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Author Topic: PC & Mac updates as of 11/2019  (Read 238 times)

Joe Towner

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PC & Mac updates as of 11/2019
« on: December 01, 2019, 02:33:50 pm »

Here's a combo thread of computers as I see them as 2019 draws to a close.  We have again been SPOILED in 2019, as processor technology seems to push forward faster than we can make use of it.  Within the last few days both Intel & AMD have released new CPU's to the marketplace, and there's a pent up demand for the new Apple Mac Pro that's been delayed what seems to be years.

Apple has to be pissed off right now. They are tied to Intel, who has been late with their latest CPUs, plus are behind on the shift to 7nm tech (Intel is stuck at 14nm & rumors are they are giving up on 10nm).  I'd put money on Intel being the reason Apple hasn't released the new Mac Pro for sale - since they haven't hit scale production of the Xeon processors it needs.  Intel has the money & a solid history of covering up for mis-steps (Itanium anyone) when they come about, and are still an 800lb gorilla.  AMD on the other hand has been eating Intel's lunch this year, in a way we haven't seen since the original Pentium 4 v Athlon 64 fun back in 2006.  The AMD Ryzen 3rd Gen platform is a major step ahead of everything Intel is currently shipping.  Even Microsoft has admitted as much, as they selected a custom Ryzen5 & Ryzen7 processors for their 15" Surface laptop.

There's lots of folks looking at the new Mac Pro as the be all end all tech, but I have some reservations.  It's built on a Xeon CPU, like the iMac Pro, which has a giant price premium to it. The one big thing (IMHO) the Xeon has over the standard i-series processors is the number of PCIe lanes it supports.  That and it can be used in a multi-processor setup.  But when it comes to CPU cores, Intel has their i9 product which is neck & neck with the Xeon's at half the price.  The 2019 iMac with an i9 holds it's own against the current iMac Pro (2017) https://9to5mac.com/2019/04/03/2019-imac-versus-imac-pro/

Which leaves us at a point where there is a lot of tech you can spend a huge sum of money on, but to what end?  Is a 10-20% performance improvement worth doubling the price?  What about graphics cards that are the same if not higher priced than the processor?  Most software can either take advantage of lots of compute (CPU) or lots of graphics (GPU) performance - but not both at the same time.  So that top end processor is utilizing only a core or two of performance, while the graphics card works at 100%.  So where do you put your money to get the most performance all the time? In your pocket thankfully, or into components that are not tied to a single workflow or station.  Knowing what your initial buy in & what can be upgraded later on is critical.  Plus consider what needs to be internal the computer, compared to an external accessory that may be cheaper/faster/better.

For example, when you purchase an iMac, the ability to do after market upgrades is limited to the RAM - or doing a hard drive to SSD upgrade if you're willing to pull the screen off (not that hard, but not for the faint of heart).  iMac Pro's require the screen removal process for a RAM upgrade, so keep that in mind.  Apple laptops have been sealed for a while now, so purchase accordingly.  These machines all have ThunderBolt3, giant 40gb/s pipes into the processor that can be used to drive external graphics cards (eGPU's) or host much larger NVMe storage devices at speeds equal to the internal soldered on drive.  We are well beyond the limitations of USB2 & firewire.

The new Mac Pro will be interesting to see, but I have concerns. Apple teased it, time has passed, and there are newer, better options available.  The Xeon W-3200 series CPU's that are powering these are still unavailable, and if they don't benchmark well against the i9 processors just released it will be a huge embarrassment for everyone.  Apple has never been willing to accept mediocrity from anyone, internal or vendor.

The PC world is as always a constantly moving setup.  More options than you can care to look at, where confusion seems to be more important than real performance.  All the big manufactures are tied to Intel, so getting something with the latest AMD processor means going with a smaller integrator or building it yourself.  Remember, your time has value, and the rabbit hole you can go down trying to play PC Repair person can quickly cost more than paying a professional to do the build.  Honestly, a PC in 2019 is a nice processor, a bunch of RAM, a powerful graphics card, 10gb networking (and maybe wifi), and as many M.2 NVMe slots it'll handle.  Yet we have giant cases with lots of fans & LED bs going on trying to look cool.

But at the end of the day, how many CPU cores or GPU units will you need?  Most likely nothing beyond the basic performance options, even more so if you're currently using a 2014 Mac Pro.  With HyperThreading enabled, an 8 core processor has 16 threads exposed to the operating system.  Most off-the-shelf software can't 'properly' use that, so giving it 32 threads to manage at a slower speed isn't going to help - cores are going to be waiting on each other for results to then execute what other cores are (still) waiting on.

So what else in the process is critical to maximizing performance? Storage is where we've had the largest jumps in performance in the last year or two.  NVMe drives are all that and a case of chips.  My favorite things right now are externally connected TB3 NVMe drives - 2,800MBps speeds are legit - accessing & processing data that isn't bottlenecked by a SATA port or a spinning piece of rust.  Storage arrays with 10's of terabytes are small, cheap & reliable.  If you tier your files (newer working files on NVMe/SSD, static old files on SATA hard drives) you'll scream thru files without waiting.

What else are you thinking about in 2019 tech?
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BernardLanguillier

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Re: PC & Mac updates as of 11/2019
« Reply #1 on: December 04, 2019, 09:01:59 pm »

Very interesting post, thanks for the write up!

I find it rather puzzling that Apple didn't go the AMD route for the processor of the new Mac Pro although they have a long lasting relationship on the GPU side, could this be related to TB3 support?

I am really on the edge about going back to the Windows world, but the last of suitable workstation manufacturer leveraging AMD technology with TB support makes me hesitate.

Cheers,
Bernard

Joe Towner

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Re: PC & Mac updates as of 11/2019
« Reply #2 on: December 05, 2019, 12:37:57 am »

Intel actually opened up TB3 to everyone royalty free.  AMD systems with TB3 are out there, basically a chip on the motherboard takes the PCIe 4x slot and wraps it in TB3 port. ASRock has a number of boards with the X570 chipset that supports Ryzen 3000 processors with TB3.

I agree, 20/20 hindsight I think AMD Threadrippers would be in the Mac Pro if Apple had known the issues Intel is having.  I wouldn't be shocked to see them having a bench full of AMD beta hardware.  Things like supporting 1.5TB of RAM is 'eh' to me, especially since the previous hardware does 128GB & to have that maxed out RAM you need the 24 or 28 core processor.  The AMD EPYC workstation/server setup is interesting, but you trade off speed for core count - 64 cores at 2.3ghz compared to 32 cores at 3.7ghz (plus boost to 4.5ghz) in the Threadripper 3970X.
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JaapD

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Re: PC & Mac updates as of 11/2019
« Reply #3 on: December 10, 2019, 06:42:45 am »

I find it rather puzzling that Apple didn't go the AMD route for the processor of the new Mac Pro although they have a long lasting relationship on the GPU side, could this be related to TB3 support?

Indeed puzzling. Apple completely decided the wrong way around here. Instead of  Intel CPU’s and AMD GPU’s they should have stayed with AMD for their CPU’s and Nvidia for their GPU’s.

Regards,
Jaap.
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