Help me put together my dream Mac.
July 20, 2005 7:48 AM   Subscribe

Help me put together my dream Mac.

I am a video professional, and the IS department where I work has recently offered to foot the bill for an upgrade to the dual G4 I've been using for the past three years. They've given no restrictions on what I can ask for, so naturally I assume there are none.

I want to avoid asking for obnoxious things, like 8GB of memory. That said, I don't want to shoot low, since this machine will likely have to last me for the next three years, maybe four, and maybe forever (there's been a lot of recent noise about completely eliminating Macs from our company).

I plan on asking for the dual G5 2.7Ghz PowerPC, 2x400GB internal hard drives, and a 20" cinema display. Beyond that, I'm not familiar with the best video card to use, how much memory to ask for (I'd like 4GB, but could probably get by with 2GB), and if there are any special hardware items that will improve the performance of the machine.

On my own, I can probably put together specs that will be satisfactory, but I'd like some help getting specs that will perform well for the long haul.
posted by rocketman to Computers & Internet (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
If your work includes HD in the next three or four years, or might include it, get the 23" display, which can handle full HD resolution.
posted by mcwetboy at 8:34 AM on July 20, 2005

I'd definitely ask for a different mouse, and maybe a tablet.

Also, I'm totally addicted to having more than one monitor, so I'd probably ask for two 20" rather than one 23". If they're really willing to get you anything, go for the 30" monitor, although you'll need the top-of-the-line graphics card to run it.

Can you wait until after the first of the year? The new Mactels should be out around that time, although rumor has it that they start the changeover with the low end machines.
posted by bshort at 8:45 AM on July 20, 2005

Waiting for the Mactels is probably a bad idea. If the Power Macs are the last to switch over (as I suspect), he could be waiting as long as 2½ years until an Intel-based workstation-class desktop shows up. Let's not factor that into the equation for this round; if he needs it now, he should get it now. There's always something better around the corner, and sometimes it comes later than you expect -- or never (cf. PowerBook G5).
posted by mcwetboy at 9:04 AM on July 20, 2005

Another vote not to wait for Mactels. Many of the video and audio editing packages you will be using are optimized to use the Altivec chip in the G5.

Waiting for Mactels means having to wait for this optimization to be completed for the SSE chipset, and it is likely that Apple will focus initially on getting the software to run on the Mactels first, before devoting developer time on optimization.
posted by Rothko at 9:09 AM on July 20, 2005

Response by poster: I need the specs by the end of next week at the latest, so there's zero chance of waiting for the Mactels.

I don't know if I can get two monitors - frankly, I don't think my workstation has enough space for two - but I would like to get the 23" display, as HD is a definite possibility.

Also, should I have Apple install memory or buy it from a third-party vendor and do it myself? I've heard in the past that you can save quite a bit of money this way, and end up with more memory for the same price.

bshort: why the tablet? I can see the advantages of a two-button mouse - the one-button standard mouse drives me bonkers - but where's the advantage in a tablet? Perhaps I'll go for a quality trackball instead of a mouse.
posted by rocketman at 11:44 AM on July 20, 2005

Best answer: Forget the MacTel stuff. You're over 6-8 months off.

You may want to contact Promax or TekServe - they're both large national video Var's that sell apple solutions...from soup to nuts.

Dual 2.7. The speed different isn't that huge between that and the 2.3 (at least as far as editing/fx)

I'm assuming you're going to run FCP (I run the phila FCP user group)

Minimum would be 2GB of ram. Buying it from apple is expensive. 4 GB is better. This really makes a difference with Motion which cache's every frame into ram and the video card. I use dealram

Videocard: either of the 256mb cards are great.
The big advantage of the NVIDIA GeForce 6800 GT DD is that it'll drive two DVI based monitors, not one.

Make sure you get applecare.

Monitors - get at least the 23' - for HD with Apple Cinema Desktop, which is part of FCS (studio). At the 23" + sizes, I'm less concerned with a second screen...unless I'm working with HD.

DV only - I'd get the Panasonic DVX-100a which has a gorgeous film look/24p simulation (~3500)
HDV - I'd get the more expensive Sony HDV camera - but note that this really eats up quite a bit of work (working in HD)...and what are you going to deliver it on? HD DVDs are at least (realistically) another year to three for real market penetration (chicken and the egg problem).

Full HD? I'd get the Panasonic HDX that's coming out. It's full HD (well, really, DVC pro 100, which is less compressed than HDV) which uses P2 chips (no tapes are bad, formats are easier, but what do you store later?)


Going to have to deliver any WMP? Get Flip4Mac which gives you WMP outputs.

A good Sony studio monitor would be nice. Scopes are an excellent choice, but not a necessity)

A DV deck (Sony DSR 11, 45, or splurging 1500a, unless you go with panasonic, in which case I'd suggest a panasonic deck)

A wacom pad works great with Motion. I'd suggest the 6x8
Are you going to want firewire drives to move material around or for long term backup (The advantage is that it's quick and easy to restore a show that's been captured to a firewire drive vs. recovering from tapes.) And using firewire 800 is a bit faster.

A second firewire card on a different bus, would be smart - there are occasional headaches with a camera/drive attached to the same bus (yes, I know there are three firewire holes...but they're all on the same bus.)

A Midi device can be used with Motion/FCS as a control surface for mixing

Did you budget a lighting kit into the purchase?

Adobe Photoshop (a must!). You'll have FCS (FCP, Motion, DVDSP4, Compressor, Soundtrack Pro, Livetype )
Do you need after effects? It continues where Motion drops off.
Will you need different compression software? (compression Master, Sorenson Squeeze, Digigami's software) Bitvice is considered the best software compressor on the Mac.
Do you need any 3d? (Lightwave, Zax ProAnimator, Maya?)
Are there any plugins you'll feel are necessary? (Boris Red? Boris Continumum Complete, Color Finesse, Keying plugins like DVMatte)?

Are you going to budget in training? Don't forget this. There are some good books out there, but of course, intensive training is even better. I happen to work for the largest Apple/Avid training group - FMCTraining

Apple has a yearly professional Video Support programs for $700

You could easily budget up to 10k. Easily.

Feel free to ask follow ups.
posted by filmgeek at 11:56 AM on July 20, 2005

Also, should I have Apple install memory or buy it from a third-party vendor and do it myself?

Do it yourself! I can't emphasize this enough. Even the more expensive 3rd party RAM vendors (like Crucial or Ramjet) will be significantly cheaper than Apple.
posted by xil at 11:57 AM on July 20, 2005

For a little less than the price of a new dual 2.3, you can get a refurb duel G5 2.5ghz direct from Apple. I just got one last month. The only thing you're giving up vs. a new one is the dual-layer DVD burner.
posted by pmbuko at 12:32 PM on July 20, 2005

posted by pmbuko at 12:32 PM on July 20, 2005

Best answer: Buy the Dual 2.7 G5 with the NVIDIA video card but with minimum RAM and minimum HD. Also get the 23" Cinema Display. The 30" is just absurd.

Buy 4 (or more if you've got the budget) sticks of 1 Gig DDR400 from a third party vendor. Apple charges $225 a stick. Street price is $75.

As for hard drives, you can get a significant speed boost by getting 10,000 RPM drives, though you lose out on storage capacity. 500 Gig SATA hard drives can be had for cheaper than Apple's offerings.

I'd worry more about getting redundant external storage. You can get a prepackaged slick Firewire 800 RAID, but they're really expensive. It'd be easier to get a big multi-drive Firewire 800 enclosure and fill it with drives.

Definetly Get AppleCare. The standard Apple warranty is 1 year. At work (where we have ~100 G5s) we've had more than a few logic board failures right after the warranty expired. The replacement part is $900.
posted by blasdelf at 8:17 PM on July 21, 2005

What did you end up getting?
posted by unclejeffy at 7:05 AM on October 30, 2005

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