You'll get your Mac news here from now on...

Help TMO Grow

Advertising Info


The Mac Observer Express Daily Newsletter


More Info

Site Navigation

Home
News
Tips
Columns & Editorials
Reviews
Search
Forums
Contact

September 22nd, 2000


Dual Processor G4
Contact And Other Information
Manufacturer: Apple
Product Home Page: Power Macintosh G4
Description: G4-based desktop system
Address: 1 Infinite Loop
Cupertino, CA 95014
US

Price: US$2499 - List
Telephone: (800) MY-APPLE
Fax: (800) 462-4396
Requirements: None
System Used For Testing: PowerMac G4 MP
2-450 MHz G4
128 MB RAM
DVD-ROM
20 GB Hard Drive
16 MB ATI Rage 128
Mac OS 9.0.4
[Review]
Dual Processor Power Mac G4: The Multiprocessing G4 Reviewed
by Michael Munger

Introduction

The unit came with two 450 MHz PowerPC processors, 128 MB RAM, DVD-ROM, a 20 GB hard disk drive, an internal Zip drive, a SCSI adapter card, gigabit Ethernet, 16 MB ATI Rage 128 video card and Mac OS 9.0.4, without modem. It has 2 USB ports, 2 FireWire ports, Apple Display Connector, power, 15-pin monitor port and input/output audio jacks. Included also were: Apple Pro Keyboard and Pro Mouse; cables for all the available ports; SCSI 50-pin to 25-pin adapter (for the SCSI card); 3 CDs for software restoration, installation and hardware checks; iMovie CD; Basic documentation and stickers. The computer is AirPort ready.

Note: This is not a preconfigured model, but a build-to-order system from the Apple Store.


Setup

The first step was to take the computer out of the box and place it alongside the monitor to connect the cables and add the peripherals. The handles on the four corners of the tower made it easy to move. It is also easy to figure out which cable goes into what plug.

The first startup was rather funny. After the usual extensions parade, a Windows-type setup assistant took over the whole screen to prepare the Mac OS settings. After filling the fields and finishing the task, the assistant crashed, taking the machine down and forcing a restart. The second session was more fruitful: the assistant disappeared, and let let the machine go directly to the desktop for a real setup job.

Installing software and updating the settings was easy. The speedy performance of the machine lets installers do their job and wrap it up quickly.


Performance

Apple claims that its dual-processor machine is extremely fast. Before going any further, let's remember that the great speed of these machines depends on two things:

  1. That the software has been written (or rewritten) to take full advantage of the Velocity Engine (AltiVec in Motorola's terminology.)
  2. The software can likewise take advantage of the two processors.

If software does not have AltiVec and dual processor support, then G4 speed is almost exactly the same as G3 speed. Fortunately, a reasonable number of programs are Altivec-enabled, and many more should soon be dual-processor enabled, now that Apple has taken the revolutionary step of offering a dual processor machine as standard equipment.

We found the gigabit Ethernet reliable enough, though the cable modem Internet access did not take advantage of the gigabit capabilities. The FireWire and USB ports performed quite well. The default (Maxtor) 20 GB hard disk's performance was decent but copying from volume to volume was much faster once we added a second hard disk.

Performance is greatly increased when using Velocity Engine-enabled applications such as Photoshop and SoundJam MP. With SoundJam's default high quality settings, SoundJam encoded a 58:54 full audio album into MP3 files in less than 13 minutes. The same album had taken, on a 233MHz G3, about 4 times as long.

Virtual PC - which is very demanding of processor performance, L2 cache and RAM - did more than well on the dual processor G4. The Windows 98 SE edition of Virtual PC ran smoothly and quickly. Every Windows 98 task executed painlessly. Menu drawing, which is one of the indicators of emulator performance, was very responsive; the delays for opening a window or launching an application were satisfyingly short. Even with the use of only one processor, Virtual PC and Windows 98 performed well on the G4.

Most software does not take advantage of the multiprocessing capabilities as well as the Velocity Engine for the moment but the G4 itself is still very quick when executing all kinds of tasks. Optimized software really shows what the two processors can do together.

The graphics acceleration card made it through very difficult display tasks without a single observed problem as yet.

DVD Playback

We rented a DVD to play a movie (American Pie) to see how this machine would behave. The Apple DVD Player refused to play the movie at full screen and all we could manage to do was to use the "fill screen" option, which leaves the menu bar and the window frame surrounding the viewer. Other PowerMac G4 users have reported being able to play DVDs, including American Pie, at full screen mode, however.

The quality of the image was amazing, and we saw stuttering only once during the whole movie, even though virtual memory was active. This was when the DVD player was switching layers and this problem is common among almost all DVD drives.


Expansion

We added a 20 GB Quantum hard disk drive and 128 MB of RAM to the tower, to test the computer's expansion possibilities. Opening the panel reveals the floor where the hard disk can reside, and the 4 RAM slots near the edge of the panel. Adding the RAM is simple and took less than 30 seconds: no need to reach deep inside the machine and between cables. Just seat the chip in and make sure it holds firmly.

The hard disk was a little more complicated to install, as it was harder to make sure it was firmly in place. Still, it was much easier than on most computers. A few minutes later, the master/slave jumpers were in place and the ATA power cables were plugged in. On startup, the computer saw the drive and offered formatting.


Mouse and keyboard

Unlike Apple's previous USB mouse and keyboard,the new ones offer improved ergonomics and functionality, not to mention classier looks.


Problems encountered

  • With the (Adaptec) SCSI adapter card installed, the machine would not wake up properly once in sleep mode.
  • At certain moments, the G4 would eat the CD in the DVD-ROM drive, the icon would disapperar from the desktop and the tower refusing to give it back without a restart.
  • The multimedia capabilities of the G4 may be strong, but the small speaker on the front of the tower does not perform well when playing music. It is adequate for alert sounds. This machine definitely calls for external speakers.


Conclusion

The dual processor Power Macintosh G4 is a solid offering from Apple. Professionals and power users should consider it seriously as a main desktop machine. The investment will be worth it when Mac OS X's symmetric multiprocessing support and more Velocity Engine optimized applications kick in to increase its performance over time; a rare feat in modern computing.


Final Score (Maximum Score is 5 Gadgies)
4 Gadgies
Pros Simple setup
Decent performance
Easy expansion
Great keyboard and mouse
Great looks
Cons Poor G4 processing support
Horrible audio
Sleep problems with PCI card
"CD Hungry" DVD drive
Inconsistent support for "full screen" mode in DVD player



Today's Mac Headlines

[Podcast]Podcast - Apple Weekly Report #135: Apple Lawsuits, Banned iPhone Ad, Green MacBook Ad

We also offer Today's News On One Page!

Yesterday's News

 

[Podcast]Podcast - Mac Geek Gab #178: Batch Permission Changes, Encrypting Follow-up, Re-Enabling AirPort, and GigE speeds

We also offer Yesterday's News On One Page!

Mac Products Guide
New Arrivals
New and updated products added to the Guide.

Hot Deals
Great prices on hot selling Mac products from your favorite Macintosh resellers.

Special Offers
Promotions and offers direct from Macintosh developers and magazines.

Software
Browse the software section for over 17,000 Macintosh applications and software titles.

Hardware
Over 4,000 peripherals and accessories such as cameras, printers, scanners, keyboards, mice and more.

© All information presented on this site is copyrighted by The Mac Observer except where otherwise noted. No portion of this site may be copied without express written consent. Other sites are invited to link to any aspect of this site provided that all content is presented in its original form and is not placed within another .