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Second look: Apple's dual 2-GHz G5 by the numbers

October 2, 2003 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - It's clear from two weeks of testing that Apple's new Power Mac G5 dual 2-GHz machine is the fastest thing the company has ever produced. And while you can debate benchmarks until eternity, it certainly appears poised to meet or beat anything now out on the Windows side.
Of course, given its 64-bit G5 processors, fast frontside bus, 2GB of SDRAM and top-of-the-line (at least from Apple) ATI Radeon 9800 Pro video card, it should. Apple, since the G5's introduction in June, has touted the new chip's processing power in numerous comparisons with Pentium 4 machines, and rightfully so. It'll pretty much hand every other computer its proverbial hat and keep on crunching data without breaking a sweat.
But what counts most are real world tests and numbers. The first number of note is the price: All this speed will set you back $4,198 at the Apple Store -- unless you buy the basic dual-processor model and add your own RAM from a third-party vendor. (Word to the wise: Get your RAM elsewhere, it's almost always cheaper than what Apple charges.) You'll find more information about the G5's basics in Part 1 of this review (see story).
With an eye toward giving would-be users a sense for how the dual 2-GHz stacks up, I ran the newbie through some very basic tests and comparisons with two other recent Apple models: Last year's dual 1.25-GHz Power Mac G4 with 1GB of RAM (and 2MB of Level 3 cache memory per processor) and a first-generation 17-in. PowerBook, with a 1-GHz G4 chip and 1GB of RAM. Both were top-of-the-line Apple products when they were released.
Here's what I measured: startup and reboot times, launch times for several typical applications and the times needed to process a variety of tasks, including photo manipulation using Photoshop 7, 3-D renderings created with Bryce, and digital video transitions inserted into movies using Apple's iMovie editing program.
Note: These small tests aren't meant to be all inclusive or the final word on the G5's processing power. These are the kinds of duties that a day-to-day user might appreciate. More detailed data on how the G5 performs under serious strain should come from several tests now being conducted at Computerworld's behest by Bob Freeman, a bioinformatics consultant at Freeman Consulting. Freeman is a Boston-based programmer and software developer. Those results should be ready soon.
A few details about the test machines. The Dual G4 and the Powerbook both have 1 GB of RAM. The G5 is running Mac OS X 10.2.7, which is what it shipped with from Apple. The Dual G4 is running 10.2.8, and was successfully updated from the previous version 10.2.6 before Apple pulled the .8 upgrade last week. The Powerbook is still running 10.2.6. My understanding is that there are no significant changes in version 10.2.8 that would materially affect the results. However, given the expected improvements in the upcoming Mac OS X 10.3 (Panther), all of these numbers will be toast before the end of the year.



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