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The Back Page
by Bryan Chaffin

Apple Firmly Places G4 Debacle Behind Them
December 3rd, 1999

It's been pretty busy at The Mac Observer during the last few months. It seems like yesterday that we were dealing with MACWORLD New York, and yet MACWORLD San Francisco is just around the corner and way too close. Dave Hamilton headed our delegation to Yankee-land, and I minded the store while everyone else got to play. I will be heading up our efforts in San Francisco and there is just way too much to plan. It seems that there might be a little less playing than I had hoped...

Thank goodness there are various and sundry holidays to get in the way at the same time, not to mention what is bound to be the biggest, yet most tense, New Year's since a bunch of Medieval power-that-be figured the jig was up about a thousand years ago. To make matters worse, I haven't even bought one Christmas present yet…

Fortunately, despite our busy effort here though, things seem to be sheening along at a brisk clip in Cupertino. If you didn't catch the news yesterday, Apple slipped in a little update to the G4 product line. They did it without much fanfare, just a press release to announce the changes. Don't let the lack of hoopla fool you though, this was a significant and much needed move for Apple.

A little background may be in order: When Apple first introduced the PowerMac G4 line, there were some problems with G4 production from Motorola and Apple had to rejigger the product line. Their solution was to lower the speed of the three G4 models by 50 MHz each, changing from a 400, 450, and 500 MHz line to a 350, 400, and 450 MHz line. There was much hullabaloo over how they did it, but Apple was quick to fix the situation, much to their credit.

One thing they couldn't really fix though was the fact that the then new low end Power Mac G4 sucked. Not only was it shipping at 350 MHz in an age of 750 MHz Intel and AMD processors, but it was also shipping with the modified Yosemite motherboard known as Yikes! The Yikes! system was just plain inferior to the Sawtooth architecture used in the 400 and 450 MHz models. Most egregious of its many shortcomings was the lack of an AGP slot for a graphics card.

Yesterday's changes to the entire product line did fix this lingering problem though. The 350 MHz PowerMac G4, while still woefully inadequate on the all-important public perception issue of MHz*, now sports the same Sawtooth motherboard, a DVD drive, and the same AGP enhanced Rage 128 Pro video card that the other models enjoy. With those features, the PowerMac G4 350 is actually an attractive machine for the first time. In fact, I would enjoy one and I would most certainly not have bought the previous 350 MHz model.

*The MHz argument goes back quite a ways. Generally, Mac users say that MHz doesn't matter because the PowerPC architecture is inherently superior to Intel's CISC based path. This is true and is born out by our favorite benchmark showcases, Photoshop filters, and other math intensive functions. Of course, we were all quick to crow when Power Computing shipped the very first 200 MHz personal computer with the PowerTower Pro. When we actually had the fastest MHz rated computer, it was cool. Thus is the nature of people, I am afraid. Now that Apple is *way* behind the MHz curve, PC users scoff at the low clock speed ratings of Apple's product offerings. Consumers who don't know, and that is most consumers, think that bigger and higher is better. This is a direct result of the PC industry's efforts to constantly extol the virtues of the latest and greatest processor in an effort to convince their customers to upgrade. They have succeeded in doing so and this has an effect on 1st time computer buyers too. Many consumers still want to buy the "fastest" computer they can buy and tend to look down at Apple's professional product offering. This is reality and it is a reality that the AIM partners really need to solve sooner, rather than later.

So while Apple still falls a little short in the public perception battle — a battle that is admittedly more focused around the highly popular iMac product line and not the PowerMac G4 line — the company is now offering Mac users a very solid G4 product line across the board. Many Observers have written to Mac Observer staff members to ask our opinion on buying different systems and I have consistently said to not buy the PowerMac G4 350. Now I can unequivocally say that it is a good buy indeed.

Your comments are welcomed.


began using Apple computers in 1983 in a high school BASIC programming class. He started using Macs in 1990 when the Kinko's guy taught him how to use Aldus PageMaker, finally buying a Power Computing Power 100 in 1995. Today, Bryan is the Editor of The Mac Observer, and has contributed to the print versions of MacAddict and MacFormat (UK).

You can send your comments directly to him, or you can also post your comments below.

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