDA still 1.2X faster then standard OpenCL and when I say standard I mean that CUDA is based off of OpenCL... 

 

Think I agree with you here ;)

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CUDA CUDA CUDA still 1.2X faster then standard OpenCL and when I say standard I mean that CUDA is based off of OpenCL... 

 

CUDA is 1.2 faster than standard OpenCL when both are compared running on an nVidia card (source: that paper i sent you last time we discussed the subject). Since OpenCL on nVidia is a joke (source, the above-all-suspiciousness Anandtech.com), general computing on AMD high-end cards is always faster than any nVidia part, the almighty Titan included (again, Anandtech.com). 

 

The only real advantage of CUDA now is application support - but that is supposed to change, at least for all that's Apple related. Since suppose to doesn't mean already is, i recommend nVidia if you are already with a working CUDA workflow. Otherwise, AMD all the way.

 

All the best!

The paper: http://arxiv.org/pdf/1005.2581.pdf

 

The article. Repair how bad the Titan is beaten by a half its price 7970 GE in the SystemCompute benchmark: http://www.anandtech.com/show/6774/nvidias-geforce-gtx-titan-part-2-titans-performance-unveiled/4

P.S.: the fastest GPU in the planet: http://wccftech.com/amd-hawaii-r9290x-gpu-volcanic-islands-benchmark-results-exposed-fastest-gpu-planet-1020-mhz-clock-speed/ Unfortunately OSX doesn't support it AFAIK.

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The only real advantage of CUDA now is application support - but that is supposed to change, at least for all that's Apple related. Since suppose to doesn't mean already is, i recommend nVidia if you are already with a working CUDA workflow. Otherwise, AMD all the way.

 

Yeah, you might be right especially when lookaing at future OS X support. On the other hand, I think my existing workflow will profit more from CUDA (think AE and PR) and it should be more easy to switch GPUs sometimes in the future than the whole CPU / chipset architecture. So for the moment, the right choice of CPU / chipset / mobo seems to be more relevant to me.

 

 

I7 supports higher speed ram.

 

Well, but this is only true if you want to overclock, correct? The only i7 CPU I saw that supports DDR 1866 seems to be the 4960X. All others only support DDR 1600 with standard clocks. So in contrast to the XEONs this is actually less! Plus I would loose support for ECC RAM. Since stability is on the top of my requirements (even above performance) and since I am an absolute newbie with hackintoshes and building a PC in general, I think it wouldn't be a good idea to mess with OCing on top of my general inexperience - I am really glad if I get everything to work even without OC ;)

 

So I think going for a XEON based architecture might still be better for my needs. Also checked Intels offerings again, and I now think the E5-1660v2 might be a much better value than the E5-1680v2 I looked at first. Only 6 cores, but much higher base clock and also quite cheaper.

 

But of course, the question about the chipset / mobo still remains. As rampagedev said, there aren't much choices with C60x chipsets, but on the other hand the GA-X79S-UP5-WIFI just seems to deliver what I like. Also saw this mobo still has Firewire support, which would be a big plus.

 

So what would you think of this combination? Would it also work with clover? And what could be a good alternative solution when opting for some X79 chipset?

 

Any help / insights would be greatly appreciated!

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Yeah, you might be right especially when lookaing at future OS X support. On the other hand, I think my existing workflow will profit more from CUDA (think AE and PR) and it should be more easy to switch GPUs sometimes in the future than the whole CPU / chipset architecture. So for the moment, the right choice of CPU / chipset / mobo seems to be more relevant to me.

 

 

 

Well, but this is only true if you want to overclock, correct? The only i7 CPU I saw that supports DDR 1866 seems to be the 4960X. All others only support DDR 1600 with standard clocks. So in contrast to the XEONs this is actually less! Plus I would loose support for ECC RAM. Since stability is on the top of my requirements (even above performance) and since I am an absolute newbie with hackintoshes and building a PC in general, I think it wouldn't be a good idea to mess with OCing on top of my general inexperience - I am really glad if I get everything to work even without OC ;)

 

So I think going for a XEON based architecture might still be better for my needs. Also checked Intels offerings again, and I now think the E5-1660v2 might be a much better value than the E5-1680v2 I looked at first. Only 6 cores, but much higher base clock and also quite cheaper.

 

But of course, the question about the chipset / mobo still remains. As rampagedev said, there aren't much choices with C60x chipsets, but on the other hand the GA-X79S-UP5-WIFI just seems to deliver what I like. Also saw this mobo still has Firewire support, which would be a big plus.

 

So what would you think of this combination? Would it also work with clover? And what could be a good alternative solution when opting for some X79 chipset?

 

Any help / insights would be greatly appreciated!

 

Ram support for all LGA 2011 CPUS is 2133. The X version allows for 2400+ Official booting from intel will be 1600 and with XMP OC you can run above as per intel XMP spec. 

 

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16819116492

 

ECC is very rarely needed for most users. 

 

In conclusion I can tell you are very new to building and selecting the hard ware you need. What you are doing is setting yourself up to over spend on hardware that you do not need nor ever will use the functionality of. Just being honest and thats all I can do. So if you want to miss appropriate your funds then by all means go right ahead. I just hate people thinking that they need something that the don't... 

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I just hate people thinking that they need something that the don't... 

 

I am aware that I am a Newbie (already said that) and I am also aware that this setup might indeed a bit over the top. But on the other hand, I am sitting now on a 3,1 8-core Mac Pro. Back then, five years ago, that maybe was also over the top, but now? Not so much. Also, this machine has served me over five years with absolute reliability and sturdyness, and I also have modifed and expanded little things here and there. All in all, the best and most pleasant machine I ever had to date. But now, Apple will not build such things anymore as you know. So maybe that explains my background a bit better. So now, I am curious how to build a better one on my own, and therefore ask stupid questions in the New Comers Lounge ;)

 

What I also might need to add is that I really won't save anything with buying a cheaper machine, bc as I said this machine is to be used mainly for work and due to tax reasons, I have this relatively fixed budget, I must build it this year and I want the best results for my hard earned money. An this is still a lot for me, bc I am not a rich guy which likes to brag with the latest and greatest, but this machine should run with the same reliability, stability and good performance like my Mac Pro, and this for a couple of years. Based on former experience with all sorts of computers since the last 30 years or so I have come to the conclusion that a workstation type of computer is the most reliable you can get. I happily trade some extra 100$ for EEC memory when it helps to avoid even a day of downtime during the whole life of this computer. Regarding ECC: yeah, how many crashes did you have due to it missing? You'll never know. And I was told that memory corruption just happens one time or the other during the year. Of course, might be all wrong. I don't know ;)

 

I also said that I am wary of OCing due to lack of experience and stability concerns. Plus, I want to build a silent machine. Think this is not easier with some OCing going on under the hood. And yes, I am inexperienced to building a PC! So maybe better starting with some classic air cooling instead of installing pumps right away?

 

So, hope you understand better what drives my mind. But yes still I might be totally wrong. I know that I know nothing. So you would recommend me giving a part of my budget to tax authority instead and go OCing with cheaper hardware?

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What do you mean by "real budget"? Actually this _is_ my "real budget". Look, I do not make anything up, anything I wrote is like it is ;)

 

Let me explain: To be precise, my budget is exactly 5000 Euros (I am located in Germany). Just checked and this is actually 6.790 dollars right now. But hey, we always have to pay more here ... so maybe 6000 is about right. Might go a bit higher if that would give me any substantial advantage, but by going lower, I will actually loose a good part of the saved money!

 

And this is really due to tax reasons: basically, I promised my Finanzamt some years ago, that I will invest 5000 Euros in a new computer within a certain time span - thought that would be better instead of paying taxes, and I need some new computer from time to time anyways. And back then, this was originally meant for a new Mac Pro. Well ... I meant a "real" one ... not this one now. So yes, sounds crazy, but it is like it this. The only way out I saw then is to build one myself bc I really want to stay on OS X.

 

But yes, of course I would really appreciate if you could make a suggestion ;)

 

Think I have wrote a bit about what I want already, but to sum it up, in order of importance:

 

- "general purpose workstation" mainly used for design and development, but also 3D and video animation / encoding. Must also do well with lots of VMs running at the same time.

- most "native" and stable OS X support & experience possible (but also with dual boot option), including turbo, power management etc (eg by going the clover route?)

- great reliability with all components

- great performance with both CPU/GPU, but also fast (and reliable!) storage and I/O, so overall performance is well balanced

- (relative) Silence

 

Nice to have: Not too much hassle with OS X updates, Firewire support on the Mobo, decent gaming capabilities and if everything would fit in a case that is not too big (and has a more minimalistic / clean look).

 

And I also have still a bit of time left. The "deadline" I have is the end of the year. So my original plan was to wait for release of the new mac pro (and Mavericks) anyway, check it's specs and try to build something similar, at least in terms of CPU and chipset

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Here is my suggested build:

 

Newegg.com - Once You Know, You Newegg.pdf

 

All you have to do is find the items in your area. 

 

This system offers SAS III raid in Raid 10. The SAS card is bootable for mac as well but the SSD will be connected to the onboard SATA. 

 

Note to use the latest Ivy B E chips you need a modded kernel for the time being. Apple has been using internal builds of OS X on there new Mac Pro's so once that comes out there will no longer be a need to use the modded kernel. 

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First of all, thanks a LOT for your build list! I will go through this step by step, just curious how these prices will translate when ordering everything from the EU.

 

Some points:

 

So you are also recommending to OC this rig? At least the components seem to be made for that. But now, I am already looking at a LOT of fans - there are 4 of them for cooling the memory alone, and also one on the mobo itself - this is one thing I am especially wary of: what if this one fails, can you even replace it?

 

So I ask myself if this would still result in a silent system. I am very very sensitive to loud rigs (suffering from hyperacusis), and so I expect the system to be more or less inaudible when idling or while under light load. Even under heavy load, it shouldn't really sound like my G5 back then, which had more resemblance to a vaccuum cleaner then a computer. This made me MAD all the time and I was sooo happy to get the much quieter Mac Pro instead. But now, even my 3,1 is simply too noisy for my taste. So that would be my main concern with your proposal - but of course I might be wrong. So even _one_ fan making funny whining noises would be already too much. Also keep in mind that I need some proper air filtering, at least my Mac Pro is filling with dust over time, so I have to clean it on a regular basis.

 

As for the dual 780s, I also don't know if they would be perfect for what I want. On the one hand they generate more heat and noise than a single titan, and I already said that I am not a hardcore gamer, so for example I don't need a SLI setup. On the other hand, the Titan seems to be better suited for GPGPU, with having much more VRAM, and also way better floating point capabilities. I just saw a blender benchmark, and there the Titan was over two times as fast as a single 780! Especially with blender it is a huge benefit if the whole scene can be rendered on the GPU. So the raw numbers do not tell everything. Plus, Premiere can only handle one GPU anyway. Didn't find any numbers for After Effects, but I also assume that more VRAM will be a big plus here.

 

Lastly, the amount of storage is a bit more than I need. Would it make sense to go with less storage, but make that even faster then? That's why I thought about having a PCI based solution for (dual) boot, a fast SSD or even an SSD RAID for my main data drive, plus some slower (and bigger) HDDs for archived files I don't need that often. For that type of storage, a RAID wouldn't be needed either, I guess.

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You can OC if you want. 4.2 OC is 100% stable under mac. Also OCing under Mac is more stable then windows. 

 

More GPU's improve CUDA performance a lot. The GPU model I listed is very quiet and very efficient when it comes to noise and heat. In short you want to have Dual cards for what you are doing. When your rendering and in a rush it comes in nicely. 

 

RAID SSD's is a waste and a RAID 10 setup would be just as fast while giving you more storage and a safer backup as well. 

 

The fans on the ram are optional. More for looks then function and the fans are replaceable. Also you can by high end fans for the case with low DB and use them for all the fans. That would get the DB you are looking for. 

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