Dual Xeons: Best Workstation for Keyshot (Xeon Phi?/Thunderbolt?) - $2800 Best Value

Dec 20, 2016
I've finally convinced my current employer to throw down the money for a new workstation. As I'm spending someone else's money, I'm really trying to be smart about it. I put together a parts list with two friends, one of the best 3D artists I know, and a high-end IT manager, but I'm not connected with anyone who's ever done a hackintosh before.

Compatibility is my main concern. I've crosschecked my part list against the info I've been able to find online for compatibility, but I would be truly grateful for any expert advice any of you might be able to provide. (*) Indicates I've confirmed compatibility to the best of my ability, and links to reference link.

My secondary concern is creating a workstation with parts optimized to give me the best performance for my intended use. Currently, I'm mainly using Keyshot, Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign. However, in the future, I'll return to heavily using Resolve, FCPX, After Effects, and whichever 3D modeling/animation software I finally settle on (Blender, C4D, Maya, or Modo).

Other Variables & Questions:
  1. Has anyone ever managed to get Thunderbolt working with Xeons? I have a Drobo 5D and 1TB LaCie Rugged Thunderbolt that I'd prefer to keep connecting to via Thunderbolt rather than USB 3.0.
  2. For current intended use, I'm settling on a lesser GPU, but want to ensure I can upgrade to multiple GPUs (i.e. 1080s).
  3. Operating System priority is macOS, but I expect Windows 10 may be used rarely if necessary for PC-only software.
  4. I'm fascinated by the potential of utilizing the new Xeon Phi Co-Processors in the future, once more software has been updated to utilize them. Does anyone know if this system and macOS would possibly support one?
Parts List:
Here is a public link to my parts list which is also listed below.

CPUs: $1700.00
2x - Intel Xeon E5 2680 v.2 (10 Cores)
  • IF I COULD ONLY HAVE ONE QUESTION ANSWERED, IT WOULD BE...Will these work with motherboard, without having super genius hackintoshing skills?
  • Based on this benchmark my 3D expert friend recommended, these appear to provide the best value, but I'm open to any better recommendations.
*Motherboard: $466.35
1x - Supermicro X9DAI-O LGA2011/ Intel C602/ DDR3/ SATA3&USB3.0/ A&2GbE/ EATX Server Motherboard
  • I've updated this from the Asus Z9PA-D8 based on this thread.
*Storage: $269.97
2x Raid 0 (Main Drive) + 1x (OS Drive) - Samsung 850 EVO 250GB 2.5-Inch SATA III Internal SSD (MZ-75E250B/AM)
  • Utilizing raid 0 at 3D expert's advice, to compensate for being unable to use DDR4 memory, due to old CPUs and motherboard.
  • Everything I've been told is that paying the extra for EVO Pros isn't worth it.
*Memory: $87.99 - $111.00
4x - 8GB Hynix PC3-12800R DDR3 1600 2RX4 ECC Server Memory RAM
8x - 8GB Hynix/Samsung DDR3 2RX4 PC3-10600R 240-Pin 1333MHz ECC REG Server Ram
  • I'd feel better hearing confirmation that only using 1/4 or 1/2 of the 16x slots is not an issue.
  • From what I understand, Hynix is the manufacturer for RAM in new Macs. I'm told all I need is 32GB, but double is hard to ignore at only 25% higher cost.
*GPU: $180.00-280.00
1x - GIGABYTE Geforce GTX 970 G1 Gaming OC Edition 4GB PCIe Graphic Card
1x - EVGA GeForce GTX 980 SC 4gb works with PCI Express 2.0 x16 and 3.0 x16
  • Would I regret opting for 970 to save money?.
1x - EVGA SuperNOVA 750 G2, 80+ GOLD 750W, Fully Modular, EVGA ECO Mode, 10 Year Warranty
  • I'm told this should provide more than enough power, even after future GPU upgrades.
*Cooling: $43.98
2x - ARCTIC Freezer i11 CPU Cooler for Intel, 150W Cooling Capacity, 3 Direct Touch Heatpipes, Vibration-Dampened Fan
  • According to recommendations, I don't need liquid cooling. Curious to see if anyone disagrees.
*WiFi/Bluetooth: $7.98 - $16.99
1x - Broadcom BCM94331CD Mini PCI-E WiFi Bluetooth Card for Apple iMAC A1418 A1419
1x - GMYLE Bluetooth Adapter Dongle, Ultra-Mini USB Broadcom BCM20702 Class 2 Bluetooth V4.0 Dual Mode Dongle
  • I don't need WiFi, but want to use 'Continuity', and in need of clarification. In the article linked, it says to 'make sure your motherboard is fully bluetooth powered'. Does that mean it is already bluetooth equipped, or mean something else? Basically, I need confirmation that my motherboard will work with tonymacx86's solution.
Current System:
Finally, I believe you're supposed to post your current/working system. Not sure how that is applicable in this situation, but it is as follow.

MacBook Pro (Retina, 15-inch, Late 2013)

Processor: 2.3 GHz Intel Core i7
Memory: 16GB 1600 MHz DDR3
Graphics: NVIDIA GeForce GT 750M 2048 MB + Intel Iris Pro 1536 MB

Last edited by a moderator:
Aug 20, 2015
Classic Mac
Mobile Phone
I've only ever made a non xeon hackintosh so can't comment on that workflow. However, assuming it works, I would just like to add my 2 cents on a few things:

I think you should reconsider RAID 0 for your OS. In servers we put the OS on 2 drives with RAID 1. You'll get the same high performance read speed and redundancy in case one drive fails. What if your RAID 0 fails? You might be in the middle of a project and have to set up the OS all over again.

You may find your money better spent on buying a MacPro5,1 and putting in a newer video card like the Nvidia Titan X (Maxwell) or Nvidia 980ti, SSD, and maxing out the RAM. These cards will work with the Nvidia web drivers. Looking at your current choices for GPU's you say you are settling on a lesser GPU. This would make your intended apps run much faster with regards to Resolve and After Effects. Also you could install a USB 3 card to have faster data transfer speeds.

With regards to the reason for using xeon, I presume it may be because of more cores and possibly more speed? We did a render test with After Effects 2015.3 using a 5k imac - the top of the line build. It outperformed the 2013 Trashcan Mac Pro, also maxed out top of the line build. I'm assuming this is because of the more advanced GPU in the imac. Even though the trashcan had more multithread power, it came down to the GPU.

So if you are set on building a hackintosh, you might find incredible performance with the Core i7 series (considering your apps) and a really great video card rather than trying to make the xeon build work. Or go for upgrading a MacPro5,1 series.

Good luck!