When I started working from home, I decided to get back to my Mac roots and I picked up one of the new 15-inch MacBook Pros. But even with the max 2GB of RAM in that machine, it was less than adequate for doing .NET development in a Windows Environment. No matter how many tricks and tips I tried, I really felt my productivity was suffering.
Last fall, I decided it was time for a new machine. Since I was working from home and I wasn’t as mobile as I used to be, I decided that a desktop was more bang for my buck. However, the desktop options from Apple are pretty limited. At the low end was a pretty underpowered Mac Mini that couldn’t power multiple monitors. Then came the iMac, which also couldn’t power multiple monitors and had almost zero upgradability. That left one machine:
So I made the leap. and what a leap it was. Here are the out of box specs for the LOW END Mac Pro that I picked up:
- 2x Dual Core Xeons 2.66Ghz
- 1GB ECC DDR PC2-5300 RAM
- 250GB SATA-II Internal HD
- NVIDIA 7300 GT w/ 1 Dual Link DVI port and 1 Single Link DVI port
- 2 x Gigabit ethernet NICs
- Host of USB, Firewire and Optical Audio ports
On top of that I added another 4GB of RAM ( for 5GB total ). For storage, I added 2 x 400GB SATA-II drives and another 250 SATA-II drive, bringing the storage total to 1.3 TB. I also picked up another 22-inch monitor bringing my total to 2 x 22-inch monitors.
The result is one screaming fast machine. Not that I needed all that for my computing, but once you get locked into a serious computer collection, the tendency is to push it as far as you can.
After working w/ it for about 8 months, I can honestly say it’s one of the fastest machines I’ve ever used. I run a full screen Windows XP instance on one monitor for my day-to-day development. The other monitor houses my standard apps ( IM, Mail, IRC client, etc… ) that are all mac apps. The only thing i run in my XP instance is SQL Server 2005, Visual Studio 2008 and IIS. Everything else is run inside OS X.
Not sure if I’ll upgrade it anymore going forward. I mean, the box can take up to 16 GB of RAM, but that seems like an overkill. Right now I get all of the power I could ever want and all of the stability of OS X. Who could ask for more?
The real fun part of this setup is keeping my desktop, whom I have dubbed ‘Big Mac’, in sync w/ my existing MacBook Pro ( ‘Lil Book’ of course ). That’s handled mostly by my
.Mac MobileMe account. It keep track of my bookmarks, files, contacts, calendars and email. I’ll write some more about how I handle backups on BigMac in the future. For now, if you’re in the market for a big old desktop, give the new Mac Pros a look.