Greys scaled

Introduction

As Apple’s professional desktop workstations mature, it’s only right that they should turn silver, and of course get faster. If you bought Apple’s 733MHz system before July 18, you’ll be wincing because the CD-RW model that used to cost £2,099 (ex. VAT) now retails as the £1,199 entry-level model in what Apple is calling its “second-generation” Power Macintosh G4. It’s not quite that bad – the ‘old’ high-end 733MHz G4 had a 60GB hard drive and 256MB of RAM, compared to this new 733MHz model’s 40GB disk and 128MB of RAM. But in the speed stakes it is easily eclipsed by the new fastest single-processor system at 867MHz, and blown away by today’s top-end dual-G4 800MHz monster (see tests). Silver dream machine
The most noticeable physical difference between these new G4 systems and the models they replace is Apple’s new “silver” livery. The basic case design remains largely untouched, but the Graphite front, top and rear panels are now a smooth matt silver. What was once blue-grey is now white-grey. Take a look at the side panel of the older Graphite Power Mac for a decent idea of the new colour scheme. This side panel remains the same, except for a lighter Apple logo. Curiously, the Apple logo on the front panel has now gone altogether. The handles and corresponding feet are now completely see-through, losing the previous model’s under-ridges. The drive bevels are now flush with the front-panel – you open the CD-RW or SuperDrive with the Pro Keyboard’s media-eject key. The second drive bezel is for the optional 250MB Zip drive (£70 extra). Another striking case change is the new grille-less built-in speaker, which looks vulnerable to puncture if you’re in the habit of sticking biros in places they shouldn’t go. I gave it a good few jabs with my finger, and it seemed untroubled – so this criticism may be slightly pedantic. However, you’d be wise to protect it from inquisitive children. That said, the new speaker does sound a lot better than the Graphite G4’s – louder and richer, with a far-more effective bass particularly noticeable. Round the back, expansion is unchanged. There are still four PCI slots, two FireWire and USB ports, 4x AGP, and Gigabit Ethernet as standard on all systems. FireWire still maxes at 400Mbps, and it has 12Mbps USB – not the faster but less prevalent USB 2.0. The logic board is also the same as with the previous G4s, with a 133MHz system bus, and three PC133 DIMM slots – for a maximum 1.5GB of memory. And you can still add up to two internal ATA drives or three internal SCSI drives – for a potential 224GB capacity (two 72GB Ultra160 SCSI drives running at 10,000rpm, plus an 80GB ATA at 7,200rpm) via build-to-order. The 733MHz model’s 40GB hard drive (5,400rpm) runs slightly slower than the others’ (7,200rpm) – another reason why the 800MHz DP and 867MHz G4 register faster performance scores. More for your money
While internal and external expansion are unchanged, the built-in components do benefit in this new line-up. As stated earlier, the entry-level system (up from 466MHz) has the same 733MHz G4 as the previous high-end model, and a 40GB hard drive instead of the old low-end’s 30GB disk. All Power Macs now feature the superior GeForce2 MX from Nvidia, which packs 32MB of video RAM. The mid-range Power Mac sports the fastest single-G4 chip, at 867MHz, and boasts a 60GB hard drive. The new top-performance system packs two 800MHz G4s, and has an 80GB disk. Both of these models feature the same 256K of level-2 cache as the 733MHz model, but add a further 2MB of backside level-3 cache. Cache is used to store frequently used data for super-fast access. Built-into the chip, backside cache is the very fastest cache, supplying data to the processor in an instant. The generous 2MB of backside cache makes a noticeable difference in performance when you most need it. The 733MHz is fast, but whipped into place by the L3 cache of the two other systems (as well as by their faster chips and hard drives). The 867MHz and 800MHz DP models both feature Pioneer’s combination DVD-R/CD-RW SuperDrive, which – combined with the superb bundled iDVD program – will burn DVD discs that will play on domestic DVD players. Apple also showed a preview of iDVD 2 at Macworld Expo. This update (a £15 CD upgrade for iDVD owners) has compression functionality that allows for 90-minute DVDs – a 50 per cent increase on iDVD’s previous limit. For more details on iDVD 2, see page 22. Apple claims that the 800MHz DP encodes DVD faster than real-time – meaning that you could encode an hour-long DVD in under 60 minutes. Previously, Apple promised only 2 x real-time encoding. Windows PCs, however, take at least 25 x real-time… Taking the dual part of its name to the next logical step, the 800MHz DP’s graphics card features twice the video RAM as the other models’ GeForce2. Its TwinView technology lets you connect both a new Apple display and a VGA display, without requiring an additional graphics card. Due to the proprietary nature of the Apple Display Connector (ADC), the only way that you can run two or more Apple flat-panel LCDs is by buying a DVIator adaptor from Dr Bott (www.drbott.com) with an extra DVI-based video card, such as ATI’s Radeon. Software
Although I wouldn’t recommend moving to Mac OS X before September’s release of version 10.1 (see News, pages 20-21), it’s great that Apple pre-installs its next-generation operating system with all of its Macs these days. OS 9 is also installed as the default system for now – so you can choose when to move to the more modern system. Of course, all these Macs come with iMovie 2 for digital movie-editing and iTunes 1.1 for managing and listening to MP3s and burning audio CDs. All Macs ship with Microsoft’s Internet Explorer and Outlook Express, as well as a bunch of other utility software. In addition, the SuperDrive models ship with iDVD. Speed tests
As you can see from our speed tests below, the silver 867MHz Power Mac G4 is some 17 per cent faster overall than the previous Graphite 733MHz Power Mac. This is impressive, but look at the scores of the old dual-processor 533MHz Power Mac – for users of Photoshop and other multiprocessing-optimized applications, such as Cinema 4D XL, the dual-chip 800MHz model (unavailable for testing at press time) will be the real winner. If you’re wondering why the DP model loses out at RGB to CMYK conversion, that’s because multiprocessing doesn’t help at all, and megahertz is everything.
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