An article over at FutureLooks.com has inspired me to create a PC DIY version of the Mac Pro in New Zealand dollars. The article talks about the new Mac Pro that was just released and is now shipping to end users (although at the time of writing, it appears that the earliest shipping time for the Mac Pro is February), and how we can try our best to recreate the Mac Pro, but in PC-compatible hardware.
This blog post will merely be touching on the prices on building a nearly similar version of the Mac Pro into a DIY PC version, and all the parts have been suggested by the author over at FutureLooks.com. The author has stated pretty clearly the reasoning behind choosing each and every single one of the parts, so be sure to check out his reasoning over here. He has also suggested some alternatives to the main build as well.
I guarantee you will be surprised at the cost difference so be sure to continue reading this article!
The parts that we will be using to build our equivalent or similar PC version of the new Mac Pro will either be the same as the FutureLooks post or slightly different, to accommodate the stock availability and pricing here in New Zealand. The parts will be sourced from the cheapest NZ retailer/online store at the time of writing, and will be in-stock. This will most likely be helped by the use of PriceSpy NZ or PriceMe.
The Challenge – Apple’s top-spec’d Mac Pro at $15,544
The top spec’d Mac Pro has the following hardware parts:
- 2.7GHz 12-core Intel Xeon processor
- 64GB DDR3 RAM
- 1TB flash storage
- Dual AMD FirePro D700 GPUs
Of course the price above includes labour and GST, but for the following PC version build, we will only be looking at the price of each part (which will include GST) and is in New Zealand dollars.
Case Enclosure and Power Supply
First up is the case enclosure to put all the parts in and the PSU (Power Supply). The one they have used is the Silverstone FT03 Fortress mATX and Strider Series power supply. One of the reasons they chose this enclosure was because it uses a “stack flow design”, which is similar to the “thermal design” of the Mac Pro and because it was originally named the “Trash Bin” because of its looks. The cost for the Silverstone FT03 Fortress costs around $255 and the Silverstone Strider ST85F-G Evolution 850W power supply costs around $260.
Because of the need to support higher core count processors a LGA2011 motherboard is needed. Plus for the motherboard to be able to fit inside the chosen enclosure case, a mATX board was needed, and so the Asus Rampage IV Gene motherboard was used. Unfortunately, this doesn’t support ECC memory and only has a maximum RAM size of 32GB. The other slightly bad side is connectivity – there is no Thunderbolt 2 nor is there WiFi or Bluetooth, but for the wireless connectivity, you could buy additional dongles which will set you back another $50-60.
The Asus motherboard cost will set you back approximately $500
The Intel Xeon E5-2697 V2 (Ivy Bridge-E part with over 12-cores with about a 130 watt Thermal Design Power (TDP – the maximum amount of heat dissipated by the CPU)) is probably the only part in this build that has the highest match to the Mac Pro CPU. They both have the Intel Xeon E5 CPU. Also, this CPU may not be compatible with the motherboard but on paper, it should as it supports the chip’s power requirements. The Intel Xeon E5-2697 V2 CPU will cost about $4100, and because it doesn’t ship with a cooler, they [FutureLooks] have popped in a NZXT Kraken X40 because it is apparently one of the “best all-in-one liquid coolers for its size/price.”
Because not a lot of retailers seem to have these in stock at the moment, the average price for this liquid cooler is around $175.
The best closest matched graphics card to the Mac Pro for PC are the AMD FirePro W9000 graphics cards. These beasts have 6GB of GDDR5 memory each and we’re gonna need two of them! The biggest cost for building this PC may well come from here! TWO of these AMD FirePro W9000 graphics cards will set you back a huge $11,600! Or if you want to go slightly lower and for nearly half the price you could grab some NVIDIA graphics cards instead… maybe some of these?
Since we can’t use registered memory on the said motherboards we can get the next bext thing – the Corsair Vengeance LP 32GB 240-Pin DDR3 1866 (4x8GB) (maximum supported by the motherboard) for $508.
Because we used our dual PCIe slots for dual graphics cards, we are now unable to get another PCIe slot for the SSD storage, therefore we will have to use SATA3. The storage they have used here are two 512GB Samsung SSDs but I have decided to just buy the 1TB version of the Samsung 840 Evo Series for around $955. This is a 2.5-inch SSD, and you could easily add another 2.5-inch drive in there if you wish.
So after calculating all our costs for the above components (not to forget the price of Windows 8.1 Pro which will add an additional $249 to costs), the grand total in NZD to build a similar version of the Mac Pro in PC-style is approximately: $18,657.
Now of course, this PC price also doesn’t include labour, so Apple have actually done a pretty good job here at keeping prices down! The “Apple Tax” isn’t so high after all for the Mac Pro! Plus, all the components and parts are thoroughly tested to work properly whereas we (and even FutureLooks) isn’t so sure if all the parts mentioned here are compatible with everything! Not to mention we couldn’t even find most of the components to match up to the Mac Pro i.e Thunderbolt 2 ports, dual Gigabit ethernet ports, double registered ECC memory, and that you simply can’t build a powerful workstation as small as the Mac Pro currently!
Now we could have bought components that would have made the PC version better value than the Mac Pro, and we could achieve that by buying the slightly lower version-ed NVIDIA graphics cards instead of the AMD ones (aforementioned), plus if we even eliminated trying to achieve the smallest form factor, lowered our CPU cores with overclock, we could even have a better valued PC that would run exceptionally smoothly for Windows applications, plus have Thunderbolt 2 ports!
I’m sure the more ‘professional’ PC professionals (or even the average Joe,) will be able to spend a bit of time configuring a PC to their own liking, without having to compare parts or components to the latest Apple computer.
Again, I’d like to say if you want more in-depth reasoning behind each and every one of these parts/components mentioned, please visit the original US-based post here.
This article was merely comparing parts and components from FutureLook’s configuration of a PC-style Mac Pro, in New Zealand dollars and to our “Apple Tax”.
What are your thoughts about the new Mac Pro? Would you be able to do a better configuration very similar to the Mac Pro in terms of a PC-style build?