Mac Pro 5,1 Resurrected

I decided to raise the bar on my workstation and go for something with a little more under the bonnet, so to speak, and that would be up to the job for the next 3+ years. Having considered lots of options based around a top of the range iMac, with it’s incredible 5K screen, and the current ‘trashcan’ Mac Pro, I ended up travelling back in time to 2012, so to speak, and purchasing a custom-built and refurbished¹ Mac Pro 5,1 from Create Pro, based in Ipswich, Suffolk. Why? Well, it was quite an easy decision in the end. Performance, expandability and price all duly ticked! And these machines really do still perform today.

Lets get it out of the way, this thing is heavy—just shy of 20kg loaded! Miniaturisation was not a design consideration at this time. They are made from copious amounts of metal. It feels like it will last a very long time. It is easy to expand the capabilities of this machine. The side panel is easily removed to allow easy access to all the important stuff inside. Create Pro also undertake firmware and ‘flashing’ updates to ensure hardware works in harmony with the latest operating system².

Basically, my workstation has twin 6-core 3.46GHz Xeon (Westmere) X5690 processors (12-cores / 24-threads), 96GB of 1333MHz DDR3 ECC memory, an NVIDIA GTX 970 4GB graphics card (CUDA and Open CL support), a very fast Samsung 512GB PCIe Flash drive (1,300MB/s+ read and write speeds), and two dedicated ‘conventional’ WD Black HDDs for archived work and TimeMachine. Not cutting edge, but this is a very quick Mac³, with a performance well up with the higher echelons of the current Mac Pro range—and at a much lower price point. It, of course, continues to be easy to expand and re-configure with two spare hard drive bays and a PCIe slot. I certainly don’t feel I’m missing anything at present and feel reassured by its physical presence. The older USB 2.0 ports are still fine for many peripherals, but for faster data transfer, there is a four port USB 3.0 PCIe adapter card. Simples. The only software feature that is missing that I’m aware of is Apple’s ‘hand-off’ with files. For me, that’s less of an issue as my workstation is my working platform and I don’t look to work on e-mails or other files across different devices.

I like the trashcan Mac Pro⁴ model, but it does have an identity problem. It’s nickname is not without merit. One could readily imagine someone trying to chuck their banana skin in to the top, or eye it up as a plant pot. The Mac Pro 5,1 has presence and means business. There is a lot of life in this old model and it feels like the professional machine it is!

Check out Create Pro and see if it works for you.

  1. Perhaps I was lucky, but this arrived looking brand new, with no signs of use at all.
  2. These machines are more than happy running macOS Sierra, and even fit and ready for macOS High Sierra, due at the end of 2017.
  3. This machine currently has the second highest multi-core score for Geekbench 4 on the Mac Benchmarks – Geekbench Browser, at 24,224. Not necessarily a real-world reflection, but an interesting demonstration of the relevance of it’s performance against the newer Mac Pro 6,1 machines.
  4. The release of Apple’s Apple HomePod has led to huge speculation online that Apple has decided to re-work the tooling for the Mac Pro to output it’s new home speaker. Clearly, Apple want to keep the form going for longer. Moreover, at it’s WWDC in 2017, Apple gave everyone a peak at it’s new ‘pro’ Mac—a pimped iMac—the iMac Pro. Impressive specs.

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Mac Pro 5,1 Resurrected

I decided to raise the bar on my workstation and go for something with a little more under the bonnet, so to speak, and that would be up to the job for the next 3+ years. more…