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What Would It Cost To Build a Windows Version of the Pricey New Mac Pro? 804

Posted by samzenpus
from the on-the-cheap dept.
zacharye writes "The new Mac Pro is the most powerful and flexible computer Apple has ever created, and it's also extremely expensive — or is it? With a price tag that can climb up around $10,000, Apple's latest enterprise workhorse clearly isn't cheap. For businesses with a need for all that muscle, however, is that steep price justifiable or is there a premium 'Apple tax' that companies will have to pay? Shortly after the new Mac Pro was finally made available for purchase last week, one PC enthusiast set out to answer that question and in order to do so, he asked another one: How much would it cost to build a comparable Windows 8 machine?"
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What Would It Cost To Build a Windows Version of the Pricey New Mac Pro?

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  • People forget (Score:2, Insightful)

    by powerspike (729889)

    This is a business level product.

    While you can build one cheaper using DYI parts, however the time spent in wages, for souring the hardware, software and doing the software can add up very quickly

    .

    Then there is also support and maintenance - will having a custom built machine cost more in the long run?

    The more you spent on the machine - the bigger the margin for the DYI version - however at the end of the day - is the cost worth it for business?

    • This is a business level product.

      While you can build one cheaper using DYI parts, however the time spent in wages, for souring the hardware, software and doing the software can add up very quickly

      .

      Then there is also support and maintenance - will having a custom built machine cost more in the long run?

      The more you spent on the machine - the bigger the margin for the DYI version - however at the end of the day - is the cost worth it for business?

      That would hold true for a business level product.

      ... so if apple had a separate company manufacturing their parts, that argument might hold true.

    • Re:People forget (Score:5, Informative)

      by phantomfive (622387) on Thursday December 26, 2013 @11:21PM (#45793401) Journal

      While you can build one cheaper using DYI parts, however the time spent in wages, for souring the hardware, software and doing the software can add up very quickly

      Surprisingly, If you read the article, it wouldn't be cheaper using DYI parts. The main advantage you would get of using DYI parts, in this case, is upgradeability.

    • Re:People forget (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Voyager529 (1363959) <`voyager529' `at' `yahoo.com'> on Thursday December 26, 2013 @11:21PM (#45793403)

      This is a business level product.

      While you can build one cheaper using DYI parts, however the time spent in wages, for souring the hardware, software and doing the software can add up very quickly

      .
      Once you've got Windows and drivers installed, you're at a relatively even playing field. Whether you're installing Premiere or Final Cut, you're still stuck doing software installations no matter what you buy.

      Then there is also support and maintenance - will having a custom built machine cost more in the long run?

      The more you spent on the machine - the bigger the margin for the DYI version - however at the end of the day - is the cost worth it for business?

      The crux of the difference - and why the comparison is all but impossible to make - is the fact that you get to truly choose your parts, based on exactly what you need. Entry level Quadro card? $600 or so for one of them. Uncle-Sam-is-picking-up-the-tab model? $5,000 each, I think they support triple SLI.

      64GB of ECC RAM? For a handful of use cases, sure. for the vast majority of workstation work? 16 or 32GB can usually suffice, and saves a whole lot of coin.

      1TB of SSD? There's that...and then there's a quartet of 256GB SSDs with a spanned partition or RAID-0, possibly with another quartet of 3TByte SATA drives in a RAID5, the latter of which is possible with either no expenditure (depending on the motherboard), or limited expenditure (anywhere from an inexpensive host bus adapter to an IBM or Adaptec RAID controller), which still ends up being less expensive than having to get one of those Thunderbolt drive bay towers that cost twice the price of a half decent SATA RAID controller. Even without that, Thunderbolt drives made by LaCie are nearly double the price of internal Western Digital drives, and you'll still need to shell out $40-$60 for cables.

      Super skinny case? Yeah, that's Apple's thing. Cases of every possible shape and size, anywhere from cheap, flimsy aluminum, to completely transparent plexiglass to neon lights to almost fully soundproofed to half a dozen case fans to having room for 13 hard drives or half a dozen Blu-Ray burners? Apple will never have that number of options.

      The question of whether it's worth the cost really depends on what the business need is. If the business need is for cubic inches, then the Mac Pro is about the best desktop computing experience you're going to get per square inch. If any higher amount of storage is necessary, the pendulum quickly swings in favor of the PC route. If an optical drive is necessary (yes kids, there are video producers who still give DVDs or Blu-Ray discs to their clients), external drives are invariably more costly and slower than internal drives. If you've got something like a Presonus Firepod or any number of other Firewire peripherals (remember, Firewire was Apple's darling before Thunderbolt, so there's plenty of very expensive add-on gear that uses it), you're adding adapters for those on the Mac side, while plenty of PC motherboards still support it - and if they don't, a PCI(e) card that can support several pieces of hardware costs about the same as a single adapter from Apple.

      The way I ultimately figure it is this: If Apple's product, as it ships, fits the bill, get it. No sense in spending time and money for redundant work. If you're looking for even the slightest amount of hardware variation, or you need any meaningful amount of onboard storage, or you can part with just a little bit of performance or the ECCness of its RAM or a nice GeForce card will fit your needs...it's incredibly trivial to avoid parting with that kind of money.

      • Re:People forget (Score:4, Informative)

        by AmiMoJo (196126) * <{ten.3dlrow} {ta} {ojom}> on Friday December 27, 2013 @08:17AM (#45795223) Homepage

        I have noticed that Apple always picks parts carefully to make comparisons difficult or favour itself. If you relax the requirements slightly and just pick similar but not identical parts you can make huge savings.

        The D700 GPUs are a good example. They are similar to the W9000s you can buy but not identical. Comparing prices directly is therefore not possible, because we don't know in what way the D700 is different. Considering the cooling and power requirements of W9000 cards it seems unlikely that what the Mac has is identical.

        TFA is also making stupid choices. $50-75 for Bluetooth and wifi dongles? For about $30 you can have a BT4 dongle and 802.11ac card/dongle with top notch chipset and antennas. The motherboard he picked is stupid as well, not supporting the required 64GB RAM and being way overpriced.

  • $10199.99 (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Logger (9214) on Thursday December 26, 2013 @10:07PM (#45792931) Homepage

    Simple, add $199 for a copy of Windows, and you have an equivalent Apple machine, duh.

    • It's a multisocket machine. You have to buy a Windows Server license, not a desktop license.
  • Obvious Question (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 26, 2013 @10:10PM (#45792949)

    Why would you put Windows 8 on a work computer?

  • by MonkeyDancer (797523) on Thursday December 26, 2013 @10:14PM (#45792965)

    I bought my Mom a Mac Pro for Christmas.
    She says GMail runs so much faster now.

  • $11,530.54 (Score:5, Informative)

    by michaelmalak (91262) <michael@michaelmalak.com> on Thursday December 26, 2013 @10:16PM (#45792973) Homepage
    Site is starting to get Slashdotted.
  • by dirk (87083) <dirk@one.net> on Thursday December 26, 2013 @10:18PM (#45792989) Homepage

    The Mac tax has always been about the actual parts they use and that there are cheaper alternatives. For this comparison, they try to match the parts exactly. That of course is going to cost more because you are paying 3rd party markup prices while Apple is being direct from the manufacturer. The article even admits that you can buy things like a different video card that is equivalent for half the price. The question isn't if you can make the exact same system (or as close as possible) for cheaper but whether you can make an equivalent system for cheaper, and the answer to that is almost always yes.

    • by djrobxx (1095215)

      Yep, the Mac Pro pricing is mostly about the Intel Xeon tax. When the Mac Pro came out in 2006, the pricing was favorable compared to a Dell Precision workstation configured similarly. The problem is, unlike Dell, Apple's next step down is the Mac Mini if you want a standalone computer.

      • According to the article, the Intel Xeon is less than 1/3 of the cost; the dual video cards 2/3 of the cost.
    • by RyuuzakiTetsuya (195424) <taiki&cox,net> on Thursday December 26, 2013 @11:13PM (#45793323)

      You didn't read the article.

      The windows equivalents were MORE expensive.

      4 grand for the entry level box and 11.5k for the high end, versus 3k and 9.5k for the Apple machines.

      That's the surprise.

      • by AmiMoJo (196126) * <{ten.3dlrow} {ta} {ojom}> on Friday December 27, 2013 @08:26AM (#45795275) Homepage

        Except they are not equivalent at all. The GPU is similar but not the same. The motherboard choice is ridiculous, it doesn't support the required amount of RAM and is incredibly expensive. Despite that he started with a really, really, really expensive case and PSU so claimed he had "no choice". Either this is a deliberate attempt to get a particular answer or the guy just grabbed the first thing he found on Amazon and called it a day.

  • by raymorris (2726007) on Thursday December 26, 2013 @10:25PM (#45793007)

    They've speced a machine with half as much RAM, and the Mac has server grade ECC RAM. They've replaced PCIe storage with SATA. It's not a comparable machine. For a fair comparison, compare the Mac to a similarly speced HP server. Alternatively, at least spec the Mac lower to match, rather than maxing out everything.

    Also, the Mac includes little niceties, some of which the HP will match better. I have the Macbook Pro, not the newer Pro, but by way of analogy compare Apple's reversible magnetic power cable vs. everyone else's barrel plugs. Apple does a lot of little things better on their computers. (Unlike their iOS iPhone and iPad, which I wouldn't buy.)

    • by samkass (174571) on Thursday December 26, 2013 @10:36PM (#45793069) Homepage Journal

      The real comparison comes in how good the machine is at doing what you need it to do. If you're making a movie or doing serious sound editing, video editing, or modeling, this machine and the accompanying software is clearly top-tier, compared to trying to assemble a full workflow yourself that includes the hardware, software, and infrastructure integration. And the fact that you just order it off the shelf and it comes with everything and integrates with everything isn't really priced into this comparison.

      • by tk77 (1774336) on Thursday December 26, 2013 @11:06PM (#45793287)

        The real comparison comes in how good the machine is at doing what you need it to do. If you're making a movie or doing serious sound editing, video editing, or modeling, this machine and the accompanying software is clearly top-tier, compared to trying to assemble a full workflow yourself that includes the hardware, software, and infrastructure integration. And the fact that you just order it off the shelf and it comes with everything and integrates with everything isn't really priced into this comparison.

        This is exactly what people seem to not understand. Not to mention trying to get support when your custom built system starts to have issues (blue screening due to drivers, hardware incompatibilities, etc.. ). When you have a project due for a client and some key piece of software starts crashing, or crashing the machine, the last thing you want to have to deal with are the numerous vendors playing the blame game.

        Granted, not all software will be fully tweaked off the bat with the new mac pro, but its a system that no doubt the big players (The Foundry, Autodesk, Maxon, Avid, Adobe, etc) will target for testing and make sure their software works and takes advantage of as much of the hardware as is possible. As opposed to testing on randomly built DIY solutions.

        For the price, how can you really beat a high end system thats custom built (down to the pcb level), using mostly off the shelf stuff (just assembled in a way thats not convenient to the DIY/tinkerer), supported by a single company, and is / will be used in testing by the actual companies that write the software you want to run on it?

    • by broken_chaos (1188549) on Thursday December 26, 2013 @10:50PM (#45793169)

      Unfortunately Apple has a tendency to do weird, non-standard, undocumented things with their hardware configuration, or else I'd be using an Apple laptop myself (without OSX).

      See the stuff surrounding the Thunderbolt connector under Linux for an example -- despite, ostensibly, being a standard Thunderbolt port, the Linux implementation doesn't quite work properly with Apple's hardware (hotplug doesn't work, and the OS doesn't even see the Thunderbolt port unless something was plugged in at boot), but works perfectly with the reference Intel hardware. Not to mention their exclusive use of Broadcom wireless cards, the most difficult cards to work with in general (no supported open source drivers unlike the other big two, Atheros and Intel).

  • by JDG1980 (2438906) on Thursday December 26, 2013 @10:57PM (#45793235)

    If you were willing to budge on the form factor, shop for bargains, and substitute various components (such as a Quadro card instead of the FirePro, as suggested in the article), then you probably could build a comparable DIY system cheaper. But people who buy the Mac Pro really don't care about that. Businesses, in case you haven't noticed, tend not to go with DIY systems for the most part. They prefer having them purpose-built by OEMs. This system is aimed squarely at businesses in the creative sector: graphics design, modeling, rendering, and so forth. (Presumably a lot of them will be dual-booting with Windows 7.)

    You'd be hard-pressed to build a system that has this much power at the same low noise levels (remember, you've got two graphics cards with about a 200W TDP each, plus a powerful Xeon CPU). You might be able to pull it off with the right case (most likely a Silverstone FT02 or FT04) and some careful use of fan controllers, but this would be a lot bigger than the Mac Pro, and you'd likely need to keep it under your desk instead of on top. No DIY system is going to match the Mac Pro's combination of high power, very low noise, tiny footprint, and excellent fit-and-finish. It just isn't possible within the limitations of the standard form factors of DIY parts.

  • by wannabe (90895) on Thursday December 26, 2013 @11:01PM (#45793249)

    Let's let grandpa tell you kids a story since the Apple bashing has reached a bit of a frenzy lately with the introduction of a professional-grade computer.

    First things first. This is not a computer that little Billy is buying so he can run the latest warez torrent of today's game du jour. This is also not a computer that dad is buying for the family to sit in the living room and run quickbooks on. No, your average neck beard is probably not looking to max one of these out so he can whip up the the latest build of the development branch of his custom linux kernel.

    This computer is a business computer. It is designed and offered at a price range that will appeal to a customer who uses the computer to make money. No, not some bit coin mining operation, but real tangible money. These are designed for professionals who bill out to real paying customers for between $200 and $800 per hour. Yes, you heard that right. In the grown up world, highly productive and effective professionals bill their clients real money. When people grow up and begin to afford products like this, they are not wearing skinny jeans and sitting in Starbucks trying to look cool on a financed Macbook.

    So, this is a $10,000 computer. So what? For a business purchase, let's evaluate this whole thing.

    This is a computer that based on its speed and performance may allow that professional mentioned above to be 1.5 - 3 times more productive. That means more money. At $200 per hour, that's only 50 hours to recoup the cost. That's one billable week. It's a drop in the bucket. One client engagement. But wait, there's more

    You see, in the business world, there's also this neat thing called depreciation of assets. It's an accounting thing. I know, I know, they aren't elite computer dudes, but the accountants do stuff with numbers and things like that. Anyway, in a basic system, the business that buys the computer gets to take the money spent off their taxes based on certain formulas. One way they do this is taking the acquisition price minus the residual value at the end of the effective lifespan (5 years) and then take the total left and divide it across the total period. Say the company buys a $10,000 computer and estimates it will be worth $1000 in 5 years time, it then takes the remaining $9000 and divides it by 5 years, which gives $1800 per year. The company can then take $1800 each year as depreciation expense on the asset. (Disclaimer for those with some accounting background, this is straight-line depreciation and there are other allowable forms that handle things different)

    This means that not only does the company get to reap the rewards of more productivity but they also get to reduce their tax liability on the money they earn from it. I know, evil capitalists are keeping the man down by denying tax money. However, this is how the world works.

    That is why a company will happily spend $10,000 on a high end Apple computer that some of you can't wrap your head around.

    But, can't it be done cheaper by building it themselves? Probably yes. Although TFA was a non starter in that regard. Here's a hint for you just beginning your career. Business does not care that you can twist a screwdriver and put something together off newegg. Apple, for the money, provides someone that will happily offer mature support and a one-stop shop to handle repairs and other needs. Yes, the genius bar is not perfect nor is it what is usually considered enterprise level support (believe me, I do know the difference). But, it's a good option.

    Move past the point that things are upgradeable or hackable or DIY or whatever. These things are productivity appliances. They are like the big screen televisions in the conference rooms or the phone systems. If something breaks, it gets fixed or swapped out by the vendor. It's cost effective and gives management someone to yell at when things go south.

    So, y'all can continue to bash the product. You can happily laugh with derision at Apple while

    • by spasm (79260) on Friday December 27, 2013 @12:34AM (#45793719) Homepage

      You don't even have to make $200+ an hour. I'm a researcher. Divide my annual salary up by hour and I barely make $50 an hour. But the actual research I do gets funded by grants, which run at about $250k per project year. In those grant applications, I allocate money for computers, and those computers are chosen 100% on their fit for the job, and $10k for a single laptop in the context of a three year $1.5 million grant isn't even an individual line item. 'Fit for the job' is basically 'does it run the software I need/write' followed by 'lowest downtime' followed by 'make my staff the happiest'. Which five years ago meant macs for data collection in the field, and linux on whatever hardware was most appropriate for everything else. Now it means android tablets for the field, and linux on whatever hardware is most appropriate for everything else. If the software I needed only ran on windows I'd buy that too, but the handful of times I've used windows-only software in the last decade the tech support issues have tripled so I avoid it where possible because you lose so much time, and in my field it's become extremely rare to find the only software that does the job you need only runs on windows.

  • Cost for a diy (Score:5, Informative)

    by Megor1 (621918) on Thursday December 26, 2013 @11:43PM (#45793505) Homepage
    Here is a breakdown of diy.

    Cpu :Intel Xeon E5-2697 v2 12 core - $2,524.00
    Motherboard: ASUS Z9PA-U8 - $277.99
    64GB 16x4 (4 slots still free) - $720
    PCIe ssd :480 GB - $1007
    Power supply 1500 Watt - $374
    Case: $274
    Video cards: ??? not currently available

    Total: $5,176
    Apple with similar specs: $7,899
    So that leaves $2,723 for video cards, I can't find any suggested prices on the D500 or D700, except that Apple charges $300 per card to upgrade from D500 to D700.

    Of course if you wanted 12 cores you could save a bundle and just get a dual socket board and 2 6 core cpus. Also the MB supports a lot more ram etc, but is a lot bigger.

    Sources:

    CPU: http://www.compsource.com/ttechnote.asp?part_no=BX80635E52697V2&vid=211&src=14 [compsource.com]
    MB: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16813131915 [newegg.com]
    RAM: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16820147307 [newegg.com]
    HDD: http://www.amazon.com/OCZ-Technology-Drive-Series-Express/dp/B0058RECOU/ref=sr_1_9?ie=UTF8&qid=1388118274&sr=8-9 [amazon.com]
    PSU: http://www.amazon.com/SILVERSTONE-ST1500-CrossFire-Certified-Modular/dp/B002BH3Z84/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1388118413&sr=8-2&keywords=1500watt+power+supply [amazon.com]
    Case: http://www.amazon.com/Corsair-Obsidian-Series-Performance-CC-9011035-WW/dp/B00EB6O4N8/ref=sr_1_1?srs=2529199011&ie=UTF8&qid=1388118511&sr=8-1 [amazon.com]
  • by john_uy (187459) on Thursday December 26, 2013 @11:52PM (#45793545)

    Recently, we built a Supermicro Workstation 7047GR-TRF configuration. I am revising the system configuration to update the parts to get a comparable overview:
    Supermicro Workstation 5037A-i - $580
    Xeon E5-2643 v2 (fastest available) - $1552
    Memory (4GB/ECC/DDR3-1866 x 4) - $240
    Firepro W8000 (x2) - $2560
    Intel SSD 910 400GB - $2000
    Windows 8.1 Pro - $140
    Others Accessories - $100
    Total - $7,172
    The base system will be pretty much high vs the $3,999 cost

    In another comparison
    Supermicro Workstation 5037A-i - $580
    Xeon E5-2697 v2 - $2750
    Memory (16GB/ECC/DDR3-1866 x 4) - $840
    Firepro W9000 (x2) - $6800
    Intel SSD 910 800GB - $4000
    Windows 8.1 Pro - $140
    Others Accessories - $100
    Total - $15210
    The configured system is still pretty high compared to $9599 from Apple pricing

    Although specifications cannot be matched one is to one, I believe that the Windows workstation can be reduced in pricing by changing the Intel PCIe SSD and GPU to avoid using the top of the line products.

    For example, using the following
    Supermicro Workstation 5037A-i - $580
    Xeon E5-2697 v2 - $2750
    Memory (16GB/ECC/DDR3-1866 x 4) - $840
    Quadro K5000 (x2) - $3200
    Intel SSD DC S3700 200GB - $500
    Windows 8.1 Pro - $140
    Others Accessories - $100
    Total - $8110
    The configured Mac Pro is $8119 for the 256GB Storage and Dual D500.

    So I guess the configuration will depend on the system.

    For us though, we have found a more cost efficient alternative by buying a Supermicro 7047GR-TRF dual Intel Xeon socket and not using the top of the line for everything. But we are able to achieve 12 cores 2GHz, 64GB RAM, Nvidia K4000 for Display, Dual GTX680 GPU for compute, 8Gb FC Celerity HBA for around $5,000.00.

    It will really depend on the applications to be used at the end. For us though, most of the applications are available in Windows and Linux configurations will limited Mac exclusivity so the PC solution is economical for us.

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