Mac Pro with limited resources

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I am trying to keep buying a Mac Pro under $9000 with discount. I burned out my iMac from probably overheating with many days of rendering. If rendering models with high definition texture maps but little simulations is the goal, would it be best to upgrade the processor from 8 to 12 cores, expand RAM, or upgrade the graphics card to a Vega?
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What rendering engine? Mantra?


NOTE TO EVERYONE ELSE – Let's stick to the question please!
>>Kays
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Yes, mantra. Most of the renderings I do have fairly simple models but environmental lights with additional studio light setups and high definition textures. I do use other programs like davinci resolve, so I am trying to balance needs.

I regularly use over 80 software apps, including three which are windows only (via parallels) and don't wish to change operating systems at this time.
Edited by Island - Feb. 12, 2020 12:37:26
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A better graphics card won't help you with Mantra and 12 vs 8 cores is the difference between slow and a bit slower. IMO it makes sense here to invest in more RAM. Redshift on Mac will be an option at some point in the future so that may or may not change the equation for you.
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Thank you. So are you saying that the processor will be slow regardless? Would 16 core be appreciably faster for mantra rendering in the absence of fluids or complex simulations? Apple overcharges for RAM and that would be the easiest to upgrade at a later date, but I was thinking of 48 GB which is the minimum recommended by Avid.
Edited by Island - Feb. 12, 2020 15:13:55
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I suppose it's all relative. You're not doing much simulation you say, so for daily Houdini usage those processors will be absolutely fine. For rendering… I'm used to Redshift and VRay CUDA on dual-GPU setups, and going back to Mantra on a low core-count Xeon would be agonizing. But you may have different expectations. I doubt it will be worth upgrading the CPU to 16-core for whatever Apple are charging.

Can you configure the machine with minimum RAM and then just buy aftermarket memory right off the bat?
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For very large scenes (geom+textures), RAM limits can prevent your render from completing, while fewer cores won't - it'll just take a bit longer. mantra doesn't scale particularly well above 8 cores, so you'll see diminishing returns for 12, 16 cores.
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Buying the minimal RAM and upgrading yourself seems to be what everyone recommends.
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I am in a similar position. Need to have a good Mac for a lot of my other work and if it could render 3D reasonable ok I would never have to even think about windows or linux. Sadly I had to go the PC+nvidia+ redshift route to even be able to deliver projects last year. Waiting eagerly for those elusive Redshift and Octane releases before I invest in Mac Pro though. Accordning to rumors we are waiting for driver support in the upcoming 10.15.5 release.
If RS has at least similar perf as a 1080ti on a single R7/vega2 it would be ok I think but stability and features has also to be there.

Two alternatives that comes to mind:

1. What about running 3Delight or Renderman for software rendering? While not Mantra, still capable renderers. (and they scale a lot better as far as I understand + faster “first pixel” response.

2. You might be able to upgrade to a 28 core CPU aftermarket for about 4000. Linus Tech Tips did this

So in conclusion: If you need to invest now: go 12 or 16 cores + base GPU + your own aftermarket RAM upgrade.
12 and 16 cores have a lot better single core turbo so it would speed up other day to day tasks. Since no GPU renderers exist on the Mac right now that are useable, continue using mantra or test out renderman and 3delight.

I myself will wait until the RS release, then test it with some real scenes and compare it to my PC.
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filipw
1. What about running 3Delight or Renderman for software rendering? While not Mantra, still capable renderers. (and they scale a lot better as far as I understand + faster “first pixel” response.

For what it's worth, I'm finding 3Delight to be very promising. Development is happening fast and furious, with new beta updates every couple of days that bring substantial improvements – feels a bit like the early days of RS when they were really on top of things and extremely communicative.
>>Kays
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The reality for me is to run both Windows and MacOS. You don't have to switch. I have been a Mac user since the II (my first work desktop computer post a terminal and a share of a PDP-11) and a Macintosh Classic first home computer. I have an old iMac, MacBook Pro, and Air that I use when I can - and when they run out of steam I have a Windows box I built from a barebones kit. I admit I am not in your league of $9k to spend (this is a hobby not a profession) but the principle is the same. For your investment maybe you could get a new iMac, and a Windows box - and maybe some change for a beer or 3.
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Just to give a follow up: I purchased the 16 core version of the Mac Pro and render times with Mantra are in minutes rather than the hours it took before. I had to reinstall and activate 80+ applications that I use fairly regularly (most in graphics arts). The only issues were with Windows 10 on a Parallels partition. Windows got corrupted with an Office 2016 installation. Microsoft refused to reset activation on the office product, as they wanted me to move to Office 360. Then Windows itself lost internet access and could not be fixed. I deleted the virtual disk and created a new one and Microsoft would not activate Windows 10. I went through the usual troubleshooting and ended up with tech support five times with phone calls over 2 hours total to get this resolved. I now remember why I moved away from Windows. All the Mac side worked perfectly from the beginning.

I don't say this to imply that Apple is good and Microsoft is bad. I worked strictly on Windows computers all my professional career. I realize a Windows machine is more powerful and cheaper than an Apple system. But it is a breath of fresh air to have Apple's stability. Even when there are problems, a first aid or reboot fixes problems 99% of the time. In Windows, the solutions are time consuming and often incomplete. In the end, I am very happy with my purchase. If I only used Houdini, I understand why the Mac Pro is not ideal, but I am not in that category.
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Awesome….now go check out 3Delight if you want to get those renders down from minutes to seconds!!!

https://www.3delight.com [www.3delight.com]
>>Kays
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