Adieu to my Mac Pro

I finally did it. After months of internal debate, and many wild swings back and forth, the needle at last crossed the critical threshold. A decision has been made. I bought a new desktop Mac. It arrives next week.

For those interested in the tech specs, I purchased a top-end 5K iMac, with an upgraded processor, 16GB of RAM and the 512GB SSD. To handle additional storage requirements, I have an OWC ThunderBay, which will house the drives currently in my Mac Pro.

The Mac Pro in question is a “cheese grater” model from 2009. You heard correctly. This powerhouse has been my primary computer for the last seven (7) years! I’m using it right now to compose this article. This is, by far, a personal record. I haven’t kept another Mac on my desk for more than three years since I bought by first Mac back in 1984.

How did my Mac Pro manage to survive so long? Mainly because of its superb and easily accessible internal expansion options (4 hard drive bays, 2 optical drive bays, RAM slots and PCI card slots). This far exceeds anything that Apple currently offers (Apple has essentially eliminated internal expansion from its line-up). Expansion capability has  allowed me to keep pace with the most critical technological advances. Over the years, I’ve upgraded the RAM, added newer higher capacity hard drives and an SSD drive. While still not as fast as current top-end Macs, my Mac Pro remains fast enough to comfortably move along as I do demanding tasks such as editing iMovie files.

Sure, it’s missing some niceties — no Thunderbolt, no USB-3, no Retina display. And it’s a relatively noisy heat-generating behemoth that can warm up my office better than a space heater. But it gets the job done.

As for software, Apple still supports this Mac Pro for running the latest El Capitan version of OS X. It doesn’t support every new feature; it won’t work with Continuity for example. And when I compare it to my wife’s 2014 iMac, it’s clear that the Mac Pro’s software/hardware combination is significantly more prone to bugs and glitches. But it runs and works very well most of the time.

On the one side, the thought of losing the Mac Pro’s internal expansion options held me back from upgrading. On the other side, the promise of forthcoming major hardware additions, such as Thunderbolt 3 and USB-C, similarly convinced me to keep delaying an upgrade. Plus, I was immobilized by indecision as to which storage option to choose: Fusion drive vs. one of the SSD drives.

But, in the end, I decided it was time to move on. The lure of the current new technology finally brought me to the tipping point. The speed and upgraded capabilities of the Skylake processor, the new super-fast SSD drive, the incredible Retina display — all packaged in an attractive compact lightweight design — I could no longer resist. Seven years was long enough. If a much improved iMac comes along later this year, I’ll worry about that when the time comes. I’m ready for a change now!

Still, I’ll miss my old Mac Pro. We’ve been together for a long time. So, before we part, allow me to bid the machine one last fond farewell: So long old friend. It’s been great knowing you. I doubt we will ever see the likes of you again.

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10 Responses to Adieu to my Mac Pro

  1. Mattw says:

    It’s always exciting to get a new Mac and the screen is very nice on the 5K models.

    I expect to be in the same boat one day with my own 09 Mac Pro but I keep putting it off.

    In many ways these machines were the best value for money Apple ever offered.

    For now an iMac – even specced up still seems more of a side-grade than an upgrade for me and I really want to see a big improvement for that big a spend.

    You don’t mention which model 09 you had but I’ve added USB 3 to mine, Continuity is an option by swapping the Wi-Fi & Bluetooth daughter card if you need it and you can add fast SSD blades via PCI. I’m still kinda waiting for Thunderbolt to go mainstream before I consider it as I hope it doesn’t become another FireWire…

    I upgraded my dual quad 2.26GHz chips to a pair of 3.06GHz 6-cores so multi-core performance is now a match for everything except a maxed out Mac Pro cylinder, it’s only single core that the iMac has a fairly healthy advantage.

    The Radeon 7950 I fitted a while back still seems a match for even the best GPU options on the iMac from all the benchmarks Ive seen so I do hope one day more performance will be possible. I suspect the obsession with making it as thin as possible will prevent this for sometime yet though.

  2. Bob Coffman says:

    Good job Ted!

    That thing is a “boat anchor”! Welcome to the future. You will love it.

  3. TomInTulsa says:

    I almost did the same as you. I have a 2010 27″ iMac that I’ve “maxed” out. I added a new SSD a few years ago and pumped the ram up to 16GB but its starting to show its age. I really want new IO which is why I’m passing on the current iMac and waiting for this years. I am surprised Apple didn’t include Thunderbolt 3 and USB 3.1 in this iMac. With the move to USB-C connectors almost certainly coming and Thunderbolt 2 being upgraded it seems to me as though Apple held the current iMac back. Since I feel I’ll probably use my new iMac for at least 5 years as I have my current one I don’t like all the “legacy” IO issues with the current iMac…sigh, 1 more year…

  4. Charlie Day says:

    Did about the some thing: I replace a few week ago a 2007 MacPro Tower w/2TB of storage and 19″Apple LCD Monitor with a new 21″4k iMac. I upgrade my purchase with a 2TB Fision drive and 16GB of memory. Im in love with my mac all over again. I’ve been a power user since 1985 and feel that this the best mac I’ve ever own. This one is number 7 in a long line since the original 128k Mac came in 1984. I very much love the relationship between MacOS X El Captain and with my two other iOS Devices running iOS9. (Note: The only reason why I bought a 21″over 27″ is that I have very nice computer hutch over 25 years that the 27″ would not fit in.)

  5. Brad Chatellier says:

    Similar situation. I’ve had a Mac tower or equivalent since 1992 when I bought a Quadra 700, and 2006 when I got my first Mac Pro. I waited patiently for the redesign and jumped at a 2013 Mac Pro when they first hit the streets. After a year or so of using it I was relatively unimpressed. I’m now a proud owner of a Late-2015 Retina iMac.

    Basically it comes down to the Mac Pro being underpowered. The only substantial improvement it offered was 6-8-12 core machines which sadly are only properly utilized by a handful of applications that aren’t particularly relevant to a high end digital photographer like myself. The 5K display in the iMac was what finally pushed me over the edge. I wanted that but couldn’t have it with a Mac Pro. The high end graphics options in the Mac Pro didn’t translate well for gaming, which is still a small occasional interest to me. The flash storage in this latest round of iMacs was on par or better than my 2013 Mac Pro, and a 4.0GHz i7 helps drives Lightroom at a good enough speed (these days it seems that storage is a more important component of speed than most microprocessors anyway.

    I use a OWC ThunderBay 4-drive 32GB RAID as my primary data volume, and have a couple more for on and off-site backups. I’d be doing this with either an iMac or a Mac Pro.

    I wish there was a compelling reason to keep using a Mac Pro, but this is really just in principle. In reality I don’t see myself going back. It’s a little sad but life goes on.

  6. Brotha J. says:

    I feel everybody’s pain. I am still using a late 2009 ‘21.5 inch’ iMac model 10.1. Inside it has a 3.33 gHZ Core2 Duo processor, 8 GB RAM, ATI Radeon HD 4670 256 MB GPU, 2 TB Hitachi mechanical [very noisy] hard disk, and the original Bluetooth and wireless Airport chips. I am blind thus I use VoiceOver on the latest public beta of El Capitan. I mention that because this current set-up makes my Windows 7 virtual machine [via VMWare Fusion Pro] noticeably slow with JAWS [the leading screen reader for Windows]. Never have I used a more recent model iMac accept approximately 1.5 years ago when I did major housekeeping on my former roommate’s ‘27 inch’ mid 2010 iMac with slightly upgraded specifications than mine. The only thing that makes using this machine tolerable is my Matias TactilePro 4 that I will be using till each of the fifty million cycles for each key have been exhausted.

    The display no matter its size and other attributes is worthless to me. I was and never will be able to have concept of colour, image, et cetera. What matters to me is CPU, GPU, solid state and RAM memory. In no way am I implying that anybody does or is, but never take for granted the gift you have that enables you to revel over the retina displays. My iPhone has one, but it is of no importance to me. One day I hope to be able to upgrade to the latest model iMac 5, 6, or whatever K is the latest and supposed greatest. This thing is used daily, almost never shuts down, and restarts no more than three times per week. For now, my aged six ‘obsolete’ [so says Apple] iMac and all that it encases will have to suffice. I am certainly thankful and grateful to have it.

  7. My 2008 MacBook is still my main computer! Just as you say, I basically only upgraded the RAM at some point. But it still works flawlessly under El Capitan and the only hardware issue is the screen which tends to fall back (just like a grandma in her armchair).
    I was a Microsoft advocate before buying it. In fact I just bought it because I was in Japan at the time and language management seemed so much more simple in OSX than Windows. But it was one of the best buys of my life, along with my Swiss Army knife and my The North Face hiking wear and I never went back to non Aplle products.

  8. Tony Piselli says:

    I’d have to question if you’ve gotten all the life out of the 2009 Mac Pro. You mention upgraded RAM but did you upgrade the firmware? There’s a firmware upgrade that turns your Mac Pro 4,1 into a Mac Pro 5,1. With this firmware you can upgrade to 128 GB of 1333 MHz DDR3 ECC SDRAM and a pair of 3.46 6-core Westmere processors. The continuity issue can also be addressed with a bluetooth upgrade; just search for Apple Broadcom BCM94360CD on Amazon. There’s been a lot of talk about the disappointment of the 2013 Mac Pro and folks holding onto the “cheese graders”. While I enjoy getting a new Mac as much as anyone I also like getting as much out of my current one as possible.

  9. Ted says:

    Reply to Tony:

    I was aware of some of the stuff you indicated. Interesting and good to know. In the end, however, it wouldn’t dissuade my decision. Updated Pro still wouldn’t have a Retina Display or fast SSD or Thunderbolt. The firmware update is also more of a hack than I wish to do at this point. But I agree with your overall point…the Mac Pro still has life left in it…for someone.

  10. Ron says:

    Yes, the Mac Pro still has quite a bit of life in it! My Mac Pro 2010 is fitted with Dual 3.46Ghz Quadcore Xeosn, 4 hard drives (2, 2, 2, & 4TB), 36GB of RAM, 256GB SSD, BluRay Drive, 28” 4K Display, USB3 card, and Radeon R9 270x. Single Core speeds are OK, around 2800, but multicore are sweet with a Geekbench around 22,000. The only thing I really wish it had is Thunderbolt. I think I’ll keep mine another two years at least.

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