To say that there has been a great deal of talk about the upgrade limitations that Mac Pro 5.1 users are facing, could be the understatement of the century. However, let's get one thing very clear from the outset. I am not about to start trashing Apple computers just because I have chosen to make the switch to Windows for my main studio media computer. I am still using a MacBook Pro Laptop on stage or for DJing use. Even now I am creating this article on another MacBooks Pro which is my main office and "stuff" machine. I am still an Apple fanboy and I don't see that changing anytime soon. Right, so now that's out of the way, why have I made "The Switch"?
Over the last two years, with the help of my buddy Richard "Rich" Roger of WorkStation Pros I upgraded my Mid 2009 Mac Pro 4.1 to be a very powerful machine. It went from being a single quad core processor machine to having two 6 core processors with 48Gb of RAM and a super powerful graphics card. (You can find out more about this upgrades in other Pro Tools Expert feature videos). This machine runs Pro Tools perfectly well for 90% of the audio work, I do but I was finding it getting very sluggish when I am dealing with video productions, graphics and other heavy lifting jobs. Bless it, the machine is 8 years old and worked very hard during so I decided that the only real option left to me was a new machine and as we are well aware there are no new Apple Tower machines available so I made the what some people would call drastic choice to move over to "the dark side" and switch to a Windows Machine.
The HP Z840 Configured By WorkStation Pros.
Unlike Apple machines, there are millions of different companies making what we all refer to as a PC. However, there are not a million companies making what we could call Enterprise Level PCs. If I was going to swap to PC I was not going to pop down to the local "big box" warehouse and pick up something for a couple of hundred quid. I wanted a machine that will have the same build quality as my Mac Pro but with today's specification and the upgradeability. There are two serious options, Dell or Hewlett Packard (HP). Yes yes yes, I know I could have gone the self-build route but, only the serious end of the Dell and HP range are supported by Avid for use with Pro Tools and the HP Z840 would give me all the expandability I want in the machine right now and give me the best chance of being able to stay up to date in the future.
They say that power corrupts, so let's have it all. The HP Z840 chassis was a logical choice for me. It has 4 x 3.5" drive bays for my Audio, Video, Samples and Sound Libraries as well as six PCIe slots which I would fill with my 2x UAD-2 Octo cards, Avid HDX card, a 256Gb Flash storage card for the Windows OS and a Thunderbolt 2 card to allow my new machine to talk to the massive number of new audio and video interfaces that I have been and will continue to test for Pro Tools Expert.
The main processors are 2x 6 core (12C) 2.4Ghz Xeon E5 V3. Moving onto RAM, 64GB 2133Mhz ECC Reg Ram across 8 8GB sticks leaves 8 ram slots for future expansion.
We originally specified an Nvidia GTX1070 8GB GPU, but a new card has just come onto the market which would allow me to run up to 4 x 4K monitors so we swapped the graphics card to an AMD Radeon Pro WX 5100.
I added a couple of extras to aid my workflow and tidy things up a little. A 15 in 1 media card reader fits into once of the front bezel bays allowing me to easily bring in data from my video and DSLR cameras. Next, I added a 4 slot 2.5" hot-swap" drive bay to the second front bezel bay, taking the total amount of internal drives to 8. The rackmount kit will also help keep the studio tidy and this particular version allows the machine to pull out of the rack easily if you want to make changes or upgrades.
The new machine will, of course, run Windows 10 Pro 64bit with the WorkStation Pros app bundle, which includes backup utilities and little fixes to help a Mac boy switch to Windows.
In the next part of this series I will cover the installation and some of the issues that tried to put me off the switch to Windows.