One of the most important announcements at MACWORLD went largely unheralded. Apple added a 5th PCI slot to its PowerMac G4 product line. The result is a machine that is much more suited to use by high-end professionals in the film and TV industries.
Apple last sold a 6-slot PowerMac with the PowerMac 8600 and 9600 models. Those were phased out when the first PowerMac G3 units appeared in 1997. Since that time, the hue and cry raised by those in need of more slots has been heard around the world.
Do you really need them?
The reality is that most Mac users do not need even the three PCI slots that have come in Appleis professional line. Many of us will add a SCSI card or an additional graphics card, but thatis about it. More might add more USB or FireWire ports through a PCI card, sound input cards or other high-end sound cards, or additional Ethernet cards for use in networking environments. Even fewer will add a variety of video related cards, but most of us really have all we need already included with the PowerMac line. Thereis a modem slot, Ethernet, and adequate 16-bit sound built right onto the motherboard. Those are three things to which many PC users often have to dedicate ISA or PCI slots.
That was Appleis response to the complainers for a long time too. "You donit need the slots. "Besides, if you do, buy one of those PCI expansion boxes." Have you ever priced a really good external PCI expansion box? They arenit cheap, though they are getting cheaper. They also donit work at high speeds, thus defeating their very purpose for many high-end users. One Apple executive went so far as to say there would never be a 6 PCI-slot Mac made again. That was enough to anger many in the influential DV and video-editing worlds, and Apple has apparently been listening.
Appleis new PowerMacs come with a total of 5 PCI slots: a 4x AGP slot and 4 other PCI slots. Having that 4th PCI slot will make it much easier for most high-end users to do everything they need without having to compromise or buy an external PCI expansion box. As the cost for adding additional slots is not great, and as there is a large price premium for Apple hardware over PC hardware, this improvement is long overdue. It is valuable to users who need the slots, and doesnit harm the users who donit need the slots. Besides, when youire paying a lot of money for a computer, it feels good to know you have additional expansion available, just in case, even if you might never use it. Thatis what buying a premium product is all about.
I would like to thank Bill Troop for his help and collaboration with this piece.