6

2013 Mac Pro RAM Upgrade Benchmarks: Apple vs. Crucial vs. OWC

Posted by Jim Tanous on March 24, 2014
2013 Mac Pro RAM Upgrade Crucial OWC

When Apple released its flagship Mac Pro redesign late last year, professionals rushed to place their orders. With a sleek new design, powerful components, and updated software, the new Mac Pro promises to significantly improve power user and professional workflows. But if there’s one area where the Mac Pro could use an upgrade, it’s RAM.

The 2013 Mac Pro’s small chassis limits the user to only four RAM slots, supporting an official maximum of 64GB of memory (several manufacturers have recently announced 32GB DIMMs, enabling up to 128GB of RAM, although we have yet to test this configuration). This limit is a step down from the previous Mac Pro design, which supported eight RAM slots, for up to 128GB at current memory densities. This means that many purchasers of the new Mac Pro will want to maximize the available slots and upgrade their system’s memory from the 12 or 16GB capacities found on the Mac Pro’s standard configurations.

2013 Mac Pro RAM Upgrade 64GB

Since the 2013 Mac Pro’s launch, several companies have announced third party RAM upgrades and we decided to put two of the best-known brands to the test. Today, we’ll be looking at 64GB Mac Pro RAM upgrades from Other World Computing (OWC) and Crucial to find out what advantages they have over the stock Apple RAM (and each other) in terms of performance and value.

Testing Hardware & Methodology

The 2013 Mac Pro RAM tests were performed on the 3.5 GHz 6-core model, with two D500 GPUs, the standard 256GB SSD, and stock 16GB of RAM. For the tests, we performed a clean install of OS X 10.9.2 and disabled any unnecessary apps and services.

Our testing software is Primate Labs’ Geekbench, version 3.1.3. For each RAM configuration, the tests were run three times and the results were averaged to provide the data in the charts below.

RAM Specifications & Installation

The stock Apple RAM arrives as four 4GB DIMMs, rated at PC3–14900 (1866 MHz). The memory is sourced from SK Hynix, a longtime Apple supplier.

2013 Mac Pro RAM Upgrade Crucial OWC

From the top, a Crucial, Other World Computing, and Apple DIMM for the 2013 Mac Pro.

At the 64GB capacity, both the Crucial and OWC RAM upgrades maintain the same PC3–14900 rating, and both sets are configured as four 16GB DIMMs. OWC’s memory is also sourced from SK Hynix, while Crucial relies on parent company Micron.

The Crucial memory arrives alone, but OWC throws in a nice extra in the form of a tool that helps release the Mac Pro’s RAM slots. As described by Apple Support Document HT6054, the user must press a RAM bay release lever to enable the slots to swing outward for access. But as noted by OWC, and verified by our own experimentation, this release lever is alarmingly easy to bend while applying force.

2013 Mac Pro RAM Upgrade OWC Spudger

The “spudger” included in the Other World Computing kit allows for easy release of the RAM lever.

To solve this, OWC includes a “spudger” with which the user can easily lift up the RAM bay lever to release it. This method is easier, safer, and a great example of the way that OWC goes out of its way to make sure customers have the resources they need for hardware upgrades.

Referencing the above-mentioned Apple Support Document, 2013 Mac Pro RAM upgrades are fairly simple. Just note that with the Mac Pro’s cover removed, capacitors and other sensitive components are exposed on the cylindrical chassis. Make sure that when you are installing or removing DIMMs that your opposite hand is positioned safely for leverage, so that you don’t accidentally damage any components.

Benchmarks

The value of more RAM is obvious, so both the OWC and Crucial kits are important upgrades for power users. But we’re also interested to see if there’s any performance benefit to having more RAM and, as you’ll see below, the answer in this case is ‘yes.’

The Geekbench memory test performs a number of benchmarks on RAM bandwidth, and measures results in both single- and multi-core configurations.

2013 Mac Pro RAM Upgrade Benchmarks Single-Core

Looking first at single-core results, we see that both the Crucial and OWC RAM kits provide a slight bump in performance over the stock Apple RAM of between 3 and 5 percent, with Crucial slightly ahead of OWC.

2013 Mac Pro RAM Upgrade Benchmarks Multi-Core

Moving to multi-core results, the improvement in memory bandwidth is more noticeable, with an advantage of between 9 and 16 percent, depending on the test. Here, the roles reverse from the single-core tests, and the OWC RAM enjoys a slight lead over Crucial.

The memory bandwidth improvement in multi-core scenarios is clear, although most workflows would be hard-pressed to realize the smaller difference revealed by the single-core tests. Still, considering that the 64GB RAM upgrade provides a huge benefit just in terms of capacity, any improvement in bandwidth is a nice bonus.

Value

If you need the power of the 2013 Mac Pro, you’ll also likely need more RAM than Apple provides in its standard configurations. But what’s the best way to acquire that additional RAM? We’ll attempt to address the value proposition in the following table. Note that Apple charges different amounts to upgrade to 64GB of RAM depending on the base configuration of 12 or 16GB. Therefore, both are included. Also note that Crucial does not currently sell a single 64GB kit for the Mac Pro, but instead a 32GB (16GBx2) kit. As a result, Crucial’s entry in the table represents two 32GB kits.

RAM Option Price Cost Per GB
Apple 64GB (12GB Upgrade) $1,300 $20.31
Apple 64GB (16GB Upgrade) $1,200 $18.75
Other World Computing 64GB* $829 $12.95
Crucial 64GB $840 $13.12

*Update: when we first published this article, OWC’s kit was priced at $849. Today, the company lowered the price to $829, and the chart above has been updated accordingly.

As you can see, there is a clear cost advantage to third party RAM, with a maximum potential savings of about $460 over the stock Apple upgrade. Further, users purchasing third party memory get to keep the existing 12 or 16GB kit that shipped with the Mac Pro. While the market for reselling this memory may currently be small, an extra set of DIMMs could still come in handy for troubleshooting or future upgrades.

Conclusions

There are certainly several uses for the 2013 Mac Pro which can take advantage of the system’s CPU and GPUs without heavily taxing the RAM. But, as mentioned above, most consumers who purchase a Mac Pro will need to upgrade their RAM. With a simple installation process and huge cost savings, going with a reliable third party is a no-brainer.

Both Crucial and OWC are excellent companies with a strong history of quality and reliability. With similar prices and performance, those looking for a 2013 Mac Pro RAM upgrade can’t go wrong with either, and we recommend that you go for whichever kit you can find cheapest. Assuming that prices remain tight, however, we’d have to tip the scales in favor of OWC. The company’s thoughtful inclusion of the spudger for the RAM release lever, and its outstanding customer service, make the $9 premium over Crucial almost meaningless (see the update above about the recent price drop on the OWC Memory). Either way, though, your Mac Pro will thank you for the extra memory, and some workflows will enjoy a nice performance boost.

The OWC ($849 $829) and Crucial memory kits are both available now (remember that you’ll need to buy two 32GB Crucial kits at $420 each). As we mentioned at the start of this article, several companies have introduced 32GB DIMMs, allowing RAM configurations of 96 and 128GB. The downside, however, is that these denser modules are only rated for PC3–10600 (1333 MHz). This should translate to lower memory bandwidth but we’re still waiting to test this configuration here at TekRevue. We’ll update this article once we know more.

6 thoughts on “2013 Mac Pro RAM Upgrade Benchmarks: Apple vs. Crucial vs. OWC”

Wojciech Bednarski says:
I’m late to the party by a few years, but I’d like to point out two important things:
– you are comparing RAM with different capacities
– you are comparing different types of RAM

Apple’s 12GB, 16GB and 32GB stock sticks of RAM are a different type than their 64GB sticks.

Not sure if above have an impact on your 9 to 16% increases in performance. But it may have. In other words, by looking at the results, we still know nothing.

Reply
Joe says:
Intersting read, thanks for the tests. But is it fair to do the test on Crucial 64GB and Apple only on 16GB RAM test?
Reply
TekRevue says:
Hi Joe,

There may be a performance difference when it comes to the overall density of a RAM module (i.e., comparing Apple’s 4GB DIMMs to the 16GB DIMMs from the third party companies), but the most important factor is the memory speed, which was the same for all three tests.

If the point of this article was to compare the speed of Apple’s 64GB kit to third parties, it would have been good to test that configuration for the sake of complete accuracy. However, our primary purpose here was to see if users who opted for third party RAM upgrades were sacrificing anything over the stock configuration (i.e., “I’ve just purchased a Mac Pro with 12GB of RAM, will the performance go down if I purchase more RAM from a third party.” — There have been a few examples over time where a third party upgrade actually performed worse than the stock Apple part).

Reply
Joe says:
Got you, thanks TekRevue
I found this article this weekend after I received my CTO MacPro but on arrival discovered that the salesperson installed Crucial RAM (64GB 4x16GB) where my CTO had 16GB in.
I was just wondering if the Apple 16GB RAM performed just under the 64GB of Crucial RAM what would the Apple’s 64GB then have done?
Way better??
But I see your point, it’s more about the speed but not the RAM capacity. It makes sense – sort-of 🙂
TekRevue says:
I can imagine that the 64GB Apple Kit performance would close the gap a bit in these tests, but unless there’s something wrong with your Crucial kit, it certainly would not perform noticeably better.

Did the salesperson charge you for the extra RAM? If not, that’s a great free upgrade! Prices have come down a bit since this article was first published, but 64GB of ECC RAM for the Mac Pro is still around US$400-500!

Penn Cheung says:
Hi Jim, did you take off the Heat sink on the Crucial one? coz I can just find this http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/search?Ntt=Crucial+64GB+%284+x+16GB%29+DDR3+240-Pin+RDIMM+1866+MHz+Memory+Kit+for+Mac&N=0&InitialSearch=yes&sts=pi which with two Heat sink, cant fit 4 of it in the mac pro later 2013, could you please provide the direct link of the Crucial, thanks a lot
Reply
TekRevue says:
Hi Penn,

Our Crucial RAM didn’t have an attached heat sink (you can see it in the picture of the three modules in the article). We bought it directly from Crucial.com, though. We haven’t tested any type of RAM with heat sinks in the new Mac Pro, so we can’t say for sure if they’d all fit.

Reply
Penn Cheung says:
Hi Tek,

I have search Crucial.com, set the filter to fit the Mac Pro L2013, here is what it comes out, http://www.crucial.com/usa/en/compatible-memory-for/Apple/mac-pro-%28late-2013%29 there is no imgshows up and no 64GB Options, would you plz give me the direct link for the items? thank you very much

TekRevue says:
As noted in the article, Crucial doesn’t sell the RAM we used in a single 64GB kit, so you have to order two 32GB kits. I ordered the CT2K16G3R186DM. Right now, that kit is priced at $377.99 for a total of $755.98 for 64GB.
Penn Cheung says:
Thank you so much Tek, I just got BH reply, which saids the image is incorrect on their website. but will work, the price is good as well, only $318 for 32kit., just order 64g with post to aus is only 671
Guest says:
Hi Jim, did you take off the Heat sink on the Crucial one? coz I can just find this http://www.avadirect.com/product_details_parts.asp?PRID=28516 which with two Heat sink, cant fit 4 of it in the mac pro later 2013, could you please provide the direct link of the Crucial, thanks alot
Reply
Aznbot says:
I was wonder if you guys know if Load Reduced modules actually work with the new 2013 Mac Pros?
Its not stated anywhere that it isn’t but that modules with heat spreader aren’t supported. I need to find someone who can confirm that it works. You’ll need to take off the heat spreader to put it in and see if you can get into OSX. I would like to be able to install 32gb modules in without sacrificing speed.
Reply
Bill_Henderson says:
I bought Crucial memory for my new iMac 27 in. and the chip slots for fitting were too narrow. After wondering why my ram wasn’t snapping in place, I realized that it just didn’t fit and it had mashed the iMac plastic that fits into the slots. I was horrified that I probably ruined my warranty. Yes, they were the proper chips. Thanks a lot, Crucial.
Reply
deasys says:
No, they were not the proper chips. And don’t blame Crucial—you did not order from the correct configuration page. In addition, you’d have to be both amazingly obtuse to not notice the physical mismatch and amazingly clumsy to cause slot damage.

(I have ordered *hundreds* of modules from Crucial since the early ’90s without a single module failure or misconfiguration.)

Reply
Bill_Henderson says:
Yes, it WAS the correct chips… triple checked. It was a fraction of a millimeter off, just enough to mess up the slots. I’ve replaced ram in macs for 20 years in many models. I know what’s involved. I’ve also bought many Crucial chips in the past – no problem.
TekRevue says:
I’m sorry to hear that, Bill. I recently installed Crucial RAM in an iMac as well, and had no problems (although in my case it was a 2012 model). Have you followed up with Crucial to verify that the modules you received were correct? Of the few problems I’ve had over the years with memory from Crucial or OWC (usually DOA modules), the customer service from both companies has been great and they took care of me right away.
Reply
Bill_Henderson says:
I sent a nasty email to Crucial’s CEO. He replied that he was sorry. I didn’t ask or expect anything in return. I just wanted to them to know that they messed up. I “fixed” it by moving the existing Apple chips in the (now) bad slots… their slots were wide enough to fit around the mashed plastic. On the Crucial chips, I then shaved the slots – it only took a TINY bit – with an X-Acto blade. They fit like a glove in the remaining slots. All in all, a good save, but I think my lifespan was shortened a year or so… 🙂

Leave a Reply to Guest Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Disclaimer: Some pages on this site may include an affiliate link. This does not effect our editorial in any way.