New Power Mac G4

Introduction

It’s grey. It’s silver. It’s see-through. It’s the Power Mac G4. Be the envy of your friends and colleagues, laugh in the face of blue-&-white G3 Power Macs, humiliate owners of boring beige boxes… the G4 Power Mac is the status symbol in any modern-day professional office or studio. On its original release, Apple made a big deal about Motorola’s PowerPC G4 processor. It can execute over a billion floating-point instructions per second (officially making the Power Mac a “supercomputer”), and its Velocity Engine sub-processor promises to speed-up many multimedia operations by up to four times when applications are rewritten to take advantage of it. So the Power Mac G4 differs from the old G3 in more ways than mere case colour. All G4 Power Macs are now based on the speedy Sawtooth motherboard, with three times the memory bandwidth of the old G3s, twice the PCI bus throughput, and 16MB ATI RAGE 128 graphics card installed in a dedicated AGP 2X graphics slot. The third FireWire port is internal, giving you the option of fitting a FireWire-based hard drive if you so desire. SCSI is nowhere to be seen – although you could install a SCSI card in one of the three PCI slots. There are some similarities with the old blue-&-white G3 Power Macs – the case is an IT manager’s dream. You can get inside the Power Mac by pulling a simple side-mounted latch. You can even rummage around inside while it’s still switched on – although I wouldn’t recommend it. Adding memory – a must on the 64MB entry-level model – couldn’t be easier. The same goes for PCI cards, internal drives, etc. Last October, Apple promised us a 500MHz G4 Power Mac – and the world went mad pre-ordering this most desirable of all desirables. The world went even madder when Apple postponed the 500MHz model and downgraded everyone’s orders to 450MHz G4s… at the same bleedin’ price, mind. Apple put its PR blunder down to Motorola’s failure to supply enough high-end G4 chips. Power Mac owners sulked – suddenly 450MHz didn’t sound so powerful any more. But now, thank goodness, Apple and Motorola have pulled their fingers out and started shipping the half-gigahertz beast. And, yep, it’s very, very fast. As with any computer, chip speed isn’t everything – that’s why we test across processor, disk and graphics performance. Memory is also key to productivity. While the mid-range model boasts 128MB of RAM, and the high-end a weighty 256MB, the entry-level model has just 64MB – probably not enough for most Mac pros. Adding an extra 64MB should cost no more than £75, however. The G4 Power Mac range now starts at 400MHz, speeds up at 450, and takes off at 500. Real style stallions can buy Apple’s stunning 22-inch flat-panel Cinema Display with the high-end beauty – for a very cool £5,148 (excluding VAT). Other options include 100MB Zip drives (still no 250MB Zips, unfortunately) and 56Kbps modems – see the table above. The 500MHz model also features a 5.2GB DVD-RAM drive.
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