The New Mac Pro: Ridiculously Fast

Posted: December 29, 2013

[ Please read my disclosure statement on product reviews. ]

Apple announced the new Mac Pro at their World-wide Developer Conference last spring. From the moment the image flashed on the screen, I knew I wanted one. Then, last week, when Apple released both Final Cut Pro X 10.1 and the new Mac Pro, they asked if I wanted to test drive a Mac Pro for a month. I instantly said “YES!!”

The next day a new Mac Pro showed up on my doorstep… with its return shipping label already attached. Sigh.

In this article, I want to do three things:

  • Describe setting up and editing with a Mac Pro
  • Help you decide whether a Mac Pro makes sense for you
  • Help you determine the best ways to configure it

NOTE: This is the first of two articles on the Mac Pro. In my next article, I’ll compare the performance of the Mac Pro with a late model iMac for video compression.


The configuration of this Mac Pro retails for about $8,400. It is two steps down from the absolute top of the line:

  • My unit came with a 512 GB Flash drive, instead of the maximum 1 TB drive
  • My unit came with 32 GB of RAM, instead of the maximum 64 GB.

From my point of view, the configuration Apple shipped would be identical in performance to a fully-loaded system.


From the moment I pulled the system out of the box, I felt I was looking at an incredible Swiss watch – the fusion of art with technology. It is surprisingly heavy, with a solid feeling of substance.

The cylinder, standing on the desk, has a luminosity, depth and color that feels like looking into limitless depths. Every time someone new comes into the office, I invite them to see it.

In every case, I unplug all the cables, remove the cover, and we marvel over the sheer artistry at how the circuit boards are designed. Even the color of the circuit boards – black – reinforces the theme that every detail has been thought through.

Just sitting there, unplugged, the Mac Pro is a work of art. All the other computer gear that surrounds it, pales by comparison.

To the entire hardware team at Apple that crafted this system, let me tell you that I am blown away by the sheer beauty of what you’ve created.


Apple’s vision of the pro desktop is centered on performance. They looked at the entire system: CPU, GPU, bandwidth, their goal was speed – real-time playback, without the need to render.

NOTE: Rendering is still necessary at some point before output. All those great effects and color grades you are creating in the timeline need, at some point, to be rendered (meaning “converted”) into video. This is true of all editing systems. The trick is to figure out a way to get this rendering done without slowing you down; either during editing or exporting.

There’s nothing unique about dual GPUs, existing MacPros could install multiple GPUs inside the chassis. What is unique is that the MacPro now guarantees dual GPUs in every Mac Pro system. This allows developers to count on both GPUs being there. One GPU dedicated to displays, the other GPU dedicated to supporting the CPU. These are workstation-class GPUs with drivers are appropriate to professional software, as opposed to games. For example, these GPUs are better at the floating point operations used in video editing.

The Mac Pro uses PCIe-based flash storage; which is often called an SSD drive. While it only uses 4 PCIe lanes, it is the fastest flash available today: 1.2 GB/second. Also, the PCIe bus uses Generation 3 PCIe, which provides twice the bandwidth of earlier versions. This is enough bandwidth to handle the fastest flash… and then some.

There’s been a lot of talk about expansion. Here, Apple was thinking outside the box, by providing six Thunderbolt 2 ports with up to six peripherals attached to each port. On the one hand, this is a highly flexible approach that makes changing system configurations fast and simple. On the other hand, this approach requires awkward converter boxes, and additional expense, to attach existing PCIe-slotted devices.

On the third hand, new technology obsoleting older technology is not unheard of in our industry.

NOTE: There is a separate Thunderbolt controller behind every two Thunderbolt ports – three controllers in total. More controllers means less contention on the port and faster throughput.


Connecting the system took mere seconds. But getting all the software downloaded and installed took a bit to time. There’s a new firmware update, plus I needed to download Final Cut, Motion, Compressor, and the iWork family of software. (Also, I installed SnapZ Pro, from Ambrosia Software, which I use for capturing all my screen shots.)

NOTE: Apple also provides a version of the Mac Pro where Final Cut and other software is pre-loaded.

I wasn’t in a hurry and I could work on other systems while all these installations occurred. I would guess the whole download and setup process took about three hours.

By the way, this system is QUIET!! 12 dB of total noise. 17 dB of total noise when under a load. My son, who’s ears are a WHOLE lot better than mine, could not hear the Mac Pro because the ambient noise in a very quiet office was louder than the computer. The cooling fan is efficient and quiet. And the amount of air coming out the cooling stack at the top is not enough to rustle loose sheets of paper — I checked.

On the same desk as the Mac Pro is a late 2012 27” iMac, which is the system I currently use for all my editing. All my media is stored on external Thunderbolt RAIDs, so moving media from one computer to the other was as easy as changing a cable connection.

NOTE: I’ve written about my iMac system configuration here and described editing on it, in this article.


Let me start by saying that the Mac Pro is a computer, it isn’t magic pixie dust. It is fast, but we are not talking miraculous super-powers that will save civilization as we know it. Sometimes expectations grow far past reality.

One of the KEY things you need to keep in mind is that video editing requires more than a computer. The computer is a component of an entire system. You could have the fastest computer in the world, but it if is connected to a USB 2 thumb drive you won’t be able to accomplish anything.

For me, the speed of the computer is secondary to the speed of the computer and storage working together. Storage bandwidth (the rate at which storage and the computer share data) is FAR more important than computer speed alone. To fully utilize the speed of the Mac Pro, you need to team it with storage that is equally fast. With that in mind, let me give you a perspective on just how fast the Mac Pro is.

Here’s the speed of the Mac Pro talking with a single FireWire 800 drive. (By the way, this drive used to be my main editing drive, as recently as a year ago.)

The Write speed, on the left, shows how fast you can record data on a hard drive. To help with the comparison, ProRes 422, when used for HD media, requires a data transfer rate (also called “bandwidth,” or “speed”) of about 18 MB/second. Write speed is most important for import, rendering and sharing.

The Read speed, on the right, shows how fast you can play back data from storage. Read speed is most important for editing, and especially for multicam editing.

This drive is fast enough for simple editing and playback of single stream HD media, but not multicam. And definitely not anything using larger frame sizes than 1080p. (These speeds are also fully adequate for editing standard-definition media.)

Here’s the speed of the Mac Pro talking with a Thunderbolt RAID connected to a server over a Gigabit Ethernet network. Better than a Firewire drive, but, essentially, only as fast a single hard drive internally attached to, say, an earlier Mac Pro. Not bad, but not good.

Here’s the speed of the Mac Pro talking with a 2-drive Thunderbolt RAID connected directly to the Mac Pro. Now we are starting to see some significant speed improvements in both write and read speeds. Direct attached storage is almost always better than attaching storage via a network.

Here’s the speed of the Mac Pro talking directly with its internal flash drive. Holy smokes! I have never measured speeds this fast — BUT, even this speed does not fully load a single Thunderbolt 1 pipe. The new Thunderbolt 2 protocol, which the Mac Pro also supports, is more than twice as fast as the internal flash drive.

All things being equal, I still recommend storing all media on external devices, for reasons of performance, portability, and expandability.


Solid State Drives (SSD), also called flash drives, are extremely good at playing back the same files over and over. This makes them ideal as boot drives, where they are playing back OS and application files over and over. I first noticed this performance boost with the iMac and its internal Fusion drive.

However, SSD drives lose their performance edge when they need to play constantly changing data – for example, all the different clips in our project. In this case, RAIDs have the performance edge; especially if the internal SSD is not very big.

An exception to this rule is multicam editing. Since multicam clips use the same media, but switch angles, you’ll have much faster performance copying the multicam source files to an internal SSD drive; assuming you have sufficient room on the drive.

For example, Apple told me that a multicam clip of 16 streams of 4K video plays seamlessly from the internal SSD drive. (I don’t have any way to test this, so I can’t verify that it is true, however, given what I know about SSD and normal hard drives, their statement makes sense to me.)


All this leads up to the main question: “What’s the value in using the Mac Pro for video editing?” And the answer is: “You spend a whole lot less time waiting around.”

Here’s what you NEED for video editing:

  • If you are editing standard definition video footage, any computer shipped within the last five years will be sufficient for the task.
  • If you are editing 1080p, 1080i, or 720p high-definition video footage, any currently shipping computer – most especially iMacs and MacBook Pros – will be sufficient.

NOTE: I was struck that the new Mac Pro took almost twice as long to startup as an iMac. I suspect this is due to the iMac only needing to check 16GB of RAM, while the Mac Pro was checking 32 GB.

In both these cases, the speed of your computer is far less important than the size and speed of your storage. And, in both these cases, you don’t NEED the new Mac Pro. But this misses the point. These computers satisfy the need to edit today’s video. The new Mac Pro satisfies the desire to be able to do far more and positions you for the future.

Editing with Final Cut Pro X 10.1 felt faster, smoother, “glossier.” (I have not yet installed Premiere Pro CC on this system, that’s on my list to do later this month.)

However, for all its speed, orange render bars did not disappear instantly, and there were several occasions where I got a dropped frame error when trying to play unrendered text titles composited into a four layer video project.

For editing pure video, the performance is stunning. But, as always, as we layer on effects, things can slow down. This simply proves that editing video is enormously challenging technically and, at some point, all computers reach their limits.

NOTE An excellent tool for monitoring your system is Utilities > Activity Monitor. I use this all the time to see how hard the CPUs are working, Memory (RAM) usage, disk data rates and network transfer speeds. I love this utility.

Here’s the CPU load playing back a four layer project in Final Cut Pro X 10.1. This involved two ProRes 4444 clips, plus a text composite and a Photoshop watermark. Each black column represents a single CPU core. The amount of blue, at the bottom, represent how hard that CPU is working. Let’s just say that in spite of the complexity of the project, if the CPUs were working any less, they’d be taking a nap.

However, other operations, such as sharing, use as many processors as you have available. Here, I’m exporting a ProRes 4444 project as a ProRes 4444 file to locally attached Thunderbolt 1 storage.

Everything I can do on the iMac, I can do on the Mac Pro – only faster, smoother, more fluidly and with less waiting. That’s what the word “performance” means. If your current computer can keep up with you, then you won’t see much benefit in the new Mac Pro.

If, on the other hand, you are constantly waiting for your computer, then the new Mac Pro will make you more productive by decreasing the amount of time you have to wait.

It all boils down to the question: “How much is your time worth?” The Mac Pro is designed to save you time. Lots and lots of time.


Since first writing this article, I’ve learned that the Mac Pro does not support hardware acceleration of video compression and several key video codecs, such as H.264, are not multi-threaded. This provides limits on how fast the Mac Pro will compress video. Here are two articles that explain this in more detail:


If money is no object, get a fully-loaded Mac Pro. It is fast, sleek, screams “high-tech,” and will give you bragging rights for at least a year. You’ll be spending more than you need to, but the money isn’t that important to you in the first place.

For the rest of us, who need to balance configuring the system with the money we have to spend, here’s how I suggest you configure your system. In this configuration, my recommendation is to spend money on those parts of the system that can’t be easily upgraded. While the CPU, and, perhaps, the GPUs are socketed, updating them also requires new software from Apple which may, or may not, be in the works. However, both RAM and the SSD drive can be easily updated.

If you are on a budget and only editing HD, or SD, video, the base level system is fine. On the other hand, a well-equipped iMac would deliver about the same performance and cost the same or less. In this case, I’d vote for the iMac, because it includes monitor, mouse and keyboard, all of which are extra on the Mac Pro.

For most of us that need a Mac Pro, we should step up to the bigger system, and I’d start with the 8-core processor. The faster clock speed improves video compression, and Final Cut Pro will still feel very sprightly with 8 cores. Editing performance will be the same as 12-cores, while the performance hit for rendering and exporting will be minimal.

16 GB of RAM is fine to start. I am always surprised at how well FCP X manages memory. If you need more, adding it from the after market is cheaper than buying Apple RAM, and easy to add; even for the ham-fisted.

The Mavericks operating system only requires 21 GB of storage. ALL the apps on my current Mac Pro, take less than 45 GB; and this includes the entire FCP 7 suite, all the Adobe CS6 and CC suites, and all Final Cut Pro X, Motion 5, and Compressor 4.1. Plus more utilities, plug-ins, and miscellaneous application files than I can count.

In other words, we don’t need a lot of storage for the OS, our apps and a reasonably sized Home directory. Since the flash storage can be upgraded later, and flash drives are continuing to come down in price, if you are on a budget, get the 256 GB drive. If you can afford the extra $300, get the 512 GB, though I would lean against it. I don’t see any advantage to the 1 TB drive, because we are ALWAYS better off storing media on external devices.

When it comes to GPUs, I recommend you buy the best. These are the real workhorses and the key advantage to the Mac Pro. Skimp everywhere else, but not here.

At the moment, I don’t need a monitor, mouse, or keyboard – all of which are easily available everywhere – because I own them already.

This brings the total price for this configuration to: $6,099. Another $400 gets you a bigger flash drive, mouse, and keyboard.

Here’s a copy of the final specs for my system. (Your needs may be different, but if you ask what I would recommend, this is it.)


Do we WANT this new computer? Absolutely.

Do we NEED this new computer? That is a much more complex question because there is such a fine line between need and desire.

  • If you have money to burn – the sheer beauty of the Mac Pro’s construction rivals a fine Swiss watch and will give you bragging rights for a long time into the future.
  • For the rest of us, though, cost is a factor. If money is tight, a well-outfitted iMac will edit standard-def and HD video easily – provided you have good, high-speed storage attached to the system.
  • If you are doing video compression, the hardware acceleration in the iMac beats the software compression in the Mac Pro. However, hardware acceleration does not yield the highest image quality, nor the smallest file sizes. If image quality and file size is more important, the speed of the Mac Pro easily beats that of a fully-loaded iMac.
  • If you are editing multicam projects, 4K or larger frame sizes, RAW files, or want to position yourself for the future, the Mac Pro is the system to get.

Not all software is updated to take full advantage of the dual-GPUs in the Mac Pro. As those updates become available, the Mac Pro will continue to increase in speed.

Finally, to fully take advantage of the speed of a Mac Pro, you also need to invest money in high-speed Thunderbolt storage to work with it. There is debate about whether media should be stored on the internal flash drive. For now, I am still recommending that media be stored on external RAIDs; though, if all you have is a single Thunderbolt drive, the internal flash drive will be far, far faster.

When my time with this unit is up, I will send it back to Apple, then, head over to the Mac Store and buy a new Mac Pro for myself. Do I really need it? Well, that’s debatable.

But do I want it? Oh, yeah!


91 Comments to “The New Mac Pro: Ridiculously Fast”
  1. Robin Harris says:

    Larry, Great overview. Very close to my own choices except that I do less compression and would probably choose a six core version.

    However, I am not aware of any add-on upgrade SSDs for any of the new Macs with PCI SSDs. Apple is leading the industry here and as far as I know there is no industry standard that they are adhering too. Given that MacBook Pros are much more popular they are more likely to get PCI SSD upgrades sooner than the Mac Pro.

    But I agree with you that it is smarter to spend the additional $800 that a 1 TB SSD costs on upgrading a Promise Thunderbolt array to 6 drives.

  2. Steve T says:

    Great read Larry.

    I’m still undecided on whether to get a 6core New Mac Pro and middle GPU or get a maxxed out iMac 2013?

    I’d be editing with the Thunderbolt drives on either (ssds or hdds using a Seagate adapter) and editing 1080p Dslr footage using Premiere ProCC and going to give FCPX 10.1 another go soon.

    Which would you go for? When you consider monitor etc there’s a good £1700 price difference! Is the maxxed iMac really good enough for painter DSLR editing?


    • Larry Jordan says:


      An iMac is certainly good enough for DSLR footage. Yes.


      • Steve T says:

        Great, thanks Larry. You may have just helped me save £1700 (well, until the ‘want’ overtakes the ‘need’ in a years time.) Thanks.

        Ps: I’m off to watch the FCPX training I bought from you… Let’s see if this 10.1 can tempt me back from PProCC (before the cheap entry price subscription ends)

  3. Steve T says:

    ^painfree DSLR editing? (smartphone typo!)

  4. Peter Weiler says:

    Excellent review, Larry. You have really clarified how to shop wisely for the new Mac Pro.

    I’m primarily doing weekly HD editing for my church on my 2010 Mac Pro (with FW 800 external storage.) My desire is to speed up the work. I would like to know what configuration of Thunderbolt storage makes sense for me with the new Mac Pro. I see the Drobo 5D is available at around $600. I believe it uses Thunderbolt 1. I have no experience with Thunderbolt nor RAIDs.

    Do you have any recommendations for currently available external storage products?

    • Larry Jordan says:


      Drobo is good, but there are better options. I’m attending the Storage Visions conference in Las Vegas in less than 2 weeks. I’ll have a better idea of the storage industry after I get back from that.


      • Raymond Oakes says:

        Hi Larry – I have reviewed all of these email threads and have learned a great deal. I am still curious as to what you might have discerned about storage from any conferences you have subsequently attended. I just purchased the six-core Mac Pro and will be following your advice regarding OS and apps on the internal storage and all else on external. I spent most of my budget on the Mac Pro so I can really only afford 300 – 400 $ for external storage. Can you recommend something? I am getting more involved with video editing. Also, what about a display model? Again, keeping a budget in mind. Thank you in advance for any information. Your site is great reading. Ray

        • Larry says:


          For that budget, you won’t get anything that begins to deliver data at the speed a MacPro can use it.

          The best option for ABOUT that price is a 2-drive G-RAID (RAID 0) from G-Technology connected via thunderbolt.

          To get real speed, you’d need to spend about double your budget.


  5. Frank T says:

    Larry, Great review thanks. The Apple Website states: “Highly multithreaded applications will perform best on processors with a higher core count, even with a slightly lower clock speed.” How does one know if their app is multithreaded or not? Is there a list?

    Thanks, Frank

  6. jgrem2000 says:

    Great stuff, Larry! Thanks

    My clients never shoot anything higher than some flavor of HD, editing in ProRes HQ. I’ve been working with FCP 7 on my MacBook Pro with Firewire 800 externals or at best, a Thunderbolt RAID set. However, one of my clients wants to start working with multi-cam projects and I wouldn’t mind positioning myself for the future. The way I see it, if I can take the time to save up for a new edit system, it might as well be for a Mac Pro rather than an iMac. Thoughts?

    Also, one of the most time-consuming parts of my job is rendering and outputting hi res QT files for clients. How much of a difference would I see in render and output times with the new Mac Pro, compared with my current 2.6 GHz processor and internal SATA disc?


  7. Steve says:

    I’m trying to make similar decisions. I have a 2008 Mac Pro but really want to move to Thunderbolt (or at very least USB3) drives to edit on (FCPX and Premiere Pro). There’s a hefty supplement to go 6 core Mac Pro, and from what I read it’ll not make much difference to actually editing time or smoothness, but the RENDER and OUTPUT times will be drastically reduced.

    I’d only every be looking at 6 core/D500 Mac Pro so just not sure HOW much better it’d be over a top end 2013 iMac?

    Whatever machine I buy, the old 2008 Mac pro will become an overnight compression machine (to convert ProRes masters to MPEG2 and HD mp4 client files) so I’m trying to convince myself the imac will be fine for day to day DSLR editing, and can still use the old MP for the compression stuff.

    There still is the feeling that I’d be “settling” if i went iMac of course… maybe that’s Apple’s great marketing as it appeals to the fact I consider myself a “pro” ;)

    It’s a really difficult decision!!

  8. Hakim Benkrid says:

    Hello Larry,
    Many thanks for your article that I was waiting for impatiently. I am a bit lost on what I should get for my hardware upgrade. At the moment, I have been using a 2010 version of a 27in iMac with i5 processor, 12GB Memory and connected via firewire 800 to a 4 TB G-Technology external hard drive. I edit with FCPX/Motion/Compressor and shoot 1080/24p with a Canon C100… I wait a lot for things to happen while editing… On top of faster processing time etc, I would like to move to color grading with Davinci Resolve which my computer’s configuration (GPU) cannot handle.
    I would love to if you may kindly suggest a Mac Pro configuration you see most fit to the needs I mentionned above.
    Many thanks

  9. Steve says:

    Oh and the other worry for me was how the iMacs are more “consumer” and therefore not designed for heavy load and prolonged use in the video editing world. Hearing things like them dying after a few months of heavy use, or the processors slowing down to protect themselves when overheating after a long render etc are a concern. Also the non ECC memory issue (although can’t recall ever having a problem before over the years with nonECC ram)

    Not sure how valid these comments are on various forums? Sorry to ask iMac questions on a post about he new Mac pro but it does seem there are a LOT of people (pro’s included – heck it’s still OUR money in the long run) trying to make a similar decision.

  10. John Putch says:


    I”ve ordered my Macpro. Here’s the config below.

    Mac Pro
    • 3.7GHz quad-core with 10MB of L3 cache
    • 32GB (4x8GB) of 1866MHz DDR3 ECC
    • 1TB PCIe-based flash storage
    • Dual AMD FirePro D500 GPUs with 3GB of GDDR5 VRAM each
    • User’s Guide (English)
    • Accessory Kit

    Topped out at 4400 and change.

  11. Benji says:

    Hey Larry, I really appreciate the review and the advice. I’m confused as to why always storing media on a non SSD device is a speed advantage, especially on the new MacPro. You seem to be saying that there are drastic latency issues involved in working with lots of different clips on an SSD that offset the gains you receive by the Mac Pro’s SSD’s blazingly fast speed. Also I thought SSDs were known for their instant seek times which would seem to help the editing experience as you are constantly jumping to different clips all around the drive.

    Can you load up a decently sized FCPX library onto the internal SSD and do some editing and see if there is any noticeable lag compared to your preferred external editing setup? Some observation as to whether or not you suffer a noticeable performance drop would be a big help because I pre-ordered a MacPro with the 1TB configuration and was planning on moving any projects to the internal SSD when possible and having this backup to my Drobo every night. This is what I do currently. My iMac has a 256GB internal SSD and I always move my current project to the SSD because of the performance gains. Even with the operating system also running on the drive my editing projects run way faster than they do off of my internal 7200rpm spinning disc 1TB drive.

    I also work with proxy files in FCPX on my SSD on my 2011 MacBook Air and as long as I don’t try processing any effects, performance is extremely snappy compared to working with them off of an external GRAID thunderbolt drive.

    Perhaps I notice this speed increase because I don’t use an external thunderbolt RAID device with more than two drives in it, so the read/write speeds on the GRAID I’ve used cap out at around 250MB/sec. Maybe investing in a Thunderbolt RAID tower would outperform the MacPro’s internal SSD, but would a simple dual drive thunderbolt external RAID really provide an editing benefit to the Mac Pro’s internal SSD?

    • Andrew says:

      I’m also interested in this claim of poor performance with editing directly from the internal SSD. Is there a way to measure performance with the internal SSD vs an external thunderbolt drive/RAID system with the nMP? How poor is the performance of accessing the constantly changing data vs. the unchanged files? I know there are a lot of variables, but is there any way to measure the kind of performance issues we might see in editing with the internal SSD?

      I was planning to upgrade the internal storage to 1TB to edit projects and use a Drobo 5D to act as storage/backup. Now I’m thinking of maintaining the 256GB storage for apps/games/misc and using that money I would have used to upgrade the flash to instead pay for something like the Promise Pegasus2 R4, which is about the same price.

      • Larry Jordan says:


        I am NOT! saying the internal drive has poor performance. I am saying that using external storage – specifically a RAID 5 – provides storage that is dedicated to media playback, can be easily expanded or moved from one computer to the next, and yields speeds equal to or faster than internal storage.


        • Benji says:

          Thanks for clarifying Larry, I think we were responding to this:
          “However, SSD drives lose their performance edge when they need to play constantly changing data – for example, all the different clips in our project. In this case, RAIDs have the performance edge”

          5 7200rpm drives in a RAID is still going to cap out at around 600GB/sec right? Does the Mac Pro’s SSD struggle to the point where you’re going to appreciate the Pegasus performance better or is the performance edge more about expandability and portability of the RAID?

          I’m thinking the question on whether to upgrade the SSD in the Mac Pro may be more about how big your average projects are. If most of most your projects exceed 600GB or so (I do a lot of compositing projects, so I don’t have any editing projects greater than a few hundred GB) you probably need some external speedy storage. I want the convenience of working with my current projects on the fast internal drive (but not if they suffer a noticeable amount of “SSD lag”, if that is even a thing). Also being able to have my user folder with my entire iPhoto library internal and my iTunes folder on the internal drive insures that my important stuff is all on the internal portable SSD, so it’s with me if I need to take the system somewhere.

          • Larry Jordan says:


            Good comments. I think for small projects you’ll be fine using the SSD because the projects are small and the bandwidth needs are minimal.

            However, if you ask what I recommend, I always recommend a second drive.


  12. Scot says:

    Hi Larry,
    I very much appreciate your efforts in getting this MacPro info out there. I have been struggling over what config to order on this thing since it was announced. I went with exactly the same machine Apple lent you a couple of hours before finding this article, so relieved to see real world tests on what I thought would be a good (albeit expensive) choice. I have been limping along with an early 2011 MBP that I installed a 512 SSD in for editing. I have two Promise Pegasus R6 RAIDs set at RAID 5 and a Thunderbolt Monitor. I am curious about the speeds you got in your tests with Thunderbolt RAIDS, because I am getting much faster speeds. BlackMagic Disk Speed tests shows my motherboard talks to my internal SSD at about 350 MB/s both read and write. But my Pegasus drives show much faster, very close to 500 MB/s read and write. I was astounded with the speeds you are getting off the MacPro to its SSD. I can’t wait to see how my Thunderbolt 1 drives perform. So, do you think they will be faster with my new MacPro, or the same?

    • Benji says:

      I think your thunderbolt drive speed will be the same. The only difference with the MacPro is that it has thunderbolt 2, however Thunderbolt 1 should be able to handle speeds faster than 500MB/sec anyway, so I’m guessing that is capping off there because it is the top speed of your external RAID setup. The MacPro’s SSD is so fast because it is a top of the line PCIe SSD as apposed to your macbook’s SSD which uses a SATA connection.

      Personally, I’d like to see results of an editing project run off of the Mac Pro’s internal SSD.

    • Larry Jordan says:


      I agree with Benji, your RAID speeds will be about the same, perhaps a bit faster with the Mac Pro, just due to a faster data bus.

      The reasons your speeds are faster is that RAID speeds are directly related to the number of drives contained in the RAID. The rough formula is 100 MB/second for each hard drive in a RAID. I have two drives in my RAID, so my speeds will be slower than the five drives you have in yours.


  13. John says:


    I posted this reply the other day:

    My clients never shoot anything higher than some flavor of HD, editing in ProRes HQ. I’ve been working with FCP 7 on my MacBook Pro with Firewire 800 externals or at best, a Thunderbolt RAID set. However, one of my clients wants to start working with multi-cam projects and I wouldn’t mind positioning myself for the future. The way I see it, if I can take the time to save up for a new edit system, it might as well be for a Mac Pro rather than an iMac. Thoughts?

    Also, one of the most time-consuming parts of my job is rendering and outputting hi res QT files for clients. How much of a difference would I see in render and output times with the new Mac Pro, compared with my current 2.6 GHz processor and internal SATA disc?

    Your advice would help a lot. Thanks for all you do!


    • Larry Jordan says:


      I haven’t had time to do these comparisons, yet. It is on my list for today.


      • Benji says:

        Sweet! It would also be awesome to know if the GPUs are utilized for h264 export from Compressor. One idea for a test would be to try to do an export of a pro-res file from Handbrake (which doesn’t use the GPUs) and a similar export from Compressor (which does use the GPUs, I think anyway).

  14. Sameer Ahmed says:

    Dear Larry,

    Thanks for your review and advice. I was wondering would a 6 core new Macpro handle 2K footage? or would an full iMac handle 2K footage. I think I understood that the 8 core would be great for 4K and above footage.
    Your thoughts please

  15. David Poland says:

    Hi -

    I output a 30 minute 1080p video from Final Cut every day. With a 2011 iMac, it takes about 2.5 – 3 hours to output. I’d like to cut into that time. Will the Mac Pro do this for me in a significant way?


    • Larry Jordan says:


      Yes, absolutely. BUT… what are you doing that a 30 minute video takes that long???

      I export 60 minutes shows from FCP X that export in about 10 minutes. Something else is not right for your exports to be that slow.

      HOWEVER, if you are running FCP 7, a new Mac Pro won’t do much for you, because FCP 7 is not programmed to take advantage of the hardware that the Mac Pro offers.


  16. David Poland says:

    Hi Larry –

    I am using a Mid-2011 imac with 16g of ram and Graphics AMD Radeon HD 6970M 1024 MB.

    Exporting in 1080p off of a G-Tech thunderbolt 8tb drive and onto the same drive.

    Not sure why it takes so long, but sped up significantly with the thunderbolt and mysteriously in October 2013.

    I’ve been doing this outputting for a long time, but am certainly in no way an expert on the equipment.

    If my output time was just an hour, I would probably not buy a more expensive system, but just add another iMac so I could output 2 at a time.


    • Larry says:


      First, reading and writing to the same drive will double you export time, because you are round-tripping to the same device.

      Also, if you are transcoding to a different format than your render files, things will take longer.

      Finally, I don’t understand the phrase: “with the thunderbolt and mysteriously in October” in your note – so it’s hard to answer that part.


      • David Poland says:

        I meant that there was a mysterious jump in performance in October or so… no real idea of why.

        Seems to me that all of your performance analysis leads to me not really needed more than a souped up 2012 iMac for what I am doing, which would be $3k less than the souped up mac pro and give me another workstation to boot (as I would probably have used the 2011 imac as the screen rather than spend another $900 on a new screen).

        Sound about right?


  17. alex says:

    Hi Larry,

    we’re about to order one of these babies and your opinion is always of high value in all matters fcpx to us. So here goes my question:
    We are editing excessively on fcpx for broadcast television in Europe. Motionvfx and other plugin sellers are our to go to guys when it comes to visual treats for our projects. some of these plugins can take up excessive render time in X.
    All our projects are in ProRes 1080i50 and some projects take up as 2 TB of data per week.

    My question is – how much value would the D700 GPU add in comparison to the D500. It’s another nice big chunk on the bill, 600 Euros or roughly 800-900 dollars for this little extra. In your article you mentioned to absolutely go for the highest GPU option. Is it really worth it?
    We are looking at the 8 core, 12gb ram (we buy 32 from crucial), 500 SSD and the D500 or D700…

    Your opinion would be much appreciated. Many thanks from Germany.

    • Larry Jordan says:


      Faster graphics cards SHOULD render much faster – especially given the visually complex templates that MotionVFX creates.

      However, I haven’t tested the 500 so I can’t say how much a difference it would make. If it were me and I was spending the money, I’d get the 700. However, cash is tight for all of us. You might ask the folks at MotionVFX if they have an opinion.

      The rest of your system looks great and, I suspect, you’ll be very happy if you get the 500s.


  18. wayne says:


    Can you please identify what specific functions hit their limits using an iMAC? That would help determined the need for an MAC PRO or not. Is it any 4k video editing? or mutlitple streams with effects? How much? Compression? What kinds? Importing? Exporting? Thanks

  19. GEORGE KACHEN says:

    Hi Larry,

    Thank you for your SUPER article. I am right in the middle of deciding between and iMac and the new Mac Pro. Because of cost considerations, I will probably go with the iMac; however, I am uncertain of what to do for the internal storage, i.e., 1TB Fusion drive or total 1TB Flash drive Given what you point out (importance of read/write when video editing), I would have thought that you would recommend flash drive and large–but that doesn’t seem to be the case in your article. Sorry, I am still a novice at video editing, but I intend to get FCPX for doing my life-time goal (just retired) of putting together a video book of my family using old (converted) 8mm no-sound film plus photos plus voice-over and music background. I am currenty a big user of Photoshop, so will want to take special effects from that and have them in my video. So I will never exceed HD 1080, hence i think the iMac is the answer, but I need advice on what to do for the storage. thanks very much,

    • Larry Jordan says:


      Always use external storage for your media. In this case, at least a 2-drive RAID.

      For me, the 1 TB Fusion drive has been an excellent choice.


      • GEORGE KACHEN says:

        Larry–thanks. So you are saying that with the external 2-Drive RAID, I don’t gain anything with 1TB flash over 1TB fusion? By The Way, any recommendations on best RAID storage devices to use with my new iMac?

        • Larry Jordan says:


          For most installations, the Flash included in the Fusion drive will be more than adequate for both the OS and your applications, at a fraction of the cost.


          • Fulvio says:

            Hello Larry!

            One thing i want to be sure about:
            Getting the Thunderbolt G-RAID 4 To as an external, would you chose:

            - fusion drive 3To?


            - 512 flash stckage?

            And why? I can’t exactly understand the diference and make my choice… I’m teacher at cinema school and editing 3 or 4 movies by year. My teacher recomended me sdd but i read good things about the fusion drive an apple also recomended it to me. You said 1To fusion drive works well for you but would you go to the 512 SSD if you had the choice? Thank you very much for the article it really helps me fot the rest of my choices!



  20. Frank T says:

    Has Apple begun shipping the MacPros? Mine’s been on order since January. They recently charged my credit card, so that’s a good sign, however, the shipping status is the same as it was from day one. Has anyone received any shipments?

  21. Lily says:

    Larry thank you for this article, it’s extremely useful.

    I am trying to decide between the 512GB PCIe-based flash storage [+ £240.00] and the Dual AMD FirePro D500 GPUs with 3GB of GDDR5 VRAM each [+ £320.00] upgrades.

    Which do you think is more useful for FCPX video editing?

    • Larry Jordan says:


      Always spend your money on the best graphics card you can afford. The boot drive should only store the operating system and all applications. Media should be stored on an external device. External storage will be a shade slower, but much more reliable and expandable than the internal flash drive.

      Also, the priorities for the flash drive are:
      1. The operating system
      2. All active applications
      3. All background applications and processes

      ONLY then, if there’s any spare time, will the internal hard disk be able to play media. Performance is highly variable and especially problematic when working with higher resolution or less-compressed video formats.


  22. Lily says:

    Thanks again.

    When you say store media on a second drive do you mean do not store media on the main hard drive at all? I usually use external HDs as back-up only and run all vid I’m using in the edit from the main HD.

  23. David Smith says:

    Hi Larry, I’m interested in upgrading from my 2007 iMac to the Mac Pro so that I can start converting all my analog VHS and 8mm home movies into digital format and burn them to blu ray, making two copies, one of which I’ll store in my safe deposit box to protect them for future generations. I’ve been using my iMac and Toast 11 to burn blu ray discs from my HD camcorder but the conversion from AVDHC to MP4 takes forever and it looks like the Mac Pro will exponentially reduce this. It takes me about 24 hours to burn one blu ray disk in the best setting. It looks like I should select 8 cores, the 700 graphics card, 16GB of memory (which I can upgrade later), and the 512 GB PCIe flash storage correct? I would also have the Final Cut Pro X pre-installed. I have the Roxio Easy VHS to DVD for Mac as the interface between the VHS and 8mm tape players and the Mac Pro. Your advice would be greatly appreciated.

    • Larry Jordan says:


      Yes, you’ll see a significant speed increase.

      Your specs look good. Add more RAM when you can. And buy the best / fastest GPU you can afford.


      • David Smith says:


        Thank you for your input. One last question, how much RAM would you suggest I add? I see OWC has up to 128GB available.


        • LarryJ says:


          I suggest a minimum of 16 GB. More if you can afford it.


          • David Smith says:

            Hi Larry,
            I’ve already ordered the Mac Pro with the 16GB of RAM but am looking to upgrade with what OWC has to offer. Do I want to got with as high as I can afford or is there a point that it’s just overkill?
            Thanks again,

  24. Lisa says:

    Hi Larry,

    I was hoping you could briefly tell us if you tried to install FCP 7 on the new Mac Pro (I’m considering the 6-core for investment in new software), and if it worked? I understand that Mavericks requires some workaround to install it, but I’m having trouble finding the answer to, specifically, the Mac Pro – FCP 7 compatibility in general. Thanks!

    • LarryJ says:


      There is NO! value to buying a Mac Pro to run FCP 7. FCP 7 does not take advantage of any of the advanced hardware, RAM, GPUs or operating systems the Mac Pro uses.

      If you need a new system AND you need to run FCP 7, buy an iMac.


      • Lisa says:

        Thank you. We’re considering it because I plan to migrate away from FCP 7 after this current project, which is on FCP 7 and struggling on my Mac Book 2010. It’s an indie feature and getting ridiculous that I’m using that machine for the whole thing. But to avoid buying a machine that is only optimized for our needs through the end of this year (I estimate), I’d like to know if installing FCP 7 will even work. Do you know?

  25. Marcus Mackay says:

    Hi Larry

    I read your review with great interest.

    I am self taught in FCPX and will be ordering some of your tutorials when I return from holiday (currently in Malcesine, Lake Garda Italy… It’s terrible!)

    So my issue is this, while I know I have a lot more to learn, I am increasingly frustrated with the performance of my current set up, a MBP i7 early 2011 with 8gb of ram and an external FW G technologies raid 0. The more complex the project, the more effects I add, the slower it gets. I edit in 4444 for watermarks etc at 1080p mostly using DSLR footage.

    So what would make a sensible upgrade in hardware and how much of an increase in performance would I see? As a side point I import and optimise my media as you prescribed in one of your great tutorials I found on YouTube.

    Finally can you recommend a set of your tutorials that will help me go back to the beginning with FCPX and move on from the bad habits I will no doubt have picked up on the way, so I can enjoy editing more, both as an add on to our Marketing & Consulting business, but also for the joy of it.

    Many thanks in advance


  26. Alex says:

    Hi Larry,
    I’m curious to hear your opinion – we just had the 6core D500 for 14 days and now have the 8core D700. Truth be told, the D700 make a big difference, BUT i have the feeling that the general responsiveness of FCPX, skimming and editing are feeling slower and sometimes have hiccups like on the last Macbook Pro. With the 6 core we never had a single hiccup anywhere. Also – rendering feels slower on the 8core, which is weird to be honest.
    By rendering in this case i talk about basic stuff like Burn transitions (mBurns from MotionVFX).
    I know these assumptions are not based on actual benchmark tests – but on real world testing on broadcast projects.
    All projects we work on are mixed footage from all kinds of sources, all kinds of codes in 1080i, thrown into fcpx without transcoding.

    I’m not sure if this is just my opinion of if you or others have made the same experience? Does the faster clock speed make a big difference after all between 6 and 8ores?

    Your feedback would be appreciated.

    Many thanks,

    • Alex says:

      I should add that for external storage we used a promise pegasusR2 with 12TB in both cases, so storage speed was not really the issue here.

    • Larry Jordan says:


      My guess is that “it depends” as I don’t have the ability to test every possible scenario.

      Some codecs require more horsepower for playback and editing than others. For that reason, I would not be surprised that some non-optimized files play differently. I would strongly suggest you continue testing while using optimized video. (One thing I like about optimization is that you don’t need to slow down your editing. You edit as soon as files are imported in camera native mode until the optimized files are complete. FCP X invisibly switches to optimized as each file is ready – therefore you don’t need to slow down or wait for the process to complete.)

      Some rendering may emphasize the GPUs while others may emphasize the CPU. I would contact the developer to see if they have opinions on optimum systems.


      • Alex says:

        Thanks Larry. I just checked, all footage actually is already optimised. Either way, i guess we’ll just have to keep testing.

        • Larry Jordan says:


          If all your footage is optimized, then I am REALLY surprised you are getting choppy playback. Even an iMac provides glossy smooth playback.

          Given that all I know is from your description, my first suspicion is that the plug-ins you are using are not optimized for the MacPro. I would start by contacting the developers and see what you can learn. Let us know what you find out.


          • Alex says:

            Larry, I should correct that. Blame it on my English.. I am not getting choppy playback, ever. What i meant, is that the responsiveness of fcpx feels slower than on the 6 core model. for tasks like skimming within the effects browser to test an effect.
            I did some very simple test renderings now only with FCPX own effects and will compare it to the 6core tomorrow.
            Contacted the developers of our plugins as well, to see if they support multicore/dual GPU.
            I’ll reply here with results.

            Thanks again Larry.

            Simply said – if i do not find a worthwhile improvement between the 6 and the 8core system – the D700 being an obvious choice though – then i’ll rather exchange the 8 for a 6 core and buy another thunderbolt display….

          • Alex says:

            Larry, i did some extended testing with the 6core D500 and the 8 core D700 by comparing render times. Basic effects added on top of each other on 8 minute long clips. with 1 or 2 effects applied, the 6core beat the 8 core by a few seconds. But, as we added more effects to the clip, the 8 core started taking over and became faster.
            I also tested adding effects and effects and effects and even more effects, to see how long it’ll take the 8 core to go down on its knees without rendering. I think i had about 20-25 effects from the effect browser applied to the clip and it still played flawlessly without rendering it.
            With the settings on ”better quality”, i could add about 10-15 effects, with ”better performance” it went up to 20-25 effects. Again – without rendering a single frame or losing a single frame during playback.
            My personal resumée – the 6core beats the 8 core in simple, basic HD editing. News editing if you want. Once things get more complicated, more effects, graphics, effects from external developers – the 8 core will start to shine impressively. I’m happy with my choice and we will keep the 8core as the our new centrepiece in our editing suite. Thanks again Larry, always a pleasure communicating with you here and hearing your advice.

  27. Sameer Ahmed says:

    Dear Larry,
    As the 6 core and 8 core arenot readily available in Bangkok, Thailand, im going for a 12core d700 graphics one with 16gb ram. will it bebetter than the 8 core , please im so confused about fcp x, cause i worked on fcpx on many machines and it performs very differently in them, some really slow, some fast that becomes slow, some extrememly frustrating. i need a smooth editing flow to create films. pls advice, i really appreciate your thoughts, yours

    • Larry Jordan says:


      Sigh… “Will it be better?” is almost impossible to answer. But, in general, yes. Each individual processor in the 12-core is a bit slower than in other versions. Which means if you are running older software which does not take advantage of multiple cores – a classic example is FCP 7 – then FCP 7 won’t perform as well on the 12-core as on a 6-core. Video compression is another area where cores will make a difference. I think you’ll find that the current version of Adobe Media Encoder runs far faster on the MacPro than Apple Compressor.

      However, most current software has been optimized for the Mac Pro in terms of cores and GPUs, so, with modern software you should get blazing performance.

      For FCP X, the 12-core with the D700 GPUs should be plenty fast. I would get as much RAM as you can – and 3rd-party RAM works fine and is much cheaper than Appple’s. I like RAM vendors such as OWC, Kingston and Crucial.

      The other key thing that will make a difference is optimizing your media – and using proxy files if you are editing multicam work.

      Basically, if you can afford it, the 12-core Mac Pro is an excellent choice.


  28. Sameer Ahmed says:

    Dear Larry

    Thanks for your excellent thorough and quick response. youve always been so dependable. thanks again. And Alex, im so curious about your amazing problem that the editing smoothness is better in 6core d500 than in 8core d700, is it the FCPX at fault?

  29. Naurej Alam says:

    Dear Lorry

    please suggest me how to use 3rd monitor for colour correction, broadcast check etc ?? is there any others hardware required like black magic and aja kona etc??

    i am using fcp7 with dual monitor via thunderbolt but this time i wand 3rd monitor for online purpose..

    also video got out of sync some times.. how i can fix it?

    i have Mac Pro Cylinder 12GB / 256 GB/ Firepro 2GB Graphics..


    • LarryJ says:


      Connect this:

      To a Thunderbolt port, then connect a video monitor – for example one from Flanders Scientific – to the T-tap.


      • Naurej Alam says:

        Dear Larry,
        Thanks for guidline. I heared about Aja kona t-tap but there no any audio out available. This is perfect for me as of it is gives me SDI & HDMI out. I am happy with it but the problem is that we need audio output too.

        Blackmagic UltraStudio mini monitor is the same as t tap. And it is very best in price but in this product the same problem like audio output happening.

        In india T Tap avaialble at 28000/- ($466) and Blackmagic ultra studio mini monitor avaialble at 11800/- ($200).

        Well please suggest me other product which have atleast 1 SDI output, 1 HDMI output and Audios output.


        • LarryJ says:


          It would be better and easier to use two devices: AJA or Blackmagic for the video and any USB-connected audio interface for the audio. Companies that I use here at the office are: Steenberg, Edirol, Presonus, and Focusrite. (Yup, I have a bunch of these.)


  30. Naurej Alam says:

    Dear Larry

    I have a problem on mac pro late 3013 model. i am trying to connect 3rd monitor via thunderbolt to HDMI mini display port, when i am connecting 3rd monitor suddenly my 1st monitor got no signal.. i am not able to use total 3 monitor at the same time. i am able to use only two monitor at the same time. please help me.

    • LarryJ says:


      If this is the new Mac Pro, my best advice is to contact Apple Support. Remember, one monitor per Thunderbolt port, try moving the monitor to different Thunderbolt ports on you MacPro and see if things work better.


      • Naurej Alam says:

        i was contact to apple support but still they are not able to solve my problem.. still my case on progress and apple support team trying to solve it..

  31. Marcus Mackay says:


    In the summer after reading this article and getting some sound advice, I bought a package of your FCPX tutorials which have been fantastic.

    I am now wanting some hardware advice as my 2011 MBP and GTech raid just rant fast enough, so I want to upgrade.

    I am currently editing 1080p work, sometimes multi cam for business to business corporate work, so using quite a few effects, filters, informatics, motion graphics etc. i can imagine using some 2.7k or 4k footage in the in the future so I can crop shots, pan across them etc. We are a small marketing agency in a remote corner of England, so we have fallen into doing basic productions out of necessity, but this will most likely only ever be a useful and fun sideline.

    So the question is do I go for a high spec, iMac 5k which is appealing for its screen which would no doubt be great for photography, but ultimately a technical dead end.

    Or do I go Mac Pro with a Thunderbolt Display to sit along side my NEC display?

    Now my issue here is will a 4 core be fast enough, or is 6 core and a better graphics card the answer? All the vreviews seem to either be of monster spec machines or quoting, for me, meaningless benchmarks.

    So insights on what will work best for my kind of work, and what will be good enough for now and the next few years would be great. Buying hardware has never felt like such a minefield.

    Many thanks in advance for your advice.


    PS. Stability is also important as the MBP doesn’t respond well to multi-tasking when editing, so I stu down all other apps and reboot to minimise issues which is not ideal.

  32. On Raymond Oaks comment on external storage, I can confirm that I am using a Raid 0 dual drive G Tech drive and it is fine for 1080p work.

    Thanks to various pieces of advice from Larry and others, I ended up with a 6 core Mac Pro which has been a real step up from my 2011 MacBook pro. I also got an LG 21:9 34 inch monitor LG 34UM95 which is a really useful shape for video and other work. At £640 in the UK it is not cheap, but the image quality is as good as an Apple Cinema display and you get a USB 3 hub. It is also great for putting together presentations as the screen size is exactly the same as a 27inch display height wise, but about 30% wider, so great for having a few windows open at once.

    So thanks again to Larry, Alex and others who helped me navigate through the technical side of things. The great thing is, with the technology performing well, you can forget about it and focus on making great imagery.


  33. Hey Larry,

    Been quietly following the blog for years. I was excited to find out that you respond to comments on even older posts like this one. I’ve read your articles regarding this Mac Pro, comparisons to the iMac, and the iMac 5K assessment. After perusing through a diverse list of Google results all responding to this “does my workflow demand an iMac or a Mac Pro” debate, I figured I’d suck it up and ask for some general feedback.You do an amazing job at objectively outlining the pros and cons in techniques and hardware. I’ll do my best to properly discern a response. I completely understand if you don’t have the time for it.

    Like many millenials, I’m creatively a generalist. I’ve been working full-time as a UX/UI designer at a creative agency with primarily Fortune-tier clients for the past 3 years. Over a year ago, I started bringing my personal hobby of video into that professional space for primarily 3-5 minute product and promotional videos. Since video work is infrequent, I use my own gear and invoice compensation from my company. I make additional revenue on the side as a YouTuber, where I make weekly syndicated content. It usually requires H.264 exports at the end of the day. 15-20 minute content.

    Here’s my deal:

    I like shooting and editing in 4K. Mostly for the purposes of exporting in 1080p at the end. The post-production freedom is analogous to my background in photography where I can start with an image that has more overhead than I’d need so that reframing, image stabilization, and punching in for close-ups is easier. Also degradation from effects are nullified. Nonetheless, I see a day where I will just use 4K from capture to export. I don’t edit Raw yet, but I plan on it. I also use a lot of Apple Motion-oriented (probably OpenCL-heavy) effects. Like 8 layers of videos and effects stacked in FCPX. I like and get hired for gaudy aesthetics with lots of light generators. This causes FCPX to crash and sometimes delete my timelines on my MBP. Hence, why I’m reaching out to you. I’m a big planner, so I’m never against the clock for fast export times. I can usually position myself to leave an export overnight. However, I spend so much time staring at background render bars. This brings me to 2 questions:

    1. Does the Mac Pro make sense for me over the new Retina iMac?
    2. If I purchased a 6-core, 32GB RAM, Dual D700 Mac Pro, would I truly be able to turn “Background Rendering” off and work on video in real-time. You mentioned Apple making a big deal out of that, but I’m curious to know if it actually rang true in your work.

    If it helps, my computer upgrade cycle has been locked at 4 years my entire life. I do miss just swapping parts like I did with my PC. Mac Pro enthusiasts seem to be preaching longevity with this device so maybe the cycle will be broken.

    • Larry Jordan says:


      Yes, given your description, I would absolutely recommend the Mac Pro for you.

      Could you turn background rendering off? For native 4K, yes. For eight layers of stacked effects, probably not. The Mac Pro is fast, but the more effects you layer on a clip, the harder it gets to play everything back in real time – especially for 4K images. That is a MASSIVE amount of data to be processed.

      Since you deliver effects heavy projects, at extremely high resolutions, I’d strongly suggest you get the Mac Pro.


      • Wow, that response was incredibly prompt. I sincerely appreciate it. That definitely clears up the weird fence I’ve been on for the past month or so. I had just one final crucial question dealing with the investment end of it all:

        When you assess your Mac Pro and it’s performance in relation to your workload now and in the future, in your experience, how long of a lifespan do you see it having in your office? I suppose my question is, does the investment in a Pro overrule the computer upgrade cycle someone might typically have with any other Mac (MBP, iMac) in order to keep up with competitive creative work?

        Is it at all accurate to say that the iMac shines with export times via QuickSync and the Mac Pro shines in the trenches of the timeline (within reason)?

        Thanks so much Larry. Your feedback means a lot.

        • Larry Jordan says:


          First, anything you buy today will be out-dated next year. That’s just life. However, you should be able to work with your Mac Pro – or any computer – for many years doing what it does now. One of my edit stations is an eight year old MacPro that I have running OS X 10.6.8 to create DVDs works great. I wouldn’t use it for FCP X, but I would use it for the purposes for which I initially bought it.

          In general, your Mac Pro will be faster than an iMac in virtually all instances.


  34. Marcus Mackay says:

    Thanks for the link to your site which pointed to a lot of useful reading.

    Thing is though, all the reviews and real world experience are for 8 and 12 core machines. Larry has indicated that 4 core is probably enough for 1080p, but I would really like to hear of real world experience of people editing in fcpx on a modestly spec 4 or 6 core machine.

    The reviews seem to say that a high spec machine can cope with complex heavy 4k workloads no problem, so will a more lowly machine be well up to the task of lots of 1080p and maybe some 4k input but 1080p output in the future?

    So how’s it going for those have such a machine?

  35. Alex says:

    Hi Marcus,

    we have tested all machines extensively, except the 12 core. If you are on a budget and 1080p is your limit, you will do just fine with the iMac i7 4gb graphics, there is not much of a difference between this machine and the 4 core mac pro. the 6 core mac pro with at least the d500 cards is a beast for 1080. it will swallow your project and render fast as hell. In fact, you don’t even need to render at all unless you use a ton of plugins. we have tested the 6 core adding around 15 effects to a single clip (standard fcpx effects) and were able to play them without rendering. So if you are on a middle budget, i’d recommend the 6 core with d500 (minimum) and 16 gb of ram do just fine. With that machine you should be future proof for a few years, no doubt. If the budget is tight, take the imac i7 4gb graphics. we use that as well for broadcast TV productions in 1080 and it is fast and reliable.

    after all this testing we use the 8core d700 as our main machine now, which is just an absolute dream for more complex projects. For simpler, news-style projects with moderate amounts of effects the 6 core was even a tick faster than the 8 core.

    Hope that helps,

  36. Marcus Mackay says:

    Alex, thanks for sharing your experience, sounds like the 6 core will be the way to go for me. I really appreciate the detail on how they behave and what they can cope with. “Fast as hell” sounds great for trying out different effects etc,




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